Wednesday, October 21

Songwriting 101: Build The Body

We have discussed the importance of the chorus and hook. Broke down the science of the lyrics. Now we look at the body of work.

Song Form and Contrasting Sections

One of the defining features of popular music is that musical ideas and sections are repetitive. People like hearing familiar things. When a section repeats, the listener can identify with the music since it’s already familiar. It allows them to feel settled inside a song and understand what’s going on. Although this effect is mostly subconscious, it is certainly true. When you hear a song that keeps changing and has crazy sections that don’t make sense together, you feel lost. Unless that is how you want to feel, you probably are going to have a negative reaction to this arrangement. In pop music it can certainly be to your advantage to experiment with traditional pop song forms. However, keeping things structured and easily recognizable is also important and will ensure that your listener can follow along. If your listener knows when the verse is over, they can be ready to sing along with the chorus that belts out your message and gets stuck in their head.

With this attention to song form and changing sections in mind, another aspect that can enhance your songwriting by incredible degrees is the use of dynamics and contrast between your sections. There are multitudes of ways to create contrast in your songs. Utilizing this tool is often something that will set you apart from your peers. If you want to make your booming chorus really stand out, bring down your verses and make them quiet. Therefore, when the chorus hits, it will raise the intensity of your song. Or say your chorus speaks about a very sensitive matter. Maybe your verses will be a bit louder and your chorus bare and fragile in order to reflect the lyric. Contrasts such as these will help map out your song form, while changing sections will further your listeners feeling of security and boost their interest in your song.

Another great way to create contrast in your songs and build or diminish intensity is the use of changing rhythms. Let’s say you wrote a chorus where you hold these big long notes over the whole section. You could create a nice contrast in your verses by having a lot of descriptive words saying them in shorter phrases. Then, when your long note chorus hits, the listener will really feel that difference. Harmonically you can implement these rhythmic variations between sections by experimenting with harmonic rhythm in your chord progressions. For example, you could ride through your verses vamping on one chord or changing between two chords real slow, and then when the chorus hits, you can throw in a lot of chord changes to create a nice contrast. Furthermore, if you want to build intensity leading up to your chorus or lose intensity and slow things down with your bridge, you can achieve this by increasing or decreasing the rhythm of your melody, your harmony, or both.

These types of contrasts, both dynamically and musically, can really do wonders for a song. Experimenting with contrast in your songs will allow your lyrical ideas and melodic hooks to really stand out in their particular sections. Ultimately, your song will be much more organized and memorable.

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  1. I think it is crazy the order you write these articles. I have to have a definite song topic before I can look at the body.

  2. The chord structure lays the groundwork for the song. No rhythm no hit!


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