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On Songwriting: Task Avoidance Times Two

Nowadays, I write instrumental music. I enjoy the challenges and flexibility it allows. However, when I was writing lyrics, there were two things I always tried to avoid because I saw them as impairments—even in hit songs! See if you agree.

1.) References to Technology

I think as songwriters and composers most of us would ultimately like our music to endure for as long as possible. One quick way to shorten its lifespan is to reference technology in your song. Technological innovations change at such a rapid rate that your smartphone, laptop or whatever device you are crooning about could easily become antiquated in a very short time. Unless you are really committed to making a contemporary social statement that you don’t mind being trapped in the annals of time, why limit a song that’s newly born? Give it a chance for a future!

2.) Excessive Repetition

Used sparingly and with purpose, repetition can be a wonderful thing within a piece of music. It causes a listener to eagerly anticipate the return of a musical phrase or texture. There are always exceptions though. Consider the Police song, "Message in a Bottle". That coda about sending out an S.O.S., repeats approximately 24 times! I would say it works in this context though because it’s building and conveying a sense of urgency (or emergency), and there is an emotional drive sending it forward. It has meaning within the song. Now, consider Pharrell Williams’, "Happy". This song could have easily trimmed a minute of time and not lost anything. It goes on so needlessly. There is nothing worse than hearing something repeating without purpose. Some may argue that the purpose for repetition is to make it stick in someone’s head. I think if it is memorable and engaging, listeners will want to hear it again. But they should be the ones to control that…via a repeat button.





Comments Section

The I am not a robot verification is quite annoying.
My first comment is that I am making a comment at this time....because I can! Secondly, it's good to see some of your thoughts on songwriting and very good to supply links to the 2 songs you used as examples. Cheers!

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