How to tweak songs like a Pro

Writing songs is a weird thing! You pour your imagination into words and sounds and hope for those to transport the emotions you were aiming for!

This process requires a trial and error mentality and the courage to let go of control!

We cannot really control the process anyways! The best songs often come from an unconscious place! As though they were writing themselves!

And yet, once we have come up with a song we like, we should indead take back the reigns and look (or rather “listen”) to the song from an outside perspective!

Together we will look at 4 areas that you might want to alter, once you lend these areas your analytical brain!

So, this is our tweaking checklist for you:

1) Lyrics Lyrics Lyrics

Billie Eillish once said “Lyrics are underrated” and it is true! Good lyrics can make an average song super interesting! Likewise casual lyrics can make a great song turn somewhat superficial and boring.

To tweak your lyrics, do look at each line (verse by verse and then the chorus) and check for “imagery”, “unnecessary words” (less is more), the “amount of contrast and surprise” and, most importantly “authenticity”.

If you find that certain words are just fillers. Find a better ones! Do not compromise! Do not write half-heartedly! Ever!

2) Melody

The melody is the centerpiece of any song! Most people will get drawn in (or not) by listening to the melody! It either “strikes a chord” or not! So, what are some elements that make a melody interesting?

As with lyrics, contrast is keys! Make sure to use lots of variety between different song sections. This could mean combining sections with short notes , then followed by a section with longer notes. (e.g. very short notes in the verse, which will give it a fast paced feel, and then longer notes in the prechorus or chorus, so people can rest and indulge and celebrate these lines with you). You could also add contrast by using only major chords in the chorus, but then bringing in minor chords in the verses. You may want to start off the prechorus on a higher pitch than the verses, to add a bit of excitement. There´s many tricks that work! Find what works for your song!  Do not rest until something truly resonates with you!

One thing to specifically look into is: not always starting end ending every section on the root note! Play with some unpredictability! It is fun and can really add a special something to your songs!

3) Arrangement / Performance

In terms of arranging the song, do pay attention to the storytelling schemes applied  to songs in general. You will want to have a bit of a build up throughout the song! You will want to have lots of energy in the last choruses and you will want to break things up quite a bit with a “bridge”! To do so, try leaving instruments away in that area, that you have used in all other parts of the song!

To build momentum, you could add plenty of guitars to your choruses and make sure they carry the melody properly! Depending on your genre, you will want to have the vocals as a centerpiece or not! Either way, you should be aware of which instruments complement your voice (or the artist´s voice that is)!

4) Prosody

Prodody is the overall embrace that keeps your song together and turns it into one compelling entity! Prosody means supporting the same “statement” throughout all elements of the song! The melody should fit with the lyric, the lyric should fit with the genre, the genre should fit with the vocals, the vocals should fit with the melody again and so forth!

Let´s look at one example: Gabby Berrett´s song “I hope” expresses the hurt after a one partner cheated. A breakup song that is super powerful!

The lyrics in the first verse suggest that the singer hopes the other person falls in love! However, from the way the vocals have some edge to them and from listening to the guitar strums that seem to suggest “impatience and danger” you might already sense, that this is an ill-wish kind of song!

The song quickly moves into the chorus (no pre-chorus to prepare the  listener to what is about to come). Like is the case with rage and jealousy in real life scenarios, she just spills it all –  merciless and hastily!  There are many quick notes and many words in the chorus lines…because the emotions are built on anger and deep hurt that needs to be released!

In Verse 2 she´s no longer pretending! She´s very straight and honest.

The bridge is very interesting! Very calm and almost a bit vulnerable! That state when you seem to accept it! But no! Not yet! There comes the chorus again! Another explosion!

The arrangement, the lyrics, the melody all come together beautifully!

I hope you get the concept! Happy tweaking everyone!

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