Songwriting Tips, News & More

Five Songwriting Habits You Should Drop Today

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 09, 2016 @07:00 AM

Five Songwriting Habits You Should Drop Today
by Jessica Brandon
GuitarFret
If you are spending hours working on writing songs and not getting the results you want, you may have a “songwriting habit” or two that needs dropped.

Here are five habits to ditch that will help you grow your songwriting —not to mention reduce the amount of time you spend on you getting your songs cut by music artists.

1. Churning and burning.  Yes, you want to have your songs cut by major music artists, and  perhaps even yourself as a singer-songwriter act, but if you are only focused on writing new songs without paying attention to existing your existing songs, you are wasting a lot of time and energy and leaving a whole lot of  lessons learnt on the table. If you have a system in place for writing songs but it is not working – if your songs are going nowhere and you are dissatisfied with your songwriting career or singer-songwriter career, maybe you may want to think “outside the box”.

2. Getting leads on Major Artists Seeking New Songs without having appropriate songs. Getting a bunch of new leads can give your ego a huge boost, but only if you have great songs that your leads want. If you have leads with no immediate songs to provide for them, or are randomly following up, you are not only wasting time, money and effort, but you could be leaving a bad impression.

3. Chasing A&R. I’ve seen it time and time again. You get a hot lead to an A&R at some record label or music publisher and you keep chasing after him while neglecting to have great songs in place that will continually attract your ideal music publisher to you. Stop chasing, start attracting.

4. Doing the same thing. If you aren’t getting the results you want—if you aren’t living your dream life—maybe it’s time to look at doing things differently. Too many songwriters look at what their competitor songwriters are doing and think they should be doing the same thing. But that doesn’t make sense if you aren’t where you want to be.

Maybe it’s time to do the opposite of what everyone in the music industry is doing and start doing what works.

5. Going it alone. Look, I get it. Working alone can be great. You can do things your way. You don’t have to listen to what anyone else thinks. You feel really good when you succeed because it’s all you.

However, we are so fortunate to have so many resources available that can help with virtually any situation, why would you go it alone? Plus having someone to collaborate with you and give you feedback and help guide you means you will get there easier and faster. Say if you are great in writing music but suck in writing lyrics, find a lyricist who can help you with the lyrics. Rememebr that Elton John was unable to write a hit song without his lyricist Bernie Taupin.

Also, all the winning songs of the USA Songwriting Competition for the past three years were all multi-way collaborations. If you take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, you will see that most of the songs on the Top 10 are all multi-way collaborations. Last year's Grammy song of the year "Stay With Me" was written by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne receiving co-writer credits due to the song's similarity to Petty's single "I Won't Back Down" after a legal settlement.

By IMMEDIATELY dumping things that aren’t working, you’ll have the opportunity and time to apply strategies to your songwriting that do work. Who knows? Maybe you will be the next person to tell me that your big breakthrough came as a result of getting rid of something that wasn’t giving you the results you wanted.

  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, A&R, song demo, songwriter split sheet, Co-Writing Songs, Habits, bad habits, Split Sheet

Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @07:00 AM

Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers
by Jason Blume
HitSongStructures

When I took my first songwriting workshop I had no idea that verses, choruses, and bridges were the primary building blocks used in popular songs. Nor did I know that the vast majority of the songs I listened to on the radio combined these components into one of four song forms, or a variation of one of these forms.

Initially, when I learned about song structures, I feared that confining my music to one of a handful of prescribed forms would limit—or even destroy—my creative expression. But I learned that effective songwriting is an art of communication; that a primary goal was to connect with—and evoke emotion in—my listeners. The structures I used to express my songs did not alter their message. To the contrary, presenting my songs in formats with which my listeners were familiar, allowed my audience to receive the melodies and lyrics I shared. My listeners might not be able to define or identify a verse, a chorus, or a bridge, but they had spent a lifetime listening to music that was constructed using these components, so including them added a sense of familiarity.

