Time to Throw out Your Songwriting Formula?

A  songwriting formula is a process. It’s the way you write, the procedure you follow for creating a new song. And it can be, over the long term, your worst enemy. Here’s why.

The very term “formula” implies that it’s a method, or set of steps, that’s been done many times before. The good thing about that is that because it’s a proven method, it should work. And on a certain level it probably will. But the problem with using a formula to write your songs is that they all suffer from a “sameness” that practically kills creativity. And you won’t be able to fool a listener. Songs need to be a mixture of established songwriting conventions, with a healthy dose of creativity. Using a songwriting formula throws that balance off and makes your songs too predictable.

So what do you do? Here are some ideas that will keep creativity in the forefront of your songs:

  1. If you normally start your songs by creating a chord progression, try starting with a well-crafted melody to which you then add chords. This one idea alone would spark a huge change in the overall feel of your songs.
  2. Try listening to a genre of music that you normally shun. For example, before writing a rock song, spend the day listening to classical, or jazz. The infusion of new chords, new melodic shapes, and new basic ideas should get you thinking in a new direction, and can produce interesting results when you sit down to write.
  3. If your songs are typical verse-chorus-bridge type songs, try a totally new form that you’ve never considered before. (the e-book “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”has descriptions of many different forms, starting on page 50)

There are some other things to try as well. For example, try starting a song with no intro whatsoever… just dive right in to verse 1. Also, if you’ve written a song that you like, but worry that it might sound like “the same ol’ thing” to listeners, try using a string quartet instead of guitar – bass – drums.

There are lots of ways to modify your favourite songwriting formula, and you’re going to benefit from anything you do to change things up, and keep your listeners guessing.


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

Posted in Chord Progressions, music, songwriting and tagged , , , , , , .

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