“It takes 42 minutes to write a song.”

Just kidding…

I wish it were that easy to predict! But as you probably know, writing a song isn’t like working an assembly line – there is no precise, repeatable process to spit out a snazzy-sounding new song on demand.

Working 9 To 5 GIF by Jon Frickey - Find & Share on GIPHY
Quality songwriting isn’t an assembly line.

With that said, it is possible to speed up how fast it is for you to write a new song, which we’ll cover later in this post.

But first, let’s talk about how long it takes to write a new song from scratch! (Or if you’re more interested in learning how long a song should be, I have an article for that too!)

How Long Does It Take to Write a Song (Beginners vs. Professionals)?

If you’re new to songwriting, it might feel like it takes AGES to write a song! You sit down on your couch with a laptop and guitar, and by the time you’re done, you have a long white beard. “I finally finished my song!” you cry.

Sure, grandpa… Let’s get you to the home.

You might think it takes a while just because you’re a beginner, but professionals also spend a long time on their songs, possibly more time than someone with a day job ever could.

However, they’ve got a secret method to finishing songs: they use ghostwriters!

Ghost GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Spooky, right?

In 2017, the BBC reported that the average number of people it takes to write a hit single is 4.53. And that’s just on average – many have even more than THAT! Can you imagine having half a dozen people spending their time writing your song? Those collective hours add up fast!

A professional song with unique beats, intricate lyrics, full instrumentation, and expert mixing and mastering could take hundreds of effort hours from your team. Of course, those numbers vary too (the scrappy hip-hop studio might be able to make a song faster than the pop star that has songs written by committee).

The point is that even if an artist says that they wrote a hit song in just a few days, that might represent a HUGE number of hours. Don’t be discouraged if you feel songwriting takes you a while.

How We Write Songs

On a personal level, I know that writing songs can be a LONG process. Daniel and I have written many songs over the years that have literally taken a year to complete. Sometimes songs go faster, but often we have to wait for inspiration to come to us suddenly to break through creative blocks

It feels amazing when the creative juices are flowing and we make progress. There’s no better feeling! But when the creative faucet runs dry, it’s the worst. We’re unproductive – no progress gets made for months at a time. However, that doesn’t mean nothing gets done.

Improve your songwriting by mastering piano.



When we’ve lost our muse for one song, we turn to another song. By rotating through projects, we manage to let our ideas ruminate while not halting progress completely. That’s our go-to strategy for completing songs, and it admittedly takes a long time. But you might want a faster timeline!

If you don’t have the time to let ideas come to you, take notes from early internet songwriter Jonathan Coulton. He started out just as I described above: sitting on his couch with a guitar and a laptop. Today, he’s written songs for popular video games, TV shows, and even Broadway shows.

Listen to his advice here:

In short, Coulton says that he loves it when the ideas come to him, but often it’s not that easy. He usually has to “force” it, sitting around playing on the guitar and humming nonsense words until something clicks. He isn’t waiting to finish the song whenever it happens to come to him – he’s making it happen, NOW!

If you want to write a song quickly, we have some tips for that later on. For now, consider that maybe there is no answer for “how long does it take to write a song.” It’s different for everyone every time they write. 

Even the phrase “write a song” is ambiguous. If someone says it took them three days to write a song, does that mean just the melody? The lyrics? The music for all the different instruments in the final recording? 

Finally, just because a song is “written” doesn’t mean it’s any good! Give me a piano and I can write a song in five minutes. But will I be ready to put it on my next studio album? No! I’d rather have that piano dropped on me from five stories up than present an underwritten song to the public. 

Which brings me to my next point…

Writing Any Song vs Writing a “Good” Song

There are “songs,” and then there are SONGS. Filler and hits. B-sides and lead singles. The songs that round out an album and the songs you play over and over. We all want to write those enduring songs. But the truth is, those songs take a long time to write!

There are exceptions, of course. R.E.M’s Losing My Religion reportedly took 5 minutes to write (the lyrics took a whole hour, though. What a slowpoke, that Michael Stipe.). But most of the songs that have touched your heart took dozens of hours to craft every word, chord, and inflection.

When you’re thinking about how fast to write a song, keep in mind that masterpieces rarely happen overnight. Not only can they take a huge amount of work, but usually they are only possible because of years of practice making those “filler” songs you skip on Spotify. 

