After reading Commercial Songwriting, and of course, working through the suggestions, you are no doubt eager to put those skills into practice. You may be familiar with many of the songwriting tips given below, or you may employ many of them already without realizing why you use them. Either way, understanding techniques and knowing when to use them will greatly benefit your songwriting. Below are a number of basic, general tips to get you started.
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Writing when you are inspired often makes creating new ideas easy. On these occasions, the main purpose is to try not to hinder your creativity at all. Let your ideas flow; you can always edit what you do afterward. If it becomes obvious that a particular idea is leading you nowhere, don’t be afraid to go back a few steps. When you are in a creatively good frame of mind try to capitalize on the creativity by working through it until you are satisfied that you have captured the essence of the song. If you feel a particular song is a sticking point, don’t let it drag you out of the mood, work on another song!
To avoid getting stuck in a rut, or getting writer’s block, vary the way that you write songs. The easiest way to achieve this is to vary the perspective that you employ when you approach writing a song. There are at least 4 ways to start writing a song. For example:
- Start with the chords
- Start with the melody
- Start with the lyrics
- Start with the rhythm
Each way of starting will vary the perspective that you start writing from. Obviously, if you are writing well it is not so important to vary your approach to songwriting, but in this case, it will increase the variety of the songs that you write.
If you can play more than one instrument try to vary the instrument that you start writing with. As you are likely to employ different styles when playing different instruments this introduces an easy way to incorporate a variety of styles into your music as a whole. Essentially, a change of perspective is often a useful tool when songwriting.
A detailed look at the songwriting perspective will be dealt with in a forthcoming worked tutorial.
Vary the song architecture (song form) that you use. For example:
Intro, Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Middle Eight, Chorus, Chorus, Outro
Intro, Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Verse 3, Chorus, Middle Eight, Chorus, Chorus
Intro, Chorus, Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Middle Eight, Verse 3, Chorus, Chorus
Intro, Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3, Verse 4
A detailed look at song architecture will be dealt with in a forthcoming article.
An important element of music is the impression of space within a composition. This can be hard to achieve, especially when you are arranging a piece for several instruments. Try basing your song around one instrument say an acoustic guitar. Once the arrangement has been completed remove the acoustic guitar from the arrangement, then tidy it up. If the song is already quite roomy the result of the removal of the instrument is likely to leave the song sounding too sparse. Yet again, in this circumstance, it is unlikely to have been a complete waste of time and you have at least heard your song with a slightly different arrangement.
A detailed look at space within a song will be dealt with in a forthcoming article.
A general guideline to achieve clarity is to place instruments within the frequency spectrum so that the parts played do not fight with each other to be heard. Obvious exceptions to this are when instruments are playing in unison (the same note) for emphasis or when instruments are playing in close harmony.
Many songs aim to have a reasonably balanced, broad frequency spectrum, with peak frequencies in the mid-range. There are many, many examples of songs that do not follow this pattern at all and most songs feature a balanced frequency spectrum only within certain sections of the song, normally when there are several melodies occurring simultaneously over a backing section.
Thinking a little about the relative frequency ranges of instruments can help to give your song added lift or clarity at the right moment. Alternatively, it can help when planning a section of a song where you deliberately want the listener to be confused by the sounds.
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