This blog is the place to learn about all things you + music. And what better way to do that than by getting insider tips from professionals in the music industry? We know you don’t just want to hear us blab all day, so we feel extra lucky to know a few pros that can give you handy tips & tricks.
Alison Lewis has given us tips on recording equipment, Peter Gorges has shown us the inner workings of UJAM styles and how to make great-sounding styles (see part II of Peter’s style posts, and more tips & tricks too). And we’ll continue to post blogs from other people that we think are just really cool (Remember Wendy’s blog?).
But we’re especially excited to introduce you to someone new today, and it’s a guy who’s got major experience in the music, songwriting and education world:
Meet Gary Ewer, and our first installment of Gary’s Column on the UJAM Blog.
Gary Ewer received his B.Mus degree in Music Composition from Dalhousie University in 1982 and is just finishing a senior instructorship at Dalhousie before devoting himself more fully to composition and trumpet playing. Plus, he says, he wants to do more writing, especially on his blog called “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” which offers incredible tips for songwriters and all those interested in learning practical music theory. His career has been mainly in the teaching of music at all levels of education from grade school through to university: music theory, ear training, composition, arranging and orchestration.
Gary’s main interest growing up was in pop music, although his university training was mostly classical. (He credits English rock bands like Genesis and Yes, and American rock band Chicago as his main influences.) Far from abandoning his interest in pop, he sees how pop songwriters and classical composers are all attempting to do the same thing: compose musical works that take listeners on a coherent musical journey. His interest in the relationship between the pop and classical worlds eventually led him to write a text for songwriters (“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” – it’s more than just a blog!) that analyzes hit songs in much the same way a classical musician would analyze a symphony: by showing writers what works, why it works, and how to use those same kinds of ideas in their own music.
Despite being very busy, when we asked Gary to write some tips & tricks tailored to our UJAM community, he was excited to jump on board. So, without further ado, we’re handing it over to Gary, who’s already written an introductory post to get you started right away:
Creating a Song That Really Works
A few short years ago, the thought that you could bring up your web browser and create a high quality song within mere minutes, complete with a great band backing it up… well, it was unheard of. Songwriters from a generation ago would have been blown away by the amazing songwriting opportunities UJAM gives us.
UJAM, however, can only work with the melody you give it. So to make your online experience on UJAM really successful, it’s important that you understand some of the basics of what makes great songs great.
The following tips and tricks will help you understand what most hit song composers have known for decades, things that have made their songs so successful.
1. Give your songs a strong sense of form.
Form is the word we use to describe how songwriters organize the various sections of a song. There are many forms can use, but by far the most common form is:
Verse 1 – Chorus – Verse 2 – Chorus – Bridge (Middle-8) – Chorus – Chorus…
2. Lyrics need to be properly organized.
You may not have noticed this before, but the kind of lyrics used in verses are not generally the kinds of lyrics used in choruses.
Here’s a quick summary: Verses are where the singer describes a situation, or a person, or tells the audience what’s going on. The chorus is where the singer tells the audience how they feel about it.
That’s a crucial difference. So you’ll see lots of emotion coming forward in a chorus, emotions based on what the verse describes. In a bridge or middle-8 (which is optional) a singer goes back and forth between describing situations and quickly expressing an emotion.
A great song that shows these different song sections, and shows those different characteristics of describing things and expressing emotions is Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” Give it a listen.
You’ll notice that she describes the situation in the verse, then describes how she feels about things in the chorus. In the bridge, she goes back and forth between telling the story and expressing emotions. It’s a great example.
It’s amazing how much you can do with a song once you know what makes it work. We’ll give you some time to digest Gary’s first post here, and we’ll be back more of Gary’s column and his tips & tricks for creating a song that really works. Stay tuned!