Popular music is constantly evolving, and this article explores whether the use of song structures has changed, and whether there are any trends to take note of. Before proceeding, I’ll briefly define the functions of each of the “building blocks.”
Verses

Verse lyrics tell the story, include action and details, and lead the listeners to the chorus and the title. Each verse typically has different lyrics, and while there are no “rules” about how long a verse should be, the most common lengths are eight, twelve, or sixteen musical bars.

Hot Tip: To write a second verse, ask yourself, “What else happened? Or, “Then what happened?”
Choruses

Chorus lyrics are usually a simple summation of the concept—a place to summarize the song’s essence in a catchy, easy-to-remember way. Choruses are intended to be the most memorable part of the song, both lyrically and melodically—the part people walk away singing. Choruses tend to be eight, twelve, or sixteen musical bars.

In song forms that include a chorus, the title will almost always be in the chorus. The rare exceptions to this are typically songs written by artists who write for themselves. For example, Coldplay’s GRAMMY-winning Song of the Year, “Viva La Vida” never includes the title in the chorus—or anywhere else in the song.

The chorus lyric does not typically bring in detail or advance the story. Why? Because the chorus will likely be repeated two or three times, and if it is full of detail and story, it probably won’t make sense to repeat it.

Typically, every chorus within a given song will have the same melody and the same lyrics. But there are certainly exceptions. The two choruses in Patsy Cline’s classic “I Fall to Pieces” (Harlan Howard/Hank Cochran) include different lyrics, and in Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” the final line of each chorus lyric is different from the others.
Bridges

The word most often invoked when describing the function of bridges is “departure,” and indeed, the most effective bridges depart both melodically and lyrically from the other sections of the song. Ideally, in this section a new lyric angle, new perspective, and/or new information is introduced. Bridges (often referred to as the “Middle 8” outside the U.S.) are typically four or eight musical bars. They can be instrumental (such as in Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball”), but that’s not typical.

Whether to include a bridge or not is a creative decision based on factors such as whether the writer wants to advance the story, if there is a new melodic element they want to introduce, and the length of the song.
Pre-Choruses

A pre-chorus is a component of a song that occurs immediately before the chorus. Sometimes called a lift, a climb, a channel, a set-up, or a “B” section, its function is to connect and propel listeners from the verse to the chorus—both melodically and lyrically. This sub-section of the verse is most often comprised of four or eight musical bars.

Songs that include a pre-chorus in the first verse almost always have one in every subsequent verse. In songs that have two verses prior to their chorus, the pre-chorus typically only appears in the verse immediately before the chorus.

In many instances (such as The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”) every pre-chorus has the same melody and the same lyric. But in the pre-chorus of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” the melody of each pre-chorus remains the same, but the lyric changes each time. Both of these approaches are regularly found in successful songs in various genres.
Post-Choruses

Post-choruses (sometimes called “B” choruses) are sections that follow a chorus, providing an additional hook. Most often comprised of four or eight musical bars, the post-chorus might follow every chorus within a given song, or it might be only in the song’s final chorus. In addition to contributing an extra melodic hook, in many instances, this section serves as a place to hammer home the title.

Excellent examples of post-choruses include Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
How Songs Have Typically Been Constructed

The most popular song forms since the era of the Beatles have been:

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus
(Example: Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”)

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus—Bridge—Chorus
(Example: Luke Bryan’s “Strip it Down”)

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus
(Example: Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”)

Verse—Verse—Bridge—Verse
(Example: Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You”)

These structures are sometimes expressed as:

A—B—A—B
A—B—A—B—C—B
A—B—A—B—A—B
A—A—B—A

Popular variations have included starting with a chorus (B—A—B—A—B or B—A—B—A—B—C—B); having two verses prior to the first chorus; and having a “double” chorus.

In songs that use the A—A—B—A form, a common variation repeats the bridge after the third verse, followed by an additional verse (A—A—B—A—B—A). In these instances the second bridge is almost always the same as the first—melodically and lyrically. The last verse sometimes repeats the lyrics of the first verse, but not in all cases.

In some songs, the pre-chorus is repeated between the second and third choruses, serving the function of a bridge. Sam Hunt’s country hit “House Party” is a good example of this.

The A—A—B—A song form (with slight variations) was used in songs such as Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You” (written by Linda Creed and Michael Masser), Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” This song form seemed to be in a disproportionately large number of songs that became “standards.” But the popularity of this structure began waning in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It can be heard in 2015 Country Song of the Year GRAMMY-nominated song “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack and written by Hayes Carll.)
EDM (Electronic Dance Music) Structures

In pop, country, R&B, adult contemporary, and most other popular styles, the high point of the song is the chorus. But in EDM, the high point is “the drop” or “the dance break.” This section is typically instrumental, or mostly instrumental, with only the title or the hook line being sung.

The chorus—which has lyrics—comes before the drop, usually in the spot where other genres would have a pre-chorus. In EDM, the chorus’s function is to build into the dance break, which is the peak of the song.

While an EDM song might have 2 verses and choruses, in many instances, there is only one verse and chorus. It would be extremely rare for a song in this genre to have a bridge.
Current Trends

David Penn, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hit Songs Deconstructed, is an expert regarding the latest trends in pop songs. His website www.hitsongsdeconstructed.com provides intensive analyses of virtually every aspect of the songs that comprise Billboard’s top-10 Hot 100 songs.

When asked what trends he is currently observing in the structures of hits, Penn stated, “One of the most pronounced trend shifts that we’ve observed during the last few quarters is that songs are getting to the chorus/payoff much faster. For example, the percentage of songs that feature the chorus BEFORE the verse reached its highest level in years, skyrocketing from just 25% of songs in the first quarter of 2015, up to 42% of songs in Q2, and remained close to the same in Q3.”

A prime example of a recent hit that started with a chorus is Justin Bieber’s #1, “What Do You Mean” (written by Bieber, Jason Boyd, and Mason Levy). The song uses a B-A-B-A-B form (chorus – verse – chorus – verse – chorus), with each verse including a pre-chorus.

“During the first three quarters of 2015, a total of 21 disparate forms were utilized when crafting the 43 songs that appeared in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. The ABABCB form continues to be the most popular, and the BABABCB form follows as the second most popular.” (David Penn, Hit Songs Deconstructed)

Penn continued, “It’s interesting to note that the popularity of the ABABCB form rose to hits HIGHEST level in years in Q1 (60% of songs), followed by dropping to its second LOWEST level in years in Q2, where it accounted for just 26% of songs, and remained almost the same in Q3. This was due in part to the number of forms in the top 10 doubling from 8 to 16 from Q1 to Q3.

The popularity of intros, pre-choruses, and instrumental breaks rose to their highest level in over a year in Q3. Bridges, however, fell to their lowest, being replaced by other sections such as an instrumental break or a changed up pre-chorus to provide a pronounced departure relative to other sections in a song. These are just a few of the many trend shifts that we’ve been observing at Hit Songs Deconstructed.

Aside from the ABABCB and BABABCB forms, most of the other forms in Billboard’s top-10 Hot 100 Songs during the first three quarters of 2015 were found in just one or a couple of songs each quarter. So, the trend is to draw from a wider variety of song forms than have been used in the past.”
Trends in Country Music Song Structures

A review of the 2015 Country Song of the Year GRAMMY nominees revealed that each of the five nominated songs used a different song structure.

    “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Hayes Carll) is V-V-B-V
    “Diamond Rings and Old Bar Stools” (recorded by Tim McGraw, written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton) is V-C-V-C-C
    “Girl Crush,” which was also GRAMMY-nominated for overall Song of the Year, (recorded by Little Big Town, written by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, and Hillary Lindsey) is V-C-V-C, ending with a reprise of the beginning of the first verse
    “Hold My Hand” (recorded by Brandy Clark, written by Clark and Mark Stephen Jones) is V-V-C-B-C
    “Traveller” (recorded and written by Chris Stapleton) is V-C-V-C-B-C

A look at Billboard’s top-10 Hot Country Songs of 2015 showed that writers of hit country songs are exploring a variety of song structures.

