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Garnish Music Production School in London

Free Hit Songwriting Tips From A No.1 Hit Selling Songwriter

In this video, our no. 1 hit selling songwriting instructor Alex Von Soos gives us a little taster of what you can expect on our Hit Songwriting course, jam packed full of songwriting tips from a top songwriter with record sales in the millions.

 

Songwriting Tips | Become a Songwriter

Music: Mountain Top Verse

 

SLIDE 1 Welcome to the Hit Lab!

 

Hi-my name is Alex von Soos and I’m the Songwriting Tutor at the Garnish School of Sound. As well as selling millions of records as a professional

songwriter, I spent years researching the difference between a good song and a great song, and today I want to give you a brief glimpse

of my findings, including a slightly humorous songwriting “formula” that I teach to all my students in the Level 1 course.

Of course songwriting is an art, but there are many elements of craftsmanship that can actually be taught that will make a huge difference to

the satisfaction you’ll  feel when writing, recording, performing and ultimately pitching your own songs. With that said, let’s get started!

 

SLIDE 2 What is needed for a hit?

 

To warm up, let’s briefly look at the basic requirements in order to have a hit. Of course everything starts with a hit song, and we will

be looking at this element in more detail later on in this presentation. Once you have written a hit song, you will need to make a hit

record which will hopefully feature a hit artist or a new artist with huge potential. Once you have these three elements down, you will

need a great record label to release and market your track, although of course there are many options to release material yourself

these days. A quick look at the charts, however, will reveal that nearly 100% of all hits are released by major or large indie labels.

But it can be done, and so I hope that with the material presented here and in the Songwriting Course some of you will make

the grade and go on to have massive success!

Now let’s have a brief look at the songwriting formula that I mentioned earlier.

 

SLIDE 3 What is the hit formula?

 

And here it is! It looks a bit cryptic, doesn’t it! All the elements on this page will be explained in great detail during the course,

but today I’m going to pick out two of the most important factors to get you started. So let’s go!

 

SLIDE 4 CP=Contrast&Prosody

 

Prosody is simply the marriage of all the elements of a song-including the production-to create a cohesive whole and a satisfying

journey for the listener. In a great song, the music will “speak to you” and even without the words you will know what the song

is about, not unlike the experience of listening to a great piece of classical music. The lyrics should then reinforce this feeling

to elicit the maximum amount of emotion in the listener. Makes me sound a bit like Mr Spock doesn’t it?

 

Contrast is one of the most difficult areas to master for songwriters of all abilities and one of the easiest to rectify once you know

how. This is because it’s a very technical aspect which can almost be mathematically measured and there really is no excuse for

writing a boring song once you’ve got a handle on this principle! As you can see from the slide, there are many ways to create

contrast between verses and choruses. You don’t have to use all of them, but you should be aware of what can be achieved

by clever manipulation of these parameters. Maybe I should explain that “tessitura” means the average pitch range of a section

(usually going “up” into a chorus) and melodic rhythm is what’s left when you speak the melody[demonstrate] without actually

singing any pitches or drum it on a table-top[demonstrate]. Most songs you hear (whether demos or releases) don’t have a

standout chorus and although there are other elements that are also needed, a clear distinction from the verse is a prerequisite

for providing the listener with a satisfying pay-off.

 

Let’s look at an example of the principle of contrast in greater detail: this is the verse of Katy Perry’s “Firework”. You can hear

short, fast, choppy zig-zag phrases with a low tessitura. Moving into the pre-chorus, we are now presented with longer notes and

rising phrases as well as a new chord progression. Now we’re in the chorus. The tessitura is very high (at the top of her range), after

the initial rise the phrases are now mainly falling, the phrases are longer, but the chord progression is still the same as

in the pre-chorus. This goes to show that not all contrast parameters have to be used for writing an effective chorus. But

I’m sure you agree that nobody would be left in any doubt as to where the chorus is in this song. Compare this track to your

own writing and even though your chosen genre may not be as commercial as Katy Perry, I’m sure your songs could benefit

from a bit more contrast. Actually, why don’t we have a quick look at another song, as far removed from the glitzy world

of manufactured LA pop as you can get. This is The Clash’s “Rock The Casbah”. Low and choppy phrases in the verse, longer

and higher phrases in the chorus. Different era, different style, different artist but the same simple principle of providing

CONTRAST for the listener to have a satisfying listening experience.

 

As you can see, I’ve used the word “satisfying” three times during this slide and this really is the key to my songwriting method:

satisfying for the listener and of course satisfying for you, the writer. Us writers are generally quite insecure about our

creations, and with the right technique we can largely eliminate that dreaded feeling of playing our songs to other people

just hoping and praying that they will like them! Have fun exploring the principles of contrast&prosody in your own writing,

and maybe see you soon in my studio. Be good!

 

Music: Mountain Top Chorus/Outro

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