Find the balance between originality and familiarity, compromise and authenticity -says Georgia Train.
Georgia Train regularly writes with hit factory Xenomania in LA and hosts luxury song-writing retreats in breath-taking locations around the globe.
Fresh from her support tour with Burt Bacharach, Georgia explores how the most commonly heard traits in pop songs can help you write the next big hit.
Expand Your Vocab
Our vocabulary is limited, and we stick to words we understand. The problem is this; when we begin repeated writing routines, you’ll notice your ‘vocab trends’ and begin to feel like a broken record.
Carry a notepad at all times. When in conversation, at a coffee shop or on the bus, LISTEN. Eavesdropping into other people’s conversation will allow you to hear turns of phrase, descriptive devices and sentence structures that you may not use yourself. Write them down. The way other people say something can be a great way for you to explore a song idea from a completely different angle.
Create A Surprising Hook
Look at what you already have and then with a short phrase, go against the grain – surprise the listener and to hope that the surprise is also memorable!
Making a memorable or catchy lyric isn’t something that can be pinned down to an exact science, but there are a few tricks.
Firstly, keep it simple enough to be sung by your audience. Think nursery rhymes e.g. Twinkle Twinkle; often we hear leaps such as fifths or octaves, big, obvious steps without too much embellishment.
Lyrically, keep your story accessible; the hook needs to be universally understandable if you want people to “get it”. Save your deepest and most profound stuff for the verse.
Finally, keep it short and repeat it! It may sound obvious but repetition is a sure-fire way to imprint your melody into someone’s subconscious. Your audience love the sense of achievement they get when they’ve learnt the hook well enough to sing it themselves by the end of the song.
Change Up The Tempo
This is a simple, yet not so obvious. Be open to changing the tempo of your song. The songs you hear in the top 40 follow tempo trends. Stay on the cutting edge of which tempos are “hot right now” and don’t be afraid to speed up or slow down your track in order to conform. Often we aren’t the best judge of how fast or slow our own music should be anyway.
Keep Your Attitude In Check
Attitude is everything in the music industry. Being open to change and able to move through styles and influences is a key part of getting your songs heard.
You’ll often find that by the time your song is released, you feel as though you’ve lost all the identity because the artists, producers and co-writers will be adding their own stamp to it as well.
We’re all using our skills to reach this goal the best we know how, and often, others will know better than you! I wouldn’t tell a producer what tempo my track should be as I have faith that they would know more about the current trends and that together we’d have more chance of success.
Don’t be too precious. If you’re writing for someone else and they decide to throw a lyric of yours away, don’t panic, you can recycle it. It just means that it didn’t resonate with them.
Don’t be too egotistical to ride the ‘trendy’ wave. If needs be, consider your ‘best’ work as your own personal songs or artist project, you can give yourself permission to be self-indulgent in this space, but when writing for others, compromise is key.
A Nod To Nostalgia
Using writing tools such as imagery are undeniably a way to remind the listener of something they’ve seen, heard or smelt at some point in their own lives. It allows the listener to empathize with your message and can be a powerful method of evoking nostalgia. Take the phrase “ripped gloves” for example; almost everyone can imagine a ripped glove, and it also suggests that the temperature of your setting is cold, and that some turmoil has lead to this person’s gloves being ripped. It gives so much context but in a non-poetic, understandable way.
Often, the simple, real-life imagery will connect with your audience in an extremely powerful way. Beware too much imagery and metaphor however or your song may end up sounding ceremonial and contrived, and you may lose sight of the story.
Nostalgia is a beautiful and underestimated tool for the songwriter. Humans share so many experiences in life and it’s incredibly easy to connect with someone by using the right visual trigger.
Georgia Train works as a freelance songwriter, vocal coach, session vocalist and music consultant worldwide. She writes for bands, solo artists and DJs and works closely with the highly successful production and writing team Xenomania. Georgia’s most current credit being with the title track of the Kaiser Chiefs 2016 album Stay Together alongside MNEK, Wayne Hector and Brian Higgins. Georgia offers vocal coaching, luxury writing retreats and creative consultancy. Find out more on her website.