    “Take Your Time” (recorded by Sam Hunt, written by Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osbourne) is V-C-V-C-B-C, with the final chorus featuring a change in the lyric, and what might be considered a post-chorus.
    “Girl Crush” (listed above)
    “House Party” (recorded by Sam Hunt, written by Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell, and Jerry Flowers) is V-C-V-C-C, including a pre-chorus and a post-chorus. A repeat of the pre-chorus following the second chorus serves the function of a bridge.
    “Kick the Dust Up” (recorded by Luke Bryan, written by Dallas Davidson, Chris DeStefano, and Ashley Gorley) is V-C-V-C-B-C, including a pre-chorus and a post-chorus.
    “Crash and Burn” (recorded by Thomas Rhett, written by Jesse Frasure and Chris Stapeton) is V-C-V-C-C with what could be described as a post-chorus after the second chorus.
    “Sangria” (recorded by Blake Shelton, written by J.T. Harding, Josh Osborne, and Trevor Rosen) is V-C-V-C-B-C-B.
    “Homegrown” (recorded by the Zac Brown Band, written by Zac Brown, Niko Moon, and Wyatt Durrette) is V-C-V-C-C-B-C, with a post chorus after the second chorus.
    “Buy Me a Boat” (recorded by Chris Janson, written by Chris Janson and Chris DuBois) is V-C-V-C-B-C.
    “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (recorded by Keith Urban, written by Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Josh Osbourne) is V-C-V-C-B-C-C, with a post-chorus following the final chorus.
    Like a Wrecking Ball (recorded by Eric Church, written by Eric Church and Casey Beathard) is V-C-V-C-B-C, with pre-choruses. The bridge is instrumental.

The classification of whether a section constitutes a bridge, a pre-chorus, or a post-chorus is subjective, and in some instances, is not clear-cut. It is interesting to note that of the fourteen songs that comprise the 2015 Country Song of the Year nominees and Billboard’s top-10 Hot Country Songs of 2015, six had structures that were not found in any of the other songs, while five of them used the V-C-V-C-B-C (A-B-A-B-C-B) and three were V-C-V-C-C (A-B-A-B-B).

While popular songs still rely on the building blocks of verses, choruses, bridges, and pre-choruses, recent hits have included more variations in the way those elements were put together, and post-choruses have become increasingly popular.

Songwriters have been exploring new song forms and variations—and if the music charts and GRAMMY nominations are any indication, listeners have been embracing the new structures.

[Reprinted by permission from BMI]

Jason Blume is the author of This Business of Songwriting and 6 Steps to Songwriting Success (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. One of only a few writers to ever have singles on the pop, country, and R&B charts, all at the same time—his songs have been recorded by artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse McCartney, and country stars including Collin Raye (6 cuts), the Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Azar, and John Berry (“Change My Mind,” a top 5 single that earned a BMI “Million-Aire” Award for garnering more than one million airplays). Jason’s song “Can’t Take Back the Bullet” is on Hey Violet’s new EP that debuted in the top-10 in twenty-two countries and reached #1 throughout Scandinavia and Asia. He’s had three top-10 singles in the past two years and a “Gold” record in Europe by Dutch star, BYentl, including a #1 on the Dutch R&B iTunes chart.

Jason’s songs have been included in films and TV shows including “Scrubs,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Assassination Games,” Disney’s “Kim Possible” “Dangerous Minds,” “Kickin’ it Old Skool,” “The Guiding Light,” “The Miss America Pageant,” and many more.  Jason is in his nineteenth year of teaching the BMI Nashville Songwriters workshops. A regular contributor to BMI’s MusicWorld magazine, he presented a master class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and teaches songwriting throughout the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, the U.K., Canada, Bermuda, and Jamaica.

