How to Write a Song in a Minute – Part 1


I’m often asked by friends, in that same sort of “can you teach me how to draw?” way I’m sure every artist is familiar with, things like “omg! How do you like write music?” They insist that they could never possibly do such an insanely cool thing as composing, which, as someone in whose life music plays a very strong role, strikes me as ridiculous. I’m like, “just hit random keys and stuff comes out.”

But for the sake of those people, and, of course, you the reader, I’m going to explain the pain-stakingly easy process of writing a song! And I’m not even talking the pluck-four-chords-on-your-banjo-and-you’re-the-next-Taylor-Swift kind of song. If you’re looking for that department, try the next room over.

Because here, we’re writing some hardcore music. Read on to get started.

How to Write a Song in a Minute

You Will Need:

music software
some sense of rhythm
¼  tsp. creativity
6 potatoes, peeled

Approximate Baking Time:

  • ten minutes
  • makes 1 serving(s)

Choosing Your Software

While you could just as easily pull out the old didgeridoo and throw some A♭ diminished triads into a tape recorder and call it a day, if that’s your musical conduit, you, like, won’t even be able to put it on Facebook for your great uncle Larry and aunt Therese to see. Err, hear.

So what we’ll be using is some nifty-swifty musical notation software. But there are so many on the internet, how will we know which one to pick? That honestly depends on your preferences and your musical experience. Let’s say you’re something like our hypothetical figure Jane. Jane can’t tell a dotted quarter note from leggiero articulation (which I just find really funny!), so she’s likely going to need to look into software that uses a piano roll. Now what, Jane may be asking herself, in the hey is a piano roll? Is it like a jelly roll, with less jam and more ivory?

Acoustica Inc.'s Mixcraft

above: Acoustica Inc.'s Mixcraft 5.2

Above is a screenshot from the audio software Mixcraft, which uses a piano roll for musical notation. On the left you have your piano keys (hence the complex term “piano” in the name), starting at a C5. Though that’s just where I was; by scrolling up or down you can input little notes into the spaces pictured above at any pitch — the piano roll is a very good visual-spatial representation of how high or low your note will be if you can’t read traditional music well.

At this point in time, Jane is probably slamming her theoretical face onto a theoretical desk in frustration! “Omg!” she may be saying, “How am I even supposed to know how to write music! This is nothing like dragging Garageband loops onto tracks to make a song!!1one!!!”

To which I would perhaps respond “jaen u ar so dum!!1 i well talk about musick theory latur!!” But enough of my illiteracy — let’s discuss your other option for writing a song.

Willow Software's Anvil Studio

above: Willow Software's Anvil Studio 2011.11.01

Our second hypothetical figure of example we’re going to call Liam. Liam has studied the fine workings of music since he was first conceived (rest assured it was, indeed, a very painful delivery for the mother, they had to have a c-section just to fit the whole symphonic orchestra through) yet has never actually settled down to compose some of his own.

For Liam, someone who is accustomed to sheet music, adjusting to piano roll style notation may actually prove to be more of a challenge. Fortunately, there are boat loads of software available that utilize a score-styled notation system, such as the one pictured above from the software Anvil Studio (which, by the way, I use religiously as a crutch).

Scores prove useful for more advanced composers over piano rolls, as the type of software that uses them is generally geared less towards producing the sound of the music and more on the actual sheets, so you can print them out for all your home skillets to play at your next benefit concert (though frankly, if you need a basic guide on composing music yet you’ve already booked yourself a performance, I’m concerned).

Now that you’ve been acquainted to the two basic styles of getting music out of your head and you have a basic idea of what kind of software you’ll need, we’ll see what you have available after the break.

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One thought on “How to Write a Song in a Minute – Part 1

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