It doesn’t take much to turn a boring song into something that gets people excited. Try these 10 ideas.
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Every once in a while an up-and-coming songwriter will write me and say something along the lines of, “I just realized something… My songs are boring. What do I do?” The good news is that the answer is usually quite simple. It actually doesn’t take much to figure out why a song is boring. And since sometimes it’s a simple matter of experimenting until something finally sounds right, I’ve created a list of 10 things that you can try that may solve your problems, and help to get others excited by your songs.
Most of the ideas pertain directly to songwriting, while others have more to do with the performance of your music.
It can really surprise you that a boring song can be repaired by fixing one moment. But identifying the precise moment, or trying to figure out what specifically is wrong — well, that isn’t always immediately apparent.
So if you find that song after song that you’ve written is just lying flat, and boring even to you, try going through the following list of ideas. You may stumble across the problem that will solve your songwriting woes.
- Add a bit more contour to your melodies. A song melody that dwells around one or two notes isn’t necessarily wrong, since many great songs do that. But if all your songs are written that way, try creating some vertical movement in your tunes, and create a climactic moment.
- Move melodies upward as they progress from verse to chorus. A chorus melody usually sits higher in pitch than a verse melody, because higher voices usually generate more energy.
- Be intelligent with song instrumentation. If your entire song features you mindlessly strumming on a guitar, you may need to do something more. Explore other ways to play your instrument. Remember to add instruments to the mix in a chorus, and take them away for the verse. Instruments in a chorus need to be played higher, and often louder, than in the verse.
- Allow song lyrics to progress. A verse lyric describes people and situations. Save strong emotions and reactions for the chorus.
- Shorten up phrase lengths as a way of building energy. It’s typical for a song to be written using 4-bar phrases. But you might find that if your song uses a pre-chorus, it can be exciting to shorten phrase lengths. The song “Too Close”, by Alex Clare, does this, and it works very well.
- Add vocal harmonies in the chorus. Adding vocal harmonies works really well especially if the verse and chorus have identical or similar melodies.
- Experiment with a faster tempo. Sometimes all it takes is to get your song moving faster. Faster tempos generate excitement.
- Experiment with a different key. If everything seems fine with your song, but it just doesn’t thrill you, try moving the key up. That will put your voice in a higher range, so be sure that it hasn’t made it impossible to sing. A higher voice creates energy.
- Create an instrumental background hook. A hook creates something memorable for the audience to latch onto, and it may be all you need to create interest and bring listeners back.
- Create a better chord progression. There are generally two things that cause boredom in music: 1) things that are too predictable, and 2) things that aren’t predictable enough. So chord progressions often either need to be simplified (if they’re too complex), or re-created to be more challenging (if they’re too basic.)
One of the best ways to fix songs is to play them for others, particularly people whose opinions you value. So try playing them for a fellow songwriter, and ask them to be brutally honest with you. Their honesty can be your solution!
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