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#458395 - 02/20/18 08:51 AM [Songwriting] Writing Interesting Songs
Belladonna Offline
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Some of you on the site have commented to previous posts here and I have incorporated some of your insights and responses into my blog post at belladonna53.blogspot.com. Appreciate any further responses to gain a deeper appreciation of all the experienced musicians on this site.

Writing Interesting Songs
After writing about 260 some songs since 2012, that was six years ago, I'm continually looking at what makes interesting songs. I look at other good and great songs to see what made them tick. I mainly write lyrics which is only 50% of a good song as the music and melody more so has to be good. A good melody can support not so great lyrics, but rarely the other way around. Although, people have mentioned rap where there is just a back beat and the lyrics are key. A lot of what people consider an interesting song is subjective as people have different preferences, whether they like instrumental only music and what song genres they like. I believe a good song does the following

1. Makes someone feel the emotion of the song happy, sad, angry, etc.
2. Makes someone want to dance or tap their toes.
3. Makes someone say I can relate to that, I understand.
4. Makes someone hear the lyrics and say I love that saying
5. Makes someone say that's my story, my life or that’s what's happening right now.

The listener identifies with the song in some way and it touches their heart, their emotions and their psyche. It draws the listener in.

I used to just write songs mostly mediocre and sometimes even bad, just to write and that is necessary in the beginning. Now, I try to ask myself why would someone be interested in this song and/or topic.

In folk and country music, maybe even pop, the lyrics are very important. In folk or country music they usually tell a story or bring a concept to life in a logical way.

The Song Title
Strong and interesting titles are very important. The title has to immediately grab your eye and make you want to check it out. In the world of advertising it’s that slogan or interesting label you see first that makes you want to take a second or a longer look. I’ve been doing FAWM (February Album Writing Month) for several years. Everyone posts songs from all over the world they have written and we all comment on them. I usually scan the song titles daily to see if one grabs my attention and then I will listen to the song. If the title doesn’t stand out I usually pass over the song. Finding good titles is key to your writing a good song. I look for them all the time and keep an alphabetical listing of good titles I find to have available when I want to write. Song titles come from everywhere in daily life. Title of books, movies, poems, ads, a spin on an old cliché (Time Wounds all Heals), a play on opposites (In the Out Door), etc. Although, titles are not copyrighted and you will find many songs with the same title, try to make them your own. When writing your song many times the title becomes your chorus, what they call your hook, the simple summary of what your song is about. The title usually is repeated in the chorus a couple of times.

The Song Lyrics
Now that’s you’ve got an eye catching title, the next step is to write interesting lyrics. Some things to keep in mind
1. Verses tend to be more detailed, versus the chorus which is general, usually a simple sing a long section. The first two phrases of Verse 1 needs to grab attention and draw the listener in quickly. Remember, there are so many songs out there and people’s attention span is short, so they’ll just say next and move on if you writing is dull or rambling.

2. The first verse should immediately define the characters, the scene, the time and place. The who, what, when and where. So you have four to eight phrases to do just that. The listener should know what’s happening in that first verse.

3. So you learn to say a lot in each line and the lines need to be interesting and maybe even clever. The lines need to show and not just tell about feelings or your thoughts. It’s the difference in saying “he was so in love with her” or saying “she woke to a dozen red roses sitting by her coffee”. The first phrase just tells something, whereas the second line paints a picture. The difference is using adjectives (dozen, red), action verbs (woke), nouns (coffee, roses). Think of each line as painting a pictures or a scene in a video you are recording of the song. Similes and metaphors are interesting ways to show information in your song phrases.

