Exposure

songwriting contest entry 

Connect to us:

 email

Email Subscribe

Your email:

Browse by Tag

Songwriting Tips, News & More

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Songwriting Tip: Julianne Moore is Right

  
  
  
  
  
  

by Harriet Schock

Songwriting

A long-time student of mine, Michelle Krell, brought me a quote from Julianne Moore, winner of the Oscar this year for best actress:

“I’m looking for the truth. The audience doesn’t come to see you, they come to see themselves.”

This is certainly true of acting, but it’s also true of writing. The truth will hold up a mirror to the listener. This idea may be hard to sell in a business and a world that is rampantly narcissistic, but maybe it will appeal to people’s ambition. It simply works.

When you’re writing a song about yourself which is no doubt infinitely interesting to you, look for the pictures in the lyric that will draw the listeners into the story and help them see their own lives. And look for the universality of the truth. And I don’t mean vagueness. Some writers try to be general and not specific because they think more people will relate to it. That never works, unless it’s a special piece for a film where it can’t be specific. But if you start singing vague generalities in a show or an open mic, watch the audience start talking among themselves. Make sure the melody also communicates the message in a compelling way. See if it makes your own hair stand on end and play it for friends and strangers before you demo it to see if it does the same to others.
I have a chapter in my book called “Truth vs. Fact in Songwriting.” We should feel free to change the facts to tell the truth. That’s one of the best things about being a songwriter. We can change ALL the facts. And we’ve probably tried to change the truth a few times too. But that simply doesn’t work as well… not if it’s a real truth we’ve got in our sights.

I’ve come to the conclusion that excellent creative work on a subject people are not interested in can go pretty much unnoticed whereas bad work on a subject people ARE interested in can become quite well known. Just go to the movies sometime. But back to songwriting, that’s why there are so many songs (spanning the whole spectrum between excellent and mediocre) about people falling in love or people nursing a heartache. But if you want to write a song about an interesting character like “Mr. Bojangles” or “Fancy,” you had better put the listener at the movies, filling the lyric with visuals. “Try,” written by Colbie Caillat, Babyface and Jason Reeves, pulls off the difficult task of attempting to change behavior. But it does so with a lot of visuals, a universal theme, a melody with more hooks than a tackle box and a light touch on the preaching. (The video didn’t hurt either.) So if you want to write something about a subject that isn’t going to attract only teenagers in love or broken-hearted drunk people, then you’re going to have to try harder. You’re going to need to put some extra craft into it, some visuals that draw the listener into their own lives. Give them some indisputable truth that will give the listener an “aha!” moment, because even though you may be the one up there singing and their eyes are on you, it’s themselves they’re thinking of. It’s their lives they’re trying to understand better. And aren’t we lucky that we get to help them do that?

Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s most recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes, online courses and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com

For more information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition: http://www.songwriting.net  

 

Songwriting Tip: 4 Dos and Don’ts When Writing Songs

  
  
  
  
  
  

4 Dos and Don’ts When Writing Songs

by Cliff Goldmacher

Songwriting, writing songs
Go with your inspiration, but don’t neglect these other elements that will make your song the best it can be..


“Which do you write first, the music or the words?” This is the classic question that all songwriters get asked. In my experience, there’s no easy - or correct - answer to this one. Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes it’s the lyrics, and, often, it’s some mystical, organic combination of the two. More importantly, there is no one way to write a song. Some of the best - and worst - songs ever written were created using the same techniques. To that end, I’m going to cover four different ways to approach writing a song and some of the “dos” and “don’ts” you’ll want to keep in mind as you go through each one.

1. Writing based on a title idea/lyrical hook

Coming up with a really catchy title or lyrical hook is an art in and of itself. If you’ve got one, congratulations. Now that you’ve got it, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Do remember to make sure that everything in your lyric points to and supports your lyrical hook. Having a catchy hook only works if you build a foundation around it so that when the hook arrives, there’s a sense of drama and release.

Don’t forget to give the song real emotional content. It’s possible to be so focused on the hook and setting it up that you forget to be sincere. While the average listener might not be able to tell you why, the song won’t move them in the way that a song with genuine emotional content would.

2. Writing based on a general idea/lyrical concept

Sometimes you’ve been through an experience or have an idea for a song that feels important enough to write about. That’s as good a place as any to start.

