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Songwriting - Overcoming the Rules to be Original.

So far, I have talked a lot about the basic rules around creating a song. While they are all very important the great songwriters break the rules. They know the rules and how important it to bend and break the rules. This creates something that stands out from rest of the songs out there.

House of the Rising Sun.

I have been working on a string arrangement and was asked to choose a song that would be good for it. I came up “House of the Rising Sun” by “The Animals”.

If you are interested, the you tube clip below gives you a chance to listen to it.

https://youtu.be/4-43lLKaqBQ

The interesting thing about the song is that it is essentially a Blues song but what “The Animals” did was they broke 2 rules. As a result the song took on a different life.

The Blues.

The Blues is based on a 12-bar progression that has a particular formula. The melody, chords and soloing are built around the, 5 note, Pentatonic Minor scale.

Breaking the Rules.

“The Animals” created a repeating Verse pattern that was 11-bars long and this continually makes the listener uneasy without knowing why.

Add to that, the song is played in the A Pentatonic Minor Scale. The notes of this Scale are – A, C, D, E and G. The chords of the song are built on these notes. The chords would be – A Major or Minor, C Major, D Major, E Major and G Major. However, “The Animals” replace the G Major with an F Major chord and every time it is played it adds a bit more tension to the song.

Creating your own Rules.

By the end of the song the listener has become accustomed to the changes. They accept them as part of the song but the tension never really goes away. The song stands out as being in the Blues style but has its own character as well.

Learning from the Rule Breakers.

This week I was working on a song and was becoming too predictable so I thought why not break some rules. I decided to try and play the chorus as a 12-bar blues format and the verses as an 8-bar blues format. Then to push it further I looked at the chords in the format as if they were separate scales. From there I worked out the chords for each scale. This threw up some interesting ideas that have taken the song in a completely different direction. It still needs some fine tuning but hopefully I will be able to present it here in the, not too distant, future.

Learn the rules and learn how to break them. You will be a better songwriter for it.

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