Songwriting Tips, News & More

5 Ways for Singer-Songwriters to Improve Their Chances of Success

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jul 31, 2018 @05:15 PM

5 Ways for Singer-Songwriters to Improve Their Chances of Success

by Larry Butler

 5WaysforSinger-SongwritersForSuccess

We’re all familiar with the standard rules given to those who think they want the fame, glory and money that comes from being a successful singer/songwriter – work hard, practice, smile, be nice to people, etc.  In the forty years or so that music industry veteran Larry Butler has worked with some of the most successful artists in the business, he says he’s found a number of pieces of advice that you’re probably not going to find in those well-worn lists. Here are five taken from his new book The Singer-Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Success.  None of them involve smiling.

 

Make sure that MUSIC is the ONLY thing you want to do in your life to the exclusion of everything else.

The most successful music and performance stars I’ve worked with over the years were focused. And they weren’t just focused in the normal sense of working on something and then taking a break; nope, they were SUPER FOCUSED. No time off. Nothing else mattered. Not family, not friends, not loving relationships, nothing. If you weren’t somehow related to helping them succeed, you were in the way and did not matter.

A cautionary note: Do not have a back-up plan. If you have “something to fall back on,” you will end up doing that instead. Make sure that this is all there is in life for you to do––singing, songwriting, performing, and entertaining. And only do those things. Everything and everybody else is in second place.

 

 

Do not listen to your family, friends or fans. They’re way too close to you to be objective about you, your music or your show.

Your family, friends and fans, for all their genuine belief in you and your talent, probably don’t know much about music or how to entertain an audience. Even if some of them have been in bands or on stage in their lives, they’re all way too close to you emotionally to make an accurate assessment of your music and your show. You’re not nearly as wonderful as they say you are. How would they know?

You’re going to need evaluation and instruction from an unrelated, professional live performance coach on the fine art of taking your well-honed singer-songwriter performance skills and moving them up into the rarefied air of ENTERTAINMENT. Just the ability to write songs and accompany yourself on piano or guitar as you sing them is not, in and of itself, all that entertaining. And even if it were, there are a couple hundred other singer-songwriters in Silver Lake/Echo Park alone who are already doing just that. If you were to learn how to actually entertain an audience of complete strangers, then you would be able to separate yourself from that pack.

 

 

Avoid marriage or any serious relationships. Break-up with the live-in boy/girlfriend. If you have kids, love them and keep them safe. If you don’t, don’t.

Everyone who’s ever been a performer knows that as soon as a significant other enters the picture, the career is put on hold. It’s scriptural––you cannot serve two masters. There can only be one driving force in your life––the pursuit of a career in music.

It’s okay to have a casual or friendly relationship––as long as it relieves tension instead of adding to your mounting list of fires to put out. You’re looking for HELP in furthering your career, not HINDRANCE. So you have to weigh the value of the relationship to the actual benefit. Relationships take time––do you have that kind of time?

Then there are kids. If you already have some, you have to stick with them and be a good parent. It is the only real responsibility you have in life. Do the right thing. But, if you don’t have kids and think you have to have some, join a band. Since all musicians act as if they’re 12 years old anyway, you can play out your parental role with them.

 

 

Avoid watching or following both real and fantasy sports.

Pointless. They take up way too much of your precious time. The same goes for binge watching Netflix/Amazon or just TV in general. Shut it off!

 

 

Get rid of your cat/dog/plants as well as all other high maintenance, non-musical responsibilities.

This instruction may actually be harder for some of you than losing family and unneeded friends––losing the pets and plants. But, let’s face facts: pets are just short of kids in regards to the time and money spent to keep up the maintenance. The food, the walks, the clean-ups, the vet bills and the accouterments are all drains on your time, your cash and the part of your brain that should be focused, once again, on your music.

If, indeed, you MUST have some downtime with an animal, offer to cat or dog sit for friends and neighbors while they’re away. At least you’ll be able to call on them for some awkward favor in the future. And don’t get me started on multiple pets or something ridiculous like horses. Who are you people?

Same thing with plants––they need daily care and, even then, they’re going to die. Plants are designed to thrive outdoors and on their own. Do not continue to live in the belief that somehow you’re going to have a garden in your apartment. Listen to reason for once, will you?

 

FINAL WORDS ON THE SUBJECT: I’m not going to attempt to list all of the high maintenance, non-musical responsibilities that you may come up with that could sway your attention away from your goal. Lose them all. Now. Today. And get on with living your life for yourself and your career. You do not have the time to waste. All of your clocks are ticking – musical, biological, and financial. So do it now! REMEMBER: It’s not about who has the most talent; it’s about who wants it more and is willing to work harder to get it!

[Reprint Permission by Music Connection Magazine]

LARRY BUTLER is a 40-year veteran of the music business. He currently consults as a live performance music coach based in Los Angeles. His new book, The Singer-Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Success, is available at Amazon in both digital and print configurations (amzn.to/2o4osB8). He also runs one of 365 insightful quotes from famous rock and pop stars every day on his Twitter feed -@larryfromohio. He can be reached through his website, diditmusic.com.

 

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

 

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

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, fantasy sports, avoid high maintenance, avoid non-musical responsibilities, Larry Butler, focus, Avoid relationships

[EXPERT Songwriting Advice] 3 Tips for Writing to a Song Title

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jul 25, 2018 @11:13 AM

[EXPERT Songwriting Advice] 3 Tips for Writing to a Song Title

by Jason Blume

 3 Tips for Writing to a Song Title

I was recently asked the age-old question, the one songwriters are so often asked. “Which comes first, the words or the music?” Without skipping a beat, I responded, “The title.”

I estimate that more than 95% of the lyrics for the more-than one thousand songs I’ve written began with a title. Even in instances when the melody or a backing music track came first, in almost every instance, the title was chosen before the rest of the lyric was written. This has been the approach my co-writers seemed to expect whether we were writing EDM, country music, pop, rock, or any other genre, and regardless of whether my collaborators were in Nashville, Asia, New York, Los Angeles, Scandinavia, or anywhere else I’ve written.

To be clear, there is no right or wrong way to write—or begin—a song. Successful songs have been started with an instrumental lick, a lyric phrase, a melody line, a drum pattern, a chord progression, a bass line, and numerous other ways. But when it is time to write the lyric, in my experience, a title is typically chosen before the remainder of the lines are written. This is because the title is at the heart of the lyric, and ideally, the lyric is crafted to lead to the title.

