If 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!
When you’re observing a work of art in a gallery, you’ll stand and look at the painting for a while, and then you’ll move on. How long do you stand there before you’ve decided you’ve gleaned what you can from that piece of art? The answer is different for everyone.
Some will look from various positions. Some will look for a while, move on, but then come back to it to look some more. At some point, there’s a sense of, for lack of a better term, satisfaction, a sense that tells you that you’re “done.”
At some point in the future, you’ll likely return to that painting to look some more. Perhaps you’ll see something that you hadn’t noticed before. But even if you don’t, you’re still enjoying the experience of observing — of allowing the painting to have its effect on you.
In that sense, there’s not a lot of difference between experiencing a painting and experiencing a song. The audience for your song, if it’s a good song, will enjoy the experience of listening, to the extent that they will hopefully keep returning to it. And even if they don’t hear anything new with each listen, they still enjoy the experience of listening.
Why do listeners keep listening to songs, then? It’s an important question to tackle, because knowing the answer will help as you write your next songs. You most certainly want your fan base to keep listening, and hopefully grow that fan base as word about your music spreads.
Why Do We Keep Listening?
There are several reasons we keep coming back to songs:
- We connect with the singer.
- We love the various hooks the song provides — especially the chorus hook.
- We connect with the song’s topic. Relevance, on a personal level, is an important part of why we keep coming back to listen.
- We enjoy the up and down of musical energy as the song progresses.
- We love the emotions and feelings the song creates within us as we listen, and we want to experience them again and again.
For the most part, it’s okay with us if we know a song very well, to the extent that we are left with no surprises. We still want to listen — if it’s a good song.
Comparing Visual Art and Music
In a certain way, you can easily see the parallels between listening to a good song and looking at a good painting: we connect to the painter, we’re taken in by the subject matter and “topic”, and we love the emotions and feelings we get from the painting.
Writing a song that addresses all five of those reasons we listen, and getting the balance between them all just right, is part of the art of songwriting. If you’ve written a song that’s performed well, but the topic just isn’t very relevant to most listeners means you’re going to miss out on building a healthy audience base for that song.
You can use those five items listed above as a kind of troubleshooting list for each song you finish, if you’ve been struggling with building an interested audience. Ask yourself if each of those items are present in each of your songs, and if you say no to any of them, you’ve at least got a starting point for fixing the problem.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter
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