Update a Song in the Folk Form

I recently got this question from a songwriter who’s just starting out.

Q: Is it okay if my song is a string of verses, with no chorus or bridge? It’s short, too. Can it still be a good song?

A: If a song is a series of verses, it’s in a form that’s been successful for hundreds of years – the folk song form. You can certainly write good songs in that style. These songs often feature a storyline, such as a lost lover, a historical event, or travel to a distant land, but they don’t have to. Good examples of the folk song form are “Scarborough Fair,” “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  Continue reading “Update a Song in the Folk Form”

Robin’s Interview in Beat Magazine

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”

Turn a Poem Into a Song Lyric

PoetPoetry is often defined as putting the greatest amount of meaning into the fewest possible words. This holds true for song lyrics, too. So if you’re a poet, you’ve got a great start on songwriting. But there are a few differences, too.

Long ago, all poems were sung to music but now we tend to write them down and read them on the page. People read them at their own pace, taking all the time they need to understand and react to each line. But songs roll by at the music’s pace. Listeners need to understand enough on the fly to be drawn into the lyric and stay involved. So, poets, try these ideas when writing song lyrics or turning a poem into a lyric…

1. Give listeners enough time to absorb each image or poetic device. Try spreading out your images and metaphors over several lines rather than piling on several at once. Make each image or idea the focus of at least one line. If your lines are short, then spend two or more lines on it. Add more information to give listeners deeper insight into your idea and allow them to fully take it in before moving on.  Continue reading “Turn a Poem Into a Song Lyric”

Rewrite Your Song Melody and Make It a Monster

How to Rewrite a Song MelodyLet’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: