Songwriting Tips, News & More

One of the Biggest Lyric Writing Mistakes Songwriters Make

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 24, 2017 @10:16 AM

One of the Biggest Lyric Writing Mistakes Songwriters Make

by Anthony Ceseri

 Dave-Songwriter.jpg

A lot of times when writing, songwriters will get too focused on forcing their lyrics into their songs because they like the specific words they've chosen and how they've arranged them. But if you're not music-minded when you’re writing lyrics your song can sound wordy. Wordy lyrics can negatively affect your melody. For that reason, I want to address how you can write lyrics that can easily being sung in a melody. 

 

The Spoken Rhythm
The rhythm of a line happens as a result of a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables within a phrase. I’ll indicate the unstressed syllables with “ba” and the stressed syllables with “BUM.” For example, the phrase “Lonely and waiting” has this rhythm: BUM ba ba BUM ba. Hear that? The syllables “Lone-“ and “Wait-“ are stressed in their respective words, while “-ly,” and “-ing” are unstressed in those same words. The word “and” is also unstressed. If you say the phrase out loud, you’ll hear it. The accented syllables are longer, louder and have a higher pitch. That’s what makes them stressed. The combination of stressed and unstressed syllables in the phrase “Lonely and waiting” (or in any phrase) create its natural sonic shape.

If you need to figure out the stresses in a word with more than one syllable, you can usually hear them by sounding them out. For a word with two or more syllables, like “lonely” it’s usually best to listen for the accented syllable, and assume the remainder of the syllables are unaccented.

 

However, if you need help with this, you can always check a dictionary. It defines which syllables are stressed and which aren’t when you look up a word with more than one syllable. For example, when I look up the word “loving,” I’m presented with this pronunciation: luhv-ing. The stressed syllable is given in bold.

Single syllable words aren’t as easy. Some of them are stressed and some are not. Again, it’s best to listen to them within a phrase to determine which are accented and which aren’t, but if you get stuck you can reference this rule of thumb: Assume single syllable nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are stressed. In other words, words that carry meaning are accented. Other words are not. You won’t find the answer in a dictionary for single syllable words.

 

Writing in Rhythms
As you know, music has a rhythm to it. A lot of times the words and phrases we speak aren’t very rhythmic. But since you know that your music will have a rhythm, you can write your lyrics to a rhythm, even if you don’t have any music yet. If you take this approach, you’ll know that what you’re writing will more easily fit into a song.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say I write two lines of lyric that say this:

 

Looking out into the sky
The night is so beautiful

 

If I write those lines out into their rhythmic patterns, I’d end up with this:

 

LOOK-ing OUT IN-to the SKY
This NIGHT is so BEAU-ti-ful

 

I highlighting the stressed syllables in bold. We could also take the words out and isolate the patterns:

 

BUM ba BUM BUM ba ba BUM
ba BUM ba ba BUM ba ba

 

The first line doesn’t really have a consistent rhythm. It has a strong stress, then a weak stress, then two of each before ending on a strong stress. The second line is better and more organized rhythmically (by having two weak stresses between each strong stress), but it doesn’t match the first line. That’s not a requirement, but it tends to make things easier, depending on how your melody will go.

So things might get a little chaotic when we start to put these lines to music, because their rhythms are random. What if instead we started with a rhythmic pattern, and then matched our words to that pattern. Writing out your stresses first lends itself well to writing catchy melodic motifs.

The rhythm of the second line was pretty good, so let’s stick with that and use it twice. Let’s say we want our lyrics and melody to have this rhythm:

 

ba BUM ba ba BUM ba ba
ba BUM ba ba BUM ba ba

 

You can see that looks better already. Now we just have to find words that fit that pattern. We know the second line from our previous example worked, so we’ll keep that. Since we want to stay with the same lyrical idea, we can try a first line that’s something like this:

 

The sky is so magical

 

Which rhythmically works out to be:

The SKY is so MAG-i-cal,

or

ba BUM ba ba BUM ba ba

 

Now we have two lines with a good, consistent rhythm that match each other. So we shouldn’t have much of a problem fitting these words to music:

 

The sky is so magical
The night is so beautiful,     or

ba BUM ba ba BUM ba ba
ba BUM ba ba BUM ba ba

 

You can hear the consistency in the rhythm of these lyrics, just by speaking them aloud. They have a good rhythm that’s the same from line to line, which will make them pretty easy to put them to a melody.

 

Last Note
This is an approach you can take whether you have a melody and you want to match your words to the music, or if you’re writing lyrics first, and you want them to be written rhythmically before you even develop your melodies. Either way, this approach will help you organize the stresses of your words to be more rhythmic, and lend themselves to being placed in music. It may be a little trickier to find the right lyrical phrases you’re looking for, but your melodies will drastically benefit from this approach.

 

About Anthony Ceseri

AnthonyCeseri.jpg

Anthony Ceseri is a songwriter and performer who has traveled the country in pursuit of the best songwriting advice and information available. From classes and workshops at Berklee College of Music in Boston, to Taxi’s Road Rally in Los Angeles, Anthony has learned from the most well-respected professional songwriters, producers and performers in the industry.

For much more information on improving your lyric writing (especially if your audiences aren't consistently emotionally connecting to your songs), download our 2 free lyric writing cheat sheets here, while they’re still available: http://successforyoursongs.com/go/writing-lyrics/

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, bridge, Co-Writing Songs, Songwriting Process, Lyric Writing Mistakes

5 Innovative Ways to Change Up Your Songwriting Process

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 22, 2017 @08:00 AM

[EXPERT ADVICE] 5 Innovative Ways to Change Up Your Songwriting Process
by Gary Ewer
 Innovative-Songwriting-Process.jpg
One of the main reasons songwriters get stuck in a creative rut is an overused songwriting process. If you find that you’re always approaching songwriting the same old way, and using the same structural design and chords over and over again, just changing how you approach writing can quickly break you out of a creative block.

Here are 5 ways you can change up your songwriting process, and the results may put your sense of creativity back on the fast track:

    1. Break out of the same old verse-chorus-bridge design. If every song you write starts with an intro, then moves on to a couple of verse-chorus sections, followed by a bridge and ending with a couple of chorus repeats… no wonder you feel devoid of creativity. What else can you try? How about starting with the chorus, like this: Chorus-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-verse-chorus. Or how about: Solo-verse-solo-verse-chorus-solo-verse-chorus.
    
    2. Change rooms. Songwriters are creatures of habit, and we all usually like to do our writing in the same location. So change it up once in a while. Ever try writing in the park? On a bus? In the attic of your house? It will surprise you what a new location does for your musical imagination. So grab your smartphone or digital recording device, and get creative.
    
    3. Change genres. You may not like, let’s say, country music. But have you ever tried writing it? You’ll find that early in the process of writing your first country tune, you’ll gain an appreciation and respect for it. You’ll find that you tap into a different part of your creative soul every time you change genres. The payoff often comes when you switch back to your favourite genre. You find that you’ve got a new vocabulary of musical ideas that you can use, ideas that make your songs unique and fresh.
    
    4. Try a melody-first songwriting process. You may think that creating melodies without a chord progression underneath might be difficult, but it’s likely easier than you think. Try this process: Take your smartphone and go for a walk. Start singing random melodies into your phone. You’ll find that your ability to improvise melodies in this way is better than you think. Get as much of a melody working as you can this way. Don’t worry about lyrics yet. When you get home, create a chord progression that can accompany the tune you’ve written. Even if all you have is 4 bars to show for your efforts, it will serve as the idea for the rest of the song’s melodies.
    
    5. Write a song on an instrument you’ve never (or rarely) played before. You don’t need too be very good on an instrument to use it in this way. If you play guitar, you’ll find that many of your songs tend toward a “sameness.” So even if you don’t play keyboards, sit down at a piano and plunk out a tune or find some chords. The benefit of playing a different instrument when you write is that you don’t succumb to “muscle memory.” You’ll find that the melodic shapes you find will differ from the ones you tend to always default to on your normal instrument of choice.

The moral of the story here is this: the sooner in your songwriting process you change things up, the greater the chance that your song will sound innovative and fresh. The more you change things up, the more creative you’ll feel.
 
Read more in Gary Ewer’s book, Beating Songwriter’s Block. Visit beatingsongwritersblock.halleonardbooks.com and enter the discount code AP2 at checkout to receive 20% off the list price and free domestic shipping (least expensive method)!

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, Melody, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, bridge, Co-Writing Songs, Songwriting Process

Focus On Your Own Strengths

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 18, 2017 @03:56 PM

[Expert Songwriting Advice] Focus On Your Own Strengths

by Ralph Murphy

 FocusOnYourStrengths.jpg

Ralph Murphy is a professional songwriter who has written songs that hit the charts such as "Half The Way" by Crystal Gayle. It has become very clear now that the most successful songwriters today are those who have learned how to focus on and leverage their unique strengths. A great example is Elton John - he focus on his music composition ability (writing melodies and chord progressions) and not writing lyrics, he leaves the lyric writing to his co-writing partner Bernie Taupin. Lesson to be learnt here: if you are currently great in writing music but average in writing lyrics, find someone who is great in writing lyrics!

 

“If you spend too much time working on your weaknesses, all you end up with is a lot of strong weaknesses”…Dan Sullivan

 

One of the top ten questions I get asked by newcomers to the industry is, "How do I get heard in the music business?" Before I can answer that, I have to know exactly what they want to be "heard." When I ask them about their goals -- whether they want to be songwriters or recording artists -- the most common response is, "Both."

 

Listen to the truth

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that, while many of the newcomers I counsel may be gifted as songwriters or as singers, very, very few are equally blessed with both talents. While one ability may come rather naturally, the other often needs significant honing.

 

The problem is, not everyone wants to hear the truth. Some great singers (who are average songwriters) can make the really average songs they've written shine through the sheer power of their vocal ability. They make the phrase "I love you" sound so good that you almost believe they invented it. In equal numbers come the great songwriters (who are average singers) who have been told by family, friends, lovers, and late-night adoring coffeehouse/honky-tonk buffoons that, despite the fact that their tempo, pitch and teeth are bad, they have star quality. And no matter how badly they sing, their songs are still strong enough to survive a mediocre vocal performance and sound like hits. (This is the only reason karaoke manufacturers are not hunted for sport!)

 

Check your ego at the door

The bottom line is: lose your ego. It's called "absenting of self." The person most likely to come between you and your career goal is you. Don't make the best of your talent a donkey for the least of your talent. Get some unbiased feedback from industry pros (available through a variety of NSAI programs), and if you are indeed weaker in one area, focus on your strength.

 

If you're a great singer -- but an average writer -- don't be upset if someone loves your voice but wants you to sing someone else's songs. Go find those great songs while you learn to become a better writer. By the same token, if you're a great songwriter -- but an average singer -- don't be upset if someone wants to record your songs but passes on you as an artist. Remember, this is called the music "business," and the business end of our industry knows that the majority of the G.A.P. (Great American Public) just wants to hear great records. They don't lie awake nights wondering who wrote and/or sang the songs they like on the radio.

 

Be smart

If you have a sneaking suspicion that the preceding law even remotely applies to you, then do yourself this favor: picture the music industry as a large building with an entrance for singers on one side, and an entrance for songwriters on the other. Maybe you can't go through both doors at the same time, but you can concentrate on getting inside through the door that opens the most easily for you. Who knows? Once you're inside, you can end up just about anywhere.

Write a hit!

 

Murphy's Laws of SongwritingRalph Murphy, hit songwriter

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter and expert, has been successful for five decades. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle's "Talking in Your Sleep" and "Half the Way". Consistently charting songs in an ever-changing musical environment makes him a member of that very small group of professionals who make a living ding what they love to do. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. Achieving "hit writer" status has always been a formidable goal for any songwriter. *His new book Murphy's Laws of Songwriting "The Book" arms the songwriter for success by demystifying the process and opening the door to serious professional songwriting. Hall of fame songwriter Paul Williams said in his review of the book "If there was a hit songwriters secret handshake "Da Murphy" would probably have included it. To buy his book, please click here: http://www.songwriting.net/ralph-murphy-book

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Ralph Murphy, Crystal Gayle, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs, positive songwriting, strengths, singing

How to Stay Positive About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 10, 2017 @05:48 PM

[Expert Songwriting Advice] How to Stay Positive About Songwriting

by Jason Bume


PositiveSongwriting.jpg

The road to songwriting success is almost always a long and bumpy one, paved with frustration and disappointment. There are far more stories of successes that took many years, or even decades, to materialize than tales of overnight success. Some of my songwriting students navigate that road with smiles on their faces and hope, enthusiasm, and determination in their hearts. Others become bitter and disillusioned, spouting a steady stream of everything that’s wrong with today’s music and music business. While there might be some temporary satisfaction gained from blaming and complaining, it rarely leads to success unless it serves as a motivator to take the actions that can propel your career.

I understand frustration. For eleven years I took every songwriting class and workshop, read every book, and devoted every spare hour to studying my craft and furthering my career before I was able to earn a meager living as a songwriter. Five additional years passed before I had hits on the charts. During many of those years I worked long hours at miserable temp jobs and day jobs I loathed. So I understand the exasperation of feeling that despite my best efforts my dreams stayed just beyond my reach. But I also understand the power of determination, believing in ourselves, and perseverance, and I know that pessimism is not conducive to achieving our goals.

For some lucky people, a sunny attitude comes naturally. But some of us have to cultivate optimism. I asked my songwriting students and social media friends to share the tools that help them remain upbeat and optimistic on their songwriting journey.

The most consistent suggestion I received was to derive rewards from the process of writing, as opposed to waiting until some tangible aspect of success (such as having a hit single, signing a publishing deal, or securing a record deal) occurs in the future. These successes might—or might not—occur. But those who are motivated by a passion for creating music add richness to their lives every time they put pen to paper or compose a melody. Any accolades or successes their songs might achieve are a bonus.

Many songwriters who responded to my query expressed the importance of surrounding themselves with people who believe in their talent and encourage their creativity. These might be family and friends or they might be members of a songwriters’ organization. They also stressed the importance of interacting and networking with others who share their goals and enthusiasm.

Those who radiate a positive attitude tend to attract others like themselves who bolster and support each other, exchanging contacts and resources as they work to attain their mutual goals. Conversely, writers who spew negativity tend to be avoided by those who are focused on success.

Viewing their journey through a lens of gratitude is a common thread among writers who celebrate their creativity. Many of the respondents stated they maintain a positive attitude because they are grateful to have dreams and goals to pursue, regardless of any success that might or might not develop. They also felt gratitude for the gift of being able to express themselves through lyrics and music, the challenges of improving their craft, and the creative people with whom they share their journey.

Celebrating the “little” successes, such as finishing a song you love, recording a demo, receiving positive feedback, or winning a contest can all serve as validation that we are on the right road.

I’m positive that staying positive makes us happier and more desirable to work with, and that positively gives us a better shot at accomplishing what we hope for. So seek ways to let your writing be its own reward; surround yourself with those who believe in you, and with optimistic people who are on similar journeys; remain grateful for the gifts and the dreams you’ve been given, and for every success along the way; and as the Carter Family sang, “Keep on the Sunny Side.”

