Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tips: Seven Easy Steps to Write Hit Lyrics

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Mar 28, 2010 @09:19 AM

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant


How To Write A Hit Song

I've written poems and I've written lyrics. I've learned if you can do one, you can usually do the other. As a poet, I've enjoyed the pure creative process, and the occasional publication of my work.

But I've never made a dime writing a poem. Ever.

On the other hand, I live very comfortably on my lyric royalties. And it beats working.

In my practice as a songwriting consultant in California, I hear almost every other new client tell me he or she can't write lyrics. To help them, I've developed a seven-step system, and it works.

If you're a poet who's tired of being broke, and would like to occasionally use your gifts to write more commercially, this article can help you make that transition. It can also help lyricists who are stuck, composers who claim they write music only, plus the entire world of left-brain computer types who ache to create something romantic—like a song.

When writing one, be aware that melodies are open to interpretation - so when you write a tune, what you feel or intend is still safe in your heart.You don't have to reveal yourself or stand completely naked in front of the world. But once you put words to a tune, your feelings are totally out in the open and everyone knows what's in your heart. Therefore, it can be very inhibiting to write lyrics, which is often why writers get stuck.

But here is the process I use with my clients to make lyric writing simple. I suggest you use all seven steps. Cutting corners is usually why a lyric doesn't work.

Most poets and beginning songwriters make the mistake of writing acres of lines of iambic pentameter and then set out to look for someone who can turn that dreary rhythm into an exciting melody. Almost nobody can, no matter what the words are saying. So don't write your lyrics first. ]Get the tune, then write the words. So let's assume, for this exercise, that you have a melody but no idea of what to say in your lyric. Don't worry if you don't have a tune. I'll give you one.

STEP 1. Sing or play the tune of a nursery rhyme. Any of them will do: Baa Baa Black Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, Ring Around the Rosie - it doesn't matter which you choose. Use this melody for practice. As you listen to it, scribble down some non-rhyming prose. Ignore the exact notes, but listen to the feelings. Let your words be a stream-of-conscious exercise to warm up your imagination. Don't use rhymes or logic. Try to be visual, silly, playful and have fun with it.
Here's an example of some lines I scribbled down after listening to "Itsy Bitsy Spider":

A former tooth farmer from Fluffy, South Apricot, dug through Exxon's banana shoe hairbrush section for kangaroo lingerie, after the De La Hoya/Pope Potato wrist rake from Western Tire Cough Drops slid unnoticed into burping toenails.

STEP 2. Now please write a silly, visual non-rhyming lyric to your tune. Match each note with one syllable. Fill your non-rhyming lyric with ridiculous pictures. Again, don't be logical, don't make it make sense. Every line can be about something different. The first might concern shoe repair, the second, airport parking. In this draft, try to keep all the rhymes OUT. Here's an example of a nonsense lyric I wrote, to the tune of "Jack and Jill".
Lizards frying Jaguars
All hum Hawaiin shoe trees
Disneyland will hiccup in
The mayor's purple phone soup.

STEP 3. Now write an uncensored list of silly titles that will fit with the stresses of the first line of your nursery rhyme. No matter how many notes in that line, keep your title to seven syllables or less. Shoot for twenty or thirty possible titles. Don't write anything you've heard before. Let your imagination roll. Don't say, "Oh, that's dumb." Write it all down. You might find one of these nonsense titles could actually turn into a real one later. "I Love You" is fine, but Jewel's "Swallow The Moon" gets you in the gut. A good title will write the whole song for you. A mediocre one will leave you stranded in line two.
Here are some nonsense titles I wrote to the tune of
"Jack and Jill":

Santa knit a Hershey Bar
Orange dancing astronauts
Drinking bricks can make you skate

STEP 4. Write a few real titles with the same number of syllables as your silly ones. Here are some I wrote to
"Jack and Jill":
Sundays with the London Times
Do you ever think of me
Moonlight over Lake O'Hare

STEP 5. Choose one of your real titles. Write the story it tells in prose. Just a couple of sentences will do fine. Writing the story as a letter might be easier for you. If any lines come out rhyming, change them so they don't. That way, you'll be able to express yourself with complete freedom, and without the constraints of rhyme or meter.
When you finish this step, you'll know the beginning, middle and end of your story before you start to write the lyric. Most songs have two verses, a chorus and a bridge, so allow space for them in your story. By writing it first, you'll be able to see if you have enough information to fill a whole song, so you won't get stuck half-way through with nowhere to go. You can always cut out words and lines later.

STEP 6. Using the information from your story, write a non-rhyming lyric to the nursery rhyme melody you've chosen. Should rhymes mysteriously appear, delete them.

