The Songwriting Process

I got a super cool question about my own personal songwriting process from another local songwriter this week. Whether you are trying to find a way to get started or you're a seasoned professional...there is always room to refine and explore different avenues. 

I've boiled it down to three different processes...

1. Lyrics Before Music

2. Music Before Lyrics

3. Part by Part

I work with the part by part style. This means I don't finish the music before the lyrics and I don't finish the lyrics before the music. I think more along the lines of song structure, really let the tune carry me through it. This is the breakdown.....

- I start with noodling on my accompanying instrument (most of the time guitar) until I get a cool riff or chord progression. Once that is established I will start thinking melodically for that part specifically.

- Melodies are what can make or break a song. It's what reels the audience in, the common connection between you and your listener. So it is imperative that this part flows well! Everyone has a good sense of melody, someone without any musical prowess can still tell if a song is catchy or not. I break most of my stuff down into syllables. I will mumble along to my chord progression and then once I have a melody I LOVE, I will think about how to plug the words in. 

-Once I have the words plugged in for a specific part I move on to the next and the next until the basic structure, melodies and lyrics are finished. 

    I find that a lot of the more intricate "ear candy" sort of parts come during the recording process for me. As a singer songwriter, I don't get to experiment a whole lot until I am in the studio. Sometimes its a guitar hook, or a weird percussion element, a on and so fourth. I love to experiment with weird techniques that aren't even really techniques at all. 

In X Waters I stirred a bucket of nails, sang into distorted guitar pickups, played a series of liquor bottles arranged by pitch and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff. Challenge yourself to use something you wouldn't normally use, this keeps your songs fresh and fun for you and the listener.  Whatever you do....make sure you LOVE every part...or at least make sure you can learn to LOVE every part. Complacency is a one way ticket to passive listening and sometimes, that may be what you're going for...but I encourage you to always try to say something with the gifts you've been given. Make every note, rhythm and lyric count. 

For more questions about songwriting or even some coaching sessions on how to get started, feel free to e-mail me at:


Madeline Finn