Songwriting 101: Lovedrug

Today I’ll be going over a song I wrote a couple years ago titled Lovedrug. This particular piece is a great example of how simplicity in songwriting can be effective. It uses the popular I, IV, V, vi chords which I previously discussed here. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading that article first in order to get a better understanding of chord relationships and why these chords work so well together. Let’s jump right in!

Lovedrug is in D# Major and is divided into two main sections using the following chords:

Verse: D# Major (I) – A# Major (V) – C Minor (vi) – G# Major (IV)

Chorus: D# Major (I) – C Minor (vi)

These chords can be very tricky to play on guitar, but there’s something we can do to make it more straightforward. We can place a capo on the 8th fret which allows us to play these chords in the open position. This makes the song easier to play because it allows us to use basic chord shapes. In practice, you could then use the following shapes:

Verse: G Major – D Major – E Minor – C Major

Chorus: G Major – E Minor

For those that are unfamiliar, these shapes look like this:

chordprogression2

 

 

 

Something to note is that we can easily transcribe songs to a different key while still using these same chord shapes by simply moving the capo up or down the neck. The reason I chose to use the key of D# Major (8th fret capo) for this particular song was because it was the best fit for my vocals. It’s often a good practice to experiment with your songs in different keys. While inexperienced singers may be limited with the keys they can use, it can provide a great deal of flexibility and even new ideas for how singers can perform the melody.  For Lovedrug I also experimented with using G Major and A# Major throughout the songwriting process.

Next let’s look at the song structure. I would categorize this song as ABABCBBC. Looking at each letter: A represents the verse, B represents the chorus, and C represents the bridge. My favorite part of Lovedrug was the chorus because the melody was particularly catchy, and therefore I wanted to emphasize this part of the song. To do this, I simply made it the most prominent part by repeating it four times in total. The only difference between the bridge and the verse is that the bridge uses a guitar riff instead of the verse melody.

Finally let’s take a look at the lyrics and melody:

I love to watch you squirm
Every time you lie
Feel the way it hurts

You get me high then you bring me down
Don’t know why I ever stick around
Hate to say, hate to say it now
Just a drug, just a drug, just a drug to me

Why did the fire die?
I want to watch it burn
Every single time

You get me high then you bring me down
Don’t know why I ever stick around
Hate to say, hate to say it now
Just a drug, just a drug, just a drug to me

The song is about an addiction to an unhealthy relationship. It highlights how we irrationally glorify the honeymoon phase with a partner and use it to justify lies and bad behavior. The lyrics are simple and easy to understand, but often times that’s exactly what a song needs to demonstrate its message clearly. I think I can accomplished that with this song.

For the melody I started with the simple idea of walking up a scale for the word “high” and walking down the same scale for the word “down.” After trying several variations I finally came up with the one I liked most. From there, I made several iterations of it and eventually picked one that ended up being the verse melody. Melody writing is often just coming up with 20 different ways to sing a single word- and then ultimately picking your favorite and expanding it.

Well that about wraps up Lovedrug. If you take anything away from this lesson I hope it’s that simplicity can do wonders with the right touch. It’s something you should always consider during the songwriting process because you may regretfully add too much. Thanks for reading.

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3 Tips For Writing Stronger Melodies

Writing a strong melody is arguably the most important aspect in creating a popular song. It also happens to be one of the most difficult. Often times this is one of the key reasons that prevents a good band or musician from reaching the limelight and their full potential.

One of the best ways to improve your own melodies is by looking at and identifying the melodic characteristics of some of the most popular songs over the last century. By dissecting these songs we can begin to understand why those melodies are so damn good and catchy.

After performing surgery on dozens of songs over the years I’ve come across a few consistencies between many of them. Here are 3 tips for writing stronger melodies:

1) Use Wide Interval Leaps

One of the most classic examples of using wide interval leaps is found in the song Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Notice the interval between the first two notes of the word “somewhere.” This interval is actually a perfect octave. This makes the melody stand out right away because it’s unexpected to the listener. Using wide interval leaps tastefully can help compliment the smaller leaps and turn an average melody into an outstanding one. This is a great technique to make the chorus shine, but don’t be afraid to experiment with it in other parts of your songs.

2) Develop a Rhythmic Theme

Paul McCartney is the master of developing rhythmic themes. One of my favorite examples of this is The Beatles song Eleanor Rigby.  Listen to the theme of the main phrase of the tune (“Eleanor Rigby picks up the..”). You’ll notice it’s broken up into an unusual length of 5 measures that uses a pattern of “1 + 3 + 1.” This strange combination gives the songs melody a very unique and stylistic feel. You can incorporate this technique into your own song by breaking up your melody into simple pieces and experimenting with various combinations in different orders.

3) Implement Color Tones

Color tones are pitches added to major or minor triads to extend the shades of either the major or minor tonality. In a C triad for example, a color tone might be Cmaj7 or Cmaj9. By adding color tones to your melody,  it provides richness to the song. One of the most popular examples of this is Radiohead’s High and Dry. You can hear the color tone note when the singer sings the word “high” during the chorus. The note isn’t within the chord that is being played, but it doesn’t sound like the note is wrong either. By adding color tones to your melodies, you can add a lot of texture which makes the song come to life.

Hopefully these tips were of some use to you. Cheers and happy writing!