Too much similarity between songs means your music will quickly become boring to your audience.
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Once you’ve written a song or two that really work well — ones that get the crowd really excited — there is a temptation to use a similar design or formula to write your next one. After all, if it worked once, shouldn’t it work again? The answer to that is a resounding NO. You need to keep things fresh.
Every once in a while it’s a good idea to look at the last 4 or 5 songs you’ve written, checking for similarity. You may discover that your songwriting technique is leading to music that all sounds a bit too alike. It’s usually easy enough to solve once you know that the problem exists.
Here are 10 ways your songs may be sounding too similar to each other.
- You keep choosing the same tempo. If everything you write is an upbeat pop tune that sits around 120 bpm, you need to dig down into your musical experience and come up with a few other song styles that imply different tempos, such as ballads, faster dance-like tunes, etc.
- You keep resorting to the same key. It may be easy to play in G major, but that’s a lousy reason to keep choosing it as your key. Listeners aren’t usually aware of key specifically, but there is a kind of boredom that comes from everything being in the same key. If you find it comfortable to write in one particular key, do so, but then transpose it to something a little higher or lower as appropriate.
- You keep choosing minor (or major) keys. You may like the darker sound of minor, but all the time? Keep a good balance between major and minor, even within songs.
- You keep using the same basic background rhythm. If you start every song with a funky, syncopated drum beat upon which you build your music, it will be immediately obvious — and boring if you do it more than once or twice.
- You keep creating melodies that use a similar melodic shape. You may like throwing in a large octave leap at a crucial moment in a melody because of the excitement it generates, but it’s not going to work well if you keep using it. Find other ways to generate melodic excitement, such as using vocal harmonies, changing key, or even a downward leap.
- You keep using the same formal design. Bridges and pre-choruses are great, but don’t need to be used in every song. Try changing things up. If you like your song the way it is, you may find that it still works fine if you start with a chorus, for example.
- You keep choosing the same basic song topic. Yes, we get it: your girlfriend left you and you’re sad. It’s true that there are hundreds or thousands of ways to express that, but do it once, maybe twice, and leave the other 998 ways to other songwriters. Change up your topics and moods to take maximum advantage of the differing moods of your audience.
- You keep using the same song intro. Do you start every song by strumming a few chords over a static bass line? That’s too predictable. Look for other ways to introduce your song, and don’t be afraid to just jump right in to verse 1. Not every song needs an intro.
- You keep doing the same “Ooh, ahhh” backing vocals. Listen to some good backing vocals on contemporary recordings, and you’ll notice that there are a variety of ways to create vocal harmonies. Open spacing, close spacing, rhythmic unison, and so on.
- You keep using the same instrumental solo bridge idea. If you find that you keep breaking into a guitar solo right after the second chorus, you’re being too predictable. Change things up. Use a different instrument, or start the song with a solo, or replace that solo with a sung bridge… anything that keeps you from being too predictable.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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