by Gary Ewer. The ideas in these blog articles are the sorts of ideas you’ll find in Gary Ewer’s Songwriting e-books:
A favourite pet peeve of mine is the mindless sort of one-chord intro that gets stuck onto the front end of an otherwise pretty good tune. Your song deserves better. If you’ve got the imagination to create a song, you’ve likely got the imagination to create a suitable intro.
One point needs to be made at the outset: though an intro’s main job is to properly establish the mood of your song, a song can survive quite nicely without one, and so you should consider the possibility of simply launching into your song’s first verse unannounced. The Beatles did it (“Penny Lane”, “Hey Jude”, etc.) It makes a subtle statement that the message of the song doesn’t need the kind of support intros are used for.
But if you do use an intro, here are some guidelines:
- This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a pointer most songwriters ignore: Find the most interesting part of your song, and modify it into an intro. That means that the strumming away on one or two chords isn’t likely to do the trick, unless you really think it is properly introducing the main material of your song.
- Consider using the intro as a connector between the chorus and the repeat of the verse. It acts as a great formal element that way.
- The intro should establish the mood of your song. If your song is generally high-energy, try a high-energy intro, even if (or especially if) the verse is low-energy.
- Use an intro to indicate interesting harmonic choices the listener might encounter later in the song. But if your song uses only two or three basic chords, you’ll want to avoid being harmonically adventurous in an intro.
In short, an intro is supposed to introduce the song, and to do it in a way that says more than, “The singer is about to sing.” To be a good intro, it’s got to grab the listener’s attention and make them want to keep listening. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the first seven seconds of a song. I really believe that you have about that long to convince a listener that they should keep listening. A mundane intro will turn an audience away, and so the intro has a special duty to perform. Don’t waste those valuable seconds!