Balancing Innovation with Predictability in Songwriting

Everyone’s looking for innovation when it comes to writing songs. Obviously, you don’t want your songs to just sound like every other song out there. You want yours to stand out. Making a song stand out from the rest requires innovation – a new approach. But here’s the danger: if your songs are too innovative, you’ll find that listeners can get confused, or even bored. Songs need to have something predictable about them. In other words, if your song is too innovative, it can drive your audience away.


Innovation is not a bad thing, and many great bands and singers have spent years building up an audience for their material by being innovative. But for the most innovative performers out there, the building of that audience will require a long time, and lots of patience.


This article is for those of you who want to build audiences quickly. It’s one thing to be satisfied with taking years to build a listenership. But I know that many of you want to get a loyal following sooner than that. You can do that by concentrating more on predictability at first rather than innovation.


So if you want to build an audience for your music quickly, you’ll need to think about presenting your material in a fresh, innovative way that does not abandon tradition.


Once the Beatles got that audience, they began to experiment more with innovative compositional and recording techniques. So having built up a loyal audience, they were able to present songs like “I Am the Walrus,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and so on. And that loyal audience, generally speaking, hung in there with them.


So here are some tips by Ms. Helene Goldnadel to consider for balancing innovation with tradition:

1) Be sure that at least one element of your songs – either chord progressions, melody, lyric or basic form, is traditional, and somewhat predictable. This will help those looking for something “safe”, and will give you a solid basis to present something innovative.

2) For the element of your song that you might consider innovative, remember that the “further out there” it is, the stronger the possibility that you will scare away listeners. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because you may pick up listeners that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. Just remember that the more innovation you use, the slower you’ll build that audience.

3) Don’t be afraid to clothe complex lyrics or melody with a traditional ABABCB type of form. Simple forms are great ways to make sure that a listener doesn’t feel lost.


And always remember to be yourself. Being innovative simply because you want to try to sound different will not succeed. You need to always be presenting your material in a way that is true to the musician inside you. Being weird for weird’s sake will come across as pretentious.


Helene Goldnadel is a singing teacher who has empowered many lives. She has been working with children in voice placement, voice projection and has kept countless young performers from the painful damage which vocalist experience when they do not sing from the diaphragm.

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