Repetition is important in songwriting

Songwriting

How does songwriting work?

When it comes to songwriting, there are countless tools and tricks at your disposal. Find out here what they are and how you can use them in your songwriting!

Rhymes

Almost all more or less successful rock, pop, country, soul, folk and whatever songs use the possibility of rhyming. Even if, for example, modern poetry has long since said goodbye to rhymes, songs cannot be imagined without them.

The very few examples of strong songs that became hits even without rhyme can be counted on one hand. Even after thinking about it for a long time, only "Losing My Religion" by REM, "One" by U2 and "I'm So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying" by Sting come to mind.

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Why are rhymes so important?

For our brain, the connection between melody and rhyme is on the one hand easier to remember than pure text or pure melody, and on the other hand it is stimulating. And ideally, it is precisely this combination of easily noticeable and stimulating that leads to a hit. Ultimately, for us as songwriters, the why is not as important as the how.

We can rhyme only one syllable (night - right) or several (tonight - do right, treat you right, meet tonight). The longer the rhyme, the greater the number of rhyming syllables, the more complex the information our brain has to process, but the more original it also appears.

A song that consistently and consistently uses very complex, polysyllabic rhymes can quickly become tiresome. But this is largely due to the fact that these polysyllabic rhymes often seem a bit constructed.

But if you mostly deal with very simple, frequently used rhymes (night / right, you / do / true / blue), then a longer rhyme used at a crucial point in the song can have a strong effect.

We can use perfect rhymes (night / right), almost perfect rhymes (lights / right) and sometimes it even works to only contain the same vowel in the rhyme syllable (mine / right). But be careful: in addition to the text, the rhyme also conveys a meaning. Here's an example:

 

Holding you tight felt so right it was a perfect night

 

Despite the uninteresting text, the message comes across because it is reflected in the perfect rhymes. Here, however, it doesn't work so well:

 

You turned out the lights then you were mine it was a perfect night

 

Although the text tells of perfection, the listener doubts this representation. The listener feels that the imperfect rhymes run counter to the content of the text. You can also take advantage of this effect of imperfect rhymes, as the next example shows.

 

I loved you for so long now everything feels wrong

 

Your reaction? I suspect a shrug. Not a single line that knocks you off your feet. The alternative:

 

Since you've been gone everything feels so wrong

 

Maybe not a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature either, but at least the claim that everything feels wrong is reflected in the very imperfect rhyme gone / wrong.

Like all tools, this isn't a tool that you have to use all the time (the only must is to write an interesting song), but in the more exposed parts of your song it is wise to examine whether your rhymes make sense in relation to textual content.

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The alliteration & the alliteration

The rhyming tools also include the Alliance, the so-called alliteration. Alliteration means using the same initial sound several times in a line or in consecutive words.

Because of the repetition of the D, "Dancing In The Dark" is a much stronger song title than, for example, "Moving Rhythmically In A Dimly-Lit Environment". It is often worthwhile to look for possible alliterations in the song title / in the chorus / in exposed places.

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Rhyme scheme

Most pop music is about four-line or six-line stanzas. In four-line stanzas we have different options:

 

  • you can rhyme lines 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 (AABB)
  • or 1 & 3 and 2 & 4 (ABAB)
  • or 1 & 4 and 2 & 3 (ABBA)
  • or just rhyme lines 2 & 4 (XAYA).

 

These alternatives have very different effects on the listener. Take a look at this example:

 

I don’t need to pretend A

this has got to end A

 

A self-contained train of thought. The tension that follows, and thus the incentive to continue listening, is limited. If now follows

 

I've had enough of you B.

you and I are through, B.

 

then the gain in knowledge is limited. Another closed sentence is appended to a closed train of thought. An alternative would be this:

 

I've had enough of you A

I don’t need to pretend B

you and I are through A.

and this has got to end B

 

In this example, after two lines, the thought has not yet come to an end. The fact that the listener is still waiting for the rhyme creates a certain tension - completely independent of the content. This curiosity about what follows is only satisfied after four lines. These four lines now have an inner connection and form a stanza (this is reinforced by the word "end" as the end point).

This is not a plea to always rhyme ABAB. It's just meant to tell you what effect different rhyme schemes produce.

As with the example of the rhymes, variety is also an effective means of keeping the song interesting with rhyme schemes. After a longer ABAB sequence, it might be a good idea to link the core message of the song very closely with one another in two consecutive lines. Our last ABAB stanza example could now be followed by a CC rhyme as the climax. For example:

 

So please don’t ask me to be friends I don’t ever want to think of you again

 

So you should always ask yourself whether you want to get a flow at this point in your song or whether a train of thought is concluded here - for example at the end of a song part. It should also be clear to you that rhymes on consecutive lines create a closer connection than a rhyme between lines 1 and 4. And, the further apart your rhyming words are, the clearer your rhyme should be. I mean:

 

Night

Babble babble

Babble babble

Right

 

obviously works better than

 

mine

Babble babble

Babble babble

Right

Here, “right” can hardly be recognized as a rhyme for “mine”, the sensory memory in the brain has already faded.

