Everyone has a different way they like to express themselves creatively. Some people are writers and poets who love words. Others enjoy music and maybe naturally gifted with a good ear.
When you write a rock song, it combines both in a unique way. The best and most enduring rock music reaches out and grabs the listener in a way that they can’t forget. This might be due to the catchy melody, a wicked guitar solo, or a beat they can headbang to.
Whether you’ve experimented with writing music or lyrics before or are brand new to it, it’s a skill that is not out of reach if you know what steps to follow. Keep reading for our tips on how to write a good rock song.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Before you put anything on paper, it’s good to give your mind time to wander. This disengaged headspace is where ideas will begin to take shape and make themselves known.
Ask Yourself Why
Is there a particular reason you have the drive to write a song? Perhaps a life event triggered your feelings and made you want to vent through the use of music. Or maybe you simply want to try something new, experiencing the gratification of creating something unfamiliar.
Whatever the case, you can reach a greater understanding of the song you’re about to write based on your feelings surrounding it.
Decide the Basics
When you launch into the songwriting process, there are many factors to consider. There are many different types of rock music. Make sure you sift through all the possibilities.
You could write:
- A song that’s fairly simple but leaves room for musical improvisation
- Deep lyrics with music that’s beginner-friendly
- More complicated music but with a lyrical “hook” to grasp onto
A successful rock song is the perfect meld of catchy music with a meaningful message that listeners can relate to. Maybe you want to capture the high-energy vibe of your favorite 80s rock songs. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you choose as long as your song represents you.
Step 2: Lyrics
For some musicians, there is a musical idea already formed in their heads that they want to add words to and put onto paper. But for most beginners at writing a rock song, the lyrics are the first thing they come up with.
Choose a Theme
Popular rock songs usually incorporate strongly-worded language about something that inspires rage or passion. Traditionally, rock song themes address heartbreak, betrayal, or steadfast love. Non-romantic themes include rebellion, frustration, loneliness, drug abuse, political upheaval, or other societal issues.
Decide on Language
Learning how to write rock song lyrics can take time and effort. Do you want lyrics that are easy to sing along to the first time your audience hears them? You may prefer something more profound, with multisyllabic words and flowery descriptive phrases.
Your song could be radio-friendly with lyrics that aren’t offensive. But if you want to express yourself with more angry material, it might be a good idea to give yourself license to explore edgy language that would merit an explicit label.
Step 3: Structure
Tackling song structure can seem daunting when learning how to write music. The best way to write a song that makes sense logically is to create a structure to follow.
Rock song structure looks something like this:
- Intro (optional)
- Verse 1
- Verse 2
- Verse 3, etc. (optional)
- Final chorus (repeated ad libitum)
- Outtro (optional) – this can be lyrical or musical
Organize Your Ideas
In general, choruses remain the same from one to the next, while each verse follows a similar rhythmic pattern but changes the words. If each verse in your song is about something different, note that down, so you more accurately follow the song’s flow.
Make a chart or draw out the shape of the song on paper so you can remember your original concept. But leave room to shift your goals along the way!
Remember, you don’t have to stick to what every other rock artist does. This is your song, and only you get to determine how you want it to sound. It’s entirely possible that somewhere along the way, you’ll be inspired to add or change parts of the song you thought you had finished.
Step 4: Music
Depending on the theme of your song, you might choose one of several musical routes. For example, if your expression is frustration and rebellion, you should use the aesthetic of hard rock music. Loud chords and heavy percussion will strike the right tone, whereas a romantic ballad might favor a softer acoustic rock style.
Use What You Know
Unless your song is part of the complex progressive rock genre, chances are you’ll have more success keeping it simple. Chords and melodies don’t have to be complicated to be effective. You might find that your brain and hands already know how to make rock music better than you were aware when you began.
Try Different Sounds
Once you have the lyrics in hand, this is the prime time to experiment. You don’t even have to have the words 100% completed to mess around with the music that accompanies them. It could be that there’s a musical idea that complements a phrase better than you expected. Maybe a syllable or two could use an extra melodic idea. Let your creative juices freely flow to let the two elements of lyrics and music find their way to each other.
Step 5: Polish
Once you’ve got all the elements of a rock song, it’s time to pull it all together.
Smooth Rough Edges
Classic rock music tends to be easy to sing along to. If you make the music or lyrics too complicated, your song loses some appeal. Maybe there’s a lyrical bit that doesn’t quite rhyme the way you’d like. If so, this is the time to smooth it out.
Find Further Inspiration
Listening to a band whose work you admire is the primary way to create something you’re proud of, whether you are into 80s rock hits or famous rock songs.
You might also enjoy watching movies about the creative process. Bohemian Rhapsody, That Thing You Do!, Rock Star and School of Rock portray artists and bands who encounter creative challenges and then go on to see onstage success.
Though it may sound daunting, writing a rock song is within almost everyone’s ability. Break it into accessible pieces, make a rough outline, and let your creativity flow. The result will be something that feels cathartic to play and sing and might also entertain your friends or loved ones, who will be your biggest fans. Rock on!