I call this article writing much better songs because I have always found that guides to songwriting stick to the basics. You’ll end up with a song, but it’ll be the standard sort of affair. You may be the best lyricist in the world or the best guitarist, but with this knowledge of basic songs, you’re probably going to have some pretty dull songs.
As a general disclaimer, I am a human. I am liable to anything from minor mistakes to full breakdowns of coherence. I will tell you what has worked for me, not to say it is the best, but to help with your songwriting. I would encourage you to try the ideas, and drop anything that doesn’t work.
You think you know structure. Basic structure goes, intro, verse, pre chorus, chorus repeat with a solo right? Yeah, that’s pretty much the way a lot of songs go and in fact it works, so let’s try sticking with that structure, but changing how you play within that structure.
Depending on your guitar style or genre, all of these sections will probably have their own individual parts to them. This is great as it gives a change of feel in the song, however, a way to change the song without changing the content is to change the vibe, or how they are played.
In this song, (ignore the first minute if cutesy girls aren’t your thing) the guitar part is simple and the same chords are used throughout. However, how she uses the chords, and how she uses her vocals changes the song completely. With the same chords repeated the entire way through, this song could have become very repetitive very quickly, but by changing their interaction, the song remains interesting musically.
Notice, in section one, she holds chords while singing, and then moves through two different strumming patterns before the chorus. There are also down picked building strums thrown in there to add more dynamic change.
The most interesting part of this song for me is the rap section though. While the vocal melody is quite constant throughout and she changes her guitar playing to give a different feel, after the second chorus she returns to her first strumming pattern and changes the vocal melody to something completely different. This remains constant, but to give a further dynamic she changes to another strumming pattern, which though used previously sounds different under the new melody.
You might not like this song, but it demonstrates very simply what minor changes can do to give a very different feel. This can be accomplished subtly but effectively in your own songs.
Experiment with the guitars keeping the same parts throughout the song, but having the bassist or drummer change. For example, in an upbeat song, try having the bassist play root notes through the first verse and then quicker arpeggio runs in the second verse. (Paramore – Ignorance)
Try using different chord voicing in different verses or the chorus. (Mumford and Sons – Dust Bowl Dance, verses change)
Try using a subtle effect on one of the instruments to give a slightly altered sound. This also works with different tone controls/ channels/ levels of distortion/ etc. (Brian May – his entire career, but I’m currently listening to Innuendo, so try that)
Try adding and subtracting instruments. It’s not a sin to play part of a song without using all the instruments. Try a verse with just vocals and guitar; when the drums and bass kick in you’ll realize how much they add to the song. (Danzig – Mother, Intro) Alternatively, start with everything and then strip the song down to vocals and drums. (Twisted sister – We’re not going to take it, Final verse) Some songs just seem to build the entire way through by use of looping stations, or clever studio play. (Adele – Rumour has it)
You can also get the effect of adding an instrument by having the first guitar follow the second through one section and then later play something similar but complimentary. (Threshold – Slipstream, verse and chorus)
If none of these float your boat, then how about a key change? Like all of the tips here, they aren’t difficult; they’re just effective ways of changing your song to sound more interesting. You would be playing the same pattern you are playing throughout previous sections, but in a complimentary key. This technique is effective for making a song feel like its building. It’s also awesome to solo over! (Shinedown – What a Shame, 3.18)
These suggestions are basic, and happen all the time in all manner of songs. They ar aren’t tips that will help you reinvent the wheel, but they can help you turn your first songs into something more interesting than just a 3 chord wonder with no need for any extra levels of skill. They are also based on simply changing how you’re playing existing parts rather than adding new parts. When you start to add more new parts to your songs and you use these tips you can end up with some very complex structures that are very simple to play and write.
Have fun with your songs and good luck. If you hate the article enough to complain to me personally then feel free to visit my website at www.coben.weebly.com or my blog www.cobenb.blogspot.com and leave hate filled rants.