Power Ballads

Ever wanted to write a power ballad, but didn't know where to start? Well look no further... A basic dissection of power ballads in a no-nonsense manner.

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You've all heard them. Classic rockers (and the not-so) singing awdry lyrics about their undying love for that special someone. With lyrics like:

I'll be there for you These five words I swear to you When you breathe I want to be the air for you I'll be there for you I'd live and I'd die for you Steal the sun from the sky for you Words can't say what love can do I'll be there for you (I'll Be There For You - Bon Jovi)

You can really tell what they mean. Really...

Have you ever looked at that special someone and thought to yourself, man, I really love him/her. Maybe I should write them a song and then you get stuck? Never have crossed your mind then, eh? Power ballads are simple and sweet, and any nimrod (no offence to professional writers) can write one. So, for all you non-nimrods, I'm going to show you how.

Structure

No power ballad can succeed without a formal structure. The average structure goes something like:

  • Verse 1
  • Chorus
  • Verse 2 (rather similar to V 1)
  • Chorus
  • --Solo of some form
  • Bridge
  • Chorus (may be slightly modified from original)

    Verses

    Verses are usually 4-6 lines of mushy oh-no-shes-leaving-so-I-need-to-make-her-stay-without-forceable-confinement-charges, like:

    Guess this time you're really leaving I heard your suitcase say goodbye And as my broken heart lies bleeding You say true love in suicide

    Another common theme in these songs is the stalker, like:

    I could stay awake just to hear you breathing Watch you smile while you are sleeping While you're far away and dreaming I could spend my life in this sweet surrender I could stay lost in this moment forever Well, every moment spent with you Is a moment I treasure

    Then, either another short phrase follows, or it goes directly into the chorus

    Chorus

    The chorus is usually a simple reprise of the song's theme and title, which has something to do with love or something else that's rather stalker-ish. The structure of a chorus usually goes:

  • Song Title
  • Synonymous reprise
  • Something totally irrelevant
  • Song title

    Then, some bands add extra spice by adding a second part to their chorus, which structure is like:

  • Slightly different theme
  • Synonymous reprise
  • Something totally irrelevant
  • Song title

    A good example of this is also from I'll Be There For You by Bon Jovi:

    I'll be there for you These five words I swear to you When you breathe I want to be the air for you I'll be there for you I'd live and I'd die for you Steal the sun from the sky for you Words can't say what a love can do I'll be there for you

    Why am I using so much Bon Jovi? It's probably because they're the kings of the power ballad.

    But on to other things:

    Verse 2

    Basically, it's just the first verse, with a bunch of synonyms thrown in, but, occasionally, it could be a please-oh-please-oh-please-stay-with-me-because-I-love-you-so type plea. Other songs usually will use another stalker-like perspective.

    Another chorus usually plays, which is followed by the ever-important solo:

    Now the guitar solo in a power ballad is usually a little different than a high-energy song type of solo. First off, It's a little slower-paced, kind of like the song. It will be a bit more melodic than a regular face-melting solo. Keep it in with the key, or do a slight key change for a neat effect (like G to D, etc...) Don't go from a sharp key to a flat key unless you can make it work very well. Avoid a major key to minor key transition as well; it just doesn't work.

    Now For The Bridge

    The bridge is a few lines, which keeps in line with the theme, and it may make use of a past line, or the title.

    Finally, there is generally a reprise of the chorus. It either is used in its original form, or a few lines are altered slightly. Usually following this final chorus you will find some sort of vocal ad lib.

    That's the dissection of your basic ballad. Some are different, but for the most part, this is how they go. Sorry if I got a little lengthy, I tried to keep it brief.

    Now you can go off, my young grasshopper, and write your own power ballad. Just don't ask me to help you rhyme something with their name though.