Here are some things to consider when writing to a title.

Is Your First Approach the Best?

Once a title is chosen, several decisions need to be made. What will that title mean in this song? What is the best way to deliver listeners to that title? What information should be included in the verses to successfully lead to the title?

There are no “correct” answers. These decisions are part of the creative process. Some writers instantly know how they want to approach their title; it might seem like the only way. But in most instances, various approaches could be effective.

Let’s look at three scenarios that lead to the title, “She’s the One.”

    The instant I laid eyes on her, I knew she was the one I had been waiting for; the one I was destined to love.

    I watched the sun light up her face as she lay sleeping beside me, and my heart knew “She’s the One” God made for me, the one I would give my life for. In the second verse or bridge the singer might gaze at his newborn daughter and, in a subsequent chorus, sing “She’s the One” God made for me, the one I would give my life for.

    With one tequila kiss I knew “She’s the One” who could tear my marriage apart.

For each of these examples there are a multitude of ways the lyric could be developed. There is the option of telling a story, or the alternative of finding interesting ways to express how the singer feels. (For tips about writing lyrics that tell a story check out my article “Show – Don’t Tell: Three Steps to Writing Better Lyrics.” Tips for writing “non-cinematic” lyrics can be found in “How to Write Non-Visual Lyrics That Engage Listeners.”

If you decide to tell a story, you will likely need a setting—a location where the action unfolds. For example, in the first scenario did the singer initially see the one he was destined to love:

    across the classroom, when he was in third grade?

    on a crowded subway, coming home from a bad day at work?

    in a supermarket checkout line, where he dropped his wallet?

    when her photo appeared on a dating app?

    while dancing at 2 a.m. at a downtown rave?

You might describe the sounds, sights, smells, the weather, and more. You are essentially creating a fictional world, and the options are endless. So why settle for the first idea that pops into your mind?

Support Your Title—But Avoid Sounding Contrived

At a recent webinar, I critiqued two songs that each had problems related to their titles. Song #1 had a unique, distinctive title, but no lines of lyric supported or led to that title. Without lyrics that guided listeners to the title, the very clever title felt tacked on. There was no logical reason for the singer to sing that title when the line appeared in the chorus.

Song #2 had the opposite problem. By being overly-clever the writer extracted any genuine emotion from the song. Almost every line incorporated a phrase or image associated with the title. While the writing was exceptionally clever, the resulting song felt contrived, and more like a novelty song than anything suited for today’s hit radio.

For example, if writing to the title “You Are My Heaven,” the lyric will benefit if it includes some images related to heaven, such as halos, clouds, angels, harps, Pearly Gate, streets of gold, heavenly choirs, St. Peter, and more. But over-using these words and phrases can make the lyric seem forced. However, by using this tool sparingly, we can effectively support our title and have it feel like the satisfying, natural conclusion of the lines leading up to it.

What if Your Title Does Not Come First?

Not every song starts with a lyric, and not every lyric starts with a title. Sometimes, lines of lyric pour out of us before we have determined our title, and that is a good thing. Jot these down and see how they might be incorporated in ways that contribute to our song.

Sometimes, a title reveals itself during the writing process. Other times, we might think we are writing to a specific title, but a more engaging one occurs to us as our song evolves. In all these cases, we can still take steps to ensure our lyric supports and leads to our title by revisiting our lyric and incorporating words and phrases that are related to the title. In some cases, our song might be better served if we save unrelated lines for another song.

In summation, like every aspect of songwriting, when approaching a title, our first inclination might provide the definitive approach. But we won’t know if we can beat our initial thought unless we try on others.

 

[Reprint Permission by BMI World Magazine]

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs has been recorded by Britney Spears, Backstreet boys and more. His songs are on Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. He has been a guest lecturer at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and at the Berklee College of Music. For information about his workshops, webinars, additional articles, and more, visit www.jasonblume.com

 

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

 
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[Songwriting Advice] Good is not Good Enough

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jul 09, 2018 @05:35 PM

[Songwriting Advice] Good is not Good Enough

MasterWriter_Songwriter_Interface

by Barry DeVorzon, hit songwriter and President of MasterWriter

If you want to increase your odds of being a successful songwriter, you should read this…

If you want to be a player in the music business, it is really no different than wanting to be a player in the NBA or NFL.  All three are extremely difficult, competitive professions where good is rarely good enough.  Great is what is required and even with that, there are no guarantees.  Succeeding in the music business is no easy thing.  So many things have to come together and fall into place in order to create something that is great.  One of the most important elements is the song. The song is where it all begins and if the song doesn't have it, everything else is wasted effort. So try and be more objective about your songs and don’t settle for good. Learn to recognize the songs that have the potential to be great and those that don’t. Writing a song can’t always be fun, sometimes getting from good to great is hard work and requires craft, dedication, and patience. No truer words were ever been spoken than the saying, “great songs aren’t written, they are rewritten”

With this in mind, in my opinion, using MasterWriter will give you that all important edge and help you get from good to great. The comprehensive reference, tools, and organizational features, together with the ease of use, makes it a powerful songwriting tool.

Here are some of the features: 

1 – A rhyming dictionary that contains perfect rhymes, close rhymes, phrases that rhyme and a syllable filter that allows you to search by syllable. You don’t have to stop at the first rhyme that makes sense; you can collect as many as you wish by simply double clicking on the word. Clicking on Collected allows you to review this list of possibilities next to your lyrics. This goes for all of the dictionaries

2 – Word Families is a dictionary that will open up a new world of possibilities for unique and imaginative descriptive words and ideas.

3 - The Phrases dictionary will show you every phrase that contains your search word or you can search the entire list. This is an idea factory that is filled with hooks. Say goodbye to “writer’s block”.

4 – The best Thesaurus and Dictionary on the market

5 – Figures of Speech gives you instant access to metaphors, similies, idioms, oxymorons, onomatopoiea, allusions, alliterations and Intensifiers, a new one-of-kind dictionary of intense descriptive words. Also included are filters that allow you to be more specific in your searches. This is an amazing source of ideas and directions that will spark and greatly enhance your songwriting.

When you enter a search word, all of the dictionaries search simultaneously. Why struggle to find the right rhyme, word, or phrase when MasterWriter will show you all the possibilities in an instant?

