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Writing a Songwriter’s Equivalent of a Page-Turner

If you were a novelist, you’d be hoping to write a “page-turner.” As you know, all that means is that the reader simply can’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next.

Is there an equivalent to the page-turner in the songwriting world? That concept of anticipation exists in every art form, though in music it’s usually a more subtle quality. But if you don’t give your listeners reasons to want to keep listening, you’ll lose them before the chorus.

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So how do you build up that important quality of anticipation? It’s different for every song. For some, the lyric tells a compelling story that keeps listeners riveted.

For other songs, there’s a sense of melodic direction that pulls the listener in one direction or another. It might be the way the chords work. Or it might be non-songwriting elements that are at play: the way instrumentation changes as the song progresses. For many songs, it’s a combination of several aspects of music.

The Power of the Verse-Chorus Format

For most, the verse-chorus format itself is enough to generate a strong attraction to audiences, to keep them wanting to listen. That’s because verses tend to have a low aspect of musical energy, while choruses are more energetic, and that up-and-down of musical energy acts as a kind of musical “pump” that is an intense source of musical attraction.

Other formats will work well, of course, as long as there’s a sense of up-and-down in musical energy.

For songs that just aren’t working, you need to go element by element, looking at each component of your song as a separate entity, and make sure you’ve done something to make it enticing.

For most songs, the easiest way to focus in on any potential problems is to ask a simple question:

What have I done in this lyric (or melody – or instrumentation – or any other component) to make it interesting to listeners?

By putting that kind of magnifying glass on what you’ve written, specific problems should become immediately obvious.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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.Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting ProcessThousands of songwriters are using “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” to polish their songwriting technique. Discover the secrets to writing great melodies, lyrics, chords, and more. And get a FREE copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process”

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