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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

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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

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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


 
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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
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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


 
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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

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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


 
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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


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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


 
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