Do capture the feeling and emotion of your concept. You obviously felt strongly enough to want to write about this idea, so immerse yourself in it and really tell the story.

Don’t be too vague. Because you haven’t started with an actual lyrical hook, you’ll need to remember to bring your overall concept to a very sharp point by summarizing it with a phrase or hook line. This hook is something you’ll hopefully come to as you’re developing your lyric around your idea. A story without a summarizing point or hook risks being too unfocused to keep your listeners’ attention.

3. Writing from a melodic idea

If you’re a melodic writer, then you’ve got a different set of challenges. Beautiful, catchy melodies are a rare commodity and should be treated with the appropriate respect.

Do honor your melody and build your song around it. Remember, people will learn your melody long before they learn your lyric, so having a good one is not to be taken lightly.

Don’t let the melody box you into awkward words or watered-down phrases. While a beautiful melody is one part of a song, it’s not the only part. Cramming in words or compromising on your lyrical integrity isn’t an acceptable approach when writing from a melody. Remember, it’s the give and take of a catchy melody and a natural, conversational lyric that makes for a great song.

4. Writing from a chord progression/groove

When you pick up your guitar or sit down at the piano, often it’s a chord progression or groove that comes first. Great!

Do dig in and develop the groove and feel. This can really set the mood of a song and inspire all kinds of interesting melodic and lyrical ideas. Also, a good groove is the very first thing the average listener will notice when they hear your song.

Don’t rely on a chord progression or groove at the expense of your melody and lyric. This is no time to get lazy. A chord progression and groove in and of itself is only - in most genres - an arrangement idea, which doesn’t really constitute a song. Without a strong melody and lyric, it’s entirely possible to have a great sounding track, and, unfortunately, a mediocre song.

As I stated at the top of this article, there isn’t one “right” way to write a song. I’d highly recommend trying every possible songwriting approach you can. Often, as songwriters, we find ourselves in a rut where we go back to the same approach over and over. While this may be comforting and even result in increased productivity, in the long run, it might not provide you with the most inspired or unique songs you’re capable of writing. Why not leave your comfort zone and try a couple of different ways of writing? You never know what you’ll get.

Good luck!


Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars. 

For more information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Songwriting Tip: The Lover and the Beloved in Your Song

  
  
  
  
  
  

The Lover and the Beloved in Your Song

 by Harriet Schock

Songwriting

Songwriters can’t escape writing a love song at one time or another. But there’s one problem I see over and over in this type of song.

In life, as in songwriting, it’s better to be interested than interesting. If you’re interested in someone, that person will find you infinitely fascinating. If you’re trying to be fascinating, he/she will rarely even be interested.

Similarly, in songwriting, if you try to dazzle the person you’re talking to in the song, or the listener, with your own wonderfulness, you may have the audience talking among themselves. Consider the song “I Love the Way You Love Me” by John Michael Montgomery. Yes, he talks how her eyes roll when he sings off key but most of it is simply about her.

He likes the way her eyes dance when she laughs and the innocent way she cries at sappy old movies she’s seen hundreds of times….how she enjoys a 2-hour bath. We get a picture of the girl he’s singing to, which gives us a better idea of how he feels than if he was just trying to dazzle us with how much better off HE is with her.

Sometimes a songwriter will show me a love song written to someone and there isn’t one single thing in it about the beloved except, perhaps, how the beloved makes the singer feel. We can’t see the person he/she is singing about and we know nothing about that person.

Maybe this phenomenon is explained by what Carson McCullers says in “Ballad of the Sad Café,”

Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto.

This is so true that maybe it can be used in defense of the songwriter who fails to describe the beloved. It’s possible he doesn’t really see her at all. She is merely a catalyst. But unlike what we learned in chemistry class, the catalyst rarely emerges unchanged. So we might as well write about her in a way that will seem like it’s actually the beloved whom he loves and not just a place for the stored-up love to land.

 

Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s most recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com

 

For Information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Songwriting Tip: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

  
  
  
  
  
  

REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION

by Harriet Schock

songwriting
Edna St. Vincent Millay once said “Life is not one damned thing after another; it’s the same damned thing over and over.” In songwriting, it may seem as if the same damned thing over and over is not only permissible but called for these days. However when it gets to the point of torture, it might be best to change the melodic phrase. And maybe even the lyric—hey live dangerously.

