When and Why to Write a Song Bridge

A bridge is a very useful section to include in your song, with at least five good reasons for its existence.

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Alex ClareMany songwriters deal with the form of a song without really thinking much about it, and that may describe you as well. If you find something catchy and “hooky” that will serve as a good chorus, you make the assumption that you’ll also be writing a verse to precede it.  And you’re often happy to let that and any other decisions regarding design evolve as part of the songwriting process.

Whether you call a section a bridge or a chorus may be tricky if a song is comprised of two sections: the verse, and then… that other section. The Who’s “Pinball Wizard“, for example, gets considerable discussion over whether it’s a verse and chorus or a verse and bridge.

But labelling something as a bridge becomes easier if a song has a clear verse and chorus, and then one other section, as you find in “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles), and Alex Clare’s “Where Is The Love.” It typically shows up after the second chorus, just before the final chorus repeats.

But that still doesn’t answer the question, why should you use a bridge in your song? Here are some reasons a bridge would be a welcome addition to a song:

  1. To elaborate or complete a lyric. Lyrics in a bridge section usually end the story. In other words, the verses will describe a story or situation, the chorus will emote about it, and the bridge will offer that last bit of detail needed to make the entire story complete.
  2. To lengthen a song. If a couple of verses and choruses doesn’t seem to be enough, a bridge will give you a little extra mileage. And this is where you’ll often see instrumental bridges.
  3. To avoid song boredom. If moving back and forth between verse and chorus seems a bit repetitious, a bridge can avoid the problem because it usually comes with its own melody, chords and lyrics that differ from everything else in the song.
  4. To increase the emotional content of a song. A bridge can take a song that needs more emotional power, and give it the passion that might be lacking.
  5. To allow the chords to move into the opposite mode. A song in a major key can sometimes benefit from exploring the minor side of life as a way of presenting a more complete musical journey. That’s why you see so many major key songs start their bridge on a minor chord, like “I Want to Hold Your hand.”

Song bridges are often called the “middle eight”, referring to the number of bars of music that it usually lasts. Eight bars isn’t a long time, though there is no reason to limit it to eight. But even if you decide that it’s going to be longer, you should be cautious about wandering too far afield in a bridge. For most song bridges, you should think of the first half of it as being an interesting diversion into a different key area, and then use the final half of the bridge to get back to the original key.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

The “Essential Secrets” Study Guide – Now Available

An optional idea for working your way through the eBook bundle.

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Gary EwerThis is something I’ve meant to do for a long time: “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting Study Guide.” Over the years I’ve received many emails from songwriters asking, in various ways, “What do you suggest as a good system for making my way through your ebook bundle?”

If you’re like me, you’ll probably just dig in to the first thing that opens on your screen and start reading. But some people like a bit of structure when it comes to studying. So in answer to the question, “How do I study all of the material,” this is offered in the preface to the guide:

The answer is complicated, because it depends on many factors, each dependent on an individual’s musical history. In that sense, it’s not much different from the problem that music teachers face in most classroom situations: all students enter their first day of class with widely differing musical backgrounds, and the teacher is expected to teach them all.

This guide is an attempt to help songwriters who are encountering “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle for the first time. And because there is no way for me to be familiar with your own musical background, it goes on the only premise that makes sense: you know a bit about some things, a bit more about other things, and a bit less about the rest. Assuming that to be more-or-less true, the following guide can help you tackle the eBooks in a sensible order, allowing the information from one text to help you understand the material in another.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading the eBooks in any order you wish, skipping the chapters that contain information you’re already familiar with, and digging into the information that’s new to you. But if you want to systemize how you learn, and ensure that you’re getting the most out of what you’ve just downloaded onto your computer, try the following guide. You’ll notice that it jumps around a little bit from topic to topic. That’s intentional; it attempts to keep you from getting bogged down in any one area for too long.

Download the free “Essential Secrets of Songwriting Study Guide” here.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

How to Give a Song Chorus a Shot of Energy

Song choruses that sound boring will almost always relate to a problem with melodic range. Here’s what to do about that.

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U2 - ElevationYou may have noticed from time to time a problem that keeps happening in your songwriting: the verses sound fine, but the chorus seems to lack energy and drive. It may be hard to put your finger on the cause of the issue, but almost all of the time the problem relates to some aspect of melodic range.

