Introduction To Songwriting For Music Producers

My New Microphone Introduction To Songwriting For Music Producers

Songwriting is one of the most important production-adjacent skills we can learn as music producers. It's not only so that we can write our own music, but also to better understand the music of artists we work with and how we may improve upon any given song as necessary.

What is songwriting? Songwriting is the art of composing music and lyrics to form a song. It involves combining melody, harmony, rhythm and lyrics, typically to express emotions or tell stories through a structured musical form.

In this introductory article, we're going to go over the most important aspects of songwriting for music producers, particularly through the lens of the overall music production process.


The Essence Of Songwriting

Songwriting is the process of creating a song, where the goal is to evoke emotions through a combination of lyrics and music.

Of course, these emotions don't have to be the typical, well-defined options — emotions like happiness, sadness, tenderness, anger or anxiety. They can span wide ranges, and a few of my favourites include:

  • Admiration and amazement (I love being blown away by technical prowess in songwriting)
  • Anticipation (great songwriting leads us along with a sense of anticipation)
  • Surprise (great songwriting often defies our expectations from what we've anticipated)
  • Euphoria (for lack of a better term — when the “bass face” is involuntary)
  • Excitement (particularly with musical tension in the rhythm or the overall arrangement of the song)

These emotions can be overwhelming or subtle, but the beautiful thing about music (and, by extension, songwriting) is that it has that inherent effect on people — an effect we aim to achieve through songwriting.


The Building Blocks Of Songwriting

A song is constructed from several key components:

  1. Melody: The main tune of your song, a memorable sequence of notes that listeners carry with them.
  2. Harmony: The supporting chords that compliment the melody and add depth and emotion.
  3. Rhythm: The tempo and beat of the song that provide movement and pace.
  4. Lyrics: The words making up the narrative of your song that tell the song's story and convey its message.
  5. Form: the structure or architecture of a piece of music, outlining the sequence and repetition of sections within a composition.
  6. Arrangement: the creative process of adapting and designing the structure, harmony, instrumentation, and performance style of a musical piece.

Modern digital audio workstations can help us tremendously with our songwriting endeavours by making multitracking and overdubs easy, which ties in directly with the arrangement. Additionally, with easy-to-use controls like copy/paste, undo/redo and channel mute/unmute, we can quickly audition different melodies, harmonies, rhythms and even recorded lyrics!

As producers, we can take full advantage of these tools when it comes to songwriting.

Personally, most of my music is instrumental (at least for my solo project), so I don't typically write lyrics. However, most of my songwriting (past the original idea, which is generally written on guitar or piano, or hummed out with my voice) is done with Logic Pro X, my DAW of choice.


The Role Of The Producer In Songwriting

The term “music producer” applies to many different jobs in the modern music industry. Producers today often take on multiple roles, from laying down the initial beat to fine-tuning the final mix. This can include writing melodies, arranging the music, and even shaping the lyrics.

Additionally, we have musicians who produce themselves, which generally means they're songwriting and producing each song/project (unless they're working on covers or remixes). On top of that, beatmakers are also songwriters in their own right, producing beats for rappers and other artists.

As a producer, even if you're not the primary songwriter, it's still important to be able to help out with the songwriting process or at least understand it to craft better music with the artist.


The Songwriting Process

As with any artistic endeavour, there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all approach to songwriting. Even the most prolific songwriters typically have different processes and muses for different songs.

Therefore, I strongly suggest you take what you need from this section and leave what you don't. I can offer suggestions, but these are by no means to be taken as rules.

Conceptual Beginnings

Every song is born from an idea. It could manifest as a lyrical motif, a harmonic progression, or a rhythmic pattern. As a producer and musician, you can stay ready to capture these fleeting moments of inspiration by utilizing tools like voice memos, notation apps, or even your digital audio workstation (so long as you're able to hop into a session at a moment's notice.

Melodic Ideation

The melody is a crucial part of your song. It's the tune that people remember and hum. When creating a melody, keep in mind:

  • Memorability: The melody should be easy to remember and encourage listeners to revisit the song.
  • Vocal Comfort: If your production involves singing, ensure the melody sits comfortably in a vocal range.
  • Inventive Repetition: Employ repetition with purpose, introducing subtle variations to maintain intrigue.

Pro tip: hum or sing the melody over the chords to help make the melody more “human” in feel.

Harmonic Movement

Harmony provides the background for your melody. As a producer, you should understand basic chord structures and how they affect the mood of the song. Don't be afraid to try unusual chords to create different emotional effects.

Rhythmic Foundation

Rhythm is truly what gives your song movement, making it more engaging and dynamic. It's important for setting the pace and feel of the track. Think about the speed/tempo, time signature and rhythmic pattern(s).

Lyrical Craft

Lyrics are the story your song tells. Even if you don't consider yourself a poet, as a producer, it's essential to appreciate how words can dance alongside melody and harmony, enhancing the song's emotional core.

Arrangement

Arrangement is about deciding the structure and layout of your song. It involves choosing which instruments to use, when they come in and out, and how the song progresses from start to finish. Focus on creating a flow that keeps the listener engaged, balancing variety with sonic coherence.

A Potential Songwriting Workflow For Producers

Songwriting for producers is rarely a straight path. For some of us, we may be able to create a repeatable formula. For many others, regularly switching up our approach will give us the best results. Here's a potential map for your journey:

  1. Idea generation: Start by brainstorming and noting down all your ideas.
  2. Sketching: Create a basic outline of your song in your digital audio workstation (DAW).
  3. Expansion: Develop your initial sketch by adding more parts and layers to your song.
  4. Structuring: Decide on the structure of your song, like where the verse, chorus, and bridge go.
  5. Polishing: Go through each part of your song and make sure they all work well together.
  6. Lyric writing: Write lyrics that fit well with the theme and melody of your song.
  7. Production: Use your skills to record, edit, arrange/produce and mix the song.
  8. Peer review: Get feedback from others and make improvements based on their suggestions.
  9. Final touches: Make the final adjustments and prepare your song for release.

A Note On The Songwriting Industry

A producer must also be savvy in the business of songwriting. Copyrights, publishing rights, royalties, and licensing are all things you need to consider when making a go of your songwriting. Even if you don't plan on making money, protecting your artistry and ensuring your creative contributions are recognized and rewarded is critically important.


Call To Action

Write a song and fully produce it. It doesn't really matter if it's good or bad. Rather, I want you to go through the entire process of writing a song and producing it.

Document your process on paper or a word-processing doc. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What inspired your writing (if even only this call to action)? You may be able to repeatedly tap into the same inspiration.
  • What came most naturally to you, the lyrics, rhythm, harmony or melody?
  • If you play any instruments, which instrument did you write with, if any?
  • What instruments did you gravitate toward in the overall arrangement of the song?
  • Did you hit “writer's block” at any point and, if so, how did you overcome it?

Related Questions

Do producers help write songs? Producers, in the most essential sense, help to produce the song in the best way possible by communicating clearly with the artists and the engineers. In some cases, they may help with the songwriting process, and in many other cases, they will only help with the production of already-written songs. It all depends on the needs of the music.

How do I teach myself music production? The best way to teach yourself music production is to experiment. I'd always advise, however, to find yourself a mentor. Mentors can be people you work under in the real world and in real-time, but they can also be authors of the music production books you reach or the instructors of the music production tutorials and courses you study.


Leave A Comment!

Have any thoughts, questions or concerns? I invite you to add them to the comment section at the bottom of the page! I'd love to hear your insights and inquiries and will do my best to add to the conversation. Thanks!

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

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