Here’s the bottom line:

Writing adequate songs today will prepare you to write amazing ones tomorrow.

Your average songs can still be darling to you – you might love that verse you wrote, or that cool drum part in the bridge. But when you write a great song, your skills at writing individually amazing parts will come together.

These parts will work better together, leading to a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Now, let’s talk about those parts:

Writing the Lyrics

Some songs have simple lyrics. Some are more intricate. Both can be memorable and meaningful to people in different ways. But it’ll be a lot faster to write the lyrics to Crank That (Soulja Boy) than Eminem’s Rap God.

If you want to write a song more quickly, you’ll very likely have to simplify your lyrics. One thing you can try is to repeat the lines you’ve already written multiple times. Another option is to make the lyrics simpler by not using a rhyme scheme. Lastly, you can repeat the lines you’ve already written multiple times. (See? It works!)

You might be satisfied with simpler lyrics, but if not, the writing process might take you a long time. The more you demand perfection of yourself, the longer it will take you to finish. For some, that might be acceptable. But I’d recommend not letting great be the enemy of good.

Writing many songs with good lyrics quickly will sharpen your skills faster than demanding perfection out of your first attempt. (For more on this, check out our full lyric writing tips guide for songwriters.)

Composing the Music

Remember Jonathan Coulton from the video above? For an entire year around 2005, he wrote one song every week in his “Thing-a-Week” program. He demanded of himself to write and produce a song that quickly. I’m always in awe of the way he made that happen.

Many of the songs that made him successful came from Thing-A-Week. Some were even written in consecutive weeks!

One of his songs, Shop Vac, has a guitar solo after the bridge. But Jonathan Coulton had neither the time nor the skill to write that at the time. So instead, he outsourced it to his fans. He invited them to submit their own solos and he would use it in the song. What’s the lesson here?

Make other people do your work for you, of course!

… Okay, maybe not THAT exactly…

The main point is that it’s possible to write the music to a song in one week consistently, but a complicated guitar solo might make that unachievable.

If you have a deadline for your songwriting, or are new to songwriting, you might not have time to write the next epic Santana-style solo. But most songs don’t need mind-bending music. Most just require some simple chord progressions, maybe a bass line, perhaps a drum part. Some might not even have more than one instrument!

If you want to write a song fast, you can. But speed may be a trade-off if you want more elaborate music. It’s up to you to decide how complex your song should be to fulfill your vision!

Recording the Song (Optional)

When thinking about how long it takes to write a song, you might want to also consider how long it’ll take to produce it. This is less important if your songs consist of you and an acoustic guitar. But if you make sick beats or techno music, you’re obviously going to be spending a long time in the studio before you can call the song “written.”

If you’re using a professional space, you should also consider that every hour you take to record is burning through your money. If you’re very good with your instruments and have a simpler genre (like recording a live jazz album), you’re looking at two days in the studio. Bands with multi-tracking will require one week at a minimum for an album!

If you only want to record one song, it might not take you as long. But just remember that it still takes a long time in the best of conditions – if you want to work with cheaper options for your recording, mixing, and mastering, that can extend your timeline considerably. 

Performing Live (Optional)

A song can look one way on the staff paper and sound entirely differently in practice. Bob Dylan writes amazing songs. But let’s be honest – what’s the most memorable part of a Dylan song? Is it the order of the notes as they would appear written down, or is it his famously nasal singing and harmonica blowing? 

Bob Dylan Sunglasses GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The way you perform your song matters. Your song’s not really finished writing until you know the way you want it performed.

This could be the longest step of all for you, if you let it. Some artists can play a song a thousand times and change how they do it every time. In some ways, that can be a good thing – it keeps the song fresh. 

But there’s a downside to this approach: if your song has a message you want to convey, you potentially cheapen that message by varying how its conveyed each time you perform. 

Bob Dylan’s way of passionately calling “How does it feel?” in Like a Rolling Stone is iconic. If he performed that softly and sweetly in a live performance, it wouldn’t mean the same thing. He found the perfect way to perform that.

Be sure to allocate enough time for yourself to find the perfect way to perform your songs too.

3 Tips to Speed Up Your Songwriting

The key to faster songwriting is a word that many creative people don’t like to hear: “constraints.”

I want you to start your song by putting limits on your approach. When we don’t limit ourselves, we tend to suffer from analysis paralysis. We get overwhelmed. Instead, when we put constraints on our songwriting, we make the choices simpler. 