Yes, there is a lot of persistent repetition in pop radio presently, but I think that it often sounds “trendy” rather than just current. It’s like fashions. Yes, you see them everywhere for a while—but they don’t stay in fashion. It may start at Neiman Marcus but by the time you see it at K Mart, it’s over. So if you’re writing songs you hope might be around for a while, I would suggest you avoid the same melodic and/or lyrical phrase repeated and repeated until 1) You FINALLY get the listeners’ ATTENTION or 2) You drive them so crazy, they change the station.

Some repetition is necessary, of course, such as a repeating chorus, or a melodic motif that you repeat the rhythm of and change the notes….even an interval that repeats. For instance, think of the bridge to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The first and third lines “Someday I’ll wish upon a star” and “Where trouble melts like lemon drops” are melodically identical. But the second and fourth lines, (“And wake up where the clouds are far” and “High above the chimney tops”) even though they have the same rhythm are on different notes from lines 1 and 3 as well as from each other. Need I say this is not a trendy song. It’s been a standard for decades. It will sound just as good decades from now.

Songs that are simply well written about things people care about will stay around for a while. If you like repetition, use it until YOU get tired of the phrase. Don’t keep repeating it because you think that’s a current way to write. Tomorrow it might not be.


Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit for Helen Reddy, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s most recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com

 For information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

 

Songwriting Tip: Dress Your Demos for Success

  
  
  
  
  
  

by Ralph Murphy

songwriting demo

Hit songwriter Ralph Murphy talks about songwriting in Nashville and what it takes to create a song demo for that market.

Every time a songwriter (or songwriters) finishes a song, the inevitable question comes up: How should this piece of work be demoed? Let's start by defining what we are taking about. Demo is short for "demonstration," which Webster's Dictionary tells us means "an explanation by example, a practical showing of how something works or is used."

So, step back from your song and take a long, hard look at it. What are its strong points, and what is the simplest, most eloquent way to show it off, i.e. to demo it?

Start Simply

Start with a simple guitar/vocal presentation and apply some logic. If you feel that simple will be enough, then fine. But make sure the guitar playing is excellent, the vocal is solid and well performed (by solid, I mean in tune and in character with the song), and the basic quality of the recording is good -- no pops or hiss or dropouts.

Embellish When Necessary

If the major part of the song is a big chorus, add a harmony part and perhaps a piano. If it's up-tempo and rhythmic, add an electric guitar and maybe some percussion. Now, there are songs that are great vehicles for records, but need a full demo to show them off. So, take out that second mortgage!

Look the Part

And finally, aside from clear labeling (the title, your name, telephone number, address, and the copyright notice) and a neatly typed lyric sheet (in upper-case letters), use a good quality CD (or mp3) when you pitch your song. Don't put a million dollar dream on a ten-cent recording.

Your song is copyrighted for your lifetime plus 50 years, so remember for at least 50 years, the demo you make today will be the only representation of how you really intended your song to be dressed. Make sure it's dressed for success.

 

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

 

To enter the 20th Annnual USA Songwriting Competition, click here: http://www.songwriting.net/enter

 

 

 

 

The 5 Minute Songwriting Class

  
  
  
  
  
  

The 5 Minute Songwriting Class

By Michael Anderson

 Songwriting

          If you have been reading this series of articles you know that I have been referencing film and screenwriting as another paradigm for creative use of technique in your songwriting.

          I have lately found a source of inspiration that has been quite a revelation to me in that I found someone preaching the same guerilla techniques for film that I have been preaching for songwriting.

          His name is Robert Rodriquez, and you may know his work from films such as “El Mariachi” and “Sin City”.

          Anyway, he also has a book about his experience in making his first feature length film, “El Mariachi”. The book is called “Rebel Without A Crew”, and the narrative has similarities with my experience in the music business – a good read if you are into seeing how other people have pulled it off.

          Part of his book is the “10 Minute Film School” – I thought I might vamp on that concept for songwriters:

 

“The 5 Minute Songwriting Class”

 

          Part I: The first thing is you need a good idea – I have lectured on that over and over here. Creativity is about process – the old “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” routine – but without that 10% inspiration the other 90% of your work is a waste of time. In fact, you can hire the “perspiration” part if you have the money – somebody will take your money and do all the necessary work for you if you know how to delegate and focus in that way.

