Recently, Rolling Stone sat down with a number of country music greats such as Keith Urban and Tim McGraw and asked them how to how to write a country song. They came up with a number of rules that should be followed in the songwriting process.
First, you should concentrate on the melody first. A lot of would-be songwriters will compose the lyrics and then set them to music. But if the song is not catchy, something that compels you to sing along with it, all the clever lyrics in the world will not make it a good song,
In the country music world, songwriting is often a group effort. The trick is to have writing partners that you click with immediately so that in some ways it can be like love at first sight.
The big cliché about country music is that the songs are all about heartbreak and break-up. “She done left me for another one.”
You should try to write a song that is a little more upbeat, something that people can listen and sing along to and forget their troubles. Think about the joys of falling in love, not to mention riding around in pickup trucks, hunting, fishing, and partying. These sorts of feel-good songs seem to be doing well in today’s market. Along those lines, some of the country artists suggest that country music is following what rock music used to delve into.
A good country song not only has a good chorus but a good “after chorus,” that being the verse that comes after.
The lyrics of a country song tends to be about real life, the sorts of lives that people who listen to country music live. A country song can tell a story or just capture a mood from everyday life.
A country song uses lots of adjectives to describe something, the more, the better. In that way, the words in a song will paint vivid word pictures in the minds of the people who are listening to them.
A good country song writer will listen to other genres besides country. You never know what rock or R&B song will spark an idea for a good song. Along those lines, you should just listen to people talking whether it is face-to-face or on the radio or TV. You never know what certain turns of phrase will find their way into a good country song.
“Write what you know” is the sort of advice people give to all sorts of writers, whether they are novelists, poets, or songwriters. Write songs based on the sort of things you have experienced and observed.
A good rule for the tone of a country song is to write the verses quiet, but explode with the chorus. This approach seems to be most popular with country music fans.
Try listening to hip hop and incorporating some of its style in your country song. A lot of country people actually listen to hip hop, even in small, country towns.
The one thing about rules in any aspect of life, even in country music, is that you have to learn how and when to break them. Experiment with structure. You can start with the chorus instead of the verses. You can use a two-line verse and a big chorus. Keep trying to find out what works and what doesn’t.
There is one rule in country music that should be never broken, which is not using bad language in your lyrics, especially the F word. You can sing about sex all you want, but do it decorously. Many country music fans tend to be conservative and family oriented. What may fly for rap or some forms of rock will not fly in a country song.
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