Nuts & Bolts (Quite Literally…) and Music

The best songwriters are the ones that experience music in the most ways.

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Nuts and bolts - MusicFollow me on this one:

Every once in a while, I sit back here in my office and look around me at everything that’s been made by some company (and not by one specific individual). My lamp, lightbulbs, computer, printer, phone, headphones, synthesizer, trumpet, camera… Even my bookshelf, floor covering, door knobs and pencils. About the only thing in my immediate vicinity that wasn’t constructed on some sort of assembly line is the layer of dust that’s been accumulating on the less-used things.

Two hundred years ago, if we were to look around, we’d find that most things in our rooms would have been made by someone we knew. We’d likely have been making those things ourselves, and if not us, we’d probably find the individuals who were making candles, brooms, door knobs, window coverings, picture frames, fence posts, and most of whatever other stuff we would use in our daily lives.

It’s fascinating to consider that from our position in the 21st century, most of us don’t really know how to make anything. We know how to buy things, but not how to make them. And when you look at the people who work on assembly lines to create the computer product that you’re reading this on right now, they don’t actually know how to make a computer. They know how to attach the one or two things that they’re responsible for, and that’s about it.

Does anyone have all the knowledge for any one thing anymore? Is there anything in our lives for which someone can say, “I know how that’s made, and I can make that, from scratch.”? The list would be very small. Maybe that’s why Wikipedia is our go-to as a beginning step to understanding something. At least with Wikipedia, we can read something for which every contributor is that person on the assembly line: an assembly line of knowledge. And we like and value that.

But there is another area for which we can get close to claiming that we know how it works, and can “make” it ourselves: music.

The more you know about music, and the more you learn about all the different aspects of it — composing it, performing it, recording it, selling it, and otherwise communicating it — the more you can say, “I know how it’s made, and I can make it from scratch.”

The reason I’m bringing this seemingly obscure metaphor up — the metaphor of music being something that gets assembled in the same way that other things in our lives get assembled — is that it’s been occurring to me more and more these days that the best songwriters out there are the ones that experience music in the most ways.

Here’s how that works: the more angles from which you experience music, the more those different angles inform your understanding of music, and the better your songs become. Though it’s a generalization to say so, songwriters who perform are usually “better” than songwriters who don’t. They know something that non-performers don’t, and it improves their output.

Metaphorically, performing songwriters become two people on the musical assembly line.

If you’re always looking for ways to improve your songwriting, my suggestion would be to look for ways to involve yourself in aspects of music that “look in on” songwriting from a different angle.

And what are those ways? Here’s a short list of musical activities that can improve your own music:

  1. Produce someone else’s songs or recording. Helping other songwriters make musical decisions is a great way to help your future self.
  2. Play on someone else’s songs. Doing this allows you to see music purely from a performer’s point of view, without the pressure of wondering if your song needs fixing.
  3. Go to concerts with a critical ear. A critical ear is not a negative standpoint; it’s often a positive, “why does this sound so good” kind of experience. In the midst of an exhilarating performance, ask yourself what you like, and what you might do differently if it were up to you.
  4. Help someone with their own songwriting. Seeing how someone else is attempting to communicate musical ideas can add to your own pool of ideas, and that’s how music grows and develops.
  5. Help someone rehearse their band. Sit back and listen. Do you like what you hear? What can you tell them that will improve what they’re doing?

All of the activities above have one thing in common: it’s not your song that you’re working on. So that takes the pressure off you, to a certain extent, at least as it pertains to songwriting.

And each activity allows you to experience music from a slightly different angle, and a slightly different set of responsibilities. Each angle and each responsibility allows you to become more than just one person on an assembly line. As you improve your musical experiences, you become a writer, a producer, a rehearsal coach, a critic, a teacher and a better composer.

Few of us may know how to make a bookshelf anymore these days. But as a songwriter, you can become that person that sees and understands your industry — songwriting — from many different positions, and eventually become most or all of the people on the musical assembly line.

And your music will keep getting better for it.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Finding Alternatives to the IV-Chord in Your Song

Replacing a IV-chord with something different: How that’s done.

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“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle (plus a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”) is written by Gary Ewer, designed to straighten out your technique and get you writing better songs.

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Piano keyboard with musicSpending time experimenting with substituting chords as you work out your songs can be musically very satisfying. With very few changes you can take a progression that sounds common and predictable, and turn it into something that might be a bit more interesting to you.

