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October 13, 2013

SongwritingIt’s been a while since I’ve written a “helpful” blog. This last while, I’ve been mainly unlocking these dungeons in my head and releasing the demons. Today I’m going to give you my perspective on song writing, something I’ve been doing and trying to get better at for many years.

A lot of times, the hook/chorus/refrain will come to me before the verses–sometimes after. Most of the time, I get 4 to 6 lines into the first verse and realize I’ve written the refrain.

The refrain/chorus/hook is many times an intro to the song or, more likely, it is a repeating theme to support the verses. Yeah, that’s what it is. Once the refrain is done, the verses can be built upon it.

For instance, the refrain to my song “Hear the Child Scream” (posted previously) is:

“Why can’t you hear me, when I’m screaming out for you
Why can’t you love me, I might’ve loved you too
Why do you beat me, is it not enough for you
That I’ve lost everything, including sight of truth”

This refrain is no intro, it is a repeating theme. The verses tell you why the child is asking these questions, and also contain questions themselves.

“…Tell me where do you go when you’ve lost everything?
Do you find a way to try and make it again? …
I’m whittled down to my wit’s end …”

That’s verse one leading into the refrain.

Verse two begins:

“You make me lie so you’ll believe… you make me realize that I’m in need.
You scar my heart, you rape my mind, you beat my soul ’till I go blind
I’m just a child and I’m asking why…”

I was lucky with this song because it was one of those that grew stronger as each verse progressed and the refrain was repeated.

The second verse ends with the child being robbed of all the things a child needs and his future being murdered:

“Robbed of my innocence, robbed of my youth,
Robbed of my love and robbed of the truth.”

This line reflects the first line– “Make me lie.” Then back into the refrain.

The third verse, I really love. I like these last two verses more than the first, but the first is requisite and just as special to me. I just love the way the song progresses in the story and also vocally. (Since you haven’t heard it sung, you can’t appreciated it that part.) It reaches a peak then tapers off at the end with the first two lines of the first verse.

Do you see how it all ties in though? It’s telling a story, and the refrain reinforces the verses–is sort of all three verses in a “nutshell.”

I usually do a 4 to 8 line refrain and repeat once or twice, whatever is better for the song. I never repeat the refrain more than twice before the end of song. And then I like to try to throw in some sort of twist, reverting back to a soft-spoken fade out of the first two lines after the angry refrain.

My verses are usually 12 to 16 lines, but these things can and do vary.

Well, I can’t explain the process to you in great detail, but I can give you an idea. Just start with an idea and boil it down into 4 lines and you’ve got a refrain, then expand on, explain, refute, whatever the idea in your verse. I’ve written one or two one verse songs, a lot of two verse songs and a few three verse songs. You’ll notice my songs’s rhyme a little more than my poems sometimes, but not always. I know this isn’t much, but while it’s pretty clear in my mind how to write a song, this is as well as I can explain it right now. I hope it’s given you at least an idea of how it is done.

From → BLOG

One Comment
  1. Nice informational post. There is a lot of overlap between poetry and songwriting, for sure. I’ve written one “song”–but without much of a music background, I just can’t “hear” it. It’s like trying to read in the dark. But it was funny because it suddenly just came to me in one sitting, the whole thing at once, the chorus and repeats and all. Maybe someday I’ll post it. Peace, Jason


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