Song Writing 101: The constituents of a good composition

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To write an original song is probably the biggest breakthrough or highlight of a musician’s career. While it is entertaining and fulfilling to do your own interpretation of an artist’s song, the passion burning in your soul is far more intense if you’re singing your composed piece. It is when you’ll be able to showcase your musicality. It is when writing your original song that you’ll be able to relay a message that relates to people. It is like building a connection with your audience through melody.

Writing a song

In a musician’s point of view, there is no definite formula to write a good song. Yes, you can be technical about it and follow theories, structures, and all scientific about it. There are books and courses dedicated to the science of Music. You’ll understand deeper how pop songs differ from rock and other genres. You’ll learn about the patterns of different musical genres as well as how some chord patterns differ from the Major ones.

I have never been a technical person. I’ve never learned how to read notes nor have I fully understood how the time signature works. For me, everything is just a matter of gut-feeling. I just know when it’s time for the chorus, or the bridge or that so-called “bagsakan”. And I never fail. I’m always right on time.

I strongly believe that there’s no technical approach on how to touch lives, deliver a heartfelt message and relate to people. There is no formula on how to capture those pent up emotions your listener has been hiding for years. There are no step-by-step instructions on how to write a song that would make your listeners say, “Dude, you’ve just written my song!

To write a good song, you’ve got to have a truck load of inspiration and drive. These are the primary requirements every musician should have. It is difficult to compose if you don’t have both these functioning as one. You can be very inspired yet is lazy to write down your thoughts on a piece of paper. Or, you may have the drive yet you can’t find the right words or melody.

Learn at least one instrument. Composing would be much easier if you can play an instrument. You will be able to understand the melody deeper as well as memorize it better. Well, this is just a personal preference. You can still compose a song without an instrument. Son House, American blues singer, was an influential songwriter noted for his exceptional musicality. One of his top hits is a song titled “Grinnin’ in Your Face”, which basically falls under the a cappella category. Then again, House was making a beat through clapping his hands as he sings the song.

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Don’t be scared to write if you only know basic chords. It doesn’t matter if your song follows the typical 4-chord structure, or is staggered with killer guitar riffs. You make a song to express and not to impress. It is the same theory we follow in journalism and creative writing. Back in college, my professor in UST told us that it is not important if the writer knows highfalutin words or idiomatic expressions. What matters is how we relay the message to our readers. What is important is how your audience will absorb the message you are trying to portray.

So what if you can’t pluck and just know basic strumming? If you can whip up a catchy song in just a minute because you’ve got so many things to tell the world, then, why not? The heart is the most important constituent of any song. And the artists’ passion to perform is the carrier.

Maria Espie

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