Writing a song is like being handed a blank piece of paper. What are you going to do with it? The possibilities are endless, and if you have enormous expectations for it in your head, you can get frustrated and give up.

But if you add constraints (I’m using colored pencils and I’m drawing a horse), then suddenly, it’s a lot easier to get started. There are still creative decisions to be made, but you can jump right in, and you an finish sooner too.

Here are three constraints that can help you write songs faster.

1) Use a standard song structure.

Generally, the typical song structure used in most pop songs is:

Verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus – final chorus (optional)

That’s it. 

What’s really nice about this structure is that the music in the two verses and the three or four choruses is virtually identical. The chorus lyrics might be the same, too. That means you only need three pieces of music (verse, chorus, bridge) and four sets of lyrics (verse 1, chorus, verse 2, bridge). 

When you assume that you’re going to use a standard song structure, you take a lot of the guesswork out of songwriting. For instance, if you know your verse has to lead into a chorus, you can immediately start playing around with sounds and rhythms that go well together with no pre-chorus in between. 

If your goal is speed, a standard structure can get you a minimum viable song quickly, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. You can always go back and add flairs and improvements once you have something down. Maybe that final chorus deserves a key change or the bridge needs a guitar solo.

The point is that it’s always so much easier to make changes once you have something substantial to work with instead of a blank page staring back at you. So, get started using a standard song structure like the one above, or one of these:

Verse – verse – verse – verse 

Verse – verse – bridge – verse

Verse – chorus – verse – chorus

2) Use a common chord progression.

If you want to write a song and you don’t know what the chords should be, it doesn’t hurt to start with a set of chords that are proven to work well together.

As we discussed in our post on chord progressions, the best place to start is just the I, IV, V, and vi chords in a comfortable key like C major.

Another fun chord progression you could use if you want to write a song quickly is the 12 bar blues progression. You’ve probably heard this and its variations a thousand times before:

The 12 bar blues chord progression

You can hear this chord progression at work in songs like Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode:

Using a common chord progression can help you get started quickly. Simple chord progressions can make some of the best songs, but you don’t have to stop there if you don’t want to. Just like with the song structure, you can go back and change things up once you have something written down. (It’s almost always easier to make a great song once you already have a good song to work with.)

The important thing when choosing chords is to find something that excites you enough that you have the motivation to keep tweaking it until you’re satisfied. 

3) Use a mind map to write lyrics.

“If you gaze long enough at a blank lyric page, the blank lyric page will gaze back into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche’s songwriting cousin.

No good comes from sitting around twiddling your thumbs and pulling out your hair when you can’t think of something to write down. The secret to writing lyrics is to… write lyrics. And the secret to writing great lyrics is to… write lots and lots of lyrics of all qualities.

You won’t get anywhere until you get your creative juices flowing. So I suggest starting with a mind map. If you already have a topic in mind, write that in the center of your page. If you don’t, you can actually use the same process to help you think of a topic (but it might be faster to start using one of our 101 songwriting prompts here).

Let’s say you want to write a song about your recent breakup…

First of all, let me express that you’re better off without them! You can do so much better! 

Second, you should start mapping out the details that come to mind. Start with your five senses, but don’t be afraid to think of metaphorical imagery or concepts as well. 

Here’s an example I made:

A songwriting mind map

You can see on this (abridged) map that I had ideas in a lot of different directions. But notice how several of them relate to the bed. Maybe I can write a line about how the only reason I get up in the morning is so I don’t have to smell the perfume you left on my pillowcase.

This is how a mind map can help you get started!

How Long It Takes to Write Songs Wrap-up

The real answer to how long it take to write a song is… however long it needs to. You can write something in a few minutes and declare yourself done, or you can spend years on a song and still feel like there’s room to improve. 

In the end, as the songwriter and/or artist, only YOU can decide when a song is truly done.

But I encourage you to remember that not every song needs to be your magnum opus. Sometimes, writing MORE songs quickly will get you the skills you need for when you want to write that enduring hit single!

If you want to get better at writing memorable music that resonates, I recommend that you get familiar with an instrument like piano. The more you know about how great songs are constructed sonically, the easier it will be for you to create a masterpiece yourself. Check out Piano for All below to get started!

Improve your songwriting by mastering piano.