How to Make a Song in 8 Steps: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

by | Apr 6, 2023

How to make a song

Have you thought about making a song, but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’ve already started, but are feeling overwhelmed by the process, especially when you do not have a background in music.

There are many different aspects to consider, such as the melody, the lyrics, the chord progression, and the song’s structure. It’s common to feel unsure where to begin or how to bring all of these elements together in a way that sounds good.

In this post, I will walk you through the main components of how to make a song . You will learn about the concepts of songwriting from coming up with ideas through mixing and mastering your final product.

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1. Song Ideas and Themes

An idea or theme for a song is the message that the song conveys. Like a story or movie with a central message, a song’s idea or theme provides an concept that ties together the lyrics and music. An idea or theme could be a specific emotion, event, or experience.

A 2018 study about music found that 67% of top-40 hit songs between 1960 and 2010 were about romantic relationships and love. That theme was by far the most popular while other common themes in the first decade of the 2000s were about wealth/status, music/musicians and dance/dancing.

When thinking about how to make a song, look to ideas and themes from your personal experiences. Consider events or emotions that have impacted your life so you can convey those feelings through your music. 

A statute of a person thinking

Another way to find inspiration is to explore art, such as books, movies, and music. Look for themes or elements that resonate with you and use them as a starting point as you learn how to make a song.

2. Chord Progression

Chord progressions are a fundamental concept you should understand when learning how to make a song. It serves as the backbone of a song, consisting of a sequence of musical chords that sets the overall mood and feel of the musical piece. 

Chord progressions are denoted by uppercase Roman numerals “I” through “VII” for major chords and lowercase numerals “i” though “vii” for minor chords. These numerals denote the root note of a chord based on the key of the song.

For example, let’s take the key of C major. The Roman numeral “ii” represents the second key in the C major scale, which is D, and denotes a minor chord. The fourth key in the C major scale is represented with “IV,” which is an F major chord.

A chord progression is formed by selecting a key, which will determine the notes and chords for the song. Each chord will be assigned a Roman numeral based on the key of the song, with upper case letters representing major keys, and lower case numbers representing minor keys.

The most common chord progression in modern music is I – V – vi – IV, which can be found in various genres of including rock, country, and pop. This chord progression can be used in any key and the order of the chords can be rearranged.

A comedy group performs a medley of songs using that progression to demonstrate the common use of that chord progression

However, popular songs are not limited to this progression. Some hit songs are based on different chord progressions, such as i – III – VII – VI.

It’s worth noting that most popular songs have chord progressions consisting of 3 or 4 chords, but don’t let that limit your creativity. Some of the most memorable and impactful songs feature more or less chords that break the mold. With chord progressions, experiment and find what sounds right for the song you want to create.

If you struggle with creating chord progressions or want to speed up the process, ChordChord is one of the most popular chord progression generators that can create one easily. Remember, a chord progression is a major component of your song and can make all the difference in setting the right tone and mood for your audience.

3. Song Structure 

The structure of a song is like a roadmap for telling a story. Typically, songs move onto verses after the intro, and include a chorus that ties everything together. Those verses are repeated in sequence to create a song structure that is memorable.

To add tension and excitement to a song, you can include build ups after a verse followed by a drop that can create a sudden release of energy. Drops are frequently used in electronic dance music before a chorus section, but have also been used in other genres like rock.

Below is the song structure for “This Is What You Came For” a hit song by Calvin Harris and co-written by Taylor Swift using the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. This shows how a song can be structured using a verse, chorus, and build up. 

Verse 1 (8 bars)
Chorus (8 bars)
Build Up (8 bars)
Chorus (16 bars)
Verse 2 (8 bars)
Verse 3 (8 bars)
Build Up (8 bars)
Chorus (16 bars)
Verse 1 (8 bars)
Build Up (8 bars)
Chorus (16 bars)

If you’re wondering what a “bar” refers to, it is a segment of music that is typically four beats long. Because bars are typically grouped in sets of four, song sections are typically 8, 16, and 32 bars long. 

