Here’s an interesting little experiment you can try if you have several of your own songs in some sort of recorded format. Play each song, and for each one ask yourself “When is the first time in this song I hear something unique?”
Here’s more of what I mean by that: Let’s say your song starts with a bit of a strumming pattern in the guitar… nothing particularly unique about that, since many songs start that way.
“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.
After the strumming, the vocals begin, and there’s nothing about the vocal that sounds at all unique. Even what you’re singing about might sound pretty standard for your chosen genre.
By the time you get through your song you might think to yourself: everything sounds fine, but I’ve not offered anything to my fans that’s much different from anything else they might listen to today from anyone else.
And perhaps more to the point: I’ve not given them any reason to come back and listen to this song again.
To say this all in a different way: It’s entirely possible to write a song that sounds “fine”, and yet discover that the song is failing on some level. How is that possible?
When people listen to a new song, they want to know that there’s enough about it that’s predictable (they do have a favourite genre, after all), but they also need to hear something unique, something that sets it apart from all other songs.
And in fact, they need to hear that before they get too far into the song.
I’m not talking about the old adage of getting to the chorus before the 1-minute mark (though that is usually true, of course.) I’m talking about the notion that your song, really from practically its start, needs to offer a somewhat unique take on songwriting — one that offers the listener a musical journey that’s uniquely yours.
That uniqueness might be your choice of chords, your style of playing, the shape of your melody, the subject matter… anything that’s noticeably different from most other songs.
I hope you take the time to do this little experiment today. It could reveal something troubling to you, if you find there’s little that’s innovative about your songwriting.
But if that’s your conclusion, you’ve now identified an important weakness in your writing, and this could be the first day of a significant jump upward in your songwriting excellence.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
Each eBook in “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundles shows you the fundamental principles that make great songs great. Comes with a Study Guide. Become the best songwriter you can be!