Music or Lyrics First? My Songwriting Process

hailey gardiner songwriting process music or lyrics first

One of the things y’all have asked about the most is my songwriting process

I love me a good songwriting session where the juices are flowing and the song just pours itself out onto the paper and into the microphone.

Many people wonder whether they should start by writing the lyrics first, or by writing the music and melody.

There is no right or wrong way to construct a piece of music, but I have found that if I have the bare bones of the music in place, the melody and the lyrics will follow pretty effortlessly.

My songwriting flow:

I have always written the music and the melody of my songs first.

At the best of times, the songwriting process can feel really natural. Like the song already exists and your job is just to bring it out into the world.

When I first sit down to write a song, I’ll play around with chords on my guitar or on the piano until I find a combination or sound that I like.

I usually have a concept or idea of what I want it my song to be about, so I try to match the mood of what I’m wanting to communicate with the chords I piece together.

Then I’ll play the chord progression over and over and start singing whatever melodies comes into my head without overthinking it.

At this point I’ll usually pull out my phone and start recording so I don’t miss any good ideas!

Embrace whatever flows out!

At first, the words I sing as I make up the melody are complete nonsense.

I try to throw ideas out there without judging any of them, and eventually I’ll sing or say something that sounds catchy or that sticks.

If you get stuck, it can be helpful to ask yourself, “If this song was already written, where would it go from here?”

I’ll come up with a general melody idea and a few lyrics for at least a verse and chorus before pulling out my notebook and writing more lyrics down.

Writing lyrics is definitely not my strongest suit (something I want to improve upon), and it takes me a good amount of time to process what it is that I want to say!

Once I have a rough first draft of the verse/chorus of the song, I’ll record the whole thing into my phone or onto garageband to save my work

Let it marinate.

Unless I feel completely, OUTRAGEOUSLY inspired, I usually don’t finish a song in one sitting.

Although, there have been a few twenty minute songwriting sessions that have resulted in songs of mine like “The Woods”, “All My Life”, and “Moraine”.

Sometimes I let it the song marinate like a good piece of steak for a couple days and if I find myself singing it around the house or I can’t get it out of my head, I know it’s something worth diving into a little deeper.

I’ll redraft the lyrics and try to write a bridge (my least favorite part to write WHY GEORGIA WHY) to wrap the song up!

So there you have it!

Music, melody, and then lyrics.

What’s your songwriting process?

It might be fun to pull a fast one on your inner rock star if you’re a lyrics-first kind of writer and try creating the melody before adding words to your song!

  • Hi Hailey,
    I always enjoy reading your posts, they always include inspiration. Just a small point….I noticed on your signature…you don’t start your name with capital letters, I think you should….after all…you are
    “Hailey Gardiner!” I hope you have a great day.

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