by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:
Nothing succeeds like love when it comes to finding a songwriting topic. Songs are successful when they speak to the heart, and it’s likely that everyone over the age of 10 or so can relate to some aspect of love. So there is a huge market out there for love songs. The question is: how do you make sure that you’re writing a love song that others want to listen to? Here are some tips for pulling at the heart strings:
1) Tell the story, not the emotion. Mind you, every love song will drip with emotion, but that’s not what will grab the listener. What grabs them is the story. And it’s got to be a story that they can relate to. If all you do is sing about how you’ll never fall in love again, you’re missing the real point: tell the story that has led you to that conclusion.
2) Use everyday, common words in your lyrics. Trying too hard to be poetic or clever, or struggling to make words rhyme means you may miss the emotional mark.
3) This is an opinion, but I have found that chord progressions that feature a bassline that moves by step, or uses a pedal bass (a bass note that stays the same while the chords change above it) often works nicely in love songs.
Compare this: C G Am G F C F G C
to this: C G/B Am G F C/E F G C
You can be the judge.
4) Regarding the actual melody, you’ll find that using a leap, particularly an upward leap, works well in love songs. That upward leap is interpreted as a “lunging” of the heart. Also, you should place the notes of your melody centrally in a singer’s range, and use higher notes for more emotional moments.
When love songs just don’t seem to make it, it’s usually because the story simply isn’t compelling enough. A love song should not be complicated, but needs to have a story. It needs to speak directly to the listener’s heart, and needs to be about a situation that they could easily find him/herself in. Just singing about how your boy/girlfriend doesn’t love you anymore is just… boring.
For my money, the quintessential love song to use as a model is George Harrison’s Something (from the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album). It’s got it all, and no matter what style of music you write, you’ll find that song to be the perfect representation of what a love song should be.
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