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:





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.

Songwriting 101: Waves

Welcome to the second installment of my Songwriting 101 series where I dissect and explain the rationale behind the art of writing music. Today I’ll be going over a new Electronica song I recently wrote titled “Waves.” Let’s get started.

Waves is a slow tempo song that keeps a steady pace of 75 BPM. Slower tempos are often associated with styles like ambient, jazz, and soul in addition to some newer electronica genres such as downtempo and chill-out. These styles are frequently known for their relaxing and sensual feel. And this was exactly my aim while creating Waves. Electronica music, more than any other type, often begins with defining the tempo before doing anything else.

After deciding on my tempo of 75 BPM, I began to build a core foundation with a groove. For Waves, I decided on forming a groove around a simple drum beat and synthesizer. This core foundation is than repeated throughout the rest of the song, with the exception of a quick break in the middle of the song from (1:29 – 1:42).

With the core foundation created, I went on to form a song structure. I ultimately decided on going with a very simple structure of ABAB. For this song, “A” represents verse and “B” represents chorus. The reason for choosing this simple structure was because of the amount of instrumentation I planned on adding to the song. As a general rule of thumb, when I plan for 4+ instruments, the better it is to keep the song structure simple. In contrast, with less instrumentation, I like to make the song structure more complex to compensate. For Waves, I used 10 different instruments (including my voice) in total for the piece.

With the song structure in tact, the next step was to decide on how I wanted to define the verse and the chorus. After all, what’s the point of creating a song structure if there is no difference between the parts? Here’s how I broke the two parts down:

Verse: The verse is defined by the build of instrumentation. The beginning of each verse begins with the core foundation (groove), and gradually adds instrumentation every two bars. The end of the verse is recognized only when the entire set of instrumentation plays simultaneously (0:51 and 2:33).

Chorus: The chorus is defined by the simultaneous instrumentation and the vocal lyrics (1:04 and 2:46). The end of the chorus is recognized when the bass begins to play by itself (1:29 and 3:11).

I should also note that there is a short outro at the end of the song. The reason why I would still classify the song as ABAB over ABABA is because the length of this part is insignificant and it doesn’t fit with how I categorized my verses. For this reason, intros and outros (unless significant parts of the song), shouldn’t be included in the song structure.

Finally, let’s look at the lyrics:

Idealistic, utopian dream
The Sun and the moon blend into
Pools of emotion, A feeling waves
Can’t you see everything I do?

Like I mentioned in my first Songwriting 101, lyrics should make the listener curious. For this song, because of the minimal amount of lyrics, I really wanted to paint a picture in the listeners head. In order to do this I used several descriptive words like “idealistic” and “utopian” with words that everyone can relate to like “sun” and “moon” and “emotion.” As another general rule of thumb, I purposely like to be more vague for songs with a lot of lyrics because there are more words to play with. For songs like Waves that have few lyrics, detail is king.

Hopefully this 101 has been of some use to you. Make sure to check out my previous article Songwriting 101: Goodbye and to follow my blog for more songwriting tips. Thanks for reading!