          But if you are a struggling artist chances are you will end up doing most of the work yourself too because you can’t afford to hire somebody to be your “go fer”. That is OK, as Robert Rodriquez repeatedly points out, the only way to really be sure you are getting what you need is to do it yourself. That means learning all the little “processes” in the overall big picture process – learning your instrument, learning your tools for recording, learning your business procedure.

          But the initial spark is where it starts. Eddie DeGarmo told me that genius is defined by limitations – in other words, making what you have to work with work in your favor – do something on a low budget someone with all the resources in the world can’t do because they don’t have the focus for that. Find a creative way to solve a problem that no one could have come up with in any other way.

          To find that magic “idea” I recommend a few exercises that again, I am sure you have heard before.

 

          A: “Morning Pages” – direct from “The Artist Way” formula – you can do them in any way that works for you but the point is to get writing immediately in the morning while your brain is still connected to your creative subconscious and start flowing.

          Working without interruption starting first thing in the morning gets more creative work done than anything else I have ever found – a close second is late at night when it is quiet and you are tired – the same process – connecting to that part of your creative self that is a bit left of your reasonable, rational normal thought process.

 

          B: A similar process – the “Artist Date”  - again, straight from “The Artist Way”. Set aside time to goof off. Do nothing. Do what you want. Relax.

          I know, you don’t have time. Well, you can’t force creativity any more than you can make time go backwards – it is a flow and you need to find the rhythm of it – it is in another dimension, a parallel universe - and you need to find it  –  sync to it - it will not find you through your will. It may smack you upside the head at any moment, but you can’t control that. You have to be ready for it.

 

          Part II: Do it. Write it down and record it. Use what you have, when you have it. Don’t wait for the ideal guitar, perfect piano, latest software, newest recorder, machine, time, professional studio, whatever. Again, do it with what you have, when you have it. And do the very best you can do with what you have available. But also:

          A: Lower your expectations. Some people never do anything because they have such egotistic perfectionist tendencies that they can’t allow themselves to make a mistake. Get over that. Make mistakes. Fail. Learn. Do. Get better. Do it all again.

          B: Have a goal – what are you going to do with the demo? What are you going to do with the finished product? What do you need to do to get it to that point and how can you do that now?

 

          Part III: Mainly, enjoy the process of your work – enjoy the rush of the new idea. Enjoy the satisfaction of actually hearing a new part, a new line, a new creative way of doing something no one else has done – say the same thing in a fresh new way.

          Entertain yourself – make your melody, your lyric, your demo something you want to experience over and over again and show to people you trust who appreciate you.

          When you get there the other people will find you.

          Class dismissed. Go write a song.

 

You can contact Michael Anderson or purchase his “Little Black Book of Songwriting” at michaelanderson.com

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Songwriting Tip: Why Play Other Songwriters’ Songs?

  
  
  
  
  
  


WHY PLAY OTHER WRITERS’ SONGS?

Songwriting

by Harriet Schock

Many songwriters start out in cover bands and play other people’s songs for years before they start writing. This offers a large palette of chords and melodies to choose from. The brain is a very good computer but like a computer, what comes out is dependent upon what goes in. If you learn a few chords and start writing songs, never having played others’ songs—by ear or even reading charts—your songs may show it.

My mentor, Nik Venet, used to say that Picasso could paint a picture to look exactly like the object or person—representationally. The point of this is that he had the craft of painting DOWN before he developed his own style. I think it’s a good idea to play the songs of those writers and singers you admire. Then when you write your own songs, some of that will have rubbed off on you. And if you can duplicate someone else’s song, your craft will simply be stronger. Not recognizing a chord when you hear it will mean that chord is simply not in your musical vocabulary any more than not recognizing a word in a sentence when you hear it.

Even lyrically, it’s a good idea to listen, listen, listen. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, listen to what that lyricist is doing and ask yourself how he/she did it so you can add that to your toolbox. But right now I’m discussing the merits of listening to music written by others.

I know excellent writers who say they don’t want to be influenced by the music of others, so they don’t listen to it. Maybe that’s true currently, but you can bet they have been influenced in the past. Before they were writing, they listened to all kinds of music from all sorts of sources. You can’t go into a restaurant, a grocery store or an elevator without hearing music. You can’t be on hold on the telephone without hearing music. Granted some of these musical influences are pretty deadly, but you hear them. So you might as well prime your mental computer with something you love. That affinity you have for the song, mixed with the mere hearing of it, will allow it to enter into your computer and you will find that your own music has benefited greatly.

