Every song should exhibit a balance between traditional, predictable elements, and innovative, unexpected ones. If it’s a hit song you are wanting to write, the balance should definitely be greatly weighted toward predictable ones. But if there is nothing innovative about your
song, it will sound like yesterday’s music. Good songs need innovative elements.
Many songwriters are scared off of adding innovative aspects to their songs for fear they’re going to drive off listeners. You must be careful, and if you are just trying to break into the business, you’ll want to keep innovation to a minimum, because innovation requires trust. A listener is more likely to trust a songwriter they’re familiar with than one they’ve never heard of before.
So here is a short list of innovative things you can do to an otherwise ordinary song that might get potential listeners to sit up and take notice:
- Innovative instrumentation. When the Beatles used a string quartet on “Yesterday” they raised quite a few eyebrows. And they took a song that was already lovely, and made it unique. (How many other pop songs from the 60s can you think of that use string quartet? NOt many!) So experiment with instruments that don’t often make it to the pop world: Add some french horn, cello, even uekele or bagpipes! It will set your song apart from most of the others.
- Innovative time signatures. Most songs use what is termed a “quadruple simple time signature”: 4/4 time, for example. Try something innovative, like perhaps 7/4 (as in Pink Floyd’s “Money” from “The Dark Side of the Moon”, or Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill. Or perhaps 5/8 time, as in “Everything’s Alright” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” To take a song and change it to a non-traditional time signature will require you to take certain notes in a 4/4 bar and either elongate them or shorten them. Experiment!
- Innovative lyrics. This may require you to partner with a lyricist, because innovative lyrics tend to mean poetry, and innovative lyrics can sound trite when attempted by anyone less than a poet. But it’s certainly worth experimenting with. For example, see what happens when you change all the pronouns in a word; instead of singing “I love to walk the shaded path..”, try “he loves to walk the shaded path”. In effect, you’re still singing about yourself, but in the 3rd person.
There are lots of other things you can try, and the ones I’ve listed will add interest to your song without making it overly weird. Once you have a dedicated following, you can try even more innovative things without fear that you’ll lose audience.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” shows you how to write great songs. It’s just one of a suite of 6 songwriting e-books written by Gary Ewer. (His newest e-book, “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting- Chord Progression Formulas” is being offered for free when you purchase any other of his songwriting e-books.) Let these six e-books show you every aspect of how to write great songs! Read more..