It’s often wise to at least start with a progression that’s predictable as a starting point, because predictable usually means that it’s been done before, and so you know it works.

Let’s take the following standard progression (given in C major):

C  F  G7  C
I  IV  V7  I

It’s one of the standard 3-chord progressions that’s still considerably popular for songs in most of the pop genres.

I’ve written before about how to replace V chords and I chords with other alternatives, but in this post I want to focus on the second chord of the progression: the IV-chord. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with IV, but let’s look at some other options.

I’ve divided those options into two lists: 1) Naturally-Occuring Options: chord alternatives that stick to chords we usually see in C major; and 2) Altered-Chord Options: chord alternatives that look further afield and delves into the world of chords that don’t naturally occur in C major.

Naturally-Occuring Options

  1. C  Am  G7  C (I  vi  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be an A, C or E)
  2. C  Dm  G7  C (I  ii  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be a D, F or A)

Altered-Chord Options

  1. C  Ab  G7  C (I  bVI  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be an Ab, C or Eb)
  2. C  Bb  G7  C (I  bVII  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be a Bb, D or F)
  3. C  Fm  G7  C (I  iv  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be an F, Ab or C)
  4. C  D7  G7  C (I  V/V  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be a D, F# or A)
  5. C  Db/F  G7  C (I  bII6  V7  I) (NOTE: the melody note should be a Db, F or Ab)

A few extra notes about the progressions above:

  1. You’ll notice that the suggested chord substitutions only include chords that accommodate a note from the IV-chord. Since you’re working out replacements for the IV, it’s assumed that your melody note would already be working with a IV-chord. That’s why, for example, you don’t see a iii-chord listed as an option.
  2. The suggested options could also accommodate added tones. For example, looking at the first option, you could have Am7 instead of just Am.
  3. Finding substitutions for the IV-chord doesn’t prevent you from also looking for options for the V7 or even the final I-chord.

You’d be surprised how these simple alternatives to the IV-chord can add personality and character to your music. In that respect, any chord substituting can and should be done carefully, to be sure that the result is in keeping with your musical intentions.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Looking Backward to Get Melodies Working

One way to work out song melodies is to identify the basic range as a starting point.

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“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle (plus a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”) is written by Gary Ewer, designed to straighten out your technique and get you writing better songs.

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SingerIn the previous post, we looked at the value of working backwards in songwriting, starting with lyrics, and then moving on to chords. Now let’s take a look at song melodies and see if working backwards can help us there.

It doesn’t work as well to literally work backwards when writing melodies, but there is one important thing you can do: work out a melodic range first for your bridge (which will often contain your highest notes), then work out a range for your chorus, and then finally for your verse. Here’s how that works:

  1. Work out the chord progressions for your song, one for the verse, one for the chorus and one for the bridge.
  2. Improvise melodies as you play through the progressions. Don’t worry if you don’t come up with anything earth-shattering at this point. It’s most important just to get the sense of a song, a mood, and a feel.
  3. On a piece of paper, write down your highest note, then find the note that’s four notes lower, and write it down in front of that note. So if G is your highest note, you’ll have written D-G. That’s the note range you’re going to aim for in your bridge.
  4. Now write down the note that’s a major second lower than your highest bridge note, and then precede it with a note four notes lower. In our example, you’ll have just written: C-F.
  5. Now write down the note that’s a 4th lower than your lowest chorus note, and precede it with a note four notes lower. That gives you: D-G.

So here’s what you’ve got:

  • Verse Range: Low D to G.
  • Chorus Range: High C to F.
  • Bridge Range: High D to G.

Now, that in no way means that you can’t stray out of those ranges, and in fact, you’ll probably want to. But it helps as a reminder that most of your notes of your verse should stay lower, in the D to G range, with some possibly moving lower and/or higher, particularly as it moves from verse to chorus.

By working out the ranges this way, backwards from the bridge, you’ve got a great way to keep control of vocal energy, and that translates to solid melodic direction.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Goal-Oriented Songwriting: Chord Progressions

You can strengthen chord progressions by defining a goal and then working backwards.

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Guitar duoYesterday, we looked at how to work backwards with lyrics. We saw that getting the chorus lyrics working first made it easier to work out verse ideas. Now let’s look at chord progressions.

