Writing an R&B song?
I get hundreds of emails per week with all kinds of comments, questions and suggestions. One of my subscribers wanted me to post some ‘R&B tips’.
I’m not always keen on isolating a particular genre and advising on it. But this simple email got me thinking about some of the songs I had written in an R&B style.
There isn’t a science when it comes to ANY style of music, but there are certain things I do factor in when writing an R&B song. I’ll go into them here…
An infectious simple hook: It goes without saying, but if you listen to the R&B tracks of today (from artists like Neo or Usher) you’ll notice that there is a very distinctive chorus. An excellent way to do this is to have a phrase in the chorus which you consider the most catchy – and then repeat that phrase twice in the chorus. If you analyze the top ten R&B hits you’ll notice this trend throughout 80% of the tracks.
Be literal in your lyrics: I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the R&B buying crowd are ‘young’. Young people can relate to stories that are literal and ‘real’ (so to speak). Now I don’t say this in a derogatory sense … you don’t have to be young to like stories, not by a long shot. This relates to all genre’s, but it definitely lends itself to an R&B style more so than any other.
Write with syncopation in mind: People often come to me to get their songs recorded, produced and arranged. Many have songs in an R&B style. The ‘good songs’ (at least the one’s which are up tempo) inevitably sound like they were written with a drum beat in mind. If you find this difficult, then you should buy some sort of metronome or click track (you can pick on up from Amazon for as little as $12) and write your melodies and/or lyrics along with the metronome.
Bring some dynamics into the mix: In the Professional Songwriting Secrets we state the importance of expressions in your melodies – keeping your listener interested and hooked throughout the song. Now, of course this could be true nearly all styles of songs, but I’m noticing a pattern in certain R&B songs of today …many of them are being written one a ‘single note’ throughout the melody with different words. While this may come across ‘slick’ in some up-tempo tracks, this is fast becoming a one trick pony.
Be dynamic in your melodies. For example, stay low in the verse and escalate to a higher range in your choruses – this is just a simple example I’m putting out here.
OK, as I gather up more thoughts on this subject I’ll keep you posted.