Led Zeppelin

The Best Songs Are Partnerships of Ideas

Make a little list of what you consider to be the best songs you know, and you’ll probably see one thing that is in common: each song represents a partnership of ideas.

What does that term “partnership of ideas” mean? It refers to the fact that all the various components of a song — the lyrics, the melodies, the chords and so on — work in close collaboration with each other.

Writing a Song From a Chord ProgressionIf you like starting songs by working with a chord progression, you need to read “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression.” It will give you the pros and cons of this songwriting method, and help you create songs that really work!

In other words, if the words are quirky and odd, you’ll find that the melodies are usually also quirky and odd. The chords might also be a little surprising and unexpected. In the best songs, the different elements that go together to make up that song tend to share similar characteristics.

In that way, great songs are usually even better than the sum of their parts.

What does this all mean to you as a songwriter? You should be able to take any song you write and subject it to a component-by-component analysis, and see similarities. You should be able to see how all the different parts of the song support each other, and present a unified message to your listeners.

Start by taking that little list of the best songs you know, and pull them apart and look for the similarities. Think about the mood and sensibility of the lyric, and then think about how the melody supports it. Think about the chords that are used, and how things might have been different if the writer(s) used different chords.

Then think about how the subtext of the lyric changes if you think about that song being faster or slower, and how the performer’s choices affected the overall feeling you get from the song.

The more each separate component of a song supports the other components, the stronger the song becomes, and the more impact it makes on the listener.

A great example of a song that pulls all the various elements of a song together to present a unified image to the audience is Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” The lyrics may be hard to understand, but you certainly get an “impression” from them – a kind of profundity that comes through also in the long slow build of musical energy, and the subsequent change in vocal and instrumental style.

It is definitely worth the time to take a close look at your own songs and hopefully find the ways that the lyrics, melodies, chords and performance style all support each other.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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