As a student of music composition at university, I did a good amount of writing for music ensembles of every configuration. Orchestras, string quartets, choirs, guitar ensembles… I loved the challenges that writing for these groups presented.
Some pieces I wrote were short, but in modern day “classical” music, it wasn’t unusual to write multi-movement pieces that might go on for a half hour or more.
Even though my formal training was in classical music, I found that my attraction to pop music stayed every bit as strong, perhaps even stronger. I still loved the pop music that I grew up with. My classical training gave me a kind of vocabulary and structure for understanding what makes pop music work. (And I found that in many ways there wasn’t a lot of difference between pop and classical.)
Here’s one of the qualities of pop music that attracted to me (and still does): the brevity of the music. How do you get a song, which is usually at most 4 minutes long, to sound like a complete and satisfying musical journey?
In yesterday’s blog post, I mentioned that you need to make a personal connection if you want to affect your audience. But beyond that, one of the most common problems you’ll see in weak songwriting is that there’s too much going on.
A really fine example of getting the balance right is “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Meghan Trainor, Justin Weaver, Caitlyn Smith), recorded by Trainor ft. John Legend.
It’s simple, and it’s concise: two people love each other, and are worried that nothing lasts forever. So they commit to loving each other “like I’m gonna lose you.”
Every relationship has a back story. Every relationship has its ups and downs, its challenges, its good times and bad. But in this song, the choice is made to focus only on the present situation: a strong love that shouldn’t be taken for granted. One point of focus is all that’s necessary.
Now it’s time to take a look at the last few songs you’ve written, and look specifically at the lyric. Are you giving too much? Are there too many angles? By failing to focus on one important aspect of your lyric, you can be inadvertently dulling the focus of your song, and failing to connect properly to your audience.
You can see with “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” that rather than being clever, the lyrics are sincere and honest, using powerful imagery. Simplicity is important. And keeping your message clean, uncluttered and focused is always going to be crucial.
Gary Ewer is the author of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting eBook Bundle,” a set of manuals, full of information, designed to get you writing the best music you can. Right now, take advantage of this free offer.