Writing a song can be hugely liberating as you put your personal spin on a topic based on your own interpretation. But, like all good writing, a song is made better when it is steered in a distinctly recognizable direction; aka a genre.
Sure, as a songwriter, you have the luxury of writing in more than one format. Diane Warren, for instance, has had hits in Pop, AC, Country and Dance. Such versatility can make it possible for you to attract different kinds of listeners with your music, as well as have more pitching options and chances to get picked up by different publishers. It’s a numbers game in music, right?
It’s also totally fine if you’re only able to write for one genre, as long as you get to know it intimately and you can put song after song together with the distinct features of it. In fact, if you are really good at writing a particular genre, you could become a go-to songwriter when a music publisher or film producer wants a song with the flavor you’re known to provide. It’s better to be known as a pop songwriter, for example, than to be nondescript.
Things That Separate Genres
Each genre has its own strict rules and you must know them in order to create songs that have a chance of resonating with separate music audiences. For example, you can get away with imperfect rhyming in pop and hip-hop, but in musical theatre and cabaret, you can’t. Also, with country music, your lyrics have to be clear and to the point, while it is possible to get away with being more metaphorical and artsy if you’re writing songs for a rock group a la Coldplay or Kings of Leon. Here are the things you should pay attention to:
- How lyrics are composed; as in the type of language used, the theme, how characters are portrayed, and how the events are described.
- Use of chords. Cord change, primary chords used, and the intermingling between different types all help to define genre.
- How melody is used; the variations, speed, differentiation, and contrasting.
Music publishers, producers, and even radio stations tend to stay away from songs that don’t appeal to a particular market segment. So, whether you write for one or multiple genres, you should ensure each song is easily recognizable for what it is.