6 – The World; a Pop culture Dictionary with over 11,000 Icons of American and world culture that links to information on each entry, plus a searchable Bible, Old and New Testaments.

7 – An easy to use audio page to capture your melodies.

8 – A built-in word processor plus organizational features that organizes the songwriter painlessly. Come back to that song, days, weeks, or months later and you will find your lyrics, melodies and work product organized and waiting for you under that song title.

If you offered professional athletes a program that would make them only 5% better, I’m betting they would buy it at any price. MasterWriter will make you a better songwriter and by a lot more than 5%. Why wouldn’t  you want that edge?

 

Hit Songwriter/composer/artist Barry DeVorzon has long been a prominent name in the recording industry.  His work in motion pictures and television has resulted in a number of hit records and soundtracks:  “Bless the beasts and the Children”, recorded by the Carpenters,  Nadia's theme (theme from the Young and the Restless), theme from “S.W.A.T” by Rhythm Heritage,  “In the city” by the Eagles,  “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige, and the theme from “the Warriors”. He was nominated for an academy award for  “Bless the beasts and the Children” and won a Grammy for Nadia's theme.  His music for television has earned him six Emmys and numerous nominations.

There is a reason why some of the most successful songwriters in the business use MasterWriter. It is simply, the most powerful suite of writing tools ever assembled in one program. This unique and revolutionary software will open up a new world of possibilities for rhymes, descriptive words, and ideas. There is always a better way to express yourself and MasterWriter will show you all the possibilities in an instant. In a profession where every word counts, MasterWriter will take your writing to a new level. Information on Masterwriter, go to: https://www3.masterwriter.com/store/store/licensepromotionNew.do

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

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, Honing Your Craft, rhyming dictionary, Carpenters, MasterWriter, Thesaurus, Barry DeVorzon, Barry De Vorzon, Marty Robbins, Johnny Burnette

[Songwriting Advice] How to hack the songwriting process

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jun 08, 2018 @06:30 PM

How to hack the songwriting process

by Ged Richardson
WhatItTakesToWriteAHitSong
Songwriting is as old as the hills, so writing songs should be straight forward enough right? Wrong! Penning a song that stands the test of time and resonates with an audience is one of the hardest things to do. You need to boil down the essence of a feeling, or a mood, or an emotion into a 3 or so minute song.

Fortunately our friends over at Zing Instruments have been studying songwriting for some time and have come up with some ‘hacks’ that help accelerate the songwriting process.

There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. Starting the process of writing a new song can take just as long as finishing it - give one or all of these a try and see if they work!

Write the beat and melody first and lyrics last
There’s nothing that wastes time quite like writing a set of great lyrics and then discovering that there’s no way you can fit that many syllables into one verse. If you know how many beats you have to fill, that’s half the job done for you.

Writing the melody before the actual words is also a great way to accelerate your songwriting. Since you’ll know how a particular lyric is going to sound, it’s easier to fit the meaning to the music. After all, can you imagine if the “happy birthday” song was set to extremely atonal jazz? The lyrics must fit the mood.

It’s also an easy way to make dissonance your friend. The Smiths were particularly adept at writing overwhelmingly cheerful sounding music that emphasised the melancholic tone of Morrissey's vocals. 

 
Switch from 4/4 time signatures
If you’re really stuck for ideas, doing nothing more than changing up the time signature for a few bars will help you draw attention to hook lines and connect different parts of your song structure together. The simplest way to do this is to simply kill every instrument, guitar pedal and the rest, except for the drums and have that switch to 3/6 timing for a brief moment, before reverting back to 4/4.

 
Use Chord Inversions
Everyone is used to hearing chords in their typical form, with the root note being the deepest and each tone going up in pitch. To instantly make any chord progression more interesting, simply invert it so that the root note is the highest, and the fifth is the deepest. This takes no extra work at all and can instantly help you to progress with writing a song as it gives you an easy way to switch up your bass line and add flavour to an otherwise dull song.

Modulation for faster variety
On the second or third verse of a song, it can be a little dull to stick with the same old progression. However, since writing a whole new sequence is going to take just as much time as the first one, switch to the relative minor or major scale of the one you were using before. To do this, take the 6th note of the major scale and use that as the root note for the relative minor. Now you can write the exact same sequence, but using the intervals of the new scale instead. This is handy for making a moodier reprise of an early part of your song.

Leave sections blank
This might not sound like you’re actually writing a song, but bear with us here. Instead of painstakingly writing out the entirety of a solo, leave a bar or two completely empty. If your guitarist (or whoever will be doing the solo) is competent at improvisation, this is a great way to give them a chance to show off their technical skills without getting too far away from the overall character of the song. If they don’t know how to improvise, make sure that they know the major and minor scales of the key at the very least and let them loose. Since it’s only a couple of bars, it won’t be difficult or particularly noticeable if done poorly.

This is also a great way to make each gig unique, which dedicated fans will love.


Outline the structure first
Instead of writing each part of the song in sequence, develop the overall direction first. If you know what each piece of the song has to accomplish, then it’s much quicker to write those parts in detail. This way, you don’t suddenly realise halfway through the writing process that the last bar of the chorus doesn’t actually work with the first bar of the next verse, and vice versa.

The theories of cadence and voice leading are particularly useful here, as you can simply jot down some of the basics to refer to whilst writing a song.


Learn to read and write music
Many guitarists, bassists and other non-classical instrument players are more used to reading tablature than staff notation. However, developing fluency with this method of writing music allows you to apply your musical knowledge much more easily as you can visually see the development of music. Tablature is great for quickly teaching other people how to play a song, but as a songwriter you need to know why it sounds that way.

Staff notation helps with this, as you can easily see how the notes relate to each other tonally. It’s also much quicker to write once you’re fluent, and will contain absolutely everything you need to know about a piece of music when done properly. This eliminates a lot of the guesswork that can crop up after you’ve written a piece of music and forgotten some of the more subtle details about how it sounded in your head.

In Summary
Armed with these tricks, your songwriting skills will change practically overnight. It doesn’t matter if you apply all of them at once (although that isn’t entirely practical) or try them out a few at a time. Your own process is going to be a factor in this, so perhaps some of them won’t be entirely applicable. Don’t fret about this, just do the ones that feel ‘right’ to you.
 
 
Ged Richardson is founder and editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments, a music blog dedicated to helping teach 1 million people how to play music and connect with their creative side (to find their 'Zing'). https://zinginstruments.com/

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Melody, songwrite, song demo, chord progression, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, hooks, Re-writing, time signatures, beats, structure, Modulation, Chord Inversions

[Songwriting Advice] Choosing the Chords That Work With Your Melody

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 02, 2018 @08:18 AM

[Songwriting Advice] Choosing the Chords That Work With Your Melody
by Gary Ewer

Choosing the Chords That Work.jpg

You’ll notice that when you’ve got a melody, the notes of that melody imply the chords you’re likely to use. That’s not to say that you’ve got no choice in the matter, of course. For every chord you might use, there is a list of chords that could serve as substitutes. Just as an example, here’s two versions of the opening of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” each version using different chords:

VERSION 1: I  I6  |IV  I6  |V  I  |V  V7  I|| (C  C/E  |F  C/E  |G  C  |G  G7  C||)

VERSION 2: vi  iii  |V/V  V4-2/V  V6  |  IV6  I6-4  |  ii6  V  I  ||
(Am  Em  |D  D7/C  G/B  |F/A  C/G  |Dm/F  G  C  ||)


When songwriters get stuck at the chord progression stage — where they just don’t know what chords they’re supposed to be using — the main cause of the distress is a simple one: forgetting to listen to the melody!

The notes of your melody are going to be the main guide. After considering the notes, you then need to know a bit of chord theory. Not much, actually, just these following points:

  1.     Good pop chord progressions make great use of the circle of fifths. If you’re not sure how that works, give this article a read: “The Circle of Fifths Progression: Making It Relevant for Songwriters.” All that’s meant by this is that for most progressions, you’ll find many spots where the distance between the roots of adjacent chords is a 5th, like this progression: C  F  Dm  G  C. From C down to F is a 5th; from Dm down to G is a 5th; and from G down to C is a 5th. This is a vital part of good chord structure.
  2.     Good pop chord progressions target the tonic chord. The tonic chord is the one representing the key of your song. If your chorus is in C major (like the bit of “Twinkle Twinkle” I used at the beginning of this article), C is the tonic chord. Chord progressions should (usually) seek out that chord. They’ll often start on the tonic, wander away, but immediately try to find it again. In the progression C  F  Dm  G  C, you can hear the progression trying to find that tonic C chord again, certainly by the time you’ve reached Dm.
  3.     Good pop chord progressions tend to make most of the chords change on strong beats. To find the strong beats, simply tap your foot to the music. Your musical brain will automatically sort it out. Your foot will go down on a strong beat, and up on a weak beat. Start adding chords on strong beats.
  4.     Good pop chord progressions honour the function of the chords. Chord function can be a tricky concept, but for pop music, it tends to be rather simple, and you can get away with considering three basic functions: the tonic function, the pre-dominant function and the dominant function. The tonic function is typically represented by the tonic (I) and sometimes the vi-chord, the pre-dominant function by the IV or ii-chord, and the dominant function by the V-chord. Each function has a list of substitutes that can be used. To learn more about this, read “Creating Good Progressions: It’s All About Chord Function.”


You’ll find that occasionally putting a chord on a weak beat works well. In VERSION 1 above, the final bar has a chord on beat 1 (a strong beat), beat 2 (a weak beat) and then the final chord on beat 3 (another strong beat).
Don’t Forget to Listen!

There’s a lot of experimenting that goes into creating a chord progression for your melody. Here’s a summary of points to remember:

  1.    Listening carefully to the melody is the most important part about adding chords. Discover the notes your melody uses. Look at each strong beat, and then look at the weak beat that follows.
  2.     The chords you choose should use the strong beat note and most (not necessarily all) of the weak beat notes.
  3.     As you work out your progression, keep in mind the need for many adjacent chords to use roots that are a 5th from each other, and use the tonic as a musical target.
  4.     Find songs that you like and play or sing through the melody slowly without chords. Then play the chords and sing the melody. Notice how the progression targets the tonic, and make note of where the chords change. Most of the time, you’ll notice those changes happening on strong beats.

    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 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, chord progression, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, hooks, Re-writing, Gary Ewer

7 Beatles Secrets about Songwriting I wish I'd Discovered Decades Sooner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 @08:00 AM

7 Beatles Secrets about Songwriting I wish I'd Discovered Decades Sooner (Part 2)

by Jessica Brandon
Beatles.jpg

The song writing styles of John Lennon and Paul McCartney not only differ from each other fundamentally, but also change over time, affected and influenced by each other.  The songwriting partnership between Lennon and McCartney is extremely legendary. They employed so many tricks that anyone can add to their songwriting arsenal. Here are some secrets and tricks of the Beatles:
 
 
1. Change up your chorus
This shows up in their hit "She Loves You". Unusually, the song starts with the hook right away, instead of introducing it after a verse or two. "She Loves You" does not include a bridge, instead using the refrain to join the various verses. The chords tend to change every two measures, and the harmonic scheme is mostly static.
 
 
2. All Blues to Your Melody
When recording “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, On Track 3, McCartney played bass while Harrison played the Bass VI, sometimes doubling McCartney's bass line and sometimes playing full chords. (This capability was one of the benefits of the Bass VI; it could be played as a bass or as a regular 6-string guitar.)
 
 
3. Mode mixture & Delay The Root Chord
"Eleanor Rigby" is played mainly in staccato chords with melodic embellishments.
 
The song is a prominent example of mode mixture, specifically between the Aeolian mode, also known as natural minor, and the Dorian mode. Set in E minor, the song is based on the chord progression Em-C, typical of the Aeolian mode and utilising notes ♭3, ♭6, and ♭7 in this scale. The verse melody is written in Dorian mode, a minor scale with the natural sixth degree. "Eleanor Rigby" opens with a C-major vocal harmony ("Aah, look at all ..."), before shifting to E-minor (on "lonely people"). The Aeolian C-natural note returns later in the verse on the word "dre-eam" (C-B) as the C chord resolves to the tonic Em, giving an urgency to the melody's mood.
 
