Writing an R&B song?

I get hundreds of emails per week with all kinds of comments, questions and suggestions. One of my subscribers wanted me to post some ‘R&B tips’.

I’m not always keen on isolating a particular genre and advising on it. But this simple email got me thinking about some of the songs I had written in an R&B style.

There isn’t a science when it comes to ANY style of music, but there are certain things I do factor in when writing an R&B song. I’ll go into them here…

An infectious simple hook: It goes without saying, but if you listen to the R&B tracks of today (from artists like Neo or Usher) you’ll notice that there is a very distinctive chorus. An excellent way to do this is to have a phrase in the chorus which you consider the most catchy – and then repeat that phrase twice in the chorus. If you analyze the top ten R&B hits you’ll notice this trend throughout 80% of the tracks.

Be literal in your lyrics: I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the R&B buying crowd are ‘young’. Young people can relate to stories that are literal and ‘real’ (so to speak). Now I don’t say this in a derogatory sense … you don’t have to be young to like stories, not by a long shot. This relates to all genre’s, but it definitely lends itself to an R&B style more so than any other.

Write with syncopation in mind: People often come to me to get their songs recorded, produced and arranged. Many have songs in an R&B style. The ‘good songs’ (at least the one’s which are up tempo) inevitably sound like they were written with a drum beat in mind. If you find this difficult, then you should buy some sort of metronome or click track (you can pick on up from Amazon for as little as $12) and write your melodies and/or lyrics along with the metronome.

Bring some dynamics into the mix: In the Professional Songwriting Secrets we state the importance of expressions in your melodies – keeping your listener interested and hooked throughout the song. Now, of course this could be true nearly all styles of songs, but I’m noticing a pattern in certain R&B songs of today …many of them are being written one a ‘single note’ throughout the melody with different words. While this may come across ‘slick’ in some up-tempo tracks, this is fast becoming a one trick pony.

Be dynamic in your melodies. For example, stay low in the verse and escalate to a higher range in your choruses – this is just a simple example I’m putting out here.

OK, as I gather up more thoughts on this subject I’ll keep you posted.


18 Responses to “Writing an R&B song?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    i say ones best bet is write from the heart thats my opinion heehee

  2. yari says:

    thank you!!! shamir for all the great tips, im always looking forward for the next advice, it really keep in track

  3. Anonymous says:

    As a folk fan, I reckon poetic writing (direct, exact, expressive) always adds to the combo. Pretty cool idea to write with a rhythm in mind, cos rhythms can give a song its ‘oomph’.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I could write an R&B song in my sleep, i’d prefer to write a proper song.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi its Steve, I saw that a subscriber asked if you could provide some R&B song writing tips, I am in a band called Plan B, we are having a sticky start with create lyrics to songs, we have a few songs but no lyrics, we are punk/rock and we were wondering whether you could send me punk/rock song writing tips, please. If you do this, it would be of great help, and if you could find any company willing to sponsor us please could you contact me by emailing me on stevebieda@hotmail.co.uk, we have the songs ready and would be willing to throw a demo CD together. Please, if you can, email me back as quickly as possible. I know it is impossible to reply to all your emails but we would appreciate it if you did.

    Thank you for your time

    Yours Sincerely

    Steve B

  6. Anonymous says:

    thanx for everything man u give good tips ur awsome!!!!!! and thax again now I do have an idea on how to write songs. And thank you

  7. Anonymous says:

    Man thats good advice…I needed that. I’m writing a song right now. Like the one under me said, the best bet is to write from the heart. You can neva go wrong.

    Rell Jones

  8. Annie says:

    Thanks so much for this blog! Recently I wrote a song and I didn’t know what kind of a song it was — now I know it has a real R&B sound and I can use these tips to write more songs like that in the future. God bless. –Annie

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Shamir,
    I appreciate your tips, I am using them in my own songs.
    Happy composing,

  10. RnBMistress says:

    Thanks Shamir for the tips on writing an r&b song. I am an songwriter/music publisher, I write in the genre’s of rnb. If you or any reading this message are interested check out my groups on MSN. This business of music & The songwriters and music publishing group.



  11. Anonymous says:

    i say it and the best but im more of a rock

  12. Anonymous says:

    i dont have the money to purchase what u r selling but i really would love to beocome a song write.
    if u could give me tips that would be awesome

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hello Shamir,

    Thanks once again for all your tips on songwriting and others. It’s all ok in my opninion and I look forward to receiving more and more.

    Have a pleasant day.

    E.C. Boko

  14. Cody says:

    hey good job on the site. keep sending the tips love to get them.


  15. Shamir says:


  16. Dave says:

    Hey guys!

    i am just starting out cos av always been good at on the spot raps about silly stuff but have been told to give it a proper go. A havent got many stories to tell to be honest n not so much from the heart, any help appreciated on how i could start?

  17. joshua ferguson says:

    im a songwrighter get at me call me at 262 822 6756

  18. miss c says:

    my problem is I write to old school r and b.