Known for its deep connection to African-American gospel, funk, and R&B music. If you love soul music, you may want to learn to create some of your own. Writing a soul song does not come down to a simple formula. However, there are steps you can take to find the right inspiration to write a soul song.
If you want to write a soul song, you likely have some understanding of the genre. However, soul music definitions can vary slightly. Knowing about the history of the soul will help you understand if this is the right genre for you and how you can add to the genre.
This genre rose to prominence in the 1950s within the African American community. Part of its popularity was related to the Civil Rights movement. Motown and Atlantic were a few record labels that helped spread soul music during this time. Over time, the genre influenced other genres, placing importance on African-American culture.
The first step to writing your soul music is understanding the soul genre. Try to listen to a range of different types of soul music, including old soul music, pop soul songs, R&B soul artists, and neo-soul. See what music connects with you and draw inspiration from your favorites as you get to know the genre.
Soul music examples
There are many modern and historical soul music artists you can listen to as a way to know the genre. Understanding the music can help you find soulful songs to sing or write. Giants of the soul world include Ray Charles, Etta James, James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Aretha Franklin. Some more modern soul artists include Aaliyah, Asa, Erykah Badu, Corinne Bailey Rae, the Bee Gees, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Prince.
Determine your approach
Some artists prefer to start with lyrics and add music, while others prefer the opposite. Often, songwriters do both elements in parallel. Try out a few options and see what method works best for you. You may enjoy switching up your approach. The exact order in which you do the rest of the steps is not essential to your success. Just go with what feels right.
Ask yourself some questions
The key to writing good soulful songs is getting in touch with yourself to see what matters to you. What is so important to you that it touches you deeply? What struggles have you had? What are your dreams? Who do you love? What is a soul song to you?
Good soulful music digs deep and is often biographical. It is up to you how much you reveal to
others. Writing from the soul is a great way to understand yourself better.
After you ask yourself a few questions, it is time to write your lyrics. They do not have to be perfect since you can always go back and revise them. Focus on conveying the emotions that come through when you ask yourself questions.
If you are unfamiliar with writing lyrics, start by writing out your feelings. Keep rhythm and rhyme in mind. Look at written song lyrics for soul music songs to get an idea of the rhymes and patterns usually used. Avoid listening to the song while you look at the lyrics since the sound can draw focus.
Once you know what you want to say, you can work on massaging the words into a coherent structure. Sometimes words can determine the direction you want to go with. A beginner song may follow an AABA or ABAB structure. ABAB also means verse-chorus-verse-chorus. As you get more advanced in your writing, you can try more complex structures.
Melody and structure
Often the lyrics are the heart of a song, and the melody is a simple way to deliver that heart. Commonly, a soul melody is written using a pentatonic scale and blues notes. The hook is a
catchy line that gets repeated throughout the song.
It is fine to have a simple melody and hook since those elements often weave together in different patterns in this genre. The structure of soul songs often contains call and response, verses paired with choruses, and echoed instrumentation.
The tempo is what drives the rest of your song. Soul music usually has a steady beat driven by percussion. Other instruments will echo that tempo. The tempo does not necessarily need to be quick since many soul songs are ballads.
Besides vocals, other common instruments used in soul music include an electric guitar, drums, other percussion, bass, piano, horns, strings, and electric organs. You do not need to use all of these instruments to write a soul song since the musical pattern is more connected to the genre than the instruments themselves.
Any good soul song is a nice balance of structurally sound and creative. You want your song to be playable and understandable, but that does not mean it needs to be boring. Add your own created sounds to the song to make it unique. Play with some synthesizers or record odd instruments or vocalizations. Ensure all elements reinforce your lyrics and overall sound.
Since soul music connects to many different genres and sub-genres, choosing to mix soul music with other sounds is a fun way to get creative. Draw inspiration from your favorite genres and create a sound that is all your own.
Revision is the next step in which order becomes relevant again. Before this step, you can throw all of the different aspects of your song together. Revising is a good way to ensure your song hangs together nicely and says what you want it to say.
Check for any superfluous song elements and add polish where it is needed. If you are recording a song, this is where you want to ensure all of the elements mix nicely. When writing a song, the revision stage is a great chance to ensure all of your written material is nicely organized.
Writing a soul song may seem daunting. However, with a few easy steps, you can commit your feelings to paper and then to music. Soon you can become part of this beautiful and vital genre.