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Write A Top-40 Worthy Song

My name is Olivia Harmon-Windle, I am a singer-songwriter, and I make write music! I have been songwriting since I was eight years old. Hannah Montana was my main musical inspiration, which eventually evolved into Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson as I got older. I have since written dozens of songs, worked with various producers on my own music, and learned the ins and outs of what makes a good song. Here you will find more information about me as an artist, my songs, and how you can write your own!

Write A Top – 40 Worthy Song!

Writing a hit song is not hard. A common misconception among new writers is that writing a good, catchy song is difficult, this is not true. Hit songs are hard to get in front of audiences, and difficult to market because the music industry is so saturated. Although it may be tough to get your song off the ground, it can still be Top 40 worthy, and writing a fun, catchy song could very well launch your career as an artist or songwriter! There are several things to consider when writing a song and a few steps to learn. It may seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will come naturally and you’ll be able to use these guidelines to write as much as you want! 

Create A Concept: The What 

When writing a song, especially as a beginner, you do not want to dive right into lyrics. Writing lyrics with no direction and a general theme in mind, such as “love” or “heartbreak”, will often result in lyrics that seem inauthentic and vague. Songwriting is all about creating a story, so whether it be from your own life or one you create, have a story in mind. 

Exercise:

Set a timer for five minutes and detail a specific piece of your story in keywords. Where is it taking place? Describe the setting, what is the weather like, what city, is it crowded or lonely, what are you wearing, who is present, how you feel, etc. All these details could help you formulate lyrics. Being descriptive about all these things will help the listener envision the story and the scene you are describing. Help them connect with your story as best you can! 

Outline

Once you have a story and some details in mind related to your story, outline the progression briefly. 

For example:

  • I meet the future love of my life at his favorite bar downtown in the winter and we hit it off, develop a major crush 
  • We fall in love
  • He moves away 
  • I am heartbroken 
  • Several years later we see each other at the same bar and the spark re-ignites 

Knowing how you want the story to progress and unfold is crucial to your song sounding cohesive. You don’t need to state the story so plainly in the song as I did above, however, it is important to have in mind where the story is going as you are using metaphors and poetic language to describe the story. Writing aimlessly with no clear direction, even with a story in mind, can result in a song that feels all over the place. Focus on how you will build the story throughout the song, piece by piece, not just giving a general idea of it the entire song. 

Song Structure: The Basics

The most basic, common song structure goes as follows: Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Final Chorus. A prime example of this structure is Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”. Take a second to listen to the song and pay attention to the story-telling elements, the details, and the structure. This song has a stronger storytelling element due to the fact that it is based on Romeo and Juliet, but it is a great example of a catchy song that embodies what we are aiming for. 

Verses: Keep it Moving 

Most people believe the hook to be the most crucial part of the song, however, nothing would make sense without the verses. The verses detail the story, they create the build-up, and they introduce the listener to what the song is about. With your story in mind, write a first verse that introduces the story in a way that makes it clear to the listener what the song is about and also builds a strong foundation for the rest of the song. Ideally, there is also an attention-getter that keeps the listener listening. 

The second verse should build the story even more than the first. It should be one that increases excitement and anticipation and moves toward the climax of the story. If you ever learned in grade school that when writing an essay, you should save your strongest evidence for the last body paragraphs. This is also true for songwriting. Your last verses should be the strongest, in terms of w storytelling, metaphors, and excitement. 

Chorus: The Money 

The hook is the most memorable, defining piece of your song. This is the catchy, stuck-in-your-head, whistle in the grocery store part. Sum up the point of your song and say the main message in a way that is going to stick with the listener long after they are done listening. For example, “Still Into You” by Paramore does this very well. Take a minute and listen to this song to get an idea of what a catchy, memorable chorus sounds like. It is important to be short and sweet here. Short, sweet, and catchy are key things to keep in mind here. 

Bridge: Contrast is Key 

The bridge is the part of the song where things come to a halt. The fast-paced song slows down, the slow-paced song might drop the instruments for a few bars. It is generally where the artist creates a contrast that makes the listener pay attention a bit harder, so they can plainly state their main point, explain the climax, and rope the entire song together before heading back to a final chorus to wrap things up. The bridge should be the defining moment in the song in that it stops the listener to say something important about the story. 

Final Chorus: Victory Lap 

The final chorus should be seen as a victory lap. You could use a key change, or switch up the words in the final chorus to pleasantly surprise the listener. This part should be a triumphant, final bow. Add some new instruments, sing some low or high harmonies, and do something to really bring it home! 

Put all this together and you have your very own song! This seems like a lot to take in, but with practice, you won’t even need to think about these things and you’ll be writing like a pro in no time. As you progress in your writing, you can break rules, change up the structure, have five verses, and do a double chorus. It gets pretty fun once you know the basics and how to use certain writing tools to really let your artistic voice shine! For now, I’m super excited to see what you come up with. Sign up for our email newsletter to receive a link that will allow you to send your songs to me for feedback! 

Thanks for stopping by, always good to see you! 

Olivia  

Testimonial

Jordyn Bittner

“Olivia’s music is so catchy, but also very meaningful! Her blog about how to write a song was very informative and interesting to read!”