Songwriting Essentials: Words You Need To Know

During your songwriting process you’ll hear a few words that may sound like another language to you. You’ll need to know the meanings of these words in order to communicate with fellow songwriters or artists. Some you may already, but there may be some you still don’t quite understand. Today, we’ll be covering some “must know” words to help you on your songwriting journey. 


A hook is an idea, often a short riff, passage, or phrase that is designed to “catch the ear” of the listener. Oftentimes the songwriting process can start with a really great hook and build around that. An example of a hook is Travis Tritt’s “Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares” or Reba McEntire’s “You’ll always have a place to come back to. When whoever’s in New England’s through with you


The lyrics are the words in the song. Most times this can be the hardest part and can be the reason your song is taking longer than expected. It’s not always an easy task to come up with the perfect lyrics to portray what you’re trying to say, especially with ones that rhyme and have the right number of syllables to fit with the tempo. There are many online resources that can help you come up with the perfect lyrics. (See post about online resources or either I can include it here)


Tempo is “the speed at which a passage of music is or should be played.” The tempo is if your song is a slow, medium, or fast song. 

Time Signature:

People sometimes confuse time signature with tempo, but they’re actually very different. Time signature is the pattern of beats — how many beats you get per measure. Tempo is the speed of those measures. The first number on the time signature tells you how many beats per measure and the second number tells you what kind of symbol represents a single beat (this only matters for reading music). For example:

Rhyme Scheme: 

Rhyme scheme is the pattern in which the last words in lines of songs rhyme. You can record your rhyming lines with letters. Some examples of different rhyme schemes are:

Mary had a little lamb A

Its fleece as white as snow B

And everywhere that mary went C

The lamb was sure to go  B


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall A

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall A

All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men B

Couldn’t put humpty together again B

Writer’s Block:

Writer’s block is when you get stuck in the middle of writing your song and you’re not sure how to proceed. Some ways to move past it is to text a friend and let them know your idea and how you’re stuck! You’d be amazed at how a fresh set of eyes could help. Sometimes changing your location can help. You ultimately may need to walk away for a while and come back to your project later. 


The melody is “a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying.” What that means is when you’re humming along to a song, that is the melody. It’s crucial to have a catchy melody so the listener can’t seem to get it out of their head. For more resources on writing that great melody, see our online resources page. ( or either i can include it idk i’m trying to give people a reason to keep reading)


“A major component of a song, the verse’s primary role is to convey the information of the song and set up, or lead to, the chorus, the bridge, another verse, or a title/hook line. Each verse should have different information in order to move the story forward, and be the same melodically.”


The purpose of the chorus is to be “The core component of a song, it summarizes the main idea of the lyric and is the emotional high point of the song. Contains the title or hook in the first or last line and is the same melodically each time it occurs.”


A bridge in a song, “Contrasts in content with the verse and the chorus usually giving a new perspective on the story. Is the ‘A-HA!’ moment in the song.” 


The worktape is a rough recording you create after you’ve finished writing. As you write your song you’re going to want to get out a recording device of your choice. Thanks to technology, in most cases, you should have a voice recording app right on your phone. As you’re writing, you want to keep that nearby so when you come up with a great line you can record yourself so you don’t forget what you did. When your song is completed you will want to record yourself singing your song in its entirety and that is what a worktape is. You will then send that to a producer to have your professional demo made.

Example of Worktape


A demo (shortened from “demonstration”) is a song or group of songs typically recorded for limited circulation or for reference use, rather than for general public release. It is essential that once you have finished writing your song, you have a professional demo made. A quality demo is what is going to be your key into getting your song picked up by a recording artist, because they will be more apt to listen to a professionally done demo as it will allow them to hear what it would sound like on the radio or their upcoming project.

Example of Demo


An overdub is “to add other recorded sound or music, as a supplementary instrumental or vocal track, to a taped musical track to complete or enhance a recording.” Once you get a base demo track made, you can have an overdub of any instrument along with vocal overdubs to make your song come to life to fit your vision better.


When you pitch a song, it means you’re sending your demo out to potential recording artists. You used to have to put your completed demo on cassette tape or CD and network your way to try and “pitch” your song to hopefully have your song recorded. The problem with this method is that so many recording artists would receive these recordings in person or in the mail and they would either not be looking for songs at that time or your song would not fit what they were looking for so you’d have to find someone else to pitch it to. Thankfully it’s gotten a lot easier. You can upload your song to our website and it could reach hundreds of people you never would have had the chance to meet with. 


When you copyright your song, you are establishing legal ownership of the song you created. Copyrighting a song is a fairly simple task and can be started by visiting They will walk you through everything you need to get your song copyrighted. Once copyrighted, legally no one can steal your lyrics/melody. 


A music publisher is a person or an organization that is authorized to license the copyrighted use of a particular musical work. Here at we have an in-house publishing company, but if you would like to create your own you can find more information here


“Royalties are compensatory payments received by rights holders (songwriters, composers, recording artists, and their respective representatives) in exchange for the licensed use of their music.” When someone uses your song on their recordings and distributes it, the recording artist will owe the songwriter(s) their respective royalties. If there are co-writers, you will need to discuss how the royalties will be distributed to each individual. Typically it will be split 50/50, but that is up to the writers of the song to decide.

There may be other words you come across and you need more clarification, you can check out the Songwriter’s glossary at 


There’s a disconnect between the way songwriters and performers create music. We’ve spent our entire lives in the music industry and have seen firsthand how difficult it is to pitch that song you’re so proud of AND we’ve seen how hard it can be to find great songs for that upcoming project. So, was created to help change the way we write, create, and record music together forever.

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