4 ways to write better songs
To write better songs, read this Cliff Goldmacher short article:
K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple and Singable
Very good article, and I agree with each part of it. Too many people vastly overwrite. They have four and five and even six verses that don't say anything different and don't really say much they haven't already said. I would add to it to have a "very identifiable hook" and write to that. Too many people write and write and write and never really get to a point in their songs.
The "verse/channel (Pre-chorus), verse/Channel/chorus/bridge/chorus out, is one of the most successful formats in the English language. Makes us write tighter and get more information in less space. Good article. Met Cliff once. Have not seen him in a long time but nice to know he's still around.
Hi Guy, there is an option to make a topic private, available only to the original poster. Is it possible that you accidentally clicked on it? Anyway, with my god-like admin powers, I've made it public again. After a day or so, I'll remove your post above and this one to avoid clutter.
An interesting article, Guy. Thanks for posting it. "Think of the song as having only three parts" -- can't say that I've ever thought of a song that way though I've written a few that were. Interesting.
If you want to analyze a song, you can make it like a play. First, second and third act, or beginning, middle and end.
First verse sets up the action, describes why we are listening in the first place. It's why it is a good idea to put in some "visual furniture" so you can physically understand what the entire senario that is going on, it also makes it more real and relatable to listeners from the beginning.
Usually, if there is a "refrain" it will reinforce the HOOK or the principal reason for the song. If there is a chorus, it usually explains how we "feel" or how we are reacting to the story.
The second verse either advances story line (what is happening next) or could do backstory and explain how we got to this point.
A chorus or refrain reminds us of why we are listening to the story to begin with.
A third verse or bridge gives the "lawyer's final summation" or the final act of the song, which wraps the story line up, with the final chorus or refrain reminding of the initial point of the song.
There are songs that go longer, three, four or even more verses. But they are generally hard to follow and often put too much information to boil the song down to it's most basic elements. The "chorus" in most commercial music, is also a place where the general audience can sing along and participate in. Most of the time if there are more verses, the plot of the song gets diluted and only repeating information that has already been laid out in the song.
There are "Story songs" that carry a longer narrative, but for the most part, this sums up a majority of modern songwriting. General people, bombarded by continuous information, have shorter attention spans, therefor by keeping the information in a song tight, to the point and not drifting, it is easier to keep the audience tuned in.
If you analyze most plays, television, motion pictures, and commercial music, you'll find that more times than not they follow this formula.
The Beatles song-- And I Love Her -- Who would ever think of changing the key from the intro
moving up a half tone The song as most would know Starts in a Bb major (refrain something
prevalent in the thirties) but in The Beatles Song as it reaches the first Verse --it moves up half a Tone
The Beatles wrote some beautiful modulations ; So much for those who think they can write a great
country song using a boring over used Chord Sequence
Another thing to consider is Rhythm That alone can make a difference when using a Commonly used
chord sequence Something else not taught by just a few song teachers are using Common Chords
with a different Bass Note re C C /B C/A C/G F// G// C// C
Again take that beautiful song Sung and co written by Dan Hill " Sometimes When We Touch"--
This song uses whats known as Pedal Point -(re my paragraph above)
But in this song the chords above the Bass note change instead of the Bass Note adding
to emotion of the lyrics with amazing effect giving the lyrics much more meaning
in Dan Hill's vocal -----These are the songs that are worth studying ; Songs that have stood the
steps of time Needless to say its also a technique used by Jim Webb who writes most of
his hits with a piano
So true Marc , and too many rush into song writing before even becoming familiar
with the reasons Hit Songs make it; Study the hits , write down why you think the
song works If some friends song moves you dont just say I LIKE THIS tell them why
it works because if you dont know, how are you going to write something as good or
even better ?? we used to call it Arse Licking , Its pointless ? unless you are hoping
for the same in return !
The Internet era ushered in something we had never seen before. Up until that, it took effort, time, and money to learn to play an instrument, to study the craft, to learn the songs of your youth, understanding basic philosophies, and having to earn your way through. In writing songs, you actually had to study the charts, and craft your songs where they could fit into a chart, or develop your own style, audience, and actually had to get people INTERESTED in what YOU DID.