After twelve years as a staff-writer for Zomba Music, Blume now runs Moondream Music Group. For additional information about Jason’s latest books, online classes, instructional audio CDs, and workshops visit www.jasonblume.com.


To enter the 21st Annual 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, song structure, demo recording, writing hit songs, Honing Your Craft

Record Producer & The Music Artist

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 @07:00 AM

Record Producer & The Music Artist
by Jamie Hill

Jamie Hill is an independent record producer: he talks about artist-producer communication
VU-Meter-iPhone

Being clear on who you are as an artist

When I’m considering working with a new artist, I generally suggest that we do one song together first to see whether the relationship works. So in this spirit, last month I had a singer-songwriter come by the house. There was something in this woman’s writing and voice that really resonated with me, and that I thought I could contribute something positive to.

She came over and played me a bunch of songs, and we picked one to start with. What I typically do next is to demo up some production ideas in the computer, to get the conversation started. But before that, it’s important for me to get a sense of what the artist is hearing in their head production-wise. Especially when an artist has started a song with just an acoustic guitar, it could go in any one of a dozen directions.

So I had her play me some inspiration tracks in Spotify. I had been hearing a Beth Orton sort of thing for her material; she played me Meiko and Lucy Rose. Which, if you think about it, are pretty compatible vision-wise with my Beth Orton idea: a tightly produced balance of acoustic instruments, electronic instruments, and drum programming.

So based on that, I got started on a production template. I did an acoustic drum kit and upright bass in the verses, and then brought in some drum machines and synth bass to make a dark scene change into the choruses. Then I had the artist over to start fleshing it out.

And she hated it. Hated it! She had a viscerally negative reaction, specifically to the drum machines and synthesizers. Which, of course, were directly cued from her inspiration tracks. So I probed on that point, asking whether it was the parts the electronic instruments were doing, or perhaps the sounds I’d chosen. But no, it was the very fact of their existence. “My sound is folky-jazzy,” she said by way of explanation.

Huh.

I have two thoughts here. The first one is that this artist did exactly the right thing, in that moment. If you’re an artist, and you’re working with a producer, you have to be your own best advocate. If something is happening that isn’t resonating with your vision of who you are, then it’s critically important that you speak up. Only through your fastidious curation will you end up with a record that’s the best possible representation of who you are.

My second thought is that this artist could probably have communicated way better with her inspiration tracks, which turned out to be highly misleading. It turned out that what she liked about those tracks was that the acoustic guitar was front and center, and that both singers were husky altos like her. Which is a very different story than the one I’d been ostensibly presented with, given that I specifically had asked to hear songs whose production and sound she found inspiring.

Collaboration is challenging, and fraught with the potential for misunderstanding. Therefore it’s extra important to be as clear as possible with your communication as you enter into a new creative relationship. Get your expectations and hopes clear with yourself before bringing them to someone else, communicate them unambiguously, and you’ll get started off on the right foot.


[by permission of Jamie Hill & Pyragraph.com]
Jamie Hill is an independent record producer, music engineer, and author. He works across a variety of genres, mostly in the independent and alternative music spaces, with bands such as ArnoCorps, Shannon Curtis, and many more. He has had chart success internationally with Swedish indie-pop favorite Jens Lekman, whose record An Argument With Myself debuted in the Billboard Heatseekers Top 10 in multiple countries. 

  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, music artist, song demo, demo recording, Record Producer

Singer-Songwriter Glenn Frey Dies At 67, Sending Shockwaves Throughout the Music World

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @03:01 PM

Singer-Songwriter Glenn Frey Dies At 67, Sending Shockwaves Throughout the music world

GlennFrey
The music world has lost a legend: Glenn Frey, 67, a co-founding member and guitarist of The Eagles, died on Monday in New York City of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, sending shockwaves through the music world.

