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A Resource for the Aspiring Vocalist

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How do Songwriters tell Stories?

When we perform a song as a vocalist, we have not only understood what the song is about, but we draw from our emotions and personal experiences to deliver the story of the song to our audience. Of course many vocalists write their own songs, and benefit from the advantage of a first hand connection with the lyrics.

But that is not all, as a songwriter or composer we have the power to tell our story in the way we want, unfolding details of the narrative one by one leading our audience to an experience that leaves room for interpretation only as much as we desire. This is achieved not only through our writing style of the lyrics, but being of the same weight by applying a structural form to the musical flow of our song that supports a specific way of storytelling.

Just like with an image the composition in music is key for the story to unfold.

Just like with an image the composition in music is key for the story to unfold.

The Process of Songwriting

But how does a song come into life? As songwriters we develop strengths and specific affectations on how we create melodies, harmonies, rhythm, and words. There is no one way to breathe life into a new composition, but a myriad of possibilities on how we can approach a new song. Fact is, that we usually start with something that we are confident at, may it be playing an instrument, programming a groove, or writing down our emotions and ideas. For that reason it is of great benefit to know our strengths and to use them for our advantage. And of course we seek to advance our toolset of abilities and knowledge by studying and through practice.

So should we care on how we write our songs?

Of course we should, but if we are going to change what we already do depends on a few considerations, and whether or not we understand one (or more) of the songwriting tasks as a challenge.

A songwriter who starts with lyrics may be challenged by creating an interaction between lyrics and the melody and harmony. Antedating the creation of melody and rhythm may resolve this and lead to a new sound. A songwriter who writes music first may be short of the fitting words. Listening back and using the mood of the music as inspiration for a topic or concept may be key to success. A vocalist who creates melodies and lyrics in lack of playing an instrument may have trouble in creating a rhythm that grooves. Implementing rhythm and harmonies during the writing process may resolve the issue.

Another way to resolve challenges during songwriting is to team up with another songwriter whose strengths should lie within your weakness so that you can complement each other to the benefit of both.

Song Form

Beside the creation of melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics, the consideration of song structure is a very important factor in the song writing process, especially because the structure of the song becomes the vehicle that will tell your story to the listener.

Composers and songwriters therefore construct their music out of formal sections called parts in an attempt to tell a story. Those parts have names like per example the verse, chorus, bridge, etc. The way these sections are placed to build the structure or architecture of the resulting song is called song form. In modern popular music a limited number of layouts for the placement of these sections have become a standard repertoire for storytelling.

Find out how songs are compiled out of formal sections, and learn about the different song forms and the possibilities these provide for song writing through our article "Song Forms and Storytelling" at