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So you wanna be in a rock band?: Creating music with mass appeal part II

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | November 27th, 2006



Cont’d from last week...

Additionally, your song needs to be able maintain the listener’s attention all the way through. Add solos, riffs, bridges, breakdowns, and highlight each of your instrumentalists’ individual talent. Keep switching it up so that the listener becomes entranced, dying to know what’s coming next. But, be careful not to go overboard with your verses, as above all, your chorus should be the section that sells the song.

When it comes to writing songs with mass appeal, writing a champion chorus is by far the greatest feat, and it definitely takes time to master. Eventually, songwriters are able to develop their own style, but not without years of practice and experimentation. Despite this, understanding the following general principle makes it easier to get a grip on chorus writing.

Using as few words as needed to get the main message across, and repetition of words and phrases will make definitely assist in making your chorus a powerful tool. For that matter, some of the best choruses written in history revolve entirely around the repetition of a single phrase such as Alanis Morissette’s, “You Oughta Know.” It’s bold, in-your-face, and straight to the point.

Even if a listener only hears the chorus of this song, the main message Morissette is trying to make is still apparent. Nothing beyond those three simple words really needs to be said.

With a single phrase, Morissette managed to write one of the most impactful songs of the 90s, especially for feminists, and one of the best “fuck-you” songs of all time.

The last rule of thumb that I will be discussing in regards to writing strong material doesn’t really come into play, until your group is ready to approach radio stations for airplay and/or record labels for roster consideration.

Few are aware of the fact that the first 30 seconds of a song is the determining factor in terms of whether or not a band gets radio play and/or a record deal. May I repeat, only the first 30 seconds of a given song! You’ll note that this is a very short period of time to grasp a listener’s attention. So, suffice it to say, you better make it good.

If you do manage to present something of interest within that time frame, both station managers and A&R reps will quickly flip through your other tracks to see if it was just a fluke, or if your band has genuine marketability. Therefore, your material must be consistently captivating.

When it comes to creating compositions that have the potential for mass appeal, keeping it simple in all respects predominantly seems to be the key to success. However, I will note that there are always exceptions to these general guidelines, and one can never be certain whether they’ve stumbled upon greatness or failure without testing their material amongst difference audiences to gage opinion.

By providing these songwriting principles I’m not trying to stifle your creativity, nor am I suggesting that the only songs that are any good are simple. Hell, I like my Deep Purple and The Doors every now and again. All I’m saying is that if you want your band to have commercial success, you need to buy into this formula to a certain extent.

Irrespective of this, the tendency these days is to release albums with only two to three strong singles. Therefore, if you’re a prog-rocker at heart, you may just be in luck. There’s definitely a market for what I like to refer to as “stoner rock,” but keep in mind, in order for songs of that nature to attain success, they usually need to break in through an underground movement first, which will obviously pose a greater challenge to your band. In addition, they will more than likely require a radio edit that will substantially cut down your 10-minute guitar solos. Though, I do wish you all the power in the world, if this is the route you choose to undertake.

Rather, if you are simply a musician who creates art for art sake, never let these guidelines constrict your passion. They are merely meant to be used as a tool for bands wishing to obtain commercial success, and with that comes financial remuneration. And…let me tell you, there’s nothing better than getting paid for something you really enjoy doing.

Anti-Hero will be at Salt Lounge December 6 with Jakalope - www.anti-hero.ca.

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