Do you want to write a song for mom to show her how much she means to you? This guide takes you step-by-mother-loving-step.
Nothing else can quite express the depths of love like a song can. You can package memories and feelings into three heart-opening minutes that may or may not lead to waterworks and the passing of a tissue box.
You don’t have to be a musical genius to write a song. However, it helps to follow advice from those who’ve done it before, so we are presenting the guidance of professional songwriters.
Your mom would be proud.
Sometimes lyrics will just come to you, overflowing from your subconscious without planning or preparation. But it’s better not to write aimlessly or haphazardly when you have a specific person in mind (like your mother).
Get the juices flowing with some brainstorming exercises. You’ll have all the content you need to craft the perfect lyrics for your mother by the time you’re done.
Exercise 1: Meditation and Streaming Consciousness
It can be challenging to know how we feel about someone. Articulating emotions into words is sometimes frustrating because it feels like the words are too narrow to express what we feel. The best way to get the wheels turning is to tap into your subconscious.
- Start by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. As you breathe, picture your mother. Her eyes, smile, smell, and the sound of her voice. Meditate on these sensations, and let the content roll through your mind’s eye.
- After a few minutes, pull out a pen and paper and start writing. Try to write for 10-15 minutes without lifting the pen from the paper. If you begin to write off-topic and you think you’ve lost your way – trust the process.
- When the timer goes off or you feel like you’re done, take a step back. Don’t read what you’ve written just yet. After a short break, return to the text with a highlighter and mark the sentences that grab your attention.
You might notice an unfamiliar emotion, a beautiful turn of phrase, or a catchy-sounding sentence. By the end, you should have a solid collection of words and ideas to help you write your lyrics.
Exercise 2: Detailed Memory Recall
The best song lyrics will balance expressing emotions and telling a story–details are super important in a good story.
- Brainstorm some memories of your mother that represent her as a person or reflect your connection with her. Maybe she would console you as a child or end arguments with a big hug. It could be laughing together until it hurt or realizing how much she loves you.
- Now dive into some of these moments. See how many details you can recall. The weather, time of day, the smell in the air, and what you were wearing. These elements make for beautiful songwriting–the kind that draws the listener in.
In short, craft your lyrics with a combination of vivid storytelling and the raw emotions of your subconscious.
Finding the song’s essence.
After completing the first two exercises, it’s time to zoom out. You want to avoid your song becoming a random collection of your feelings and memories about your mother. For this, you need to ask yourself what you ultimately want to say to or about her.
Don’t worry. You should find all your answers in the first two exercises.
- Look at your stream of consciousness results alongside the descriptions of your memories.
- Try to identify the common themes or shared metaphors. You might even find one phrase that encapsulates everything you want to say. If not, then try to write a new term or sentence that does. This is the song’s essence and should be the foundation of your lyrics.
- Then, you can start to compile the highlights from your exercises. Don’t be too strict with yourself. You can tweak and adjust the words as much as you need to make them fit the rhythm. You can even fabricate details of the stories if it makes them more poetic. Let your imagination guide you, and make sure you always serve the essence.
Below is a short example of how you might take content from your exercises, identify common themes, and craft it into the lyrics of your chorus.
“And yes that sometimes drives me crazy but when I think about it another way I just don’t understand how she has energy for it all like she is just so giving of herself like water from a river that never runs out I wonder if I’ll feel like that with my children actually thinking about my children really gives me perspective on how many times she has had to look after me much more than once or twice this is so…”
“We were standing by the pool in my grandmother’s backyard. I was going for my first swimming lesson. It was a wintery day, the sky was quite grey, and Mom was holding me wrapped in a towel to protect me from the cold. I told her I was too scared, that I didn’t want to get in the water. I was crying, and afraid. She smelt like her old perfume and her blonde hair fell over her ears…”
Finding the essence and writing lyrics
I highlight phrases or images that catch my attention. In doing so, I discover that both these excerpts share the common theme of water. They also both reflect your mother’s giving nature. You could call your song ‘Like Water,’ and each verse could carry a different narrative in which water plays a part. The chorus can tie it all together with some strong water-based metaphors, like this:
More than once
You held me in a storm
And if i ever have a daughter
I hope that I will keep her warm
I hope i’ll be like you
I’ll be like water
The endless giver
From the river of your love.
Writing the music.
If you’ve got songwriter blood running through your veins, you will probably notice that your lyrics already have musicality. The rhythm and the melody will often shine strongly through the text. Having said that, the musical component doesn’t always come easily. Here are a couple of ways to get the song singing.
Putting music to lyrics forces you to break through inhibitions. If you can’t accept failure as a part of the process, you will never get anywhere.
Start by freestyling with the lyrics. You can sing totally unaccompanied, but if you feel more comfortable behind your instrument, begin by jamming on a simple chord progression.
Once the chords are grooving, start to sing the lyrics over them. Whatever comes out of your mouth is a part of learning and exploration.
Not all of it will sound good or feel right, and that’s okay! Don’t get too hung up on the details. Keep singing and following the sound from within until something that you sing feels like it clicks.
Making a hook
Let’s say the improvisation felt incoherent or clunky. Maybe you need to reduce the information for now and go in a different direction.
Start by choosing one sentence that you particularly like–for example, “I hope I’ll be like you, I’ll be like water.” Now sing this on repeat, until it becomes like a chant that makes you want to move your body.
Sometimes all it takes is one catchy hook to fill you with inspiration and the rest of the song will launch from there.
The songwriting process is unpredictable. Sometimes the whole thing comes together in fifteen minutes. Other times it’s grueling months of zooming in and out. Try to be patient and enjoy the process when you write a song for mom. She will feel and appreciate the effort and attention you put into the song.
If you want to really impress her, write a song for mom using these six secret songwriting tips from deep within the music industry.