The Advantage of Goal-Oriented Songwriting

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SingerSongs are musical journeys. And like any journey, it’s not just about where you’re going, but how you get there. Making sure that all the sections of your song connect with each other is a crucial part of successful songwriting, and it’s why I write about that so much. A way to guarantee that one part of your song moves easily to the next is to work backwards. In other words, get your chorus working, then look at the verse and make sure that it connects properly. It’s called goal-oriented songwriting.

It seems so logical to identify the goal of major sections within your song that it makes you wonder why we need to remind ourselves of its importance. To not do so is like telling someone you’re taking a trip, but not knowing what to tell them if they ask where you’re going.

We know that verses need to connect to choruses, so start by establishing your chorus. What melody are you using, and in particular, what is its starting note? What chord are you starting on? You can even establish some lyrical goals if you know your song topic.

The starting note of your chorus melody is important to know because it then allows you to connect the end of your verse melody with a greater sense of control. Since you know that chorus melodies tend to sit a bit higher in pitch than verses, you’ve got a better idea of where your verse melody should be situated.

Regarding chord progressions, knowing the first chord of your chorus allows you to create a proper harmonic sequence for the verse that pulls the listener forward.

For example, if the chorus starts on the tonic chord, you’ve got the option of ending your verse on an open cadence (i.e., a cadence that needs that tonic chord to offer a sense of harmonic completion.


C  F  Dm  G  Am  Dm  Am  G

C  Am  Dm  G  F  C/E  F  G  C

In this case, the verse ends on a G – the V-chord in C major – which begs for the tonic chord of the chorus. That need for harmonic resolution creates a pleasant sense of momentum, and makes for a perfect connection between verse and chorus.

You can do the same thing lyrically: if your chorus lyric starts with statement of some sort (i.e., I love you, I need you… that sort of thing), you can then work backwards, allowing the verse lyric to end with situations that make the love statement feel like an answer (i.e., a verse lyric that ends with something like,

(VERSE) “…When I see you smile at me,
all I can think to say is…

(CHORUS) I love you, I need you..”

Goal-oriented songwriting makes sure that your song doesn’t just wander around. The various components will have natural end-points, and song momentum is the biggest winner.

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