The Dorian mode appears with the C# note (6 in the Em scale) at the beginning of the phrase "in the church". The chorus beginning "All the lonely people" involves the viola in a chromatic descent to the 5th; from 7 (D natural on "All the lonely peo-") to 6 (C♯ on "-ple") to ♭6 (C on "they) to 5 (B on "from"). This is said to "add an air of inevitability to the flow of the music (and perhaps to the plight of the characters in the song)".
 
 
4. Use non-diatonic chords and secondary dominants & Utilise The Outside Chord
"Strawberry Fields Forever" was originally written on acoustic guitar in the key of C major. The recorded version is approximately in B♭ major; owing to manipulation of the recording speed, the finished version is not in standard pitch (some, for instance, consider that the tonic is A). The introduction is played on a Mellotron, and involves a I–ii–I–♭VII–IV progression. The vocals enter with the chorus instead of a verse. In fact we are not "taken down" to the tonic key, but to "non-diatonic chords and secondary dominants" combining with "chromatic melodic tension intensified through outrageous harmonization and root movement".
 
“I Want To Hold Your Hand’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ Voice leading in the Plagal cadence Here is a summary of the action in a IV–I change (in the key of C), highlighting the important ‘inner’ voice leading.”
 
 
5. Restate Your Lyrics
Lennon's lyrics "A Day in the Life" were inspired by contemporary newspaper articles, including a report on the death of Guinness heir Tara Browne. John Lennon wrote the melody and most of the lyrics to the verses of "A Day in the Life" in mid January 1967. Soon afterwards, he presented the song to Paul McCartney, who contributed a middle-eight section.
 
 
6. Take Risks
Example: Here There and Everywhere(1966)
In many ways, the opposite of Eleanor Rigby in that it is rich and complex harmonically speaking.  The first time Paul really spreads his compositional wings and takes bigger risks with ascending major chord sequence.
 
The introduction beginning "To lead a better life" opens in the key of G and involves a I–iii–♭III–ii–V7 chord progression. The ♭III (B♭ chord) on "I need my love to be here" (arpeggiated in the melody line) is a dissonant substitute for the more predictable VI (E7) that would normally lead to the ii (Am) chord.
 
 
7. Change of Keys from Minor to Major
The song as originally issued by the Beatles is in the key of A minor, changing to A major over the bridges. Aside from the intro, the composition is structured into two rounds of verse and bridge, with an instrumental passage extending the second of these verse sections, followed by a final verse and a long instrumental passage that fades out on the released recording. All the sections consist of an even sixteen bars or measures, which are divided into four phrases.
 
The chord progression over the verses includes a shift to a ♭7 (Am/G) on "all" (bass note G) and a 6 (D9 (major 3rd F♯)) after "love" (bass note F♯) to a ♭6 (Fmaj7) on "sleeping" (bass note F). According to musicologist Dominic Pedler, the 8–♭7–6–♭6 progression represents a hybrid of the Aeolian and Dorian modes. The change to the parallel major key is heralded by a C chord as the verse's penultimate chord (replacing the D used in the second phrase of each verse) before the E that leads into the bridge. Musicologist Alan Pollack views this combination of C and E as representing a sense of "arrival", after which the bridge contains "upward [harmonic] gestures" that contrast with the bass descents that dominate the verse. Such contrasts are limited by the inclusion of minor triads (III, VI and II) played over the E chord that ends the bridge's second and fourth phrases.

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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[Songwriting Advice] Some Tips on Editing and Re-writing A Lyric

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 03, 2018 @08:18 AM

[Songwriting Advice] Some Tips on Editing and Re-writing A Lyric
by Cliff Goldmacher

TomKimmel.jpg
I’d like to introduce you to Tom Kimmel. Along with releasing several major label albums as an artist himself, Tom has written songs covered by Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt and Randy Travis among others. Tom’s insights into the lyric-writing process are well worth a good read. Enjoy!

Re-writing A Lyric.jpg

For some of us, a lyric rushes out into the world before we can think much about it and sometimes it’s a fine lyric, just as it is. Other times, even if we feel a strong personal connection with the lyric, it could be strengthened with a little work.

On the other hand, often a lyric comes in dribs and drabs, and once we have a complete draft we might be so relieved that we declare it finished prematurely.

In both cases, a lyric might benefit from a fresh perspective and a willingness to tinker a little.Songwriting Tips

Ted Kooser, one of my favorite poets, says that even when one of his poems comes out in one piece he still plays with it a bit to see if it might be improved. He hastens to add, however, that no matter how much or how little re-writing the poem requires, he wants it to read as if it flowed from the pen.

We songwriters have a similar goal. We want our songs to slide by easily without calling too much attention to themselves even if the lyric has real content and depth. To that end, there are a couple of references I return to.

When I’m re-writing a lyric I first ask myself if the song has what I call a strong through the door factor. In other words, I want the words to sound good and to sing well so well, in fact, that if someone heard the song through the door they’d enjoy it!

In order to achieve that, I may record a working version of the song-in-progress and listen to it softly or from a distance not analyzing the words, but listening for the sound and flow of the words. Do the words seem to roll off the tongue or do I stumble over certain sounds, words or phrases?

Chances are that if a lyric doesn’t sound good from the other side of the door, it won’t sound good up close either. So, in my book, it’s very important that a lyric sound and feel good. If it doesn’t, I can begin my re-write by asking these questions:

1. Do the syllables I emphasize when singing my lyric coincide with the notes emphasized in my melody? If not, I’ll try to adjust.

2. Do the number or words or syllables I’m placing in my lines and phrases make it easy for me to sing the song? If I’m cramming in too many syllables in a line or phrase, I can experiment with simplifying by making my phrasing less busy.

3. Likewise, I may need to add words or syllables to more closely coincide with notes of melody that I’m emphasizing.

4. Are most of the vowel sounds in my words easy to sing? For example, I’m probably going to avoid placing the words hat or it over a very high note!

Of course, strong lyrical content is extremely important to most songwriters, so the second way I approach a re-write or edit is by examining how the lyric unfolds as the song develops. I may ask myself, “Does my lyric and song unfold in a way that is satisfying, that holds the listener’s attention as well as my own?”

To consider this when I coach songwriters and lead workshops, I suggest that a song is very much like a three act play. Some of the story – be it a literal tale or an emotional or spiritual narrative – is revealed in the first act, which most often is the song’s first verse and chorus. The second act usually the second verse and chorus is a new beginning; more of the story is introduced and then summed up in the second chorus. The remainder of the story is then told in the third act often the bridge and final chorus.

In my own work, if I then see that I reveal too much, too soon in my songI make changes. One technique espoused by a friend of mine is to take the first verse and make it the second verse… and to write a new first verse that is more of a prologue… so that the story has somewhere to go! Likewise if the song is slow to develop, I have the option of trying my second verse as the first verse. Experiment!

Bottom line: a song is not a painting. It doesn’t exist all at once. It has a beginning, middle and end, and it needs to flow, rise and fall throughout its lifespan. (In filmmaking they call this advancing the narrative.)

So let’s say I’ve got my song sounding good and I’ve got my story unfolding in a nice way. There’s still one question I ask about my lyric and that is, “Are all the lines in my lyric relevant to my theme?” In other words, does my whole lyric support the point or theme of my song? If I have some filler lines or phrases I’ll probably want to work on the song a bit more.

Finally, I have found that considering the above questions gives me a context for my writing. There are numerous details I can attend to, but if I don’t place the work of re-writing into this larger context, then all my work on the details likely won’t bring about the hoped for result.

In closing, I’ll share a technique I use over and over in the process of finishing or re-writing. If I’ve come to feel that I’ve been trying too hard to complete something that I’m using too much mental muscle because I’ve lost the creative thread then it’s important that I step away from the song, let it rest and come back to it fresh.

The single most helpful way I know to do this is to make a rough recording of the song, singing only the words I’m happy with and humming in places that might need a stronger lyric. It’s important that I don’t force words that don’t sound right or make sufficient sense. Then and this is keyI listen to my rough recording at bedtime. (And by that I mean listen last thing before I turn off the light.)

It’s amazing how often the right words will bubble up from the subconscious the next day… or soon thereafter.
 

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.

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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[Songwriting Advice] How to Write Song Hooks That “Hook” You in

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Mar 05, 2018 @08:18 AM

[Songwriting Advice] How to Write Song Hooks That “Hook” You in
by Jason Blume

How to Write Song Hooks.jpg

The more you have, the better your chances of having a hit...

What constitutes a hook? Any element of a song that grabs a listener’s attention and “hooks” them in. With there being so much competition for our listeners’ attention, including multiple hooks throughout our songs has become more important than ever.

According to an article in The Atlantic magazine, “A short-attention-span culture demands short-attention-span songs. The writers of Tin Pan Alley and Motown had to write only one killer hook to get a hit. Now you need a new high every seven seconds—the average length of time a listener will give a radio station before changing the channel.” In that same article, Jay Brown, co-founder of Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, was quoted as saying, “It’s not enough to have one hook anymore. You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge, too.” Mega-hit songwriter/producer Ester Dean, with hits by artists including Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, echoed this sentiment almost word for word.

Note that some people refer to a song’s chorus as its hook, using the word “chorus” and “hook” interchangeably. But hooks can be in any section of a song. Let’s take a look at some of the various types of hooks we can incorporate into our songs.

Instrumental Hooks
Including musical hooks—catchy melodic phrases that repeat throughout our songs and do not include lyrics—can help keep our listeners engaged. In some instances, such as those listed below, an instrumental lick serves as the heartbeat of the song.

It would be hard to find a more iconic musical hook than the one that is the basis of the Rolling Stone’s seminal hit “Satisfaction” (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards). Keith Richards’ driving guitar lick is every bit as memorable as the melodies Mick Jagger sings.

“Layla” (recorded by Derek and the Dominos and written by Eric Clapton and James Beck Gordon) is fueled by Clapton’s iconic lick. This musical motif is heard during the song’s intro and repeatedly throughout the chorus. It is interesting to note that the song ends with an entirely different instrumental segment.

Notice the use of multiple instrumental hooks in Vanessa Carlton’s self-penned hit “A Thousand Miles.” The song opens with an instantly identifiable musical phrase played on piano. It also features a piano interlude between the lines sung in the verses, as well as an additional hook (played by strings) in the pre-chorus.

A strong case could be made that in the aforementioned songs, the instrumental hooks are the songs’ most memorable and important components.

Signature Licks
In many cases the musical hook is introduced at the onset of the song. In these cases, they can also be considered signature licks. In my article for BMI’s The Weekly I defined a signature lick as a memorable melodic motif—an instantly recognizable musical phrase—that is heard at the beginning of the song. It is also sometimes heard throughout the song, especially during the turnaround, the musical interlude between the end of the first chorus and the subsequent verse.

Unique Instrumentation
The instruments chosen to perform a riff or a lick can make a major contribution to the song sounding hooky and differentiating itself from the competition. The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” is a prime example. It features a catchy lick paired with the sound of an electro-theremin to create a hook that played a big role in propelling the song to countless critics’ “Greatest Songs of All Time” lists.

An excellent example of a musical hook made more memorable by the sound of the instruments playing it can be heard in Little Big Town’s first #1 single and CMA Country Song of the Year, “Pontoon” (written by Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, and Luke Laird). The catchy lick, played by a mandolin and mellotron synthesizer, is heard during the song’s introduction, throughout the verses, and in the song’s turnaround.

In American Idol winner - Phillip Phillips’ “Home” (written by Phillips with Drew Pearson and Greg Holden) an instrumental section essentially takes the place of a chorus and is the most unforgettable part of the song. It is interesting to note that the melody of this section is performed primarily by vocals singing the syllables “ooh” and “ahh” and includes no other lyrics.

“Wipe Out” (written by Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller, and Ron Wilson, and performed by the Surfaris and covered by the Ventures), one of the most recognizable songs from the sixties, was probably most famous for its use of a drum pattern as a hook.

Another instantly identifiable drum pattern serves as an exceptionally effective hook in Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” (written by Daniel Reynolds, Justin Tranter, Benjamin Arthur McKee, Daniel Wayne Sermon, Robin Lennard Fredriksson, and Mattias Per Larsson). This pattern provides a melodic hook throughout the entire song, except for the breakdown section.

Non-Lyric Vocal Hooks
Sounds such as “ah,” “oh,” “ooh,” “hey,” and “I” can create powerful hooks when sung to memorable melodies. One of the most memorable elements in the Bee Gees’ disco classic “Stayin’ Alive” (written by Maurice, Barry, and Robin Gibb) comes each time they sing the phrase “ah ah, ah ah,” followed by the title.

Nonsense syllables, such as “rah rah, ah-ah-ah, ro mah ro-mah-mah,” and “Gaga oh-la-la,” are sung by Lady Gaga to establish an utterly unique hook that burns into listeners’ brains in her massive #1 hit “Bad Romance” (written by Lady Gaga and Nadir “RedOne” Khayat).

And there is no overestimating the contribution of “yeah, yeah, yeah” to the Beatles’ “She Loves You” (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney).

Catchy Rhythms
Listen to the songs referenced below and you’ll hear how unique rhythms can become a song’s most hooky element. The syncopated rhythms heard throughout Jason Mraz’s breakthrough single “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” (written by Mraz with Lauren Fownes, Scott Spock, and Graham Edwards) create a hook in and of themselves.

The catchiest, most memorable moment in the Supremes’ iconic hit, “Stop! In the Name of Love” (written by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and Eddie Holland) is the pause after the word “stop.”

A “Money Note”
An unexpected, ear-grabbing note can serve as a powerful hook. The “money note,” as it is sometimes called, refers to that “wow” note that can be largely attributed to a song’s success. It can be a high or low note, as long as it demands attention. For a great example, listen to the low note that accompanies the word “low” in Garth Brooks’ “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” (written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee).

Lyric Hooks
While most people associate hooks with melodic elements, lyrics can be hooky, too. A compelling story that keeps a listener waiting to learn what happens can keep our audience hooked in. Great examples of story songs include “Ol’ Red,” recorded by George Jones, Blake Shelton, Kenny Rogers, and written by Don Goodman, Mark Sherrill, and James Bohan) and “Lola” (recorded by The Kinks and written by Ray Davies).

A unique title or a phrase within the lyric can also serve as a hook. Listen to Sugarland’s clever “It Happens” (written by Kristian Bush, Bobby Pinson, and Jennifer Nettles) to hear an exceptional example of a lyric hook.
 
Summary
Note that in all of the referenced songs the hooks are heard repeatedly. While we want to serve up multiple hooks, we also want those hooks to repeat throughout the song, so they become familiar to the listeners.
 
Whether your hooks are comprised of memorable instrumental phrases, unique sounds, nonsense syllables, unexpected rhythms, attention-grabbing titles, money notes, they are the tools you can use to hook in your listeners—and keep them on the line.
 

[Reprinted by permission from 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.

Information on the 23nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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[Songwriting Tips] Finding Time to Write

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Feb 01, 2018 @08:00 AM

[Songwriting Tips] Finding Time to Write

By Sara Light
Finding Time to Write.jpg

 

Sara and her husband Danny have been contributing articles on songwriting for a few years on our blog. In this latest edition, Sara talks about taking the time to write songs - which many songwriters today can certainly relate to her.

“Who will free me from hurry, flurry, the feeling of a crowd pushing behind me, of being hustled and crushed? How can I regain even for a minute the feeling of ample leisure I had during my early, my creative years? Then I seldom felt fussed, or hurried. There was time for work, for play, for love, the confidence that if a task was not done at the appointed time, I easily could fit it into another hour. I used to take leisure for granted, as I did time itself.”  — Bernard Berenson, Sunset and Twilight, from the Diaries of 1947-1958

I am finding that the older I get, the more difficult it is to feel unencumbered. I do not have the same sense I did in my 20’s and 30’s of having the time or energy to follow my muse, explore my own interests, or even rest my mind.  The tasks that I commit to now, even the ones I voluntarily choose, come with a sense of heaviness;  How will I fit that in to my schedule? What do I prioritize today? If I do THIS, it’ll take away from THAT.

I’m beginning 2018 pretty well. I’m back to starting most days with a yoga video and green tea BEFORE I check my schedule, answer my emails and walk my dog. I’m even on a streak with my Head space meditation app and I’m finally able to turn off my brain at night and get some deep sleep. And, check this out, I’m writing a blog entry (an activity that I enjoy, but usually fits into the “how will I fit that into my schedule today?” category).

Some of the lessons I find that are working for me this year that I haven’t tried in the past are:

  •      Doing a little bit consistently can be as satisfying as going “all in”.  This is a good one for songwriters. If you only have a couple of minutes to work on a song today, do that. Don’t wait until you have half a day to devote to writing a whole new song. If you think one new title today call that your day’s work and let yourself feel accomplished.
  •     Good is good enough.  Perfection isn’t a mandatory requirement. Just get the job done the best you can in the time you have and move on. Don’t berate yourself for not doing something exactly the way you imagined.  This frees up a lot of time.
  •     Deadlines are often flexible.  I have been noticing that a lot of the people around me also feel crunched for time. Because of that, they often are more than happy to move around appointments and extend deadlines. They, too, have a million other things they can fit into that slot.  Flexibility reduces stress.
  •     Take a break from social media. Yikes, lately, I have been seeing so many articles about the addictive (aka drug-like) qualities of those pings and likes and notifications. It wasn’t a coincidence that on my birthday this year, as much as I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the sweet notes and well-wishes throughout the day on Facebook, I also left my notebook with my favorite recipes on a shelf in the grocery store (never to be recovered), threw my dog’s leash out with the trash and generally walked around with fog-brain as if I were hung-over.  This week, I resisted the urge to post a cute picture of my daughter hugging our dog in the unusually snowy day in Nashville. That meant that I also missed seeing all the  photos of my friends’ kids. But the payoff was additional time and FOCUS.
    “The only way past it, is through it.”   This is my new mantra every time my procrastination instinct kicks in. I got this one from an interview by Gretchen Rubin of writer Greer Hendricks .
 
About Sara Light
Sara Light has been writing professionally in Nashville since 1996. Her credits include the John Michael Montgomery title track and the hit single "Home To You" which received an ASCAP airplay award in addition to being named SESAC song of the year for having garnered 2 million spins on radio. She also composed songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy, The Musical" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score." Sara has always combined her love of teaching with her love of songwriting and has given countless songwriting seminars throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2001 she co-founded, along with her husband Danny Arena, the online educational website www.SongU.com. Besides being one of the main administrators (and now bloggers) Sara teaches Song Feedback and Lyric Writing at www.SongU.com

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Top Ten tips for Entering Songwriting Competitions

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Jan 07, 2018 @07:24 PM

Top Ten tips for Entering Songwriting Competitions

By Jamie Anderson & Ira Greenfield
Innovative-Songwriting-Process.jpg

Most people think that entering Songwriting Competitions have to be a pain-inducing experience that’s akin to getting a root canal. The truth is that many songs that have done well have taken steps to make sure the songs sound good.  You’ll discover when you read through these 10 tips on entering songwriting competitions doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. In fact, you probably have all the knowledge you need to write a great song now.
 