A chord progression, at least of the type that you’ll find in most songs of pop genres, focus in on one particular chord as a tonic — a kind of anchor. So it makes sense to start with that all-important chord, and then find a chord that moves well toward it. Now you’ve got two working chords; time to look for the chord that will move well to that one, and so on.

A particularly good way to do this is as follows… Let’s assume your song is in C major, meaning that the 7 chords you’ll use are probably going to come mostly from this list: C Dm Em F G Am Bdim.

  1. On a piece of paper, write C.
  2. Now write the chord that’s 4 notes lower: G. You’ve now got a progression: G C.
  3. Now write the chords that’s 4 notes lower than G: Dm. You’ve now got: Dm  G  C.
  4. Keep going in this way until you’ve got a progression that’s about as long as you think you need. If you do the preceding steps two more times, you’ll have this: Em  Am  Dm  G C.
  5. Now stick the chord C at the beginning of your list. That gives you this: C  Em  Am  Dm  G  C.

You’ve worked out most of the progression in reverse. Now play it forwards, and it gives you something you can either use as is, or modify for your own use.

As you can see, the progression you’ve come up with is the standard circle of fifths, and it forms the backbone of many songs in pop music. Don’t worry about the predictable nature of this progression. As I say, it serves as a good starting point, a point from which you can branch out to design more creative progressions.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

How and Why Goal-Oriented Songwriting Works: Lyrics

How working backwards in the creation of lyrics helps to intensify anticipation.

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“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle (plus a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”) is written by Gary Ewer, designed to straighten out your technique and get you writing better songs.

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Music-songwriting studentGoal-oriented songwriting means doing a lot of working backwards as you compose. By writing in reverse direction, you do the following:

  1. Establish a goal first, and then…
  2. Create the bit that leads toward the goal.

So that’s the “why” of this topic. How to do it is where you want to put some thought.

For each component of a song — lyric, chords, melody, etc — how to work backwards will be a little different. For this post, we’re going to look at an easy way to keep control of your lyrics, by working out chorus ideas first, and then looking back to what a verse might look like.

In the next two posts over the next two days, we’ll then look at how to work out chords and then melodic ideas in a backward sort of way.

Writing Lyrics Backwards

Starting with the chorus means developing the emotional response first, and then writing a sequence of words that would lead to that display of emotion.

An easy way to practice this is to start by looking through hit songs, checking out the chorus first and then moving back to look at the verse. Suggestions:

  1. Here Comes the Sun” (George Harrison – The Beatles) (Chorus starts the song).
  2. Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye) (Chorus starts at: 1’33”)
  3. A Thousand Years” (Christina Perri)  (Chorus starts at: 1’01”)

Looking backwards like this gives you a unique perspective on what makes lyrics work. For most listeners, a song is all about its chorus — about the emotions. By looking at the chorus first, you focus in on what makes the song connect so well. Then moving back to the verse let’s you see the verse as a generator of the emotions yet-to-come.

The more songs you analyze in this way, the more obvious it becomes that the big secret of getting song lyrics to work is to establish a framework — a story — as a first step, and then to present lyrics that tap into the emotions of the listener.

Lyrics that start with an emotional outpouring in the verse, without the listener having a chance to understand what all the drama is about, leaves nothing for the chorus to do except: more emotional outpouring!

So if you’re the kind of writer who needs to start describing emotions right away, just consider the strong likelihood that it’s the chorus you’re actually writing. Your next step is to look back: figure out what has happened to allow this emotional release, and now you’ve got a good verse-chorus combination that’s going to work for you.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Getting a Grip on Song Melodies

If you’ve learned one thing as a songwriter, it’s that song melodies change as a song progresses. What often passes as a good verse melody won’t necessarily do the trick for a chorus melody.

If writing melodies has been the part of your technique that needs the most help, it might be best to stop what you’re doing, take a breath, and then do a bit of reading.

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“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook BundleThe Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle (plus a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”) is written by Gary Ewer, designed to straighten out your technique and get you writing better songs.

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I’ve written hundreds of posts that deal with song melodies: how they work, what an audience is expecting, and how to make them memorable and singable. Here’s a list of five posts I’ve written over the past year that can help you deal with whatever frustrations you may be going through right now.

(Each link opens in a new browser window or tab)

  1. Using Chords to Get Song Melody Ideas. Like a good set of chords, good melodies need a sense of purpose and direction.
  2. Can The Shape of a Song Melody Affect the Mood of a Song? Try these steps for isolating your song melody to see what kind of mood it’s really conveying.
  3. 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.
  4. It’s Always Been About Melody. I still believe that melody is the most important aspect of any good song, and it’s always been that way.
  5. Using Strong Beats to Help Add Chords to a Melody. If you can tap your foot, you can add chords to a melody line. Here’s how.