That lack of energy translates to listener boredom. The good news is that the solution is usually relatively easy. Here are the main points you want to consider when you feel that your chorus needs a bit more life:

  1. Compare verse and chorus range. On a piece of paper, write down the lowest note and highest note of your verse. Then do the same for your chorus. You should see a distinct difference. Your chorus melody should be noticeably higher than your verse melody. (This problem is probably the most common one for failing song choruses.) Listen to Adele’s “Someone Like You” for a great demonstration of this principle. There are some curious exceptions to this, such as Sufjan Stevens’ “For the Widows in Paradise”, where the chorus melody actually moves lower. But he chooses that moment to add backing vocals which sit above the main melody and contribute to song energy.
  2. Move melodies generally higher. As a song progresses, you get a nice build if melodies move higher, and you hear this beautifully in Ingrid Michaelson’s “Over You.”
  3. Find the climactic moment. All sections of a song will have a climactic moment – a highest note, usually – that gets the most attention. But the climactic moment in a chorus should (usually) be the highest note of the song. Occasionally, the highest note of a bridge will be even higher, but certainly, as a stand-alone song section, the chorus climactic moment should give considerable musical satisfaction. That climactic note may be subtle, such as in U2’s “Elevation,” or more obvious, as in The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why.”

Dealing with those three issues alone should solve most boredom problems in your songwriting. Because every principle has exceptions, you shouldn’t try to diagnose a problem that doesn’t actually exist. I only mention that because amongst songwriters that love to study their craft, there is a tendency to try to “fix” songs that don’t follow convention. But sometimes, exceptions to rules will create beautiful music.

So how do you know if you’ve got something that needs to be addressed? Your ears will be — and should be — your only guide. A song with problems will be immediately obvious. That takes a certain amount of confidence as a writer, and also taking note of your audience’s reaction to your music. In other words, if you love your song, but notice that there’s no obvious climactic moment in the melody, don’t worry to the point where you try to add one. Let good songs be good, and get writing your next one!

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

How Revoicing Chords Can Help You Create Melodies

Some ideas for helping you to imagine melodies while playing chords.

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Beating Songwriter's Block - Jump Start Your Words and MusicIf you like playing around with chords as a way of starting the songwriting process, you’ll like this idea for helping you create a melody that works well with it: revoice the chords you use.

“Revoicing” means to change the order and/or range of the notes you use to play a chord. For example, the following short excerpt shows three different ways to play around with the C and F chord, each one followed by a higher voicing (Click here to listen):

Different voicings of C and F chords

As you can hear, each time the voicing of the chords moves higher, you get a different impression of the sound of the chords. More specifically, our way of listening tends to pull our ears upward, listening for the higher notes as being most important.

You can use that normal tendency we have to place significance on higher notes to help you create melodies. Each time that you change the voicing of a chord, you hear something new in that progression. So use that to your advantage.

Here are some specific ideas to experiment with when trying to write melodies that work well with chords:

  1. Get practicing. If you find yourself always going to the same hand position and notes on your piano keyboard or guitar, it’s time to expand your instrumental knowledge. Practice playing chords in as many positions and voicings as possible. This gives you many more options.
  2. Mix high and low voicings. Take a simple progression, like C Am Dm F, for example, and play each chord a little differently with regard to voicing each time you play through the progression. By mixing high with low voicings, you start to hear a kind of “proto-melody” emerge, something you can develop into a fully-fledged song tune.
  3. Change playing style. Instead of strumming, for example, try finger picking arpeggios (so-called “broken chords”) to allow you to isolate various notes from the progression. Once you hear interesting melodic shapes appear, try filling in gaps between notes with melodic steps.

Often, you’ll find that the simple step of starting your progression on a higher note is all that it takes to suddenly have melodic ideas begin flowing. Remember that good melodies use repetition as a structural element, so try coming up with a short 1- or 2-bar idea, and then repeating it as you work through the progression.

These ideas are the kinds of activities you’ll find in “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“, available from Amazon or any other online bookseller, as well as major-chain book stores.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

When Pop Songwriting Becomes a Mindless Group Effort

The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6 e-Book Bundle is being used by thousands of songwriters to solve their songwriting dilemmas. Comes with a 7th free eBook, “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.”  Read More..