Think of a song you’ve always loved. Pick it out by ear, or if necessary, look at the chord chart or sheet music. Play it over and over. Dive into that song. Go back to the original and make sure you got it right. Play your copy of it, then play the original, then play your copy of it again. See if the next song you write has a little of the wondrousness of that song you’ve been swimming in.


Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit for Helen Reddy, “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films as well as starring in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s current film, “The M Word” features Harriet’s song, “Bein’ a Girl,” sung on camera. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online courses by private email. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com.

For more information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Songwriting Tip: Five ways to Create Inspiration

  
  
  
  
  
  

Five ways to CREATE Inspiration

Jimmy Brewer, Songwriter

by Jimmy Brewer

We all know the feeling. You sit down to write your next song and you’re confronted by the dreaded ‘blank page syndrome’. You might sit there for hours, staring at an empty page or screen before you eventually lose your enthusiasm and give up for the day. It doesn’t have to be this way! Here are a few simple inspiration generating ideas for lyric writing that can help you break away from the fear of nothing and get back to the creation of something:

1) Object Writing
Every morning pick a random word (or check out www.objectwriting.com for new examples each day), set a timer for ten minutes and write freely using your senses to guide you. Writing from your senses helps to take the listener on a journey instead of just telling them what is happening. Over time this will enrich your writing with powerful imagery and in the short term could generate some interesting ideas for development. Visit my blog for some examples and be sure to check out Pat Pattison’s book ‘Writing Better Lyrics’ to find out more.

2) Facebook Statuses
People write some soppy, emotional, stuff on Facebook, use it! Be careful not to fall into the trap of sitting on Facebook all day, refreshing the page waiting for a good status to catch your eye. Instead, make a note of anything that resonates with you while you’re scrolling through your news feed waiting for the kettle to boil or eating your breakfast cereal…

3) Column Title Generators
These can be quite cool. Make two or three columns on a page and have a different category for each one. For example on one side you might have a colour and on the other have an inanimate object, or an item of clothing (think ‘Raspberry Beret’) or even the weather (‘Purple Rain’…definite Prince theme going on here). Fill each column up and mix and match until something strikes you as being interesting or coveys an emotion that you think could be developed into a song. Get creative with the categories and you’ll be amazed at what you can find. Sheila Davies’ book ‘The Songwriter’s Idea Book’ contains lots of excellent ideas like this.

4) Little Pocket Notebook
Often when you’re out and about you might hear certain phrases that jump out at you. Usually by the time you get home you’ve forgotten about them. I like to carry a tiny notebook and pen around just in case I see something quirky written on an advert on the side of a bus, or I overhear a conversation in the queue at the coffee shop. Always try and keep your eyes and ears open and stuff will find you. I guess these days you could just use your phone, but I think there’s something about actually physically writing something down that makes your subconscious mind remember it a bit clearer. Once you’ve filled a few pages you can pick one and put it on your terrifying Blank Page and there you go, it’s not blank anymore!

5) Rip Off Without Ripping Off
If you hear a song and you think ‘Wow, what a beautiful sentiment’ or ‘What an interesting way to say that!’, Strip away the imagery and take that underlying emotion and think up some other similar ways of conveying that feeling (maybe start by object writing it and see what comes out). This way you’re not taking the image of the original song and turning it into a cliché, you’re getting to the heart of what the artist is trying to say and retelling it in your own unique style.

These are some of the methods I like to use, and very rarely now do I sit staring at a white page. These ideas can help you to spend less time thinking about writing and more time actually writing. Please leave me a comment with your own ideas, I’d love to hear them!

For more songwriting tips and some free music visit my blog at www.jimmybrewermusic.com/blog

 

To enter the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net 

 

Songwriting Tip: Drawing Maximum Attention To Your Hook

  
  
  
  
  
  

by Ralph Murphy

Songwriting
As you go through your song's story and the verses, check your rhyme scheme. Whatever it is -- change it in your chorus.
For instance, change an A B A B rhyme scheme to A B C B.

The reason you do this is to subtly alert listeners that something important is coming. A change in rhyme scheme combined with the change in melody going into the chorus should have them ready for the hook.

A couple of effective ways to get the most out of your hook (90 percent of the time, your title is the final line or hook) are to:

1. Put an internal rhyme immediately preceding the hook line

For an example,

"I love you, you love me too,
But we can't make it"

or

"I hate your dog, he ate my frog,
And now I hate you."