It is always good to enter Songwriting Competitions to test out how good your songs really are. Here are ten tips to help you improve your chances of doing well in Songwriting Competitions:  

1. Vocals & Pronunciation. Put the vocals high in the mix, make sure pronunciation is clear. The lyrics can’t be judged if they can’t be heard. If people unfamiliar with your song can’t follow the story, then you need to remix it so the band doesn’t overpower your poignant lyrics. Also, make sure that the vocalist pronounces the lyrics properly. Our event director Eddie Phoon was a distinguished panelist at a Nashville Music Conference many years ago on a demo listening panel. The panel consisted on A&R director from record labels and music publishing companies, they listened to a Rock/Alternative song and everyone in the panel liked it except him. He said he liked the song but not the lyrics, he said he didn't get the lyrics “Open Your Ass”. The band responded “No, it's open your ears”, the crowd roared with laughter! Lesson learned: pronounce your lyrics properly, make sure the listener knows what you are talking about.

2. Make sure you’ve put your song in the right category. Just because you sing about Nashville doesn’t make it a country song. Load it up with weepy pedal steel, a mournful fiddle and make sure there’s a little twang in the singer’s voice. If you don’t sound like Carrie Underwood or Eric Church, hire someone who does to sing your song. Is it jazz? It should have something beyond one ninth chord and a host of major chords. Use chord substitutions to give it that smooth jazz sound. Is it folk? Add an acoustic guitar. Bluegrass? Better put in a banjo. Lyrics are important, too. If you’re singing about trucks and bars, it’s not jazz, unless you’ve been at said bar and consumed a couple of six packs. Listen to songs popular in that style and note the lyrics and arrangement. Don’t be that songwriter who wastes a good song by submitting it in the wrong category.

3. Arrangement & Collaboration. It’s not an arrangement contest. We don’t care if Clapton is your guitar player. Give us a compelling story or lyrics rich in metaphor. If you want to show off that hotshot guitar player, try a best band contest.  Instrumentals are in another category, of course, and for those, make sure there’s an engaging melody that repeats several times.

If you feel that you are great in writing great melodies but not that great in writing lyrics, go find a lyric writer. In the past 5 years of the USA Songwriting Competition, all top winning songs were written by more than one songwriter. Same goes for the Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, most of the hits todays are multi-way collaborations.
 
4. Have a short intro. The judges have already listened to a hundred songs and consumed a pot of coffee. They don’t need a 24-bar intro. I know “Stairway to Heaven” has a really long cool intro, but then again, you are not Led Zeppelin. Be kind. If you’ve got lyrics, get to them in 8 bars or less. If it’s an instrumental, get to the central melody right away.

5. Have a lyric sheet that actually reflects what’s being sung. If there’s a word or two that’s different, no problem, but make sure you’ve included all the verses and everything that’s key to the song. If you forget the last verse, we’ll never know if mama gets out of prison. A missing bridge, especially one with the theme of the song, could cost you that coveted winning prize.
 
6. Avoid common rhymes like heart/start, fire/desire, shelf/self, do/blue, together/weather, right/light, and light/night. These are typical clichés. "You are my fire, the one desire...". They’ve been used in thousands of songs and have completely lost their emotional impact. A good rhyming dictionary can help you. Don’t forget about imperfect rhymes – these are the ones where the vowel sound matches but maybe not much else, such as right/fly or cape/lane.
 
7. Don’t use rain as a metaphor for sadness. Fred Rose already wrote “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and Willie Nelson already sung it. You can’t top that. Likewise, don’t use a storm as a metaphor for anger or a sunny day for being happy. Pretty much, stay away from weather metaphors. Besides, songs like these have been done before. So, try to write in a refreshing manner.

8. Tune your guitar. Many judges are musicians and unlike some audience members, they not only notice stuff like that, they’re distracted by it. Likewise, if your drummer is always a half beat off or if the harmonies are sour. Sure, it’s not a best band contest, but why complicate matters? Many of the song demos are sign way off key. It would be rather difficult for the judges to hear the melody if it is sung off key.
 
9. Don’t tell us your emotions, show us. “I’m sad you left me,” is boring. Tell us about the rose pressed in the family bible or how you found his keys on the kitchen counter. Think like a good cinematographer. A talking head is coma-inducing (“I feel sad” or “You’re so mean”) but add a vivid landscape and a great mystery and you’ve got Citizen Kane. In other words - show, don't tell.

10. Look for a unique angle and use detail, avoid being derivative. “She broke my heart and left me” has been sung a million times. We don’t care anymore. “She slammed the door and on the way out, ran over my foot with her new cherry red Ford truck” – now that’s interesting. Use all your senses. Did he give you a rose? How did it smell? Don’t just tell us it’s red – go to a thesaurus and tell us it’s fuchsia, deep pink or maroon. Don’t tell us you like his kiss. Tell us how it tastes. Don’t tell us her dress is pretty, tell us it feels like warm silk.

Many songs that we hear are rather derivative in it's melodic lines as well as parts of the lyrics feels as if it has been plagiarized.
 
We have heard submissions in the USA Songwriting Competition where songwriters try to write the derivative songs that were number one on the charts at one time and end up being awkward. One case was a songwriter who took the entire track of Jennifer Lopez song "If You Had My Love" and wrote a similar melody to the background music, even the melodic line's rhythm was so similar. The chorus even copied the melody of the original song. Our judges thought the song has been plagiarized big time, let alone not being creative as the judges left the room singing to Jennifer Lopez song instead of this song that was entered. Needless to say, that song didn't win.
 
Now go tune your guitar, fire the drummer and write some great songs.
  
 
Jamie Anderson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist who’s taught songwriting and other courses at Duke University, arts centers, in her studio, and via Skype. Her experience in music is varied, from songwriting competition director to playing hundreds of gigs in the US and Canada. She’s also judged other song contests and released ten albums of original music. Coffee is her super power. www.jamieanderson.com and www.jamiebobamie.wordpress.com

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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