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Rock Band in ConcertThis isn’t a post about Wikipedia, but about a philosophy that Wikipedia espouses. As you likely know, Wikipedia’s view is that since no one person — not even experts — can possess all knowledge pertaining to a topic, it follows that the best encyclopedia entries happen when as many people as possible are involved in their creation.

I actually like that philosophy. I believe the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. A Wikipedia-style approach to pulling knowledge together has changed the way we learn, whether we realize it or not. A few years ago, learning how to build a bookcase meant going to the library and reading a few books about carpentry, then getting a book with plans, and then setting to work. It took a few days, at a minimum, to even get going.

Now, you’re more likely to check YouTube for a few short (usually non-expert) videos, and then maybe ask a question or two on a forum, and then look at a few Instagram photos of other people’s efforts. In other words, you’re pulling together the understanding of many different people, and doing it quickly. You’ll be trying your own bookcase in 20 minutes or so.

Whether Wikipedia caused this shift or is simply realizing that that’s the way we like to learn is up for debate. The real point is that we like to learn quickly, and we’re OK with including large contributions by non-experts.

But my question (perhaps fear) is: I wonder if the same thing is happening to the world of pop songwriting. Because I love the Wikipedia approach to learning things, but not to creating things.

For all intents and purposes, songwriting in the pop music genres (pop, rock, R & B, hip-hop, etc.) is a world of collaboration. Check the top ten from practically any of Billboard’s charts, and you’re looking at songs that have anywhere from two to as many as six or more co-writers.

As you likely know if you’ve read this blog, I am a fan of songwriting collaborations, to the extent that they allow a writer with solid skills in one area to hook up with someone who has a flair in another. That kind of partnership can be powerful, giving us music that may not otherwise have seen the light of day.

And history has given us enough wonderful examples of songwriting partnerships that we don’t need to question why they exist at all: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, Bacharach & David, Lennon & McCartney, Elton John & Taupin, and so many others.

But I’m talking about the “other” kind of collaboration, the one that often comes from bands or nameless groups of studio musicians, who cobble a song together for a well-known singer to add to their next recording. In this type of scenario, someone typically creates a chord progression, perhaps a melodic/rhythmic hook, and then rehearsal time is spent playing it over and over. It keeps modifying as someone in the group comes up with a good idea, then a better idea, then more ideas, until you’ve got a completed song.

It’s rather mindless, and that’s not meant specifically to disparage the efforts of the musicians involved. You may have been involved in songwriting of this sort, and the process may have felt creative to you at the time. But collaborative “Wikipedia-style” songwriting will almost never result in the kind of innovative and creative music that will give you that strong sense of artistic pride.

Songwriting collaborations of the type I’m discussing suffer primarily from a lack of initial vision, and then a lack of ideas that result in a cohesive musical experience. To be more specific, this kind of group composition can give us the following:

  1. songs that lack imagination;
  2. songs that lack innovation;
  3. songs that lack a profound message;
  4. songs that suffer from a lack of cohesion between elements (e.g., lyrical rhythm may not bear any resemblance to backing instrumental rhythm).
  5. songs that adhere too strictly to a naive understanding of how music is supposed to sound.

Just to reiterate: I am not talking about all collaborations here; I am in favour of any collaboration that results in something greater than the sum of the parts. Sometimes, a song is primarily written by one person, and then a number of other people will tweak and adjust it until the end result is even better. All contributors, however small the contribution, will get a writing credit, and that’s great. That’s a collaboration that works, and one that has possibly given us something we might never have heard before.

But the Wikipedia-style compositional process, where the song is the result of a large group of musicians who come together to write a song, with no strong initial vision, no real message, and meant only to serve the performer… no true songwriter should aspire to that kind of collaboration.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Artistic Honesty: Staying True to Your Vision

How much do you compromise your integrity in the song-recording process?

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Alicia KeysWhen you write your songs, who are you writing for? What’s your objective? How do you measure your own success?

These are very important questions, and can become incredibly tricky to answer especially if you’re trying to forge a career for yourself in this industry. Practically every songwriter I know considers their music to be the way they communicate their own ideas, concepts, philosophies and beliefs to the world.

