As songwriters we are really storytellers and mental movie makers. I think can all agree that when we hear a great song it takes us somewhere. Sometimes it is like time stands still and for 3 minutes we are watching a movie, or transported to somewhere else. Those types of songs are not easy to write, but with practice you can write those.
One way to help your listener get immersed and surrounded by your song is to make sure your song sections are doing specific jobs in setting up and advancing your story, and idea. As always, there are no hard fast rules, just tools that you can use in really any genre. This week let’s look at a guide that you can use in your next song that can help get the emotion and story communicated to your listeners. Your companions in your toolkit are you buddies, Who, What, When, Where, Why, How. Get to know these, and they will show up when you need them.
- First Verse: The job of your first verse is to set the situation. There are 3 components that are important here. WHO, WHEN, WHERE. You don’t always need all 3, but it helps. At least 2 should be established to give context for the rest of the song. Listen to some of your favorite songs. I can almost guarantee that right away you know at least 2 of those things. Usually this is accomplished through very descriptive writing. Keep it specific and conversational.
- PreChorus/Ramp: You don’t always need a prechorus, but the role it plays is to bridge some gaps between the first verse and the Chorus. Many times if you establish a situation in the first verse, your prechorus could answer the question of WHAT COULD BE DIFFERENT or HOW COULD THINGS BE DIFFERENT
- Chorus: The chorus is the WHY of the song. WHY do all of the details in the verse and prechorus matter? This is the emotional core of what the song is really about. It is the part of the song you want people to remember the most and sing along to. It can be very feelings and emotional centered, although many choruses still use imagery to establish emotion. Your Chorus really should not change much, if at all throughout your song.
- Verse 2: The scariest place to write for many writers! This does not have to be the case if you know the job the 2nd verse should be playing. In Verse 2, you do not have to give us the same information as in verse 1. We already know it. In fact you really shouldn’t. This is your chance to advance the story. You can dive deeper and move forward the WHO, WHEN, WHERE, or WHAT. Verse 2 should give us more information to make the chorus mean more when it comes around again. You can advance the WHEN, past, present, future or any order of those. You also advance WHO, Me, You, Us. You could also advance the WHERE, Car, Home, Bed, etc. Move the story forward, give us more to feel in the next chorus.
- Bridge: You don’t always need a bridge, but they can be a way to tie up your story even more. It can continue advancing the WHO, WHEN, WHERE, but one trick that I find helpful is to make the bridge say, WHERE DO WE GO NEXT? HOW DO WE MOVE ON? This helps me get some interesting ideas around my concept and usually it ties back nicely to what my chorus is saying. Try it!
- Verse 3: You don’t probably need a 3rd verse unless you have more to say in your story. Don’t just add it to add time to your song. Short songs are great if they are effective. If you feel that you need a Verse 3, then you should make sure it somehow advances or ties back to the other verses and the story line.
I hope you find this helpful. This has been a guide that has helped me write many o’ tune over the years. It is a great place to come back to when you get stuck in figuring out where to take some of your ideas.