Prosody in Songwriting 101

Prosody in Songwriting 101

Life is full of interesting questions. Why is the sky blue? Can Russian Twitter bots really swing an election? And where do broken hearts go, Whitney? Where? But today, let’s stick to answering something more practical: What is prosody? And why should you spend the next ten minutes of your life reading about it?   What is Prosody? OK. First things first. Prosody is a big deal in songwriting. A really big deal. It affects how well your song is understood. It affects how enjoyable your song is to listen to. And, believe it or not, it plays a pretty important role in helping people decide whether you’re a dope songwriter or just a dope, period. And while the concept of prosody isn’t widely understood, it’s actually pretty simple. Simple enough, in fact, to tell you what it is in a single sentence: Prosody in songwriting means making sure your words and melody fit well together. This comes down to a really important principle of all art, not just songwriting: in general, in a work of art you want all the parts working together to achieve some larger goal. You want the hills and the sky and the sheep to add up to ‘Pastoral Landscape’. You want the car chase and the hapless heroine and the cheesy catchphrase to add up to ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger movie’. You want the peppy tempo, uplifting lyric and last-chorus key change to add up to ‘Classic 90s Pop Song’. Prosody is like this on a smaller scale. Whether the melody or the lyric comes first, you want to end up with a situation where...
Five Different Ways to Start Your Next Song

Five Different Ways to Start Your Next Song

One of the most exciting things about creating new things is that there are lots of ways of creating new things. As I talk about in The Art of Songwriting, a song is made up bit by bit and piece by piece. It doesn’t matter which bit you start with. It doesn’t matter which bit you end with. As long as you keep going until all the bits are in place and working together, it’s all good. That’s why most writers hate the question ‘What is your creative process like?’. Because as any of them will tell you, there is no the process or my process or your process or the one true process to rule them all. There are as many different ways of creating something new as there are new things to create. And it’s in your best interests to keep that process different. It helps you write differently every time. It keeps you fresh. It keeps you interesting. And while personally I’m a big fan of figuring out what your song is about before you start to put the rest of the pieces together, that doesn’t mean that’s the only way to write. Here are five different jumping-off points you can try when you start your next song.   1. Start with a title Write down thirty or forty different words or phrases. See which ones sound intriguing. See which ones start conjuring up a world beyond just that word or phrase – and see where they lead you. Let the one word or phrase grow into a couple of lines of lyric. Keep building from there. Soon...
How to Present Lyric Sheets, Lead Sheets and Band Charts

How to Present Lyric Sheets, Lead Sheets and Band Charts

Don’t get too excited. It’s time for post containing what I like to call Dadvice. You know what I’m talking about. Advice that’s mostly mundane but eminently practical. The kind of resent precisely because you know it’s worth bearing in mind. Our subject is how you present your work. It’s no secret that the most important thing is doing quality work, but presentation is important too. Imagine your bank writes to you in Comic Sans. Imagine your doctor turns up in sweatpants. Imagine that limo you hired arrives covered in a fine layer of dirt. Presentation counts. It’s a stamp of quality. It’s a subtle way of showing what you value. In songwriting well-presented work says ‘I’m proud of what I make’. It says ‘I want other people to engage with what I make’. It says ‘I’m a professional and value presenting myself well to other professionals’. Wholesome qualities pertaining to Dadvice of all kinds. When you’re putting your work either before a professional who might be able to open doors for you or before musicians and singers who are going to perform and record it, it’s in everyone’s interest that they’re focusing on your work and not the way you’ve presented it. And that’s what good presentation does: it’s done so well you don’t notice it. You feel that mark of quality. In fact, when I coach a new writer, 90% of the time I can tell almost instantly what stage they’re working at from a quick glance at how their work is presented on the page. Professional work goes hand in hand with professional presentation. It’s especially important for getting your work performed. Time is always tight in rehearsal or in the studio. The more...
Music Is the Most Direct Route to the Soul

Music Is the Most Direct Route to the Soul

Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought. E. Y. HARBURG Music is the most abstract of the arts. It affects us not on an intellectual, rational level but on a deep, instinctual level. It washes over us and affects us deeply and emotionally in ways that are difficult to explain. Think about the times a beat has got you tapping your feet before you even realized it. Or the way music is used in movies to heighten every kind of emotion you can name. Music is the most direct route to the soul. That’s its power. That’s how it affects us. It says nothing specific and yet touches us in ways we can’t find words to express. Our challenge as songwriters is to create music which expresses, in this deep instinctual way, something that matches what our lyric is trying to say. Unless there’s a specific reason otherwise, we want the music and lyric to say the same thing, albeit in different ways. When done properly, the music and lyrics add up to something far greater than the sum of their parts. Think about Don’t Stop Believin’ and how those sturdy rocking piano chords which hold strong, drive forward and remind us not to lose faith. Or I Will Always Love You and the way the simple music lets the singer bare her soul. Or how virtually every melodic line in Gaga’s Poker Face is somehow holding something back, like a blank expression. Or the way Faithless’s Insomnia stays up all night. You probably have your own examples – most great songs do this in one...
Verse-Chorus Structure 101

Verse-Chorus Structure 101

Structure in songwriting is all about the sections your song is made out of – how those sections repeat and fit together according to some kind of grand masterplan. And while there are lots of structures a song can take, some are more popular than others. This article is about one of the most popular – Verse-Chorus Structure. We’re going to look at the different parts that come together to form a Verse-Chorus Structure: what they are, how they fit together, and what the point of writing a Verse-Chorus Structure is anyway. If you’re a regular reader of my articles here at The Song Foundry, you’ll know I’m not really into giving you quick tricks and tips that might make you feel good in the short term but don’t really help you understand how to be a better songwriter in the long run. But if you’re a regular reader of my articles, you’ll also know that I’ll throw in a handful of cheap jokes to keep you going right to the end. That said, if you’re short on time because you’re out and you just realized you left your hair straighteners on, or you just read a ‘Life Is Short’ meme on Facebook once and took it a bit too seriously, that’s OK. You can check out our short video on Verse-Chorus Structure on the video page instead, or just skip to downloading the one-page summary of this article here. Otherwise, if you’re still with me and ready to dive head-first into this comprehensive guide to Verse-Chorus Structure, let’s do it.   Verse-Chorus Structure in a Nutshell Soon enough, we’ll talk about...