Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tips: Four Steps To Writing A Hit Chorus

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 @06:40 PM

Four Easy Steps to Writing A Hit Chorus

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant


How To Write A Hit Chorus

Want to learn to be better in songwriting? No matter how sophisticated our technology, a melody is still a series of single notes. Nobody ever sings chords or tracks.  They sing individual notes.


While creating music, some of us might hear melodic and/or rhythmic ideas in our heads, then high-hurdle the sofa en route to the keyboard to play and record them right away. Others may not hear anything specific, but will feel that lightning urge to create and hope they'll find some magic hidden between the black and white keys. But no matter where we find our music, or where it finds us, a melody is still a series of single notes.
You can't hum a track.


When there are problems with a melody, ( and most of them can't be fixed in the studio), they can be solved very simply by going back to the individual notes. Never mind how good the drum fills or harmonies are, or how cool the sax sounds in the bridge. If you find you have melody problems, and your hooks aren't strong enough, go back to square one - note one, and let's see where the trouble is.


I think of choruses as nursery rhymes for adults - short, repetitive, irresistibly singalongable, easy to remember. This may sound silly or disparaging to those of you with Julliard degrees, or who've been in bands all your lives. But if you aren't getting where you thought you should have gotten by now in your careers, you could change all that for the better in ten minutes.


When my clients are having melody problems, I assign them the nursery rhyme game. That is simply choosing five different nursery rhymes - doesn't matter which ones - "Mary Had A Little Lamb", "Humpty Dumpty", "Jack and Jill", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Ring around a Rosie" - any five. All nursery rhymes have just one musical section, which I call the verse. This exercise will show you how to write a simple, repetitive chorus to each of those verses, and that is basic melody construction.


Step One : from the last note of the verse melody, go up a major third to the first note of the chorus. (eg: C to E). Notice I said note, not chord.


Step two : tap a rhythm on your knee or on your desk - a rhythm that is dramatically different from the rhythm of the verse melody. Try several different rhythms, - don't stop with the first thing that pops into your head. Record everything. You never know what'll come up and you may not remember some of the good stuff.


Step three : once you have a rhythm that you like that is unexpected, starting on the note a major third up from the last note of the verse, add individual notes to create a short chorus. Make sure you repeat your chorus's first line somewhere in the body of that section. Beginners will write lines one and three the same, two and four the same, but you can write your choruses however you like. Be sure you don't simplify the process too much, and write predictably. And be careful not to borrow someone else's melody.


Step four : test your chorus with your verse. Is it surprisingly different? Or is it too similar? Could you tweak it a little? Change even one note? Remove two? Vary a rhythm pattern? Record everything and put your files aside for a day or two. Then listen again. If your new "melody" makes it through the night, chances are it's right. And although it's "just a nursery rhyme", you'll have very deliberately constructed a note-by-note melody with a strong hook. When you're 100% happy with it, THEN add the chords and the track.


Change the process, change the result.
For more suggestions on easily strengthening your music and lyrics, please refer to my books, How To Write A Hit Song and How To Be A Hit Songwriter. Both are available in paperback.

© 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, 5068 others, with Molly’s help, have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s and in commercials. Molly also writes articles for USA Songwriting Competition e-mail newsletters. Her website is www.songmd.com, and you can reach her at [email protected]. If you live in the USA or Canada, you can call her toll-free at 800-851-6588. However, please check her website first so your conversation is as productive as possible.

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

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

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 [email protected]  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

How To Be Professional As A Songwriter In The Music Business

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 @10:40 AM

Molly-Ann Leikin

How To Be Professional As A Songwriter In The Music Business

By Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant

    

The music business is a business.  The people we need to connect with on a professional level may look street and talk street, but when money is at stake – especially big money, which is often the case in our industry – we serve ourselves best by acting and doing business like the pro’s. 

    That means conducting ourselves as we would in any other business - whether it’s selling seashells,  stocks or sour cream cinnamon raisin coffee cake, nuts optional.   It’s not about what we want.  It’s what the guy on the other side of desk needs, and, assuming we have it, trying to determine how best to present it.   

    Say you’re a pretzel baker and I’m the World Distributer.  I would expect you to approach me the way my already established clients do.  Remember, as the Pretzel Honcho, I have thousands of people coming at me every day with pitches.  Therefore, to get my attention, what you’re selling has to sound as good or read as well as, if not better, than everyone else’s.  Notice I didn’t say your product, I said your pitch, because, since I’m Pretzel Queen, if you don’t catch my ear or eye, you’re out.    

