Who says you need a recording studio to make your own song? Thanks to modern recording and production software, simple music theory, and your own creativity, it’s easy to make a song that sounds just like a Top 40 hit.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of making your own song, from developing the right song structure and arranging your music in production software to writing a compelling melody and great lyrics.
Ready to begin? Before you start, you’ll need to know the basic elements of a pop song. Enroll in our course, Basic Concepts of Music, to learn how modern music is structured, written, and recorded.
The basic structure of a modern pop song
Did you know that more than 90% of modern pop songs follow the same structure and formula? It’s true. Although songs might sound worlds apart when you listen to them on the radio, almost all pop songs follow a simple seven-part formula.
This formula is known as ABABCBB. It consists of three separate parts repeated in a certain pattern. Part A is the verse, Part B is the chorus, and Part C is the bridge or a solo that separates the two other elements from each other.
Almost all modern pop songs conform to this pattern. First, there’s an introduction and the first verse. Then, the first chorus. This pattern is then repeated, followed by either a bridge or an instrumental solo and a double repeat of the song’s chorus.
Some songs use small variations on this theme. Others differ from it radically. The famous song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel, for example, is built around a continual verse that develops over the course of the song.
Others use several bridges. Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” for example, uses the same bridge twice with slight modifications to break up the song and allow it to go on for longer than a typical pop song.
Although there are some variations, most pop songs stick to the ABABCBB structure listed above. To make composing your song nice and simple, you’ll want to use this structure while you get started and find your feet as a musician.
Do you want to learn more about the structure of music? Enroll in our course, Music Composition 1, to learn the fundamentals of music composition, from the classics to the modern day.
Compose the chorus first, then the verses, and then the bridge
The chorus should be the meat of your composition – the hook that any listener is sure to remember. Because of this, you should start by composing a chorus before you get started on your verses, bridges, and solo sections.
Most artists start by composing the music before they begin writing the lyrics for their songs. Others like to write the lyrics first and then compose music that suits the mood of the piece.
To write great music, you need to be familiar with the basics of music theory and harmony. Enroll in our course, Beginning Music Theory, to learn how the chords, scales, and harmonies you create relate to each other and your song as a whole.
Without basic music theory knowledge, you’ll struggle to write chord progressions and melodies that sound good in the ear of your audience. It is possible to make it through a song without theory knowledge, but the process is a lot slower.
Don’t think music theory is important? Read our blog post on the importance of learning music theory and discover why basic music theory knowledge is a vital aspect of becoming a great composer.
Most pop songs use simple chord progressions that sound good to any ear. One of the most popular progressions is the I-IV-V progression, which is used in “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2.
Another popular chord progression is the I-V-VI-IV progression, which is so well-known by pop composers it’s known as the “pop progression.” These four chords are used in “Something Like You” by Adele, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, and hundreds of other well-known pop songs.
If you aren’t familiar with music theory, it’s best to stick with these two simple but effective chord progressions when you’re composing. As your knowledge of music theory grows, you’ll discover new chord progressions to use in your writing.
Are you composing for guitar? Learn how to play chord progressions on guitar in our course, How to Play Every Open Major & Minor Guitar Chord.
Writing lyrics that your listeners are sure to remember
The best pop songs combine a catchy melody and great lyrics. While writing lyrics can be difficult for beginners, advanced composers will find it easy to put words to paper that reflect their feelings and thoughts.
From lyrics to melody, you can learn the secrets to writing great pop songs in our course, How to Write a Song. Enroll today to learn how to craft lyrics that capture your thoughts and feelings while creating a catchy, memorable song.
Recording your song using modern production software
Thanks to digital production software, artists no longer need access to a recording studio to record their creations. In fact, by using samples and MIDI instruments, it’s possible to record a song without knowing how to sing or play an instrument.
One of the most popular recording tools for beginners is GarageBand – a Mac-only software package that makes composing simple for beginners. Although it’s not the most popular tool out there, it’s a great place to start creating your own music.
Enroll in our course, Learn how to make a song in GarageBand in 1 hour, to learn the fundamentals of using GarageBand to produce your own music.
Need something more powerful? Many of today’s top producers use software called Ableton Live to produce beats, instrumentals, and songs. Although Ableton Live can be used to create any type of music, it’s most popular with dance music producers.
Enroll in our Essential Music Guide: Learn Ableton Live course to learn how you can use this powerful recording and production suite to create your own pop, dance, or electro tracks.
Unleash your inner composer
With some basic musical theory knowledge and your own production software, you can create amazing music. Don’t let your lack of experience put you off – enroll in one of our composition and production courses today and make your own songs!