Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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A quick look at most of the lists on Billboard will confirm what everyone knows: love still sells a song. Listeners don’t want to just listen – they want to connect. And for most of your audience, they’ll connect with an emotion before they’ll connect with anything else. The trick is to be original, and not keep harping on the same “she jilted me” approach with every song.
So here are four things to keep in mind when writing a good love song:
1) Despite what I said before about listeners connecting with emotions, don’t just describe emotions; tell the story. What matters to people is the story, and one 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) Being overly poetic will distance most listeners. Try to describe your story and accompanying emotions using plain, everyday language.
3) I have no research to back this up, 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 makes the right connection to listeners.
Compare this: C G Am G F C F G C
to this: C G/B Am G F C/E F G C
4) Good love song melodies will often feature a rising interval. Try incorporating an ascending leap of a 4th or 5th somewhere, particularly at emotional moments. (Check out Queen’s “Your My Best Friend” from “A Night at the Opera”, particularly on the words, “Whatever this world can give to me…”)
Just singing about how your lover doesn’t love you anymore is going to fall flat unless you hit a nerve. Talk about situations, try to get the listener on your side. Remember, what you’re trying to do is to draw on emotions and experiences that the listeners have likely already experienced.
For a love song that really works, I’ve always thought that George Harrison’s “Something” (from the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album) is tops. It can serve as a great model. It’s a song that tells us why he loves her, but also has that great mix of “what if I lose her?” It’s describing feelings we’ve all had, and it does it remarkably well.
So love songs don’t need to be gooey meaningless drivel. And in fact, if they are, they become meaningless. Use plain language to pull your listener in. Don’t write a song that makes the listener pity you, but rather makes the listener say, “Whoa, I’ve been there!”
The difference between a winner and a loser in the songwriting world may simply be a note or two. Do you know all the essential secrets of songwriting. Let these e-books open your eyes.