126 Shortcuts to take your songs from good to great!

Posts Tagged ‘genre’

Speaking of Genres…

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Robin Frederick (author, “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting”)

I recently read an article about Gracenote, the company that delivers info to your iPod and computer music player that tells you what song you’re listening to by which artist. The article offers an insight into something I wrote in a recent post about the importance of music genres. Here’s an excerpt from the Gracenote article…

“Gracenote’s genre classification system enables listeners to get the most out of their music collections by enabling them to automatically select the type of music they want to listen to, whether it’s “Jazz,” “Rock” or “Dance.” Created using an analysis of user preferences combined with the expertise of Gracenote’s music editorial team, Gracenote genre classifications enable developers to provide a tried-and-true list of music categories that simplify and enhance the user listening experience. Gracenote genre classifications also make it easy for users to organize and sort music, create customized playlists and discover new music, helping them enjoy the overwhelming amount of digital music now readily available.” (Market WIre)

 

So Gracenote is going to decide what genre your song is in. I notice this is based on a combination of “analysis of user preferences” — read ‘software program’ — and “Gracenote’s music editorial team” — read ‘REAL PEOPLE’!!! Yes, real people are going to listen to your music and classify it! It will then be organized for listeners, even delivered to new listeners, who like that genre.

 

But what if it’s not clear what genre your song is in? What if a member of Gracenote’s “music editorial team” puts you in Easy Listening when you really want to be in Rock?  What if you are in a 1980s-sort-of-funky-folk-thing genre and the music editorial team doesn’t know where to put you?

 

Try deciding ahead of time what genre you think is the best fit for you. Be honest. Listen to your music like an audience member. If you can’t do that, try asking a few acquaintances or even strangers who they think you sound like. (Don’t ask close friends and family. They’ll just tell you what you want to hear!) 

 

Truth is, each of the mainstream genres is flexible. A Pop/Rock song may fit into the Rock genre or the Pop genre. But there is a core sound that defines many of the hits in each style. Spend some quality time listening to and studying the hit songs at the top of the charts in the genre you want to be in. Do your songs sound similar in some ways? In many ways? In no ways? Maybe you could add a few more of these elements to your song before you record it, and then aim your production in the same direction to add even more strength. 

 

Think like a listener. Put together a playlist of hit songs in a given genre and drop your song into the middle. Play your playlist in the car. When your song comes on, does the flow of music continue or is it interrupted in an uncomfortable way? Genres are about the listener, making the experience of listening to music an enjoyable one. To help Gracenote, as well as radio programmers and listeners, create that flow, blend the elements of a given genre into your song and sound. 

Based on “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” by Robin Frederick

Copyright 2008 Robin Frederick. All rights reserved.

Write Your Songs in a Genre

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Robin Frederick (author, Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting)

 

Most of the time, when you start a song, you’re thinking solely about what you want to say, and that’s the best way to approach your songwriting. However, by keeping a little corner of your brain focused on the genre you want to write in, you can add strength to your song, the kind of strength that could help your song find its audience.

 

Like ice cream, songs come in different flavors: strawberry, chocolate, peach, and rocky road. And, like ice cream flavors, there are very real differences between the four mainstream music genres — Country, Pop, Rock, and R&B/Soul — and each one appeals to a different audience. 

 

So, why is this important to you as a songwriter?

 

When listeners tune into a radio station that plays Country music, they expect to hear a range of songs that share a certain sound. Jazz stations play something that sounds different from the Country music station. Listeners who tune in to a Jazz station are expecting to hear the kinds of chords, melodies, and lyrics that are characteristic of today’s Jazz genre. If they get a Country song instead, they won’t be happy! Radio stations need to keep listeners satisfied if they want them to stick around. If listeners are expecting to hear songs with a Country sound, that’s what the station needs to play, if they’re expecting Jazz, then Jazz is what the radio station gives them. 

 

If you write a song that straddles Country and Jazz — let’s say you throw a few cool jazz chords into your Country song — you may have trouble finding a publisher for it or an artist who will record it. Why? Because publishers, record labels and artists all know that radio airplay is essential if they want to reach their audience and sell records. 

 

If you are an independent artist, recording your own songs, you can take plenty of chances with your album cuts but you’ll still need a couple of songs that can get on the radio if you want to reach a wider audience. In at least two songs, try to aim for a general sound that characterizes your genre. 

 

 

CHOOSE A GENRE AND GET FAMILIAR WITH IT

Spend some time listening to current hits in the genre you want to write in. If you like Country music, listen to the top 20 current Country hits and study the chords, melodies, and lyrics to see what they have in common. What is it that Country audiences are excited about right now? Whether you want to write Rock, Pop, R&B/Soul or Hip-Hop, check out the current radio airplay charts to see which songs are getting the most play. These are the ones that listeners are eating up! 

 

“But,” I hear you say, “these songs being pushed hard by mega-record labels. That’s the only reason they’re hits!” Sure there’s plenty of money behind all of these songs — the big record labels can afford to buy plenty of ads and lots of promotion –but ultimately money can’t push a song to the top of the charts, only listeners can do that! 

 

You can find up-to-date Radio Airplay Charts at RadioAndRecords.com. Click on “Charts” and check out the ones you’re interested in. (If you don’t know which charts you’re interested in, check out a few. This is essential research for songwriters!) 

 

Make a list of the songs and artists in the top 15 or 20, then go over to iTunes or any legal download site and listen to the excerpts. Pay a couple of bucks to download the ones you like best. Don’t pick the DUDS you don’t like! Choose songs you wish YOU’D written.

 

Once you’ve found a genre you like and a couple of songs, listen to them carefully and study your genre. Look for the general, broad characteristics of your genre by asking the following questions as you listen.

 

LYRICS:

What themes are featured?

What kind of language is used: direct, slangy, poetic?

What sorts of characters turn up in these songs, including the singer? 

How does the lyric tell the listener what’s happening?

 

MELODY:

How much contrast is being used between sections?

How does the melody let you know when you’re in the verse and when you’re in the chorus?

How much repetition is used, how much variation in the melody line?

 

CHORDS:

Do you hear basic three-note chords primarily?

What other kinds of chords are being played? 

How frequently are the chords changing?

 

These are just a few of the questions that will help you study your genre. No one wants to sound exactly like everyone else but you DO want your song to incorporate enough of a genre’s characteristic sound so that it will fit into a radio format. Blend it with your own style to make sure YOU still sound like YOU but give it an extra push toward radio. 

 

Based on “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” by Robin Frederick

Copyright 2008 Robin Frederick. All rights reserved.