Notes on Writing
[Previous Page] [Next Page] [Up] [Home Page] [Contents]

Song writing notes put together over time. More of a basic beginners guide but here are some tools/links that are helpful.




Wiki Rhymer

Roget's Thesaurus

Reverse Dictionary

M-W Dictionary/Thesaurus

Look No Hands Guitar Chords

Look No Hands Piano Chords

US Copyright Office


Copyright 1974. Martin Ward.
1. Idea for a song.

2. Rhythm - The heart throb, the beat, the time of the melodies
- melody springs from Rhythm
- Song springs from Rhythm
- it is the on universal foundation of music
- in many songs Rhythm is more important than melody
- There are only 2 fundamental rhythms in all music
two counts 2/4 time for rapid songs fast time
three counts 3/4 time waltz Waltz time
common time
four counts 4/4 time slower and rhythm is more pleasant in feeling
- Measures : measure the rythm
- Melody staff is divided into four measures
- is the beating heart of melody

3. Basic Notes - whole, Half, quarter, eighth
- word or syllable match up to each note pattern
ie 4 counts, 3 counts, 2 counts, 1 count, 1/2 count
                           - set the rhythm in songs
- shorter notes than these are used for instrumental music
- varying the counts in a measure varies the rhythm
ie. whole note
two half notes
                             four quarter notes
eight eighth notes
- ways of varying your rhythms
tied notes
                     dotted notes .
                           - tying different kinds of notes together allows lengthening the time
                               any note, syllable or word is played or sung.
                           - the steady counting of the number of beats to a measure is known
                                as the 'meter' of the song; rhymn, time

4. Musical Scale - 17 tones (notes)
     - five add sparkle, life + color to your melodies
                               - from middle C upward to E
                                     any notes outside this range are usually too hight/ too low for the
                                     average voice.
                                     This is the medium range / middle range of most voices
- Treble Clef/Key identifies the singing notes
                  - Sheet Music usually consists of these staffs
                                  The Melody Staff - staff above the words
Piano Staff - two lower staffs below the Melody Staff
                              - You write all your melodies on one staff only - The Melody Staff
                                      This is all you need - the two lower staffs are written by
      professional arrangers, after your song has been accepted
                              - What is of most importance is your melody and lyrics.
                              - The record company or music publisher always pays all expenses for
                                    getting your song into production. Always remember that.
                              - melody is made by placing notes on the lines and spaces of the
                   melody staff, which have names which creates an octave and
                                  scale from middle C to high C. In actual use a voice can go to
                                  two tones above C to E.
- most people use a small electric keyboard or piano or guitar to
                                  play + create melodies.
                              - Use key of C to start comosing, eventually you may compose
                                 in other keys, some very experienced writers compose only
                                  in the Key of C or some other simple key. Then changes are
                                  made by the arrangers in the record or music company.
                 - All you need to know is the key of C / Scale of C to start
                                  writing melodies
                              - half tones are flats (b) or sharps (c #) between whole tones.
             a half tone higher than the note before = sharp
                                    lower after = flat
                                  ie. C (Middle C)
                                        C# or Db
            D# or Eb
                                        F# or Gb
                 G# or Ab
                                        A# or Bb
                      C# or Db
   D# or Eb
                              - sharp sign means higher up
          - flat sign means lower down
               - sharps + flats are used to make the various 'keys' and 'scales' in
                  - Key of C means no flats or sharps, however they are used to add
                               variety to the tunes you write.
                              - use the flat of the note which you want to use whenever possible
                                   rather than the sharp.
                              - whenever you want to go up a half tone in your song and to keep
                                  it going up, write that half-tone in the sharp of the note to which
                                  you go up. Up - Sharp.
                             - When you want to go down a halftone and keep on going down
                                 write that tone in the flat of the note to which you do down.
                                 Down - Flat.
                             - In skipping up the scale to a half-tone, write that half-tone in the
                                  the sharp of the note to which you skip.
                             - In skipping down the scale to a half-tone, write that half-tone in
   the flat of the note to which you skip.


