Songwriting Principle No. 2: Energy Propels Your Song Forward

When we speak of the energy of a song, it’s probably obvious what we’re talking about. In short, it’s that unseen force within a songthat causes our body to move with the music. All songs have energy, even the very quiet, serene ones. The successful song does not deal so much with how much energy a song has, but rather what happens to that energy over time. And because energy is never a quality that stays the same throughout your song, here’s the basic prinicple involved:

In general, the energy of the end of a song should EQUAL OR EXCEED the energy at the beginning.

If you draw a line graph of the energy level of a song, you would see a line that is jagged, not smooth. This is because points of low energy should be followed by points of higher energy. Then those high-energy points need moments where the energy subsides at least momentarily. This ebbing and flowing of the energy level increases listener interest, and keeps the listener occupied with that next moment in your song.

This having been said, the crucial point of this principle is that over time,that line graph should be generally in an upward direction:

song energy map

Think of it as a graph of the stock market performance. The graph of a healthy market would show a line that moves up and down, but over time is more in an upward direction. Here are some suggestions for increasing the energy level of your song:

  1. increase the volume;
  2. increase the number of accompanying instruments;
  3. raise the general pitch of the voice and accompanying instruments;
  4. increase harmonic rhythm (the frequency of chord changes)
  5. increase the basic beat (i.e., make the basic beat busier)

By having all of these techniques at your disposal, you’ll see that you have many ways to control the energy level of your song. If your song is very calm and tranquil, you’ll see that very little is needed in order to change the basic energy of the song. And with such songs, it’s not necessary (or desireable) to change the energy too much. All that’s necessary is toremain in complete control of that aspect of your song, and be sure that if the energy changes over time that it is in a generally upward direction.


-Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website

Posted in music, songwriting and tagged , , .

One Comment

  1. Good thoughts. I find that I don’t focus on energy during writing, only in production. It’s good to be reminded that my songs should still increase in energy, even if I’m just singing and playing guitar. I’m glad I found your blog!

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