songwriter - guitarist

What To Do If Your Songs Sound Too Syrupy

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Writing a Song From a Chord ProgressionIf 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.

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