The Eagles had been scheduled to be part of last month's Kennedy Center Honor ceremony (December 6th) along with singer-songwriter Carole King. However with Glenn Frey’s health problems last month, it forces Eagles to defer their Kennedy Center Honor until this year in 2016. Frey has had a recurrence of “previous intestinal issues last month, which will require major surgery and a lengthy recovery period." Those  issues date back to the 1980s, when Frey spoke about the damage he believed he had done to his body during the band’s heyday, when drugs and alcohol flowed freely. In 1986, he missed a reunion with his longtime bandmate Don Henley – the band had broken up for the first time in 1980 – at a benefit concert in California because of an intestinal disorder. An attempt to reform the Eagles in 1990 was put off, in part, because of surgery to remove a large part of Frey’s intestine. And in 1994, their “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour was interupted by Frey’s bout with diverticulitis. It resumed the following year.

With five number-one singles, six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and six number one albums, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. At the end of the 20th century, two of their albums, Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and Hotel California (Sold more than 32 million copies worldwide), were ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the United States according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Hotel California is ranked 37th in Rolling Stone '​s list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and the band was ranked number 75 on the magazine's 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Eagles are one of the world's best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 150 million records.

Frey is credited with co-writing many of The Eagles' best-known songs, including "Hotel California," "Heartache Tonight". "New Kid in Town", "Best of My Love" and "One Of These Nights", all hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts for the band. "Hotel California" has been a staple for all cover bands all over the world, the guitar solo is known as one of the best guitar solos of all time, by Guitar World magazine.

The group's first best-of collection, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, is among the best-selling albums of all time, having sold more than 26 million copies. It was the first album to be certified platinum (1 million sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America, which introduced that classification in 1976. They released four consecutive No. 1 albums between 1975 and 1979. ... They sold more albums in the '70s than any other American band. Moreover, though the band was inactive in the Eighties, their back catalog steadily sold 1.5 million copies a year."

The Eagles, founded in 1971 in Los Angeles, is one of the best-selling American rock bands of all time, notes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted The Eagles in 1998.


Glenn Frey has written (or co-written) a staggering 22 songs that have hit Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, including songs that are a staple of Classic Rock Radio stations all over the world:

Hotel California (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Heartache Tonight {#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

New Kid in Town (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Best of My Love (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

One of These Nights (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Lyin' Eyes (#2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

The Heat Is On (Solo hit, #2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

You Belong to the City (Solo hit, #2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Take It to the Limit (#4 on the Billboard Hot 100)

The Long Run (#8 on the Billboard Hot 100)

I Can't Tell You Why (#8 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Life in the Fast Lane (#11 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Take It Easy (#12 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Smuggler's Blues (Solo hit, #12 on the Billboard Hot 100)

True Love (Solo hit, #13 on the Billboard Hot 100)

The One You Love (Solo hit, #15 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Sexy Girl (Solo hit, #20 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Seven Bridges Road (#21 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Peaceful Loving Feeling (#22 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Get Over It (#31 on the Billboard Hot 100)

I Found Somebody (Solo hit, #31 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Already Gone (#32 on the Billboard Hot 100)

  
  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, Hits, The Eagles, Co-Writing Songs, Glenn Frey, Hotel California

Are you making any of these mistakes in Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @07:00 AM

Are you making any of these mistakes in Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough
by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

SongwritersWritingSongs
When a band enters the recording studio they typically sign a "split sheet," a document which specifies each person's contributions and ownership percentage on a given track. This often isn't a sufficiently detailed agreement however, and artists should make an effort to take further legal precautions in order to avoid issues down the road.


For some unexplained reason, frequently when artists go into the recording studio to work on a track together, they typically sign a “split sheet” and think it suffices.  In reality, the traditional songwriter “split sheet” could merely be used as a stop-gap measure that is meant to ensure all parties are on the same page and understand what was contributed to the song by each party. Ultimately, songwriters should enter into a more elaborate and complete agreement to ensure the song can be properly used.

