Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tips: Four Steps To Writing A Hit Chorus

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

Four Easy Steps to Writing A Hit Chorus

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant


How To Write A Hit Chorus

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

© 2010 Molly-Ann Leikin www.songmd.com    
Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant with dozens of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination. The author of “How To Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, and the producer of “Molly-Ann Leikin’s Master Class in Songwriting”, Molly consults with talented writers and artists all over the world, with a view to helping them market their material. She also matches lyricists with composers. And she’s very good at it. Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy, and so far, 5068 others, with Molly’s help, have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s and in commercials. Molly also writes articles for USA Songwriting Competition e-mail newsletters. Her website is www.songmd.com, and you can reach her at songmd@songmd.com. If you live in the USA or Canada, you can call her toll-free at 800-851-6588. However, please check her website first so your conversation is as productive as possible.

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

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

Five Steps To Improve Your Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 @12:43 PM

by Ira Greenfield

I have been asked so many times how do you write a good song. Here are five main ways you can use to your advantage:

1. Song Structure
We have received many songs at the USA Songwriting Competition. Many songs received are free-formed and hard to follow. Every good song has a good structure such as AABA or Verse/Refrain. Structure such as: verse leads to the chorus back to the verse and then chorus, bridge and lastly chorus is probably the most popular. Let’s stick to what works and then break the rules once you are good at it.

2. Compose Good Lyrics
I like songs with a good story or lyrics that actually say something. Avoid cliches such as “I’ll never break your heart, I’ll never tear you apart”, words like that has been done before and you want to say it in a different angle. Write lyrics that would bring imagery to the listener as well as a hook to it. You want a theme to begin with it. A good idea is “Unbreak My Heart”, this shows great sense of craft and artistry even in the title itself. In this case, the writer “created” a word “Unbreak”. If it was “Don’t Break My Heart”, it would have been quite ordinary and would not have the same effect.

3. Compose Good Melodies
Many songs we received sound more improvisational than actual composition. You have to sit down to sculpt out a melody for the verse and a melody or hook for the chorus. You want to make the melody chorus sound memorable and sound a little different from the verse. Good melodies are found in the current hit “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum. The bang on chorus is catchy and well thought out.

4. Developing good chord structure and background music.
You need a good chord progression to go with your melody. It doesn’t matter which come first and it doesn’t matter if you collaborate with someone who is a keyboardist, guitarist or producer who writes a great chord progression or produces a music “bed” for you to write your melody. There is no secret many hit songwriters/artists do it this way: Jason Derülo, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey have all written songs this way by going over a piece of background music.

5. Artistry And Intangibles
This is probably the hardest to come by. Iconic songs such as “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eye Peas, “Poker Face” by Lady Ga Ga, “Californication” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, “Believe” by Cher, “Angie” by Rolling Stones, “My Way” by Paul Anka are examples of songs that have been composed and re-composed over many times before the song can be recorded. Love them or hate them, there is a sense of artistry in each an every one of these songs. I would suggest focus on what you are good at: If you are good at say writing music but not so good at writing lyrics, I would suggest hooking up with a lyricist, someone who can write good lyrics.

Ira Greenfield works in business development at USA Songwriting Competition. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, please visit: http://www.songwriting.net.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting Tips, improve your songwriting skills

Songwriting Tips: Seven Easy Steps to Write Hit Lyrics

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Mar 28, 2010 @09:19 AM

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant


How To Write A Hit Song

I've written poems and I've written lyrics. I've learned if you can do one, you can usually do the other. As a poet, I've enjoyed the pure creative process, and the occasional publication of my work.

But I've never made a dime writing a poem. Ever.

On the other hand, I live very comfortably on my lyric royalties. And it beats working.

In my practice as a songwriting consultant in California, I hear almost every other new client tell me he or she can't write lyrics. To help them, I've developed a seven-step system, and it works.

If you're a poet who's tired of being broke, and would like to occasionally use your gifts to write more commercially, this article can help you make that transition. It can also help lyricists who are stuck, composers who claim they write music only, plus the entire world of left-brain computer types who ache to create something romantic—like a song.

When writing one, be aware that melodies are open to interpretation - so when you write a tune, what you feel or intend is still safe in your heart.You don't have to reveal yourself or stand completely naked in front of the world. But once you put words to a tune, your feelings are totally out in the open and everyone knows what's in your heart. Therefore, it can be very inhibiting to write lyrics, which is often why writers get stuck.

But here is the process I use with my clients to make lyric writing simple. I suggest you use all seven steps. Cutting corners is usually why a lyric doesn't work.

Most poets and beginning songwriters make the mistake of writing acres of lines of iambic pentameter and then set out to look for someone who can turn that dreary rhythm into an exciting melody. Almost nobody can, no matter what the words are saying. So don't write your lyrics first. ]Get the tune, then write the words. So let's assume, for this exercise, that you have a melody but no idea of what to say in your lyric. Don't worry if you don't have a tune. I'll give you one.

STEP 1. Sing or play the tune of a nursery rhyme. Any of them will do: Baa Baa Black Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, Ring Around the Rosie - it doesn't matter which you choose. Use this melody for practice. As you listen to it, scribble down some non-rhyming prose. Ignore the exact notes, but listen to the feelings. Let your words be a stream-of-conscious exercise to warm up your imagination. Don't use rhymes or logic. Try to be visual, silly, playful and have fun with it.
Here's an example of some lines I scribbled down after listening to "Itsy Bitsy Spider":

A former tooth farmer from Fluffy, South Apricot, dug through Exxon's banana shoe hairbrush section for kangaroo lingerie, after the De La Hoya/Pope Potato wrist rake from Western Tire Cough Drops slid unnoticed into burping toenails.

STEP 2. Now please write a silly, visual non-rhyming lyric to your tune. Match each note with one syllable. Fill your non-rhyming lyric with ridiculous pictures. Again, don't be logical, don't make it make sense. Every line can be about something different. The first might concern shoe repair, the second, airport parking. In this draft, try to keep all the rhymes OUT. Here's an example of a nonsense lyric I wrote, to the tune of "Jack and Jill".
Lizards frying Jaguars
All hum Hawaiin shoe trees
Disneyland will hiccup in
The mayor's purple phone soup.

STEP 3. Now write an uncensored list of silly titles that will fit with the stresses of the first line of your nursery rhyme. No matter how many notes in that line, keep your title to seven syllables or less. Shoot for twenty or thirty possible titles. Don't write anything you've heard before. Let your imagination roll. Don't say, "Oh, that's dumb." Write it all down. You might find one of these nonsense titles could actually turn into a real one later. "I Love You" is fine, but Jewel's "Swallow The Moon" gets you in the gut. A good title will write the whole song for you. A mediocre one will leave you stranded in line two.
Here are some nonsense titles I wrote to the tune of
"Jack and Jill":

Santa knit a Hershey Bar
Orange dancing astronauts
Drinking bricks can make you skate

STEP 4. Write a few real titles with the same number of syllables as your silly ones. Here are some I wrote to
"Jack and Jill":
Sundays with the London Times
Do you ever think of me
Moonlight over Lake O'Hare

STEP 5. Choose one of your real titles. Write the story it tells in prose. Just a couple of sentences will do fine. Writing the story as a letter might be easier for you. If any lines come out rhyming, change them so they don't. That way, you'll be able to express yourself with complete freedom, and without the constraints of rhyme or meter.
When you finish this step, you'll know the beginning, middle and end of your story before you start to write the lyric. Most songs have two verses, a chorus and a bridge, so allow space for them in your story. By writing it first, you'll be able to see if you have enough information to fill a whole song, so you won't get stuck half-way through with nowhere to go. You can always cut out words and lines later.

STEP 6. Using the information from your story, write a non-rhyming lyric to the nursery rhyme melody you've chosen. Should rhymes mysteriously appear, delete them.

STEP 7. Now write the "real" lyric, with the story and the rhymes.


I suggest you do all seven steps. Not four, not two. Seven. My clients who don't are still claiming they can't write lyrics. But many of my songwriters who do are climbing the charts.
The more lyrics you write, the easier it gets. So please do this exercise five times, each with a different nursery rhyme. Once you learn how to map out a lyric, and write it to a melody, you're 90% there.
© 2010 Molly-Ann Leikin
www.songmd.com
Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant with dozens of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination.  The author of “How To Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, and the producer of “Molly-Ann Leikin’s Master Class in Songwriting”, Molly consults with talented writers and artists all over the world, with a view to helping them market their material.  She also matches lyricists with composers.  And she’s very good at it.  Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy, and so far, 5067 others, with Molly’s help, have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s and in commercials.