As you develop your song structure, remember to keep the listener engaged by varying the melody, lyrics, and dynamics throughout the song, and make sure that each section flows seamlessly into the next.

4. Melody

Creating a captivating melody is a crucial part of learning how to make a song. A great melody with a catchy hook can make a song memorable and easy to sing or hum along to.

To craft an amazing melody, you need to consider various elements, such as its contour, range, repetition, and rhythm. It’s also useful to listen to your favorite songs, take note of the melodies that stick in your head, and analyze the patterns or common elements that make them work. By keeping these aspects in mind, you can begin writing a melody that will captivate your audience and add depth to your song.


Another key component of a melody is its contour, which is the shape of the melody over time. Melodies can have a variety of different contours, from ascending to descending to wavy and everything in between. The contour of a melody can help create tension and release, and can be used to emphasize important parts of the song.

The lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana is an example of a melody with a noticeable ascending and descending contour.


The range of a melody refers to the span of notes used in the melody, from its lowest note to its highest.

A melody with a narrow range can sound repetitive, which can work well in music. An example of a simple repetitive melody can be heard in the tech house hit “Losing It” by FISHER. 

In contrast, melodies with a wide range can sound dramatic and expansive like the lyrics in “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. The interval between the note range creates a sense of excitement and passion.


Repetition is another crucial aspect of a melody. A simple, repetitive melody or lyrics create a sense of familiarity that makes a song catchy.

The chorus of “Shake it Off “ by Taylor Swift is an example of a song with repetitive melody and words in the lyrics.


Lastly, rhythm is an important component of a melody. It refers to the pattern of notes spaced out over time and can create a sense of momentum and energy. A catchy melody often has a strong and memorable rhythm that sticks in the listener’s mind. 

An example of a melody with a simplistic yet very memorable rhythm is “We Will Rock You” by Queen.


Lyrics to a song are usually follow the primary melody of a song. Writing lyrics is a creative task that can potentially change the melody’s rhythm. Some musicians like Elton create songs based on lyrics that have already been written.

If you are struggling with writing lyrics, here are some tips for writing lyrics to a song.

5. Bassline

The bassline is a crucial element that anchors the harmonic structure for a song and adding rhythmic groove. As a bass instrument is typically part of the rhythm section of a band, there’s a strong relationship between the bassline and drum beats, and together they provide a strong foundation for rhythm in a song.

Electric bass guitar being played

To create a bassline, it is helpful to understand the chord progression of your song. The bassline is built around the root notes of each chord in the progression. Therefore, it’s important to know the root notes of the chords are and when the chords change. Playing through your chord progression and identifying the root notes of each chord is a great way to start.

Once you have a good grasp of the chord progression, experiment with different rhythms that fit the mood of your song. Consider trying out different patterns, playing along with your chord progression until you find a rhythm that complements the overall feel of your song.

A bassline can be as simple as playing whole notes for each chord, or eighth notes using the root notes of each chord. For instance, “Crazy In Love” by Beyonce has a simple repetitive bass line.

If you want to create a melodic bassline, the same elements of melody creation mentioned earlier can be applied. Although a bassline does not have to be catchy, a distinctive one can add an additional melodic element to a song. An example of a bassline with a distinctive countermelody in “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

6. Drum Beats

Understanding drum beats is a crucial part of learning how to make a song. Although drum beats are not always used, they are typically included in most modern genres of music. Drum beats play a crucial role in setting the tempo and establishing the overall feel of the track.

Drum set

The first step in beat making is deciding on a rhythm. This can be done by modeling drum patterns of songs in the same genre or experimenting with different drum patterns and percussion samples until you find something that fits with your song. Many DAWs include pre-made drum loops that you can use as a starting point.

