The charm of ukuleles as they produce cheerful tunes and uplifting melodies is irresistible. Even The Beatles’ ever-talented lead guitarist, George Harrison, couldn’t resist the magic of the Hawaiian instrument, often hinting that it’s his most cherished instrument.
Not only do the quirky sounds that ukuleles make spread happiness whenever played, but they also inspire many ukulele players to get into songwriting.
If you can relate, let me tell you, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve prepared a step-by-step guide on how to write a ukulele song. So grab your ukulele, and jump in!
Writing a song consists of a few easy steps. First, you should create a melody and choose a chord progression. You can use a ukulele key card here if you’re a beginner. Then, you’ll need to write the lyrics, choose your song title, and add a motif.
5 Steps on How to Write a Ukulele Song
Get a headstart in your songwriting game and check this guide on writing a song to play on the ukulele.
1. Create a Melody
The first step in writing your song is to create a melody, and I’ll give you a few tricks on how to do so. First, your melody should be singable, as in you should be able to sing it without pausing too much in between notes.
Also, it should have a smooth flow that doesn’t go too low or too high suddenly. Ideally, the motion between every two notes should be step-wise, not skip-wise, especially if you’re still a beginner at writing your own songs.
The process might look a bit overwhelming at first. However, if you feel stuck, hold your ukulele, try your hands at some chords, and you’ll come up with a melody in no time.
Once you have repetitive catchy notes with reasonable pauses, you can go on to the next step.
2. Choose the Chord Progression
After coming up with a catchy melody, it’s time to choose the right chord progression for your song. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a chord progression is a sequence of two or more chords that keep repeating throughout the song. Each chord should consist of a group of notes that play simultaneously to produce harmony.
Generally, the most common chord progressions consist of four chords, like I-V-vi-IV. It’s most famously used in Don’t Stop Believin by Journey.
Other four-chord songs you can hear are Hey Soul Sister by Train and Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver. The I-IV-V progression is also one of the most famous progressions.
While choosing your progression, you should consider mixing major chords and minor chords. Most songs that include playing the ukulele have this mixture, and it’s fairly easy to create.
For instance, if your first chord is a D or G major, you should follow it with a B or E minor instead of another major chord. Doing so will add variety to your progression and make it sound more catchy with your strumming pattern.
You can also add an augmented or diminished chord, but doing so requires some expertise in songwriting and chord charts.
If you haven’t created chord progressions before, you can use a ukulele key card. It’s a chart that includes two chord diagrams, showing which chords sound good together and which don’t. The chart consists of two sections, Major Key and Minor Key. You’ll find the chords that go best together in the same key.
It’ll help you find harmonic ukulele chords faster and easier. You can also ask for the opinion of your ukulele teacher.
3. Write Lyrics for Your Song
Now, it’s time to begin lyric writing for your song, which might be the most challenging part for some people.
There isn’t a step-by-step guide that you should follow to write songs if I’m being honest. It mostly comes naturally from inspiration. Most people who write ukulele songs are inspired by their life events. However, I’ll still give you some tips to put you on the right track.
For starters, songs consist of verses, choruses, and bridges. Common arrangements that most beginners stick to are the intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, and then the outro.
You can use this arrangement if you aren’t sure of your abilities and want to compose a well-written song.
While writing lyrics, remember that you don’t need to use the same chord progression throughout the entire song. Instead, you can change it between your verses and choruses. You can also try alternate tuning and different keys to go with your new lyrics.
It’s worth mentioning that your song might take time to sound good, and it’s absolutely fine. You aren’t expected to write a Billie Jean or an I Will Survive for your first song. So take it easy.
4. Choose a Song Name
Choosing your new song name should be easy after writing the lyrics. For instance, you can use a memorable line from your song that’ll stick with people.
Alternatively, you can follow in the footsteps of famous worldwide artists and choose a title that isn’t involved in the lyrics. Queen did it in Bohemian Rhapsody, and Nirvana did it in Smells Like Teen Spirit. So why shouldn’t you?
5. Add a Motif
Every memorable, good song should have a motif. This is a trick that probably nobody will tell you, but I like it because it makes your music piece unique. In summary, a motif is a musical fragment unique to your song.
A famous example is the Fate motif, which is the opening to the ever-remarkable symphony, Beethoven’s No. 5. Once you hear it, you’ll recognize the symphony, which is the main purpose of adding a motif.
However, don’t be overwhelmed by this step. It’s optional, and many popular songs don’t have a motif.
You don’t need to be an expert to write a song for your ukulele. With the help of my guide and some patience and creativity on your side, you can come up with a catchy piece of music. Later on, you can add some lyrics and a memorable name, and voila!
You’re a step closer to becoming the Bob Dylan of your generation.