Song Formula Secrets
Melody, rhythm, lyric and harmony, these are the elements of a
song and their exact proportion in your hit recipe is what gives
your song a unique identity. As you are writing you should keep
in mind the purpose of your song. There are some questions that
you should ask yourself along the way. When you are in your pure
creative mode, don’t stop to question or judge anything, just
try and capture all of your ideas.
"I think a lot of contemplation happens
in bathtubs. It does for me. Nothing like a hot bath to ease the
tension and think about what's going to happen next." - Sarah
Then the hard work of completing your raw idea starts and you will
need to solidify your arrangement for the song. That’s when
you need to refine and define the sound of the song. There are a
few critical questions you will need to answer as you set about
the process of finalizing the arrangement of your song.
What is the story that you are telling?
From the earliest days of man, music and songs have told stories.
"With my music, I can express myself
so much. A lot of the fans can sense that I'm relating to them something
that's quite personal. Writing music on your own makes you think
a lot about your life. Who are you? Would you change anything about
yourself? This is where it comes from". - Enya
Many hit producers now agree as well, start with a good story.
Your story needs to draw the listener in and keep their attention
on your story until the end. All the elements of good story telling
apply (you remember English class don’t you?) your story needs
a good opener, ask some questions, involve the listener and save
a secret for the end. Don’t get sidetracked from your story,
if you are confused about the message, your listener will not understand
it either. Some songs are written from an emotional or political
point of view but the same rules apply, stick to your message.
"Nashville has a formula, and it works
a lot of the time, but it wasn't right for me. They're afraid to
step outside the box - even though, with me, my success came because
I was outside of the box to begin with". - Deana Carter
Verse / Chorus / Bridge structure. In the traditional verse chorus
format, the song will build to the climax of the chorus. The verse
leads to the chorus and the chorus completes the verse. A verse
will almost always feel incomplete without the chorus, whereas an
“A” section can usually stand up alone as a complete
thought or concept. The chorus is usually the most memorable and
singable part of the song. Contrast can be built throughout the
song by using different progressions for each part of the song e.g.
Verse, Lift, Chorus, and Bridge. The chorus should be repeated at
least three times and in many songs the chorus is repeated two or
three times with some variation at the end of the song.
"If you listen to a lot of the songs
that are popular now, there's very little melody in there. People
love the beat. But to musicians, it's melody, because we understand
how elusive it is and how hard it is to hold". - Branford Marsalis
Often the verse and chorus music is very similar, so songwriters
will often use other elements to keep the song interesting. The
Bridge and Lift are examples of this; other examples include Key
Change (modulation) Stops, Solos over the verse or chorus or the
minimalist verse or chorus. The cool thing about this kind of structure
is that once you have your parts written, you can rearrange your
song quickly and easily.
Some typical examples are
Once again, the most important thing is to listen to your gut and
do what’s right for the song. Experiment with the formats
to see what is the most powerful and interesting for your song and
remember, be prepared for many rewrites till you find the right
formula for your song.
Leran more about the most successful song formulas