    Only if your pitch is interesting, will I be willing to try your pretzel.  I didn’t make that up.  That’s how business is conducted, no matter what the product.

    The initial part of your pitch is the presentation. 

    Fancy jewel cases containing photos of your dying iguana lying on a copy of your past-due rent slip, or dancing adorable treble clefs breaking out as rashes all over your letterhead, don’t cut it.  Use a simple jewel case, include a short letter stating your goal, plus a professional, accurate business card identifying you as your music self.  Leave out the jicama franchise and your muffler academy.  We’re only talking music here, okay?

    Further, if you want to be taken seriously, don’t send anyone an unidentified CD or a lyric scribbled on a used paper towel.  Nor should you send a CD in a collapsed tangerine box stuffed with toilet paper, no lyric, and no contact information.  Please - put your name, address, email address, and phone number on each item, making sure your spelling is correct and the information is easy to read.        

    Remember, perception is everything.  

    You deserve to be successful.  And I’m confident you’ll see that by taking the time to make a thoroughly professional presentation, you’ll already be halfway there.   

© 2010 Molly-Ann Leikin
www.songmd.com

Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant in Los Angeles. She has dozens of gold and platinum records, plus an Emmy nomination.  So far, Molly has written themes and songs for over five dozen movies and TV shows, including “Violet”, that won an Oscar. The author of “How To Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition”, “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.  Six of her clients are Grammy winners, eleven more are Grammy nominees, and so far, with Molly’s help, almost 7000 other writers/artists have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s, in commercials, and their tracks are downloaded all over the web. Her website is www.songmd.com. You can reach her at [email protected].  

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


 

Tags: Molly-Ann Leikin, music business, professional music, emmy, platinum records

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Song Melodies, Part 3

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Apr 02, 2009 @07:10 AM

HOW TO WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 3, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, songwriter

When I write a song, I always write the melody first, one note at a time. While I have limited chops as a keyboard player, I do hear melodies in my head. I keep a recording device of some kind with me all the time - in my car, in my purse, next to the bed, even in the shower - so that whenever I get an idea for something, I just record it, la la la'ing. Sometimes I even call my voicemail, and sing to myself. I constantly revise the notes, going over and over and over them. You may work differently, but just remember that songwriting is a process, and what comes out in the first draft is just that - a first draft - and usually needs several more to reach the finish line. I'm lucky because I feel a little click in my gut when I know something I've written is finished. But I don't have anything to do with chords or programming until much later.

After writing the single notes of the chorus, I work backwards to write the individual notes of the verse, again, one note at a time. When I am finally happy with both the verse and the chorus, I go looking for the chords to put around them. That way, I'm not inhibited by my lack of musicianship or intimidated by the technical aspects of programming. I just write the song. Once the melody's down pat and the lyric I write to the melody clicks and I have the chords that go around the notes, then I start thinking about "how do I hear this produced, what instruments do I feel, what record on the radio sounds like what I'm going for." But it all starts with the individual notes of the melody. I know from working with so many talented, developing writers that they start with too much ambition and too much technology and not enough bare simple note-by-note creativity. So if you find your melodies aren't as strong as you would like them to be, or that the marketplace requires, then I suggest you try some version of my way of writing songs and adapt it to your personality. When you change the process, you can change the result.
© 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd.

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people. A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard. She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com. Please note: Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Melody, Melodies, Molly-Ann Leikin

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Song Melodies, Part 2

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Apr 01, 2009 @02:42 PM

HOW TO WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 2, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriter

In writing a melody, it's critical to keep your audience surprised.  Since we speak English in iambic pentameter, it's natural to assume we can write in the same meter.  Unfortunately, it's deadly boring.  So I suggest you deliberately vary the lengths of your lines, and the number of notes in each, along with the number of lines or bars per section, to avoid your song sounding predictable.  After all, it's your job as an artist to tell your audience something they aren't expecting.    

The range of most contemporary singers is an octave and three - the interval from middle C, for example, to the E an octave above it.  If you write a tune with a range greater than that, you'll be hard-pressed to find a singer with the chops to handle it.  My song, "An American Hymn", which I wrote with Lee Holdridge, was only recorded once in twenty years until Lee figured out how to revise the bridge melody, reducing our octave and five to an octave and three.  Now the song is recorded at least once a month.    

Most hit "power" ballads, such as Daughtry's "Home," end their verses on notes lower than the ones on which the choruses start.  To create tension and drama in their melodies, I urge my clients, and you, to go up into the chorus, not sideways or down.  Doing the latter is like letting air out of a tire.  So go up and stay up.  And although some contemporary songs break the rising-into-the chorus rule, you can bet their rhythmic hooks at the beginning of and throughout the choruses are strong enough to overcome the melody's drop, and keep us listening.  

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people.  A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard.  She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com.  Please note:  Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Melody, Melodies, Molly-Ann Leikin, Announcements, Product Information

How Songwriters Can Write Hit Melodies, Part 1

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 @10:57 AM

HOW SONGWRITERS CAN WRITE HIT MELODIES, Part 1, by Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin

After the title, the tune is the most important part of the song. The way our brains are wired, the melody is the first thing we hear. If we like it, we'll stay tuned and listen for the words. If the tune doesn't get to us, it's over.

Melodies need hooks. Without them, nobody will ever hear your work, no matter how brilliant the lyric. I know lyricists won't be happy to hear this, but it's true and knowledge is power.

In constructing a melody, there are several guidelines to follow. I recommend to all my clients, no matter where in the world they are writing, to get to the hook/chorus, within twenty-five or thirty seconds. I advise them, and you, to keep their introductions short. The intro is usually instrumental, and the song doesn't officially start until the verse begins. So keep the intro to eight bars or less. Often writers who are in love with their software wail on and on for sixteen or thirty-two bars before beginning the actual song. Don't. Eight bars are plenty. The audience will only give you a few seconds of ear time and then move on to something more accessible. You worked hard to get ‘em. Don't let ‘em get away.

If we like a melody, it usually isn't until we've heard it several times that we finally hear the words. You can write a brilliant lyric, but if it has a weak melody, nobody will ever hear any of it because the tune hasn't done its job. The function of the melody is to grab us in an unguarded, primitive, totally emotional state and hold our attention long enough for the more civilized and intellectual lyric to take hold and give us some words to sing. Leikin's Law is give them what they want. Express yourself as only you can, absolutely. You have a fingerprint as a writer that nobody else has. But don't expect a lyric to do the melody's job.

~Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a song marketing consultant in California, who, for a modest professional fee, works one-on-one to help you find the right writing partner and then helps you market your finished work to all the right people. A Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe), Molly is the author of "How to Write A Hit Song, Fifth edition", (June, 2008) from which this article is excerpted, and "How to Be a Hit Songwriter", both published by Hal Leonard. She has a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination, has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Eight is Enough" and "Violet" that won an Oscar. From the USA and Canada, you can reach Molly, toll-free, at 800-851-6588, or from anywhere in the world, at www.songmd.com. Please note: Molly does not accept unsolicited material. © 2009 Songwriting Consultants, Ltd. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 


Tags: Songwriting, how to write a song, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin, Announcements, Product Information

How To Find the Right Songwriting Partner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Mar 19, 2009 @07:06 PM

Written By Molly-Ann Leikin

Here's what I look for in a musical collaboration:

l. A great idea, one I have NEVER heard before.

2. A co-writer who is as committed as I am to making great music. This isn't a hobby. It's a life.

3. What can a potential co-writer bring to the table that I can't? If I write music, how are his lyrics? Just okay? Or do they tell me something new, something I've never heard before. How are his tunes, his production chops? Passable? Or cutting edge and original? How's his voice? Will his vocal fingerprint turn heads? Y'gotta turn heads, no matter what you contribute to the project.

4. Is this potential co-writer reliable, respectful of my time and talent? And does he/she really have a magical gift to enrich the literature of music, rather than just filling up letterhead and mp3's by recycling what other people have already said/sung?

Bottom line: don't settle too easily. Honor your work. Respect what you do and never stop looking for the best people, the very best, not just the closest or the most available, on your creative team. They are out there looking for you, too.

5. Where do I find them?

Fifty times a day, every day, I hear from bands, lyricists and composers passionately looking for the missing pieces of their songs. Once I've heard what you do, in a consultation, I've been extremely lucky hooking up writing teams. When you're ready to set up a consultation, I can help you, too.

© 2009 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant in L.A. with a house full of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination. She is also a Eurovision finalist (American Idol in Europe). Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy and so far, 5041 others have placed their work, with Molly's help, in movies, TV, on CD's and in commercials.The author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter", Molly's website is www.songmd.com and her toll-free number for the USA and Canada is 800-851-6588. You can also reach her at [email protected]

Tags: song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, writing partner, collaborator, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin