An anthem is one of those kinds of songs that comes under the heading of, “Hard to define, but you’ll recognize it when you hear it.” An anthem rouses the spirit and uplifts the soul. But how do you do that? Everyone seems to agree that “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an anthem and “Shake Your Booty” isn’t. So how do you write one?
You could argue that many songs stir the emotions, but to confer “anthem” status on a song, you need more. Here are some tips:
- The lyric needs to be one that focuses on one of the following: ethics, morals, convictions of the religious, political or social activism sort, or a mixture of any of those.
- The tempo should generally be slow to medium, a metronome setting of 70 – 100 bpm is most common.
- The harmonies of an anthem usually include more chord changes than standard songs. Six to eight chords for the verse and chorus are common.
- The harmonies of an anthem often include the so-called secondary dominant V/V chord. In other words, if your anthem is in C major, you’ll use a dominant chord (G), and that chord should be appraoched at some point by a D chord (as opposed to the Dm chord.. see the sample below.)
- The chorus melody of an anthem needs to differ from the verse melody. This is to allow the chorus to stand as the definitive anthem melody; in other words, the verse prepares the audience for the rousing chorus.
- The pre-chorus is an important 8 bars. The pre-chorus is the second half of the verse, and the energy (vocal range, loudness, etc.) needs to build.
- The chorus melody needs a definite high point. This high point should be near the end of the chorus.
You can find anthems that don’t necessarily adhere to all of those guidelines, but if you’re stuck, following the tips above should help you write a song that gets the audience to its feet and waving those lighters.
Here’s a chord progression for a chorus of an anthem you might want to play to get your brain thinking “anthem”:
(first four chords of 1st line receive 4 beats each, next six chords receive 2 beats each.
//// //// //// //// // // // // // // ////
C F/A C F/A C/G Am C/G Am F D G
(first six chords of this line receive 4 beats each, next two chords receive 2 beats each.
//// //// //// //// //// //// // // ////
C F/A C F/A C/G F C/G G C
Gary Ewer has written a set of songwriting e-books that will show you how to write great songs. (Hisnewest 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..