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If you go for a walk, particularly in the country, I’m guessing that you’d like for that walk to have some twists and turns, some ups and downs. That’s because it’s not so great if you can see everything at a glance. You like to be able to go up and over a hill and then savour the new things you can see from this new vantage point.
Songwriting isn’t much different; I do like to think of composing music as offering the listener a kind of musical journey.
You’ll be amazed at just how far you can take that going-for-a-walk analogy, and it still works for the writing of songs:
- You don’t mind a few bumps in the road, as long as you’ve got proper gear on to help you. In songwriting, you don’t mind a few weird chords or other weird moments, as long as you help the listener understand them by properly approaching and leaving those weird moments.
- You love seeing unexpected things, like a waterfall if you’re doing a nature walk. But unexpected things, like turning a corner and seeing a 10-square-acre parking lot, is the wrong kind of unexpected. In songwriting, you don’t mind unexpected things, but “turning a corner” and hearing a completely new instrumentation for verse 2, let’s say, often is just too different.
- You don’t mind a long walk, as long as you get a sense from the outset that the journey is long, and you can prepare for it, and there are interesting things all along the way. In songwriting, you don’t mind songs being long and involved, as long as there are interesting moments all along the way to keep the audience from getting lost or bored.
- You like how a nice walk in the country doesn’t just offer things to see, but can offer things to smell, hear and possibly even taste. In songwriting, you like how the song doesn’t just offer nice melodies, chords and lyrics, but also an interesting instrumentation, vocal style, backing vocals, etc.
- You like that when a walk has ended, that you’ve been on an interesting journey that makes you want to take that same walk again sometime soon. In songwriting, the musical journey you offer your audience makes them want to listen again, and recall the interesting moments with ease.
As you can see, the musical journey you offer your listeners needs to be a balance of things they expect with things they hadn’t expected. As you guide people on your musical journey, you give them a sense of design and structure.
And in a musical journey, you leave them wanting to take the journey with you again. Your fan base learns to trust you, and they anticipate your next songs with a bit of excitement.
The best walks offer a mix of things you expect, with a smattering of things you don’t — just a like a good song.
If you’ve got a melody, but you struggle with how to add chords that work, you need to read “How to Harmonize a Melody.” It will show you using an easy step-by-step method, including sound files to help with the process. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle”