Challenge #1: The Mechanics of Songwriting

Challenge by: Murray Daigle

Murray Daigle photo

Challenge
1. Write a song using no more than 2 chords
OR
2. Write a song that has a single repeating riff (1-bar in length)

This challenge is designed to make writers focus on fundamental “hooks” to create a great song. Also to underline the “catchiness” of the melody, vocal rhythm and lyric will be very important. This limitation takes away the writer’s ability to simply use a chord pattern change and define the musical space. You will actually have to write verses, choruses and bridges that define themselves and “speak” as they should in the context of the song.  There is a list of huge hit songs below that cross genres and eras that meet this criteria… so it can be done!

Tips and suggestions:
I would approach this by focusing on the chorus hook first. Find something simple and catchy, even if it’s just based in the rhythm of the vocal, to drive the song. Then I would figure out how the verses take the journey to get me back around to the hook.

2 examples:
“Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen uses the same notes in the verse and the chorus melodies (same harmonic structure), just changing the rhythm structure of the lines to define the difference. Also, note that the “weight” of the chorus lyric is essential to the song’s success and power.

“Closer” by Ne-yo is very dependent on the rhythm structures of the vocals to define the parts. Also, the chorus melodies are higher than the verses. In fact the first note of the chorus is the highest note he hits up to that point in the song.  Note that the repeating lyrics and “call-backs” in the chorus are very catchy. He repeats “come closer” 14 times in the song and “I just can’t stop” 29 times!

“Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5
“Blurred Lines” – Pharrell/Thicke
“Born In the USA” – Bruce Springsteen
“Jane Says” – Jane’s Addiction
“Elenor Rigby” – Beatles
“Don’t Let Me Down” – Beatles
“Horse With No Name” – America
“Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac
“Fallin'” – Alecia Keys
“505” – Artic Monkeys
“Give Peace A Chance” – John Lennon
“Closer” – Ne-yo
“When Love Comes to Town” – U2

Good Luck! 🙂

Murray Daigle

In order to successfully complete the first challenge you are required to: 
1) Write and record a song following the description of the week #1 Challenge 
2) Write a blog post about your experience writing this week
3) Upload your song to SoundCloud or any other MP3 hosting site
4) Post the link to your blog post and the link to your song by 11:59pm EST on Saturday July 9, 2016. (Click on “Leave A Reply” at the bottom of this Challenge post, please put your full name and your email address in the appropriate fields).

 

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163 thoughts on “Challenge #1: The Mechanics of Songwriting

      1. Hi Kim, thanks for sharing your song. I would suggest, now that you’ve written the song and posted before the deadline (yea!) that you jump back into it and see if you can differentiate the verses’ from the chorus’ with switching up either the guitar strumming or the melody. Cheers, RBT

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    1. S.A.C.

      Hi Catherine, yes, we received your submission. All comments have to be approved by the admin before they’re posted that’s why you didn’t see it right away!

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    1. Hi Arlene – based on your “Over You” direction, perhaps push the lyrics a bit and try jotting down some unusual situations or ways that would support the notion of “I’m over you” that are more unexpected or quirky. RBT

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    2. david k

      Good tune, Arlene! Clear story, excellent melody. I have a feeling you’ll develop this one – it has good possibilities, I think.

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    1. Hey Gordon – Nice story song, I like the title, the chords, your voice and the delivery 🙂 Unpredictable lyrics lines – nice. Good space in the song. Nice phrasing. All good. However, I did find the instrumental break a tad too long and I would suggest watching your end rhymes to keep it fresh. But good work. RBT

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    1. Hi Alyssa – Yea, song 1 posted! A few thoughts. The intro feels a bit too long. Also, watch your end rhymes because they too predictable. And I’m certain the concept could be stronger as there’s too much moon and stars here. Suggestion : keep a notebook to jot down song concepts and be aware of every day moments and occurrences. RBT

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Scott – I think you could move the melodies a bit more to distinguish between verses and chorus’s better. Also, the use of too many lyrics on such a consistent and steady pace make it too repetitive. Edit stage … always a fun part 🙂 RBT

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      1. Hi Scott, somehow I got you completely mixed up with another track so my reply makes no sense. I enjoyed your song. Nice chords (great playing) and a lovely sentiment to the lyric. I am glad I relistened. Cheers, RBT

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    1. Hi Steven – Nice tune. I really like the piano intro. Song has a nice jazz vibe. Some good lines. Kind of has a Randy Newman feel – with the vocal delivery / phrasing. Predictable rhymes, but for some reason they work here 🙂 Second line of chorus I find weak but other three lines are good. I hope this is helpful on some level. Cheers, RBT

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    1. Hi Mikalyn – what can I say… I’m definitely a ‘fan’ 🙂 As I thought you would do in Murray’s Challenge, you’ve created lovely melodies that are distinctly different from verse to chorus. Also I very much enjoyed the syncopated rhythm of the vocal and lyric in the chorus’. And the lyrics are a great start that will only strengthen with the next edit phase. Yep, you nailed it! RBT

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    1. Hi David – Very nice. A pretty vibe with a lyric that tells a story. All good. I quite the chorus, but quite honestly preferred the original version with all the vocals. I would go back to that because I feel the original version added such a pretty lift to the melody. RBT

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    1. Hey Graydon, I definitely enjoyed your song. I’m a stickler for lyrics and I gotta say that these are great – they kept me intrigued and the melody was easy to fall into. Super work on this. I’d say “you got a great new song on your hands here”. Cheers, RBT

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    1. Hi Rob – I would suggest exploring some other options to see what you might find to strengthen the melody here – as I found this a bit too repetitive. And while lyrics are generally a key component of a song, I can’t really decipher much of the lyric here – ‘cept for the “Save My Soul”. Phase two … refine 🙂 RBT

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    1. Hi Christopher – I like the simplicity of the lyric, but not sure if I like the title – feel it could be something that stands out a bit more (something for you to ponder). And also wonder if the melody could move a bit more and possibly be a little less ‘stiff’. Have fun revisiting it. RBT

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  1. Happy Day to you Murray! Enjoy & thank you for the challenge!

