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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

presents

Song Writing Worksheet


Song writing so simple, a monkey could do it! (No offense, Mr. Beiber)

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

PREVIEW
(Click to jump to that page)

Help / Contact ................................................................................................................. 1

Getting ready to write ...................................................... 3

Song 1: “Insta-pop” .......................................................... 4

Song 2: “Random Song” (step-by-step) ......................... 6


THE BAND (CHORDS)
Key .......................................................................... 9
Time ...................................................................... 10
Tempo .................................................................. 10
Feel ....................................................................... 10
Form/length ........................................................ 11
Form Examples ................................................... 12
Chords/substitution ............................................ 13
Tweaking/best practices .................................. 14
Bass movements ................................................ 15
THE SINGER (MELODY)
Rhythms ............................................................... 18
Chord Tones........................................................ 18
Connections ....................................................... 18
THE SINGER (WORDS)
Lyrics ..................................................................... 21

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

Preliminary notes:
make a decision and don’t be pretentious
Many beginning song writers get paralyzed by the decisions in writing a song,
wanting to make the “right” or “good” or “popular” choices for notes and chords.
Just make a decision. Experiment.

However, other beginners do the opposite, making outrageous decisions, striving


to create the world’s best, most innovative, most creative song ever. But just as
great novels are not written by creating new words, great songs are not created
by creating new sounds. Don’t focus on writing a “great” song. Try really
learning the rules before attempting to break them all in a fit of artistic genius.

• Before you begin, see how much can be done with just 4 chords
• You will accidentally write a song that already exists. Probably more than once.
Don’t feel bad. Everyone else does that too.
• The more predictable the music is, the more comfortable the song will feel. This is
the basis of “pop(ular)” music. Using common chords, common progressions and
repetition helps increase predictability.
• The more unpredictable moves are, the more quickly the listeners get distracted and
uninterested—imagine a novel of random words: only interesting for a short time.
• All music is about creating anticipation and then resolving it. The easiest way to
create anticipation is to lead listeners down a predictable path so they feel they
know what is coming next.
• Even after writing your songs, you may not be able to tell easily whether it’s a “good”
song or not. The same exact song can sound totally different depending on how it is
arranged (instrumentation, voicing, inflection) and produced (effects, volume levels).
Even if you don’t like your song right away, keep practicing your song writing and
maybe come back to that song later or get another musician to play it for you.
• Different sets of notes and chords will create predictable moods and responses from
your audience. With enough practice you’ll eventually be able to create the moods
you want by the way you construct your songs.
• There are many approaches to writing songs. Some start with the lyrics, others start
with a melody, and others (like this worksheet) start with the chords.

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

Insta-pop
A great-sounding song written at a speed that would impress even Mr. Redenbacher

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

THE QUICKEST PATH TO A HIT (ALL SAFE MOVEMENTS, ANY TEMPO, ANY KEY)

1 2 3 4 5 *6
C D- E- F G A-

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

Random Song
Fresh, home-grown song ingredients that taste great in any combination

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

PICK A KEY
*C major

D major
H H H H H H H
D E G A B D E

H
C D E F G A B C F C

E major
D major

H H H H
F# C# E A B E

F G C D
H
D E G A B D
E major

F major

H
F# G# C# D# B

E A B E F G A C D E F
G major

G major

H H H H H H
G A B D E G F#
H

B* F G A B C D E G

*This “B” is technically a “C flat”


B major
A major

H H H H H H H H
A B D E A B E B
H

C D F G A
H

C F G
A major

B major

C# F# G# C# D# F# G# A#

A B D E A B E B

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

PICK A TIME SIGNATURE

*4: 1 2 3 4

3: 1 2 3

6: 1 2 3 4 5 6

PICK A TEMPO (bpm: “beats per minute”)

PICK A FEEL

*Straight 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Swung 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

PRACTICE DRUM TRACKS (98 MEASURES EACH)

4/4 Straight 4/4 Swung 3/4 6/8

60bpm

70bpm

80bpm

90bpm

100bpm

110bpm

120bpm

130bpm

140bpm

150bpm

160bpm

170bpm

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PICK SECTIONS

Intro—Some music that happens before the words begin.


Verse—[required] The creation of anticipation; the problem; the setup; the question
Pre-chorus—Significantly different from the verse, but still just creating more anticipation
Chorus—[required] The resolution; the solution; the answer
Bridge—Something short and distinct from the verse or the chorus, often to break up a
series of multiple back-to-back choruses. If you fast-forward about 65% through most pop
songs you’ll land right on the bridge.
Interlude—Set of chords, often taken from elsewhere in the song, but with no words.
Often used to cleanse the pallet before entering another verse, or to give the guitarist a
section of the song to show off some soloing skills.
Ending (pick one below)
Outro—Pick chords (often the same as the intro) to play after the last section
Fade—repeat some section of the song (usually the chorus) as you fade out
Cut—pick a final chord and play it immediately after the last section

PICK SECTION FORM (or steal one from the next page)

I V P C N V P C B/N C C O/F/X
PICK A SECTION SIZE

Intro 2 4 8
Verse 4 8 12 16
Pre-chorus 2 4
Chorus 4 8 12 16
Interlude 4 8
Bridge 4 8
Outro 2 4

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POPULAR SONG FORMS:

Artist Song Format


Garth Brooks Unanswered Prayers IVVCNVBCE
Garth Brooks Rodeo IVCNVCNVCF
Garth Brooks Friends In Low Places IVCNVCCCF
Katy Perry Roar IVCVCNCCE
Katy Perry Firework IVPCCVPCCBCE
Elvis Presley Can't Help Falling In Love AABA
Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock Blues
Elvis Presley Hound Dog Blues
Mariah Carey Always Be My Baby INVCNVCBCCCF
Mariah Carey Hero IVCVCBCO
Beatles Let It Be AAB
Beatles Here Comes The Sun IVCVCBBVC
Beatles Yesterday AABABA
Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You VCNVCNVCCO
Jeff Buckley Hallelujah AB (Binary)
Michael Jackson Billie Jean IVVPCVPCCNCF
Shawn Mendes Never Be Alone IVCNVCNNC
Adele Someone Like You IVPCVPCBCCO

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SONG WRITING WORKSHEET

MAKE YOUR OWN KEY: TEMPO: STRAIGHT/SWUNG

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MAKE YOUR OWN...CONTINUED

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PICKING THE CHORDS

Chord Number *1 2 3 *4 *5 *6 7

Key of C C D- E- F G A- BØ

H H H- H H H-
Key of D D E F- G A B CØ

Key of D D E- F#- G A B- C#Ø

H H H H
Key of E E F- G- A B C- DØ

Key of E E F#- G#- A B C#- D#Ø

H
Key of F F G- A- B C D- EØ

H H H- H- H H H-
Key of G G A B C D E FØ

Key of G G A- B- C D E- F#Ø

H H H- H H
Key of A A B C- D E F- GØ

Key of A A B- C#- D E F#- G#Ø

H H H
Key of B B C- D- E F G- AØ

Key of B B C#- D#- E F# G#- A#Ø

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PLAY REPEATLY THEN ADJUST TO YOUR TASTE


ADD THE COMMON SUBSTITUTIONS ADD THE SPECIAL SUBSTITUTIONS

1 6 4 3 1 5m 1m
2 4 2 2M 4m
3 1 5 1/3 3 3M
4 2 6 4 2M 4m
5 3 5 5m
6 4 1 2 6 6M 2M

REPEAT AND TWEAK WITH BEST PRACTICES

STAYING SAFE:
Chords, in order of “safeness”:
1, 5, 4, 6, 2, 3, 7
Ending chords, in order of “safeness”:
1, 4, 6, 2, 5, 3, 7
Safest chord movements:
3’s —> 6’s —> 2’s —> 5’s —> 1’s —> 4’s

COMPELLING JUXTAPOSITIONING:
If you’re about to play a 1, first try a:
4/5 -or- 5 -or- 4 -or- 2
If you’re about to play a 4, first try a:
1 -or- 3 -or- 3M -or- 5 -or- 5m-to-1 -or- 1+
If you’re about to play a 5, first try a:
2 -or- 2M -or- 4 -or- 6
If you’re about to play a 6, first try a:
3 -or- 3M -or- 1-to-5/7

ADDITIONAL TIPS:
Start bridges and pre-choruses on less-used chords
Extend the ends of verses, choruses, or especially pre-choruses bridges
Simplify bass movements (see next page)
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STEP-WISE BASS MOVEMENTS

1 7 6 5 4 3 2 5
1 7 b7 6 b6 5 #4 4 3 2 1 5
1 2 3 4 5
Walk-ups and walk-downs
CHORD/BASS RELATIONSHIPS

L R
BASS NOTE ALTERNATIVE CHORD OPTIONS
1 4
#1 6M
2 5
b3 1m
3 1 6 6M
4 2 b7
#4 2M
5 1 3 4
b6 4m
6 4 2
b7 1 5m
7 5 3 1

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Melody
Very personal part of song writing. No hard rules, just best practices.