4. The second verse for many people is much more difficult, I’ve heard it called “stuck in second verse Hell”. But maybe it’s just because the song is not well planned out. In the beginning maybe I just started writing, but now I am much more methodical about planning my song in an outline sort of style, so I already know what I’m going to write in the second verse and possibly the following bridge. The second verse adds more information and develops your story more. It should progress logically and sequentially in some order from the first verse. Again you need what Nashville calls some furniture, using words that show and dress up lines and not just talk about feelings or what is happening. A little telling is okay and don’t worry it’s what tends to happen normally without even thinking, we automatically go to telling. So focus on trying to show and paint pictures in your lines.

Another interesting way of showing is conversations between your characters or having a conversation with the listener. Think of George Jones singing “He said I’ll love you ‘till I die” or starting the song with “Good morning, darling”. The singer is having a conversation and that’s interesting to the listener.

5. You don’t always need a bridge, but if you have one it should not look like another verse. The bridge should be shorter and show a different perspective or a moral to the song, or a positive, hopeful insight to wrap up the song.

If you want to progress as a songwriter you need develop daily habits of writing. That doesn’t mean you have to write a song every day, but you should collect some interesting titles and keep a list, you should write a few interesting phrases, maybe as a start on a song. Pat Pattison’s objectwriting.com is a great place to develop your skill of showing and not telling. Every day a word is posted and people write about the word using the senses of seeing, hearing, smell, touch, taste, internal senses (my heart was racing, etc) and movement (kinesthetic). This practice helps you write in a show me way. In addition, on the site is an area to practice metaphor and simile writing, which is a good daily thing to do, learn how to develop interesting metaphors.



Edited by Belladonna (02/20/18 08:56 AM)

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#458708 - 02/22/18 07:23 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Deryk - PG Music Online   content
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Registered: 02/15/17
Posts: 1497
There is some really interesting points here, Belladonna. I love how passionate you are about the subject. I agree with about 90% of what you say, but some of my favourite songs totally break that systematic approach to songwriting. I would definitely say you understand the recipe for a successful radio hit though - and that is totally okay! I find a lot of my favourite music by Pink Floyd or Radiohead for example tends to totally throw traditional song structure out the window, however.

It makes me curious what it is about these long songs with no discernible chorus or formal structures that can still have them resonate with such a large audience. Albums like Animals by Pink Floyd are just a bunch of 15+ minute songs with no choruses or formal structure - but they are still regarded as incredible regardless.

Anyway - thanks for the post! It gives some very nice food for thought, and is wonderful topic for discussion.


Edited by Deryk - PG Music (02/22/18 10:29 AM)
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#458717 - 02/22/18 09:01 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Belladonna Offline
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Registered: 09/09/17
Posts: 250
Loc: Virginia
Deryk you always bring new light to the conversation and you are always so right on. Yes, there are many popular songs that don't follow the so called rules at all and were big hits. I also have many that I love. But you know the old saying "Learn the rules before you break them." But there is no argument that sometimes great music by-passes all the rules. Anyway, as you know I like food for thought and hearing everyone's contributions. It deepens my knowledge and learning. So thanks man.


Edited by Belladonna (02/22/18 09:02 AM)

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#458799 - 02/22/18 07:23 PM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
HearToLearn Offline
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Wow, that was extensive and well thought out! VERY impressive.

If you are writing for radio play, as an example, I do feel that there are some concepts that are a bit dated at this point though.

Overall, you have given a lot of good information for people to work with. Well done. smile
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#458841 - 02/23/18 05:54 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Guitarhacker Offline
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Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 5802
All excellent points Belladonna.

Essentially, as a writer, you want to say pretty much the same thing that's already been said a thousand times before.... BUT.... you want to say it in a new, refreshing, and unique way.

A few additional production/writing comments.

According to some in the biz, regarding country music especially...and this also applies to pop....

1. Keep intros as short as possible. No more than 13 seconds. Having no intro is considered totally acceptable. Just jump right in and go.

2. Be into the chorus before the clock hits 60 seconds.

3. Chorus should contain the hook which in many cases is the title. The listener for the first time, should be able to tell you the title of the song without being told the title of the song.

