Songwriting Exchange: The Unconventional

The Unconventional: Incorporate a surprise into your song.

How to Respond

Write a new song or musical phrase that uses an interesting rhythmic, melodic or harmonic element to take it to an unexpected place! Post your work below using SoundCloud or video.


  • Try to create a unique song design. Do you have to start immediately with a chordal intro? Can you start with an instrument solo or the bridge?
  • Try to create different melodic shapes by using octaves and arpeggios. 
  • What would it sound like to incorporate rests, or more space into your song?



  • Have a friend listen to a sample of your song and suggest a place where a surprising element could go.

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Comment by Ken Bragg on June 6, 2014 at 7:14pm

This is completely random, but my current unconventional musical muse is the song "Lazaretto" by  Jack White. If you haven't heard it, I'd say give it a  few listens (because the first time you hear it, you might hate it like I did.) It's a bunch of unconvetion rolled into a tiny little weird ball. And I'd expect no less from him. haha

Comment by Deidre Rodman Struck on June 5, 2014 at 8:49pm

Sneh Ratna Choudhary, I wouldn't say it's an all-good or all-bad thing, just something to consider. Having two separate sections is totally fine, just asks the listener to hang in there and go for a ride, which is okay if that's what intrigues you. Or maybe each idea is a separate song which might stand stronger if developed on its own. Only one way to find out--try both ways!

Comment by Sneh Ratna Choudhary on June 5, 2014 at 11:04am

@Deidre Rodman Struck is my song being two songs a good thing or bad thing? i heard bjork's army of me and it's oh so quiet, and she is definitely an inspiration

Comment by Erica Lashley on June 4, 2014 at 10:56pm

@Jacob Derwin I LOVE Nine Hours to NY oh my gosh - the lyrics are so casually wonderful and they go perfectly with the laid back feel of the tune in general. I think it was a great idea to double over the vocals (or whatever it was you did to create that sound). It was really great! 

Comment by Erica Lashley on June 4, 2014 at 10:50pm

In this song, I tried to be unconventional by including a quasi-chorus that is in the key of the relative major more than the minor key of the song. I don't normally include many stops in my songs either, so I tried to experiment with those a little too. here it is :

Comment by Erica Lashley on June 4, 2014 at 9:08pm

@Joseph Makoviecki I think the stops/breaks in this tune provide a really great tension and outline for the unconventional structure of this song. I'm obsessed with vocal harmonies, so I think it might be cool to add some to the "oohs" and "ahh"s, but I think the middle part with the oohs and the melodica (?) playing off of each other is really cool and sounds cooler than just a vocal harmony would sound.

Comment by Kaloni Baylor on June 3, 2014 at 11:33pm

Thanks Deidre!

Comment by Deidre Rodman Struck on June 3, 2014 at 9:17pm

Kelley Ahlstrom, ooooh nice and atmospheric. I heard a bit of an homage to Coldplay's "The Scientist"-was that intentional? I especially liked the wordplay of the lyrics and thought your use of the hook was well-placed.

I was only hoping for a bit more of the song, maybe something to lift it at the end. What do you think?

Comment by Deidre Rodman Struck on June 3, 2014 at 9:12pm

Sneh Ratna Choudhary, I applaud that you went for it and really tried some new techniques. The first half of your song was totally working for me, and then I got lost in the second half because it felt like maybe it actually belonged to a different song. A friend once told me that about one of my songs; he said, "This is actually two songs", and I was annoyed but later I realized I tried splitting them and got two cool songs out of it. Do like Bjork?

Comment by Deidre Rodman Struck on June 3, 2014 at 9:04pm

Madeleine Ertel, way to go outside your comfort zone! At first I found the 9/8 to 6/8 a bit jarring but I settled in. The form of this tune works really well. My only thought is it seemed a bit like it was a challenge to fit in all of those syllables, so maybe taking the tempo down just a hair would do the trick. I was inspired by this!


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