Five More Secrets for Writing a Great SongHere are five more ways that you can improve your songs. If you think they sound too simple perhaps you are right but simple works. Very complex ideas or theories or methodologies work also but usually they need to be broken down into smaller parts to be explained and analyzed. Sometimes complexity draws the listener in closer but often it just confuses them. If I have an message that I want to impart I choose to do it in a way that the most people will understand...but that’s just me and it leads me to rule number 6:
6. Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple. - Albert Einstein It’s a daunting task to write a song about a huge subject, like the war in Iraq. The USA was involved over 8 years, half a million people killed, countless injuries and billions of dollars spent. The moral toll is even greater. Julie Gold said more in her song “From a Distance” than any book on the subject. “God is watching us, from a distance.” Simply stunning.
7. If you want to write a song about a large segment of society, tell it from the perspective of one. Child abuse is hideous and it’s almost an unapproachable subject so how can we go about it without sounding preachy or righteous? Suzanne Vega managed it by telling the story from the point of view of “Luka”. It was Grammy nominated for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal.
8. A grocery list will usually yield good results. If I were to walk into my grandmothers’ house and write up a list of things it would make an interesting collection. Chipped china, dusty pictures, 100 year old dog, etc. Even better if I went into a dog shelter. Wire cages, rusty bowls, concrete floors, cement walls, 100 dogs.
9. Write what you know. This is an oldie but goodie. I have no experience in National Politics so I wouldn't write a song about the president elect. I would however write one about the bully I had a fight with in 5th grade, Dickie Herald. Now there was a basket of deplorable, He was real and I remember every reason I hated that kid from his ugly teeth to his crazy family. Nobody would stand up to him ‘cause he would punch them right in the nose. I had a knock down drag out brawl with him and he never bothered me again. He did however run for class president in 6th grade...and won.
10. There are no rules. Tunes that follow the wind and words that jump from impulse to frivolity will at times make for a great song. Truly great songs are magical and sometimes they just work, just because. The lyric makes no sense but you know every line, the melody runs around like a slinky on ice but stays in your ear for days at a time. Go ahead write that song, give it all your passion and I hope you succeed. I really do... but I can’t write like that.
One of my favorite things about songwriting is that I don’t have to share my lousy songs with anyone. You, as the listener will never know that it took me 50 stinkers to get to the good one I just sang for you.