One of the unsung elements that helps bring a song to life – and make it memorable – is the groove. By way of definition, groove is a mystical combination of tempo and feel that adds depth and texture to your song. That being said, it’s not uncommon for songwriters to relegate groove to an afterthought. Here are a few tips for focusing on and finding your song’s groove.

1. Try accenting different words in your melody

Sometimes it’s as simple as changing which words you choose to emphasize that can make all the difference in the way your song sits in a certain groove. Try putting a different word on the downbeat and see how it affects your song’s rhythm and feel. It might be just the thing.

2. Try changing the groove to its opposite

This may sound counterintuitive but the history of hit songs is full of sad/contemplative lyrics set to a killer beat. All that to say, if you’re not quite sure why your song isn’t working, try changing the groove completely. Sometimes ballads just work better when they’re changed to uptempo/groove-based songs. Also, when uptempo songs lack the gravity that you’re looking for, changing the groove to a ballad feel can make all the difference.

3. Reference the tempo/feel of popular songs in the genre you’re going for

Given that certain lyrics work better in certain genres, try referencing/writing a song in the genre that your lyric and melody applies to. Referencing a popular song in the appropriate genre can be a great starting point when you’re looking for a groove to write to. Remember, however, you don’t want your song’s groove to sound like an exact copy of the song you’re referencing. Consider it more of a serving suggestion. Finally, don’t be afraid to incorporate a groove from a different genre in part of your song. It’s become common practice to use hip hop grooves in country music and an R&B feel in a pop. Rhythmic variations like this can keep your song interesting and engaging for your listeners.

Bonus Tip 

Remember that loop software isn’t just for certain genres. It can – and should – be used as a reference point for any genre of music if you’re interested in incorporating new rhythmic feels that you might not  have come up with on your own.


While your song’s melody and lyric will always be the most important part of your songwriting efforts, the decisions you make around the groove of your song can play a big part in how your music is ultimately received. Not only that but writing with the groove in mind can be an inspiring way to work.

Good Luck!

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4 responses to “A Primer On Groove for Songwriters”

  1. Richard says:

    Just about the time I feel I’m hopelessly stuck in a impenetrable bubble void of musical creativeness you release my musical imagination with your creative tools of imagination. You are truly a blessing.

  2. Love it. I had a lifeless ballad sitting around with pretty good lyrics. One day my producer was strumming it on an electric in a different way to check some chords and bam! It’s now my favorite uptempo on my album. And (gasp) 120bpm!
    Thanks Cliff for the newsletters- they are inspiring.

  3. songs dictate how they should sound (and feel),
    so pay attention and don’t muck it up with forcing
    a minuet into a foxtrot…
    rhythm is not an arbitrary element that serves
    as window dressing, but is one of the three basic components of even the most tepid music…
    .if you can’t dance, then your music is never gonna groove….so, get up and shake yer booty, if you ever want to create music that gets others moving….
    then, build a song from the bottom up,
    so that the rhythm (and syncopation) is infused in the
    whole track…even ballads need rhythm and a hypnotic
    wa to deliver even the most laid back narratives….
    and, most importantly, stop all that dang strumming,
    as that just clutters up a mix and will never drive a track….
    good luck….

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