Pyramind Alum Siddhant Bosley singing into a microphone while using a music production program.

How To Make A Song – Step by Step Songwriting guide

So you want to make a song, and be a producer huh? Well why not – everyone else is! With a laptop, decent headphones, cheap software and a dream, you can do it too!

All you have to do is: 

  • Learn how music works. It should only take a few hours on YouTube…right? Never mind that musicians spend their whole lives learning music – YOU won’t have to! (you should).
  • Watch every tutorial ever made. After all, it’s free! Wait – isn’t your time worth something too?
  • Buy every piece of software that everyone else uses.
  • Make 100 tracks that you start, love – but never finish – until one day it all clicks. And the day after this happens, buy a lottery ticket because you’re DEFINITELY going to win! (you won’t).
  • Seek production gurus to tell you the secret to life. Actually, this is a pretty good idea. If only there were a place that had dozens of these people available to book hourly with a convenient scheduler where you could see their availability and just make it happen without dozens of back-and-forth emails!
  • Smash your head into the wall until you “find your sound”. Something about a lottery ticket here?

I think you get the idea. In this epic guide I’m going to lay it all out for you. I want this to be the absolutely most helpful guide on the internet to help you develop your songwriting and producing skills so please let me know in the comments how I can improve this post.

Stage One – Writing/Composing

Telling a Story With A Song

Let’s start with a novel concept – “Music is emotional story telling”. So maybe, start with a story. While musicians know how to do this instinctively, as budding young producers without a musical background, this can be hard. 

We hear others tell us stories all day. Most are boring with no real point – people just love to hear themselves talk. However, every once in a while, you hear something that’s interesting, poignant, relatable and repeatable. You feel the desire to share the story and pass it on as if its your own – it’s that good.

So when you sit down to make a song, consider your audience. Are you telling the same story that everyone else has already told or are you telling a new story? What’s going to keep someone wanting to listen? Or share with a friend – or 25 friends? What’s going to make your story “go viral”? There’s a structure to good stories that works. All you have to do is fill it in with YOU… and that’s the real hard part…

1. The Starting Line

There’s no right or wrong way to write a song but usually, it starts with one of these things:

    • A story. One project I’ve had students do over the years is to write a song that translates the mood of a story. It can be anything – a scene in a movie, something from a book or the news OR something from their lives. The idea is to feel the story and start translating that to music. Often, it becomes lyrics, which becomes melody. From there, chords and rhythms are added to tell that story. If you’re not great with words, find a collaborator who’s deep in the skills of wordsmithing to move things along quickly. Singers are really good for this too…and they can sing. Which doesn’t suck.
    • A chord progression. Assuming you don’t have any musical skills here, you might start in the oceans of libraries out there. Companies like Loopmasters (our partners!) have 100’s of 1000’s of loops, beats, sample, chords and MIDI files to hunt through until something clicks. Once you have that seedling, you can build a track around that. You can also use tools like Captain Chords [link to MIK site] which will build your chord progression for you with a few mouse clicks. You don’t have to know what you’re doing to get something useful – and quickly! Of course, if you DO know music theory (and you should!), tools like “the Captain” are even cooler because you can get exactly what you want – sometimes faster than playing chords directly! To learn the basics of theory in the most useful (and easy to digest) way possible, buy the book [link to Pyramind MTK book] or take our online class based on the book [link to MTK class]
    • A beat (drums). While they don’t necessarily write your chords for you, drums are very musical – both in rhythm AND in pitch. Starting with a beat can help you settle in on tempo, which tends to dictate genre as well. From there, you can “fill in the song” with parts that fit the beat. This tends to be where most electronic music producers start – but it may be the hardest way to start a song that tells a story. Here, the results are almost always genre-based and not mood / story-based.
    • Sound Design. When you start with sound design, a few things happen simultaneously. You write your first clips – often this is the bass line or the main chord progression, you set the mood of the track and you pick the key. We’ll discuss this more later but when you create that first sound, you tend to do it with one note which ends up being the foundation of the rest of the track. When you do sound design and chords together, you go further in writing the song than any other process individually!


