Do you find that you’d like a bit of edge in your songwriting, but everything you write sounds too sweet and gooey? You’d like to write a song that sounds like a Springsteen rocker, but the more you work on it, the more it sounds like “Muskrat Love.”
So what can you do to take a song that’s overly sweet and give it an edge? Some ideas to try:
- Try lowered-7th chords. The flat-VII has a way of darkening the sound of a chord progression. So everywhere that you might use V chord (C F G C), change it to a bVII (Bb in the key of C major: C F Bb C. Another way to use the bVII is to take a simple I-IV-V-I progression and use it at the end before reaching the final I: I IV V bVII I (C F G Bb C)
- Try minor over major keys. A minor key has a way of automatically darkening the sound of a song, and that can help you avoid the sweeter sounds a major key gives you.
- Try power chords. A power chord is one in which the 3rd of the chord is missing. Also called fifth chords, they’re common in metal and other similar subgenres because of their aggressive characteristic.
- Try faster tempos. You may find yourself constantly favouring slower ballad tempos which encourage a syrupy kind of performance style. Bump the tempos up and go for an edgier performance.
- Try a higher key. Higher keys push the melodies into the upper register of your voice, bringing out the gutsier side of what your voice can offer.
- Be mindful of what you’re singing about. “Muskrat Love” is actually a fine song, but if you choose to sing about the love life of muskrats… well, there’s not much there that’s going to sound aggressive or hard-edged.
If you like starting songs by working out a good chord progression, you need to get “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression.” It shows you the strengths and pitfalls of this very common songwriting process.