Permisson Reprint by BMI

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. www.jasonblume.com

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs, positive songwriting

A Cure for Writer's Block in Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 @08:00 AM

A Cure for Writer's Block in Songwriting

AnthonyCeseri-1.png

by Anthony Ceseri


There are a number of ways you can draw inspiration for a song idea by listening to other songs. Lyrics are copyrightable, so you obviously can’t take something someone says and use it in your own music, but you can draw inspiration from stories you love. Especially if those stories are already popular.

Start by listing a few songs with lyrics you really like. Think big picture here. Think about lyrics that tell a story you enjoy, as opposed to songs that simply have a line or two you think is great. It’ll be more appropriate for this exercise. It’s the message that’s important at this point, as opposed to how it’s being said.

I have a couple of examples of my own we could start with. Two songs with ideas I like that came to mind for me were “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield and “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. You can do an internet search for those lyrics, if you’d like, but like I said, this part is more about the story, and jotting down what the big ideas of these songs are to you.

With that in mind, the lyrics to “Unwritten” are about having a future that is completely within your control. It’s about being able to do whatever you want, and it delivers this message in a positive way.

Conversely, “Viva La Vida” has a pretty negative message, and is mainly about being stuck in the past. It’s about once having had it all, then losing it and being left to look back to wonder how it all went wrong.

I could easily use either of those ideas as a starting point for a song of my own. If my music is more upbeat and I’m inspired by the positive message in “Unwritten,” my big idea could be about all the possibilities the future holds. If I decide to write music that’s more of a downer, and I want my lyrics to reflect that, I could write a song inspired by the story in “Viva La Vida,” which discusses all of my losses.

So just by flipping through some old favorites, I’ve already got a couple of overall ideas that could be the basis for a new song. These two ideas are opposites so I’ve got a whole range of stuff in between them that’s available to me as well.

When you write a list of songs or other stories you like, don’t just limit yourself to two. Instead,write down as many as you can. The more big ideas you have, the easier it’ll be for you to write lyrics of your own, since you’ll have options. Plus, writing down many ideas can only offer you more choices later.

 

Altered Perspective Inspiration
What we just saw was a pretty general way of getting ideas. But we can get more specific than that. A technique I learned from Shane Adams, who’s a teacher at Berklee College of Music’s online extension school, is to look at an existing song from a different perspective than it currently does.

Let’s try it, by going back to “Unwritten.” That song is sung in the first person. It’s about someone with possibilities before her. She can do whatever she wants.

What if we wanted to write a song where we were looking at a second or third person perspective? What if the perspective was from the mother of the character in “Unwritten”? She’s watching her daughter grow up to realize her full potential. We could then talk about the joy we felt, as the mother, seeing her daughter come into her own to discovering the limitless possibilities in her future.

We could even talk about how we once had those same feelings of limitless possibilities when we were younger too. And now our own limitless possibilities and hopes for the future have been realized in our daughter, who has just come to terms with the same possibilities. The daughter is keeping the cycle moving.

That’s just an idea. I’m riffing. It doesn’t have to be that. Another thought would be to look at “Unwritten” from the perspective of the current narrator’s arch rival. You can write lyrics from the perspective of someone who’s competitive. This person would see Natasha Bedingfield’s character in “Unwritten” reaching for dreams and aspirations, and it would drive her crazy. In this perspective we’d be able to look at why it wouldn’t be good if Natasha Bedingfield’s character achieved her wildest dreams. That’s starting to put a negative twist on our originally positive idea, but that’s okay. We’re open to practically anything at this point.

If we choose either of these ideas, they’re definitely a departure from the original song’s idea. So, it’s not like we’re just copying the main idea from “Unwritten,” although that would be fine too, as mentioned previously.

Now let’s see what a different perspective can do for us when looking at “Viva La Vida” by Cold Play. In this song, Chris Martin’s character talks about how he once was king, and now he’s fallen. We could write a song from the point of view of one of the king’s servants who has witnessed the king’s decline. Did we enjoy this fall, or were we on good terms with the king, and were saddened when it happened? What happened to our family now that’s there’s a new ruler? Are we left poor? Or maybe we were part of the movement that overthrew the king.

You don’t have to stop there. If you really want a departure from what the original song was about, or you just want to keep pushing it to see how many ideas you can come up with, you can. For example, now we have this idea about a guy who helped to overthrow a kingdom. What if we took the perspective of the wife of the man who helped overthrow the kingdom? What did she witness while seeing that all go down? If you keep pushing these thoughts, the possibilities you can come up with are endless.

When you change the perspective of the song and decide who the speaker will be, you also have options of who you want to be speaking to. If we were Natasha Bedingfield’s character’s mother, would we be talking back to Natasha Bedingfield’s character? Or would we be talking to our husband, who’s the father? Or maybe it would be more of a narration, where’s she’s just speaking to herself as she watches her daughter grow up through the years. Thinking about who is being spoken to, and changing that from the original reference song will also help give you new ideas to use.