Her website is www.songmd.com.  You can reach her at songmd@songmd.com.  If you live in the USA or Canada, you can call her toll-free at 800-851-6588.  For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

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

6th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards)

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 @12:02 PM

6th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) is currently accepting entries, this awards competition is judged based on songwriting, performance & artistry. Win prizes in 8 different categories: Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Group/Duo, Folk/Americana/Roots, AAA/Alternative, Instrumental, Open, Bluegrass/Country. There will also be an Overall Grand Prize winner awarded to the top winner worth US$11,000, which includes radio promotion to over 250 radio stations in US and Canada! Also, our past winners Charlie Dore and The Refugees will be featured on Acoustic Cafe, a syndicated radio program. You may also obtain the entry form at:
http://www.inacoustic.com/entryform.html

Or enter online, *FREE EARLY ENTRY BONUS: First 1,000 entrants will each receive a FREE subscription from Broadjam worth $25.00 (first 1,000 entrants, must be entered by Oct 31st or earlier, so hurry!) :
http://www.broadjam.com/contests/details/contest/index.php?contest_id=1493


Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, music composition, IAMA, International Acoustic Music Awards, Music Performance, Music Artistry

How Songwriters Can Create a Winning Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, May 08, 2009 @12:25 PM

~written by Ira Greenfield

Many songwriters have asked me what makes a winning song. As VP of development at USA Songwriting Competition for the past 14 years and I have heard winning years through the years, a winning song should be creative in both music composition aspect as well as the lyric composition. A good example is the top winning song of 2008 competition "Home" written by Jordan Zevon, Jordan Summers and Morty Coyle. Musically, it displays surprises in Chord changes and the lyrics about coming home are not the clichés of what you hear on radio. It didn't hurt the song that chorus is  catchy.

Another example is the winning song of the country category in 2007 "I Can Live Without You", written by Mary Danna and Troy Verges. One would think the song is about someone who doesn't want to live with another. However, there is a twist at the end of the sentence in the chorus "But I just don't want to". They have taken a love and heartache song and given a "surprising twist" in the end. Also, the bridge was short, surprising and also emotionally high (with the melody hitting a high note at the end of the melodic line) and yet sad. That song still remains a favorite at the USA Songwriting Competition.

I have heard submissions 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, let alone not being creative as the judges left the room singing to Jennifer Lopez song instead. Needless to say, that song didn't win.

I realized an interesting fact that the top winning songs of the past two years have been a three-way collaboration. The winning song last year was written by three songwriters and so was the year before ("Where the Music Takes You", written by Ari Gold, Joe Hogue "JOJOHO" and Sean Petersen). That song also hit top 10 on the Billboard Charts after winning the competition. "Where the Music Takes You" was unique, it had no intro, the vocals start as soon as the music plays. The chorus was so catchy that the judges left the song singing to it.

Speaking of catchy, the winning song in 2004 was written by five songwriters ("My Three Wishes", written by Patrice Pike, Wayne Sutton, Sean Phillips and Darrell Phillips). The opening hook in the chorus of the Alternative song "My Three Wishes" was accented in an off beat way that would draw the listener to want to hear more. You can tell that the song took extra effort and creativity.

A song may sound nice to listen to but please note that a lot of work is being done to the song: musically, lyrically, artistically and more. Cher's biggest hit "Believe" was written not by one but six songwriters! Paul Barry, Matt Gray, Brian Higgins, Stuart McLellan, Timothy Powell, and Steven Torch wrote that hit number one in 23 different countries. Where would Cher be without this great hit song like this? Could you be creative enough write a song better as good as this or even better? Write one and submit it to us in the USA Songwriting Competition.

Information:

http://www.songwriting.net/enter


Tags: Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, hit song, hit songwriter, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, songwriting partner, collaborator, Melody, writing songs, song writing showcase, composing songs, music composition, lyric writing

Jordan Zevon Performing At USA Songwriting Competition showcase during SXSW 2009

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 05, 2009 @10:25 PM

Tags: Song writing, Songwriting, song contest, songwriting competition, songwriting contest, American Idol, song writing showcase, sxsw, songwriting showcase