4. Use a bridge only if it is totally different from the verses and chorus AND.... it adds something new to the song that is critical to understanding the song. Often, a well written bridge will suddenly "flip" the person's point of view or understanding of what the song is about, or add a totally new perspective and depth of understanding.

5. Keep total run time between 3:00 minutes to 3:30 minutes. Get in, pull the listener in with you, tell the story, and get out. My co-writer on a number of the songs on my website has a "drop dead" time limit of 4:00 minutes. At that length or longer, it's considered too long. Now, mind you, we do have a few that push the by a few seconds, but it's our stated goal to be well under 4:00

hope this helps a bit
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#458852 - 02/23/18 06:58 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Charlie Fogle Online   content
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Because of my peculiar writing style, I can tell whether I began a song idea from music or from lyrics.

Because of my notorious radio surfing habit, I can hear a small portion or the very end of a song on the radio and either 'like' the song or instantly hit the button to continue surfing from that first impression.

Rarely is my attraction to a song brought on by lyrics.

Thus, if the song with the greatest lyrics ever written has an 18 second musical intro that does not attract me, I'll likely not hear those great lyrics and if I do, it is quite likely they will not alter my reaction from the initial negative reaction to the music.

"Something"

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me

I don't want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don't need no other lover
Something in her style that shows me

Don't want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

You're asking me will my love grow
I don't know, I don't know
You stick around now it may show
I don't know, I don't know

Something in the way she knows
And all I have to do is think of her
Something in the things she shows me

Don't want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

This is considered to be one of the great love songs. It is a personal favorite of mine. The single word title effectively explains the entire song that rambles on for just over 3 minutes of repetition of a 'something' that's never defined. We never learn what the something is nor anything of the girl who has the 'something' nor do we really learn much detail of the singer. The song appears to me to mostly ignore what most agree are the elements that make a song interesting.

For me, a song captures me with the music and arrangement.



Edited by Charlie Fogle (02/23/18 07:01 AM)
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#458862 - 02/23/18 08:00 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Belladonna Offline
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Posts: 250
Loc: Virginia
Guitarhacker, I can tell you know the details when it comes to writing a song. Good stuff!!

Charlie, Yep melody is king. In my opinion the lyrics come into play after you've found a song you really like and you've played it several times and then you start to hear the song at a deeper level and the words are so good. I keep going back to the Bob Seeger song "Turn the Page", I'ld probably listened to that song on the radio many times until I started hearing those words and realized how much they added to the feeling of the music and the song. I could visualize myself being on the motorcycle and walking in that restaurant. Absolutely stunning!!!

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#458880 - 02/23/18 10:29 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
edshaw Offline
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Registered: 10/09/16
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Loc: Colorado
Many songs begin with an emotion, taking it from there.
If you think of Mom and Dad, it is easy to get a little
emotional. Lots of songs about Mom, out there...Will the Circle be Unbroken?
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#458886 - 02/23/18 10:50 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Guitarhacker]
sslechta Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Guitarhacker
According to some in the biz, regarding country music especially...and this also applies to pop....


Excellent stuff Herb! I've used some similar data for years pasted below.....


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#458895 - 02/23/18 11:44 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Guitarhacker Offline
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Posts: 5802
I remember that back in the early 60's the drop dead time was 3:30...and many of the hits on the radio rarely made it to 3:00. Many were clocking in at 2:30 to 2:45....

and all of that regarding the time is directly related to what the program directors wanted.... more time for commercials and less music while keeping the appearance of being an ALL HITS, ALL THE TIME, radio station.

Hey Jude really killed them with a running time on the 45 at just over 7 minutes. But it was such a massive hit they had no options.
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#458962 - 02/23/18 05:16 PM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Guitarhacker]
sslechta Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Guitarhacker
Hey Jude really killed them with a running time on the 45 at just over 7 minutes.