But if you’re following a formula that dresses your music up into something that differs from what you originally conceived simply to make it more appealing to a larger audience base, is that a kind of songwriting dishonesty?

It’s a constant battle that’s waged between artists and industry personnel (producers, managers, record company executives, and so on). The songwriter/performer/band has specific ideas about how to communicate their ideas to the world, and producers are constantly trying to repackage that music into something that appeals to the most people. There’s a good reason for that: it potentially builds a larger fan base, which translates into dollars.

So the question is: if you’re always compromising your original ideas in order to increase your reach, how honest are you being as a songwriter?

Last year, Alicia Keys gave a Liner Notes interview, in which she says:

…there’s tons of ways to write a song, but for me… [it needs to be] a natural experience, an honest experience, a true expression, even if it’s something that was inspired by someone that I know or an experience that I’ve seen through another person’s eyes. Any of that works to make it real for me, and that’s, to me, the best way to write a great song.

There are several words she uses that all touch on the same idea:

  • a natural experience
  • an honest experience
  • a true expression

It all comes down to creative honesty. If you’re a songwriter who’s getting ready to record your next tune, or set of tunes, are you over-compromising if you allow your music to be adjusted to appeal to more and bigger audiences?

My own feeling is that we can spend a lot of time worrying about this sort of thing. I don’t believe there is anything artistically dishonest about adjusting your original vision in order to attract more fans, as long as the compromises aren’t equivalent to an artistic cave-in.

How do you know when you’ve gone too far when compromising on the production of one of your songs? There’s no visible line, and that’s possibly unfortunate. Maybe the answer is different depending on who you are, and the genre you call your own.

And perhaps it comes down to how you answer these questions, once you’ve allowed your song to be repackaged:

  1. Is the message of your song still intact?
  2. Does the song still work once you strip away the added production?
  3. Do you feel proud of the final result?

If any of those answers are “No,” or “I’m really not sure,” you may have crossed a line that, for you, is going to provide you with artistic frustration over the longterm.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

5 Ideas To Make a Boring Chord Progression Better

To create a progression that sounds fresh, try starting with something strong and predictable, and then modify it. Here are 5 ways to do that.

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GuitarMost great songs are built on chord progressions that sound, on their own, quite predictable and almost boring. This often comes as a big surprise to many songwriters, who often think that chords need to stand out and grab people’s attention.

But most of the time, the truth is that the elements that really stand out and make a difference in most powerful music are the melody and the lyrics. Your most important duty as a songwriter, at least with regard to chord progressions, is to get them working, not necessarily demanding the audience’s full focus.

Having said that, there are times when it would be nice to create a progression that sounds fresh or somehow innovative. So let’s take a look at what can be done to spruce up an otherwise tedious progression.

Let’s take a standard one that probably has been used in thousands of songs:

C  G  Am  F  C

What can you do to it that might make it stand out a bit more? Try these ideas:

  1. Use chord inversions. To invert a chord means to put a note other than the root of the chord at the bottom. Often you’ll do this to smooth out a jumpy bass line. With a bit of experimenting, you might come up with this: C  G/B  Am  F  C (A note after a slash represents the bass note).
  2. Use a bass pedal point. A pedal point means that the same bass note is held while the chords change above it. Most of the time you’ll find that either the tonic (I) or dominant (V) provides a satisfactory pedal, but feel free to experiment. For example try the sample progression with the bass holding a C (C  G/C  Am/C  F/C  C), but you might find a pedal on the 4th note to give you interesting results: C/F  G/F  Am/F  F  C.
  3. Use an inverted pedal. Like a bass pedal, an inverted pedal keeps an upper note constant while the chord changes around it. You hear this effect in The Supremes “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” So try playing the sample progression on guitar or keyboard, keeping a constant note, perhaps a high C or a high E. [LISTEN to a sample of the chord progression with an inverted pedal E above it]. (Opens in a new browser window or tab).
  4. Use a modal mixture. To give a brief description, modal mixtures are triads that belong to the list of minor chords if you’re in a major key, and vice versa. To make this simple, try experimenting by changing major chords to minor. The most common type in pop music genres is the minor-IV chord: C  G  Am  Fm  C, but you can also try a minor V (C  Gm  Am  F  C), or for something more creative, also try a flat-VI in place of Am: C  G  Ab  Fm  C (For a more complete description of modal mixtures, read this.)
  5. Use suspensions. A suspension occurs when you “hold a note up” before allowing it to descend to form a simple triad. The most common type is the sus4. A Gsus4 gives us these notes: G-C-D. That chord then normally resolves to a simple G triad: G-B-D. So try breathing a bit of freshness into this progression by creating suspensions: C  Gsus4  G  Am  Fsus4  F  C. For the Fsus4, you can either keep the key signature intact, which gives you the notes F-B-C, resolving to F-A-C. Or you could try adding a flat to the B, giving you this: F-Bb-C, resolving to F-A-C.

