How to Write a Song


If ever there was a competition for the most ambitious blog title ever, “How to write a song” would probably win first prize.

“Well, geez Chen” you’re probably asking, “Will I know how to write a song after reading this article?”

No, don’t be silly.  I did not in fact lay out the keys to mastery of one of the most ancient and profound art forms and aspects of the human condition in five hundred words or less.  The title was just a trick to get you to start reading (And well, it worked, cause you did).

No one can teach you how to write a song.  Bummer I know.  I mean yeah, maybe someone will teach you song form and music theory, or rhyming schemes or mastery of new instrument, but no one can teach you good taste.  No one can teach you good decision making instincts.  No one can teach you how to move YOUR audience.  And that is what songwriting is: having the good taste to make the right decisions to move YOUR audience.

But still despite all that, I used to be a really bad songwriter, and now I’m not.

“Hold on Chen, you said no one can teach you how to write!  What gives?”

Good question!  No one can teach you, that you have to do yourself.  But there are guides, signs and maps everywhere.  You just have to be on the look out for them.  This series of blogs will try to do just that, and hopefully introduce you to some new concepts that will help you teach yourself how to write better songs.  Starting with a very basic but criminally overlooked aspect of songwriting: Listening.

You wanna be a good songwriter?  Listen to good songs.  That’s it. No big secret, Same as everything else.  You wanna write a book?  Read books.  You wanna be a great chef?  Eat great food, Etc.   You can learn more from an afternoon listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”, then you could from an entire semester of songwriting class in college.

Spend some time with Sting while he tells you “Ten Summoners Tales”.   Let Stevie Wonder show you that you are way funkier then you think you are, and listen to everything Diane Warren has ever done, because if you haven’t, you shouldn’t be reading this article you should be listening to everything Diane Warren has ever done cause what the hell have you been doing with your life?!?!

And don’t just be a passive listener.  Don’t put on great music, and then just ignore it while you drive to work, or do the dishes.  Yeah I get we all like to tune out sometimes to a mindless melody, but when you are listening to great songs, allow yourself to become an active listener.  Let the song take you on a journey.  Close your eyes and let images flood your mind.  Listen without any inhibitions, and take note of what you are feeling.   Don’t try to analyze, there is always time for that later.  So many of us songwriters and producers have forgotten how to listen to music as fans, and not as professionals.  The first time you listen to “Man in the Mirror”  you shouldn’t be thinking about the song form or the rhyme scheme.  You should be weeping with tears of joy and awe that such a piece of art is in existence!

If you spend time with these great songwriters’ music or other masters that might appeal to you, you will inevitably develop your own voice.  A new sound that carries in it the DNA of your influences, But is entirely your own.  And if you are a seasoned vet now reading this article and is like “well Duh, Chen”, then why are you reading this article anyway?  Go write a song.

All joking aside, Listening never stops being important.  I try to start every day listening to a song I’ve never heard before, and if I like it I will spend sometime with it.  I’ll figure out why I like it and will eventually assimilate it to my creative influences.   I hope my songs have found their way to some listener somewhere, and I hope he or she liked them enough to allow them to enter their creative influences.  And that’s the way our wheel keeps turning.

So go listen to some music, and learn how to write a song.

– Chen Neeman

Professional Songwriter & Guitarist (Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Zendaya, Bella Throne, Ross Lynch, David Archuleta, Bridget Mendler, Dove Cameron, China Ann McLain)

Article reposted with permission from Red House Productions

LA Session Group is honored and at the same time thrilled to share experiences and advice from some of the best musicians, songwriters, producers, and artists the music industry has to offer. The following article gives readers valuable insight into songwriting from multi-platinum songwriter and producer Chen Neeman courtesy of Red House Productions. Chen is a LA Session Group member offering one-on-one co-writing sessions and coaching. To book Chen for a songwriting session, simply click here.

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