A Songwriting Trick - How to Write More Emotional Songs

A lot of times when we're writing music, we write based on our own life experiences. When you do that, it's usually pretty easy to jump into the right mindset and emotions of a song, because you know what they are since they happened to you.

But sometimes you'll come up with a great song idea that didn't happen to you, specifically (or maybe only a small part of it did). In that case, it can be more difficult to get into and deliver the appropriate emotions that would occur in that situation.

In business, there's a concept called the Customer Avatar, which I learned about from Eben Pagan, who's a well respected marketer. The idea being, when you're marketing your products, you need to envision a very specific person, and write to him, only.Doing this will help you focus your ideas. Don't think about the masses.

I'll elaborate more on this concept as it applies to writing songs from ideas you may not have experienced yourself. For songwriters, I've modified this concept so that instead of a "customer" avatar, we're coming up with a character avatar.

The purpose of the character avatar is to be able to focus your thoughts on a character in your song. It'll allow you to get inside the mind of that person to see what they feel. It's an advanced way of stepping in someone else's shoes. When you come up with your character avatar, you'll want to be very specific about who he is, down to the details. This person can be real, or imaginary. That doesn't matter, as long as you focus on his details.

Let's look at an example. Let's say I'm writing a song about a guy whose girlfriend cheated on him. I'll want to develop a character avatar for the guy, so he's not just "some guy" anymore, but a real person, in my mind. So we'll start with his basic information:

Name: Bill

Sex: Male

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Age: 26

Education: Some College

Occupation: Auto Mechanic

Annual Salary: $40,000/yr.

Marital Status: Single

Kids: None

Hobbies/Interests: Cars, Country Music, Football

Personality Traits: Introverted, Logical, Usually Happy & Easy Going

Lifestyle Traits: Suburban, Blue Collar

This is information I made up. Bill isn't based on a real person. But he could be, if that made things easier for your song. You're welcome to create an avatar based on a real person that you know, if you'd like. Either way, now we have some basic information for Bill. By the way, have you noticed I've already stopped referring to him as "a guy" and started calling him "Bill?" He's already becoming more real.

You might be thinking "Why would I need to include information like his salary?" The reason for that, is the more detail specific you are, the more real he becomes. I'm not necessarily going to mention all that information in the song, but knowing things like his salary could tell you more about the type of lifestyle he lives. In fact most of the information we wrote down won't come up at all. But it's important to write it out so we can easily picture who we're writing about.

It's also a good idea to include a picture for your character avatar. That'll really help bring him to life. If you're working with someone who's not a person in real life, just search for some images online that fit the physical information you came up with.

If we were writing a movie, as opposed to a song, it would be different. A lot of this stuff would be built in to what we can see onscreen. Also, in a two hour movie, there's just more time for the development of this stuff.

But in a song, we don't have that luxury, so a lot of times these details simply aren't thought of when we're writing. That can leave our final product with an emotional disconnect, because as writers, we never really even understood who the song was about in the first place.

We can't stop with the information we've come up with so far. It's not enough. We need to tap into Bill's emotions. People respond to songs that make them feel emotions. A lot of times, that will start with the emotions your character is experiencing. So get specific about your character avatar's emotions. And don't just write those emotions, but allow yourself to feel them too. Get into character. You're essentially an actor here, so feel these emotions to properly get into your role.

So ask yourself, what is Bill feeling after this break up? You'll probably write down things like sadness, anxiety, or maybe even anger. It's not enough to just list those emotions like that. Take a little time to focus on each one. Start with sadness. Allow yourself to get into that emotion. Reference something that happened to you that made you sad, and allow that emotion to exist inside you for a few moments. Then move on to anxiety and anger and do the same thing.

By coming up with your character avatar, whether or not you've actually experienced what your song's about in real life doesn't matter as much anymore. You're now using a way to understand what Bill's going through. Now you'll be able to write a more emotional song because you know what those emotions are, and who's experiencing them.

To learn more, download my free EBook here:

Anthony Ceseri is the owner of, a website dedicated to the growth and development of songwriters of all skill levels. Anthony's writings appear as examples in the book "Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises For Finding Your Voice" by Pat Pattison, an acclaimed lyric writing professor at Berklee College of Music.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this songwriting tips with us. I will apply this in the future.