  • 99 comments sorted by best / new / date

      VoodooChild15
      # Song Title # Synonymous reprise # Something totally irrelevant # Song title
      Hahaha, I love it.
      Dark_Sanity
      No motley crue? they didn't do too many power Ballads but when they did they made a few, A FEW, of the best power ballads i can think of. But yeah this was a pretty good article. and yeah i guess bon jovi deserves the title of "kings of power ballads" alittle more than the crue does...oh well
      WeirdMariachi
      Ballads make girls wet in cars ? Geez I had no idea I have to try that when I get my van. Thanks for the advice.
      chrus
      Way to put a formula on a writing a song and totally taking everything rock n' roll is about and taking a shit on it.
      buckethead101
      I f***.. can't get enough of power ballads. Man it makes me sick. Broken by Seether featuring Amy Lee is a great power ballad to me and yeah I guess that Bon Jovi were the kings of power ballad. When I'm writing a slow but powerful song, I just think of Bon Jovi's songs.
      floyd_rose: Yeah.. really liked this article... I printed it to show it to my bandmates... they need to learn
      well I guess that I will do that too.
      107
      i dont really understand power ballads,isnt ballad meant to tell a story? i was under the impression that was the whole point of a ballad, and no(t many) power ballads do this, so do they really qualify as ballads?
      flame843
      Fade to Black by Metallica is a ballad and it has nothing to do with love. (It's about their gear getting stolen in Boston on a tour.)
      Oh, God, that's depressing. I always thought it was about suicide. Decent article, the part about "song itle/synonymous reprise/something completely irrelevant/song title" is so true, it's funny.
      floyd_rose
      Yeah.. really liked this article... I printed it to show it to my bandmates... they need to learn
      underaidbassist
      Okay a few more things from me:
      WeirdMariachi: Aww *** good job for ***ing it up for me I was thinking about making a ballad about a girl.*Does evil grin* (But no one ever said anything about making a ballad about your friends grandma)
      Umm... that's f***.. scary.
      chrus: Way to put a formula on a writing a song and totally taking everything rock n' roll is about and taking a shit on it.
      I know that in rock music there are no real rules, but this is a basic dissection for those who want to know. In order to take a shit on rock 'n roll, it needs to be in the toilet, which some of it seems to be these days. Good ol' Motley Crue... Can we stop the war of the "who's-king-of-power-ballads" already? I never thought of "Broken as a power ballad before. Just goes to show what I know (not much, obviously). Now can we all just get back to our relatively normal lives?
      Shredder_Sixx
      griff1987: Poison were the masters of the power ballads, great band. Hair metal kicked ass and it definitely deserves a comeback.
      Indeed. Hair metal didn't whine, it just played. There's nothing around anymore that could really hold a candle to that type of energy. Great...now I'm depressed about the current music scene...I think I'll go listen to my Poison CDs to keep me occupied.
      Shredder_Sixx
      Just a little thing to point out to G N R fans... Knockin on Heaven's Door was originally by Bob Dylan. And his ballads have always been unique, not nessecarily love ballads. Very informative article though.
      kirk_rules!
      I don't really agree with the "follow the guidelines of a typical ballad" thing. It just doesn't work for me. And I'm pretty sure bands don't sit and say "okay,I want the chorus to go after the first verse." Ballads are very "feely". And what comes out comes out.
      kirk_rules!
      good, well-written article, but your idea of a power ballad is a little different from mine. Fade to Black by Metallica is a ballad and it has nothing to do with love. (It's about their gear getting stolen in Boston on a tour.)
      Lonely_wolf11
      Good article, a power ballad is something good to keep girl wet. Put some power ballad in your car with your girl and then let me now...
      GNRobsessed013
      i liked this article. It was good and made me laugh sort of, idunno why.
      ZoSo.Led.Zep.: mmm sweet power ballad solos, i always think of the first solo from guns n roses' november rain
      Great Solo, Great Song, Great Band.
      WeirdMariachi
      Aww *** good job for ***ing it up for me I was thinking about making a ballad about a girl.*Does evil grin* (But no one ever said anything about making a ballad about your friends grandma)
      Shredder_Sixx
      The Crue had that one that sounded like it was between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spurgen....along with Without You, Home Sweet Home....and if it qualifies, "Don't go away mad (just Go away)" Bon Jovi has too many to count..
      underaidbassist
      And I meant to finish my thought, about my article being on Power Ballads. Y'know, you've all gotten me confused!
      Wolfinator-x
      The very first power ballad (Home Sweet Home) had almost nothing to do with love or loss. It was about the band getting home after running away from it. And by the way, Blasphemy10, Motley Crue invented the power ballad, with Home Sweet Home in 1985.
      Blasphemy10
      I think you all forgot who is claimed to have invented the power ballad and made a musical career playing power ballads....REO Speedwagon!!!
      kingurth
      Wow, it's been nearly a year and a half since the last comment, but I feel I must interject: the Frank Zappa instrumental album received a parental advisory for the title of one of the tracks contained the word "G-Spot." So there was legitimate reason for it.
      diablo_man
      lesser known power ballad bands: april wine(canadian band) and Scorpions. Still Loving You is a tear inducing song in tone, lyrics, and the guitar
      jpburns88
      i did try to get it back to that with my ranting..maybe i should do my own column...?
      underaidbassist
      Okay, you must forgive me here, because I'm having a blonde moment (I'm entitled; I am blonde). How did the parental advisory sticker come up when the subject of this article that I wrote to help people who were interested? And why does it matter if it is a hell of a good album anyways? Just wondering...
      griff1987
      you've got here (in the verses bit)-
      And as my broken heart lies bleeding You say true love in suicide
      Few power ballads are actually about suicide or anything really depressive. That kind of stuff came along in the early 90s with artists like nirvana who just whined about how much life sucks. the majority of power ballads actually have positive messages behind them (eg Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue and Life Goes On by Poison to name but a few)
      jpburns88
      and to the guy who said adding a formula was shitting on rock and roll? Rock and roll was based on the blues and the same intervallic chord prgression until the beatles came along. Guess what? That's shit's still rock and roll. Who cares if there's a formula? If the message and intent of the writer comes across and you can feel it in the pit of your stomach when it comes on, then who gives a flying fig newton if it's "formulaic." That's why when that damn chromatic chord thing at the beginning of "Home Sweet Home" comes on i still crank it up to eleven.
      jpburns88
      No, Zappa's Jazz From Hell was the first instrumental album to receive a parental advisory label. I'll say it again: Zappa's INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM Jazz from Hell got a parental advisory label.
      ac/guns n zep
      Its so funny how you called Steven Tyler a stalker. Also is it true that Appetite for Destruction was the first album with a parental advisory sticker?
      ibanez-gnr14
      Yah GN'R rules! Who gives a crap about bon jovi, i'll be there for you, how about sweet child o mine!
      )Eric(Draven
      I do not like any of my chemical romance's new stuff, but some of their old shit is ok. Anyway; Helena was about Gerard and Mikey's grandma.
      chrus: Way to put a formula on a writing a song and totally taking everything rock n' roll is about and taking a shit on it. [POSTED: 12 June 2005 - 11:12]|
      Uh, Power Ballas are formulaic. This is so true. This whole article is completely 100% true. It made me laugh a little as well. 5/5.
      Jpinales2004
      Fedaykin: Yup, Bon Jovi SUX
      Come on..... don't diss Bon Jovi. They may not be exceptional but they are nowhere near bad. At least to me.