WRITE A SONG: A Step-by-Step Guide

arrow-point3✓ The best way to start a song
✓ How to develop a lyric from your title
✓ Secrets of song structure
✓ How to find the melody in your lyric
✓ Where to find co-writers & resources!




  • It’s the quickest way to learn new songwriting skills! 
  • You’ll stay current with today’s music market. 
  • Learn how the pro’s write lyrics & melody. 
  • Begin using those techniques in your own songs.



Use these five essential songwriting tips to…

  • Give your songs lots of listener appeal
  • Add emotional impact and memorability
  • Increase your chances of success in the music industry!



Three eye-opening tips to help you…

  • Find out what top TV series, films, and ads look for.
  • Give your songs  mood, atmosphere, & energy
  • Write a lyric that will work for hundreds of scenes


A Note from Robin

Robin-smallDuring my 35 years in the music business as a songwriter, producer, author, record label exec, and recording artist, I’ve collected a lot of useful, no-nonsense info and I love to share it!

My books are used in some of the top universities and music schools in the U.S. to teach all levels of songwriting, from beginning to advanced. I hope you’ll enjoy your visit and find plenty of inspiration. And be sure to check out my SONGWRITING BLOG at MySongCoach.com – for the latest in songwriting craft and tools. ~ May your songs flow!

For permission to reprint a portion of any article with a link to the full article on this web site, please click here for more info.

Cathy Heller: Songs for TV Commercials

Cathy Heller Cathy Heller is a go-to artist when it comes to licensing music to TV commercials. Her songs have been featured in major ad campaigns for McDonalds, Walmart, Petco, Quaker, KFC, and many others. For years, Cathy has been successfully pitching her own music and helping other artists do the same. In this podcast I ask her how she does it.


Here’s a convenient “Table of Contents” for the podcast. Continue reading

Like I’m Gonna Lose You – Meghan Trainor & John Legend

Megan TrainorQuestion: How do you follow up a platinum, career-launching single like “All About That Bass”? Answer: With two more relentlessly catchy, upbeat songs that build on a similar radio-friendly, retro-blend sound.

Which is exactly what Meghan Trainor did. But after the third single – as much fluffy fun as it was – listeners were bound to wonder if things weren’t starting to sound a little same-y. Time for something new. Trainor hit the sweet spot with a ballad/duet with John Legend that slides perfectly into Trainor’s throwback sound while revealing more emotional depth.

• Blend vintage and contemporary song elements.
• Maintain lyric focus.
• Make your melody memorable by using patterns.

Read the lyrics here: Like I’m Gonna Lose You – Meghan Trainor w/ John Legend

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Apple Music, etc.).

Watch on YouTube

Recorded by Megan Trainor and John Legend
Writers: Meghan Trainor, Justin Weaver, Caitlyn Smith

GENRE/STYLE  (What is a genre?)
This is a great example of a retro-blend song that drops neatly into today’s Adult Contemporary/Pop genre. Producer Chris Gelbuda calls the overall album style “Doo-Wop/Pop Throwback” and references “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King as an influence on this particular song. I’m reminded of classic Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duets like “Your Precious Love” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” From the moment John Legend enters on Verse 2, there are references this classic duet sound.

Underlying all this rich, vintage Soul is a poetically modern lyric, an unusual lyric theme, a loop-style rhythm track, and a punchy, dry mix. All of which give this song a contemporary edge. Continue reading

Film and TV Songwriting Playlist

Since writing my book on songwriting for the Film & TV market, I’ve been studying the kinds of songs that do well in commercials, TV shows, and movies. Recently I began putting many of them into a Spotify playlist and I’d love to share it with you. I’m adding to it all the time.

All of these songs have been used in prime time TV dramas, national TV commercials, or films. I tend to favor the kinds of songs that can be recorded in a home studio or relatively inexpensively in a pro studio. There are even a couple of recognizable hit songs here, but in each case the song was introduced to the public via television or film.

You can click here to go to the complete playlist on Spotify. Or just go to your Spotify app and search for Film and TV Songwriting.

Listening to this playlist will give you a good idea of some of the kinds of songs that work well as underscore in TV dramas and commercials, adding energy, emotion and atmosphere. Of course, many more types of songs are used, including Rock, Hip Hop, Blues, and Country. This is just a place to get started. If you’d like to learn more about film and TV songwriting, here’s a post that will give you some tips.

Hold Back the River – James Bay

James Bay“Hold Back the River” became a huge international hit soon after its release in late 2014. Universal themes of nostalgia, regret, and lost innocence are conveyed in conversational yet evocative language. The chorus melody is memorable and has a folksy authenticity that adds to the singer’s credibility.

There are many simple songwriting techniques here that you can use in songs of your own: a family of related images, words that have emotional associations, varied phrase lengths in the melody, and an easy trick for catching the listener’s attention with your chorus. Let’s take a look at how these work together to create a hit song.


• Use images to intensify emotion.

• Create contrast between sections with phrase lengths.

• Add an octave to lift the energy.

Read the lyrics here: Hold Back the River – James Bay

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.)

Watch on YouTube.

Recorded by James Bay
Writers: James Bay & Iain Archer

GENRE/STYLE  (What is a genre?)
I’m going with Folk/Rock on this one. The lyric palette features images of nature and rural life. The melody is fairly straight ahead, closer to the Indie Folk style of “Gone Gone Gone” by Phillip Phillips than to the quirky, unpredictable melodies of Alt Pop or Alt Rock, where it is sometimes classified. The track relies on acoustic guitar-style melody lines and strumming (although played on electric guitar), there’s not a whiff of synthesizer or electro anywhere around. The drums are live (and great). Folk/Rock has made a very successful comeback after being out of fashion for the last few decades.

This structure looks complicated but sounds cohesive and natural when you listen to the track. The verse melody functions as both an instrumental and vocal hook. The bridge reappears at the end of the song as a tag, after which we hear the hook one more time. Every melody is used and reused. There are, in fact, only three different melodies: 1) verse and hook, 2) chorus, and 3) bridge. Continue reading

Songwriting: Faster & Better

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could keep your songwriting moving forward all the time, if you could start new songs and finish old ones, if not at lightning speed at least at a comfortable pace? You’d have more songs to pitch and maybe songwriting would be more exciting and fun to do. You bet it would.

We all want to be more creative, have more songs in our catalog, and feel satisfied that we’re getting things accomplished. It’s just that reality doesn’t always work out that way. More often than not…

  • We don’t have any good ideas for new songs.
  • We’re not sure what kinds of songs we should be writing and for what market.
  • We get stuck working on one song that’s in trouble.
  • We’re scared our songs aren’t good enough so we don’t finish them.

We all know that the quality has to be there, but I bet you could write more songs and keep the quality at the level you want or even improve it. Here’s a whole bunch of ideas for writing FASTER and BETTER. Continue reading