How To Write a Song on Ukulele
by Rodrigo Sanchez, Apr 5, 2021 . 5 min read
Today we’re gonna talk about how to write a song on ukulele. Songwriting is a beautiful artform and the heart of the music industry. Without songs, there is nothing to be recorded, produced, streamed or sold.
Songwriting takes years to master and is a skill that can pay dearly if you hit the jackpot with a few hits. It can also become just a hobby that lets you relax and exercise your creative muscles. If you play a bit of ukulele, then you’re ready to jump in the action. If you don’t, you can still benefit from this article as we’re going to be using very simple chords and strum patterns. Check out our ukulele app to help you in your learning process. Here is how to write a song on ukulele.
Principles of songwriting
The principles of songwriting apply to any instrument. A song is simply a composition intended to be performed by the human voice. In other words, instrumentals are not songs (they’re pieces). The point of a song, and music in general, is to communicate something to the listener. In songwriting we achieve that by combining a melody, with lyrics and an underlying harmony or chords. Songs can be very complex, but the most famous ones tend to be simple. Of course, being simple without being trite is challenging. These principles of songwriting have been applied by the greats, from Paul McCartney to Chris Cornell.
The easiest way to start writing a song is to think about its form. The form is just the order in which the parts appear in a song. We’re going to be using the most common form in all of songwriting, the verse-chorus form. Most popular songs from the past 30 years feature the following form: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.
The verses expose and develop the situation to the listener. Each verse contains the same melody and chords but different lyrics. On the other hand, the chorus is the heart of the song, containing the main message. It is typically identical each time it appears. It contains the same melody, chords and lyrics, and it is usually singlable and easy to remember. The bridge is a departure that can feature a twist in the lyrics, or something different from the verses and chorus. The bridge serves as a break that prepares the listener for that last chorus.
For our song, we’re gonna use only four chords. I told you it would be really easy! For the verse we will use C G Am F with a simple downstroke pattern. Each chord will last four beats or one bar. After that, just repeat the same chord order with the same pattern. For the chorus, we’re gonna use the same chords but with each lasting just two beats. In other words, the chorus chords will move twice as fast. However, we’re going to repeat the progression four times instead of two. This will make the chorus last the same amount of time as the verse.
Finally, for the bridge we’re going to play Am and F for a bar each. The chords in the bridge will move as fast as the verse chords. Repeat that progression just once to complete the bridge.
Melody and lyrics
Some people like to say that lyrics don’t matter. Oh how wrong they are! The dirty little secret is that melody and lyrics are deeply intertwined. If you have a great melody but cumbersome lyrics that sounds forced and unnatural, you probably won’t have a good song. And it’s the same the other way around. Great lyrics and an awkward melody will also sound bad.
How to write lyrics and melody
Firstly, make sure you have the form down with the correct chords. Secondly, start humming along while you play your uke. Some melodies and lyrics will start popping into your head. Focus on the melody first. You can always rewrite the lyrics later, while keeping the melody.
And what should you write about? The most obvious answer is whatever you want.
Try to have a melody for the verses, a different melody for the chorus, and a third one for the bridge. This is where the hard work is. Finding melodies and lyrics, and polishing them is a true work of art.
This brief guide on how to write a song on ukulele is all you need to get started with songwriting. The chord progression and form I gave you is one of the most used in modern songwriting. Countless hit songs have been written using these, in different keys. As far as the melody and lyrics, you’re gonna have to figure out what you like and what you want to express. Songwriting is a beautiful journey, and the world has a special place for those really special songwriters that touch us in a unique way.