Songwriting Tips, News & More

2017 Songwriters Radio Podcast

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 04, 2017 @02:21 PM

WillieNelson.jpg

Listen to the latest edition of our Songwriters Radio Podcast, featuring current and past winners of the USA Songwriting Competition: Willie Nelson, American Authors, Kate Voegele, Jerad Finck, Due West, Jesse Blaze Snider, Gail Swanson,  Terry Fator, Trev Lukather & Frank Raknes Schonberg. Click here to listen to the mp3 player:

 
 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Kate Voegele, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, Co-Writing Songs, Songwriters Radio, American Authors, Jerad Finck, Jesse Blaze Snider, Gail Swanson, Terry Fator, Songwriters Radio Podcast, Songwriters Podcast, Willie Nelson, Due West, Trev Lukather, Frank Raknes Schonberg

Songwriter: Give Yourself Goosebumps

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 03, 2017 @08:00 AM

[Expert Advice] Hey, Songwriter: Give Yourself Goosebumps!

by Diana Williamson

SongwriterGoosebumps.jpg
When you were a kid, did you ever have a sleepover with friends where you told scary stories? You’d convince each other there was a ghost in the attic or a spirit coming through the Ouija board. You’d conjure up frightening things to give you and your friends a rush. Stirring up a cauldron of emotion is also helpful when trying to make magic with your art. For tips on how to tap into these creative emotions again, check out the following tips from a top-selling songwriter and author. She can help you to tap into a flow of energy—your unique passion—to fuel your songwriting.

• Look for a situation that gives you a rush, gets your blood pumping or causes butterflies, like meeting an attractive stranger out of the blue. Then write about it.

• When you can capture those special moments on the page, you’ll know you’ve got something. When you give yourself goosebumps, you are pretty much assured that you will be giving the listener the same.

• It can’t be forced. The Muse is a wayward beast. She has to be seduced to stick around or she’ll flee at the first footfall. Ever hear a song and find yourself turning it up without thinking? Or maybe some strains of music coming from a passing car bring you back to a special place and time? That’s what it’s all about. You want to move your listener to laugh or cry or, best of all, be inspired.

• Arousing deep emotion is the ultimate for a songwriter. “The Way We Were” is such a touching, evocative song that it’s been voted one of the top 10 film songs of all time on every list imaginable. It was not only a hit on the radio but had an unforgettable visual connected to it. Every time you hear it, you can picture Barbra Streisand trembling as she meets up with Robert Redford.

• Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie says he wrote “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” their best-selling single, in 15 minutes. He’s also said he can barely take credit for it because he felt like he channeled it. He tapped into a dark, rarely explored emotional theme about following his lover into the afterlife. And he did it in such a hauntingly beautiful way that it wasn’t morbid; instead it was comforting and enchanting at the same time.

• And it doesn’t have to be about love. Other strong feelings, such as anger, can also be a great motivating force. If you deny an emotion, it just springs up anyway, so give it a voice. Channel it into a song. When Phil Collins wrote about a ruthless ex-lover in “Something in the Air Tonight,” he sent his rage into the world like a speeding locomotive. It’s powerful stuff.

• Songwriters live for the moment they get struck by the lightning bolt of inspiration. The beauty is that it can come at any time and from anywhere. You’re driving down the street and see an old gent cradling his wife’s hand and you start thinking about that line you had for a ballad. The song starts writing itself and the next thing you know you’re pulling the car over to jot down some words before they slip away. We’re not talking about the craft and hard work of rewriting here, though of course that’s essential. But that’s another article. We are talking about those sacred moments when you’re in the zone, and everything flows.

• Songwriters never really go on holiday. You can be lying on the beach in Barbados, frolicking with a fruity cocktail when the tourist next to you starts talking loudly on her cell phone about her new lover. As she throws out phrases left and right, you can’t help but note the line, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” Next thing you know you’re looking about for a pen and tapping out a rhythm on your blanket. But let’s face it, you probably won’t be able to stay on the beach forever. Soon you’re back in the real world and if you’re not careful you might find yourself tired, stressed or just plain running on empty. This can lead to a pesky phenomenon commonly known as writer’s block. But there is a cure. Like a farmer letting his field lie fallow every seventh year before planting again, sometimes you have to give your creativity a break. “Don’t abuse the Muse.”

• And while you’re at it, don’t abuse yourself, either. If you start beating yourself up, you’ll be your own worst enemy. Take your mind off your writing so you can come back to it refreshed. Obviously if you have a deadline, you have to work through it. Waiting for the luxury of inspiration to hit isn’t always a viable option.

