Songwriting For Beginners: Making Your Song Stand OutBy Jeff Oxenford • Category: How To Write Songs, Songwriting Articles
(This is an article in the series “Songwriting For Beginners”. We are filing the series under the Songwriting Basics category.)
Great beginning and great ending
One of the first things I learned was the importance of focusing on the beginning and ending of the song. A great beginning will get folks wanting more; a great ending will linger in their mind. In the middle, you’ve just got to keep their attention.
Keep your song short
The biggest problem for many amateur songwriters is that their songs are too long! Listen to songs on the radio. Most are between 3-4 minutes long.
Change of pace
I think changes of pace keep songs interesting. In my rock and roll days, I used to love when songs built from a quiet start to a rocking crescendo. Think about “Stairway to Heaven,” it starts out slow and continually speeds up. All of a sudden it slows down with one last, clear, simple verse. In other songs what you remember is the break (i.e. a cool lead, a bridge, harmony, etc.).
As a songwriter, ask yourself
Does the chorus sound different from the verse?
Can you vary your strumming pattern?
Do you have a bridge?
Tension and release
You need to build tension in your song either through the music or the lyrics. If you want people to follow you down the path of your song, they need to expect to end up somewhere.
Think of your song as climbing a mountain or hill. Where’s the mountain top? Where’s the valley?
For lyrics, think about the “take home” message
To allow tension to release, follow a very serious set of lines with a funny line.
Some of my favorite songs have the easiest melody to learn.
Use a short pause or breath to get the attention of the listener before a great line. This is a component of phrasing that hopefully I’ll get to in another posting.
To add more energy, you can move the song to a higher key. This is mostly commonly done when repeating a chorus toward the end of a song. I’ve never been good at this, but it’s on my list to try more.
This can get pretty complex and I can’t say that I understand it all. You can change the feel of a song or a line by substituting chords, for example a major chord with it’s relative minor. The easiest substitution is to substitute a major chord with it’s relative minor (i.e. C and Am or G and Em).
Republished with permission by Jeff’s Songwriting