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Challenge #1: The Mechanics of Songwriting

July 4, 2016

Challenge by: Murray Daigle

Murray Daigle photo

1. Write a song using no more than 2 chords
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 Comments leave one →
    • July 8, 2016 4:39 pm

      This is my second attempt at posting. I hope this time works.

      • July 13, 2016 11:09 pm

        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

    • July 13, 2016 11:19 pm

      Hi Catherine, good work 🙂 However, I think I would have preferred to hear your song with little less production as I found the production a tad overwhelming. Cheers, RBT

  1. July 6, 2016 2:14 pm

    Is this working?

    • S.A.C. permalink*
      July 6, 2016 2:50 pm

      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!

  2. July 7, 2016 12:54 pm

    Alright, here it goes!×4-songwriting-challenge-week-1/

    This was a great challenge! Thank you for the opportunity to create alongside other SAC members!
    Looking forward to the next few weeks 😀
    Arlene Paculan

    • July 14, 2016 12:45 am

      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

    • david k permalink
      July 14, 2016 1:13 am

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

  3. July 7, 2016 7:16 pm

    Great challenge Murray. I had never really thought about taking this approach but really forced me to focus on the melody and rhythm of the lyrics in ways I hadn’t done before. Here’s the result and my blog post about it:

    • July 11, 2016 4:17 pm

      Really enjoyed your song…Terrific easy listening peice 🙂

    • July 14, 2016 12:55 am

      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

  4. July 7, 2016 7:26 pm

    Sorry, I should add that Selkirk Range is known to others as SAC member Gordon Gow. 🙂

  5. July 8, 2016 2:44 am

    Thanks Murray for the challenge and guidance. Cheers!

    • July 14, 2016 12:58 am

      Hi Lisa – Great to see you’re inspired and eager to share your new song 🙂 One thought to look at is that there might be a bit too much of the “love reigns”? Good work. RBT

    • July 14, 2016 1:07 am

      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

  6. July 8, 2016 1:08 pm

    Hello. Here is my blog

    And here is my Soundcloud link:

    • July 14, 2016 1:12 am

      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

      • July 14, 2016 7:11 pm

        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

    • July 10, 2016 2:12 am

      Steven Hardy – nice work!! love it!!

    • July 14, 2016 1:24 am

      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

    • July 14, 2016 1:29 am

      Hi Mauricio – The title is a good start! The intro I feel is too long – and there are definitely some challenges here with key and pitch which makes it difficult to follow or to provide solid comments on. RBT

  7. July 8, 2016 7:58 pm

    Here is a link to my blog post:

    and here is a link to my SoundCloud!

    now I can get back to listening to all your great songs!

    • July 14, 2016 1:32 am

      Hi Dean – Nice riff – enjoyed that – but please make sure your guitar is in tune otherwise it’s very distracting. I really like the story feel of this song. RBT

    • July 14, 2016 1:33 am

      Hi Paul – Nice to hear Mikalyns voice not this 🙂 it adds a lovely dimension to it. I quite like the imagery in here, particularly – waves lap the shore, water on our toes. RBT

  8. July 8, 2016 9:34 pm

    Here is my song and the blog post – first week was so fun!!!blog/ne279

    • July 11, 2016 4:49 pm

      Very nice! Congratulations, Mikalyn, on writing a great 2 chord song!

    • July 14, 2016 1:40 am

      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

  9. July 8, 2016 10:47 pm

    Hi Murray,
    Great challenge. First time I have ever done anything like this.
    Here is my stuff.

    • July 14, 2016 1:43 am

      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

  10. July 9, 2016 12:08 am

    Fun week! Here is my tune “Bang” for week 1: Blog here: Great tunes so far everyone!

    • July 14, 2016 1:49 am

      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

    • July 14, 2016 1:51 am

      Hi Aaron, I enjoyed this. I like the hook “I keep coming around … pulls my body in”. Great vibe. Raw. Simple. Moves along … Good work 🙂 RBT

  11. July 9, 2016 12:55 am

    Did my submission work?
    Appreciate the feedback.

  12. July 9, 2016 1:08 am

    Sorry, I will promise to stop sending comments, except that I forgot to include my lyrics.
    See attached

    Thank you

    • July 14, 2016 1:57 am

      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

    • July 14, 2016 1:59 am

      Hi Kenneth – Nice jazzy vibe. Real speak lyrics are a great approach but some of the end rhymes I find are too predicable. Take some time to revisit and I think you’ll have good little tune here. RBT

  13. Patricia Loranger permalink
    July 9, 2016 8:54 am

    Here is my blog and song on sound cloud.

    • July 14, 2016 2:02 am

      Hi Patricia – I seem to be predictable in mentioning that people are using predictable rhymes. Try some soft rhymes. And try switch up the melody a bit. Songwriting phase two … edit 🙂

  14. July 9, 2016 9:03 am
    • July 14, 2016 2:08 am

      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

  15. July 9, 2016 10:44 am
    • July 14, 2016 2:16 am

      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

  16. July 9, 2016 1:17 pm

    Paul Tarvydas and Mikalyn Hay – Water On Our Toes

    (slightly improved soundcloud, over previous)



    • July 14, 2016 2:10 am

      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

  17. July 9, 2016 3:41 pm

    S.A.C. Songwriting Challenge Week #1: Here We Go!



    • July 14, 2016 3:27 pm

      Hi – it seems to me that “I don’t get it” is the hook’y part of this song? Sings well so wondering if should revisit the lyric and work it around that line? Just a thought. Cheers RBT

  18. July 9, 2016 3:47 pm

    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)

    • July 14, 2016 3:32 pm

      Hi Shira – you seem to be quite comfortable in your songwriting approach as it’s consistent from year to year. If this is fulfilling for you to write and you are inspired by it, then sing on 🙂 Cheers, RBT

  19. July 9, 2016 4:08 pm

    This is my third attempt at submitting my links for this challenge. I hope this time works.

    • July 14, 2016 3:34 pm

      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).

  20. July 9, 2016 4:58 pm

    Just making sure my submission went through – I submitted last night & still don’t see it 🙂 Heather Meori song here: and blog here:

  21. July 9, 2016 5:22 pm

    Hey everyone!! Here is my song:

    Here is my blog!

    • July 14, 2016 3:42 pm

      Hi Gordon, Good to see your here 🙂 Your song is very pop’, hooky. Nice simplicity to the lyric – stayed on theme well. Melody could possibly switch up a bit more. Nice work. Cheers, RBT

    • July 14, 2016 3:47 pm

      Hi Josh – Nice vocals. Nice phrasing. Not sure about the intrigue of Love Isn’t Labour. But I am liking “You’re not paper”. 🙂 RBT

  22. July 9, 2016 6:07 pm

    Paul Tarvydas and Mikalyn Hay – Water On Our Toes

    (this is an updated, private link, I suspecrt that the earlier link is unplayable).



    • July 14, 2016 3:49 pm

      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).

  23. July 9, 2016 6:11 pm

    Thanks, Murray. Here’s my week one submission:

    • July 11, 2016 9:58 am

      Hello, any reason why I am awaiting moderation?

    • July 14, 2016 4:23 pm

      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

  24. July 9, 2016 6:32 pm

    This was a very interesting challenge for me, Murray. I didn’t think I would get it done. Thanks for doing it.

    Here is my soundcloud link and blog:

    • July 14, 2016 4:25 pm

      Hi Craig, Nice country vibe – “Will there be joy, or will there be pain, nothing ventured, nothing gained” – nice hook. Well sung! Like the story approach. RBT

  25. July 9, 2016 7:57 pm

    Ok Reposting! want to make the deanline! Here is the soundcloud link to my song

    And here is the blog post link! Thanks Murray for the challenge and thanks to all my fellow songwriters for the great songs! I’ll be playing this one LIVE tomorrow night!

    • July 14, 2016 4:29 pm

      Hi Dean – Nice riff – enjoyed that – but please make sure your guitar is in tune otherwise it’s very distracting. I really like the story feel of this song. RBT

  26. July 9, 2016 8:43 pm

    Here is my submission, Murray. It was definitely an interesting and challenging one. Thank you for doing it. Below are my Soundcloud and Blog links (lyrics are located at the bottom of the blog:

    • July 14, 2016 4:35 pm

      Hi Katie, Very pretty. I like the simplicity of the message and the movement in the melody. Lovely voice as well. Well presented. Great work. RBT

  27. July 9, 2016 8:51 pm

    Thanks so much a wonderful challenge!
    This really helped remind me of the importance of melody and rhythm.
    Looking forward to #2!
    Katie Leussink (Midnight Lights)



  28. Peter Bugen permalink
    July 9, 2016 9:09 pm

    ok..tried to post and it errored out on…tech is not my friend today it seems..

    SO ..finished at last 🙂

    Here is my blog:

    Here is my song:

  29. July 9, 2016 9:38 pm

    Really enjoyed the challenge. Haven’t written a complete song for almost 2 years, but I got one here! Thanks Murray!

    Blog Post:


    • July 14, 2016 4:41 pm

      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

    • July 14, 2016 4:43 pm

      Hi Kristen, Interesting double play on “Mean to Me’ lyric. Nice vocal approach – very in keeping with the feel of the song. Nice work. RBT

  30. July 9, 2016 11:10 pm

    Here is my submission for week 1! Wow I did it!


    Once stood tall
    Now on his knees
    Praying for
    Some dignity

    • July 14, 2016 4:46 pm

      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

  31. July 9, 2016 11:12 pm

    Down to the wire…definitely been quite the week! Wow. Nonetheless…here is my blog and 2-chord song.

