Neo-Soul may not be or was ever the most popular genre, but from it came some incredible records, such as the seminal releases, Voodoo by D’Angelo and Baduizm by Erykah Badu.
When it comes to successfully writing neo-soul music, many of the usual songwriting requisites apply, but there are a few ways to ensure that your neo-soul tracks hit the way they were intended to.
How to Write Neo Soul Music
There is no one size fits all approach to writing any song; while some neo-soul music artists like to start with the melodies, others will form them around the lyrics.
This part of the process is down to preference, yet there are some tips that you will need to note if you’re intent on making it as a successful neo-soul artist.
There are several key characteristics that neo-soul has grown from; getting to know them is a pivotal part of writing successful neo-soul tracks.
Learn the Roots
One of the most important things that you will need to master is the art of neo-soul chords and progressions.
Compared to its aural cousin, RnB, it can be harmonically complex, and almost always, it pays ode to gospel music, jazz, soul or blues.
Before you tackle the progressions yourself, we’d recommend getting acquainted with the roots records. Just because D’Angelo turned gospel-style organs into a neo-soul style, that doesn’t mean the pioneering book has to stop with him when it comes to neo-soul innovation. Just like D’Angelo, you have to find your own place in the neo-soul market.
Pour as Much Soul into the Lyrics
Beyond the sonic appeal of your music, there has to be lyrical substance. No one wants to listen to a neo-soul single that only scratches the surface of human emotion or vaguely addresses what has already been said a million times before. Neo-soul fans, like all music fans, look for resonance in their music.
Memorable and meaningful lyrics require an incredible amount of imagination and creativity; for some, it comes easily. For others, this can be the hardest part of the process. To make it easier, read poems on subjects that intrigue or inspire you. If you find a poem that you connect with, build a song around it.
Let Your Melodies Ooze Classic Soul
To prop up the smooth neo-soul vocals, preferably, you will want a catchy melody that is modern, yet also carries reminiscence of the 1960s soul icons, such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. A major part of neo-soul is keeping that connection to the past, but there is a thin line between reminiscence and assimilation – walk it carefully. Once your classic soul melody has been laid out, bring the contemporary groove in the rhythm tracks – you can be as experimental as you like here. No genre is off the table! Which tools you use to write a melody is up to you, although many neo-soul artists use keyboards to build the distinctive and characteristic 2-5-1 chord pattern.