How To Write A Song in 10(ish) Minutes

Lisa Witt  /  Songwriting  /  UPDATED Jan 16, 2023

Anyone can write a song.

It’s a bold statement, but it’s true.

Now, not everyone is going to write a HIT song (haha), but I am convinced that absolutely anyone can create music.

Don’t believe me? I have a challenge for you.

Today I’m going to show you how I wrote a song in about 10 minutes.

Is it a hit? No (not even close).

But that’s not the point. The point is to go through the process because by doing so I was challenged, I was out of my comfort zone, and I really feel like I developed as a musician.

All you need are a couple of bowls, some sticky notes, and an open mind.


Step 1 – Pick a key

On your sticky notes, write down the names of some different keys that you know how to play in. It’s important that you know the keys, but it’s also good to push yourself — so write down some keys that you don’t know as well.

They all go in a bowl. Then all you have to do is reach inside and pull one out.

That’s your key.

Easy enough so far.

Step 2 – Choose your chords

Now things get interesting.

In another bowl (or the same one, it doesn’t matter), put in more sticky notes with the numbers 1-6 on them. Don’t include 7 because that chord is ‘crunchy’ and not very helpful here.

What those numbers represent are the chords of the key you have just chosen. To learn more about the number system we have a lesson right here. And to learn more about all the chords in a scale, there is another lesson here.

Once again, reach into the bowl and pull out 3 notes. The numbers on those notes are your chord progression. In the example in the video, I pulled out the numbers 1-3-5 in the key of E. 

So those chords are E major, C# minor and B major. That’s the progression you have to work with!

Play around with it, use inversions if you can. And try to come up with a melody based around that progression.

Step 3 – Choose your lyrics

This is where things can get hard (or fun — depending on whether you have an open mind). 

Have some random lyrics written out on a bunch of other sticky notes and put them in a bowl. You can write your own, choose some popular ones or even get friends and family to contribute (like I did).

Doing this makes the process less about the words and more about the music, and that’s what we’re trying to practice here.

Try to make the lyrics fit the melody you’ve come up with, or adjust the melody to fit the lyrics. But keep the chord progression the same!

Step 4 – Pick another chord

There are a lot of 3 chord songs out there, but let’s choose a 4th chord for the chorus. Reach into that bowl and see what comes out.

That’s now your chorus. Try to keep the order the same as before but with the 4th chord at the end.

Resist the temptation to change the order into something more familiar. Remember you are meant to be challenged by this.

Step 5 – Profit

Okay maybe not. But who knows?!

You’ve just written a song! You can tweak it, maybe try again, or maybe even perform it.

The main thing is that you tried it, and in doing so you pushed your creative boundaries.

So take a bow.

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

Headshot of woman with short platinum hair against a studio background.

The easiest way to learn beautiful piano chords.
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