HappyRon’s Four Keys To Songwriting Success
HAPPY’S FOUR KEY’S TO SONGWRITING SUCCESS
PROSODY – Prosody is the marriage of music and lyrics, making them work together. Keeping in mind the lyrics/emotional tone and matching the melody, harmony, and rhythm. In my travels in the open mike scene it still amazes me that I’ll hear people sing really happy lyrics with a depressing musical backdrop, or vise versa, or any way in which you’ll hear music that really doesn’t match what the lyrics are about.
CONTRAST – Music is about movement and songs should always have a feeling of “going somewhere.” Always let the listener know when you are going from Verse to Chorus to Bridge, or whatever. Contrast can play out in the melody, the harmony, or the rhythm. Sometimes I’ll hear songs that just have one tone throughout the song and even in a three-minute pop song it rarely keeps the audiences attention.
REPETITION – In contrast to contrast is repetition. One of the biggest mistakes songwriters make is “too much unique melody”, having a song that has so much variety that there is nothing for the audience to latch onto. Most people understand the idea of having repeated SECTIONS (verse, choruses) of songs, but most great songs have something that repeats even within a section.
EDGE – What is it about this particular song that makes it different from all the other songs out there, “the edge.” So many songs out there are “good songs” but what makes this song special? Edge can come from any aspect of a song, lyrics, melody, harmony, rhythm, vocals, arrangement, performance, or anything else. Think about songs you love and what is it about them that makes them stick with you and different from all others?
The first two keys were influenced by Jai Josef, writer of Writing Music For Hit Songs, and the third by Wayne Chase, author of http://www.howmusicreallyworks.com. I overhead the forth one somewhere, I think from another lecturer on songwriting.
THE AMATEUR AND THE PROFESSIONAL
From my lyric writing bible, The Craft of Lyric Writing, 1985, Sheila Davis, Writer’s Digest Books.
What separates the amateur from the professional is not so much degree of talent as it is a difference in attitude. A professional looks upon a newborn song as a first draft, a work in progress to be put aside to jell and later examined dispassionately for flaws – ultimately to be polished to a fine luster.
The amateur views the initial outpouring as if it were cemented in place. The very idea of rewriting is emotionally rejected. The amateur clings to the myth that writing is a matter of inspiration. As a result, frequently nothing comes: there’s no technique to draw upon. So far many, “amateur” becomes a lifetime status.
The promising pre-professional, on the other hand, seeks appraisal rather than praise. He or she can discern that rejection of the writing is not a rejection of the writer. Assignments are viewed as a challenge, and re-rewriting is accepted as inevitable.
A song is process of evolution, and revising is simply a part of the process. Understanding that fact is a requisite for success.
NOTE FROM THE HAPPYMAN – My former songwriting teacher Jai Josef, who told me a story about he knows a famous woman songwriter who has written dozens of hit songs. He once talked to her and asked her if he could see her latest song. She looked at him with horror and said, “I couldn’t possibly! It’s only on the twentieth draft!”
I always put my stuff out there warts and all, but try to share the dedication of eventually making something that is perfect.