5. Building Your Song - with a simple tune, as much as three quarters of your
                                             song is finished.
                                         - length of your song and where to end it
* chorus must be exactly 32 measures long, there
                                                     are exceptions.
                                                * four is the magic number for verses, there are
                                                * what decided length is the number of times the basic
                             melody of your song is repeated or changed.
                             * a basic melody repeats over and over, at least twice
                                                        average is three times
                                                        in Rock n Roll ten times
     * too much repetition becomes monotonous that is why
                                                   a different melody breaks up the basic melody in a song
                                        - Four Song Forms
                                           A A B A A = Principal melody
                                                A B A B B = Contrasting melody
                                                A B A C C = Contrasting meldoy
                                                A B C A

                                      A always contains the principal melody, the melody people
                                                      will remember, hum, sing or whistle; It must always
                                                      contain the title of your song so the listener will remember
                                                      the tune and title; usually 8/16 measure section. When
                                                      the section is repeated it is repeated Rhythm for rhythm,
                                                      note for note.
                                          B is also called the 'Bridge' because it bridges the section as;
                               it is also called the 'Release' because it releases the listener
                                                     for a time from the repetition of the 'A' or principal melody,
                                         when the section is repeated it is repeated Rhythm for
                                                     rhythm , note for note.
                          A repeat of section A/B/C sometimes has the last two
                                                     notes or eight measures changed to either end on the
                                                     'Key' note or to make the ending slightly different for a
             measure or two or to make the endin more dramatic.
                                                      However, the rules of repetition still hold good.

         C the last four measures are entirely new/different melody

                                               ABCA form is frequently used in Rock n Roll, showtunes.

                                       repetition of the melody + beat are important, while the
                                               number of sections may vary, the beat and pattern does
                                               not. When you have the lyric pattern, you have the beat
                                               of the song.
                                               Study songs which have lasted over the years for good
                                      models. They have withstood the test of time. Called a
                                               'Standard' it is the real money maker. You can see the
                                                song construction that has gone into the song and
                                                various parts of it.


6. How to Write Your Song - how to fit the words to the music
                                                  - which is first - words or music? The answer is either.
                          - start with a title, the high point.
                                                      a song is a story told in words and music the title is
                                                      repeated at least twice, often more the title is the thing
                    the public must remember
                                                  - 3 important things
                                                melody has a natural rhythm
                                 words, being poetry, also have a natural rhythm
                                                            You must match these two in order to write a song
                                                           You cannot force either to fit the other
                                                            You must balance the ingredients, either change a
              word or a series of notes to fit them together.
                         - Does the title/words arouse the listeners curiosity.
                                             - What kind of a song does the title/words suggest.
                                                  - the best titles are 'Front' titles - titles placed at the
                                                      beginning /a song ie first line of your lyric
                                                  - divide the words of the lyric between the measure without
                                                      overrunning the measures.
                         - in writing lyrics you will do a lot of shifting of words and
                                                     syllables as long as line length, number of words or
                                                syllables does not overrun your measures.
                                                  - some words demand longer counts, strong accents
  - vowels must be held longer ( a,e,i,o,+ u ), words ending
                                                      in vowel sounds must usually be sustained.
                                        - whenever you have a naturally longer-held syllable in a
                     song word, the note for that syllable must usually be a
                                                     longer one.
                           - usually the rhythm pattern of the first two measure is
                                                      repeated on the second two measures - not the melody
                                                  - best way to compose melodies is to write four measure at
                                                     a time
                                                  - try various tunes which seem to fit the rhythm of the words
         of the song.
- the words or syllables of the lines must match
                                                  - a syllable is interchangeable with a one-syllable word to
  match the lyrics.
                                                  - while it is allowable to repeat the rhythm pattern of the first
                               four measures in the second four measures of a Section
                                                     do not repeat the melody, always write a different melody
                                                     for the second four measures of any section in any Song
                                                  - the words of the lyric in any section are not repeated
                   ( except for the title ) unless it is for emphasis. The lyric
                                                     must go on and tell the story.
                                                  - Section B should say something; opposite or introduce a
                                   new thought
                                                  - Final Section A is the lyric climax of the song, the snapper
                of the song, ie. the title.
                                                  - Put your song away for a week or two, then see how it
                                                     sings. See where improvements can be made, revise it,
                                                     test your song before strangers if possible, ask what
                                                     they think of the lyrics + the melody.
    Is it singable. Does the song gel.
                                                - Make a lead sheet
        - Key + Time Signature

