A third key to writing a better song is to have a clear structure. This doesn’t mean you have to always follow verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus – in fact, I’d encourage you to be creative in the layout of your song if that’s what sounds good. But don’t leave your listener confused or lost with endless verses or an extra bridge when, frankly, the song should be done. The “keep it simple” rule applies to song structure too.
Keep your song to 2 or 3 melodies – a verse melody, a chorus melody, and possibly a bridge melody. You can vary the melody from verse to verse or chorus to chorus – but don’t stray too far. Envision your song as a conversation or speech – both musically and lyrically. The chorus is the “point” you’re trying to make. The verse is an explanation or example of the point. The bridge introduces something new or an alternative view. If you’ve made your point, explained it, and introduced something new – stop there. You’ve said enough – to say more is redundant. It’s like explaining something to someone and then after they get what you’re saying, you start over and say the exact thing. They’ll think you’re a jerk who talks too much. The same goes for song structure.
Just like a clear and concise presentation is effective for a public speaker, a clear and concise song structure will get your point across and be much easier to listen to.
A Final Word
I realize that none of these tips are earth shattering new ways of writing. That’s because it really doesn’t take a lot to make a good song better. These tips are just common sense reminders to have fun, be deliberate, and don’t overdo it.
So often my job as a producer is really just editing – it usually boils down to a simple process:
1. Listen to the song.
2. Determine what’s great about the song and the artist and bring that to the front.
3. Determine what’s not-so-great about the song and bury or eliminate it .
4. You’re left with just great stuff and all that’s left is to enhance the greatness.
I also realize there are tons of other ways to make good songs better and I hope to share more of them soon. If you have comments, tips, or questions, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonah Brockman is an independent music producer and engineer dedicated to empowering songwriters with the resources they need to make great music. Visit jonahbrockman.com for more information, rates, and work examples.