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Jessica Brandon

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12 Ways to Get Yourself Unstuck in Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Dec 02, 2019 @08:00 AM

by Michael Dehoyos

Songwriting-Pic1

Writing songs is a personal thing, when you need to look inside yourself and find inspiration. When you’re truly stuck, here are some unusual tips you can try; we promise they actually work!

1. Play all your radios together.

When no one is home, turn on all the radios at once when you’re stuck songwriting. You can hear some interesting overlaps, progressions, and melodies. It’s a type of absurdist music composition, known as aleatory music, where the composition relies on chance. Put on all the radios and listen out for any moments of overlap as a way to find great inspiration.

2. Ask yourself the 5 w’s

Think about the subject of your song. What is it about? Who is the main character in it? Where did they come from? Where are you hoping they’ll arrive at by the end of the song? How did they get here? What are they looking for? What do they want to achieve? Remember, what, who, why, where, when and how. Answer those basic questions and the narrative of your song will start to emerge.

3. Listen instead of talking for one day.

Take an oath of silence for a day, and you’ll notice that your brain can reset. Talking actually takes a lot out of your creative brain so when you don’t, you can focus on writing. The silence also allows all your feelings and memories to rise to the surface. Spending the day listening will also be a great way to fuel your ideas. Have a notepad to hand and jot down any interesting snippets of conversation and dialogue that you hear. Listen out for any interesting sounds or fragments of melodies you can use.

4. Set a time limit.

Time can be difficult but if you have too much, you’ll second guess everything you write. Set yourself a short time limit, for less time than you normally need. This will force you to focus and streamline your creative process. If it’s too short, you’ll find that you get absolutely nothing done, so you might want to play around with the best length! You’ll find that you get better at writing great songs quicker. You can challenge yourself further by playing with the time limit each day. The key is to keep writing throughout the whole time; don’t censor yourself!

5. Create a routine

Songwriting is all about practice. The more you write, the better you will become. If you find that you are getting stuck, try writing every day, consistently at the same time. Start with a small amount of time, maybe just 15 minutes a day. You will find that by creating a routine, your brain will become more focused and the more you practice, the more natural the process will become. You will find that the quality of your songwriting will quickly improve and so will your confidence. You will start to beat your block, by knowing you have achieved some songwriting everyday.

6. Play around with song structure

Instead of writing in the conventional, intro-verse-chorus pattern, change it around. Try starting with the chorus, maybe followed by two long verses. You can add in a hidden chorus or a solo. Be creative and challenge your usual pattern.

7. Write from a different perspective

Imagine a scene, maybe one you saw or overheard earlier in the day. Write a verse from one person’s perspective, then the next verse from another person’s point of view. This can make your song sound pretty interesting. You also don’t need to search around for ideas to start with, because you already know what happens – you have already seen the scene! You can also play around with first person and third person narratives and see where it takes you.

8. Write and rearrange words.

Write down a bunch of words that you’ve been thinking about lately, cut them up and rearrange them into different ideas. This can be done for notes, melodies, and even pictures. David Bowie famously used this method for some of his most successful songs.

9. Read and Collect

Read all different types of content- magazines, blogs, tweets, books. Anything and everything! If you have a specific topic you want to write about, focus your reading around that. If not, create a mood-board or scrapbook (you can even create a digital version on your phone) and add to it every time you read something that interests you. News stories are great for giving you current topics to write about. If you’re more of a visual person, use Pinterest and photos from gallery websites, or even better, visit a gallery and get inspiration from the images. You can write a song about the image, or the events that led up to it or that inspired it. Or go a whole different route and write about the person who painted or created the artwork.

10. Listen to Mozart.

Studies show that listening to Mozart gives you more focus by affecting your spatial-temporal reasoning. When you start a writing session by listening to Mozart, you’ll immediately be more concentrated.

11. Use a title

Choose a film, book or song title. Use that as the prompt for your song and create a story to go with it. When you have finished, go back and create your own unique song title. Maybe your song actually took a different route and the new title reflects a whole different aspect of the story? You can use random generators online to generate a title for you or you can collect titles and put them in a jar. Whenever you are stuck, pull one out and get writing!

12. Play your instrument “wrong”.

When you play your instrument the “wrong” way, you’re using an extended technique. This helps you push the boundaries of what’s possible, like playing a piano with the strings modified due to other objects.

It’s normal to get stuck in the songwriting process. If that happens, take some out-of-the-box ideas to get the creativity flowing again. Sometimes, you just need to approach something differently to allow your brain to go where it needs to.

 

Michael Dehoyos, a content marketer and editor with PhD Kingdom, likes to help others find their creativity and maximize their potential. He writes about his own struggles with writing in the hopes that he will help others improve too. In his free time, he loves to play the piano and invent new melodies. Check out: https://phdkingdom.com/

 

For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Song Intro, song structure, post-chorus, Pre-Chorus, Outro, rearrange words

Songwriting: Elements Of Song Structure

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Nov 11, 2019 @11:21 AM

by Alex Bruce & Karen Randle

WhatItTakesToWriteAHitSong

Structure is of course one of the central elements of songwriting. And although it’s fair to say that structure has been used (or abandoned) very creatively by many artists over the years, there are still far fewer variables and options than there are in song content i.e. Chord pattern choices, instrumentation etc.

Song structure is also similar to music theory, in the sense that it’s better to know the rules and then consciously break them, than to break all the rules by simply being unaware.

So, as for precisely how to structure your song, unless you’re writing a highly-commercialized pop song it’s very hard to give you direct instruction.

Instead, you’ll see that below, each common ‘element’ of song structure is described and explained. How many of each to use, when, in what order, and so on, are all the calls the writer must make.

Here is a typical song structure includes a verse, chorus, and bridge in the following arrangement: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro. This is known as an ABABCB structure, where A is the verse, B is the chorus and C is the bridge.

Remember, you don’t have to use every single one of these elements in every song. Think of this list as more of a palette of ingredients to select from.


