Your Song Might Benefit From a Road Map

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

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Road MapIf your new song feels cluttered and disorganized, you should consider sketching out a map for your next one. Think of it this way: architects have a good idea how they want their next building to look, but if all they did was draw a picture of the finished product, there’s no way they could actually achieve that beautiful building. Here’s how to create a road map for your songs.

The beauty of a map is that you can (and likely should) change it as you compose.

You can do this either on your computer, or with a piece of paper: draw a time line along the bottom that represents the approximate duration of your song. Don’t be specific about the actual time, but having a line will at least allow you to “see” your song from beginning to end. Then…

  1. Draw blocks that represent each verse, chorus, bridge, etc., that you plan to use in your song.
  2. Sketch in the relevant tonal information. At the left side of your time line, write down what key you’re using, and important notes that will occur in the melody. This allows you to see how the piece develops from a tonal point of view.
  3. Keep trying to fill in information like instrumentation changes, tempo changes (if applicable), and other elements like basic rhythms, hook, where background harmonies will occur, etc.

Here’s an example of a start to a map for a song:

Song Map

Some plateau pitches have been mentioned (plateau pitches are notes that the melody dwells on in certain sections of the song) as well as a basic form. An energy line near the bottom of the image shows how the song energy is expected to change as the song progresses.

As you create this map, you should be creating the song, and every change you make to your song should mean that you modify your map.

In this way, the map helps you create your song, and your song helps you modify the map.

Moving back and forth between the song and the map actually strengthens the songwriting process. The map, like any real road map, will keep you feeling organized, and will help you find structures and song elements that you can build on.

Some songs happen somewhat spontaneously, and don’t really need a map to help keep you organized, but if you feel that your songs have that “thrown-together” feel, try structuring the songwriting process with a map.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”, 2nd editionJUST RELEASED: The second edition of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”. Read more here.

Posted in Song Form.

One Comment

  1. Yo thanks for the advice:-) just planned a song now and it helps…even when you’re planning you could almost hear the whole song…sometimes. Sometimes i have the chords, melody, but no lyrics:-( what do i do? I don’t even know what to say, how to say it and how to construct my lyrics…an example please!

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