Zia Hassan

How Do You Write A Song

The first time I wrote a song I was seven years old. My parents had recently gotten a piano in our basement and I made up some simple melody on thee piano that ended up being performed at my piano recital.

My teacher had told me a secret: you can play any song you want, as long as you know the notes. I figured the same must be true for songwriting, except… how do you know the notes to a song you’ve never heard?

Well, the truth is that you have heard it. Deep in the tiny nooks and crannies of your mind are the seeds of every creative idea you’ve ever had. The ideas come in racaous and flamboyant, you think to yourself, ah, cool… and they wedge themselves into some corner of your mind never to be looked at again.

To write a song, you need to listen. There are no other skills required. If you know how to listen, songs will come pouring out of you like wine from a bottle.

As for what to listen to?

Music is vibrational energy. The best way to inspire vibrational energy through listening is to hear the timbre of the various sounds in the world around you. Listen to bird song, hear the scraping of someone’s foot against the pavement, the sound of the school before any of the kids arrive.

Listen to all kinds of words. Melodic and rhythmic words, poems, weird words, common words (especially common words, because they hide a lot of meaning in their wings). Play with words constantly, and pretty soon the words will be coming out of your pen and onto paper.

Listen to music. Music with lyrics or instrumental, it doesn’t matter because every song tells a story. Listen to heavy metal and classical, tango and bop, ambient and smooth jazz. Find the pairings that no one’s ever heard before and let it speak to you. Then, tell its story.

Listen to the noises a persons’s face makes when you play your music. Did you succeed?

That’s how you write a song. Not by creating output, but by noticing input.