Download “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-ebook bundle, and discover how form can make or break your songs.
Do you ever feel that though you’ve not done anything obviously wrong, your songs seem boring? That they just… lie there, uninspiring and drab? It’s frustrating, because you’d wish that some glaring error was staring you in the face, something obviously wrong that you could solve with a few adjustments. But songwriting is an art of subtleties. You get about 4 minutes to take listeners on a complete musical journey, so there’s not much time to get things right.
There are lots of reasons that songs can fail. Some have to do with the actual composition process. Others have to do with what you’ve done to arrange your song once the composition process is complete.
Here are 7 aspects of songwriting that you should think about if the song you’re working on is failing to inspire:
- Chord Progression with Too Many Chords. If you consider that a song is a musical journey, then each chord is like a little “stop” on that journey. Songs that use tons of chords can become too wandering and aimless. So if your song uses more than a dozen chords or so, think about ways to simplify the harmonic journey.
- Chord Progressions that Don’t Offer Resolution, or Resolve Improperly. Good chord progressions are a balance between chords that “need to move somewhere”, and chords that offer resolution. A good example is the dominant chord’s need to move to the tonic chord (e.g., G7 – C). You can make progressions more complex by avoiding or delaying harmonic resolution, but if you do it too much, or if the chord doesn’t resolve to where it should, the result is a frustrated listener. A bit of harmonic surprise is great; a lot is simply confusing and ultimately boring.
- Instrumentations that are Boring. An interesting instrumentation for your song that strays from the norm can be a great way to inject some interest. So avoid mindless guitar strumming, and try interesting alternatives such as string quartet, or add French horn, tin whistle, oboe, etc… anything that helps the listener dig deeper into your song’s lyrical meaning.
- Song Intros that are Boring. A song intro is a great spot to introduce melodic and harmonic ideas that appear later on in the song. You can, in other words, use an intro as a snapshot of what’s to happen. So don’t waste that opportunity. Create an intro that gets people thinking.
- Melodies That are Too Flat. While it’s possible to have a melody that doesn’t move around a lot, you may want to take a second look at your song’s melody and see if there are ways to generate more interest. If you like your song’s limited note-set, try at least to have a climactic high point – a spot in your melody that jumps up and demands attention.
- Songs That are Too Slow or Too Fast. We tend to forget the enormous impact that tempo can have on a song. Try it faster or slower, and you’ll discover an array of emotions and meaning that can suddenly present themselves. A new tempo can breathe life into your song.
- Songs That are in the Wrong Key. There’s a natural tendency to place songs in the middle of our singing range, to make the song easier to sing. But you can draw attention to crucial lyrical moments if important words are at the very top, or even beyond the normal top, of your singing range. Don’t be afraid to push the limits. Done with care, singing a note or two beyond your usual range can intensify listener interest.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” is one of a set of 6 songwriting e-books that will show you how to write great songs, harmonize your melodies, and give you hundreds of chord progressions in the process.
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