         - There is no legal rule about borrowing melodies from other
                                                    song if the song is in the “public domain.”


7. Melody - a melody is a succession of notes pleasing to the ear
                    - you can use the 17 notes of the scale in only 3 ways:
                        one note following another in either direction
                   skip frome one note to another in either direction
                                repeat the same note two or more times
                                by using all of them in a song you build your melody
                   - simplest melody is made up of notes in the scale
                    - there are at least 200 rhythm changes you can make
                    - the most pleasing melodies usually contain no more than five
                        successive notes going either up or down the scale in a song.
                        If you do the listner unconsciously feels you should go all the
                        way and feels a let-down when you don't.
                     - in the Key of C - C E G C notes when played one after the other
                        or all together or two at a time, sounds very pleasing = Chord C
                        They are called rest notes also because if you end a progression
    on one of these the listener gets the feeling that the melody has
                        come to a close.
                     - when you end a scale melody on D F A B the melody sounds
                        unfinished , they are called active notes, they demand that some
                        other note follow.
                     - can repeat the same note several times which tends to make a
          smooth melody and gives it a restful quality, provides balance
                        and poise and also gives the singer a chance to linger on the
                        repeated note, and the listener to dwell upon it.
- a melody with every note different is likely to be a very busy
                        melody and not restful, such a melody is adequate for Rhythm
                        and rapid songs but in ballads and love songs more restfulness is required.
                     - too many repeated notes tend to make a melody monotonous.
                     - rule of thumb - never repeat the same note more than three times in
                        any one measure.
                     - you use only one word or syllable of lyric to a whole note
                     - repeated quarter/eighth notes make your melody lively, be sure
                        the words can be sung easily and distinctly.
                     - use notes below 'middle C' or above “ Upper C' sparingly.
                     - skip one or more notes to the next note in your melody
                     - good melodies are made by skipping from one 'C' chord note
                        to another 'C' chord note.
               - you can make better melodies with a skip of not more than four
                        notes in either direction.
                     - the beat of the rhythm usually begins on the first note in the measure.
                     - variety is the spice of melody, too many skips, one following
                         another, make your melody jumpy.
                     - Don't forget to use rests. They help the rhythm and also enable the
                        singer to catch their breath.
                     - four melody patterns
                      * two notes - the beginning note is the same in each measure
      good when followed by or following a scale melody
                      * three note - ie. 3 blind mice, watlzes.
                                * four note -
                      * five note -
7b Your Song - idea for a song comes first
                         - song must be about something
                         - tell a story
                         - you can tell from your story whether your song is a ballad,
                            a love song, a rhythm number, or in general slow or fast
                       - a melody clothes an idea in music
                         - rhyming lines four measures long make a verse
                         - never tell main story or use title in verse
                         - the verse is the build-up for the chorus
                         - melody should be simple and not detract from chorus.
                   - verse and chorus are written in the same key.
                         - last note of verse should slide smoothly into the chorus.
                         - pick-up notes are used sometimes to smoothe the verse to
               chorus transition because they pick up the chorus.
                         - the first count in the first measure of your song must
                            be a strong one, certain words or syllables are weak ones. Thus
pick-up notes ( ie two or three quarter notes or one or two eighth
                            notes ) to get the chorus off to a syncopated start.
                          - pickup notes are not counted as rhythm in the measures
                             preceding the first measure - only when they are at the end of a
                      - first note in first measure must follow an active tone if there is a
                             pick-up note or if there is no pick-up note, must begin on a strong
                             beat, it must be a rest tone.
       - the melody and lyrics are of equal importance however, the basic
                             melody is the most important part of the chorus.
                          - the last note in the eight measure of first A Section should be an
                             active note otherwise the listener will get the feeling that the
                             melody has ended, the song is over. The opposite is true of the
                             second A Section since you follow it with a different contrasting
       melody in the B Section.
                          - if section A moves up then section B should move down
                             the scale and if section A moves downward then section B
                        should move upward
                          - skip notes
                          - repeat notes
                          - contrast longer-held notes in one section with shorter-held notes in
                             the next section.
                          - change key of next section. Though this is not used too frequently.
                          - first + last note of Section B should be an active note
                          - second section A is repeat of 1st section A
                          - Third section A brings the chorus to a restful close,
                             and should be in the Key note of the song
             - melody climax is the high point, both melody and lyric should climax
                             together, tends to beone of the highest and loudest notes in your
                             song, it also tends to be one of the longest. ( a whole note or half
       notes and whole notes tied together ) but can be also softer and
                          - chorus usually has two endings since it is repeated twice.