...before the invention of the "radio edit" mix.
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#458986 - 02/23/18 10:31 PM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Belladonna Offline
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Registered: 09/09/17
Posts: 250
Loc: Virginia
Hey Charlie Fogle, I came across this on another site an explanation about the song "Yesterday" maybe another reason it's such a good song.

All Good Poetry has METER, if we study the Best Poets in our History , we can identify

the Greek Name their METER has been given .If a lyric has no repetition in the METER

in it’s verses , Know one will remember it . Example from Paul Mac Cartney

YEST er day SUD en ly re DUM da da written in (Dactyl)

followed by ALL my TROU -bles SEEMED so FAR a-way DUM da DUM da DUM da ( DUM da da)

(three Troche feet, followed by one Dactyl foot )

This is where Paul Mac. keeps the listener interested alternating between two different METER’S.

This great example , for me is the biggest failing learning lyric writers have, understanding the

connection between Rhythm and Meter, put simply Line Meter is the measurement (duration) of

each note. Great Song Lyrics, like good Poetry all have Interesting Meter.

I'm not an expert of poetry, maybe it makes sense to you. But the guy's a pretty good musician who posted it.


Edited by Belladonna (02/23/18 10:33 PM)

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#459000 - 02/24/18 04:19 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Charlie Fogle Online   content
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Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 4537
Loc: South Carolina
Absolutely. "Yesterday" strikes a 'chord' with may artists and consumers. It's one of the most covered songs ever and we still get to here the original version 50 years after its release.

It's impressive as well to hear 3 minutes of lyrics that tell us nothing about a "Something" but the song touches Frank Sinatra in such a way to call it the greatest love song written in his time.



Edited by Charlie Fogle (02/24/18 04:20 AM)
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#459099 - 02/24/18 04:45 PM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
ManInTwoSocks Offline
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Registered: 02/09/18
Posts: 12
Loc: Los Angeles, Cauliflower
"All good poetry has meter"
That guy from that other site, who wrote the above, is wrong.
In terms of rhyme and meter, there are 3 types of poetry:
Verse poetry has both rhyme and meter.
Blank verse has meter but no rhyme.
Free verse has no rhyme and no meter.

Some of the greatest poets have written most, or even all of their poems,
in free verse; the type of poems that have no rhymes and no meter.
These are some of the most well known poets who have written
most of their poems in free verse:
Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Allen Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams,
William Blake, Carl Sandburg, T. S. Eliot,, Matthew Arnold and e. e. cummings.
Also, most, if not all, of the beat poets, who reached their peak of popularity
in the 1950s and 1960s, wrote in free verse.
In addition, most of the poets of the past half century have also written
primarily in the free verse style.

Also, that same guy from that site who said "All good poetry has meter"
also said "Great song lyrics, like good poetry, all have interesting meter."
But i have found that Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell , both of whom are
considered by many to be among the best lyricists, are the two songwriters
who most frequently have written at least parts of some of their songs
without a metrical scheme. These are the parts of their songs in which the words are
sung so quickly that it sounds more like they are speaking, or rapping, the
words instead of singing them.

The best example of this, that i can think of offhand, is Bob Dylan's
It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding). There are parts of that song in which
Dylan will have a phrase that is NOT metrically related to the other phrases
in that song, but, instead, stands alone.

In other words, it is analagous to a drummer who suddenly does a drum fill
that does not seem to be related to the drum parts of the rest of the song,
but still sounds very interesting. I love it when Dylan does that, and Joni, less
frequently, also does that. I am merely differing in opinion from that guy
from the other site, whom Belladonna quoted, who implied that an interesting metrical
scheme is one that is repeated.

So, now that i've totally confused everyone, including myself, i think i'll just
inconspicuously slither away...


