It's Hard to be Unique if You're Using the Same Tired Formula

by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website:

Which formula?Structure is everything in songwriting; without structure, you’ve got a song that listeners just won’t understand and can’t get into. It’s why we talk so much about the form of a song. An easily discernible form makes it more likely that listeners will remember a song. Because song forms aren’t usually unique (often, some variation on the verse-chorus-bridge format), it’s the method, or formula, you use that will make your song distinctive or not.

If you start the composition process the same way every time, you may notice a “sameness” in the results. If you’re looking to be unique, you need to break out and find new methods of putting a song together.

For example, with students of mine who start the songwriting process with a chord progression, I notice a similar backing rhythm and tempo in all their songs, coupled with what sounds at times to be an uninteresting melodic shape. Those who start with interesting poetry often place the emphasis there, and other song elements can feel disorganized.

Where you place your focus at the start of the process can often determine how the song proceeds from there. And that is where the sameness can happen.

It’s important to note that there is no one right way to start a song, and that’s actually the point of this posting. As there is no one right way, you will reap the benefits of starting your next song differently from the last song you wrote. By choosing a unique way to start your song, you have a better hope of developing a new songwriting formula. And that new formula will likely take you in a unique direction.

If you feel comfortable starting your songs with the chords, and then adding the other elements, it’s time to break out and try something new. Try creating a melody that has shape and direction, and you’ll likely notice that that melody is implying an underlying chord structure you never considered before, and you’ve just started something unique!

Songwriting partnerships are a great way to ensure that you have a better chance of creating something fresh and distinctive. Two or more people throwing ideas into the pot may seem complicated and frustrating, but if you’ve got a partnership where all partners treat each other’s ideas with respect, you’ve got the potential for something great to happen. And in my opinion, some of the best songs in the world have come from these kind of partnerships.

Gary Ewer's Six Songwriting E-booksGary Ewer has written six e-books for songwriters, designed to get you thinking in a new way. If you want to really get your songs sizzling, let these e-books challenge you. Right now, his “Chord Progression Formulas” is a free download with any other purchase. Read more about these songwriting e-books by clicking here.

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