Songwriting Tips, News & More

The Walter Mitty- Ness of Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 @08:22 PM

by Harriet Schock

 songwriting

The great thing about being a writer or an actor is that we get to live so many lives. I mean the ones you create. The ones you elaborate upon. The ones you fantasize. I'm in an amazing acting workshop for singers called the Musical Artists Workshop taught by Gary Imhoff. Sometimes in an improv, we’re given a situation and you simply have to think “what if…”  In fact, much acting is done from “what if.” What if I were in a whole different situation, a whole different life. What if I were different? A different kind of person entirely, or just a little different.

 

I remember as a child going around to my parents’ friends and asking them this philosophical question: If I had a different great-great-grandparent, would I be me only different? Or would I be a different person who’s a lot like me? Well, many years later I came to my own conclusion about that, but for songwriting, it works either way. If you’re a girl, you can pretend you’re a guy who does all those things guys do that drive you crazy.  Or you could pretend you’re unbelievably wealthy. Or maybe you’re having an affair with someone incredibly wealthy who is, of course, unhappy. (“Lyin’ Eyes” by Henley and Frey)

 

People who know my writing and/or my teaching know that I think the two most important elements in songwriting are truth and craft. They also know by “truth” I don’t mean facts.There is truth in many situations which you can find, even if you haven’t lived that particular factual situation. Some years ago I was asked to write a lyric (Misha Segal wrote the music) for a Motown film (“The Last Dragon”) in which the main character was a young African American man who was a virgin, practiced Kung Fu and fell in love for the first time. I went for the truth of it rather than the facts, none of which were helping me. We wrote a song that’s been covered by 30 people either live or on record. It wasn’t really a big “what if,” considering I’d fallen in love and I knew how that felt. That’s what I concentrated on. The songs is called “First Time on a Ferris Wheel.” Smokey Robinson sang it in the movie. Carl Anderson, my favorite singer of all time, recorded it and sang it live. It’s on my home page if you want to hear Carl sing it.

 

One of my newest songs is called “When I Write About It” and it discusses how we can change the way it really happened, whose fault it was, who left whom and basically every detail of life like we want it. And isn’t that being the creator of your own artistic universe?

 

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. Harriet is in the process of writing 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 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 USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Harriet Schock, Grammy, Walter Mitty

Songwriting Tips: 10 Elements of a Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 @01:34 PM

Songwriting Tips: 10 Elements of a Song
by Steve Cheeks

 songwriting

When studying songs and songwriting, there seem to always be common threads to the basic components of successful songs. Like most people, I am measuring a songs success by it's popularity more than any other factor, although it is not the only factor to consider. With that thought being set aside, lets look at the elements that make up songs in the Modern Contemporary Music era (the last fifty years of rock, pop, country and R&B). Please also note that these are not considered to be in any particular order.

1. Melody - The melody is the tune of the song that you sing or play. The best melodies are considered to be "catchy". This typically means that the melody is memorable, which should be the desired effect.

2. Chords (chord progression) - The chords accompany the melody of the song. This can also be, and is typically, part of the rhythm of the song. A chord progression is the order in which the chords are played.

3. Beat and Rhythm - The beat of a song is what "drives" the listener to "feel" the song (fast or slow). It is also referred to as the tempo (speed) of the song. Because music stirs our emotions, we often are drawn to a song because of the beat. The rhythm on the other hand, is the beat that the various instruments (drums, bass, guitar and keys) create.

4. Genre and Style - the genre of a song (rock, pop, country or r&b) is typically established by the beat and rhythm of the song. The style may vary once the song is constructed with the words and/or instruments. The style of the song branches out from the genre, such as, punk rock, alternative, hip hop, blue grass etc.

5. Concept (story) - All songs have a story line or theme. Typically the song title will convey the essence of that story idea and the words (lyric) will expound upon that idea or theme. The story concept and theme is typically stated in the title of the song.

6. "Hook"- Simply stated, the hook is the part of the song that you just can't get out of your head. It sort of "sticks" to your thought process, sometimes, even if you like it or not. All great (if not memorable) songs have great hooks. A song may also have sub hooks that are sections,words, phrases of music that will get inside your brain. The song title can typically be a "singable" hook or phrase as well.

7. Lyrics - What is being "said" in the song comes through the words called the lyrics. The lyric describes the concept, theme and/or title of the song. A lyric will typically rhyme in rhythmic phrases in the sections of music.

8. Song Sections - Songs are divided up into sections and have names, such as, intro, verse, chorus,bridge etc. Typically, the verse describes the concept of the title and hook that are typically in the chorus. Other sections such of music, such as the intro, bridge, lead breaks, etc., will function to support these main components of the song. Sections consist of measures (also called bars) that are typically four beats in length. Although they can be longer or shorter, sections are typically eight measures (bars) in length.

9. Arrangement - The arrangement is actually two-fold. First, the arrangement is the order in which the sections of music are placed, such as, intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus and so on. Secondly, the organization of the instrumentation, vocals and/or other parts of music that make up the song, are considered to be the arrangement as well.

10. Length - The length of a song is always a consideration, depending on the use of the song. If a song is being written and arranged for radio airplay, songs today are typically three and a half to four minutes long. They can be shorter or longer, but this is the typical length in today's musical formats. It should be stated that you will find successful songs with less (or even more) of the ten elements that are listed here. That doesn't make the song right or wrong, just different.

There are always exceptions to every rule,and in music, you will find that to be the case more often than not. In searching songs, I believe you will find most "hit' songwriters will use proven formulas with the elements listed above, in some shape or form. I always remind songwriters and musicians alike, that there are no "have to be's" in music, just "probablies." That's the purpose of using the word "typically" so often. As always, go back and study some of the songs from your favorite genre to see how many of the elements you can detect. I'm sure you will find that the more successful the song, the more song elements that are in the song. This should give you a great overview for your study. Happy Hunting!

Steve Cheeks is a Producer, Arranger, Singer, Songwriter and Psalmist. As a teacher, Steve has taught many hundreds of students how to play, perform and compose music with many different instruments. Currently, Steve is on a mission to teach the world to play and sing. He resides in Evans, Ga.

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Lyrics, songwrite, hook, song elements, Melody. create song, create melody, Chords, beat and rhythm, song structure