Of course, the rhyme and the rhyme scheme are not the only components that determine this. The melody of the song also plays a major role in this. But other textual tools are also available to you. In the next workshop we will therefore look deeper into the toolbox and deal with tools such as line length, sentence structure and onomatopoeia.

Remember: As with Grandpa's toolbox, it is not important to always use all tools at the same time. But you should know what they can do and when you can and should use them. Have fun writing your songs!

Learn more about songwriting from someone who knows how to do it in the video: Ed Sheeran ...

Text: Markus Rill

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Songwriting with a guitar: how do I start a song?

Can you actually learn songwriting with the guitar? And what helps in a creative crisis if you really just want to break off? The musician Luca Sophie Reinartz gives you an insight into her technique and explains how she goes about songwriting with the guitar.

In the video, Paul McCartney tells how the Beatles went about their songwriting:

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Why am I even writing?

There are musicians who at some point simply pick up the guitar or sit down at the piano and then things take their course automatically. But there are also songwriters who sit down with a clear goal and say: “Now I'm going to write a song.” I myself belong more to the kind of musician who have found their way into songwriting very intuitively. Without worrying too much, when I was 14 I grabbed the guitar and wanted to sing.

At first I tried my hand at cover songs, but since I'm a very impatient person, I quickly lost interest in them. Either the chords were too difficult or the pitch wasn't right. So I discovered out of necessity that it is much faster and easier to write your own songs. At the time I had no idea what would become of it.

Often I was too lazy to write down my songs and some good ideas were surely lost as a result. But my expression was spontaneous and free and helped me through my emotional chaos in many situations. To this day, writing songs is an outlet for me to express myself and to get clear about my feelings.

Everything that has to do with the public, with concerts and CDs comes much later and has very little to do with my songwriting. That does not have to be that way. You can also write for a specific project or on a given topic. Or maybe you think about who should like the song and what you want to achieve with it right from the start.

In the video, Slash explains how he approaches new songs:

Sometimes it is good to ask yourself why you are writing in the first place. In my opinion there is a deeper reason why people make music. With music we can express our creativity, describe feelings and experience a special form of beauty and aesthetics. Between all the pressure to perform, the business and the money, you shouldn't forget that the creative process itself is the most valuable and beautiful thing about music.

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How are songs created?

My recipe for a new song is an empty head, a vague feeling and a place where nobody can listen to me. Then I just grab a few chords and start singing something. I am often asked what comes up first: the theme, the melody or the chords? It is always different for me. Often it is only when I am improvising that I realize what the topic is.

Or I sing in a fantasy language because I can only think of an interesting melody. Sometimes I only play one chord progression for ten minutes, which I find particularly beautiful. I often put the guitar down after a short while without a good idea. This is completely normal. Sometimes I'm just angry or sad and have to vent a little. I know a lot of musicians who like to write with others, but that doesn't work for me. I really have to be alone to feel free. Then I can really let off steam and scream out loud, laugh or just cry. For me, this is part of the creative process.

Dave Grohl tells in the video how he became a songwriter:

It doesn't matter to me what I do or whether something comes out of it. As it is, it's good. Then I am like a child who just plays and is amazed. Sometimes it happens that I write down a few ideas even if they are not really songs. It's always worth it, because I often use the same chords or a certain line of text again later. It also happens that an entire song is created within ten minutes. Complete with text and all the trimmings. This moment, when a song is really fresh, is the most beautiful for me. I then play it over and over and am happy about it.

Still, I am careful not to rate my songs at this stage. I just write it down and make a small sound recording with my cell phone as a reminder. Only much later, sometimes weeks or months, do I dig everything out and decide which songs are good and which might be put on a CD. Then I can take my time to fine-tune it, write a third verse or reconsider the chords.

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One final songwriting tip

No matter how many songs you have already written, how much theoretical knowledge you have, how musical you are or how many CDs you have already recorded - songwriting is always an experiment. For me it is very important to free myself from expectations and plans every time.

If you stay open and let things come your way, even if they are different than planned, you have exactly the freedom that creative processes need. If you let yourself be guided by your intuition, your own songs can tell you a lot and become a communication with your own self.

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Luca Sophie Reinartz °

Luca Sophie Reinartz is a singer, guitarist, musician. Not only does she write her own lyrics and music, but she also shoots professional videos and organizes concerts. Luca is basically involved in all matters with her creativity. On her two albums, I Don’t Think So ‘(2012) and, Tiefseetaucher‘ (2014), she can be seen sometimes in English, sometimes in German, sometimes straight and loud, then touching and sensitive. The circumstances in which it was created are as individual as music. In this new workshop, Luca describes her path to her own songs. Not as a safe universal recipe for post-composition, but as a facet of this great topic.

Further information: luca2music.com

Click here for the second part of Luca's songwriting workshop.