"And now I hate you" and "But we can't make it" are the lines you intended to emphasize (i.e your hooks).

2. Don't rhyme your hook with anything

A great example of this can be found in Larry Henley's and Jeff Silbar's "Wind Beneath My Wings." In their chorus, except for a very subtle implied rhyme with the word "everything," which is tucked in the middle of the second line ("and everything I'd like to be"), the title stands alone. It's also, on examination, made very singable by the use of alliteration. The W's in "Wind Beneath My Wings" really make it soar. (I hope "soar" is spelled right!)

Write a hit!

Ralph 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. Never more so however than in the 21st century. Catching the ear of the monumentally distracted, fragmented listener has never been more difficult. Getting their attention, inviting them in to your song and keeping them there for long enough for your song to become "their song" requires more than being just a "good" songwriter.

Murphy's Laws of Songwriting

*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 get the book, enter 3 or more songs at the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition and receive this exclusive book 

Songwriting Tip : What to Listen For

  
  
  
  
  
  

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR

By Harriet Schock

 songwriting

Yes, I teach songwriting. But 28 years ago when USC called and asked me to teach it, I said it couldn’t be taught. The next year, I gave in and started teaching and I’m very glad I did. But there is a way that most successful songwriters learn to write and that’s by studying other songwriters whom they admire.

I still do that. I will hear a lyric or a chord change and I’ll think “OMG! I never thought of doing that! I can do that!” And then my writing just gets better. You might think of doing that.

If it’s a chord change, you just figure out what the composer did and put that chord or that movement of harmony into your musical toolbox. If it’s a melodic approach, you add that as well. Maybe that writer uses a certain rhythmic approach to melody you never thought of or maybe there is an interval you’ve never used. I remember when Bobby Brown used a particular diminished chord in “My Prerogative.” Nearly every other song that year decided to use that diminished chord one way or another.  It’s not that the chord had never been used before, but somehow its use that way woke people up to the chord.

Lyrically, I remember when I first heard the Dobie Gray hit, “From Where I Stand,” written by Jennifer Kimball and Tom Schuyler:

“From where I stand you are the break of day
You are a silver thread, a star light in the evening

I could hardly feel my heart before you held it in your hands
And I hope you will you will never fall from where I stand.”

I was enamored of the way they used a known expression and then twisted its meaning to be literal later in the lyric. I then did it quite a few times in songs of mine “For What It’s Worth” and “You Are” and probably others. I did this thinking I had learned it from “From Where I Stand.” In fact, much earlier I had written the title song of my second album “You Don’t Know What You’re In For,” using the very same device, unknowingly.

“You don’t know what you’re in for
Love can be the prison as well as the crime
And you don’t know what you’re in for
But you still have to do your time.”

Because I never realized the device existed, it wasn’t really mine to use. So now I have my students word such devices in order to have them for the future. For example, what is Hugh Prestwood doing in “The Song Remembers When”?

“That’s just a lot of water underneath a bridge I burned,”

Can you put it into words? Think about it for a minute before reading on.

He’s taking two expressions that share a common word and hooking them together into one sentence. Once you’re aware of it, you’re off and running.

I subscribe to TunaDay, which is a wonderful daily song sent out by Rob Meurer, who is not only one of the best lyricists/songwriters out there but who also has a virtual Wikipedia of songs in his head. Recently he reminded me via TunaDay (you can sign up for it for free from his website at www.robmeurer.com) of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” Study that lyric for lots of devices and tips on great songwriting. And while we’re on the subject, check out Christopher Cross’s new CD, “Secret Ladder.” Rob Meurer wrote most of the lyrics. It’s a virtual treasure trove of great lyrics—and of course, Christopher Cross’s melodies, chords and vocals are fabulous also. http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Ladder-Christopher-Cross/dp/B00MD0PVOU/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1415825728&sr=1-1&keywords=secret+ladder

You can learn by listening and then you can deduct all your CDs and equipment as research! When you go to H&R Block, you can quote me.

 

Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit for Helen Reddy, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady." Her songs have been recorded by many other artists and used in TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s current film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Harriet wrote the songs for “Last of the Bad Girls,” a musical with book by Diane Ladd. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. Harriet is currently writing lyrics (Misha Segal, music) for “Platypus, the Musical.” In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and an online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com

 

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


All Posts