Intro
Fairly self-explanatory here. Short for introduction, the ‘intro’ is the first thing a listener hears. It may be a riff, or establishing a theme that will then play out in full in the verse or chorus, but fundamentally it’s about setting the scene. One of its functional purposes is to establish the key for the vocalist too. Listen to various songs and critically question the intro’s purpose. Compare and contrast songs spanning different genres too.


Verse
Very often the first sung section you’ll hear (though not always as plenty of highly commercial songs start with a chorus), the verse is essentially the second-most-main section behind the chorus. It establishes the song’s theme, tone, lyrical style and content and ultimately sets up the chorus and continuation of the song. A great number of rock and pop songs begin Intro > Verse > Chorus, so study some and observe the role of the verse, expanding upon the intro, but not yet the chorus.


Pre-Chorus
Not always present, as some songs jump straight from a verse into a chorus. But when it is present, the pre-chorus acts like a pathway from the verse to the chorus. These sections can be at times maligned as gap-filling things designed to patch together a verse and a chorus that otherwise don’t really work together. However, when deliberately and consciously implemented in their own right they can provide fantastic build and tension and heighten the effect of the chorus. You’ll know if a song has a pre-chorus simply because there seems to be an additional section after the verse (and different to it) but before the chorus comes.


Chorus
The pay-off moment, and most-repeated section, of most songs. A song’s chorus is usually distinctive by being some combination of the following factors:
The most memorable section (or the ‘hook’)
The section that lyrically contains the song’s title
The main melodic theme of the song
A place where additional voices/instruments are added
The simplest lyrical section

The chorus is usually the section most people know and remember, and in commercial pop music is the section on which a song is almost entirely judged. It either pays for itself or it doesn’t. Even down to various pop producers and record labels having rules about the maximum number of seconds into a song that a chorus may happen!


Post-Chorus / Break / Tag
This is one of the less common elements of song structure. This shows in its 3 (and maybe more) different names, in that it is not so defined or established as verse or chorus for example.

This section is something that comes on the end of or after a chorus (but isn’t the chorus), but equally is not yet the next verse, or simply a repeat of the intro section.

Much as the pre-chorus can be a build-up to the chorus. The post-chorus can act like a warm-down or wind-down afterwards.


Bridge
The bridge is usually a songwriter’s chance to insert something totally different. It isn’t like a verse, or a chorus, or in fact any other of the sections above/below, most of which serve as a build-up or warm-down to the verse/chorus, or relate to it in some way.

The bridge is usually something quite different. Sometimes there’s a key change, a change in instrumentation, it may be acapella (voices only), or it may be a complete about turn in tone, mood and emphasis.

In pop/rock, the bridge is very often followed by a final chorus or final double chorus before the song ends. So for that reason, the art of writing a good bridge section is writing something that, when the section begins, feels totally different, but by its end point, flows naturally back into the chorus section.


Solo
Often the solo section is interchangeable with the bridge - it’s unusual to get both unless the song is very long and/or experimental.

Essentially an instrumental section, often played by instruments we might consider expressive, ‘lead’ instruments, such as electric guitar, saxophone and so on, this is a moment of instrumental expression, something different, a break for the vocalist(s) and a thrill for the instrumentalist(s).

Solos have been famously used across the decades from the very minimal, thematic, reserved iterations, to the full-blown, 3 minute long shredding guitar solos.

How the solo is executed is determined by the writer’s style, tastes, expression and intentions.

Outro
Another section that’s not always present, as many songs end after a final chorus, or in rock/blues after a guitar solo quite often too.

When an outro is present, it can vary from something quite short and simplistic, to an epilogue - a final, epic, concluding act.

It may be a continuation or adaptation of the section that has just come before it. Equally it may be a return to the theme of the intro, which provides a nice sense of symmetry.

Have a listen to 10 different songs and consider how they end, asking yourself - why is this song ending in this way? Does it refer back to another section of the song? What purpose does this outro serve? Is it a section in its own right? Do I like it? Why?

Alex Bruce is a writer for Guitartricks.com and 30Daysinger.com

 

For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Song Intro, song structure, post-chorus, derivative, Genres, Pre-Chorus, Outro

11 Songwriting Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 @05:22 PM

by Aimee Laurence

JeradFinck2

There are good songs out there and bad songs, and all songwriters can probably say that they’re written their own bad songs too. The problem is if you’re writing a lot more bad songs than good songs, you might be making some common mistakes without realizing. Without further ado, here are the top 11 mistakes to avoid in songwriting.

1. Writing extremely similar songs

Some artists have a very specific style or voice, like Ed Sheeran, and they run the risk that all their songs will sound the same, in other words - derivative. If that’s your case, you need to put a lot of extra work in choosing different keys, chords, tempos, time signatures, collaborations, instrumentation, and more so that each song sounds different than another one.

2. Writing a forced Chorus

This is a common problem when a songwriter finds a great intro and verse, but then has no ideas for a chorus and forces a boring or disjointed one. The reality is that your chorus has to be the catchiest part of the song or the whole thing will fall flat. This includes not only the melody and the music but also the lyrics.

3. Having a Melody unsuited to the Chords

Your mistake might be trying to change your chords to mix it up or have a different rhythm but failing to match the melody to the chords. To fix this problem successfully, work on aural (ear) training and music theory to understand how they can work better together.

4. Being too Repetitive

If you have a really great lyric, you don’t necessarily need to keep repeating it instead of writing more lyrics. One of the biggest problems is repeating the first verse as the second verse instead of writing more lyrics. It’s still possible to write a great song with over-repetition of lyrics, but it has to be done right with a powerful accompaniment.

5. Giving up on a bad song

As mentioned, it’s normal that you’ll write some bad songs. However, you can always take some good ideas from it for another song down the road. You’ll even feel good about finishing it even if you end up not using it again.

6. Not having a Climax

One of the biggest problems with songwriting is when a song doesn’t take you anywhere. The song isn’t multi-dimensional. Whether it’s melodic or lyrical, your song needs to have an arc. The listener should feel like the song is building up to something, and have a good finale.

