Writing Better Songs Part II

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Writing Better Songs Part II
There are many, many songwriters and songs these days. I’ve been writing and studying for many years. I think it’s worthwhile sometimes to pause and ask a few questions. Such as
1. Why would an audience want to listen to this song? Some answers might be the music is interesting. It has a good dance beat or a nice guitar solo, or riff. The lyrics are universally relatable and/or tell a good story. It is reminiscent of some hit song, a Bob Seeger, Marshall Tucker, Jimmy Buffet, a Dylan style or a Beatles number.

2. Why would an audience tune out a song? Possibly, too much sameness in the music, too much emotional telling. This can come across as whining, preachy, or depressing. The lyrics may be boring, too wordy, and the hook isn’t singable. The performance or vocal delivery is uninteresting. The song is too long to hold the audience’s attention.

3. One doesn’t really like their own songs, so the passion is missing. They seem lackluster, many sounding the same and creatively even you are bored with them. You’ve lost inspiration and ideas.

Some helpful solutions are to listen to and analyze “hit songs”, especially ones that have survived the test of time. Why has a certain song stayed around for years? Why did that particular artist have so many good songs or hits? Analyze the music, the lyrics, the arrangement, you will learn much.

You will note that many of these are simple songs, singable and universally relatable. Also, You will notice that when many of these songs start to play on the radio, you immediately know the artist, because they have a distinct sound and style. You know a Beatles or a Bowie sound. They have perfected their unique style that their music, lyrics and vocals fit well.

I think it’s valuable to note which of your songs you and others like. Those show where one really shines and what style fits well. Our songs are always presented through our own experiences and perspective, but it is important to always be gathering interesting material. A good hook and title list. Researching interesting stories and reading. I’ve learned a lot of history that I never knew, documented in stories, poems and legends. Listen to conversations and observe interesting characters. Keep an organized well of new material and write on!

Writing better songs is one of my goals. Thanks for starting the thread. I agree with everything you said.

Your comment about style is so true its the consistent thread through the artists catalog even if they "re-invent" themselves. One of my goals during the challenge is to be concise yet communicate the "whole" story. Some songs I've written are crazy long. Reigning in the words has been a challenge for me. I always felt the "backstory" had to be included. Nope!

I was writing "photo-albums" when what I really needed was a snap-shot.

Yesterday I downloaded 6 Tom Petty lyrics and took a look at the amount writing that wasn't repeated.... What an eye opener! Really has me focused on maximizing meaning in minimal phrasing, repetition is key, and I can write about anything in everyday life.

Even though I have become more concise I can continue to improve in my overall structure and phrasing and developing the simple "stick in the head" lines!


Yeah, I hear you. On of my preferences is story writing, historical events, legends, ghost stories, etc. and these types of songs can get wordy and too detailed to try to get the story across. My guitar guy says he thinks some of my songs are too complicated, so yes I have the same issue and I am also trying to par them down into something more simple. After all a really good song is one that is memorable and singable.

Very insightful. Many of our favorite songs have very simple chord progressions. And some of peoples’ favorite songs of ours.

It’s hard to write a unique song using common, popular chord progressions. It’s a dilemma of the music fan as the songwriter!

Courtney Barnett is a really brilliant artist and songwriter! She “talk sings” a bit, but I think she’s not really an indie slacker. I figured out a few of her recent songs that are really good. One is in minor and uses the V major and v minor (melodic and harmonic minor). Another uses the Axis of Awesome I V vi IV for the chorus with the verse being a key a step higher in Mixolydian.

Yes, there are always creative people who find a way that's unique and different.

It's that little thing that tickles you and it doesn't matter how much music theory you have or whatever background, it's the way you create something and putting all those things together to make it your way. Committing oneself to writing a song and getting carried away with that tickle is where that's at. I guess when you let go a bit and then let go a lot, go with or against the flow or whatever makes you make chords, pull and push and scribble and dribble, when it starts to feel good and you start bouncing around to all that rippling waves, then follow that impulse, wherever you are and make it sing within and without

I care about earworming people far more than I care about whether or not my listeners would like to be earwormed with a particular song.

The science behind earworms talks about how I want a melody that goes up and down or uses another common melodic shape.

I also think about the fact that I want a song that is easily singable by a wide number of people so that when it is earwormed they can act on it.

For me, being unique is a job for the lyrics, not the tune or melody.