There comes a time in every musician's career when he wants to know how to make a ballad. How does one do such a thing, you ask? How do you write a song bursting with so much emotion that even the coldest of hearts pull out their lighters and sing along? To make a ballad you must only know four things. Read on and learn the ways.
- A melodic hook at the opening of the song. Think of "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. What first hits you when the track starts? Slash's masterfully constructed melodic hook. This is the part that sears its way into everyone's brain. Your hook should be so catchy that not only will your audience listen to the song the whole way through, but they'll also be humming it to themselves for weeks. This is the first, and perhaps most important, key to making a ballad.
- Soft verses. Metallica's "Fade To Black" is a perfect example of the 'soft verse' mentality that is key to making a ballad. Your verse segments need to be mellow, and must cover subjects like finding love for the first time, losing love for the final time, or the hopelessness of life. Consider using an acoustic guitar for this part to create an even softer sound.
- Heavy hitting sing-along choruses. A heavy chorus is what makes the ballad so powerful. Without the heavy chorus you're just another wimpy singer/song writer with too many emotions. The key to making a heavy ballad chorus is to find maybe three or four power chords that work, and then saturating those cords with passionate vocals. Listen to Skid Row's "I Remember You" for a quick lesson on how a heavy chorus packs power into a ballad.
- A face melting solo. Somewhere near the end of your ballad, say between the last verse and chorus, there needs to be a mind bending solo. Up until this point in the song the vocalist has been doing nearly all the work. Now it's time to kick up the lead guitar and let it wail! This step is the absolute key to making your ballad over the top. Go listen to Dokken's "Alone Again" to hear just what we're talking about!
Put all these key elements together and you'll have one sure fire ballad on your hands. Hey, you might even find that it's hard not to sing along with your own music! Who knew that making a ballad could be reduced to such a rock n' roll science?