7. Poor Rhyming

There is divided opinion on whether your song should have rhyming to avoid obvious cliché rhymes but to still follow in traditional lyrical patterns. Others think that rhyming is not important in songs at all because it’s impossible to come up with anything original and new. The important thing is not to try to make something rhyme and it shouldn’t, and pick words that won’t be accidentally thought of as rhymes.

8. No purpose in your Lyrics

Don’t start writing your song without knowing where it’s going to go or what it’s about. Know what your song is about before you sit down to write it, and find the most meaningful and purposeful way to say it.

9. Unnecessary song sections

If you’re adding a section to a song like a bridge because it’s habit, ask yourself if you really need it. Don’t just stick with what you know because you’re familiar with it. Instead, explore different options to reach bigger potential. Find out if you want a bridge and a guitar solo, or none, or just one of those two.

10. Trying too hard to be different

Learn what it means to be unique and different without rejecting any ideas that existed before. At the end of the day, you’ll be using the same notes, words, and chords that others have used, because patterns and structures exist. Instead of rejecting them, play with them instead.

11. Not listening to Different Genres

You’ll have a better chance of coming up with unique and original content if you’re listening to a lot of different styles. Instead of hating on any type of music that isn’t yours, listen to everything without judging, and listen outside of your comfort zone.

 

Aimee Laurence, a music journalist at Essay Writing Service, writes articles about music theory and new musical trends. She enjoys sharing her passion for this topic with her readers. In her free time, she offers singing and piano lessons.


For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, lyric writing, Rhyming, derivative, Repetitive, Climax, Songwriting Mistakes, Genres

How To Kickstart Becoming a Lyricist

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Sep 10, 2019 @12:41 PM

by Joel Syder

songwriting6

Without seeming patronizing, doing anything for the first time can seem overwhelming and difficult. Anything that someone has just started doing will surely require practice to gain skills. Dedication is the key ingredient here, then time.

This guide will provide you with key tips on becoming a great lyricist. These will be very effective when you are starting out but will also follow you throughout your career. To begin, some quick tips that you should recognize are: quality matters a lot more than quantity; the music and the lyrics must be inter-related; hooks are what create a catchy, popular tune; rhyme and creativity go hand in hand and finally, feedback is extremely important.

 

Collaboration will give you experience

Other lyricists can show a new writer what inspires them the most. Important subjects like linking lyric rhythm to melodic rhythm can set aside great lyrics to good or mediocre lyrics. Additionally, it is a brilliant way to get into song lyric writing as there won’t be the pressure of synthesizing whole songs alone.

 

Keep things simple to avoid difficulty

Simplicity is a golden rule in song lyric writing, closely followed by authenticity. Many great musicians who compose their own music or write their own lyrics will affirm that repetition is one of the most important factors of a great chorus. It’s not as simple as it sounds – it is in fact easier to writer lengthier lyrics and simplicity will take time to master. However, once it is mastered, catchy and popular lyrics will ensue.

 

Be considerate of conversational quality

Songs aren’t books for a reason. They are often written and sung in the way they would be spoken. When writing, it is therefore important that lyricists write as they speak. Perfect grammar is not always the way forward as this removes many possibilities to become poetic and rather abstract. Rhyming is a lot easier once grammar is not put on a pedestal; though don’t lose sight of making sense. It is very obvious to listeners when lyrics don’t follow any meaning. The best lyricists write as if they are telling a meaningful and personal story.

 

Inspiration from other artists

Read lyrics from others without listening to their songs. This will award a sense of the level of repetition, simplicity and clarity great lyrics have.

“In a set of popular lyrics, there will be a clear message – form this into the chorus – and a leading story – form this into the verses,” says Sherman Fernandez, audio producer at 1 Day 2 Write and Next Course Work.

Don’t overload songs

Popular songs often have between 100-300 words. This may seem surprising, though this is the necessary amount to convey stories and messages in concise and clear ways that are also catchy enough to get a listener sharing a song with their friends.

“Lyrics are very important for listeners to relate to music, though let the melodic rhythm also take a part on the main stage,” says Billy Holden, art blogger at Write Myx and Brit Student.

How to begin?

When stuck for ideas, the beginning is often the toughest part to get through. Start by saying exactly what you want the song to say. Use descriptive language that encompasses the five (and possibly more) senses that will bring listeners to fully experience the song, using small focuses on everyday life to bring visuals to life. This is how to bring listeners to the present moment within a song. Avoid focusing too much on rhyme and pattern. When starting out, just write and focus on the technique later.

If you are really struggling for a place to begin, it can be helpful to simply mind map ideas. More and more words and phrases will come to mind as you branch out and expand upon topics and stories. Always bring words and phrases back to the original topic. Personal stories are often the easiest to write about, and details can be changed to introduce more creativity.

One of the best things about song lyric writing is that it allows a career in music even if the writer can’t themselves sing or play an instrument. Lyric writing is personal, stylish and based on practice and commitment.

 

Joel Syder is audio expert and writer at Essay Help and Academic Brits. He enjoys helping people to write songs they love as well as creating articles about things that excite him for PhDKingdom.. https://academicbrits.com/


For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, lyric writing

Inside the Record Breaking Hit “Old Town Road"

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Aug 23, 2019 @05:58 PM

Inside the Record Breaking Hit “Old Town Road”

by Karen Randle

LilNasX

 

No one in the music industry saw Lil Nas X coming. ‘Old Town Road’ defied a long trend in hit music in an era where hits are made by big-name writers and producers, as it hit the charts as an indie artist, shocking everyone. Lil Nas X did not use any big-name songwriter or producer such as Max Martin. It all started when Lil Nas X went online to purchase the background track for a mere $30!

The ‘Old Town Road’ background music (or what we called in the industry the “beats”) Lil Nas X used only cost $30.00 off of a music licensing website called BeatStars? Even the producer of the background music - YoungKio didn't know the song was purchased by Lil Nas X until he saw it in an Instagram meme in December 2018. The track contained a sample of Nine Inch Nails' "34 Ghosts IV."

This was how Lil Nas X Reacts to 'Old Town Road' Breaking Billboard Hot 100 Chart Record: 'This Song Has Changed My Life'.

The “Trap” genre song incorporates country elements. Trap music is a style of hip hop music that was developed in the late 1990s to early 2000s in the Southern United States. The largest influences of Trap come from Atlanta, Georgia and Miami-Dade, Florida. Rap and country crossovers are nothing new; St. Louis rapper Nelly blended elements of country music in his songs back in the early 2000s, including hooking up with Nashville star Tim McGraw for "Over and Over."

BeatStars is a digital marketplace where producers and artists are able to link up without ever getting into a studio together. Artists can pay a bargain-rate fee to download a beat, leaving it open to other artists to use as well, as Lil Nas X did. If they shell out a little more, they can get an exclusive license. Lil Nas X was just another customer. The majority of the time, the artist and the producer never meet each other.

Beatstars members pay a monthly user fee but they keep 100% of their sales revenue. And instead of having to wait for royalty statements, they get paid instantly and can license the same beat to multiple artists, the company said.

Lil Nas X  said: "I went looking for beats on YouTube...when suddenly I came across a country-trap sounding masterpiece," he wrote, "I immediately knew I would make something special out of it."

"Old Town Road" was released independently as a single on December 3, 2018, during the rise of the "Yeehaw Agenda" meme, a movement appropriating cowboy fashion and culture.

The record breaking hit song credits these songwriters: Lil Nas X (also known as Montero Hill), YoungKio (the producer of the background track, also known as Kiowa Roukema), Trent Reznor (from Nine Inch Nails), Atticus Ross (producer of Nine Inch Nails), Billy Ray Cyrus, and Jocelyn Donald (professional songwriter who helped Billy with his verses).

The song gained traction in late December 2018 after becoming the "Yeehaw Challenge" meme on TikTok, where users created short videos set to the song. The challenge is credited with launching the song to debut at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Yes, he hit the charts without getting signed a record label, an incredible feat for a debut music artist.

On March 22, 2019, the success of the song allowed Lil Nas X to sign to Columbia Records, which now distributes the single.

However, "Old Town Road" was embroiled in controversy before the end of March. Besides the Billboard Hot 100 list, the cross-genre song made it to both the Hot Country and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop lists. But Billboard quietly removed the song from its hot country rankings, and claimed that "Old Town Road" should have never made it there in the first place because "it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version."

In the United States, the original version of "Old Town Road" ascended to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week ending April 13, 2019; at one minute and fifty-three seconds in length, it became the shortest number-one single since "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" by Herman's Hermits in 1965 and the fifth-shortest in the history of the chart.

Turn on the radio today, and you’re likely to hear “Old Town Road.”

The song by 20-year old rapper Lil Nas X featuring country superstar Billy Ray Cyrus fuses elements of both genres, and it has catapulted to the top of the charts since its release in April.

"Old Town Road (Remix)", featuring American country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, was the first official remix of "Old Town Road" to be released. It was released on April 5, 2019 by Columbia Records. The remix was recorded in support of "Old Town Road" being recognized as a country song. The remix was eventually included alongside the original on Lil Nas X's debut EP, 7.

In December 2018, a day after the original version's release, Lil Nas X tweeted out that he wanted Cyrus on the song. Columbia Records executive Ron Perry reached out to Cyrus' wife Tish Cyrus saying that he would love if Cyrus were to hear "Old Town Road". Cyrus first heard the song over coffee on March 16, 2019 when Tish played it to him.

Cyrus responded to Lil Nas X's comments by stating that he loved the original version the first time he heard it. Cyrus also mentioned that he related to the song the first time he heard it, connecting the "old town road" to the Old Town Bridge in Argillite, Kentucky that he used to play on as a kid.

With 19 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, “Old Town Road” pulls ahead of an elite group of songs that held the record for the longest reign on top. The 2017 Latin sensation “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber and “One Sweet Day” released by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men in 1995 previously shared the record at 16 weeks, according to Billboard magazine. This is an amazing fest coming from a debut single from a debut artist.

This also means Lil Nas X holds the debut single with most weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, at 19 weeks. Which was the previous holder? It was Debby Boone’s "You Light Up My Life", which spent 10 weeks at #1 in 1977 (a record at that time).

This genre bending song also hit on Billboard’s Country Charts as well (before getting removed for not sounding “Country” enough”) as R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Charts.


For information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, music writing, songwriting structure,, Old Town Road, Billboard Hot 100 Chart, Lil Nas X

[Expert Songwriting Advice] Learn the Rules of Song Structure

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jun 04, 2019 @10:07 PM

[Expert Songwriting Advice] Learn the Rules of Song Structure

by Mark Cawley

songwriting

The following is adapted from Mark's new book “Song Journey.”

Song structure is important if you’re a songwriter, but what I’ve found is that there is no singular way to structure a song if you want it to be a hit. There’s also some confusion around the right way to structure a song so that it connects with today’s market.

In this article, I’m going to lay out the rules of song structure, not for the purposes of boxing you in while you’re writing—but so you know what rules to break later on.

A Simple Explanation

The best, simplest way I’ve heard song structure explained is this:

  • The info, the story, and the details are in the verses

  • The pre-chorus builds the tension and makes you want to hear the chorus

  • The chorus is the BIG FAT IDEA.

  • The bridge is the scenic route on the journey

  • The post-chorus reminds you of the BIG FAT IDEA without restating it

Before we get a little more technical, this framework gives you the big picture.

Current Song Structures

There are so many ways to structure a song, but staying current is a good place to start writing hits. Listeners’ tastes change, and song structure usually reflects the changes.

In 1967, the Doors were stretching the limits of radio with seven-minute songs. These days, you’re more likely to find them in the three- to three-and-a-half-minute range, sometimes without any of the old building blocks such as bridges and pre-choruses.

A good exercise is to deconstruct the songs that move you, just for the structure.

