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How to write a song like Ariana Grande

how to write a song like ariana grande

Ariana Grande is one of the most successful artists today. And even though her songs are relatively simple, I believe that they are very unique and different from any other artists out there. In the songwriting course, I already explained many of the songwriting tools and techniques that they use in her songs. In this article, I would like to write specifically about the things that makes her songs unique and better than other songs in the same genre.

Collaboration

The very first thing you need to keep in mind is that she is not writing her songs alone. She works on the songs with many other songwriters and producers. And this makes her songs very different from each other. Each songwriter and producer brings in different styles and different musical ideas. So one of the aspects of her songs is that they are built from many ideas from many different songwriters and producers, which makes the songs unique and different from each other. But of course, there are many things that are common in her songs, so let’s take a look at what are these things.

Arrangement

The arrangement of these songs is very simple. In fact, almost all songs contain the same musical instruments or sounds: bass, drums, backing vocals, and something that provides the chord, which is a synth sound most of the time. Occasionally, it’s a guitar sound in some of the songs. The goal with this simple instrumentation is to give space to the main vocal, which is the most important part of the songs.

Usually, the verses have fewer instruments, sometimes it’s just the vocal with the synth and some drums. Other elements like the bass and the background vocals usually come in the chorus, which puts the chorus to a higher energy level.

One of her latest songs “Positions” has a really unique sound. In this song, instead of using a synth sound, they used acoustic samples of string instruments like the violin. And they even used both plucked (pizzicato), and regular (arco) string sounds. These string sounds make this song very different from any other song of hers. The reason why I like many of her songs is because of these kinds of innovative sounds. They are always experimenting with bringing new and fresh ideas, so her songs sound very different from other artists.

The Beat

First of all, it’s important to note that all Ariana Grande songs contain the Rhythm Code™. The Rhythm Code is a hidden system behind all successful songs. It is used by all successful songwriters, including Max Martin, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift.

The beat is mostly determined by the drums, especially the bass drum. While the snare (that is playing the 2 and 4) is also a crucial part of the drumbeat, it’s always the same – playing 2 and 4. But the bass drum is what makes the beat unique. Because it always plays a different rhythm in each song.

The bass drum is usually playing a two or four-bar pattern that is going in a loop. But most of the time it follows the structure of the song, which means that it plays a different pattern in the verses and a different one in the chorus. There is one interesting drum pattern I found in all of Ariana’s songs. The bass drum always plays on the “one” in the first bar, but it never plays on the “one” in the second bar. Here is an example of this, this is the drumbeat from the song “Problem”:

Interestingly, the drumbeat of “Positions” is as unique as the instrumentation. While most pop songs have a drum pattern that is only one or two bars, the chorus of Positions has an eight-bar drum pattern. This means that while most songs have two-bar drum loops, in Positions, the bass drum plays a unique rhythm in each line, or in other words, it plays a unique rhythm for eight bars before it repeats itself.

This makes the beat a little bit more complex, and less repetitive, less boring, kind of improvisational. Although, keep in mind that each line is very similar, kind of like a variation of each other, so it’s not complete chaos. And as you can see, there is always a hit on the “one” in the first bar, but never in the second bar.

the kick drum (Positions – chorus)

Chord Progression

As with most pop songs today, the chord progressions of her songs are not very complicated. Most of the time, they use only about four chords in a song. If we look at the frequency of the chords statistically (see the chart below), the two most used chords in her songs are the “VIm” and the “IV”, which are “Am” and “F” in the key of C major. Interestingly, the tonic “I” chord only comes as the second most used chord, which means that there are songs that don’t even include the tonic I. chord. Even fewer songs include the main dominant functions, the chords “V” and “III” (the latter is the main dominant function in a minor key.) This is the statistics of how many of her songs contain a certain chord at least once:

The Hook

Any pop song today can be full of hooks. A hook makes a song memorable and unique. But what is a hook? It’s a short melodic motif that has an interesting rhythm. If you want people to remember your songs, you need to create these unique melodic motifs in your songs. In our songwriting course, I show exactly how you can create these kinds of hooks for your songs.

In the case of Ariana, most of the time, her vocal melodies contain some hooks. But about 50% of the time, there is a hook that is played by a musical instrument. Most of the time, it’s a synth sound, but sometimes it’s a saxophone. For example, in the song “One Last Time”, the keyboard is playing a melody throughout the whole song, and actually, that melody is exactly the same as the vocal melody in the chorus.

The secret pattern behind successful songs

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About the Author

Producer, songwriter of the band Barrio Latino Hungría. Author of the Songwriting Essentials.