Different genres of music have their own unique styles of beats. For example, hip-hop beats often feature intricate drum patterns while house music is characterized with a kick drum on every beat of a 4/4 time signature.

Drum beats have their own frequency, just like musical notes do. With the help of DAW, you can adjust the frequency of the drum beats to match the key of the song, creating a seamless and harmonious sound. 

Using equipment for making beats  will be helpful if you do not know where to start. Music production equipment With some experimentation and a good ear for rhythm, you can create a beat that perfectly complements the other elements of your song and helps to bring your musical vision to life.

7. Recording Your Tracks

As you go through each component of how to make a song, you may want to record tracks that require external instruments or vocals. If you’re recording tracks at home, you will need to buy recording equipment and set up a recording space free from noise.

To ensure you create quality recordings, it’s important to prevent any background noises from being picked up by your microphone. When recording lyrics, choosing the best microphone for recording vocals will make world of difference in your recordings.

One common source of unwanted noise is the tapping sound of plastic keys on a keyboard. This can occur when recording a keyboard while it’s being played over a built-in speaker. As an example, many songs in the Spotify playlist below have noticeable keyboard tapping sounds.

One way to minimize background noise from keyboards is to use an audio interface that connects the keyboard directly to your computer. Using an audio interface enables you to transmit the keyboard’s synthesizer sounds directly to your computer without the need for a microphone.

By doing this, you can eliminate the sound of the keys being tapped and other ambient noise that might interfere with your recording. It will produce a cleaner recording that is free of distracting background noise.

MIDI and audio outputs on the back of Novation MiniNova synthesizer keyboard

A keyboard must have audio outputs to connect to an audio interface. If you need a keyboard that has built-in speakers, audio outputs, and USB connectivity for MIDI, the Yamaha reface CP and Casio Casiotone CT-S1000V are two choices.

8. Mixing and Mastering

After you’re happy with the composition of all tracks for a song, the final stage is mixing and mastering, which can make all the difference in the final product.

While this is not a musical part of how to make a song, it is part of the post-production process that is necessary to ensure all tracks you create sound crisp or clear when played together.

While some people confuse mixing and mastering as being the same, they are actually two distinct processes.

Mixing Equipment
Audio mixing equipment

Mixing involves balancing your individual tracks to create a cohesive and polished sound. During the mixing stage, the levels of each track are adjusted, equalization is applied to create space and balance for certain frequency bands, effects such as reverb or delay are added, and compression is used to control the dynamic range of the tracks.

When you’re mixing your song, it’s important to listen carefully and critically. Be sure to reference your mix on different speakers and in different environments to ensure that it sounds good no matter where it’s played.

Once you’re happy with the mix, it’s time to master your song as a whole.

Mastering is the final step in the music production process, and it involves applying final tweaks to your mix to make it sound as professional and polished as possible. During this step, you will also apply compression, equalization, and limiting to your mix to ensure that it’s consistent and balanced across all frequencies.

Unless you are very interested in becoming skilled about mixing and mastering, they should be performed by a professional if you’re serious about creating high-quality music.

Professional sound engineers have the experience and equipment to make sure that your song sounds great on all playback systems, from headphones to sound systems. Consider working with a professional mixing engineer and mastering engineer to take your music to the next level.


Learning how to make a song can be an intimidating process, but it’s also a rewarding experience that allows you to express your emotions and experiences through music. While there are many components to consider, work on each component individually to get a bigger picture of the musical piece.

It is very likely that you will be revising each track until you create something that is perfect in your mind. Remember to experiment and have fun with each track when you are learning how to make a song so you can create something unique and memorable.

With dedication, practice, and patience, you can make a song that reflects your unique voice and style.

About the Author

Jon Chen
Jon is a lawyer with more than 15 years of experience practicing law. His passion for music began when he was a child, which led him to learn how to play the piano, saxophone, trombone, and guitar. He enjoys analyzing music and helping others succeed and live a better life.