#23) How to Write and Perform a Song

Posted on Posted in Blog, Music, Season 1

Time: 5-30hrs

Cost: $0

Difficulty: Easier than you think

Increase in Sexyness: Yuuuuup

Breaking Down Barriers

For the majority of my musical life I have considered myself a closet songwriter…someone who spends hours writing songs to never release them to the public.  And since the beginning of my songwriting, I have had the desire to share them with people, but have never really taken any actionable steps to do so. Various bullshit excuses such as “no-one is going to like it”, “I suck at singing”, and “there’s enough songs out there anyways, why do I need to perform?” would constantly come up whenever the idea of performing in front of people was presented. So…in typical 52skillz fashion, I decided to change that. If you are in a similar position as I was a few weeks ago, and would like to find a way to motivate yourself to share your talents with the world…keep reading.

How to Get Started

These guys had to start somewhere too…

Talk to any popular artists, and they will tell you the best place to get your start in music is to go to an open mic. Almost every famous artist in some form or another started in a run down bar playing to a crowd of 5 super drunk people…and hopefully you will too. The following information is going to give you some general tips when going to your first OPEN MIC, and provide a break down of how to write your own song, and kill it your first time on stage.

The Open Mic

  1. Set a Date. Identify a couple of open mics in your area, and go check them out. Certain open mics may appeal to a certain type of crowd, so its best to do some investigative work before signing up for one. Once you’ve found an open mic you think you can jive with, sign up and get a date for the open mic set in stone.
  2. Social Accountability. Tell all of your friends. Similar to standup comedy, there is little that is more motivating than having a portion of your social group holding you accountable to a goal. For this goal, make sure the people you invite are individuals you trust and know will support you.
  3. Finding Your Voice. For those of you who are saying “but I have a shitty voice that no-one wants to hear!” Stop your bullshit, right meow. You have a beautiful voice, but its hidden underneath all of that self doubt and shame. Open that shit up, experiment in different keys and I guarantee you will find a style that works for you. I was in the exact same position a few weeks ago, and though my voice is not incredible, I think it works well for what I was doing at the time. Still not convinced, ask Weezer, CAKE and Janis Joplin.
  4. Have Stage Fright? Cool, that is perfectly normal. Going up in front of a bunch of people you don’t know and being vulnerable is scary…probably the scariest. Which is one of the main reasons as to why I asked Carrie Day to help me write and perform the song. Its is a huge difference to go up there with some back up, and I would strongly suggest it if you have a big fear of playing in front of people.
  5.  Check out this link.
  6. Song Choice. As the individual going performing at the open mic, you have the choice of playing your own, or other peoples music. Both are totally fine, and often the first time around people end up playing other individuals tunes. This can sometimes be better your first time up there as playing other peoples music can help find your voice, and often those songs are recognizable and can get a positive reaction from the crowd. If you would like to take it the next level (which I applaud you for) and play your own music, there’s this…

Songwriting: The Quick Version


Before I get into this, I would like to clarify that there is an infinite number of ways to write songs. There is no set formula, and I have no intention of making seem like there is. But for those of you who have never written a song before, and would like some resources to get you started with the bare bones of producing a song from scratch, this is for you.


  1. Create a Chord Progression: There are many different formulas to determine what kind of chord progression to use, but the most popular chord progression used in popular music is 1, 4, 5 as shown in the video for this week. If that didn’t make it clear, here is another video of an individual explaining it in more detail.
  2. Come Up with a Groove: The groove a song can be broken down to its tempo, how the guitar is strummed and…just its general vibe. You can influence the vibe by creating a quicker tempo, or playing notes more or less often with variations in rhythm and timing. The groove of a song can be the difference between an aggressive metal song, and a folk rock song, even if they are using the same chord progression.
  3. Add in a Riff: Depending on your skill level, this can be a great way to add some more depth and color to your song. Often, riffs will follow some form of the pentatonic scale within the key you’re playing in. For those of you who don’t know what a riff is, here is an example of one of the legendary riffs.
  4. 471
    This is an optional step, but If you didn’t know what a riff was, here is a rock for you to climb out from under.
  5. Create a Structure: There are many different structures to work with, some of the most popular being the: VERSE, CHORUS, VERSE, CHORUS, BRIDGE, CHORUS structure, AABA structure and the 12 bar blues. They can be interchanged of course, and sometimes a 12 bar blues and AABA structure can fit into a VC structure. Or, you can just  throw that out the window and do something totally different. Whatever works best with what you’re trying to do at the time.
  6. Tie it all together and Polish it: This can often be the hardest, but most effective thing you can do as a songwriter. Typically, the song you ended with will be completely different than the one you started with. And most of the time, that’s a good thing…


Again, there are many different ways to write a song, and how you get your inspiration is totally up to you. But, below are some resources I’ve found that will hopefully get you started with writing lyrics, or help you get out of that writers block.

  1. Wikihow: Yup, wikihow, typically there is some pretty generic stuff on there, but this one was really well done.
  2. Subscribe to this subreddit: It is a great community of poeple who are in a simialr boat to you who can give you some (typically) great feedback on stuff you’re currently working on.
  3. Also, Subscribe to this subreddit: Also another great place to share you song once its done and to get some feedback before heading up on stage. Just be sure to take things with a grain of salt, becuase reddit an sometimes be a nasty place.
  4. Look at this picture for inspiration.
If you can ever be half as cool as Ken, you will have succeeded.

What did I learn?

Basically everything you just read…which was a lot of shit to learn in a week and a half. Also, that I am not nearly as bad of a singer as I thought I was. I was forced to find my voice through this process, and in doing so have become much more confident in my ability to write and perform songs in the future. Pretty flippin freeing if you ask me.

Thanks for reading and we’ll talk next week 🙂



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