BUILDING THE SONG HOUSE
Updated: Mar 31
A well constructed house will serve its purpose for many years. That's also true for a song - if it stands the test of time, it has a great chance of becoming a classic that people love to hear or sing. Like a house, songs come in all shapes and sizes, but roughly they all have comparable features. A song doesn’t have to have every feature and the sections might look a little different from song to song.
Let's consider what some of those parts might be. Here is the SongHouse:
The verses are where the story is told, moving you through the rooms of the house. The Chorus is the pinnacle idea, that everything else supports. A Pre-chorus might exist to help lift the Chorus a little higher, and a Bridge might exist if you want to take a look at the Chorus idea from a new angle. The Foundation is where it all starts, before anything is really visible above the surface.
Every song needs a strong base, a strong single concept that everything else can be built upon. This may not be made obvious in the lyrics (allowing the listener to deduce it from the verses storyline), but everything that is heard, needs to be anchored to that solid reference point. The Chorus should ultimately tell the listener what the song is about - which will hopefully reflect the original strong foundational idea.
So how do you get your foundation idea?
o Titles - Nashville way. This way gets you focused on the central idea from the get go.
o Theme led - working out from the middle towards the title, and in the other direction towards the detail. This might work if you want to explore a topic, but just can’t pin down a potential title.
o Stream of consciousness - this is a bottom up approach, and you will have to work hard to pull this into shape and understand what the central idea is.
I would not recommend this for the beginner unless you have a more experienced co-writer to help you untangle it. I’m more than willing to assist with these kind of projects - hire me at:
Personally I’ve used all of these, but generally lean towards the Title first.
o Strong adjectives can make great title or parts of the title - e.g. “Brittle Love”
o Word slam - join two words not normally together - e.g. “Word Dive”
o Use numbers or a play on words - e.g. “3 words I can’t say”
o Alliteration can work really well - e.g. “Bad Boots”
CONSIDER THE OVERARCHING CONCEPT:
o Falling in love
o Overcoming an obstacle
o Having a good time
o Moving on from the past
Try to choose just one!
WHAT’S THE ANGLE:
o Statement - “You’re beautiful” “Everybodies somebody”
o Question - “Will you still love me tomorrow?”
o Call to Action - “Stand by me” “Don’t stop believing”
o A list song - “We didn’t start the fire”
Again, try to only use one!
These approaches should help you get to a clear central idea of what your song will be about and possibly even its title.
Try writing this down as a single sentence of prose.
Then maybe consider converting it into a 6 word story, famous example:
‘Baby shoes, for sale, never worn’
Now take your 6 word story and see if you can simplify it further into a shorter punchy title.
Using the famous example above, it could become: “Baby shoes”
That’s a whirlwind tour of building your foundation! By this point you should have at least a central idea for the song expressed in a single sentence, the title, or both!