• There are many ways to unwind and replenish your creative juices. Movies allow your brain to rest while rejuvenating you with all sorts of storylines and visuals to stir creativity.

• Hiking, walking or working out is another way to boost your energy level. Prolific novelist Charles Dickens walked up to 30 miles a day. He said he would “explode” if he didn’t; it was his way of turning his brain off between bouts of writing. Ludwig van Beethoven was another avid walker. He always carried a pen and paper with him in case an idea struck.

• Ernest Hemingway once said you should “let the pressure build” until you have no choice but to write it down. That way, you’re driving with fuel, not running on fumes and forcing the phrases out. Just let that pressure cooker blast off its rocker as words fly onto the page. Whatever it takes to get inspired, do it and do it some more. Your writing—and your listeners—will thank you for it.

[Reprint Permission by Music Connection magazine]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DIANA WILLIAMSON is the author of 101 Tips and Tricks of Successful Songwriting, available on Amazon. She’s written two No. 3 Billboard Hot Club Chart hits and placed songs in over 50 films and TV shows through her company, The Music Library. You can visit her at: 101tipsandtricksofsuccessfulsongwriting.com

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Death Cab for Cutie, Ernest Hemingway, Diana Williamson

[Songwriting Expert Advice] What's Up With Today's Melodies?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 @06:33 PM

[Songwriting Expert Advice] What's Up With Today's Melodies?
by Jai Josefs

 melodies.jpg

Melody writing has changed radically in the 21st century, and successful writers know exactly what that change is and how to incorporate it. Their songs sound fresher and more contemporary and, as a result, are the ones that more frequently get signed to film/TV licensing deals as well as publishing deals. Let's examine specifically what the difference is.

Every melody contains two elements – pitch and rhythm. The pitches are the actual notes that are sung while the rhythm is where those notes land in time against the groove. In the 20th century more emphasis was put on interesting pitches and their relationship to the chord progression. But in the 21st century the rhythm of the melody has become the primary focus for creating listener appeal. That's why so many songs today can use only a simple chord loop (instead of the rich variety of chords used in the 20th century) and still remain thoroughly engaging and compelling. Listen to the first 15 notes of Ed Sheeran's recent hit "Shape of You" for example. All 15 are the exact same pitch, but the intricate rhythm completely engages you and captures your attention.

Writers tend to be influenced by the songs they listened to in their formative years when they first discovered music. So the instinctive tendency of veteran writers who don't stay current is to write in the 20th century style that emphasizes pitch over rhythm. On the other end of the spectrum, some friends of mine recently sent their 16-year-old daughter to study with me, and at her first lesson I asked her to play something she had written. Her creative process was totally instinctual and she didn't even know a verse from a chorus, but at first listen what she played sounded like it came right off the radio. That's because the only melodies she had been exposed to in her young life were contemporary and rhythmically based. For those of us who have been around a bit longer, it's crucial that we investigate these modern melodic techniques so we can incorporate them into our writing.

A good way to begin that process is by analyzing the melodies of today's hit songs. To illustrate how melody writing has evolved, I'm going to compare two songs written on the same theme – female empowerment. The first one was written in the 1970s in the traditional style of that era. The second is a recent breakthrough hit from 2016.

Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" has a very simple melodic rhythm. Almost all of the notes are eighth notes (two notes per beat) and the phrasing is relatively uncomplicated. The verse consists of two shorter phrases followed by a longer phrase all of which start exactly one beat before the beginning of the measure. Then that same pattern is repeated. There is a bit more variety in the chorus, but the phrasing is still basic and repetitive and most of the notes are eighth notes.

Let's contrast that with Daya's recent hit "Sit Still Look Pretty" (if you're not familiar with it give it a listen – it's also brilliant lyrically and has some very cool and remarkable rhymes). The verse phrases instead of being grouped in twos or threes like the basic short-short-long, short-short-long pattern of "I Am Woman" are actually in patterns of five that go short-short-short-long-long, short-short- short-long-long. In addition they all start in different places. The first and third begin after the downbeat of the measure, the second is entirely in the last half of the measure, and the fourth and fifth start before the measure with 16th note pick-ups. Then we hear the pre-chorus where the melodic rhythm shifts to all 16th notes (four notes per beat) for the first three phrases followed by a fourth phrase that is all eighth notes. The chorus that follows begins right on the downbeat with a phrase that lasts for two full measures – twice as long as any phrase we've heard so far. It's then followed by two off-beat 16th note phrases that are half a measure each and the hook/title which is one measure long. Notice the constant variation in eighth and 16th notes, phrase starting points, and phrase patterns. This creates a dynamic melody that is always fresh and grabs the listener's attention. In terms of melodic rhythm and phrasing "I Am Woman" is like an old Chevy, and "Sit Still Look Pretty" is more like a Ferrari.