The benefit of doing these sorts of things (over trying to create a progression from scratch that strays from the norm) is that you know the original progression works. The modifications that result from the ideas listed above simply change the “flavour” of the chords, simply making a predictable progression sound a bit fresher.

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Written by Gary Ewer – Follow Gary on Twitter 

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Songwriting Design, Growth, and Universal Good

As a songwriter, you’re a designer. How effective your songs are speaks to your designing abilities.

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Bruce Mau, design visionaryCBC Radio One’s show, “The Current“, hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti, is presently running a series called “By Design.” That word design is one that grabbed my attention right away, because as composers of music, and particularly of songs, we are designing the sonic experience we provide for our listeners, usually in 3-to-4-minute chunks of time.

For their purposes, The CBC has applied a very broad definition to the word design:

We are constantly shaping the world around us – crafting everything from new structures to policies. This season, The Current explores the many ways – good and bad – that design affects our lives. Whether we’re engineering the human body, a new technology, or a new way to educate children … it’s all “By Design.” (link)

Today’s interview with Visionary Bruce Mau was very interesting, and very well-worth listening to. (The link to listen is just beneath Mau’s photo on the linked page). As writers of music, you’ll want to see how and/or if the notion of songwriting syncs with Mau’s take on design. His discussion is very philosophical in nature, and may resonate strongly with those of you who approach musical composition from a philosophical point of view.

In any case, if you don’t have time to listen to the interview, the CBC has published Mau’s short one-page document called “An Incomplete Manifesto For Growth.” When I read it, it surprised me how applicable it was to the songwriting process, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with each and every statement.

Give the document a read, and feel free to comment below. To get you started, here are five statements from Bruce Mau’s manifesto. Do you agree with them? Do they apply to songwriting as you see it? What might you add to Mau’s 43 statements?

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

Definitely give the entire document a read and let me know what you think below in the comments.
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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

What Makes a Melody Resonate With an Audience?

Repetition, along with a carefully-placed climactic moment, allows melodies to make a strong connection to listeners.

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Singer-SongwriterIf you look at some of pop music’s greatest melodies — and by “pop” I mean the broader definition of anything written in the past century that was meant to appeal to the masses — you’ll find that repetition of ideas appears to be the most important feature.

When repetition is rampant within a melody, we might call it an earworm melody – something that gets in our heads and stays there, repeating itself in (often) an annoying sort of way. But even for melodies that we consider effective but not necessarily earworms, repetition is often a crucial component.

That’s true to varying degrees. A classic melody such as Arlen & Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow,” written in 1939, shows how repetition works beautifully if the musical ideas are repeated approximately — not exactly. The main feature is an octave leap that then steps downward. That octave keeps getting modified to something smaller, such that when you look at a line drawing of it, it appears to be a large ripple, with little “echoes” that happen afterward:

Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Melodic shape

The repetition of melodic cells makes melodies memorable, but also makes them attractive to us as listeners. We like the musical security that comes from hearing things that we think we’ve heard before, even if (some might say especially if) the repetition is only approximate.

But what are we to make of a beautiful melody such as the one Paul McCartney wrote for “Michelle“, from The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” album? A line drawing of that melody reveals a mostly wandering tune, where repetition is a much subtler characteristic:

Michelle melodic shape

In fact, comparing the melodies for “Over the Rainbow” and “Michelle”, you reveal the two most important characteristics that allows melodies to resonate strongly with listeners:

  1. short melodic cells that are constantly repeated in various ways, and/or
  2. melodies that feature a prominent climactic moment.

“Over the Rainbow” features the first characteristic, while “Michelle” demonstrates the second. The climactic moment that occurs in the middle of the verse is subtle. What makes us want to keep listening beyond the verse is the progression that ends it: Bdim – C; we feel “forced” to keep listening.

It’s in the bridge that follows where we get a strong climactic moment, on the note G. All taken together, that gives “Michelle” the following melodic shape:

Michelle melodic shape 2

So the melodic shape gives us a climactic moment that happens near the beginning of the bridge section. We get pulled along by the chord progression which provides an open cadence — one that needs some kind of resolution — at the end of the verse, and so we keep listening. Once the climactic moment happens, the melody begins a gradual descent until it’s back to the range we hear at the start of the verse. It’s beautifully done, musical symmetry at its best.

To create beautiful melodies that are going to resonate with listeners, you’ll find that you either have to make good use of repeated elements, or provide a strong climactic moment somewhere in the second half of the melody, or possibly both, as we hear with Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill“, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now“, and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”

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Written by Gary Ewer – Follow Gary on Twitter 

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Music Criticism: The Good and the Bad

The following is an excerpt from Gary Ewer’s “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music

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“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” Songwriting BundleGet the songwriting ebook package that thousands of songwriters are now using to take their music to its highest level of excellence. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle comes with a 7th free eBook, “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro“. Read more..

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Beating Songwriter's Block - Jump Start Your Words and MusicChapter 4: Thinking Like a Songwriter

from pp. 75-76: The Good and the Bad of Criticism

Criticism is hard to take for most people, even if it is well intentioned. Though you may say you write for yourself, it is more than just a bonus if others like your music. If you are trying to be a professional or achieve popular success, pleasing others is crucial. Additionally, it is an important aspect of the motivation to be a songwriter. If you want to improve, you need to develop a positive attitude to constructive criticism from knowledgeable musicians. However, if you’ve posted your songs online, you will find that some people can be unspeakably cruel in attacking your music. It may simply be that your songs don’t happen to “speak” to them. Expecting your music to appeal to everyone is unrealistic. The problem is that it’s incredibly easy for people to express any opinion they wish and post it for all, including you, to see. Online comments about something you have put your heart and soul into creating can make the blood drain from your face and completely sap your confidence.

Don’t let it happen. Stop reading destructive criticism. The comment area on sites that feature videos is meant to drive traffic to the host site, and is usually unmoderated. “Flame wars,” as they are called, draw larger and larger numbers of people into the fray, driving visits up, potentially providing advertising dollars for the host. Most of the time the comments on these sites are of no use to a serious songwriter. Even so, it is enticing to know the comments are there, and completely demoralizing to see your music savaged by people who have probably not even listened to a whole song. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but you will find precious little of that on an online video site. Yes, post your songs on these sites; it is the best way to build a fan base for your music. But don’t let online bullies tear down your artistic efforts. The greatest singer-songwriters in the profession at any one time have their lovers and haters. It has always been that way.

It is normal to feel a bit of apprehension at the thought of performing a new set of songs for the first time. For some, the stress of that situation will be exhilarating; for others, the anxiety over how your new music will be received can be debilitating, and harm the songwriting process. In his article, ‘Learning From Evidence in a Complex World,’ John Sterman, Ph.D, states that “the fear of failure, of appearing to have made a mistake, often stifles innovation.” While it usually helps to think positively in those situations, you might benefit from trying a somewhat opposite approach: tell yourself that your audience expects you to fail.

This does not work for everyone, and you will know immediately if you are the kind of songwriter who will benefit from this kind of negative point of view. But for some, there is an ego boost that comes from reminding yourself that others expect you to fail. After all, they have never really understood your music anyway, have they? They have low expectations for your accomplishments, but what do they know? You’ll show them! That is how it works. You hear the negative reinforcement in your mind, and almost immediately you feel your ego – your songwriter’s resolve – begin to grow. You feel a healthy arrogance appear as you determine to show everyone your artistic mettle. Bolstering your ego by imagining the dismissive attitudes of others can help snap you out of a creative block and supply you with the confidence you need to get back on track.

Purchase “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music” (hardcopy) on Amazon, or most other online and bricks-&-mortar bookstores.

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Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. $95.70 $37.00 (and you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

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