Mon & Her Songs


Digital drawing of Monica Zepeda, drawn by Lucia Derriman ‘24

Hello everyone! Today I am here to give you a brief run-through of my personal songwriting and recording process. Before I begin, I must give a disclaimer: this is not a how-to tutorial and I am not claiming that this process will work for everyone. Songwriting is different for each independent person, and it’s not really something that can be taught with guaranteed success. I am definitely not a pro, I am still learning every day! This is just what has been working for me and what I find the most efficient. I’m so happy to share my process with you (a process that is constantly changing ALL the time). 

My Songwriting Process in 13 Simplified steps

  • Sit on my bed and listen to music (full volume preferred).

Every time I feel like writing a song I sit on my bed and listen to my playlist on Spotify. This is a constant activity that I do all the time, and I enjoy doing it very much. Music is the one thing that really gets my brain flowing and ideas up and running. If you know me, you know that it is so rare to find me not listening to music — it’s my happy place.

  • Start brainstorming lyric ideas/ humming- LOTS of humming

I’m always writing in my journal or Notes app on my phone and laptop — everywhere I go!! I can’t afford to lose any ideas that may randomly appear in my head because they can ultimately become something bigger and greater. I hum so much — to the point that my family has to politely ask me to refrain from doing it. When in doubt, I hum!

  • Grab a pencil and writing journal–I jot down any and ALL lyric ideas (even the silly ones)

My pencils must be sharpened to their fullest extent. This is so that I receive the satisfaction of having a dull pencil by the time my writing session is done. I write every single thing that comes to mind because buried beneath the silly lyrics are the great ones.

  • Cut out lyrics that don’t go with the song/ I add and replace lines at this time

During this step, I scratch out lyrics (silly or unrelated) that I don’t completely love. This is also when I add and replace lyrics to make the song better through my eyes.

  • Start singing lyrics instead of only humming 

All of that humming actually had a purpose. I replace the hums with the lyrics that I had been writing and I make sure that the lines’ beats are consistent (or at least semi-consistent) throughout verses.

  • Play ukulele/guitar chords behind lyrics and see what works best → then I write them in my journal!

This is when I mess around with strumming and basic chord playing on my ukulele. I am currently in the process of learning the guitar so I will occasionally play that too. I record the chords that will be used in the song in my journal because if I don’t, I will simply forget.

  • Record rough demo of the song in Voice Memos (so I don’t forget)

My Voice Memos app is filled with covers, rough demos, and multiple 15-45 second recordings of random song lyrics that come to mind. My best ideas come at the randomest times–the mall, baking in my kitchen, watching American Horror Story, in the middle of Newspaper meetings, literally all the time! 

  • Start a new project in GarageBand → I then put on my earbuds. (once lyrics are set in stone of course) I have been experimenting a lot with GarageBand and trying to learn as much as I can about it. I am slowly but surely getting the hang of it. My songs are recorded on GarageBand and until I get into a studio (I must say that this is a big dream of mine), I will continue utilizing this app to record. I start a new project on GarageBand and wear my earbuds because wearing them is a must.
  • Sing lyrics and set this main audio as the tracking vocal (audio #1)

Next in this process is singing the song’s lyrics into my earbuds’ mic (on GarageBand) and this will be the song’s main audio. When I record, I set this main audio as the tracking vocal–GarageBand makes it easy to mix vocals and experiment with them.

  • Layer on ukulele/guitar chord playing (audio track #2)

Then I grab my ukulele (I check if it’s decently tuned) and I record myself playing it. This recording will be the second audio which will be layered onto the first. 

  • Sing/ hum any extra backup vocals or harmonies (audio track #3)

I don’t always make a third audio track with my songs, but it is definitely great for filling in gaps between songs that need a little extra something. Sometimes I will even make a fourth audio track, if I decide to add more vocals, harmonize, or add humming to the background of the song. 


Once I reach this point, I listen to the song and all of its layered components to make sure everything is sounding great. This doesn’t mean that it will be the last time I record it (it is definitely not the final recording). This step is for me to have a rough idea of what the final recording will sound like and find any additional things that I would like to add.

  • Record the song multiple times (so many times) until I love it. Then my song is complete!

YAY! It’s now time for me to record the song, along with the individual audio tracks until I am satisfied with the whole song put together. Even then, I am never FULLY satisfied with a recording but I must stop myself at some point. My song is now complete, on to the next!

My latest song is called “London’s Eye is Watching” and I am so excited for all of you to listen to it. Ever since I visited London back in 2017, I’ve always wanted to go back and visit again. I’ve developed this huge fantasy of jumping on a train and going wherever the next stop is — London seems like a great place to start. This song is about all of the things I would do on my perfect, dream day in London (it’d be raining of course). London definitely holds a special place in my heart because it’s one of the first locations I’ve ever traveled to. I can’t wait for the day I say hello to Big Ben again. 

Photo of Big Ben. (Monica Zepeda )

Below I have included the song’s lyrics along with the chords I used to play along. I played this song with my ukulele so if you have one and would like to learn it, now you can! The audio below is a small snippet from the whole song (Verse 1, Chorus, and Outro) For your convenience: each verse sounds the same and the chorus repeats too!