If you want to write songs that are relevant today, it's a great idea to listen to more tunes by contemporary hit artists like Ed Sheeran and Daya and focus on analyzing how they use melodic rhythm. It will make your songs sound exciting and up-to-date, and hopefully lead to more placements and airplay.

JaiJosefs.jpg

Jai Josefs http://jaijomusic.com/ is a world renowned songwritng coach as well as a successful songwriter/producer. He has taught songwriting at UCLA, the Songwriters Guild, and dozens of seminars and conferences throughout North America. He is also the author of “Writing Music For Hit Songs” which is used as a text on contemporary music composition at universities worldwide. Many of his students have gone on to successful careers in the industry and secured major label record deals, publishing deals and placements in film and television.

Jai has also had a successful career as a songwriter/producer himself working with such well-known artists as Jose Feliciano, Little Richard, and Pam Tillis, and doing projects for such companies as Universal, RCA, Motown, and Disney. In addition, his original songs have been featured in over 60 TV shows on every major network as well as over 20 major motion pictures with such stars as Harrison Ford, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Lange, Mark Wahlberg, and Denzel Washington.

Jai currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area where he leads a monthly workshop called SongShop, details of which can be found here:

http://jaijomusic.com/songshop-songwriting-workshop/

He is also available for private coaching in the Bay Area and worldwide via Skype.

 

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, chord progression, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Melody writing

It’s Never Too Late to Write a Great Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 @08:00 AM

 [Songwriting Expert Advice] It’s Never Too Late to Write a Great Song 

by Sara Light

I’m still learning.” – Michaelangelo, at age 87

Songwriting is a craft that you can begin working on at any stage in your life. Unlike recording artists, who often have pressure to look and dress a certain way or to be a certain age, songwriters never have to “look the part.” Even in Nashville where it’s common for a songwriter to become “famous” among the locals, nobody cares how old they are, if their vocals are perfectly pitched, or what size dress they fit in.  They can show up to play a gig at the famous Bluebird Cafe in a t-shirt and old jeans (not even black ones) and their songs speak for themselves.


bluebirdcafe.jpg.

Great Nashville songwriters like Harlan Howard, Richard Leigh, Bobby Braddock, Tom Shapiro, Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson and Gretchen Peters were, or still are, cranking out hits for young recording artists in their 50’s and 60’s (and that list is just off the top of my head). Singer songwriters like Elton John, Sting, Dylan, Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper all continue to write new material and reinvent themselves well into their prime. So, if you’re reading this and have a desire to write songs, nothing is stopping you. I would only add as a caveat that you have to be willing to continue to learn, to grow, and to be open to your surroundings…but that’s not rocket science.
For a little more inspiration, here’s a short list of diverse folks who accomplished great things at a more “mature” age. I culled this list from Goodreads.com and a couple of Google searches and admittedly haven’t fact-checked it, but it seems right to me!

*J.K. Rowling was 30 years old when she finished the first manuscript of Harry Potter.
*Mark Twain was 40 when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and 49 years old when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
*Rosa Parks was 42 when she refused to obey the bus driver’s order to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger.
*Suzanne Collins was 46 when she wrote “The Hunger Games.”
*Charles Darwin was 50 years old when his book On the Origin of Species came out.
*Leonardo Da Vinci was 51 years old when he painted the Mona Lisa.
*Ray Kroc Was 53 when he bought the McDonalds franchise and took it to unprecedented levels.
*Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat.”
*Colonel Harland Sanders was 61 when he started the KFC Franchise.
*Ronald Regan entered politics at age 55 and eventually became the oldest person to ever become President, at the age of 69.
*Artist Paul Cézanne was 56 years old when he was given his first art exhibition.
*J.R.R Tolkien was 62 when the Lord of the Ring books came out.
*Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 73.
*George R.R. Martin was 63 when HBO purchased the television rights for his A Song of Ice and Fire series and launched the mega-hit “Game of Thrones” for which Martin actively writes and produces.
*Grandma Moses started painting at age 76. Three years later her art was hanging at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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Write on, friends!
Sara

 

Sara Light is a professor at SongU in Nashville, TN, USA. Go to: www.songu.com

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Harlan Howard, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Never Too Late, Bobby Braddock, Richard Leigh

Structure Creates Expectations

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 08, 2017 @08:00 AM

 [Songwriting Expert Advice] Structure Creates Expectations

by Pat Pattison

patpattison.jpg

Lyric structure creates expectations. That’s what it’s for. To take you on a journey, and, as any good mom knows, to get the kids all revved up about what they’re gonna see, to build up excitement as the trip gets closer. Then to watch their eyes get bigger as they stretch their necks trying to see around the corner. Almost there…

Or sometimes she tells you to just get in the car. You’re going somewhere, but she won’t tell you where. It’ll be a surprise. Moms are like that sometimes. So is structure.

