TPM 116 | Songwriting Rules

 

Break the rules to create music that’s not just heard but felt – that’s the heart of addictive songwriting. In this electrifying episode, we have Friedemann Findeisen, the mastermind behind Holistic Songwriting, to explore the art of songwriting and music composition. He shares his groundbreaking concept, the “Addiction Formula,” and the art of structuring your music to leave listeners yearning for more. The key lies in crafting energy curves and keeping every part of your song absolutely spellbinding. Friedemann emphasizes the holistic nature of songwriting. He shares how he intertwines lyrics and melodies to create a harmonious narrative that captivates your audience. His approach isn’t about choosing lyrics or melody first; it’s about a dance between the two. It’s a symphony of emotion and sound that will resonate with every aspiring songwriter. Tune in now and set your path to musical brilliance!

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The Art Of Breaking Songwriting Rules To Craft Addictive Music With Friedemann Findeisen

I am excited to be here with Friedemann from Holistic Songwriting. As you know, we are the Profitable Musician. We’re all about making money as musicians, and writing good songs is an important part of that. We’re going to be talking about some techniques on how you can write better songs, how you can get that creativity flowing, and how you can make what you’ve written better. Before we get into that, Friedemann, I would love for you to let them know a little bit about you, your background, how you got into songwriting, and how you got to where you are now.

I’m Friedemann. That’s a German name. It’s weird here as well. Don’t worry. A quick introduction. I’m a Songwriter/Producer. My main thing is teaching songwriting, which I do with a passion. This is the thing I want to do. I have a bachelor’s degree in music. I started out writing music when I was twelve years old. I had my first band at fifteen, and that grew a little bit and became an important thing for me personally. I was bullied a lot in school because I had long hair and looked like a girl. People made my comments about that.

The band was the thing that gave me all my confidence, and it was literally a thing that kept me from falling into all these terrible depressions. It was the thing that kept me going. It was a very important thing for me. I studied music, which was great. I studied in the Netherlands to study music production and writing music for media for radio, films, and video games, but also the radio, which was awesome.

I started with Holistic Songwriting, which is the songwriting company that I’m working on now. I wrote a book called The Addiction Formula, which later turned into a bestseller. I started a YouTube channel called Holistic Songwriting, which had over 400,000 subscribers the last time I checked. We did a Kickstarter. The latest thing that we’re doing is Holistic Songwriting Academy. It’s this massive online learning experience.

It’s like a university, essentially, with weekly Zoom calls for people to hone their craft every week and tons of courses. There are 32 courses in there on different subjects. I see myself as a puzzler. I’m interested in the puzzle of music. That’s my favorite thing to work on. I’m passionate about figuring out how certain things work. I love figuring out the formulas of music and blueprints. A lot of our content is based on that as well.

I’m trying to figure out ways in which we can find blueprints for lyric writing, for example, or blueprints for how to write songs more efficiently so we can write them quicker and better without killing ourselves over it because the creative game can be a wench sometimes. I’m a musical detective/Puzzler. That’s my thing. That’s what I’m interested in.

I like how you distinguish yourself as a puzzler or detective. I love the idea of blueprints, and the first time that I heard about you was your YouTube channel. You amassed a lot of interest on your YouTube channel. What do you think makes you different as far as the way you teach songwriting? Part of that is the puzzler and the blueprint versus other people that people can follow to learn songwriting.

The holistic approach. I don’t look at the songwriting, which traditionally speaking is chords, melody, and lyrics, but I’m interested in everything. Songwriting is so much more than just those three things. It’s all of the music production, but there’s a whole other inner game behind that. Your inner game can get in the way of you being able to write at your best, and that’s when we get writer’s block.

Don't just look at songwriting, traditionally speaking, as chords, melody, and lyrics. Songwriting is so much more than just those three things today. Click To Tweet

I’m interested in things like groove. Nobody ever talks about groove, but we made a whole 30-hour course just on how to lay out notes within an arrangement, how they interact with one another, and how loud they need to be in order to make someone move along to your song. It’s such a massive thing. It’s so undervalued, but it’s the physical aspect of your song, our people moving along to it.

I’m very interested in psychology as well. For example, for chords, I don’t look at, “Here’s the theory of that.” This note has to go here and be resolved here. We do that, too, but I’m not so interested in the music theory of it all. I’m more interested in the effect that it has on people, like I’m interested in groove. I’m interested in how does it people move. With chords, I’m interested in how it moves people emotionally.

It’s more the emotional aspect of things and which chords we can choose if we want to create a certain specific emotion within the listener. That’s what I’m most interested in. It’s more of the effect these tools have on people so that when we write music, we can pick the right tools for the job we want. If we have a song that we want to be bittersweet, what are the perfect grooves, chords, melodies, lyrics, and writing style of lyrics even to get that emotion across so people feel that? They don’t just hear the lyrics, and they’re like, “This is a song that’s bittersweet,” but that connects in all parts of their body.

I love the idea of having tools to help artists create those effects that you’re talking about. Do you ever find that giving them the tools and the blueprints sometimes makes their music start to sound a lot the same or makes one person’s music start to sound like another person’s music because they’re using these tools and blueprints? Do you have a way of teaching them to utilize these tools in a way that is helping them and not stunting them?

What’s important with that thing is to explain the blueprint and explain why it is here. Formula very often has to do with expectations. That’s why 90% of all the songs are this structure because that’s the expectation listeners have going into a song. It’s based on a 3X structure, and you can’t break that. That’s a big part of what we teach is how to manipulate those systems, but you first have to understand what the formula that people expect is because you can only break expectations if you know what the original is.

TPM 116 | Songwriting Rules

Songwriting Rules: You can only break expectations if you know what the original is.

 

One of the most fun things about songwriting is always breaking rules. That is the most fun part. It’s to figure out, “This is what they expect, so I’m going to hit them with this instead. I’m going to surprise them here.” Surprise can only happen if you first show them and give them something they can’t predict.

If your song starts off surprising, that is overwhelming for the brain, essentially. It’s hard to listen to music like that when it’s constantly surprising. After a while, we shut down. We’re like, “I don’t get this, apparently.” A song that starts off with a smaller intro builds up to a chorus, and we expect it to be a huge chorus like most songs, then it goes very small like Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift or Chop Suey by System of a Down, if you want a different genre. It completely shuts down for the course. All of a sudden, it gives you that feeling where you hold your breath because you’re like, “That came out of nowhere.” That wouldn’t work if we had started the song off with all these chaotic ideas and trying to do too many things at the same time.

What’s interesting with the Taylor Swift song for me, at least, is it made me look at the verse more and go, “I like this verse.” I hate the chorus, but I put up with it because it fits well in the song, but it highlighted the verse to me. I was like, “Now you got to pay attention to this because maybe this course isn’t your favorite part, or it’s not doing what you expected.” It can make your experience with the song a little bit different.

That’s what it does. It reframes the way you usually think about a song, and it makes it feel very different just because you flipped one little switch and went the other way. It makes you completely rethink the entire thing. All of a sudden, you go, “This is something special. I should listen to this.” I call this the gefährliche approach. Gefährliche is the German word for dangerous. I had a new training teacher who always said to us, “You’ve got to sound gefährliche.” Those were her exact words, and I love that. It’s so true.

If you lull us into a certain safety and you do something unexpected, what it does to the brain is the brain goes, “I know this,” and suddenly something new happens, and the brain goes, “Something new. I don’t know this. I need to learn how this works. Pay 100% attention to this.” That’s what the brain gives you endorphins for because it wants you to pay attention because there’s something the brain doesn’t understand yet. Putting in these little tiny surprises, women, your songs release endorphins for the listener and make them pay more attention to what you’re doing.

I love that connection with what’s going on in their mind and their brain. It brings to mind the Taylor Swift example. You talk about images in relation to songwriting. Most people are talking about developing an artist’s image in relation to marketing and branding. How do you talk about using your songwriting to develop your images as an artist?

It’s a two-way street. They both are very much connected. It’s a good idea for any artist out there to first take a look at who I am and how I want to put myself out there. Those are two different things. You don’t want to put yourself out there because personalities are so complex. It’s going to be hard to sell that, unfortunately. By selling, I don’t mean money-wise, but also in terms of emotionally selling that.

It’s very hard to sell a complex person. We like characters who have what we call depth in writing. It would be a character that has 2 or 3 warring traits but not 50. Usually, real people are more like 50. It’s very hard to get that across to an audience. It’s important first to create an image for yourself. I call it the cardboard cut-out. It’s the 2D version of yourself, and you go, “This is the image that I have when I’m performing for artists or for an audience out there.”

What you do is you basically cut it down instead of finding yourself. You de-find yourself. You figure out which trades I do not need and which are interesting about me? Which traits make me fascinating to the world? You use those traits, and I usually tell people to come up with 3 to 5 positive traits and 1 to 2 negative traits.

Negative traits less not because they’re not good but because they’re so powerful. They’re like traits on cocaine. They’re crazy powerful. That’s why they can take over an entire image if you have too many of them. I usually tell people to try to find one, then try to express or express those traits and the flaw within everything they do, starting with the music but with everything else. We have this thing called SAMPLE.

S is for socials. Anything you do socially, it could be an interview or anything where you interact with other people. A is for artwork. All of your visual stuff you do is illustrations for your albums or promo shots. M is for music. For me, it’s everything that we do at Holistic Songwriting Running Academy, chords, groove, melody, lyrics, and structuring your songs. P is for products. This is your merch, essentially. Finding merch articles that represent who you are instead of having a shirt and a cap like everyone.

One of my favorite examples of this is I try to float that into any conversation. Unfortunately, I forgot what the artist is called, but there’s a Nick Stream. They’re handing out free matchbooks with instructions for how to build a Molotov Cocktail. That’s not a merch article, technically, because they’re free. That’s such a that’s such a gefährliche dangerous merge article that only that artist could have done. Only if you’re far left that that makes total sense. L is your live show, your life performances, what you’re saying between songs, how you appear on stage, and what you wear. E finally is electronic stuff. This is your music videos and your website.

I like that SAMPLE acronym. It’s helpful to remember everything. Let’s talk about the writing process. I’ve gotten into writing a song. I’ve started in the morning, and all of a sudden, it’s dark outside. You get into that mode, or you get stuck, then you keep pushing through, going, “I need to finish this.” What tips do you have for helping songwriters write quickly?

I love talking about this because it’s such a big pain point for so many writers. Many writers are struggling with the exact same things. My job as a songwriting teacher allows me to look at all those questions and find good answers to them. Normally, when you’re a songwriter, you don’t get to do that because you have stuff to do and deadlines. You don’t get the time to sit down, experiment, and see what works best for you.

I come up with a lot of good solutions for a lot of big problems. There’s a lot of stuff to this. We have a course just on this subject, but let me give you a few pointers that are useful. One that is cool is you have deadlines for yourself throughout your project, so you know when your song is finished. That’s important. I get a lot of questions from people who say, “How do I know when my song is finished? How do I know it’s good enough?”

That’s one of the biggest problems that you will have, not just the over-perfectionism. Also, it’s keeping you from finishing your song. If you can always push back the end, then you’ll never finish it. At some point, you’ll get bored. You need to be able to see the 100% line. You need to be able to move closer to that every day in order to feel like you’re progressing with your songs.

If you’re not doing that, you’re never going to finish songs, or only if you’re lucky and you have something that just clicks for some reason. That’s a big one making yourself a deadline, saying, “By then, I need to be done,” and figuring out early what done means for yourself. Another thing would be one of the probably most crucial deadlines for me. The one that I never ever break now is the deadline at the end of the first session. I need to have the full song.

I need to have a song that I can listen to from start to finish. Meaning the next time I’ll come back to this session, I need to be able to press play and listen to the whole thing from start to finish. It doesn’t have to sound good. In fact, it’s better. It’s called a rough draft. It should be rough. I don’t think you worked on what’s important because, for the first version, you should work on getting across the song and figuring out where the big moments happened. How do I build up to them? What is the big story that I’m telling? Roughly rough it in.

That’s what the first section is about. That is my hardest deadline. At the end of the first session, I need to have a song I can listen to when I come back to it. It’s important to take some distance from your track. At that time, I don’t think you should listen to your song at all. I get a lot of backlash on this from writers because everybody loves their self-congratulatory walks, where we take our phone with us and listen to our own music like, “I’m so good at this. This is great. This is the best thing you’ve ever written. You’re brilliant. It’s so good.”

We love doing that thing. The problem with that is we get used to our demos, and that leads to what I call demolitis. We are all in love with our demos, and it becomes very hard to kill our darlings, to edit ourselves, and to rewrite things. What we try to do is instead of fixing the mistakes, which means either figuring out what’s wrong and fixing that or sometimes completely rewriting sections.

We are all in love with our demos, and it becomes very hard to kill our darlings, to edit ourselves, and to rewrite things. Click To Tweet

We try to fix them by not changing anything at all, and that’s very hard to do. It doesn’t work. I’m a big proponent of not listening to your music at all outside of your working sessions. It has one amazing side effect as well. My memories are terrible. I always say I have a memory like a fly on a booze cruise. When I come back to a session, I can’t remember anything for my song, most of that. I maybe like, “There was something.”

I remember what it was about, but I barely remember the basics of it. I can literally sit on my hands, press the play button with my nose, and listen to the whole thing from start to finish. Not being able to interject, not going into changing small things. That stuff doesn’t matter now. It’s a matter of listening to your song, hearing what you have now, and figuring out, “What’s good about this? What could be better? Which sections are problematic?” Fixing those big things first. Another big question, is it fun? Do I like it? Does it give me something? There’s a whole bunch more, but those would be three big pieces of advice that are probably useful, hopefully, for everyone out there.

Those are good. I especially love the, “Don’t listen to your demos,” because I’ve been there. I’ve definitely gotten so used to a version of a song that people have given me constructive criticism. I’m trying to fight back. I’m trying to say, “No, but this version is better.” These are smart people. I need to listen to them and not hang on to this version of it. That is better because I’ve heard it so many times.

It helps to strive to make the first version sound bad because that will make you want to remake it because it’s like, “I know this is going to be great.” That’s the attitude you want to have towards your song. You shouldn’t say like, “This is already amazing,” because then you fall in love with your demo. It’s going to be hard to make the changes that you need to make. From the start, you say, “Let’s make something that doesn’t sound very good yet, but I know it will at the end of my process.”

That’s hard for a perfectionist to do. For me, when I had to start doing free writing. That was hard because I didn’t want to write gibberish that wasn’t crafted. It’s hard for a perfectionist to say, “I’m going to be okay with writing crap at first.”

It is. Maybe one more technique I like using. I call it the Rubin Rule because this is hard for a lot of people. The rule that I’ve come up with is to give it a little bit more structure because the thing about free writing that is so unappealing to a perfectionist is, “I don’t want to waste all this time. I want to work on making something perfect.”

If we feel like everything we do is working towards something. It makes that easier to overcome. The Rubin rule says that if you are stuck on something, if you notice you’re getting too perfectionist with things, write five things very quickly in the same amount of time it would take you to write one thing well, then pick the best one. It gives it a nice structure where you’re able to, first of all, explain to yourself why you’re doing this.

There’s always a goal. I had a song for my record that hasn’t been released yet. It is the second candid record. Kenoid is my artist project. I had this song. I finished it, as I said in the first session. I came back to it and realized I love the chorus. It’s one of my favorite chorus I’ve ever written. The verses are not so good. They’re okay, but not as good as the course.

I struggled with that song for months. I couldn’t figure out how to write a better verse. I was trying to rewrite it and find different ways to make it work. None of it worked. Eventually, I realized why I didn’t use one of my own techniques? Let’s use the Rubin rule on this, and I literally spent 30 minutes. I copied the chorus six times and left gaps in between.

I wrote five different verses in between those gaps, then listened to it front to back. Immediately, I knew which one was the best one. That’s how I found my verse. A problem I’d been working on for months was solved in an hour of work, like half an hour of putting it together, then five minutes of figuring out which one was the best one, and half an hour to get it to the point where I was happy with it.

This illustrates what you do so well. You take what I said, how do you get out of your perfectionism, and you created a framework around it to help me get out of my perfectionism. A thing I can follow to do. Let’s talk about groove. Groove is something that’s not talked about enough. In fact, we started a songwriting challenge in our community. This is one of the challenges we gave them, to create a groove or a counter melody that’s going on in the instrumentation while they’re melody is going on. How do you even start coming up with something like that?

Groove is a quite complex subject that goes to the nitty-gritty, and we have to look at notes and where to place them. For Holistic Songwriting Academy, I’ve identified seven different what I call movement patterns. The thing that I focus on now is to question, how does this song move? What is the way I want my audience to move to this song?

Every decision I make in the arrangement, with note placement, note loudness, the interaction between notes, and note length. Note length is another undervalued factor of groove. All of that has to feed into that movement pattern. Making sure that the song moves in the way that I intended. To give you two of them, one of them has this movement pattern to it. I call it the isochronous movement because it takes the same time to move the head down as to move them up.

We have what I call the gyrate movement, which has a very slow downward movement and a sharp uptick, for example. Those are two upsets out of seven. Everything I do for Groove and how we teach it is every decision in your arrangement should be made. Where you place your notes is made based off of you are getting across that movement pattern and is consistent with your movement pattern throughout your entire song.

Do you create the groove before you create the song’s melody or the other way around?

It often comes first. One of my favorite things to do with songwriting I don’t ever teach people how to write songs like what they should start with. One of the best things about songwriting is that we can start with anything. I’ve started writing melodies based on the backing vocals. You start with the backing vocals, then you write the melody. It’s completely backward, but it works, and it’s great. You come up with some interesting ideas.

I’ve done both. When I’m coming to a project late, that’s already like 60% or 70% done. I will often check the movement pattern and make sure it is consistent and that it does work. I’ve often also come in and thought, “This movement pattern doesn’t support this melody very well,” because that’s another big thing that you ask about, that counterpoint between melody and the music. That’s what this is about. It’s the movement pattern versus how the melody interacts with that movement pattern.

Sometimes, I come into a project like, “That melody doesn’t sing. It doesn’t soar.” That’s because the movement pattern underneath is too similar or it’s too different. It doesn’t support that melody very well. It doesn’t give it the emotion that I would want that melody to have. I go through the project quickly, change a couple of notes, move a couple of notes around, and change the movement pattern. All of a sudden, the whole song moves very differently. It’s quite a drastic change, but the melody feels completely different, and people are stoked about that change 80% or 90% of the time.

It has that effect of like, “This is still my song,” but all of a sudden, it’s better. You get that feeling of like, “This is like a new version of my song, but the melody sounds so awesome now.” It doesn’t change anything about your song, but it feels completely new and fresh in a way. That’s been one of the secret tricks I use when I come to a project late as an advisory producer or songwriter.

It probably is a little easier to see that when you’re coming to the song as an outsider. For me, it would be hard. I need to develop skills in order to see how groove can support it just because I’ve never written that way before. It’s cool that you’re developing those skills because it’s a whole other framework for making the song better.

It’s the horizontal arrangement. I studied music, as I said. Often, we talk about chords and melodies. That’s all vertical arrangement like what are the intervals between notes? How do they relate to the key? What we never talk about is the horizontal arrangement. How are notes laid out? How long should notes be? Something we never talked about in University, which is crazy. It’s important. It’s such a big deal. It’s such a big difference whether you play more of a swing feel. It makes such a huge difference to to listener. It feels very different depending on the movement pattern you want to get across.

Let’s switch your gears again and talk about lyrics because I know you’ve got some good tips around writing lyrics as well. I’m curious, do you have any recommendations on writing the lyrics first and the music second or the music first and lyrics second? Is it just how your muse works?

Both can work. I struggle with recommending a very one-sided approach where you completely write the melodies first, then puzzle in the lyrics. I don’t think that works. There needs to be some give between both of them. It needs to be a process where you go back and forth a couple of times. Otherwise, your result is not going to be what you want it to be.

It’s the same thing for writing lyrics first, then coming up with melodies for that. I don’t think that’s a good thing. Again, not being able to go back and forth a couple of times. What you’re doing is, that’s your melody. The lyrics on the hand side provide. They shape the sound of that melody. That’s an important part. If you were a producer, maybe an easier way to think about this is those are your knobs and filters. That’s how you shape the sound of the melody. It’s a massive thing. Which vowel you use has a massive impact on how your melody is going to come across.

It’s also the content of the lyrics, what you’re saying. My process, the one I recommend on HSA, goes back and forth a lot more. It’s about finding a good balance between the two halves. It’s a myth that you need to be in one of those two camps. I certainly was more melody-focused early on in my career until a couple of years ago.

If I ever have a struggle between melody and lyrics and have to make a decision based on one of the other. If I have to favor one or the other, I have a great line, but it sounds good, or I have a great melody, but it doesn’t say anything. I usually went for melody. Now, I make the decision more case by case, but I’ve discovered a lot more about what great content can bring to text.

What is important that a lot of people don’t do is before you start writing your lyrics, you should know what they’re about, and you should start free writing first and get your ideas out of paper. I have a thing called the lyric diary as if you were writing in a diary. You’re having a conversation with this imaginary someone. I call her Lydia lyric diary, then I write almost freeform. There are a couple of tricks I use to make it already sound a little bit more like lyrics, then 90% of the time, I have at least 4 or 5 good lines out of that, where I’m like, “Those are my chorus lines, or this is my opening line for my verse.”

TPM 116 | Songwriting Rules

Songwriting Rules: Before you start writing your lyrics, you should know what they’re about, and you should start free writing first and get your ideas out of paper.

 

I have a whole process. Are there any definitive lyrics before I write the melody where I structure that out and figure out how am I going to get this idea or this story? How do I get that across? It’s called the Lyric Canvas 2.0. It’s one of our many blueprints where I structure it out into verse 1, verse 2, bridge, and the chorus. There are certain rules for how to do that well because the music tells a story as well. One of the few rules that exist in music is that lyrical storytelling should match musical storytelling. If it doesn’t, there should be a good reason for it, at least.

It is important to understand how musical storytelling works to be able to figure out the structure of your lyrics. The process is a lot of back and forth. Writing a line here, switching back to the chorus, and writing a line there. Piecing it together bit by bit. There’s a lot of rewriting as well. It’s never just you write it down, and that’s the line. I want to make this very clear again. It’s not. I start at the top, from the first line, then write the lyrics down. This is what most writers do, and it’s a mistake.

To have a good overview of your story and figure out how you’re going to shape things, you can need a line here that leads into this later on. Maybe I should have a good line that leads out of this as well. You write a line here, then you go, “I should set this up earlier. Let’s write a line in verse one.” You’re still not writing lines. Some of those lines might translate later to actual lyrics, but you’re trying to figure out what needs to go where and how do I want to say things.

Out of all of the material that you’ve collected for me, this goes very quickly. This is like half an hour’s work because I’ve done it so many times. It’s become intuition. I don’t have to look at my Lyric Canvas 2.0 anymore. Out of all of that work that you’ve done, you essentially write your melody like your lyrics. The lyrics influence the melody so much. It is a process where both of those are being written at the same time. That’s the best way to do it. It’s when you’re writing lyrics and melody at the same time. That’s that’s how you get the best fusion between those both worlds. You have the sound the meaning, and you also have the beautiful melody.

I like that, and that’s why it’s Holistic Songwriting because you’re not, “Let’s write these lyrics. Let’s write this melody and see how I can fit them together.” It’s all happening at the same time, but there’s still an order to it in order to follow the blueprint. I like that approach. Since you wrote the book The Addiction Formula, I would love to know how songwriters can make their songs more addicting because we want people to stream them over and over again.

The Addiction Formula is about structure in a way. It is about how you set up your song. How do you let your song tell a musical story? That’s essentially the question I’m interested in with that book. We’re also making a course now, the Addiction Formula 2.0, with some updates and more examples. The basic idea of it is how do you keep every part of your song interesting? The core thing that we’re looking at here is energy. High energy sections. Typically, your chorus is very satisfying, but if you only have satisfying sections in your song. Your song becomes very boring and very predictable. We need low-energy sections.

TPM 116 | Songwriting Rules

The Addiction Formula

Low-energy sections are not very satisfying, so we have to figure out ways in order to make those interesting to drive our interest toward the next moment of gratification. We have periods of anticipation. Those are your verses, your pre-choruses, especially, and your bridge often as well. Those are the sections that should build and set up everything that’s going to happen. Put this thought into our mind, like, “I know this is low energy, but something cool is on the horizon. This cool thing is around the corner.” When the chorus comes, it’s massively satisfying.

It’s interesting because the number one question I get asked by people who haven’t seen any of my stuff is, “How do you write a great melody?” A lot of the time, what it comes down to is I hear so many good melodies out there from amateur writers or not-so-good writers. Where I think like, “That’s a good melody.” The problem isn’t that this melody isn’t good. The problem is that it hasn’t been set up right. It doesn’t land right.

It doesn’t come at a point in the song where I’m like, “I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen,” then this thing drops, and I’m like, “That’s what I’ve been looking for. I can’t believe you just put this in front of my eyes or ears.” That’s what it needs to feel like. You build up to your best moments, then boom, there it is.

What I hear so often in people’s songs is it feels more like their songs are saying, “Here’s an idea that I’ve been working on, and here’s another idea. Here’s also another idea, and he’s another idea on top of that. What do you think of this idea? I’m not so sure. Is this a good idea? Maybe I should show you this idea as well and have this very variation of it, which I’m sure you’re going to love and this.” It becomes very confusing and very tiring.

As I said earlier, if you don’t follow certain formulas within your songs, this is where the addiction formula is especially important. For me, it’s probably one of the strongest formulas in music. If you don’t follow that formula or don’t understand how to build up energy toward certain moments and deliver those gratifying moments. It becomes confusing for the listener and becomes a moment where they either go, “This is overwhelming. I don’t understand this.”

If you don't understand how to build up energy toward certain moments and deliver those gratifying moments, it becomes confusing for the listener and they turn it off. Click To Tweet

They turn it off, or they get bored or think nothing’s going to happen. They don’t even hear your best chorus or your best section. All those things are frustrating. That’s why I’ve created the addiction formula. It’s a set of tools that shows you exactly how to build those energy curves and how to do that specifically with specific techniques. Where should you put drum fields, where should your vocals go up, and why should your vocals go up or when should they go down and is going up into falsetto the same thing as going up into belting? Questions like that are what drives energy, and that’s what I’m interested in.

I love all of that because it all makes sense. I can hear myself listening to songs as I come across new songs on Spotify and thinking about those things. Thinking, “I feel like this is going somewhere that’s going to be good, but it’s now taking a minute and a half, and we haven’t gotten there,” so I’m moving on to the next song or the high-energy, then pull back. It stems out of psychology, which is what you’re all about, which I love. I do need to ask one more thing before we finish our episode that has nothing to do with songwriting. I saw that you also developed board games. How did you get into that?

It’s kind of like I get into any of those things and how I got into songwriting as well, how I got into teaching, for example. I watched a lot of good people do it. I played a lot of board games. I got into it for a time. I played a lot of board games. After a while, I was like, “This is so cool. I want to make something like that myself.” I’m like that.

For a while, I watched like these YouTube videos of people building guitars. I was like, “I’ve watched enough videos now. I want to build a guitar now.” I build my own guitar. It’s how my brain works. Everything that I consume needs to lead to me creating something. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve wasted my time on YouTube again. Now, I can pretend that every time I play a game, it’s research for the next board game that I’m developing. Every time I buy a new board game, my wife rolls her eyes at me. I can be like, “No, research, honey.”

Good on you, though. Many of us spend time watching things on YouTube aspirationally think,
I’m going to do this. I’m going to make this. I’m going to cook this.” All that then we don’t. We live vicariously through, so it’s cool that you feel like when you put your energy into learning something. You expect something creative to come out of it. I’m assuming that most people reading are that way about music. I’m sure they would love to connect with you further. Can you let them know how to find your YouTube channel and the best places to connect with you online?

The YouTube channel is called Holistic Songwriting. We have a website called Holistic-Songwriting.com. Our best course is Holistic Songwriting Academy. If you want to try it before buying, we have a course called the 24-hour Song, which is about the song process that I mentioned of how to write a song quicker, better, and without killing yourself over it. The book The Addiction Formula is also something that a lot of people like. That’s for a lot of people. That was the thing that brought them and made them pay attention to Holistic Songwriting.

If you don’t want to pay for anything, we also have a free resource, Fill that Page, which is about how to write more lyrics. If you’re struggling with filling your page, getting the words out, how to write about your subject, and how to write enough lines to finish your song. That’s what that is all about. That gives you a bunch of very practical tools like, “Here’s how you can double your word count,” without getting boring.

The very important thing is not like, “Come up with 50 more ways to say the same thing in different words.” That’s not what we’re teaching. You’re not writing a thesaurus. You’re writing lyrics. It’s about how to become a better storyteller, a better writer, and grab someone’s attention. That’s all in there. That’s on our website as well. Check that out.

TPM 116 | Songwriting Rules

Songwriting Rules: You’re not writing a thesaurus. You’re writing lyrics. It’s about how to become a better storyteller, a better writer, and grab someone’s attention.

 

Those are all fantastic resources. Thank you, Friedemann, for all of the knowledge that you laid out and for directing us to all these great resources. I appreciate you spending some time with us.

Thanks so much, Bree. I appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.

 

Important Links

 

About Friedemann Findeisen

TPM 116 | Songwriting RulesHi, I’m Friedemann Findeisen, creator of Holistic Songwriting Academy. I’ve been teaching people how to change their lives by empowering them to write awesome fucking songs. I help songwriters, musicians, producers and artists to find their message and express it in a way that resonates with others.

As a teacher: I started doing this in 2015, the year I got my Bachelor of Music. I released my bestseller “The Addiction Formula” in the same year (available on Amazon and Audible). In 2017, I released “The Artists Series” on YouTube, which has gathered millions of views and over 400,000 subscribers. In 2019, I did a kickstarter for “The Songwriting Decks”, which was funded at 238%. I teach one day a week at Artez, the biggest conservatory in the Netherlands, and I’m a frequent guest speaker at various universities around Europe and the United States.

As a songwriter: I have written and produced music in a lot of different styles. For my artist project Canohead, I mix influences from Metal with Indie Folk, Grunge, Jazz, Funk and Trip Hop. These days, I prefer helping others on their journey, but in the past, when I was more actively pursuing a music career, I wrote for Apple, Ubisoft, and my film music has gone to Cannes Film Festival. I come with the highest recommendations of Conrad Pope (John Williams’ orchestrator), Erwin Steijlen (Pink, Shakira) and Rene Merkelbach (Within Temptation).

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