  
For 3 more fail-proof songwriting methods you can use today to make listeners want to own your songs, click here to download our free songwriting EBook: http://successforyoursongs.com/freeoffer/
 
 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs

2017 Songwriters Radio Podcast

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 04, 2017 @02:21 PM

WillieNelson.jpg

Listen to the latest edition of our Songwriters Radio Podcast, featuring current and past winners of the USA Songwriting Competition: Willie Nelson, American Authors, Kate Voegele, Jerad Finck, Due West, Jesse Blaze Snider, Gail Swanson,  Terry Fator, Trev Lukather & Frank Raknes Schonberg. Click here to listen to the mp3 player:

 
 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Kate Voegele, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs, Songwriters Radio, American Authors, Jerad Finck, Jesse Blaze Snider, Gail Swanson, Terry Fator, Songwriters Radio Podcast, Songwriters Podcast, Willie Nelson, Due West, Trev Lukather, Frank Raknes Schonberg

Songwriter: Give Yourself Goosebumps

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 03, 2017 @08:00 AM

[Expert Advice] Hey, Songwriter: Give Yourself Goosebumps!

by Diana Williamson

SongwriterGoosebumps.jpg
When you were a kid, did you ever have a sleepover with friends where you told scary stories? You’d convince each other there was a ghost in the attic or a spirit coming through the Ouija board. You’d conjure up frightening things to give you and your friends a rush. Stirring up a cauldron of emotion is also helpful when trying to make magic with your art. For tips on how to tap into these creative emotions again, check out the following tips from a top-selling songwriter and author. She can help you to tap into a flow of energy—your unique passion—to fuel your songwriting.

• Look for a situation that gives you a rush, gets your blood pumping or causes butterflies, like meeting an attractive stranger out of the blue. Then write about it.

• When you can capture those special moments on the page, you’ll know you’ve got something. When you give yourself goosebumps, you are pretty much assured that you will be giving the listener the same.

• It can’t be forced. The Muse is a wayward beast. She has to be seduced to stick around or she’ll flee at the first footfall. Ever hear a song and find yourself turning it up without thinking? Or maybe some strains of music coming from a passing car bring you back to a special place and time? That’s what it’s all about. You want to move your listener to laugh or cry or, best of all, be inspired.

• Arousing deep emotion is the ultimate for a songwriter. “The Way We Were” is such a touching, evocative song that it’s been voted one of the top 10 film songs of all time on every list imaginable. It was not only a hit on the radio but had an unforgettable visual connected to it. Every time you hear it, you can picture Barbra Streisand trembling as she meets up with Robert Redford.

• Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie says he wrote “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” their best-selling single, in 15 minutes. He’s also said he can barely take credit for it because he felt like he channeled it. He tapped into a dark, rarely explored emotional theme about following his lover into the afterlife. And he did it in such a hauntingly beautiful way that it wasn’t morbid; instead it was comforting and enchanting at the same time.

• And it doesn’t have to be about love. Other strong feelings, such as anger, can also be a great motivating force. If you deny an emotion, it just springs up anyway, so give it a voice. Channel it into a song. When Phil Collins wrote about a ruthless ex-lover in “Something in the Air Tonight,” he sent his rage into the world like a speeding locomotive. It’s powerful stuff.

• Songwriters live for the moment they get struck by the lightning bolt of inspiration. The beauty is that it can come at any time and from anywhere. You’re driving down the street and see an old gent cradling his wife’s hand and you start thinking about that line you had for a ballad. The song starts writing itself and the next thing you know you’re pulling the car over to jot down some words before they slip away. We’re not talking about the craft and hard work of rewriting here, though of course that’s essential. But that’s another article. We are talking about those sacred moments when you’re in the zone, and everything flows.

• Songwriters never really go on holiday. You can be lying on the beach in Barbados, frolicking with a fruity cocktail when the tourist next to you starts talking loudly on her cell phone about her new lover. As she throws out phrases left and right, you can’t help but note the line, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” Next thing you know you’re looking about for a pen and tapping out a rhythm on your blanket. But let’s face it, you probably won’t be able to stay on the beach forever. Soon you’re back in the real world and if you’re not careful you might find yourself tired, stressed or just plain running on empty. This can lead to a pesky phenomenon commonly known as writer’s block. But there is a cure. Like a farmer letting his field lie fallow every seventh year before planting again, sometimes you have to give your creativity a break. “Don’t abuse the Muse.”

• And while you’re at it, don’t abuse yourself, either. If you start beating yourself up, you’ll be your own worst enemy. Take your mind off your writing so you can come back to it refreshed. Obviously if you have a deadline, you have to work through it. Waiting for the luxury of inspiration to hit isn’t always a viable option.

• There are many ways to unwind and replenish your creative juices. Movies allow your brain to rest while rejuvenating you with all sorts of storylines and visuals to stir creativity.

• Hiking, walking or working out is another way to boost your energy level. Prolific novelist Charles Dickens walked up to 30 miles a day. He said he would “explode” if he didn’t; it was his way of turning his brain off between bouts of writing. Ludwig van Beethoven was another avid walker. He always carried a pen and paper with him in case an idea struck.

• Ernest Hemingway once said you should “let the pressure build” until you have no choice but to write it down. That way, you’re driving with fuel, not running on fumes and forcing the phrases out. Just let that pressure cooker blast off its rocker as words fly onto the page. Whatever it takes to get inspired, do it and do it some more. Your writing—and your listeners—will thank you for it.

