How To Write Your First Song


The entire purpose of this book is for you to write your first song.

That’s it? Yes it is. Someone who has never written a song might want to be a songwriter, but someone who has written one is a songwriter.

Not just any song, of course, but one that you are proud of, and that gives you the confidence and the process you need to write your second, third, and on and on. Like anything, the difference between 0 and 1 is enormous. With 0 you have nothing; with 1 you have something: a start. Writing songs is the same. Think of that number as your self-esteem or confidence as a songwriter. With just 1 song you start to get positive results, and after that the amount keeps increasing.

The hardest song you will ever write is your first.

There are all sorts of reasons that keep even great musicians from writing a single song. You might be a great player, terrific singer, superb improviser, and killer interpreter and yet freeze up when staring at that blank page of manuscript paper or computer screen. It may seem impossible because you think you need to be inspired and have great ideas fall into your head from some magical place. You may think that your musical heroes are geniuses who can write songs, and that you are not. Perhaps they are geniuses, but they have something else that you can share: knowledge of the craft of writing a song. Inspiration may come to us in different degrees and at different times, but the ability to keep writing even without it is dedication to working at your craft. It is work, but it’s enjoyable work. The more you work at it, the more often you will find that inspiration “just happens.”

This book will give you two things: the basic musical knowledge you need to write a song, and a process for putting that knowledge to work. The musical knowledge may seem surprisingly basic, and you may already have all or most of it, but our perspective on it will be one that is most useful for creating a song. This involves looking at musical materials differently from a classical composer, or music analyst, or critic, or theorist: the audience that most music theory books are written for. The material that you really need to write a song is not that complex, but even a small gap can stifle a wonderfully creative idea or kill a song that has real potential. Maybe you have tried to write before; maybe you’ve written a song but still don’t “feel” like a songwriter. This book will change your mind as it changes your view of musical material and your approach to writing a song with it.

This is where process comes in. While you may refine your process over the years, and hone it as you gain experience, you need one to begin with that suits you and your working style, and that produces results for you. I will not tell you what works for me; we will find what works for you. You will know that it works because you will have tangible proof: your first song.

This is the first page of the introduction, as promised in the post on the book here. You can find a little more on the Hal Leonard site here, and order it from there or from,,, or find it in your local music store.