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What are the things that keep listeners interested in to their favourite songs...apart from the hooks themselves, and make them want to play them over and over again? I’ve wrote recently about dynamics, which is one of the key areas in my mind for keeping the song interesting. But, what other techniques can we employ to stop people reaching for the skip button?
Here’s just a couple of quick thoughts.
The lyric is actually the main reason most people listen to most genres of music. It’s the feelings evoked by a lyric that will determine what your favourite song is. Read that last line again...key work, evoke.
There are a number of really great books on the subject of writing better lyrics. My strongest recommendation in this area would be Pat Pattison’s book, “Write Better Lyrics’. It’s an apt title for sure.
I think the two key things that stand out from my explorations on the subject are:
What feelings do you get from the following lyric snippets? What do you see?
Every light is blinding
Every minute lasts all day
Every thought is fighting
And they’re not falling into place
(Craik Dominic, Alexander Roberto, Irvin James Lawrence)
Life is a runaway train we can’t wait to jump on. (Kristian Bush / Jennifer Nettles)
The city’s a-flood, and our love turns to rust.
We’re beaten then blown by the wind, trampled in dust.
Black hole sun, won’t you come and wash away the rain. (Chris Cornell)
I remember working this one out as I was revisiting an old song of mine, and trying to work out why it felt a little flat. The chords changed each bar in the verse...then the chorus had different chords, but they changed once every bar. I experimented with different rates of chord changes for verse, chorus bridge etc. and managed to turn an average song into a much better one - you’ll have to take my word for that!
To explain; if there is a chord change every bar in the verse, when we get to the chorus shift to a chord change every two beats. This is a great way of altering the perceived pace of the different sections of a song. It’s not that the tempo increases or decreases. It’s just the listener feels more or less movement occur depending on the section. A higher rate of chord changes translates to more pace, while a lower rate translates to less pace. Makes sense.
To next level it, consider this in conjunction with the melody and lyric. Does the melody shift gear with or against the chord change pattern? By that I mean, are you holding longer notes against longer chord changes, or faster chord changes? And are you switching that up as the chord change pattern...um, changes...or not? You’ll get different feels depending on what you decide there. Same for the lyric. Is heightened action in the lyric matched with heightened chord changes, or not? Now we’re really digging in to the craft of writing songs.
Anyway, I hope that’s of some use. Add a comment with any suggestions you have along these lines.
Make good art.