Moms are supposed to provide structure, to organize things so the kids have the right kind of journey, whether to Pirate’s Cove or through life. You’re the mom. You get to choose what kind of trip you want your song to take.

Let’s go.

 

Valentine

Chanelle Davis

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

 

These first two lines create little, if any, expectation. You could be going anywhere. If the next line had been

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

Someone to say he’s mine

 

Then we’d have expectations. We now know what should come next: a line to match and rhyme with line 2. The principle at work is the Principle of Sequence. Since line 3 mimics line 1, we expect line 4 to mimic line 2. Something like

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

Someone to say he’s mine

Someone who wouldn’t go

 

Now it feels done.

 

Of course, that’s not how the lyric really goes at line 3. It’s:

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

 

Mom is being coy here. The line lengths (measured by the number of stressed syllables) are:

 

I ónce had a Válentíne 3 stresses

Sómeone to wálk me hóme 3 stresses

And héar a líttle mídnight sáxophóne 5 stresses

 

Ignore the rhyme just for now, and concentrate on the line lengths: They feel unstable and tell us to keep going, though it’s not entirely clear where. Though, from the twinkle in mom’s eye, it feels like the line lengths should be going somewhere like:

 

I ónce had a Válentíne 3 stresses

Sómeone to wálk me home 3 stresses

And héar a líttle mídnight saxophone … 5 stresses

Da DUM da da DUM da DUM 3 stresses

DUM da da DUM da DUM 3 stresses

Da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM 5 stresses

 

But, of course, there’s that pesky rhyme, dragging its feet by hanging on to line 2:

 

I once had a Valentine x

Someone to walk me home a

And hear a little midnight saxophone a

 

Now we’re not sure what to do. We’re getting mixed stop/go messages from mom. She’s really got us set up for a surprise:

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my Valentine

 

Not what we expected at all. It feels a little incomplete – a little disappointing. After all that suspense, all we get are two short lines that rhyme. It feels as though we thought we had something to look forward to and it didn’t really happened – it stopped short.

 

Probably feels like you would if you once had a valentine who disappointed you…

 

Then we start again:

 

Used to drink my chardonnay

And smoke my cigarette

We danced around the room just silhouettes

I sang Auld Lang Syne

For my valentine

 

Same trip. At least we’d been warned what would happen. It feels like two complete sections, both of which feel misty and soaked with longing.

 

Note especially the two lovely ambiguities:

 

Used to drink my chardonnay

 

Since there’s no pronoun here, the subject could be “I,” “he,” or “we.” All three work, and stack up on each other to give us a picture of the relationship. He was drinking her

Chardonnay and smoking her cigarette. He was a taker, not a giver. But of course, she drank and smoked too, and remembers it fondly. That’s when ambiguity works best: 2 or more meanings, all of which work. “Ambiguity” is, for me, a positive term. It’s productive. It deepens meaning. It’s contrast is “vagueness,” a negative term which promotes confusion – which doesn’t commit to anything specific.

 

The second ambiguity:

 

I sang Auld Lang Syne

For my valentine

 

“For” could mean:

 

  1. I performed it, I sang it to him,

  2. I sang a farewell song.

 

Again, both of them work – the best kind of ambiguity: two or more meanings, each of which adds something to the song.

 

By the end of this verse, it feels like we’re probably wandering through an AABA song form. So now, of course, the music moves us away, and, after an interlude, we hear this:

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

 

Unlike the first two lines of the song,

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

 

These lines,

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

 

Feel like a unit. If we traded a “w” for a “t,”

 

Love does funny things

And then it gives you wings

 

We’d feel like everything was solid. Alas, that pesky “when” asks us to keep going. But notice, it is the content that pushes forward here, not the structure. The content says “I won’t be finished until “when” is resolved. And now we hear,

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

Now the content is resolved, but the structure is, for the first time, clearly telling us where we’ll go next:

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fóol for thínking you can fly b 4 stresses

 

The third line is screaming to be matched, ideally by

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fóol for thínking you can fly b 4 stresses

DUM da DUM da mark c 3 stresses

Da DUM da DUM da heart c 3 stresses

Da da DUM da DUM da DUM da cry b 4 stresses

 

Or at least by something like,

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fóol for thínking you can fly b 4 stresses

Da da DUM da DUM da DUM da cry b 4 stresses

 

But what really happens…? Though mom is chirping away about how much fun we’re going to have and how we’ll remember this trip all our lives and isn’t it wonderful to be so excited, suddenly, poof, she stops the car, and says we’re not going anywhere. We turn around and go back where we started:

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my valentine

 

Yikes! Us kids howling in the backseat to keep going and whining “It’s not fair!” Mom meanwhile is driving us home without an explanation.

 

Here’s the whole trip:

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my Valentine

 

Used to drink my chardonnay

And smoke my cigarettes

We danced around the room just silhouettes

I sang Auld Lang Syne

For my valentine

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

I once had a Valentine

Someone to walk me home

And hear a little midnight saxophone

I got kisses in the night

From my valentine

 

What a perfect journey for the feeling of the song. You thought you had someone special and fell in love, thinking you could fly. Then the strong feeling that something more had to come of it, and then when it didn’t, you couldn’t even finish telling the story. So you interrupt yourself and return to your original thought, like you’ll be repeating it over and over for a long time.

 

Something special happens with rhyme here. Remember that we could have kinda finished the bridge by adding only one line?

 

Love does funny things a 3 stresses

And when it gives you wings a 3 stresses

You're a fool for thinking you can fly b 4 stresses

Da da DUM da DUM da DUM da cry b 4 stresses

 

Pretty much the same thing is accomplished here:

 

Love does funny things

And when it gives you wings

You're a fool for thinking you can fly

 

I once had a Valentine

 

So the unrhymed 3rd line of the bridge “targets” sonically to the title of the song, increasing its visibility and deepening its emotion by turning the spotlight on “Valentine,” which now turns mildly ironic. (See “The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure” on “strategic positions” and “sonic targeting.”)

 

In most AABA forms, we usually expect the 3rd verse to tie everything up – to make a new and final statement. Here, we’ve already seen the 3rd verse – we started with it, though now we’re looking at it through new eyes and with more emotion. We’ve felt the disappointment of an interrupted love affair.

 

The interrupted bridge conspires with the song form, the repetition of the first verse rather than an expansion into the new thought of a 3rd verse, to create a character who will live with this bittersweet feeling forever, always regretting, always feeling like something wasn’t finished. Always going backwards time and again, just like the song form. Just like the interrupted bridge.

 

Nice trip, mom.

Here is the audio link to this song:

https://soundcloud.com/chanelledavis/valentine

 

Pat Pattison is a professor at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, USA.

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, writing lyrics, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs

The Best AND Worst Advice For Successful Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 01, 2017 @08:00 AM

 

The Best AND Worst Advice For Successful Songwriting

by Mark Cawley

MarkCawley-Songwriter2.jpg

This is delicate stuff for me. I coach writers all over the world; some with wildly different goals, talents, and dreams. For me it’s not as much nuts and bolts as trying hard to find real life examples of a successful path--and an equal amount of cautionary tales.

As with any advice, I would start with considering the source. Is the person qualified to give direction? For me, I always wanted to hear from someone who was in the trenches. Someone who had actually been where I wanted to go. I like to flip to the back of the book and read the credits before I start “how to”-ing.

Just by virtue of doing what I do, as long as I’ve done it, I’ve built up quite a stash of hard-earned wisdom (with plenty of mistakes mixed in).

 

Let’s start with the best advice:

1. Jump! When you’re stuck, complacent, or just bored creatively; shake things up! For me this has meant actually picking up and moving to L.A., London, and Nashville over the years. Sometimes with no plan and certainly no plan B! It can be scary, but you’re an artist and that’s what artists do sometimes. They jump into the unknown. Every jump I’ve ever made has made me a better, and more aware songwriter. It’s as important to live and experience things as it is to study and practice your craft.

2. Study the Great Ones. Like most writers I know, I learned by deconstructing songs. How are they put together? Why do some relate to so many people and become hits? Just the process of breaking down songs and putting them back together gets in your DNA as a writer and is bound to make you better.

3. Network. This can be a hard one for us introverts but I promise, those connections you make will come back time and time again to be invaluable. I still connect with writers I wrote with 20 years ago. They’re great co-writers but more importantly, great friends and you need friends to survive in this business.

4. Be Fearless. Maybe the best advice I ever got. The best cuts I’ve ever had came from songs that were written without a “net”. If I surprised myself and loved the result, chances are someone else will.

5. Be a good hang. You’re in it for the long run and believe it or not, the writing community is smaller than you think! Being prepared, considerate, and a good listener makes you someone people want to work with again. Word spreads!

 

Now the worst advise:

1) Have a plan B. To do this job you have to not be able to not write. See #1 above.

2) Only write what you know. You can argue this, as I have with several of my coaching clients. “The only true songs are the songs written from my own personal experience”. That’s the argument . I would argue that unless your life is unbelievably interesting and eventful, the well will run dry quick. Great to write from real life but it’s also pretty cool to make something up sometimes!

3) Focus on being creative, someone else will do that messy “business” part. I tried that, doesn’t work. Be a student of the business, it’s your career and no one is going to care about your career like you do.

4) Follow the songwriting rules. Obviously, learn ‘em. So you can break ‘em! Like any craft, you want to learn the ABC’s...but then you want to invent some of your own.

5) Great art requires suffering. I’ve written some of my best sad songs when I was insanely happy and some of the most upbeat ones when I was down. If you just write every day, you’ll experience it all. Promise.

 

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.

  

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, pitching songs, songwrite, Tina Turner, The Spice Girls, Kathy Mattea, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, Taylor Swift, Wynonna Judd, Successful Songwriting

Three Tips for Writing Better Song Intros

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 08, 2017 @08:00 AM

Three Tips for Writing Better Song Intros

by Cliff Goldmacher

Tips-For-Writing-Song-Intros.jpeg

In an era of significantly shorter attention spans and increasingly distracted listeners, you, as songwriters, have an even greater responsibility to grab your audience as quickly as possible. The first and best place to do this is in your song’s intro. This can be done partly in your songwriting and partly in the production of the song demo. By writing better song intros, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting your listeners into your song right away.

 
1. Keep your intro short and to the point
I’ll start this article with a story. I was backstage at a music conference a few years ago listening to two panelists chatting before going on stage to do a song critiquing session. One of the panelists was a seasoned conference veteran and the other was relatively new to the game. The new panelist was asking the older panelist what he should do as he’d never done a critiquing session before. In response, the older, more experienced panelist said “If you can’t think of anything to say, tell them to cut their intros in half.” In other words, it’s a common mistake to make your song’s intro longer than it needs to be. I get it. As writers, we love the idea of setting the scene and creating a mood before we get to the verse but, unfortunately, it’s a luxury we can’t afford. Perhaps your mom will listen – and enjoy – a long, winding introduction to your song but unless your mom also happens to run a record label, it’s probably a better idea to keep your intro short. It’s our job to make every note count and the best way to do this is to use only as much runway as is absolutely essential to set the scene.


2. Use a catchy instrumental hook/riff
Think of the intro to Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” You know immediately what the song is from the first notes of the opening riff. There’s no reason you shouldn’t consider a similar approach in your own songs. A catchy intro riff is the perfect way to no only grab your listener’s attention but make your song is memorable so that it can be recognized almost instantly when it begins to play. The “hookier” you can make your songs the better and an intro riff is exactly the right way to go about it. A common device is to replay that intro riff at various points throughout the song like after each chorus and in the outro as well. The trick here is to make sure that while the riff is catchy, it’s not too repetitive. One way to avoid this is by modifying the intro riff by a note or two when it comes back around so that it’s recognizable while not overdoing it. Another way to avoid needless repetition is to leave out the riff in the body of your verses and choruses.

Creating a memorable intro lick is as difficult as writing a great melody or a meaningful lyric. A few was to help yourself along might be to start the song with a great groove or feel and to mine your chorus melody for direction. Anything you can do to get the various parts of your song to relate will make the overall cohesion of your song that much better. Finally, intro riffs sit in that murky area between songwriting and production where they’re not melody and lyric but they are an integral part of your song’s identity. That being said, it’s well worth your while to keep them in mind when demoing your songs.

 
3. Use dynamics
The hallmark of a polished and professional song demo is not only the great recording quality and performances of the musicians and vocalist but the dynamics. In other words, the way a song expands and contracts with volume and intensity does wonders when it comes to getting – and keeping – a listener’s attention. Often, coming out of the gate with a big, splashy intro is a great way to catch your listener’s ear but it’s also the subsequent dip of volume into the verse that serves to highlight just how dramatic/memorable the intro actually was. Secondly, carefully consider which instrument you’re going to use to convey your intro riff/hook. Sometimes the song calls for a bolder statement of theme like from an electric guitar while at other times it can be more a more subtle piano figure. Depending on the song, it can also be extremely effective to have multiple lead instruments play the hook/intro lick in unison for a more “orchestrated” feel. As I mentioned earlier, keep in mind that when it comes time to play in the verses and even the choruses, it’s better to let the melody of the song (i.e. what the singer is singing) take precedence and the lead instruments should take a back seat.
Conclusion

When it comes to your song intro, you only have a precious few seconds to make an immediate and lasting impression on your listeners. This is important not only for pitching your song to the music industry decision makers but also for anyone who you’re hoping will respond well to your song. Keep your intros short and impactful and you’ll have gone a long way towards achieving your goal.


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.cliffgoldmacher.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars.


Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Three Uncomfortable Truths About Why Most Songwriters NEVER Crack Through To Success

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 01, 2017 @08:00 AM

Three Uncomfortable Truths About Why Most Songwriters NEVER Crack Through To Success
by Karen Randle
ControlSongwriting.jpeg

It doesn’t much matter where you are in your songwriting at the moment. You can be a well-established songwriting pro with cuts with various major artists who knows his revenues ought to be higher. Or you can be a beginner songwriter coming out of the gate and trying to make your way…as long as you have your thinking straight and are serious about your songwriting, you can achieve greater success.

However, there are three “uncomfortable truths” about why most independent songwriters never will.

 

Truth #1: The most successful songwriters tend to get paid more for who they are than what they do.

Max Martin keeps placing songs with the biggest music artists of today, more any any other active songwriter today. Why? Max Martin has written and co-written 22 Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits (most of which he has also produced or co-produced). Max Martin is the songwriter with third most number one singles on the chart, behind only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). As a producer he holds the record for second-most number one singles on the chart with 20 behind only George Martin (23). Additionally, five of these songs he wrote or co-wrote made their debut on the chart at number-one. Number one debuts songs include "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake and "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

You are not entitled to a high income. Just because you have your law degree…your doctor degree…your certification in whatever… and 25 years of experience…etc. This does not mean you will automatically get paid more.

Think about athletes. NBA player Derrick Rose who plays for the Chicago Bulls is one of the highest paid athletes—even though he has been riddled with injuries most of his career. Tim Tebow, whose NFL career never put him in the same category of the best athletes in the game, made millions in endorsements. Why? Simply for being “Tim Tebow.”


So building up who you are is vastly more important than what you do or your competency level.

Truth #2: No attempt in improving oneself - Writing songs on your own, never attempting to collaborate with other songwriters or producers. It’s in working on your SONGWRITING.


All the finalists in the Pop and Country categories in the 2016 USA Songwriting Competition are collaborations, written by 2 or more songwriters. This trend seems to be the same on most of the songs the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

Elton John collaborates with longtime lyricist and friend Bernie Taupin on most of his greatest hit songs. Elton recognizes that his strength lies in writing music, particularly melodic lines. And Bernie focuses on his strength - writing lyrics. Songwriters can learn from the pros: If you are great in writing music but bad in writing lyrics, it doesn't mean that you are toast at all. You can collaborate with a lyricist or a songwriter who is excellent in writing lyrics.

Truth #3: An old one: The definition of INSANITY is: doing the same things the same way over and over again while hoping for different results.

Albert Einstein is broadly credited with saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Many songwriters tend to do that. Example: they use the same chord progression and same rhyming clichés and wonder why their songwriting never seem to improve.
 
You need to be willing to look for and accept a different approach—even a different concept of yourself and your music, musicianship or songwriting. That different approach may include a fundamental change in the way you think of yourself, your role, your songwriting, your music artistry, and the way you present yourself to the music industry or audience.

Some of it might feel uncomfortable. It certainly will be different from what you see others in your same profession/music/category doing.

At the risk of being obvious, one way you fundamentally improve your songs is by collaborations. But most songwriters invest all their energy in only one means of increasing their value: “writing their songs all by oneself” better.

This is akin to trying to lose weight, keep it off, and be healthier only by reducing the quantity of calories, carbs and fat you eat—with no changes in physical movement, exercise, food choices, nutrition, nutritional supplementation and mental attitude management.  Yes, you can lose some weight by doing just one thing to further and further extremes, but as any dieter will attest, you hit a wall when no more pounds can be lost even if you eat nothing but a leaf of lettuce with a squirt of lemon for dinner every night.

Sorry, but getting better and better and better at your “thing” will slam you into an income barrier and will NEVER lift you over that wall.

You need to increase your value to your audience/music industry in multiple ways in order to improve your songwriting or music artistry.

If you want to leap-frog to a much higher success, then you must master improvement of yourself, use a more sophisticated approach to your songwriting and your music artistry and focus on learning the strategies that are proven to catapult to your music success.

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Are Your Song Pitches as Perfect as They Should Be?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 @03:58 PM

[Songwriting Advice] Are Your Song Pitches as Perfect as They Should Be?
by Jason Blume

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When I critique songs during my workshops and webinars I ask the writers what their intention is for their song. For example, do they hope the song will be recorded by a hit country artist, or is the writer a folk singer who wrote the song to perform it him- or herself at coffeehouses. Is the goal to have the song recorded by a pop star, or to license it for placement in television or films? I need to know the writer’s hope for the song so I can assess whether the melody and lyrics are hitting the target the writer was aiming for. Songs that work perfectly for one artist or genre might be completely inappropriate for others.

In a surprising number of instances, when I ask the writers’ intention for their songs I get responses that reveal they are not listening to the recent hits by the artists they hope to write for. For example, sometimes a song that would fit perfectly on a playlist of 1960-era folksingers is intended by the writer to be recorded by one of today’s country stars. Similarly, a song that sounds appropriate for a 1980s boy band might be intended for a current urban/pop star.

My prescription is to go to Billboard and jot down the titles of the top five songs in the genres where you believe your song might fit. Listen to those songs carefully and print their lyrics. Note the rhythms in the vocal melodies, the instrumentation, the songs’ structures, the chord changes
and the style of language used in the lyric. Then ask yourself if your song contains similar techniques. It can also be beneficial to seek professional feedback to be sure we do not have a blind spot and that our songs are indeed accomplishing what we intended.

If your goal is to place a song with a specific artist, study his or her recent hits. I’m not suggesting we clone those songs; we need to push the creative envelope–not rehash musical territory that has already been covered. But we need to accomplish this while writing material that is consistent with the genre we are aiming for.

Give your songs their best shot by studying the market and being sure your pitches are “pitch perfect” for the artists or licensing opportunities you target.

[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 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Playing With The Box

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 @06:00 PM

Playing With The Box
by Harriet Schock
PlayingWithTheBox.jpg
It all started with a student I had named Moke. He would bring me songs that he wasn’t happy with but he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I put him through my songwriting course “steps” and very early in the process, he discovered something that got him enthusiastic again: In a verse, verse, bridge, verse song with the title at the end of the verse, you can twist the title and make it have a different meaning at least three times during the course of the song. Each verse will lead to it differently and it will change meaning just like a chameleon changes colors. I’d forgotten what that realization felt like, but he was having it like fireworks. From then on, every week he’d bring me another song that attempted to change the title’s meaning at the end of each verse. It was at that point that I coined the term “playing with the box.”

There’s a well known story about the child at Christmas who is given an expensive toy only to end up playing with the box the toy came in. This is exactly what it feels like to me when I see a writer find a clever idea and try to twist and turn it, outlining a way the story could develop, without any real meat to the story. He’s playing with the title, as the child would play with the box at Christmas.

When a title comes in at the end of a verse and hits us right in the seat of our emotions, it’s very powerful. “The Song Remembers When” by Hugh Prestwood is a perfect example of this. But that song is not a clever mind game. It is a work full of real-life pictures, supporting a truth that goes beyond language.

Many of my students have written powerful songs with the structure of verse, verse, bridge, verse with the title at the end of each verse. One of the most talented and skilled writers I’ve ever worked with is Tracy Newman. In the decade  she’s been in my class, she’s written some astonishing songs. The one I’d like to quote here is “Someone in the Room.” She twists the title each time but never lets the emotional impact be lessened by our awareness of “cleverness.”

SOMEONE IN THE ROOM (Tracy Newman 2011, Kabeauty Music)

He lets me brighten up his day  
Pours out his heart to me  
He’s interested in what I say
And when we disagree
He fights fair, we work things out
He’s such an open book, I have no doubt
I’m his special SOMEONE IN THE ROOM

Not a word of that is true
He only looks my way
When I interrupt his view
Or take the remote away
Sad eyes, the TV
It’s finally gotten through to me
I’ve become just SOMEONE IN THE ROOM

He used to fly to me with a wild heart
Pretend to cry when we were far apart
Yeah, he’d call me up and say my name
Over and over again
 
He took me to the highest high
I never touched the ground
So I don’t even want to try
To travel this far down
It feels so wrong
Days and nights are too long
To be just a SOMEONE IN THE ROOM
Life is too short
And I want much more
Than to be just SOMEONE IN THE ROOM


Getting back to my student, Moke, I should say that he soon learned there was more to emotional impact than clever plays on words. He’s eventually chose topics to write about that were connected to reality and fertile with pictures. Occasionally he would fall off the wagon and bring in something that looked a bit like a movie set of a house, with no house behind it, but I would just look at him and he would say “I’m playing with the box.” It’s great to have students who do my work for me.

Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), and her new up coming book, her songwriting classes, online courses and consultation, go towww.harrietschock.com

 

Information on the 22nd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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