Singer - Songwriter

Working On Several Tunes to Avoid Excessive Song Similarity

If you’re still struggling with the fact that all your songs sound similar, the first step in dealing with it might be not to worry: a bit of similarity is not necessarily something that needs to be avoided.

After all, if you listen to any hit group, you’re going to notice at least some similarities, and as listeners we kind of like that. The problem is excessive similarity, when every song seems to be almost a copy of the previous one.

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It’s not just the melodies that start to sound the same. You notice that many aspects of your songs are too alike:

  • Excessively similar song topics – always writing about that party that was so good, that relationship that’s gone sour, and so on.
  • Excessively similar lyrics – you’ve got those go-to-phrases, words and clichés that seem to come up in every song you write.
  • Excessively similar chord choices – always opting for the same minor key, or the same I-vi-ii-V-I progression.
  • Excessively similar song forms – you constantly rely on a verse-chorus format with a bridge that seems to always do the same thing.
  • Excessively similar instrumental choicesthe overall sound of your songs is more or less identical.

If that’s all so bad, why is it a problem? Why not simply avoid those similarities? The solution seems easy.

But in fact it isn’t easy because we all have a concept of what good songs are — at least, good in our own opinion. It’s actually hard to change your sound from one song to another. It’s hard to come up with melodies that sound completely different, one song to the next.

We all have a comfort zone that’s as hard to move away from as it is hard to throw out a comfy old easy chair, no matter how much we think we should throw it out. Musical muscle memory is a double-edged sword that makes writing easier, but also infuses our music with a similar feel.

Keeping Several Songs On the Go

One of the best ways to deal with excessive similarity is to have several songs on the go at any one time. What does that do for you? It makes the fact that two or three songs might be overly alike very obvious and noticeable.

By working on three or four songs at the same time, you’ve got the ability to move to a new tune as you feel creatively blocked with the old one. The close juxtaposition of several songs makes any kind of similarity obvious — and irritating!

Most of the good time, any reasonably good songwriter doesn’t need to be taught how to make songs suitably different; they just need to be made aware of the problem. Keeping three or four songs on the go makes the problem plain to see.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: Using Different Instruments to Write Better Songs | The Essential Secrets of Songwriting

  2. Being a songwriter who is only an average guitarist, I struggle with the instrumental part of the exercise. Because of its relative simplicity, the majority of my new songs the past couple of years have been created over DADGAD tuning, which produces a sound that I love, but the tuning forces me into a certain box from a chord progression standpoint. However, I’ve found that the melodies I create for the chords I love to use in that tuning are the secret to differentiation. I have probably only used 5-6 different “chords” in DADGAD, but I make the songs sound unique through melody.

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