How to Write a Song (for Beginners)

Stepping into the world of songwriting may seem complicated, especially when you’re under the impression that it will eat up your entire day.

But with a handy songwriting tool like Hookpad, your songwriting journey doesn’t need to be a marathon. You can quickly create impressive songs, even as a beginner.

Join Dennis, Hooktheory’s audio engineer, as he creates a catchy hook in Hookpad in just 15 minutes.

In this post, you’ll discover how to:

  • Identify major song parts like chord progressions and melodies
  • Create a solid foundation with chord progressions
  • Write great melodies that resonate throughout the hook
  • Create your desired sound with instruments in Hookpad

As you follow Dennis’ journey, we’ll also share valuable songwriting tips you can apply when writing your own songs.

Chord Progressions: The Song’s Backbone

An essential step in the songwriting process is choosing a compelling chord progression.

A chord progression is a series of chords that move along in a specific order and create harmonic movement. Many songs use just three or four chords, but there are many different combinations you can choose from.

Songwriting tip: Explore chord progressions in our database of over 40,000 songs with our Trends tool.

Dennis kicks off the Songwriting Sprint by deciding on a chord progression first. He explores a handy list of popular chord progressions within his chosen key, directly accessible through Hookpad’s “Progressions” button.

Having common chord progressions at your fingertips can be helpful when you sit down to write a song. Even experienced songwriters can benefit from quickly listening to pre-built options to find the right sound. It’s one of the great benefits of our songwriting sketchpad.

Dennis selects a common chord progression: I → iii → vi → V (in C Major).

He takes his chord progression a step further by adjusting the final chord.

Swapping out chords to try out different ideas is simple in Hookpad:

  • Click the chord you want to replace
  • Listen to different chords in the original chord’s place by clicking the chords in the palette above, typing 1 through 7 on your keyboard, or pressing the up and down arrows on your keyboard

Alternatively, you can select the chord you want to replace and press “Magic.” Now, you can choose from chords suggested by Hookpad’s AI. These suggestions are based on the chords before and after your selection. This is a great way to preview chords that commonly come next and try out unique chord options that work well.

Dennis tries out some different chords in place of the V chord until he lands on a progression ending with the IV chord.

Now, he’s working with I → iii → vi → IV, a chord progression found in dozens of songs in our database.

Dennis notes how the minor chord (iii chord) adds a bit of mellowness to the overall sound. He adjusts the BPM to reflect this feeling (from 120 to 90 BPM) and continues on.

Beginning with a solid chord progression can set the tone for your song, and Dennis does just that in less than 2 minutes using Hookpad!

Craft Your Song’s Rhythmic Soundscape

The next step is determining the type of rhythm you want your song to have.

Do you want your song to be fast or slow? Should the piece have a steady beat or more of an off-beat feel? These are the questions that Dennis asks himself as he continues to write his hook.

Hookpad makes it easy to experiment with different beats and sounds. You can find the perfect accompaniment for your song with a few clicks.

Dennis showcases how Hookpad allows you to:

  • Select (and refine) the perfect drum sound: By clicking “Band” (or pressing “B” on your keyboard), you can explore the band interface. Click “Drums” to find a sound that you like best. You can choose from all types of sounds and samples, from pop to rock, jazz, and electro.
  • Create a swing beat: In Hookpad, you can give your song a swing feel by checking the “swing time” box.
  • Layer additional rhythm instruments: Throughout his process of building a solid beat, Dennis layers extra sounds, like shakers and tambourines. You can quickly achieve this by adding drum tracks to the Bands section and finding the appropriate sounds.
  • Adjusting volume: While Dennis refines the feeling he’s looking to create, he also utilizes the volume features in the Bands section to balance his ideal sound.

Expanding Your Sound with Instruments

Crafting a unique and memorable song often goes beyond basic melodies and rhythms. It’s also about leveraging various instruments and tools to design a soundscape that your listeners can fully immerse themselves in.

Here are some steps Dennis takes that you can try to expand your sound in Hookpad:

  • Create a solid bass line. Directly enhance the depth and feel of your track by crafting the perfect bass line. Select “Bass” in “Band” and try out different sounds. You can add more depth by adding extra bass voices to layer in even more sounds.
  • Add additional texture with synth pad sounds. Introduce a new level of texture and sustained background ambiance using synth pad sounds. By creating multiple harmony tracks, you can build an enticing blend of sounds that complements your song’s overall vibe. Dennis selects several sounds that blend well when played together. He creates multiple harmony tracks and assigns various synth pad sounds that add continuous, sustained background texture to the piece.
  • Get creative! Let your creativity run wild with the broad spectrum of sounds Hookpad offers. From choir pads to arpeggiators, you can truly take your hook beyond conventional limits.

As Dennis demonstrates, your song’s feel can be quickly upgraded by adding a few more instruments and experimenting with their blend. He achieves all this sound expansion in just a few minutes within Hookpad.

With the instrumentals setting the right tone, Dennis is ready to add a melodic story next, all within a span of about 10 minutes.

Write a Great Melody

Constructing a captivating melody gives your song character and memorability. While this can be an intricate process for songwriters and producers, Dennis showcases his efficient approach using Hookpad.

Try out Dennis’ practical steps to create your own mesmerizing melody:

  • Begin with the basics: Start by laying out only two notes and replicate them over each chord. This initiates a simple structure that can later be developed and refined.
  • Adjust pitches: Once you have your melody foundation, experiment with pitches. Select each note and adjust their pitches quickly with the up and down arrows on your keyboard in Hookpad. This step involves experimentation and intuition, so let your ears be the judge.
  • Refine: Continue to iterate on your melody. Experimentation is key here. Try different note combinations until you land on the melody you’ve envisioned. Remember, great melodies often carry a balance of repetition and variation. You can also use the “Guides” feature to keep tabs on how much tension and release your melody has.

Learning to write melodies might seem intricate, but with Hookpad, Dennis demonstrates that it can be simplified into manageable steps.

The goal is to create a melody that emotionally connects with your listeners and serves the essence of your song.

Writing Your Own Song in Hookpad

In just 15 minutes, Dennis showcases the powerful capabilities of Hookpad as a songwriting tool. In Hookpad, you can quickly:

  • Write a chord progression
  • Make strong rhythmic choices
  • Create an effective soundscape with instruments
  • Write a catchy melody

Dennis’ process is a practical guide for beginner songwriters and composers everywhere.

You can continue where Dennis left off in the song with this Hookpad project.

Keep honing your craft and experimenting with diverse sounds and melodies. You’ll be well on your way to unlocking new levels of creativity in your songwriting journey!