Q: What makes a great song great?
A: For me, a great song is one that moves listeners emotionally. One that makes them understand something more deeply or see something in a new way. In some ways, a great song actually changes the listener.
Q: What’s your personal ingredient list for what you consider a good song?
A: A good song is one that expresses what the songwriter feels. If, every time you play your song, you say, “Yes, that’s what I felt. That’s what I wanted to say.” Then it’s a good song. A great song is one that communicates your message to listeners and makes them feel what you felt when you wrote it. Continue reading “Robin’s Interview in Beat Magazine”
Current hit songs in all mainstream commercial genres tend to stick to a few basic chords and lean heavily on repetition. For skilled musicians there’s a real temptation to overwrite. You may be better off limiting your chords to I – IV – V and VI, for instance, C, F, G, and Am. You can hear progressions using these chords in big four-chord hits like OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” These are just two top ten hits that rely on a basic, familiar chord palette. there are dozens more
One of my favorite videos: “Four Chords” by Axis of Awesome will give you an idea of just how many successful songs are built on these chords.
So, how do they make that work?
The secret sauce
The secret to successfully using today’s repetitive chord progressions lies in the way the melody relates to them. The chord progression provides the solid, steady foundation on which a rhythmically interesting melody can be built. Nickelback’s “Photograph” and “Far Away” are great examples of rock-steady, repeated four-chord patterns with melodic phrases that begin in between the chord changes. This is the trick that keeps these repetitive chord progressions interesting: The melody doesn’t always emphasize the beat on which the chords change. Continue reading “Get the Most From a Simple Chord Progression”
Unlike radio hits that burst on the scene then fade away, holiday songs have a long, long lifespan. Almost every major artist records at least one album of holiday songs. Sure they include the songs everyone knows and loves, but they need to sprinkle in a few potential new holiday hits, too. So, while the sights, sounds, and excitement of the season are all around., take the time to look and listen like a songwriter. Make a note of images, grab snippets of conversation. Be aware of your own feelings. Remember the holidays of your childhood. You’ll use all these ideas to make your song fresh and emotionally honest.
One of the biggest challenges of writing a holiday song is coming up with a new idea or approach. A generic holiday song with all the usual images isn’t hard to write but it will be hard to sell. It’s been done already…a lot!
Emotional themes: “White Christmas” is a such a classic and we’ve heard it so many times, it’s easy to miss the things that make it so great. The idea of yearning for the ideal Christmas of youth – the white Christmas of dreams – is a powerful, moving theme. What do you long for? What do you remember? Try writing a song about those feelings. Continue reading “Holiday Songs: ‘Tis the Season”
Let’s say you’ve just spent the afternoon writing a song and you feel you’ve got a good start on a first draft. The concept is strong, the structure feels right. Of course the lyric still needs work but you’re planning to go back and rewrite it.
But what about the melody? Will you go back and rewrite that, too? Or will you stick with the first idea that came to you?
Many times, a songwriter who wouldn’t dream of settling for a rough draft of a lyric, uses the first melody that comes along. Often these melodies are the result of old habits; they may sound dated and familiar. The writer might not even know that a melody can be rewritten, strengthened, and polished just like a lyric. To give your song the best chance for success, make sure your melody works hard to attract listeners and put your emotional message across!
=> Melody makes your song structure easy to follow
Listeners don’t like songs that seem to wander aimlessly. They like to know where they are and they like the feeling of structure that a good melody provides. To do that, create plenty of contrast between sections – verse, chorus, and bridge. Then the listener will know when they’re moving from one section to the next. Successful songs use some combination of these three techniques for adding contrast to a melody: