The Silent Exclamation Mark

A common mistake it to think that you have to add something to the soundscape if you want to get the listeners attention. Much in the same fashion as when someone who wants to address a babbling crowd picks up a megaphone. This misconception can make life really difficult for a songwriter. Every now and then the appropriate thing to do is actually the opposite. Sometimes it is the only available option.

Guest Post from Songwriting: Get Your Black Belt In Music & Lyrics

The Silent Exclamation Mark


There are places in your song where you want to place exclamation marks, to really get the listeners attention. You don’t want them to miss the hooky parts. Instead you want their listening to be focused, and the experience of what they hear to be as intense as possible. Songwriters often refer to the intensity of the listening experience as ”energy”. Its not an energy that can be measured, and even if it could, the measurements taken would vary a great deal between listeners since the how we experience music is so subjective. ”Energy” is a nice and adequately unscientific term. 🙂

”Energy… writing a song is about working with energy. You have to develop a sensibility for building and maintaining energy”
– Jörgen Elofsson.

Three things create energy.

  • interesting content
  • changes
  • “fast & loud”

The Silent Exclamation Mark

To draw attention to the beginning of a song’s final chorus, it isn’t unusual to let the drums and other things in the arrangement drop out. You can let the vocal parts have the stage for themselves and wait for half a bar, or maybe one or two bars, before they get company. When multiple things suddenly disappear from the soundscape, the surprise effect brings the energy up. You have introduce a sudden and drastic change.

Walk Away by Nylen/Magnusson/Kreuger/Carlsson (Westlife) is an example of this approach. Listen to the chorus start at 2:58.

Another example can be found in the song Don’t Move, by Marit Larsen, in the chorus starting at 2:27. Here the effect is even more stark since the form part before the chorus has been gradually building from quiet to climax. in this production, adding more sounds and continuing the movement towards higher pitches would not have produced a good result.

Learn more

Learn more about the connection between music and activation (emotion), how to deal with the energy flow, by reading the book: Songwriting: Get Your Black Belt In Music & Lyrics.


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