And if you haven’t ever tried writing a song by starting with the melody, you really should try it. You’ll find that one of the benefits of this approach, ironically, is that it helps to develop your understanding of chords.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

5 Tips For the Song That Just Won’t Fix Itself

Here are some ideas for fixing that song that just never seems finished.

Songwriting frustrationDo you have a song in your own personal catalogue that’s finished but just doesn’t sound right? Every once in a while you dig it out and sing through it, but it just lies there like yesterday’s porridge.

Everything seems right, but you can tell there’s something not working. And every time you sing through it, you hope you’re going to have a sudden revelation, something easy and obvious to fix or change. But you put it away again, and try to get going on something new.

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If that song is always sitting there in the back of your mind, here are a few tips that might help you home in on what the problem might be.

  1. Consider each song element separately. I’m usually fond of reminding songwriters that successful songs are the result of a partnership of elements: lyrics, melodies, rhythms and chords all working hand-in-hand. But in order to figure out what’s going wrong, you need to do what car mechanics do: look at each part separately first, and make sure they’re all in working order. So do the following:
    1. Play through the chord progression with backing rhythms. Do you like what you hear? Does it work for you?
    2. Sing through the melody with no accompaniment whatsoever, just as a solo melody. Do you like it? Can you hear contour? Does it have a climactic moment (likely in the chorus)? The best melodies will have a discernible shape, often like an inverted-U: low to start, higher in the middle, then lower just at the end. Even without that common shape, is there something about the melody that lends itself to being drawn like a line?
    3. Read through the lyrics. Have you used common, everyday words that anyone would understand? Do you start with narrative-style “this-is-what’s-happening” kind of statements, and then move to emotional lyrics in the chorus?
  2. Don’t make your intro overly long. Most intros work best if you can start verse 1 by the 15-second mark.
  3. Don’t take too long to get to the chorus. Most choruses will start anywhere between the 45-second and 1-minute mark.
  4. Is the story interesting enough? A love song is simply a category, not a story. If it’s just “I love you” dressed up with fancy words, you may need to create a more enticing story.
  5. Is the song the right length? One of the trickiest things to get right about popular songs is the length. Remember, you’re taking the listener on a musical voyage, but it’s a short one, usually 4 minutes or so in length. If your song is too long, it may not have the energy to sustain that length. Look for ways to shorten up ideas, cut a verse, or shorten a bridge.

One of the best ways to solve a problem with a song is to play it for a musician you trust. You need someone who can listen and communicate their thoughts to you, however brutal they might be, in a concise and respectful way.

That’s why producers are especially valuable. They have talents that allow them to zero in on what the problem with a song might be. So find someone who can act as a temporary producer for you, and describe what weaknesses they’re hearing in the song.

And when all else fails, put it away and start a new one. There’s nothing wrong with having a few songs that never see the light of day. As you build your catalog of great songs, no one is ever going to ask you, “So… how many songs have you never finished?”

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Connect with Toontrack – Share Your Songs

Guitarist - SongwriterFor the past couple of weeks, Toontrack has been featuring a celebration of songwriting, showcasing songs by writers like you. If you don’t know about it, here are the details:

  1. Check out Toontrack’s “I’m a Songwriter” web page.
  2. Upload your song(s) to SoundCloud.
  3. Share it in social media with the tag #IMASONGWRITER.
  4. Send your SoundCloud and/or social media link to songwriter@toontrack.com

Toontrack has been regularly showcasing songs on their site as well as their own social media channels. It’s a great way to possibly build a larger audience base for your music, and to reward you for those years of hard work!

Be sure to tag your songs with #IMASONGWRITER, upload to SoundCloud, and then let Toontrack know.

Check out Toontrack’s website for all the details.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

Gary is also the author of “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“, published by Backbeat Books.

A Chord Progression to Brighten the Mood

Here’s an easy way to make 2 key changes as you move from verse to chorus.

Piano Guitar Bass chording instrumentsIt’s a very common technique for songwriters to move from minor to major as they move from verse to chorus. A classic example is Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend“, the verse for which is in F minor, switching to the relative major, Ab, in the chorus.

That goes hand-in-hand with the mood of the song. The verse lyric starts “When you’re down and troubled/ and you need some loving’ care…“, and the minor key suits it well.

The switch to major in the chorus supports the brightening of the mood of the lyric: “You just call out my name/ and you know wherever I am/ I’ll come running…

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There’s another key changing trick you can try, which is to switch from minor to major while still in the verse, and then move that major key even higher, to a new one, in the chorus. That means that the song goes through a total of 3 different keys. Here’s what that would look like:

Key change suggestions

The key of C minor cloaks your music in a darker, broody mood. The key of Eb major is the relative major, which means that it uses the same key signature as C minor. Moving from minor to relative major, for that reason, is usually an easy transition. Then the switch to F major for the chorus has the effect of lightening the mood all the more, and it can do a great job of supporting lyrics that start gloomy and get cheerier as they go.

For this C minor-to-Eb major-to-F major key plan, here are 3 chord progressions that would fit the bill:

  1. Verse: Cm  Bb  Ab  Fm | Cm  Bb  Ab  Fm | Eb  Ab  Bb  Cm  | Eb  Ab  Csus  C  | Chorus: F  Bb  Gm  C…
  2. Verse: Cm  Fm  Cm  G  | Cm  Fm  Ab  Bb  | Eb  Bb/D  Cm  Ab  | Eb  Fm  Ab Bb  | Chorus: F  C  Dm  Bb…
  3. Verse: Cm  Gm  Fm  Bb  | Cm  Gm  Fm  Bb  | Eb  Gm  Cm  Ab  | Eb  Fm  Bb  C  | Chorus: F  Dm  Bb  C

As you can see, the only tricky part is getting the key of Eb major to transition properly to F major. Whatever you wind up doing, just be sure that the last chord of your verse is one that moves smoothly on to F major.

The best use of this kind of double-brightening technique is to put your verse in the minor key, use the relative major for your pre-chorus, and then the next major key change for the chorus.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

How Good Does Your Demo Need to Be?

 You should see your demo as being every bit as important as your final product.

mixerIt used to be that a demo was rather rough around the edges. As long as you were giving the producer and other personnel the idea of the basic workings of the song, you were fine.

These days, demos really need to be well-written and well-recorded. The evolution from rough to polished happened hand-in-hand with the evolution of technology. Nowadays, it’s possible to make a very fine recording in the comfort of your own home, as you likely know.

If you don’t know how to do a professional-sounding recording, there’s lots of info online that can guide you.

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“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle (plus a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”) is written by Gary Ewer, designed to straighten out your technique and get you writing better songs.

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But what exactly are you looking for in a professional demo? Good demos don’t just refer to the quality of the recording itself, but the quality of the songwriting as well. Here are 7 characteristics of a great demo:

  1. The recording quality is very high. Even freeware, like Linux MultiMedia Studio or Sound eXchange (SoX), can get you where you need to be with this.
  2. The song has a great hook. Songs that really make a connection to listeners are ones that have that short, catchy, rhythmic idea, usually found in the chorus, and lots of fun to sing.
  3. It makes good use of repetition. Hooks are a demonstration of this, but even beyond the hook, you’ll find that the best songs use either exact or approximate repetition as a main important structural feature. Exact repetition is self-explanatory, but what about “approximate” reputation? The Beatle’s “Fool On the Hill” is a great example of a short idea that keeps getting repeated in an approximate kind of way.
  4. The lyrics are well-structured, and interesting to listen to. Remember that most lyrics will move from descriptive (verse) to emotive (chorus).
  5. It has a great chorus melody. Verse melodies can wander up and down as they attempt to help the lyric describe the scenario of the song. But chorus melodies need to be tight and repetitious, often with a climactic high point, and definitely fun to sing.
  6. It has an engaging energy build. Songs typically gain energy and momentum as they move along. So use everything you’ve got — volume, number of instruments, background vocals, increasing rhythmic activity — to help build song energy.
  7. The song’s been really well-performed. If the performance is weak and unmusical, it doesn’t matter how good your song is. Listeners will be distracted by wrong notes, weak sense of rhythm, or boring instrumentation.

In the final analysis, you should treat your song demo as if it’s the final product. Take great care, get lots of advice, and listen to the end product with as much objectivity as you can muster. Once your song is in the hands (ears) of industry personnel, you don’t get a second chance with it.

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Gary Ewer

Written 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.  (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

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