posted 2012-12-18 19:07:49

How to Write a Holiday Song

Do it yourself 

George Wambold

Contributing Writer


Photo by George Wambold
It’s that time of year folks. The time when we eat too much, spend too much and get tired of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” all over again. It’s also the time of year when every artist with a pulse dons a white and red outfit and releases a holiday album. Yes, the dreaded Christmas album that wouldn’t be complete without your favorite classics (sped up, of course) and unimaginative original songs.

This year, we at The Envoy are offering you a chance to write your own holiday soundtrack! Follow these steps and you can steal the show this Christmas Eve with a holiday song of your own.

Materials 

1. An instrument (preferably a piano, but a guitar works too)

2. A pen/pencil and paper

Directions 

1. A Quick Music Lesson 

Every musician knows that the chords most important to any “pop” song are the I, IV and V chords. For us in the key of C, the I, IV and V chords are C Major, F Major, and G Major. These chords are easy to learn and play on piano, so ask someone who knows how to play them or Google them. (Guitarists may want to play in the key of G to avoid barre chords. In the key of G, the I, IV and V are G Major, C Major and D Major)

2. A Chord Progression

Since we now know C, F and G, we can write our chord progression. A chord progression is basically an ordered group of chords (i.e. G-F-C-G) that is repeated over and over, and makes up the backbone of your song. The best way to come up with a chord progression is to just play around with the order of the chords until you like the way it sounds. Simplicity is a good thing when it comes to holiday songs, so a progression 3 or 4 chords long should do. When you’ve got your progression, make sure to write it down. (For the ambitious: Try adding a D minor, E minor or A minor chord into the mix for a more melancholy sound)

3. Melody

Now that you have your progression, play through it a few times and really let it sink in. When you have a good feel for it, try to hum a tune along with it. Holiday songs generally have a simple and upbeat melody like “Jingle Bells” or “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”, but slower, more somber melodies like “Silent Night” or “Little Drummer Boy” are also popular. Once you have your melody, hum it over a couple times so you won’t forget it. Don’t worry if your melody sounds somewhat like another song you’ve heard or if it’s somewhat boring—holiday songs are all about the lyrics.

4. Lyrics

The traditional holiday topics (snow, Jesus, presents) have been covered ad nauseam, so this is your chance to really make your song stand out. Write about whatever you want, things you hate or love about the holidays, personal experiences, ANYTHING GOES! Don’t be afraid to be funny (Think Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song”). Anyone can write about how pretty snow is, but only you can write about the stories your aunt told you when she drank too much eggnog. (For the ambitious: Try to write a chorus with different chords that you go back to after every verse or two)

5. Holiday Touches and Putting it Together

You have your chords, melody and lyrics, all that’s left to do is put it all together! Get your brother to shake some bells in the background, play everything out, and voila! You’ve written your own holiday song!

6. Sharing the Joy

If you’re going to play it in front of your friends or family, make sure to have them clap along, or at least shake a box full of broken ornaments to the beat. If you’re too shy for a live performance, use the “Voice Memos” app on your iPhone or your laptop to easily text or email your song.

Good Luck, and Happy Holidays!