Take notes on how the song is constructed. Next time you sit down to write, consider the song you tore apart when you build your own.

It’s an eye-opening shortcut to see how the big boys build. Keep doing this, and what you learn gets in your songwriter DNA. You get better quick.

Getting Started with Structure

If you think of the parts of your song in terms of A, B, and C, it’s easy to track:

A is your verse, B the chorus, and C the bridge.

There are more parts to consider such as the intro, pre-chorus, and post-chorus, but for now, use these three as your standard. Common forms are:

A, A, B, A, B, C, B, B

A, B, A, B, C, B, B

You don’t see many A-only songs today (think “I Walk the Line”). Early folk and country utilized this structure, but it’s disappeared as listeners look for multiple hooks.

Start with the basic forms, but mix and match. Does your song need a bridge? Would it work to start with the chorus or a part of it? Better with pre-choruses or post-choruses?

A good guide is to take notes on the song structures you’re hearing on the radio now. In coaching songwriters, I tend to see quite a few A, A, B, A, A, B, C, B, B; four verses.

I generally ask them to give some thought to paring this down to three whenever possible. Songs in most modern music are shorter these days.

Plus, it’s always been a matter of “Don’t bore us; get to the chorus.”

Check the running time of your song before you sign off on it. This can help you decide what needs to go if you’re looking at a four-minute song. Think of the listener in this case. You might want to use more repetition and less new information.

Another structure that almost feels like cheating when it works is to start your song with the chorus or a portion of it. If you can hook a listener that fast, the chances of their channel surfing in the car go way down.

Think About Moments

When I’m structuring a song, I try to think about moments. We’ve all heard moments in the performance of a song. Think of singers with big voices; Whitney Houston, Adele, and Celine Dion come to mind. They can bring out the raw emotion in a song, but you can be thinking about those moments as you create yours.

What are the real moments, the emotional highs and lows in my song? How do I want to feature them when I’m putting the song together?

You can create a moment with a modulation. Tread carefully here; you can also create a cringe-worthy moment that you can’t get back. Space (silence in your arrangement) can be built into the structure and doesn’t have to rely only on the singer.

Know the Rules, Break the Rules

Try to let the song dictate the structure rather than any rules you come across. You’re looking for happy accidents, and mixing up the structure might provide.

The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” was created by crashing two different song ideas together. Lennon had the trippy part but was stuck on finishing when McCartney played him an unfinished song of his own. The “woke up, got out of bed” section was a perfect counterpoint to what Lennon had written.

When I first read that story, the technique went directly into my toolbox.

Daniel Levitin, an American neuroscientist described what Lennon and McCartney achieved really well in his book This Is Your Brain on Music:

Music is organized sound, but the organization has to involve some element of the unexpected or it’s emotionally flat and robotic. The artist artfully manipulates our expectations with a semi-resolution that straddles surprise and release.

Yeah, what he said.

For more advice on song structure, you can find “Song Journey” on Amazon. Its currently #1 in multiple categories worldwide!

song_journey-facebook-amazon(1)

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other writers around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner to Wynonna Judd to The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. www.idocoach.com


 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, Mark Cawley, song demo, bridge, demo recording, music writing, songwriting structure,

How Words Change as a Song Progresses

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 01, 2019 @07:00 AM

How Words Change as a Song Progresses


by Gary Ewer

Songwriter2

Over the 4 minutes of a good song, it’s normal for some things to stay the same while other things change. The kinds of things that usually get set up at the beginning and resist change would be the tempo and the basic feel of the song. The kinds of things that change would be the chord progressions, the melodies, and of course the lyrics.

How do they change? Typically, they change depending on the song’s section. A verse melody tends to be lower in pitch than a chorus melody. A verse chord progression tends to be longer and have a more “wandering” quality than a chorus progression, which is usually shorter and tonally stronger.

And you become aware that the kinds of words—the way you’d say something – will be different in a chorus than in a verse. It may not be something you’ve noticed before, but if you struggle with words, and getting your lyric to sound strong and to have an impact, you’ve got to know how words change over the length of a song.

 

Verse Lyrics

Song lyrics can be neatly categorized as being narrative, describing people, situations and circumstances, or emotional, expressing feelings and reactions to whatever the story has been about.

In general, the telling of the story or describing of circumstances happens in a verse. So you’ll want to use your verse to set up a good story, and keep emotion to a minimum.

The verse lyric of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a great example. He uses the verse to sing about a situation that is, at its core, quite emotional, but he keeps that emotion controlled and minimal:

Now and then I think of when we were together

Like when you said you felt so happy you could die

Told myself that you were right for me

But felt so lonely in your company

But that was love and it's an ache I still remember.

 

As you can see, there is emotion, but it's controlled and measured.

 

Chorus Lyrics

A good chorus lyric allows the listener to generate and enjoy emotions that come from the story that’s been set up in the verse. That chorus lyric may add to the story, but its chief responsibility is to allow the listener to feel something. So that’s why you so often see exclamations (“Ooooh”, “yeah, yeah, yeah…”, or “whoa.” You’ll also see that a chorus lyric might use a catchy lyrical hook (“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”), but in any case, its main responsibility is to have the audience feel something emotional.

The chorus of “Somebody That I Used to Know” shows that the difference between verse and chorus is usually subtle, but it’s important:

But you didn't have to cut me off

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing

And I don't even need your love

But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

No, you didn't have to stoop so low

 

Bridge Lyrics

If your song contains a bridge, you’ll notice that those kinds of lyrics are a little different again. Because a bridge (or middle-8) is used to finish the story and to get to the point of the song, it’s common to see bridge lyrics that give a narrative style “then-this-happened” line, and follow it quickly with a “so-then-I-felt-this” kind of responding line. Or it might be a series of lines that, while adding to the story, are filled with emotion.

