How to Write a Good Country Song

One Methods:Sample Country Song

Most country songs are quite simple. All you need to do is sing about how you're feeling. If you're happy, sad, mad, nervous or even scared, write it in a phrase, but then give it a tune. Then you have a country song.


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    Almost every country song is written around a "hook," a phrase that is repeated several times in the song and is easily remembered, like "Friends in Low Places." The hook comes early in the song, most often in the chorus, and it is repeated several times. Hooks are often plays on common expressions, as in "Friends in Low Places" or seeming contradictions, like "This Life is Me." When you hear a common phrase, twist it around to see if it makes for an interesting book. Tim McGraw's "It's a Business Doing Pleasure With You" is a recent example.
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    Listen closely to songs and note their structure. Get copies of the lyrics or write them out yourself to help you become familiar with how songs are structured. You'll begin to see patterns emerge and you'll learn how to apply them to your own compositions.
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    Start with simple chord progressions and write the lyrics around them. If you don't play an instrument and have no musical background, you should probably find someone who does and collaborate with them. Words that look good on paper don't always fit neatly into a song structure and need some fine tuning with the music to make the lyrics work with the music and the harmony.
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    Most country songs follow simple structures. Don't be afraid of using odd structures; some of the greatest country songs break the rules, but keep in mind that simplicity is the hallmark and the strength of most good country songs. Most songs follow the verse-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus pattern or something similar, but don't be a slave to convention if you think you've got hold of something a little out of the ordinary that works. The great Hank Williams song, "Cold, Cold Heart" ignores the convention of having a chorus and has four verses instead of the usual three. Willie Nelson's "Crazy" is quite atypical in terms of harmonic structure.
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    Good songs tell stories, so think of how the story progresses in your song. Even if it's just a "slice of life" story, it should paint a picture that describes what the narrator is experiencing.
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    While it's hard to avoid the clich├ęs common in country songs, do your best to come up with new ways of saying the relatively few things that most songs deal with: the pain over a broken love affair, the thrill of a new one, regret over a life wasted; the joy of partying, and so forth.
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    Use strong verbs and concrete images. Make every word work hard. Lots of songs are fewer than 100 words, so they've got to pack a lot of meaning.
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    Remember that good writing of all kinds conveys action. Vivid images trump the sentimental phrase every time. "My truck's in a ditch, my boss fired me today, my wife left me for my best friend" all conjure up images in the listener's mind. It's your lyric, but it's the listener's mental image, and that's what sticks with them and makes those images memorable. "I love you, I need you, I want you" doesn't do much for the imagination.
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    Write from experience, but not just from your own. Other people have experiences that make for great song lyrics. Learn the art of empathy, putting yourself in someone else's situation and imagining what it might feel like to have a child, lose a parent or a spouse, or break up with a lover.
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    Write down everything that comes to mind that might be used in a song or as a building point. News articles, movies, books or something that someone says in a conversation all can inspire songs. A friend's story about how a rainstorm made him feel homesick inspired this article's sample song. Keep a pen and paper handy to scratch out ideas and squirrel them away.
    • For example, some songwriters have a system of organizing songs and ideas that files them according to their approximate stage of completion. They'll "star" them according to completion, subject to change as the song evolves. That is, they'll file those that are finished as "Fives" and the rest in descending order. "Ones" will usually be a line or two, and "Fours" will be songs that need a little more work to finish.

Sample Country Song

Sample Country Song

Things You'll Need

  • Some skill at playing an instrument, knowledge of basic music theory, and/or someone skilled who will collaborate with you.
  • Paper, and pens and pencils, on you at all times to make notes of song ideas on the spot.
  • A thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary to help you when you get stuck.
  • A system for filing ideas for songs and lyric fragments.
  • Not necessary, but often helpful, is a recorder to put down musical ideas.

Article Info

Categories: Songs and Song Writing