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MELODY:

Can’t use a melody you created before hearing the chords


Start with rhythm for each section
Singable range (Stay on the staff)
Verse lower / Chorus higher
Use chord tones on chord changes
Connect chord tones / mostly step-wise movements
1-5 for anticipation; 5-1 for resolution

TWEAK TO TASTE:
Melodic suspension on chord changes
Add more space
Repeat phrases

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WRITING MELODIES

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Lyrics
The most personal part of any song. No rules here, just suggestions.

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FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS LYRICS (NOT COMPLETE LISTS)

Singer: ______________________________
Self | character | narrator

Singer is addressing: ______________________________


Self | character | audience

Main character: ______________________________


Self | family | friend | stranger | place | object | idea

Tense: ______________________________
Past | present | future

Emotion: ______________________________
Affection | Anger | Anticipation | Disgust | Fear | Indignation | Jealousy
| Joy | Love | Pity | Reflection | Sadness | Shame | Surprise

Trigger: ______________________________
Acquiring | losing | questioning | reminiscing and/or life event

Perspective: ______________________________
What happened | How I saw it | How I felt | How I hope it will be | How I
fear it will be

Problem/context/details: _______________________________________________

Resolution: ______________________________
Positive | negative | undetermined | mixed

Title: ________________________________________________

First line: ___________________________________________________________

Last line: ___________________________________________________________

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THEORIZING

Be sincere and write what you know. All writing prompts can be lyric prompts
Oscar Hammerstein: "Most bad writing is Life is cliché, but try to say cliché things in
the result of ignoring one's own a non-cliché way or prove the cliché with
experiences and contriving spurious experience
emotions for spurious characters." Everyone says: Get a notebook to
All good story-telling and writing collect ideas; read a lot
techniques apply No substitute for practice

PREPARING

Make a list of the most compelling you're alone, and fearful for how it will
songs and search for the lyrics and affect the kids, and after all that, you're
analyze them from your new song finally sad. But deeper than that, you're
writer's perspective. They probably broken. Beyond that, demoralized. No real
weren't compelling for the same situation involves a single emotion.
reasons you thought before. song-lyrics- What was the departing phrase in an
generator.org.uk emotionally charged conversation?
Practice by fixing an existing song or Universal specificities: What you feel and
write entirely new lyrics to an existing wonder if anyone else feels? Julianne
melody Moore: "The audience doesn’t come to see
Pin down the specific emotion family: you, they come to see themselves"
Pick an emotion and then a sub When you get a song topic, find other
emotion and maybe a sub-sub- songs about the same topic to see how
emotion. If he cheated on you, you others approached it
may be primarily angry, but also Internalize your melody and start on the
disgusted, and maybe surprised (or lyrics after a week of shower-singing your
not...?) and deeper down a little tune. The melody will often tell you the
envious that he has someone and topic, the emotion and the story if you listen

WRITING

Labor on a great title. Then your first More context: When? Where? How?
line (include title?). Then the last line. Use triggers, symbols, icons - anything
Appeal to the senses can be an important omen
Verses = Problems; Chorus = Solution Give each main character their own
Rhyming dictionaries, if you must perspective/emotion
Show, don't tell! Mallarme: "To name Write your first draft as quickly as possible
is to destroy, to evoke is to create." and then let it take as long as it needs to
Imply. Paint context instead of perfect. Book: A Broken Hallelujah
descriptions

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REFINING

Each line counts. Go to any of your out which part you wrote first: chords,
lines. Read just that one out loud. Does melody or lyrics
it make sense? After finishing the lyric, run it through this
What's the weakest line in this song? worksheet again..and again..until it's
Fix it. What's the weakest line in this song perfected or completely ruined.
now? Find a forum to share and test your song
Accented syllables on accented - open mic, subReddit, Facebook page,
(higher and/or longer) notes toastmasters
Vary the syllable count of the lines Be open to harsh criticism, but only take
Each verse should move the story or the advice you agree with. Don't equate
emotion forward instead of simply acceptance with quality. Crap often sells
regurgitating the same ideas and greatness often evades critical
Adverbs often mean you need a acclaim. Many authors like Herman
stronger verb, and adjectives might Melville (Moby Dick) and Henry David
mean you need a stronger noun Thoreau (Walden) were complete failures
Change the rhythm, the melody, the until even long after death.
chords, the form to fit your lyric. Add/
delete verses, bridges, etc. Your
audience shouldn't be able to figure

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