The Elements of Writing a Song

Songwritng Flow ChartSongwriting is a rewarding activity. There is something special with word meets melody meets a great story. In order to get to a finished song several elements must happen. Think of a stool. If some of the legs are missing, it is unstable or unable to stand up. It is like that with songwriting. Several key elements go into writing a song. Here are some of these elements.


Words are what make up the lyric of a song. Lyric is a specific form of poetry that is used in songwriting. The words are the basic elements of a songs story. As a songwriter put together words, a story should be the result. A story is the best way to communicate ideas and thoughts. Words paint a picture for the listener. Words are one element that goes into writing songs. The next element of a song is the melody.


Melody is the music. It is the melody where the words are hung. A well written melody with enhance the words emotional impact. Music is a universal language that every human understands. The melding of words to a melody is what makes songs such a powerful medium. In addition to melody a song need to have form.

Song Form

A good song will have different sections. The form is like scaffolding or the framework of a building. Each section performs a specific task. The form helps organize the songs ideas. There are three main parts to a song. These parts are verse, chorus and bridge. There are others but these are the primary parts of a song form.

The verse provides the storyline details. The verse will progress the story through the song. Normally there will be 2 or 3 verses in a song. Each verse will have the same melody but different words in each verse.

The next common part in a song’s form is the chorus. The chorus provides a summary of the verse. The chorus will have a different melody than the verse. Every chorus melody and words will be the same. Most of the time, the chorus will contain the main hook of the song.

A third primary part of the song form is the bridge. The bridge is used to provide additional details to a song. The melody and words will be different from the verse or chorus. The bridge will provide a different perspective or bring light to the story of the song. A bridge will be used only once in a song after the at least two verses.

Each part of the song moves the melody and the story in progression. Each performs a specific function that enhances the song. This will bring a sense of both consistency and variety.

Chord Progressions

Chord progressions provide a harmonic background to a song. Chord progression is a series of chords that are repeated throughout the song. Each section of the song form will usually have a different chord progression. This is the norm, but there are times where an entire song will use one chord progression. This is up to the discretion of the songwriter. The chords enhance the melody. It brings fullness to the sound of the song.


Every songwriter has a story to tell. As unique people, songwriter’s have different ways to tell that story. Being original is being true to ones self. Trying to be someone else is fine in the early stages while learning the craft of songwriting. But as some point, as an artist, you will want to be authentic in presenting your message to the world. And that is the key to being original; being authentic. People have instincts that can pick up on copycats and phonies. Be who you are in a real sense. That is what originality is.


How a song is present to the world will make a big difference in how it is accepted. Songwriting is a craft as well as an art form. Presentation covers a lot of ground. But the primary element in presentation is the excellence in how a song is presented. Poor musicianship, singing out of key or a bad mix will obscure a great song. Unfortunately, it is hard to get past a bad representation of a song. A lot of factors make a good presentation. A good match with the performer, music and words is vital the success of any song. Some will argue that this is not really an element of songwriting. But, many potentially great songs may have fallen into the abyss only because of a bad presentation of the song. Don’t make it difficult for the listener to enjoy the song. Put out the best possible song and see positive results. Furthermore, this is the last item on the list because the truth is each of the items before need to be in place before it is presented to the public.

So there you have it. Here are some of the elements that make up a song. Take each one of these and look at your songs. See where you can improve or where you need help. Getting help though collaboration or getting a critique will be valuable as a songwriter.

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3 Responses to The Elements of Writing a Song

  1. Greg Fox says:

    In your chart it says to stick with 3-4 chords. I go for nuance, so my songs have an average of twelve chords. Of course, most people do not write jazz.

  2. Pingback: The Main Elements of Writing Songs | John Pape Online Blog

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