In the hit song “Just Give Me a Reason” (Pink, Jeff Bhasker, Nate Ruess), the bridge is a perfect demonstrator of what the lyric is supposed to do. We get an important part of the story (our relationship is a bit of a mess, but “nothing is as bad as it seems…”) – a perfect blend of story and emotion:

Oh, tear ducts and rust, I'll fix it for us

We're collecting dust, but our love's enough

You're holding it in, you're pouring a drink

No, nothing is as bad as it seems, we'll come clean

 

Why This Is Important

Whether we’re talking about music, stories, or even just real life, we generate emotions based on what we hear or experience. Emotions don’t just happen without some sort of back story. So if you use your song lyric to basically say “I feel so bad”, but you don’t give any kind of background to why, it becomes an empty emotion, and audiences will feel confused and ultimately bored.

So as you write your next song, do this:

  1. Write your verse lyric on one page and your chorus lyric on another.

  2. Read your verse lyric to yourself, and try to assess it for its story-telling qualities. It doesn’t need to be devoid of emotion, but you should be aware that its main purpose is to tell the audience what’s going on.

  3. Read the chorus to yourself, and try to assess it for the emotions it describes and generates. A good chorus doesn’t need to add to the story as such, but should express emotions that make sense when compared to the story of the verse.

When it works well, a song lyric acts as a kind of musical seesaw, where we feel emotion rising and falling. That kind of change over time is vital to keeping audiences listening and interested.

A couple of years ago I did a video that describes this important issue, using the song “Losing Sleep” by John Newman. You can see that lyric here: https://youtu.be/m4USyNw6-gk

 

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” blog. Gary Ewer is a music instructor, clinician, conductor and composer. He has been writing about songwriting on his “Essential Secrets of Songwriting” blog for the past 11 years. http://www.secretsofsongwriting.com

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, song demo, bridge, demo recording, Gary Ewer, music writing

5 Tips for Improving Your Song’s Melodic Hooks

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 01, 2019 @07:07 AM

5 Tips for Improving Your Song’s Melodic Hooks

by Jason Blume

 songwriting2015

Melodic hooks can be the heart of a song. These tasty bits of ear candy can make the difference between an “almost” – and a life-changing hit. They can be instrumental or sung and can occur in any section of a song – the intro, verse, chorus, pre-chorus, post-chorus, bridge, or outro. Catchy musical phrases hook in your listeners and keep them on the proverbial line. They can occur in multiple sections of a given song (i.e., a verse, a pre-chorus, and chorus) and although it is not typical, there can be more than one musical and/or vocal hook per section. But they are most frequently found in choruses and post-choruses.

Ideally, unforgettable hooks pop into our heads–or pour out of our keyboards or guitars–spontaneously. But when they don’t, we can apply craft to create these extra-memorable melodic moments and add additional hooks to maximize our songs’ chances for success.

Let’s look at five ways to embellish our melodies and help them burn into listeners’ brains.

1. Use a Stutter

A stutter in a song occurs when melody is crafted so that part of a word—typically the first syllable—is repeated one or more times by the vocalist. A perfect example of a song with a st-st-st-stutter is Carrie Underwood’s smash hit, “Undo It” (written by Underwood with Kara DioGuardi, Marti Fredericksen, and Luke Laird). The title is sung “Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Undo It,” turning the stutter into the primary hook in the chorus. For another example, listen to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” (written by Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin). It’s hard to imagine that #1 song without its signature stutter, the “Buh-Buh-Buh” that precedes the name “Bennie.”

2. Repeat a Rhythm

Write a melody that includes a unique, instantly memorable rhythm in the vocal melody of a given section of your song (i.e., verse, chorus …). Then repeat this rhythm multiple times within the same part of the song. In order to accomplish this, each line that has the same rhythm needs to have the same—or approximately the same—number of syllables in the lyric that accompanies it.

This technique resulted in a powerhouse hook in GRAMMY winning Best Rock Song, “When I’m Gone” (recorded by 3 Doors Down and written by band members Brad Arnold, Todd Harrell, Matt Roberts, and Chris Henderson). Note how the last note of each line of the chorus is emphasized, and that every line of the chorus melody repeats almost the same rhythm, creating a melody that delivered it to the top of Billboard’s Top 40 Mainstream and Hot Mainstream Rock charts.

To hear another great example of the power of this technique, listen to the quirky rhythms in the melodic phrases that repeat in the verses of Old Dominion’s “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” (written by Jesse Frasure, BMI’s reigning Country Songwriter of the Year, with Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, and Brad Tursi). Also note the musical phrase that repeats in the choruses.

3. Include a “Nonsense Syllable”

In this context, a nonsense syllable refers to a sound that is sung but has no meaning. These include: “Ooh,” Oh,” Yo,” “Ay,” “Ahh,” “Ooh,” and “I.” These (and other sounds) can be joined together to create vocal hooks that combine melodies with sounds such as, “Oh-I, Oh-I, Oh,” “Ooh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh,” and “Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay-Oh-Ay-Oh.”

Camila Cabello’s breakthrough smash, “Havana” (featuring Young Thug, and written by Cabello with Jeffrey Williams, Frank Dukes, Brittany Hazzard, Ali Tamposi, Brian Lee, Andrew Watt, Pharrell Williams, Kaan Gunesberk, and Louis Bell) added the sound “ooh-na-na (ay, ay)” to the title to create an unforgettable hook.

Similarly, Sugarland used “Whoa-oh, whoa-oh” to take their song, “Stuck Like Glue” (written by Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush, Kevin Griffin, and Shy Carter) to the #1 slot on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs Chart, racking up more than 2.6 millions digital sales along the way.

4. Add a catchy post-chorus

A post-chorus can be defined as a part of a song that occurs after the chorus, providing an additional hook that typically includes vocals. It introduces melody that is not heard in the chorus or elsewhere in the song, and in many instances, it has few lyrics that have not previously been heard in the song. It often reiterates the title and incorporates nonsense syllables.

Examples of strong post-choruses include Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time” (written by Urban with James Abrahart and William Wells). For more information about post-chorus references, check out “The Power of Post-Choruses.”

5. Include a Catchy Instrumental Lick

A musical motif, sometimes referred to as a signature lick, is a melodic phrase that is typically introduced in a song’s intro and recurs throughout the song. Some hit songs, such as Vanessa Carlton’s “Thousand Miles” and Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" have multiple instrumental phrases that serve as hooks. Carlton’s #1 hit includes a motif that is played on piano during the intro and in the verses, as well as the instrumental hook played by the strings in the second half of the verses.

One of my favorite instrumental hooks is the guitar lick that introduces Rascal Flatts’ recording of “What Hurts the Most” (written by Jeffrey Steele and Steve Robson). This version of the song reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and Adult Contemporary charts and received a Country Song of the Year GRAMMY nomination. The same lick can be heard (with slight variations) played on a synthesizer in Cascada’s pop/dance recording of the same song.

At a recent songwriting workshop, I led my students through an exercise during which they applied each of these techniques to one of their songs. They explored including a stutter, repeating hooky rhythms, adding nonsense syllables, writing a post-chorus, and incorporating a catchy musical lick.

One unforgettable hook can be your song’s ticket to the top of the charts. But why stop at one, when multiple hooks can maximize your chances of success?

Try these tools in your own songs. Not every song will be benefit from each of these techniques; the decision needs to be made on a song-by-song basis. But you won’t know whether one or more of these melodic tools might take your song to the next level unless you try.
 

(Reprint Permission granted by BMI)

 Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. He has been a guest lecturer at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and at the Berklee College of Music. For information about his workshops, webinars, additional articles, and more, visit www.jasonblume.com

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, song demo, Jason Blume, demo recording, Instrumental Hooks, Catchy Rhythm, syllables, music writing, Instrumental Lick, Melodic Hooks, Stutter, post-chorus

Songwriters Podcast Radio Program 2019

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @05:04 PM

Songwriters Podcast Radio Program


Click here to listen to the latest edition of the Songwriters Radio Program featuring: David Wilcox, Priscilla Renae, latest Grammy winner - Lucy Kalantari, Ships Have Sailed, Michael McDaniel, Darrell Scott, Ari Gold, Breaking Southwest, etc.

In its landmark year, the USA Songwriting Competition is currently accepting entries. To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition online, Click Here>>

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, Meghan Trainor, Pricilla Renea, Lucy Kalantari

[Songwriting Advice] Size Matters: A Study in Prosody

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Mar 01, 2019 @07:00 AM

[Songwriting Advice] Size Matters: A Study in Prosody

by Pat Pattison

 LanaDelRay

Lana Del Ray’s single, Ride, creates a picturesque and surreal journey down an open road, leading us through a landscape that fuses relationships, mental turmoil and escape. The song is about motion, about the instability of a physical circumstance and mental state that causes her to lean into the future, to slide away from the confines of her past. Or something like that.

Anyway, it currently has over 62 million views on youtube, so lotsa folks like it.

Here are the first four sections:

(Insert Ride (unedited) here)

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble,

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

I just ride,

Just ride

 

Again, the song is all about moving. Yet, at the end of the last section, I didn’t feel the urge to move. I should have, but I didn’t. Why not?

First, let’s take a minute to talk about the concept of Prosody.

 

Prosody

Aristotle said that every great work of art contains the same feature – unity. Everything in the work belongs –supports every other element. Another word for unity is prosody – the “appropriate relationship between elements, whatever they may be.” Some examples of prosody in songs might be:

Prosody between words and music: a minor key could create, a feeling of sadness to support or even create sadness in an idea.

Prosody between syllables and notes: appropriate relationship between stressed syllables and stressed notes – a really big deal in songwriting. When they are lined up properly, the shape of the melody matches the natural shape of the language.

Prosody between rhythm and meaning: obvious examples like

 

“you gotta stop!.......(pause).................look and listen.”

 

Or writing a song about galloping horses in a triplet feel.

 

The elements of the song must all join together to support the central intent, idea and emotion of the work. Everything fits. Prosody is the appropriate relationship between elements.

Stable vs. Unstable

Stable vs. unstable is an effective window into prosody – a practical tool for creating prosody because it covers every aspect of a song: from the idea, to the melody, the rhythm, the chords, the lyric structure --everything. It governs the choices you make. Ask yourself, is the emotion in this section stable or unstable? Once you answer that question, you have a standard for making all your other choices.

 

Number of Lines

Every section you’ll ever write – verses, choruses, pre-choruses, bridges—will have (here it comes, get ready) some number of lines or other! OK, not much of a revelation. Even more specifically, every section you’ll ever write will have either an even number of lines, or an odd number of lines. Wow. Even more of an, um, revelation…

Now let’s talk a bit about an odd number of lines. An odd number of lines feels, er, odd -- off balance, unresolved, incomplete UNSTABLE. Let’s say you’re writing a verse where the idea is something like: “Baby, since you left me I’ve been feeling lost, odd -- off balance, unresolved, incomplete, UNSTABLE. Just theoretically, do you think this verse would be better with an even number of lines or an odd number of lines? Right. An odd number of lines.

This changes everything. You’ve recognized, maybe for the first time, that there can be a relationship between what you say and how many lines you use to say it. You’re feeling UNSTABLE, and the odd or UNSTABLE number of lines supports that feeling. Prosody. Your structure (in this case, your number of lines) can support meaning.

An even number of lines tends to feel, well, even -- solid, resolved, balanced, STABLE. Let’s say that your message is something like: “Baby, you’re the answer to all my prayers. I’ll be with you forever. I’m your rock. You can count on me.” How many lines should you use? Odd or even? Right. Even. You want a solid feeling in the structure to support the emotion you’re trying to communicate. “I mean it. You can trust me.” Prosody.

On the other hand, an odd number of lines feels, er, odd. Like it’s missing something. It creates a feeling of leaning forward. It feels unstable.

With this in mind, let’s take another look at these sections of Ride:

(Insert Ride (unedited) here)

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble,

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

I just ride,

Just ride

 

All four sections have an even number of lines. At least in this regard, all four feel stable. They don’t move. Let me repeat that: they don’t move.

Though the song is all about moving, all four sections stop. All four sections balance. That may not be an issue in the first section, where she’s stating facts. No drama, no motion, just facts.

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

The even-numbered six-line section supports the facts nicely. Even the second section, where she’s giving commands, seems appropriate for an even number of lines:

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

But it seems to me that sections three and four might profit from some instability, especially the title lines, the emotional centerpiece of the whole song:

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

I just ride,

Just ride

 

I’m an obsessive tinkerer, so I wondered what this might sound as a three lines section. It’s easy enough to toss the song into Garageband and do a little chopping, so I did. Here’s what it sounds like, omitting the third line:

(Insert Ride Edit 1 Chorus here)

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

Just ride

 

Nice. Can you feel the motion? The longing? The instability? Yup, the number of lines actually creates a feeling all by itself. It comments on the words like a film score comments on the images on the screen. It tells you how to feel about what you’re hearing, simply by applying the concept of Prosody, in this case, working with the number of lines in the section. The section moves forward, supporting the idea, Ride.

Listen to it in the context of all four sections.

(Insert Ride Edit 1 Complete here)

Still, the third section feels like it balances and stops motion with its even number of lines, making the last section have to do all the emotional work. What if the third section,

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble,

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

could push forward too? After all, it’s drenched with longing:

 

Back to Garageband for another edit, deleting the third line. Listen:

(Insert Ride Edit 2 Pre-Chorus here)

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

Now, combined with the unstable fourth section, you can feel even more motion:

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

Just ride

Now all four sections create prosody – their structures support their meaning, and, in the process, create a nice contrast between stable and unstable sections, making the third and fourth section’s forward motion seem even more dramatic:

(Insert Ride Edit 2 Complete here)

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

Just ride

 

The structure of each section helps support the idea, using number of lines to make them move or stop.

Number of lines: one of the many tools affecting how your song creates an extra level of feeling. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Take a look at a few more applications of the use of an odd number of lines. Here are the first verses and chorus to Yes’s 1983 hit, Owner of a Lonely Heart:

(Insert Owner of a Lonely Heart (unedited) here)

 

Move yourself,

you always live your life

Never thinking of the future

Prove yourself

You are the move you make

Take your chances win or loser

 

See yourself,

you are the steps you take

You and you and that's the only way

Shake, shake yourself

You are every move you make

So the story goes

 

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a broken heart

Owner of a lonely heart

 

If I had a lonely heart, I’d feel a sense of longing, of something missing. Try this:

(Insert Owner of a Lonely Heart Edit here)

 

Move yourself,

you always live your life

Never thinking of the future

Prove yourself

You are the move you make

Take your chances win or loser

 

See yourself,

you are the steps you take

You and you and that's the only way

Shake, shake yourself

You are every move you make

So the story goes

 

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a broken heart

Owner of a lonely heart

 

Now you can feel it. The odd number of lines makes a huge difference.

John Mayer did it right the first time in his Grammy-winning “Your Body is a Wonderland.” His three-line chorus creates a sense of longing, a desire for more:

(Insert Your Body Is A Wonderland unedited here)

 

We got the afternoon

You got this room for two

One thing I've left to do

Discover me

Discovering you

 

One mile to every inch of

Your skin like porcelain

One pair of candy lips and

Your bubblegum tongue

 

Cause if you want love

We'll make it

Swim in a deep sea

Of blankets

Take all your big plans

And break 'em

This is bound to be awhile

 

Your body is a wonderland

Your body is a wonder (I'll use my hands)

Your body is a wonderland

 

Without the sense of longing created by the odd number of lines, I doubt the song would have been John’s first Grammy. Judge for yourself. Listen to my Garageband edit, where I inserted an extra line into the chorus:

(Insert Wonderland Edit here)

 

We got the afternoon

You got this room for two

One thing I've left to do

Discover me

Discovering you

 

One mile to every inch of

Your skin like porcelain

One pair of candy lips and

Your bubblegum tongue

 

Cause if you want love

We'll make it

Swim in a deep sea

Of blankets

Take all your big plans

And break 'em

This is bound to be awhile

 

Your body is a wonderland

Your body is a wonderland

Your body is a wonder (I'll use my hands)

Your body is a wonderland

 

The even number of lines in the chorus stops motion and erases the sense of longing completely.

The Beatles supported the surrealism of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds effectively with this three-line chorus:

(Insert Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds unedited here)

 

Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

 

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green

Towering over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

And she's gone

 

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

 

Again, I’ve inserted an extra line in the chorus. Listen to the song now as it grinds to a dull halt with my Garageband-balanced chorus:

(Insert Lucy (edit) here)

 

Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

 

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green

Towering over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

And she's gone

 

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

 

It changes the feeling of the song completely.

Every section you write WILL have some number of lines, either odd or even. Ask yourself the simple question, “How do I feel in this section, stable or unstable?” Your number of lines, one of the many structural tools in your tool-belt, can help you gain even more emotion by supporting and enhancing your intent.

Prosody. It’s not rocket surgery. It’s simply having tools in your tool-belt and knowing how to use them. Prosody gives you an efficient window into effective composition.

Size matters.

 

 

 

Pat Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches lyric writing and poetry. In addition to his four books, Songwriting Without Boundaries (Writer’s Digest Books), Writing Better Lyrics (Writer’s Digest Books), The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure (Berklee Press), and The Essential Guide to Rhyming (Berklee Press), Pat has developed five online courses for Berklee Online: three on lyric writing, one on poetry, and one on creative writing, all available through online.berklee.edu. His filmed series of lectures for Coursera.org has over 1,600,000 students enrolled to date. Pat has written over fifty articles for various magazines and blogs and has chapters in both The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi) and the Handbook on Creative Writing (Edinburgh University Press). He
continues to present songwriting clinics across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Pat’s students include multiple Grammy-winner Gillian Welch, John Mayer, AND Tom Hambridge, Karmin, American Authors, Liz Longley, Greg Becker, Charlie Worsham, and many more.

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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