[Reprint Permission by Music Connection magazine]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DIANA WILLIAMSON is the author of 101 Tips and Tricks of Successful Songwriting, available on Amazon. She’s written two No. 3 Billboard Hot Club Chart hits and placed songs in over 50 films and TV shows through her company, The Music Library. You can visit her at: 101tipsandtricksofsuccessfulsongwriting.com

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Death Cab for Cutie, Ernest Hemingway, Diana Williamson

[Songwriting Expert Advice] What's Up With Today's Melodies?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 @06:33 PM

[Songwriting Expert Advice] What's Up With Today's Melodies?
by Jai Josefs

 melodies.jpg

Melody writing has changed radically in the 21st century, and successful writers know exactly what that change is and how to incorporate it. Their songs sound fresher and more contemporary and, as a result, are the ones that more frequently get signed to film/TV licensing deals as well as publishing deals. Let's examine specifically what the difference is.

Every melody contains two elements – pitch and rhythm. The pitches are the actual notes that are sung while the rhythm is where those notes land in time against the groove. In the 20th century more emphasis was put on interesting pitches and their relationship to the chord progression. But in the 21st century the rhythm of the melody has become the primary focus for creating listener appeal. That's why so many songs today can use only a simple chord loop (instead of the rich variety of chords used in the 20th century) and still remain thoroughly engaging and compelling. Listen to the first 15 notes of Ed Sheeran's recent hit "Shape of You" for example. All 15 are the exact same pitch, but the intricate rhythm completely engages you and captures your attention.

Writers tend to be influenced by the songs they listened to in their formative years when they first discovered music. So the instinctive tendency of veteran writers who don't stay current is to write in the 20th century style that emphasizes pitch over rhythm. On the other end of the spectrum, some friends of mine recently sent their 16-year-old daughter to study with me, and at her first lesson I asked her to play something she had written. Her creative process was totally instinctual and she didn't even know a verse from a chorus, but at first listen what she played sounded like it came right off the radio. That's because the only melodies she had been exposed to in her young life were contemporary and rhythmically based. For those of us who have been around a bit longer, it's crucial that we investigate these modern melodic techniques so we can incorporate them into our writing.

A good way to begin that process is by analyzing the melodies of today's hit songs. To illustrate how melody writing has evolved, I'm going to compare two songs written on the same theme – female empowerment. The first one was written in the 1970s in the traditional style of that era. The second is a recent breakthrough hit from 2016.

Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" has a very simple melodic rhythm. Almost all of the notes are eighth notes (two notes per beat) and the phrasing is relatively uncomplicated. The verse consists of two shorter phrases followed by a longer phrase all of which start exactly one beat before the beginning of the measure. Then that same pattern is repeated. There is a bit more variety in the chorus, but the phrasing is still basic and repetitive and most of the notes are eighth notes.

Let's contrast that with Daya's recent hit "Sit Still Look Pretty" (if you're not familiar with it give it a listen – it's also brilliant lyrically and has some very cool and remarkable rhymes). The verse phrases instead of being grouped in twos or threes like the basic short-short-long, short-short-long pattern of "I Am Woman" are actually in patterns of five that go short-short-short-long-long, short-short- short-long-long. In addition they all start in different places. The first and third begin after the downbeat of the measure, the second is entirely in the last half of the measure, and the fourth and fifth start before the measure with 16th note pick-ups. Then we hear the pre-chorus where the melodic rhythm shifts to all 16th notes (four notes per beat) for the first three phrases followed by a fourth phrase that is all eighth notes. The chorus that follows begins right on the downbeat with a phrase that lasts for two full measures – twice as long as any phrase we've heard so far. It's then followed by two off-beat 16th note phrases that are half a measure each and the hook/title which is one measure long. Notice the constant variation in eighth and 16th notes, phrase starting points, and phrase patterns. This creates a dynamic melody that is always fresh and grabs the listener's attention. In terms of melodic rhythm and phrasing "I Am Woman" is like an old Chevy, and "Sit Still Look Pretty" is more like a Ferrari.

If you want to write songs that are relevant today, it's a great idea to listen to more tunes by contemporary hit artists like Ed Sheeran and Daya and focus on analyzing how they use melodic rhythm. It will make your songs sound exciting and up-to-date, and hopefully lead to more placements and airplay.

JaiJosefs.jpg

Jai Josefs http://jaijomusic.com/ is a world renowned songwritng coach as well as a successful songwriter/producer. He has taught songwriting at UCLA, the Songwriters Guild, and dozens of seminars and conferences throughout North America. He is also the author of “Writing Music For Hit Songs” which is used as a text on contemporary music composition at universities worldwide. Many of his students have gone on to successful careers in the industry and secured major label record deals, publishing deals and placements in film and television.

Jai has also had a successful career as a songwriter/producer himself working with such well-known artists as Jose Feliciano, Little Richard, and Pam Tillis, and doing projects for such companies as Universal, RCA, Motown, and Disney. In addition, his original songs have been featured in over 60 TV shows on every major network as well as over 20 major motion pictures with such stars as Harrison Ford, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Lange, Mark Wahlberg, and Denzel Washington.

