How do I make a song if I have the words in my head but I don’t have knowledge in music making?

I see this Q so often that it seemed I should have a formal answer here too. There is the orig Q I answered on Quora

How do I make a song if I have the words in my head but I don’t have knowledge in music making?

Now most people will give a list of all the things needed to do like chords, hooks, verses, choruses, middle eights. ABAs, Cadences… Is that going to help seeing that is a vast amount of learning already? If this person has any real talent/interest in those things then they could do that. Is it the wisest course of action? If they were going to do that they they probably would have already, so:

Hire someone who does have the knowledge (and experience with it). If you do this properly – invest yourself and really learn from the person you work WITH you will learn heaps and have a better result than if you try it alone.

Your Specialist will need

  1. Your guide vocal – this needs to be sung nicely. Whilst you are sitting on the toilet scrunched up, out of tune & time won’t help anyone. Put your best foot forward and provide an inspiring vocal as this helps lead your Composer.
  2. Your vocal melody – which worst comes to the worst can be extracted from your sung recording (assuming you sing in tune)
  3. A sense of what you are hoping to achieve both musically & in the marketplace – please don’t say instant stardom as that sets unachievable targets and therefore a guaranteed fail (which sadly people often then blame on the person they hired). Be practical: if you have 0 fans then a few nice responses is the most practical win you can hope for this time around.
  4. What you are going to do to support this track when it is done Now if you are paying enough, your Composer may not care what you do when the track is done. To me, that is not the best person to hire as they are not invested in your success (only getting your money & leaving). If you are doing this to build something, you need to have plans for what you will do with this song that are far more grounded than: i) post to Spotifry, ii) become famous, iii) make millions, iv) pretend you did it all yourself in your bedroom. You’ll need to do some hard work like making YouTube videos etc.

The person you hire/work with can probably guide you in all of these things. Be open to being guided as remember if you choose the right assistant, they want you to succeed in this so they look good too. Help them to help you.

Now I can almost hear everyone reading this hoping for a “break” saying,

”Oh but that will cost too much?”

Let’s look at that.

  1. How much will it cost NOT to do this? This really should be the first question. If it cost me $1,000,000 to get a song from Dianne Warren it is easy to balk. But if my name is Celine Dion and that song will make me $3,000,000 then it is better to give the $1,000,000 to get the $2,000,000. Don’t let investment costs (whether dollar or effort) put you off. If you take that path then you should stop reading and go back to X-Box and/or your job as it will hurt less. Be honest. Music is not for everyone.
  2. How much it costs to work with a Specialist is a sliding scale. So while you want to get a “this is the best price” answer. There is none. Many freelancers don’t price anything until they see the whole project and expected outcomes. They may then do something like ask for 10-20% of projected earnings for the first year. So if the web-shop is likely to earn $50,000, their requested investment to build that web-shop is $5,000–10,000. Musicians also often work on residuals so taking 50% of earnings is common – but not at Level 0 as most people on the lower levels a) don’t earn anything b) often don’t hand over the earnings (or even put credits on Spotifry which is plain mean & stupid). This makes offering “futures” a rookie error as any remotely experienced specialist know what they are worth.
  3. So how much will it cost little old me who is too poor to buy anything but 3-ply toilet paper? Did you read the last point? What you have to offer helps define the level of talent that you get to work with. Now that means that if you are Level 0 talent looking to pay Level 0 then your options mostly will be Level 0. And that is pretty bad most of the time I can tell you. However, if you are a bright spark, you will find people at Level 0 who are worth far more. Grab them now. Work so that both of you get to climb a level – not with fantasy promises but with grass-roots hard work. Pay both in dollars & by helping them climb a level with great work that you shower public praise on them for having done for you. Refer your friends so they get more work and you might even manage to build a “thing” around yourselves like Motown. If you work with someone, you want to help make them famous as that fame spreads. Don’t think tiny and hide them, like they are a secret weapon or they will dump you.
  4. Present yourself and what you will do to help you both and see what comes back. Then see if that looks like a wise investment.

And what if I don’t want to work with or don’t trust other people? Well, good bye. There is no future for anyone who doesn’t work with others. Even fans are other people. You need to work with them. No one makes it without working with other people. Do it or don’t do it.

This is how your relationship should look
Donna Summer & Giorgio Moroder
after they made each other A-Listers

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