Join Tony's Mailing List

Get notified about songwriting events and gigs.

Who Should Win The Argument In Your Song?

When you have a team working together, especially a talented one, not everyone’s going to agree. A lot of different ideas fly around. Ideally, at some point there will an agreement that one idea is the best one, and that’s the one that ’wins’ – the group goes with that.

This is often how successful songwriting collaborations work. Don’t settle for good; go for best.

A song itself is similar, whether written by one or several.

Taking some of the main moving pieces of a song… To make a point, let’s say we’re dealing with a song’s structure, the melody, and the lyric.

Once the song gets rolling, there’s usually at least a basic idea of how these parts will fit together – for example, each section has a certain amount of lines, each line has a certain number of melody notes (usually matched by syllables), and it all fits into the larger structure that contains the song.

But these pieces don’t always fall into line together. Sometimes a lyric line that really feels right and says what needs to be said is too long or short for the melody that’s already in that spot. Sometimes, often if the lyric comes first, the melody that seems right doesn’t quite fit those words. And sometimes in places the lyric and the melody can outgrow, or undershoot, the planned structure of the song.

This is when, I think, the ‘best idea wins’ comes in handy. The most important thing is not for the song to be ‘correct’ or ‘well-written’. It’s that it has maximum power and impact.

So if the lyric line is really that good… you can stretch or shrink the melody to fit it.  If the melody is the most powerful thing… well then the lyric length can give a little. And if all of this affects the overall structure in some way… then the structure can bend. As long as it doesn’t break – structure really matters and sometimes keeping its consistency is the best thing one can do.

What I’m describing here can also be an excuse for lazy songwriting. Why bother making anything fit if you can just change things at will… in order to not have to work hard at the carpentry?

That’s not the idea. The idea here is to come up with a bunch of ideas for the song that are all good. And then, if there is a place, as there usually is, where something has to give… don’t be inflexible. Let the best idea win.

Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below:

argument-cartoon

 

And please share on facebook etc. by clicking these tabs

2 responses to “Who Should Win The Argument In Your Song?”

  • Hi Tony,

    That’s a really powerful point, and one I’ve butted up against many times. Everything has to be as strong as you can possibly make it. Listeners pick up on those weaknesses every time, intuitively if not intellectually. You have to be fearless about confronting that stuff, even if you can point to someone else’s song where the same thing works. My experience is the spot where you had a nagging doubt it might be better is exactly the spot where the person you’re sitting across a desk from starts to drum their fingers and looks at their phone wishing it would ring. Laziness is the enemy, and if a song’s 99% of the way there you have no song.

Leave a comment