Jai currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area where he leads a monthly workshop called SongShop, details of which can be found here:

http://jaijomusic.com/songshop-songwriting-workshop/

He is also available for private coaching in the Bay Area and worldwide via Skype.

 

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, chord progression, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Melody writing

It’s Never Too Late to Write a Great Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 @08:00 AM

 [Songwriting Expert Advice] It’s Never Too Late to Write a Great Song 

by Sara Light

I’m still learning.” – Michaelangelo, at age 87

Songwriting is a craft that you can begin working on at any stage in your life. Unlike recording artists, who often have pressure to look and dress a certain way or to be a certain age, songwriters never have to “look the part.” Even in Nashville where it’s common for a songwriter to become “famous” among the locals, nobody cares how old they are, if their vocals are perfectly pitched, or what size dress they fit in.  They can show up to play a gig at the famous Bluebird Cafe in a t-shirt and old jeans (not even black ones) and their songs speak for themselves.


bluebirdcafe.jpg.

Great Nashville songwriters like Harlan Howard, Richard Leigh, Bobby Braddock, Tom Shapiro, Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson and Gretchen Peters were, or still are, cranking out hits for young recording artists in their 50’s and 60’s (and that list is just off the top of my head). Singer songwriters like Elton John, Sting, Dylan, Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper all continue to write new material and reinvent themselves well into their prime. So, if you’re reading this and have a desire to write songs, nothing is stopping you. I would only add as a caveat that you have to be willing to continue to learn, to grow, and to be open to your surroundings…but that’s not rocket science.
For a little more inspiration, here’s a short list of diverse folks who accomplished great things at a more “mature” age. I culled this list from Goodreads.com and a couple of Google searches and admittedly haven’t fact-checked it, but it seems right to me!

*J.K. Rowling was 30 years old when she finished the first manuscript of Harry Potter.
*Mark Twain was 40 when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and 49 years old when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
*Rosa Parks was 42 when she refused to obey the bus driver’s order to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger.
*Suzanne Collins was 46 when she wrote “The Hunger Games.”
*Charles Darwin was 50 years old when his book On the Origin of Species came out.
*Leonardo Da Vinci was 51 years old when he painted the Mona Lisa.
*Ray Kroc Was 53 when he bought the McDonalds franchise and took it to unprecedented levels.
*Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat.”
*Colonel Harland Sanders was 61 when he started the KFC Franchise.
*Ronald Regan entered politics at age 55 and eventually became the oldest person to ever become President, at the age of 69.
*Artist Paul Cézanne was 56 years old when he was given his first art exhibition.
*J.R.R Tolkien was 62 when the Lord of the Ring books came out.
*Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 73.
*George R.R. Martin was 63 when HBO purchased the television rights for his A Song of Ice and Fire series and launched the mega-hit “Game of Thrones” for which Martin actively writes and produces.
*Grandma Moses started painting at age 76. Three years later her art was hanging at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

GrandmaMoses.jpg
Write on, friends!
Sara

 

Sara Light is a professor at SongU in Nashville, TN, USA. Go to: www.songu.com

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Harlan Howard, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Never Too Late, Bobby Braddock, Richard Leigh

Structure Creates Expectations

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 08, 2017 @08:00 AM

 [Songwriting Expert Advice] Structure Creates Expectations

by Pat Pattison

patpattison.jpg

Lyric structure creates expectations. That’s what it’s for. To take you on a journey, and, as any good mom knows, to get the kids all revved up about what they’re gonna see, to build up excitement as the trip gets closer. Then to watch their eyes get bigger as they stretch their necks trying to see around the corner. Almost there…

Or sometimes she tells you to just get in the car. You’re going somewhere, but she won’t tell you where. It’ll be a surprise. Moms are like that sometimes. So is structure.

Moms are supposed to provide structure, to organize things so the kids have the right kind of journey, whether to Pirate’s Cove or through life. You’re the mom. You get to choose what kind of trip you want your song to take.

Let’s go.

 

Valentine

Chanelle Davis

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

 

These first two lines create little, if any, expectation. You could be going anywhere. If the next line had been

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

Someone to say he’s mine

 

Then we’d have expectations. We now know what should come next: a line to match and rhyme with line 2. The principle at work is the Principle of Sequence. Since line 3 mimics line 1, we expect line 4 to mimic line 2. Something like

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

Someone to say he’s mine

Someone who wouldn’t go

 

Now it feels done.

 

Of course, that’s not how the lyric really goes at line 3. It’s:

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

 

Mom is being coy here. The line lengths (measured by the number of stressed syllables) are:

 

I ónce had a Válentíne 3 stresses

Sómeone to wálk me hóme 3 stresses

And héar a líttle mídnight sáxophóne 5 stresses

 

Ignore the rhyme just for now, and concentrate on the line lengths: They feel unstable and tell us to keep going, though it’s not entirely clear where. Though, from the twinkle in mom’s eye, it feels like the line lengths should be going somewhere like:

 

I ónce had a Válentíne 3 stresses

Sómeone to wálk me home 3 stresses

And héar a líttle mídnight saxophone … 5 stresses

Da DUM da da DUM da DUM 3 stresses

DUM da da DUM da DUM 3 stresses

Da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM 5 stresses

 

But, of course, there’s that pesky rhyme, dragging its feet by hanging on to line 2:

 

I once had a Valentine x

Someone to walk me home a

And hear a little midnight saxophone a

 

Now we’re not sure what to do. We’re getting mixed stop/go messages from mom. She’s really got us set up for a surprise:

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my Valentine

 

Not what we expected at all. It feels a little incomplete – a little disappointing. After all that suspense, all we get are two short lines that rhyme. It feels as though we thought we had something to look forward to and it didn’t really happened – it stopped short.

