One of the biggest “ailments” I see when I mentor songwriters is that they are writing WAY too many ballads.
It seems like many of us default to slow songs. While a well written ballad can be very successful and meaningful, there are also many reasons it is NOT a great idea to write a lot of ballads if you are chasing that first cut. Here are some of the biggest reasons.
Most of the artists write their own ballads.
Why? Because the ballads are the songs they write about their parents, their spouse or their children. Ballads tend to be more emotional and “close” to the artists. They want to write very specifically about someone or something they care about. It’s much more likely that THEY are going to write that themselves if they write at all.
The ratio of songs with more tempo to ballads on any given album is usually 10 to 1 or 2.
There are WAY more songs with tempo on an album than there are ballads. That makes those slots on the record even harder to get. Writing songs with tempo at least gives you more shots at being on a record.
Radio doesn’t play many ballads.
Making it big with a song still almost ALWAYS means that you have a big radio hit. Writing a ballad means that you are much less likely to get a single. Do you see how the odds are stacking up against the ballad writer? If you are playing the odds, you’re going to write more tempo.
I don’t recommend that anyone stop writing ballads…
But I do encourage everyone who is chasing that first cut to play the odds and give themselves a better chance of success by writing more songs with tempo than ballads. In fact, that 10:1 ratio is probably a good one here. If you want to give yourself the best shot possible, write a lot of mid tempo songs with cool grooves and a good number of true uptempo songs as well.
I tend to save my ballad ideas until I’m writing with an artist.
If they say they want to write a ballad, I pull those ideas out of the database and at least I know that I’ve got an inside shot at the cut because I KNOW that I’m writing what the artist wants to say.
Work hard and write smart. That means less ballads and more tempo!
Write on! Marty
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Author: Marty Dodson