8. Melody Inspiration - get it down on paper as quickly as you can any way you
                                            please as long as you can play or repeat it later on.
                 - use a notebook to jot down ideas/or titles, songs, lyric
                                           lines, phrases. Keep it in your pocket or purse wherever you go.
                                        - harmony acts as accompaniment to melody ( usually left hand
      on the plans ) let harmony inspire you to melody
                                        - rhythm is the basis of all music
                        - words can inspire melody and lyrics
                - use language understandable + relateable to your audiance

9. Writing Lyrics - song poems misnomer, words of a song are not poetry
                                  in the strict sense of the term.
          - common mistakes
                                        not story in lyrics
                                        poor english
      not written so music can be set to them
                                     not original, use some words over and over again
                                        impossible to sing
                 evoke no emotion
                               - four required points
                                   - tell a story
                                           fall into some kind of song pattern
     be simple, clear and original
                                           must rhyme to some extent
                               - where to get song lyrics
                                           ordinary conversation
                                            plays on radio + TV
                                            slang phrases of a clean nature
  any word which paints a picture of love
                                            short stories
                                            Title's ( no title is copyrightable )
                                            news stories and headlines
                    nature ( moonlight, sunlight, dawn, storm, brooks, country
                                              scenes, old houses )
                                            your own moods ( sadness, joy )

       - 3 things which make a good title
             - short ( 1 to 8 words )
                                                   up-to-date, natural sounding ( words in common use by
                                     people + understandable )
                                                   be as original as you can make it
                              - your lyric must be your plot
                              - 32 bars = 1 minute
                              - 64 bars = 2 mintues
                              - kinds of stories
                                        lyrics that tell a story of action ( dramatic )
                                        lyrics that paint a picture or mood ( stimulate emotion )
                                        lyrics with a message ( protest songs, songs about problems )
                              - lyric basics
                                       They are not poetry ( Poems are written to be read, song lyrics
                                             to be sung )
                              - words must be smooth and easy to sing
                            - test your lyrics
  would you get up in public and sing words like that?
                                       would you buy the song if you heard it sung?
                                       does it really appeal to you?
                      - principal ingredient for any lyric is “emotion.”
                            - write sincere and honest lyrics

                            - words and syllables ( Poems ve Lyrics )
                  poem is read by one person, but a lyric is heard and sung
                                        poem can be reread if not clear, lyric must be instantly undertood
                                        poem may be from 2 to a hundred lines, lyric usually not less
                                          than 16 lines in length and not more than 25 lines
                                        poem is written in other-wordly language but a lyric must be
                                         poem may have several ideas, but a lyric only one.

CSN Topsites

Free search engine submission and placement services!

[Next]  [Up]  [Home]  [Contents]  

Thank You for visiting MMISSARY MUSIC

Last modified on Friday, November 27, 2009