2. Choosing your Song’s Color.

In any of the above starting places, a process unfolds once you move beyond the introductory parts. If you start with sound design or chords (or both!), you end up making a decision whether or not you’re aware of it. 

You’ve chosen the key of your song.

For those who don’t know, “key” is a term used to describe the note (or pitch) that is the heart of the song. We call it the “tone center” but essentially, it says:

“This note is more important than any other. All other notes relate to it. It’s the ‘home’ of the song.”

There are LOTS of theories on key, like there are theories on color. The parallels between pitch and color are really useful here. For example, red tends to be associated with passion, while yellow is thought of as friendly. In this same way, people tend to create personal associations with key – D might be thought of as ‘uplifting’ while F might be thought of as ‘serious.’ These are not universally agreed upon and this is just an example of what one person might determine key feels like.

When starting a song with sound design, we tend to hit one note over and over while tweaking the synth until we craft a sound that we like. However, the note being used as a test might not be the best one for your song. Try playing lots of different notes while designing your sound. You might find that simply playing a note only one ½ step away makes a huge difference in the quality of the sound! 

Here are some fun links describing key and their interpretation by two classical music composers. Yes, they’re hella old but it’s kinda hilarious to see how people thought of mood back then. For many, these are absolutely still accurate and for others, they couldn’t be more wrong.  

But hey – opinions are never agreed upon anyway, right?

[insert links “color wheel of sound”] 


3. Choosing Comedy or Tragedy 

Unfortunately, key alone is not enough to dictate the mood of your song. There is a very important secondary function here – mood.  

This is going to sound weird, but simply choosing a color isn’t enough. Saying “my song is in the key of Bb” means nothing without adding this – “is it a happy Bb or a sad Bb?”


Yes – key alone only tells us the important note. However, through chords and melody, we can shape the mood of that note by adding the component of quality. The two most common quality types are:

  • Major. If a key is thought of as major, we tend to associate happy, smiling, peaceful, pleasant, fun feelings with it. Any key can be major so if you are in the key of Bb, you’d have to accurately describe your song as being in the key of “Bb Major”. This tells us exactly what to expect – a “happy Bb” song.
  • Minor. If major is happy, minor is not. I used the word “sad” earlier but that’s not really it. After all, sad is not the only opposite to happy. Angry, sad, depressive, serious, focused, tense – all of these moods can be carried by minor songs. In our above example, we’d have to say our song is in the key of “Bb minor”. This tells us exactly what to expect – a “not-so-happy Bb”.

While these are simplifications of music, they work. These are universal concepts. If you’re not sure what these things really sound like, again I recommend using other tools to help out here.

When you surf through Loopmasters’ libraries, the samples are often categorized by both key and quality. IE, if you search for “chords” you’ll get 10’s of 1000’s of samples labeled things like “Bb minor funk riff #2” or “D major gospel chords #12”. Don’t feel like you’re limited to these keys – if you like a sample, go ahead and grab it! You can either change its key in Loopmasters’ prior to downloading it or you can do it in your favorite DAW.

In the same way, tools like Captain Chords allow you to build chords in a progression and rhythm in any key you like. AND, with the click of the mouse, you can change the key AND the quality instantly. Built something in Bb minor and no longer like it? Great – change it to D major in second and all your chords re-align themselves perfectly!


4. Composing the Music for Your Song

Before we go too deep here, let’s talk about music composition tools.

If you’re just starting out, there’s plenty of free online tools to help you get started composing. Here’s a few.

  • Google Song Maker
  • HookTheory

If you want to get started in a more professional direction, here’s the most common and important music composition tools around.

  • Ableton Live
  • Logic Pro X
  • Pro Tools

Chord Progressions

Chord progression generator:


Melody Lines


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Stage 2 – Recording/Producing

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This has been “How To Make A Song in 2020” Thanks for reading and congratulations on your new song. 


We highly recommend you get in the habit of finishing many songs instead of perfecting a few.


Does your song have what it takes to be a global hit or even a family favorite? Take your song to the indsutry standards by reading the next guide on mixing/mastering publishing and releasing your song here.



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