Writing great songs that people will have stuck in their heads for months is by no means easy. It requires creativity and inspiration, but even with both of those at your disposal, you may still be struggling to write songs that have that memorable feel. It may be that you’re simply overlooking the basic elements of songwriting, and by having a better awareness and understanding of these, you can take your songwriting to the next level!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top songwriting tips for memorable tracks that even the most seasoned songwriters use when putting together new music and lyrics.
Compose a catchy melody
If making a song memorable is the priority, then look no further than the melody. Millions of songs share the same three- and four-chord progressions, but only some have that special something that makes them stick in our heads. More often than not, the answer is the melody, making it one of the most important parts of the songwriting process. The catchiest of melodies tend to move in what is known as a stepwise progression, up or down either a half or whole step, with the occasional large leap up and down a larger interval. It is also advisable to have a focal point, often a high note in the melodic passage that acts as an anchor for the rest of the melody.
Build your song around a riff
Riffs can come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you play the guitar, piano, bass, or are a non-instrumentalist, you have riffs at your disposal that can anchor and carry an entire song to make it that bit more memorable. As a result, building your song around a catchy riff is one of the best songwriting tips you should learn as a songwriter.
Use all types of chords
No one remembers music that sounds like everything else out there, which is why you should experiment with using all types of chords - major, minor, dominant, diminished, and augmented. If you only stick with the same few chords you’re comfortable with, then you’ll be significantly limiting what you can do with your songs. Instead, take the leap and try out some chords you are less familiar with and you might just end up with something more complex and interesting.
Create a memorable rhythm
No matter the genre, many of the catchiest and most popular songs ever made stand out because of a rhythmic motif. Find out for yourself - stick on one of your favourite songs and notice how a funky or syncopated rhythm is often the catchiest part of the track. Use this as inspiration and bear in mind the importance of a memorable rhythm when writing your own songs.
Write something you can play live
With the wealth of impressive music production software available, songwriters are able to create studio-quality music recordings from home recording studios or even bedrooms. Whilst these tools are great for recording, you should also consider how you would play the song live and whether it will retain the same level of catchiness. Many record company executives are looking for artists who are able to connect with live audiences, so your music should be just as, if not more compelling than the recorded version when played live.
Write songs away from your instruments
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that you should write your own songs holding a guitar or sat at the piano. While this may often be the best place to start when writing your own music, it may actually cause you to fall back on the same old ideas and leave you short of inspiration. Instead, put the instrument down and try writing rhythms and melodies in your head. If a good idea comes to you, sing it into a voice recorder or phone and then return to your instrument and start working out how to use them instrumentally.
Get creative with the song structure
Nearly all songs contain some of the following elements: intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, solos, outro. Stand out from the crowd and challenge yourself to create a song that does much more than switch repetitively between the verses and chorus. If you aren’t comfortable with experimenting too much with song structures just yet, at least try the well-established structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. Once you are happy with that, why not change things up and swap in other elements to make your song more unique, and therefore more memorable.
Be spontaneous yet structured with lyric writing
Writing lyrics is one of the hardest parts of songwriting. The key is to have a plan for your lyric writing process, but don’t forget to leave room for discovery along the way. For example, you should know broadly what the song will be about, or it may be that you already have a title and some lyrical ideas already down on paper. The important thing to do is to just let the lyrics come to you and don’t force it if they don’t feel natural. Don’t be afraid to use lines or words based on the fact you recognise them or associate them with something but aren’t entirely sure if they fit in the context - interesting lyrics will be far more memorable.
Make use of rhyme
Using rhyme is one of the most effective ways of making song lyrics catchy and easy to memorise. However, it isn’t an absolute necessity for a song to be memorable, and if an idea cannot be adequately expressed in rhyme, then it is always best to follow the idea, not the rhyme.
Learn tricks to cope with writer’s block
All songwriters struggle with writer’s block at some point - it’s an unfortunate inevitability that can be very frustrating. The way to cope is to learn to break through using any of the tricks that work for you. For example, if you usually write the music before the lyrics, why not try doing it the other way around? Do you normally play around with chords and then improvise a melody off the back of what you hear? Try and come up with a melody or riff in your head without picking up an instrument before going back to see if it works on an instrument. If both of these techniques don’t work, you could also try and write a song on a new instrument or a genre that’s unfamiliar to you. Moving out of your comfort zone is often a great way of kickstarting your creativity.
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