 

Probably feels like you would if you once had a valentine who disappointed you…

 

Then we start again:

 

Used to drink my chardonnay

And smoke my cigarette

We danced around the room just silhouettes

I sang Auld Lang Syne

For my valentine

 

Same trip. At least we’d been warned what would happen. It feels like two complete sections, both of which feel misty and soaked with longing.

 

Note especially the two lovely ambiguities:

 

Used to drink my chardonnay

 

Since there’s no pronoun here, the subject could be “I,” “he,” or “we.” All three work, and stack up on each other to give us a picture of the relationship. He was drinking her

Chardonnay and smoking her cigarette. He was a taker, not a giver. But of course, she drank and smoked too, and remembers it fondly. That’s when ambiguity works best: 2 or more meanings, all of which work. “Ambiguity” is, for me, a positive term. It’s productive. It deepens meaning. It’s contrast is “vagueness,” a negative term which promotes confusion – which doesn’t commit to anything specific.

 

The second ambiguity:

 

I sang Auld Lang Syne

For my valentine

 

“For” could mean:

 

  1. I performed it, I sang it to him,

  2. I sang a farewell song.

 

Again, both of them work – the best kind of ambiguity: two or more meanings, each of which adds something to the song.

 

By the end of this verse, it feels like we’re probably wandering through an AABA song form. So now, of course, the music moves us away, and, after an interlude, we hear this:

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

 

Unlike the first two lines of the song,

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

 

These lines,

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

 

Feel like a unit. If we traded a “w” for a “t,”

 

Love does funny things

And then it gives you wings

 

We’d feel like everything was solid. Alas, that pesky “when” asks us to keep going. But notice, it is the content that pushes forward here, not the structure. The content says “I won’t be finished until “when” is resolved. And now we hear,

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

Now the content is resolved, but the structure is, for the first time, clearly telling us where we’ll go next:

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fóol for thínking you can fly b 4 stresses

 

The third line is screaming to be matched, ideally by

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fóol for thínking you can fly b 4 stresses

DUM da DUM da mark c 3 stresses

Da DUM da DUM da heart c 3 stresses

Da da DUM da DUM da DUM da cry b 4 stresses

 

Or at least by something like,

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fóol for thínking you can fly b 4 stresses

Da da DUM da DUM da DUM da cry b 4 stresses

 

But what really happens…? Though mom is chirping away about how much fun we’re going to have and how we’ll remember this trip all our lives and isn’t it wonderful to be so excited, suddenly, poof, she stops the car, and says we’re not going anywhere. We turn around and go back where we started:

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my valentine

 

Yikes! Us kids howling in the backseat to keep going and whining “It’s not fair!” Mom meanwhile is driving us home without an explanation.

 

Here’s the whole trip:

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my Valentine

 

Used to drink my chardonnay

And smoke my cigarettes

We danced around the room just silhouettes

I sang Auld Lang Syne

For my valentine

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my valentine

 

What a perfect journey for the feeling of the song. You thought you had someone special and fell in love, thinking you could fly. Then the strong feeling that something more had to come of it, and then when it didn’t, you couldn’t even finish telling the story. So you interrupt yourself and return to your original thought, like you’ll be repeating it over and over for a long time.

 

Something special happens with rhyme here. Remember that we could have kinda finished the bridge by adding only one line?

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fool for thinking you can fly b 4 stresses

Da da DUM da DUM da DUM da cry b 4 stresses

 

Pretty much the same thing is accomplished here:

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

I once had a Valentine

 

So the unrhymed 3rd line of the bridge “targets” sonically to the title of the song, increasing its visibility and deepening its emotion by turning the spotlight on “Valentine,” which now turns mildly ironic. (See “The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure” on “strategic positions” and “sonic targeting.”)

 

In most AABA forms, we usually expect the 3rd verse to tie everything up – to make a new and final statement. Here, we’ve already seen the 3rd verse – we started with it, though now we’re looking at it through new eyes and with more emotion. We’ve felt the disappointment of an interrupted love affair.

 

The interrupted bridge conspires with the song form, the repetition of the first verse rather than an expansion into the new thought of a 3rd verse, to create a character who will live with this bittersweet feeling forever, always regretting, always feeling like something wasn’t finished. Always going backwards time and again, just like the song form. Just like the interrupted bridge.

 

Nice trip, mom.

Here is the audio link to this song:

https://soundcloud.com/chanelledavis/valentine

 

Pat Pattison is a professor at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, USA.

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
TellUsWhatYouThink
  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs