By Justin Gray
After writing hundreds of songs—some good, but mostly bad—I ran across a songwriting concept a few years ago that really helped me become more holistically consistent. This concept is called prosody (don’t get discouraged, it’s not as complicated as it sounds).
Merriam-Webster defines prosody as the rhythmic and intonational aspect of language.
Renowned Berklee Music Songwriting instructor, Pat Pattison, describes prosody as encapsulating the idea of the use of “stability" and “instability" within a creative composition. Within the context of music, it is the lyrical content, melody, chords, rhythm, and vocal intonation working together in unity to communicate a single idea.
Learning the “nuts and bolts” of songwriting is incredibly important. Lyric, melody, chord progression, and rhythm are all absolutely essential to crafting a memorable tune. However, prosody helps us to ask the question: do all the components of my composition work together to reinforce the theme of my song?
Here are a few tips to improve upon your use of prosody:
1) Create “instability.” Sometimes disturbing your listener can be helpful when trying to musically engage them. Try using odd rhyme schemes, pithy lyrics, and melodic tension to grab their attention. (Disclaimer: be careful not to make the song too dissonant. Songs are always meant to be musically satisfying.)
2) Create “stability.” To build a sense of calm and reassurance for your listener, in your composition try using long vowel sounds, slow subtle rhythms, and melodic resolution.
3) Take a step back. Much like a painter who frequently stops to survey her work, take a step back and ask the above question: do all the components of my composition work together to reinforce the theme of my song?
For more on this idea, check out this video from Pat Pattison from Berklee Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByQv0X8Mg0c
About the Author
Justin is the director of Every Nation Music and has a wealth of experience in the music industry as well as in the local church. His experience includes writing and producing with artists such as Citipointe Live, 3WB (The Winans), Out of Eden, and Mary Mary.