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48 Tips To Make Your Band Sound Better
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Tired Of Writing “New” Songs? Go Retro!

6:00 am Songwriting

It’s natural to want to write songs that sound like the current hits or to follow the lead of a favorite band or subgenre that’s in favor at the moment. But if you want to stand out as a songwriter, perhaps you should cast your net a bit wider, so to speak. Older song styles may be outdated or little remembered, but that doesn’t mean they’re invalid!

It’s not too unusual for current songwriters to hark back to the Beatles or other Titans Of the Sixties, but in this article I’m going to suggest going waay back. I’m going to suggest listening to songs that were hits before your mother was born (though she was born a long, long time ago) and then writing your own song in a similar style. If you end up recording your “retro” song, this might well extend to the instrumentation and production as well (or not).

Der Bingle Rules

Several years ago I read a biography of Bing Crosby, and in order to get a real sense of the man I made a point of listening to all of the Crosby songs (and watching all of the Crosby movies) that were mentioned in the book. When I was done I was “filled to the rim with Bing,” and it seemed natural for me to write a song with the feel and spirit of the songs I had been listening to as I read.

The result was “I’m In Clover Now” (mp3, chords, lyrics). Note the unconventional orchestration used in this rough mix. (Note also that I stole the “It’s all right, Ma” phrase used in the verses from Bob Dylan.) No matter what you think of this song, you have to admit it’s different!

If you’re game to try this yourself, the key is to first saturate yourself in the old-fashioned style you’d like to emulate. Your best bet is to check out a bunch of relevant CDs from the public library and play them, a lot, for a week or so. You needn’t consciously try to “figure out” what chord sequences and song structures are being used. Just enjoy the music and let your subconscious mind take it all in. You may be surprised with what pops out later when you go to write your “new” song! I was.

I’m In Clover Now (Bendig) (mp3, chords, lyrics)
Mark Bendig: Acoustic guitar, keyboard tuba, bass drum, vocal
Jack Burgess: Ukeleles, banjo, piano, melodica, keyboard bass, hi hat

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