    Going with the idea of “simplicity” I decided to add the blog into my soundcloud text –
    one link that includes bothsong & blog within soundcloud (instead of having two links).

    Thank you Murray for the awesome challenge!

    Peace/love from Shira Katz (musician/lyricist) & Shera Shakera (singer)

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    1. Hi Kim, thanks for sharing your song. I would suggest, now that you’ve written the song and posted before the deadline (yea!) that you jump back into it and see if you can differentiate the verses’ from the chorus’ with switching up either the guitar strumming or the melody. Cheers, RBT (replied in your other post but not sure if you ever got it).

      Like

    1. Hi Paul – Nice to hear Mikalyns voice on this – it adds a lovely dimension to it. Like the imagery in here particularly – waves lap the shore, water on our toes. RBT (this is the third time I’ve posted this comment, hope you get it eventually).

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    1. Hi Therese, thank you. While I’m sure you’re excited to get right to the production on this, as we often all are, I would like to see how the song started initially? Or did you write to the track? And really liked the syncopated rhythm of the vocal. Cheers, RBT

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    1. Matt – I was immediately drawn into this song. Well written lines. The only line that I felt stood out as not fitting the lyric and could be stronger was “Let’s get off this merry-go-round” which seemed to stand out. Favourite line “and teardrops and wine stain the tiles”. Loads of imagery in this one. Really nice work. RBT

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    1. Hello Martin 🙂 Can definitely sense your musical roots in this. Like the “Don’t look back” hook. Would explore some alternate end rhymes that keep the lyrics a bit more unexpected. Glad to see you made time for the challenge this year. Cheers, RBT

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    1. Hi Brent, I hope you’re enjoying the challenge of the Challenge. Love how you sing the chorus in this, very nice. As always well considered, thoughtful lyrics. Nice melodies. My suggestion is to edit the structure in view of limiting the number of chorus’s. Nice to see you here. Onward! 🙂 RBT

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    1. Hi Bernadette – I like the melody you’ve created for this song. The lyrics I think could be a bit more real speak. Simple to go through these saying each line to see if they all fit how you would actually say them. Also, felt the second chorus could be same as the first and save the double up chorus’ for the very end. Cheers, RBT

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    1. Simon Paradis

      Was my link faulty? It seems as though I have been passed over by the mentoring comments that I’ve read on others submissions.

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    1. Hi Tina, happy to read that in moving forward you are randomly making challenges for yourself so you can become more efficient – just by employing limitations. Would also suggest hanging on the chords a bit longer so there’s more time to dive into the lyrics a little deeper. RBT

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      1. Hi Heather, very pop’y with some great hooky bits. I seem to be mentioning end rhymes to quite a few people, and here again, just thinking less predictable rhymes would take it up a notch. Nice work. RBT

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    1. Hi Jordan, very sync sounding … the melody and the lift of chorus is really nice. Your guitar part as always is very pretty. I know you know that I’m going to say this – the lyric could use some more exploration to find something that leans towards less expected – as well as a hook that is as uniquely you as your voice is. 🙂 RBT

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      1. Hi Rosanne. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. apparently I can’t change the blog post title without it changing the link. I changed it back and the link above is working now 🙂

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      1. Skye Weste (a.k.a Louise MacDougall)

        Sorry, Rosanne, I was trying to make it a Private Track, and I could see it here fine, but you and other people could not. Rather than try to fix that link, I started from scratch this morning using my other SoundCloud. Here is the new private link which I hope I have done right this time:

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    1. Skye – Very pretty instrumental track. Would be a nice foundation for some lyrics … and I like your title “still at sea”. Perhaps you could reach out to someone in the Challenge to add some lyrics, or jump in yourself to see what you land on? RBT

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    1. Hi Catherine, I was sort of expecting to hear a few notes of guitar or ukulele in the background after our convo 🙂 I hope that in the final analysis you enjoyed this first Challenge. In every moment, every conversation, and every challenge is the opportunity to learn and moves ourselves forward in our songwriting. Nice to see you hung in. RBT

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      1. Catherine M Thompson

        Okay, 4th try to reply. I am going to copy and paste this into the reply box and hope that my iPad does not shut down this site this time before my contact info is entered…
        Hi, Roseanne. Thanks for your comment. As per my blog post, I did try to find two notes on guitar to set me on a path, but could not find any pairs that worked for me. However, my understanding from you of what a riff is, a repeated melody (or line?) worked with the line echoing in my mind, “Put down the guns.” It was a last minute shot in the dark (pun intended LOL) that I hoped would meet the challenge at least minimally.
        I am at a cottage this week, sans any instruments, and have a story song drafted. It will come in a Capella as well. In fact, unless someone can play for me at SongStudio next week, the 3rd will also be a Capella. Annnnd, the last one, posted from Australia, will probably also be a Capella.

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  2. Wow…what a journey to find out where to post my stuff…I posted everything on the Facebook Challenge and Blog Page because I didn’t think there was anywhere else to post…I looked at this SAC Page before but it had mainly stuff from last year and only the Challenge #1 information…I didn’t expect that I would add my information under “comments” of the Challenge…I only started suspecting I had missed something when other people started asking questions…anyway…guess better late than never…here’s my song and blog for SAC Challenge #1…Sharing Stories

    https://soundcloud.com/kathrynjean/sharing-stories

    https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8334989528572988163#allposts

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