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Ideas and Advice for Real Songwriters (formerly songwright.co.uk)

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Should we try to be original?

Is originality possible in songwriting?

over the last few months I’ve been having regular songwriting sessions with my sixth form students. They’re a heavy metal band – a genre that has an interesting mix of originality and copycat songwriting.

Like any other genre, over time you can see clear innovations – metal has pushed modal and chromatic harmony into new areas for pop music and explored new guitar and vocal timbres.

However, generally speaking, any one band, album or song tends to fit into a wider style. You can listen to a song and say ‘there’s a Metllica style verse riff, with Iron maiden chords for the chorus, and a half time coda like Machine Head’s Davidian….’

My sixth formers are at the stage in their songwriting where they’re using other songs as templates. For example they’ve noticed the loud-soft-loud dynamics of Remember Tomorrow by Maiden and Fade to Black by Metallica and applied them to a song of their own.

Any long time reader of this blog will know that this is exactly the sort of ideas stealing that I approve of, but recently, and worryingly, my thoughts have turned to the idea of originality.

So, I have two questions for you:

  1. If you’ve composed your own words and melody – but used chords, structure and other stereotypical ideas from a well defined genre, is the song original?
  2. And does it matter if it is?

What do you think? Use the comments to let me know

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