Learn from a Song Mentor
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What is a song, really?
A song is story put to music. The songwriter’s job is to create a song, sometimes by themselves; sometimes in collaboration with other songwriters, composer and singers to create the melody that combined with the lyrics becomes the song.
If you have original songs running through your head and are trying to figure out how to take your songwriting skills to the next level, you should consider working with a songwriting mentor. A songwriting mentor is a professional songwriter who is willing to share their expertise, talent and experience with someone like you—a novice when it comes to the business of songwriting, but talented enough that with the right tutelage can be transformed into a professional songwriter.
Just like books have chapters, songs have sections that each contribute in their own way to telling the story. These sections can be arranged in different ways to become the song structure. It’s always a good thing to understand the “rules” before you break them, and your songwriting mentor will start you out with an understanding of the basics of these song sections.
Each verse of a song has different lyrics from the preceding verse. Together the verses help move your story along.
The chorus is usually the song’s major theme or big idea. Usually, the title of the song is part of the chorus. The melody for the chorus is usually the catchiest part of your song. The chorus is usually repeated several times in a song.
The pre-chorus comes between the verse and the chorus and serves to transition into the chorus. It is also called the lift or build.
The bridge is an outlier. It’s distinct from the rest of the song and helps keep the song intriguing. While verses and the chorus may show up several times in a song, generally speaking the bridge makes one appearance.
The refrain is a repeated section of the verse and usually is the first or last thing in the verse. It often replaces the chorus and usually includes the title of the song.
The hook is the catchiest part of your song. It’s usually the chorus or refrain of your song.
Once you’ve grasped the purpose behind each section of a song, the next thing your songwriting mentor will impart to you is the song structure. There are three common song structures to start with.
Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus. This is the structure behind Radiohead’s “High and Dry.” A common variation on this structure is to repeat the chorus a second time at the end of the song.
Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus. This is the structure used in Kate Perry’s “Firework” where the section that starts with “You just gotta ignite the light” is the pre-chorus.
Verse-Refrain-Verse-Refrain-Bridge-Verse-Refrain. This is the structure in the Beatles “We Can Work It Out” with the refrain being the lyric “We can work it out” and the bridge section starts with “Life is very short…”
What a Good Songwriting Mentor Can Teach You
A good songwriting mentor will make sure you understand the purpose of each of these sections and song structure styles and their importance in telling the story within the song while keeping the audience engaged with the melody of each section. In other words, be prepared to spend some time with your songwriting mentor to gain a thorough understanding of the basics of songwriting.
Now comes the fun part—adapting these basics to your songwriting style and musical expressions. The rules and the basics can serve you well; after all Radiohead, Kate Perry and The Beatles were pretty successful with songs that followed these basic structures. Additionally, the audience expects songs to follow certain patterns and if you deviate too much from them you could alienate your audience. This is where your songwriting mentor can be of enormous help. As Jean-Luc-Godard, a famous filmmaker and screenwriter once said, “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.” Your songwriting mentor can help you to musically and lyrically tell your story in an unusual way, a way that can define your songwriting style and still resonate with your audience.
If you are ready to take the next step in songwriting and a songwriting mentor sounds like the right direction for you, contact the Recording Connection. They have numerous programs from Hip Hop to Rap to Alternative Music to Electronic Music (and more) that teach aspiring songwriters like yourself through a mentor/extern educational model.
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