STEP 7. Now write the "real" lyric, with the story and the rhymes.


I suggest you do all seven steps. Not four, not two. Seven. My clients who don't are still claiming they can't write lyrics. But many of my songwriters who do are climbing the charts.
The more lyrics you write, the easier it gets. So please do this exercise five times, each with a different nursery rhyme. Once you learn how to map out a lyric, and write it to a melody, you're 90% there.
© 2010 Molly-Ann Leikin
www.songmd.com
Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant with dozens of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination.  The author of “How To Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, and the producer of “Molly-Ann Leikin’s Master Class in Songwriting”, Molly consults with talented writers and artists all over the world, with a view to helping them market their material.  She also matches lyricists with composers.  And she’s very good at it.  Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy, and so far, 5067 others, with Molly’s help, have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s and in commercials.

Her website is www.songmd.com.  You can reach her at songmd@songmd.com.  If you live in the USA or Canada, you can call her toll-free at 800-851-6588.  For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit song, hit songwriter, Lyrics, Molly-Ann Leikin, emmy, platinum records, how to write a better song, hit song writer

USA Songwriting Competition's Showcase During SXSW

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 @07:15 PM

 

Anne Simoni, 14th Annual USA Songwriting Competition 1st Prize winner performed at SXSW showcase at Borders on March 19, 2010.

 

 

 

Wendy Colonna, 5th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) 1st Prize winner performed at SXSW showcase at Borders on March 19, 2010.

 

 

Tags: songwriter, USA Songwriting Competition, swsx

Keeping Things Cheap As A Musician

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Mar 05, 2010 @04:03 PM

by Brandon, Sonicbids Member Relations Representative

I’m a pretty cheap guy. This doesn’t seem to help much in the dating scene, but can quite useful as a musician, instruments cost hundreds of dollars a piece and unless you’ve reached a certain level of success, it’s difficult to pay that back quickly, if at all. So, when starting out you’ll want to minimize your costs as much as possible while gradually increasing your presence both locally and (inter)nationally. I’ve found quite a few ways to do so, and thought I’d share them. Obviously the possibilities are endless, so feel free to comment here and share your ideas as well.

 

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FRIENDS AND STUDENTS

Hiring big names for collaborations is great for quick exposure, but if you’re short on cash, there are alternatives. Friends, local contacts and students are great ones for several reasons:

 

1) They (in most cases) know you already, so you can form a personal relationship in addition to a professional one.

2) They may even be more motivated to help out (students in particular – see below).

3) They are less expensive to hire.

 

If you have a brother who’s a marketing genius, for instance, perhaps try to get him on board to help you with marketing your project and creating your brand.

 

I also mentioned this in my last post, but colleges are a cesspool of many things, including budding young talent. Aspiring art students are looking for their big break in graphic design, photography or illustration — hire a student who understands your branding goals to do your artwork for you. Since they’re just starting out, they won’t be as expensive to hire as a renowned artist, and may do equally great work.

 

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY WITH YOUR WEB PRESENCE

A couple of ideas here:

 

1) Email your Electronic Press Kit. It’s free to do with your Myspace or Sonicbids account, and you can track when the recipient actually opens the electronic press kit unlike in a normal email. This is a good way to save cash while getting that closure you need.

 

2) Build a cheap website. While sites like Sonicbids, MySpace, Facebook, etc. allow you to promote your band and its identity, you’ll want a home site on the internet, which helps secure that identity at an easy-to-find location (yourbandname.com, for instance). Building a website seems daunting at first, but there are tons of cheap/free services out there to help make this relatively painless, both on your brain and your wallet. I’ve personally found Wordpress, known for its blogging capabilities, to be an immensely powerful site-building tool as well, and it’s totally free to use. Check out a great example of a Wordpress-powered site for Sonicbids band Stereogrove here.

 

BE SMART ABOUT PROMOTIONS AND TOURING

When The Seedy Seeds came by the Sonicbids office recently, I had a good conversation with Brian, one of the masterminds behind the band, who mentioned their small, incremental touring method, rather than going all-out on a massive national tour. This is a smart way to approach touring: there’s no sense in blowing all your cash on a great tour and then not being able to afford another one after that, losing that expanded fanbase you just got in a matter of weeks. Try a shorter approach to touring, by doing short, frequent trips to very specific targeted regions. Also take some time to study the music scenes of those regions: there’s no sense in playing metal in a city where indie rock is all the rage.

 

Again, there’s a ton of possibilities here. This is just a start, so please comment away, or feel free to reach me and the Sonicbids Member Relations Team.

Tags: sonicbids, Myspace, cheap musician, indie musician, music promotion, twitter, facebook, purevolume, soundclick