Songwriters, Stop Using the (*yawn*) Same Old Formula

From “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:


Have you ever noticed that even though The Beatles had dozens of hits, none of those hits seemed to rely on the same old formula. Each song sounds unique. From ‘She Loves You’, to ‘Penny Lane’, to ‘I am the Walrus’ to ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ no song followed the formula of the previous hit.


We can learn a lot from this. Don’t keep using the same songwriting format just because it worked for you once. Be unique. Try different ways of writing, different kinds of lyrics, different forms, different everything. It keeps everything you do sounding fresh and new.


So what are some different ways to keep your songwriting fresh?


   1. Chords and rhythm first. Come up with a progression that demands attention, then construct the rest of the song to fit it. (Caution: This is used a lot, so if you already use this method, try one of the next suggestions.

   2. Melody first (or melody only). Write a melody that implies, but doesn’t actually use any chords or accompaniment. It’s a refreshing change from what you’ve probably been doing all along.

   3. Song with no introduction. Many songwriters mindlessly strum away on a guitar before they start singing. It’s their way of saying, “Hey everyone, my song is about to start.” But unless your intro is actually interesting and adds to the song, why not try launching right in? The Beatles did that a lot (“Penny Lane”, for example.)

   4. Song with untraditional accompaniment. Try getting a music student from a local university to write a string quartet arrangement for your song. Or try redoing that heavy-metal tune with 12-string guitar and flutes in the background. Or… do anything that throws a curve ball at your audience.


Innovation is what’s often lacking in most people’s songwriting approach, and as long as everything you do isn’t from left-field, that bit of songwriting freshness will keep bringing listeners back to your songs.


-Gary Ewer

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