Tony Orlando and Dawn

What Can Kill a Song’s Staying Power?

Some songs are still with us fifty or more years after they hit the top of the charts (Smokey Robinson’s “The Tears of a Clown“, for example), but other songs, even ones that were big hits when they came out, are rarely heard anymore, not because they aren’t good, but… well, it’s hard to say […]

Songwriter - Synth

Why Chord Progression Formulas Usually Make Songs Better

In songwriting, a formula amounts to a set of steps that are predictable “responses” to whatever has just happened. And in general, they’re not necessarily desirable. What’s so undesirable about formulas? It comes down to this: most of your listeners like to hear musical ideas that are generated in a spontaneous sort of way, and […]

Guitarist - songwriter

Writing Songs That Are Less Predictable

Every singer-songwriter has an identifiable style, but what does that word style actually refer to? For the most part, your own “style” refers to the performance and production that listeners hear when they listen to your songs. You can take practically any song and move it firmly into one genre or another just by adjusting the way […]

Elvis Presley

Providing Contrast in a Song That Uses a Lot of Repetition

In songwriting, the term contrast refers to providing opposite-sounding characteristics to any one song component: melodies that move higher, then lower; chords that are mainly minor, then major; instrumentation that’s at one point soft, then loud, and so on. It’s not important that every element within a song show a degree of contrast. For example, you can […]

Abstract music

The Pros and Cons of Predictability in Songwriting

One of the biggest challenges for songwriters is to write something that’s unique and innovative, but not so unique that it turns your target audience away. At the same time, if it’s not unique enough — if it’s too predictable — you’ll also turn audiences away because they’re bored: they can hear what’s coming before you […]

Two guitarists-songwriters

What a Songwriting Process WON’T Do For You

I don’t want to say that thinking about your songwriting process is a waste of time, because it’s not. And I often write about the importance of process on this blog. But a songwriting process usually only attempts to give you a set of steps to achieve that song that’s bouncing around in your head. […]