I get this question a lot:
How do you write music?
We're innately curious so this question makes a lot of sense. I get the same feeling when I see someone dance, or study economics, or walk and drink water at the same time. So I'm sharing my advice for writing music. Giving up my trade secrets.
Let's start with the basics. Learn some music theory, it makes your life infinitely easier. You understand how chords and notes fit together, you have a better understanding of how to manipulate music to make it sound even slightly different from the four chord progression that makes up every pop song. (This rule has changed slightly over time as rap and hip-hop become more mainstream, but similar rules apply to that genre).
Learn an instrument. With technology nowadays this isn't a necessary step, but having an instrument to fiddle around on is worth your time. That's why I learned to play guitar, to write music. Cheap guitars are all over the place and YouTube makes learning to play guitar almost too easy. You can really find anything on YouTube, from unclogging a toilet to "Charlie bit my finger".
And this is where things get complicated. There is no formula for writing music. Some of my songs I've written in 15 minutes. I have a feeling or an idea that I want to express and within minutes I've got it written out the way it was in my head, this happened with Cheers. I had this raw, unfiltered feeling that I needed to explain to myself, and I feel like that comes across in the song. I didn't want Cheers to be put together and proper. That wouldn't have been authentic to the experience it was about.
On the other hand, some of my songs are long crafted metaphors. They get written and re-written as time goes on. Sometimes I haven't said things in the way I want to say, sometimes the story changes and I need to rewrite what happened. (This doesn't happen that often though, usually I'll write a new song, because I don't always like changing songs because it doesn't recognize the feelings I had at that time.) Some songs, like Crows, take more time to think about. I need to make the pieces fit, and tell the story in a way that honours the people the story is about. Am I Safe Here? went through multiple rewrites before I was happy with the final product. Moreover, sometimes I'll write a song, come back to it in a few months and take a verse or a chorus from that song, scrap the rest and write a new song.
And what about the music you ask? While sometimes the guitar comes first, sometimes the words come first. Sometimes I'm in the shower and I come up with a chorus and before I know, I soaking wet in my towel, sitting on my bed with my guitar and writing down a song in scrawling handwriting. There is no technique on how I put it together, unfortunately that trade secret is no secret.
Finally, like anything else, practice. I write lots of music that is purely therapeutic that nobody should ever hear. I write lots of music that just isn't that great. The first song I ever remember writing was when I was 8 years old. I didn't understand the structure of songs so it was just more like a tangential paragraph. I've been writing and refining for years. Writing is a skill, same with singing, playing guitar, and anything else in this world.
If you want to start writing music, just rip off the band-aid and go for it. If you want to do it just for you, that's awesome. If you want to share with other people, that's amazing too. I write music because I need to get things off my mind, it just happens that other people seem to enjoy the things I write, so I share it with them. Hope this was a helpful insight into my creative process, and I hope you are all having a good reading break (for my university friends).
From me, with love, to you,
P.S. If you haven't had a chance to check out my new song yet, Steady, I've linked to it down below.