The Art and Skill of Writing a Song
7. The Home Stretch: The Completion Phase
Constructing the song:
By now youíll have lines, fragments of verses, some musical ideas, riffs Ė like a jigsaw that youíve just started and you donít have the picture on the box. Itís time to kick the left brain up a notch.
Start arranging and rearranging the fragments (lyrics and music) into a likely order and work out whatís missing.
- Consider whether some lines are worthy of repeating, for example a good hook line might be the last line of each verse, or it might be the focal point of a chorus.
- Some songs repeat the first line of the song as the last line to give a "this is where we came in" feel.
- Don't get hung up on that great line or rhyme if it ends up not serving the song. Stick it in your journal for another time and delete it from your song if it doesn't fit anymore.
- Melodies are less important than you might think. There are many, many songs that share essentially the same melodic structure but are never recognised as such (He's So Fine/My Sweet Lord is a rare and expensive exception!). Folk songs, especially, use tunes that are easily assumed. It's the whole package of lyric/melody/delivery that makes a song unique. Invariably your lyric will imply a melody: follow it and see where it leads.
- For the time being, don't worry about whether or not to repeat the last chorus or to make a key change in the last verse. These are "arrangement" considerations and can be done to any song at any time when working them up for performance.
- Sometimes two verses maybe enough. A good, short song is always better than one that's been padded out for sake of making 3 minutes.
This is the point where we have to do some active thinking (left brain), experimenting with lines that will link fragments, editing for redundancy, rhythm and feel.
Completing the Song:
Itís not the purpose of this exercise to consider song structure. And for the purposes of our songwriting practice it doesnít matter either. What matters is that we have something with a beginning, a middle and an end. Set a time limit and do whatever it takes to finish it Ė however corny or strained. Remember: itís about practising the craft from beginning to end.
- Record it to your minidisc, computer or manuscript.
- Label it, date it and archive it.
- Do it all again tomorrow.
Next: Starter Ideas
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