The Internet changed that. A person could get up in the morning, pick up an instrument, that often was not even an instrument. Pre-packaged beats, sound effects, band in a box pre-recorded music, or plastic guitars with push buttons, or video game type alleged musical passages, speak into a computer microphone or their cell phone, turn on their "home video system" on their cell phone, record whatever they assessed as "music", and then throw it up on one of the endless, most often mindless social networking sites, and start getting "likes" and "follows" from other people who were just like them. Pushing a computer button.
No effort, no study, no thought. It was more self help therapy and isolation idolation. A lot of "pat's on the back." In your words "Arse Licking" (Gotta love Europeans and their Euphamisms! LOL!) And it meant pretty much the same thing. Nothing. "I don't really care about this mess, I just want them to 'like me back' to build my social networking numbers so I can tell people how many 'friends' I have. The interest in creating something worth creating, was gone. And everyone wonders why no one can get paid anymore.
When you throw millions of people doing that, and billions of songs, you deflate the value of it all. It all just turns into "something we all do." Songs became "part of the background" not part of the "forefront" of people's lives. That is where we are. Overall, there are billions upon billions of "alleged songs" that would be better kept on people's personal computers or cell phones.
Writing, like anything, takes years of development. It takes endless effort, to learn, to study, to go through trial and error. It takes money, either by being involved in organized efforts, being in bands, duos, groups, taking lessons, or just purchasing a lot of music, going to shows, actually LEARNING what you are doing. That is the only thing that actually separates people who do this for real and the armchair participants.
It is easy to write a song. You just throw some words, sometimes that don't even have to mean anything, that just make various sounds, or do very inate rhymes that simply parrot other things we have all heard:
"I do not like green eggs and ham
I do not like them Sam I Am"
That's all you need. Now, writing something that makes someone stop and say "Wow, I've never thought about it like that before", sing along with it, and want to "SHARE" it with everyone they know, that's a TOTALLY DIFFERENT DEAL. Getting someone to put down their own cell phone to listen and follow, to get past the "eight second barrier" is all a much more involved and different situation.
People can do anything they want to. Everyone has a right to say what they want HOW they want to.
They have no right to be HEARD. That takes more effort.
Interesting thread. There's a new video from Larry Beaird in the "Learn" section, discussing how country songs of the year don't follow the formula for a hit song that he discussed in the previous video. So many different views on how to go about writing a song. Maybe it depends to some extent on what you are trying to achieve. If you want to create something great, maybe you should diverge from the childish simplicity of the "rules" for a hit song. As with all things, though, you should understand the rules before you break them and know why you're doing it.
Just a thought.
I may or may not be an enigma
The deal about music is that unless you are doing it for self therapy, or personal growth, which are both good reasons to write, most every writer, artist, actor, etc. are looking for the acceptance of OTHER PEOPLE. I have yet to meet anyone who wants to be the best writer in their living room. Granted, most writers are fine with who they are, although they always say the same thing, "I don't want to be rich or famous, but if things would happen...." Well, for the most part. if they don't want to be "Rich and Famous,"They've picked the right business.
But for most people, particularly those that come into this town, they almost all ignore things like Larry points out in his video. There are not exactly "rules" as much as "Strong Suggestions" that dictate what happens to songs. If you have a song that goes over about three minutes, you are done. If it has long intros, you are done. If it has mindless solos, you are done. If you have a format or genre that is non-distiguishable" you are done. Now this is in the context of PITCHING to artists, going through producers, getting publishers, label people, managers, etc. Songs that don't fit these formats, are not going to go any further. Because Radio and THE AUDIENCES will not BUY (that means physically purchase product) anything that doesn't fall into those categories. Music is very subjective, and even if they do fit into all those categories, nothing is guaranteed.
People have about an 8-30 second attention span. If you haven't hooked them by then, they are on to other things. That;'s just a fact of life. But anyone can write what they want, perform what they want. Do what they want They have the right to do that. They have no right to be heard.
And what gets frustrating about that are people that PAY MONEY for song pluggers, film and television placement libraries, and other things that are as close to a waste of time and money that come. There is a whole different thread on that that I might start if people are interested.
So yes, be who you want to be and break as many rules as you can. But if you are trying to pitch songs or be an artist and get your songs "OUT THERE", you need to be aware of what your AUDIENCE wants. And what you have to do to get it to your audience.