    TITLE “ROUND n ROUND” (c)2016 Bernadette Saquibal

    Chords – G & F


    WORDPRESS BLOG –…/in…/

    • July 14, 2016 4:48 pm

      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

  32. July 9, 2016 11:16 pm

    Nothing like down to the wire! I posted on Facebook about an hour ago, but just realised from someone else’s comment that I am supposed to post here as well …

    Blog link:

    Soundcloud link:…/shelach-ami-by-ros-schwart…/s-3fZku

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  33. July 9, 2016 11:17 pm

    Nothing like down to the wire!

    Blog link:

    Soundcloud link:…/shelach-ami-by-ros-schwart…/s-3fZku

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  34. simon paradis permalink
    July 9, 2016 11:20 pm

    Here is my 2 chord submission.

    • Simon Paradis permalink
      July 15, 2016 11:34 am

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

  35. Tina Loranger permalink
    July 9, 2016 11:33 pm

    DONE! Even with my internet outage 🙂

    ***And thanks to the SAC for providing such an amazing opportunity to help push my limit as a songwriter! This was definitely a challenge!!!***



    Let me know what you think! Thanks!

    • July 14, 2016 4:51 pm

      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

  36. July 9, 2016 11:44 pm

    will try my submission one last time since I submitted last night but it still isn’t showing hahahah song here:

  37. July 9, 2016 11:46 pm

    Here is a link to my Blog
    And my song…

    • July 14, 2016 4:53 pm

      Hi Meg, – the approach you’ve taken for this song is very sweet, and I Iike the whistling element. But I’m wondering if there’s a more proprietary line than “Go Big or Go Home” to hang your hook on? RBT

  38. July 9, 2016 11:47 pm

    Here goes…. Thanks for the challenge! Right down to the wire 😉

    Hope you enjoy and I look forward to hearing all your songs!

    See you next week

  39. July 9, 2016 11:49 pm

    Here goes…. Thanks for the challenge! Right down to the wire 😉

    Hope you enjoy and I look forward to hearing all your songs!

    See you next week

    • July 14, 2016 4:59 pm

      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

  40. July 9, 2016 11:51 pm

    In by the skin of my teeth, but here we go! haha Song Challenge 1 accepted!×4-songwriting-challenge-2016

  41. July 9, 2016 11:55 pm

    OK Trying Heather’s idea of two posts for two links.. Here’s my sound cloud link!

  42. Skye Weste permalink
    July 9, 2016 11:56 pm

    Skye Weste
    melody for verse and chorus using 2 chords

      • Rosanne Baker Thornley permalink
        July 11, 2016 1:34 am

        Hi Skye, the track seems to be missing on your soundclound.

      • Skye Weste (a.k.a Louise MacDougall) permalink
        July 11, 2016 3:21 pm

        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:

    • July 14, 2016 5:07 pm

      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

  43. July 10, 2016 12:52 am

    I consider this unfinished, but finished enough for you to get the gist. 🙂

  44. Catherine M Thompson permalink
    July 10, 2016 12:56 am

    Ha! I thought I had done it all right by posting to the fb page! Now I know. So a little late here but I hope you will accept this link for the first challenge:

    and you will find my blog here:

    • July 14, 2016 5:15 pm

      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

      • Catherine M Thompson permalink
        July 14, 2016 9:30 pm

        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.

  45. Catherine M Thompson permalink
    July 10, 2016 1:01 am
  46. Catherine M Thompson permalink
    July 10, 2016 1:02 am

  47. July 10, 2016 1:23 am
    • July 14, 2016 5:24 pm

      Hi Lynn, Nice work. I would suggest exploring some alternate end rhymes as well as melody options, as the verse and chorus’ are so very similar. You got the chops, so I know you’re up for this! Cheers, RBT

  48. July 10, 2016 7:54 am

    I still can’t see my posting from last night.. I guess it takes a while.. 🙂

  49. July 10, 2016 9:46 am

    Posted yesterday at–song-post and on the SAC Songwriting and Blogging Page. Somehow it didn’t post here. Thanks!

  50. July 10, 2016 1:02 pm

    Testing 1,2,3. I posted my song last night but don’t see it here. Checking to see if this gets posted.

  51. July 10, 2016 2:51 pm

    I also posted my song last night around 11:50pm. I don’t see it yet. Thanks!

  52. Andrew Atkins permalink
    July 10, 2016 7:46 pm
    • July 14, 2016 5:20 pm

      Andrew – Wow – really (really) liked this. Great riff, great melodies, great voice, great playing. So simple. What can I say. Good to go 🙂 RBT

  53. July 11, 2016 3:32 am

    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

  54. July 14, 2016 1:38 pm

    So sorry, should read the fine print. Here is my first challenge blog and song. I had left it on the Facebook page.

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