Blueprinting Your Song

Blueprinting Your Song

Something that has changed my songwriting in a radical way is a technique I call blueprinting your song. With this technique, I’ve developed into a much better communicator with my lyrics and it has cut my writing time in half (writing fast is not a goal, but it doesn’t hurt to save time). It also stops me from ever getting stuck when I’m trying to write verse 2 and it helps me get all of my co-writers aligned if I’m writing with other people.

By using this technique of blueprinting your song, or mapping your song, if you learn to do it well, I predict you will experience the same results.

Before I began the blueprinting technique, I often struggled to complete a song in one session.

Co-writing often felt like herding cats. Someone would throw out a line late into the co-write, and I would say, “I don’t understand how that line goes with what we are saying.” It would turn out that my co-writer(s) and I had been writing different songs all day. They might have completely different ideas about the storyline than I had, and we were having a hard time because we did not have a clear, shared idea of where our song was going.

Enter blueprinting. Once I started using this technique, I was able to get everyone in the room on the same page before we started writing. That’s why we wrote faster. We were all writing the same song.

The idea behind the blueprinting technique is that you come up with ONE big idea for each section of your song. If you read the lyrics to my song “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” (which was a No. 1 for Billy Currington), I can show you what I mean.

The big idea for the song generally goes into the chorus. The big idea for this song was, “I must be doing something right because I’m getting good feedback.” So, we had to think about how we wanted to set that idea up in verse 1. We decided on the idea, “Women are hard for men to understand.” We thought that idea set up our chorus idea really well.

So, our blueprint began to take shape.

Verse 1: Women are hard for men to understand.
Chorus: I must be doing something right because I’m getting good feedback.

Then, we had to think about where we would go in verse 2 to take our big idea even further. (I talk about this idea in another blog where I discussed the job of each part of the song.) The job of the second verse is to take the big idea and either run with it or take it somewhere new. We decided that our lovable, bumbling man in the song was just going to ask her what he could do to be a better lover. So, the big idea for verse 2 was born and our blueprinting looked like this:

Verse 1: Women are hard for men to understand.
Chorus: I must be doing something right because I’m getting good feedback.
Verse 2: Show me how to love you better.

I usually don’t use the blueprinting technique in a bridge, because many popular songs these days don’t have one. Also, I don’t ever include a bridge unless it is 100% essential to my song. My first publisher, Kim Williams, used to say, “Don’t build a bridge unless there’s a river to cross”. So, our blueprint was done and we decided to just see if we needed a bridge when the time came.

Notice several things about the blueprint:

It’s simple.
Every section has a complete sentence.
Each section is a new thought.
The blueprint for verse 2 takes the song deeper. In this song, it’s deeper because he’s not content to be a decent lover, he wants to be a GREAT lover. That idea, it turns out, really appeals to women.
Each section is in the same “voice” that the song is in. In verse 1, we’re making a general statement. Then we start talking TO her in the chorus and it remains that way throughout.
Those are all important factors. As you practice the blueprinting technique, be sure to give yourself the five-point checkup and make sure your blueprints meet each of those criteria.

So, I’ve taught you the basics of blueprinting. If you want to learn more, check out, “Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing.”

Now, I want to tell you how I use this technique in the “real world.”

When I’m writing alone, I sit down and write out my blueprint before I start writing the song. In the co-write with Jason Matthews writing “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right,” Jason got inspired and threw out some lines. After settling on the title, I did a quick blueprint in my head and simply said, “What if we talk about how mysterious women are to men in verse 1, then talk about him getting good feedback in the chorus and verse 2 could be about him wanting to learn to love her better?” Jason agreed, and we were off the races. We had a plan for what we wanted to communicate in each section, and we wrote the biggest song of our careers in about 90 minutes.

Give the blueprinting technique a try. Practice with some of your titles and give thought to how you want to develop each section. Do it well and you’ll know what verse 2 is about before you even get there.

~ MD

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Marty Dodson
Multi-hit songwriter/Co-Founder of SongTown
Co-Author of the top-selling book The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting

7 thoughts on “Blueprinting Your Song

  1. Hey Marty. Just looking through “must be doin somethin’ right” as suggested in this article. You mention using the same voice throughout the song – I’m looking through the first verse where it says…

    A woman is mystery
    A man just can’t understand
    Sometimes all it takes to please her
    Is the touch of your hand
    And other times you got to take it slow
    And hold her all night long

    The fourth line is confusing to me – is he being reflective in his own mind (like most of the verse suggests) or singing directly to her (fourth line)? Is this what you mean by the same “voice”?

    Please don’t take this as a criticism, I’m interested in the choice of words

  2. Ever since I read Marty’s “Song Building” I’ve been using song blueprints when writing songs.
    I added some modifications to help with the way I think/work
    – put the “what this section is about” inside ‘s,
    – put words and phrases I’m brainstorming inside []’s
    – put musical ideas inside {}’s
    – notate the accent patterns in the sections with
    – periods (.) for unaccented syllables
    – hyphens (-) for accented syllables.

  3. Good stuff Marty! The more I write, the easier it is for me to see my strengths and weakness in song writing. V2 is my trouble spot. I do use blue printing about 50 percent of the time. However, when I do, I’m not very mindful about it. I’ll let a cool line or phrase run me of coarse and still not see what happened. This is it right here. Definitely will mindfully apply. Ty!

  4. Hey Marty
    Blueprinting is the most important tool I learned in Songtown
    Merci Beaucoup
    Vincent

  5. This method was the catalyst for me writing five songs a week at minimum now. Thank you, Marty. You are the real deal when it comes to clear communication, in your songs and in your mentoring!

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