Edited by ManInTwoSocks (02/24/18 08:42 PM)
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#459111 - 02/24/18 08:00 PM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Belladonna Offline
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Registered: 09/09/17
Posts: 250
Loc: Virginia
ManInTwoSocks, Thanks for the weigh in. I'm also totally confused. I went online and tried to understand most common poetry meters as if I might be missing something. Glad you shed some light on this. Now I can dismiss this certain expertise and move on.

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#459139 - 02/25/18 05:55 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Belladonna]
Janice & Bud Offline
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Registered: 12/05/11
Posts: 6121
Loc: GA USA
All of y’all’s ability to parse this subject out is impressive from both an academic and practical perspective. I’ve learned over the past six years from several user forum members that songwriting isn’t all “gift” and to a great extent can be learned.

So at 72 I’ve done my best to try and learn; however, I do think that some folks simply see their world in more textured and rich imagery than others (whether they are song writers or not). Admittedly my time spent in the psychology field might bias these feelings.

FWIW, my lyric writing is driven by mostly one objective - we can’t post covers at the user forum grin

And for us what defines a good song is simply whether or not we like it. I’m too lazy to go further!

Interesting thread.

Bud
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#459141 - 02/25/18 06:17 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Guitarhacker]
cliftond Online   content
Journeyman

Registered: 12/23/17
Posts: 401
Loc: Alabama
Originally Posted By: Guitarhacker
All excellent points Belladonna.

Essentially, as a writer, you want to say pretty much the same thing that's already been said a thousand times before.... BUT.... you want to say it in a new, refreshing, and unique way.

A few additional production/writing comments.

According to some in the biz, regarding country music especially...and this also applies to pop....

1. Keep intros as short as possible. No more than 13 seconds. Having no intro is considered totally acceptable. Just jump right in and go.

2. Be into the chorus before the clock hits 60 seconds.

3. Chorus should contain the hook which in many cases is the title. The listener for the first time, should be able to tell you the title of the song without being told the title of the song.

4. Use a bridge only if it is totally different from the verses and chorus AND.... it adds something new to the song that is critical to understanding the song. Often, a well written bridge will suddenly "flip" the person's point of view or understanding of what the song is about, or add a totally new perspective and depth of understanding.

5. Keep total run time between 3:00 minutes to 3:30 minutes. Get in, pull the listener in with you, tell the story, and get out. My co-writer on a number of the songs on my website has a "drop dead" time limit of 4:00 minutes. At that length or longer, it's considered too long. Now, mind you, we do have a few that push the by a few seconds, but it's our stated goal to be well under 4:00

hope this helps a bit
THis is so dead on as far as I am concerned. Guitarhacker you and I agree.

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#459305 - 02/26/18 11:09 AM [Songwriting] Re: Writing Interesting Songs [Re: Janice & Bud]
HearToLearn Offline
Expert

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 1598
Loc: Midwest
Originally Posted By: Janice & Bud
All of y’all’s ability to parse this subject out is impressive from both an academic and practical perspective. I’ve learned over the past six years from several user forum members that songwriting isn’t all “gift” and to a great extent can be learned.


Just like any "natural talent", there seems typically to be A LOT of practice behind it.

Quote:
So at 72 I’ve done my best to try and learn; however, I do think that some folks simply see their world in more textured and rich imagery than others (whether they are song writers or not). Admittedly my time spent in the psychology field might bias these feelings.


I always enjoy your perspective because of your background. It can be intimidating though. You never come across that way; but it does make a person think about what they are posting. Like this, as an example. Are you analyzing it? If you weren't, are you now? What are you thinking about me asking...;) Why am I asking so many questions? Is it hot in here?

Quote:
FWIW, my lyric writing is driven by mostly one objective - we can’t post covers at the user forum grin


Ha! I've felt that way. I'm also happy with some of the songs that have been written because of that. smile

Quote:
And for us what defines a good song is simply whether or not we like it. I’m too lazy to go further!


I typically find that to be with people. What they like is good. What they don't, not.

Quote:
Interesting thread.


Interesting take on the thread.

Quote:
Bud

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