Songwriting Technique: Brainstorming by Accenting Words in your Title

Hi Songwriters! 

This week’s songwriting tip is about using your title to brainstorm ideas. Titles hold many bits of info that can help you write some really cool songs. If you haven’t written with a title first, you are missing out on a wide variety of tools that you can use to write some great tunes.  

Today we are going to look at accenting each word in the title to find hidden meanings, lyrical twists, and word play. So what the heck do I mean? Well remember that language and words have stressed syllable patterns. These patterns allow us to learn languages based on the actual melody of speech. Accenting syllables and pitch changes in speech tell us when ideas begin and end. It creates a flow that we use to understand what is being said. How we accent words holds meaning. This is why when we hear a language we don’t know, it sounds like they are talking fast. We are not used to the accents and the language traffic cops.  

So what does this have to do with songwriting? Well, our songs will be more believable and express more meaning if we follow the natural stresses and accents of language. If you accent incorrectly, your song can sound insincere. We will be exploring accenting syllables and using the rhythm of language to brainstorm melodic motif ideas in our monthly workshop next Thursday night 9/10/20 at 7 PM via Zoom.  

Today we are going to look at accenting whole words. Putting more emphasis on words in your title can actually open up a whole list of ideas for your songs. Let’s take a look at an example.... 

Let’s use this title: Running to You 

This title gives some info right away. I bet you already have some ideas of your own. But what happens if we accent, or put emphasis on each word. Here is an exercise you can try with your titles to see if it gives you new ideas. I will accent each word and share what it could mean. You may have other ideas. How you do this exercise is to accent each word one at a time and see what it makes you feel.  

RUNNING to You - This seems to imply  that you are not walking. You are not waiting. You are running.  

Running TO You - Emphasis on the TO. This implies that you are not running away. You are heading straight to this person. It gives a bit of a suggestion that you may have been going away at one time.  

Running to YOU - Emphasis on YOU. This changes the meaning a bit to imply that you could run to others, but you are choosing this person. 

Now try that with your title. It is a great brainstorming tool to give you ideas on how you can develop your songs. It also gives you clues on how you should phrase your title melodically. If you are accenting a word, it should usually fall on the strongest beats in the measure. IN 4/4 time, there are beats that can be your secret weapon in making your songs pack some emotional punch. How you place your lyrics to beats really matters. It is all about the body language of your song, also known as prosody. How you say things is as important as what you say. 

Chad Shank 

Education Director - MN Association of Songwriters

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