How to Write a Good Song

  1. Be simple.
    Abstraction and sophistication are basically mistakes. You're not in control of the depth/resonance of a song, and if you try to write something that strikes you like a song you already love does, you will never get anywhere. Chances are that song felt relatively simple to its songwriter, too.
  2. Show me, don't tell me.
    Instead of telling me how things are, show me what they are. Put me somewhere. Nouns, baby! Don't just say you're tired or you're sad, tell me you drove all night from Reno and the coffee doesn't work anymore, and that your heart is broken like the radio knob.
  3. FINISH IT
    I can't stress this enough. The only way to finish a song is to accept that it might be bad. But I promise you - if you practice finishing them, the quality of them will rise. If you don't, you won't ever get where you want to be. I always set out to write the worst song I can when I start the writing process. That's how you warm up. By the third tune, you're poppin'.
  4. Value the chorus above all else.
    In your mind, as you drive, shower, work, and you're thinking of what might make a song, devote a majority of your brain power to titles and choruses. They're the gold of the song. Verses are easier to write around choruses as opposed to the other way around.
  5. Freestyle!
    One of the best muscles in songwriting to develop is the ability to freestyle. That means a. opening your mind to all the melodies and words that might roll in, and b. never being too shy to sing them on the spot. You must overcome the fear of the unknown. Look, here I go, and I promise I won't delete: "Hey, look there goes the midnight kid, rolling through the crowd with his tail between his leg, someone needs a nap I guess, I'd hate to hear him beg" - is that bad? Doesn't matter.
  6. Don't edit while you write.
    Does that melody sound too much like another? Don't stop. Odds are they're not close enough to bail on the idea. Is that verse line too silly? Is that one verse too revealing? Don't worry. Write first and edit later. Most of the time there's no reason to stop chasing down an idea until you're really sure it's not a song worth fighting for.
  7. Try not to get discouraged.
    I say "try" because it's impossible not to be sometimes. Great songs reward the constant writer, like a diamond to a miner. Just keep digging. And when you go to bed after struggling to write a song, just believe that tomorrow is gonna be your day.