by Ali Aiman Abdul Hamid, International College of Music (ICOM)

In this topic, I will introduce the most effective and creative approach to songwriting based on my experience as a musician.


Decide on your method

Every individual has a preferred way of laying down the foundations of songwriting. I believe that melodies and chords should be decided before the lyric-writing process, and this is only because it has worked best for me in the past. Having said that, there are many whom I know who prefer to establish their lyrical content beforehand as matching lyrics to melodies can be a bit restricting. Regardless of different schools of thought, it is important that you decide a method that works best for you!


Establish the meaning of the song

Lyric writing can be extremely frustrating and is often the most difficult aspect of my songwriting process. I usually begin by singing gibberish to accompany my melodies, mainly to have an idea of what works phonetically. Proper words and sentences will then substitute the initial ideas. However, the process becomes much easier with a clear idea of what the song will be about. I tend to view the chorus as the destination and the verse/bridge sections as the journey. You can establish the meaning of your song in the chorus and work your way from there.


Don’t be afraid of making mistakes

Most songwriting ideas flow best when you release your mental handbrake. It is normal for musicians and songwriters to doubt their craft and fear the unknown, such as how the masses would react to their music. Due to that, many will disregard their creative instinct and imitate current trends for the sake of being safe. There is a fine line between following what works and sacrificing your musical integrity. It is important to achieve a balance.


Work hard for inspiration

While I was writing my debut EP in 2014, I had a strict writing schedule that I followed religiously. I realized that inspiration flowed more naturally doing that as opposed to waiting for it to arrive out of the blue. I am a firm believer that songwriting and composing are skills that need to be honed. You need to learn the craft by analyzing popular music, learning music theory, reading, etc. Practice makes perfect.


Take however long it needs

Some songs take a day to finish and some take years. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. Unless you are writing a song for a client with a tight deadline, songwriting is not a process that you can rush or force no matter how knowledgeable you are in the subject area. Take a break if you are stuck or perhaps put it aside and work on some other ideas first. Let the process be organic and when it is time, it’ll eventually write itself.