A “songwriter split sheet,” or “split sheet” for short, is a form that is signed by all the parties involved and lists each producer and songwriter. Each party’s contributions and ownership percentage of a particular musical composition are detailed. A typical “split sheet” should also include additional information about the parties, including each person’s physical mailing address, performance rights organization information (in the U.S., ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), publishing company information (if there is one), birthdate and Social Security and EIN number.

songwriter-split-sheet

This document may seem to be comprehensive enough to cover the parties involved as it lists each party’s specific contribution (i.e. lyrics, beats, melody, etc.) and the corresponding percentage that each party owns of the final piece; however, it does not specifically address numerous important issues that could make or break a tune and severely inhibit its commercial value.

Generally under U.S. Copyright Law, if no agreement exists between the contributors to a particular copyrighted work, the assumption is that all of the contributors are considered joint-authors and own an undivided equal share of the song. This permits each owner to issue third-party licenses without the approval or consulting of any other owner as long as they account for any profits they made to the remaining owners.  While this may be acceptable in situations where the actual work was equal among the contributors; it is not always the case, and could cause some serious issues if the composers do not understand this point.  For example, if members of a band create compositions, sign a split sheet and then break up; each individual from the group can record and release the same material, merely subject to an accounting and payment.  This is frequently thought of as a nightmare situation.  Therefore, the right to issue or enter into third-party licenses for the finished material should be agreed upon in a more formal contract. This is an important point that a typical “split sheet” does not address at all.

Additionally, a standard “split sheet” does not speak about many ancillary and important elements to a song’s commercial value.  This includes any right of publicity matters, such as utilizing a particular producer, artist or songwriters’ name in connection with the publicity and marketing of a finished work. Other important matters to address include the right to request a proper accounting from the other parties, the right to audit and inspect a particular co-owner’s business records and the right to recover (i.e., recoup) certain documented expenses (i.e. recording, engineering, mixing, mastering costs, etc.). The agreement should also address the right to proper attribution or credit on the finished work.

Furthermore, the traditional “split sheet” does not mention any warranties or indemnifications by any of the parties to each other. Without these warranties, each party could be liable for any potential unauthorized sampling, lack of appropriate rights clearance or any other unauthorized or infringing uses in the finished work by each party. A “split sheet” also does not discuss the party’s right to approve any finished work or the right to approve any marketing or promotional campaigns and budgets for the track.  Finally, it does not address which state law to apply to a particular situation and does not specify where any disputes or claims would be adjudicated.

Clearly, the traditional sentiment and reliance on the outdated and minimal “split sheet” should be disregarded and all the contributors should enter into more formal and elaborate agreements. This is necessary to ensure all the important issues are addressed and that each party is properly protected and aware of their rights and interest in the finished work.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted when drafting any formal agreement.

 

[Article used by permission by Justin Jacobson]

Justin M. Jacobson has helped bring in numerous new high-profile clients, including Celebrity DJ/Producer Joshua “Zeke” Thomas and his Gorilla Records label; international live art competition, ArtBattles; G-Unit Records recording artist, Precious Paris; former NY Jet Donald Strickland; Warner-Chappell producer, J-Dens; celebrity jewelry designer, Laurel DeWitt; and BMI Latin award-winning producer, Carlos Escalona. He also spoke at Cardozo School of Law as part of “Beyond The Billboard: Advertising Law in the Fashion Industry” presented by their SELSA & IPLS Fashion Law Committees. He is a lawyer at The Jacobson Firm, P.C.:
http://www.thejacobsonfirmpc.com/
  
To enter the 21st Annual 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, songwriter split sheet, Co-Writing Songs, Split Sheet

Pictures and the Physical Plane

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @07:00 AM

PICTURES AND THE PHYSICAL PLANE

Antarctica-edit.jpg

by Harriet Schock

Whether it’s a song, a speech, a story or a novel, you have to use pictures. This is what we’re taught, this is what we observe, this is what we know to be true. When you hear a speech, you remember the examples the speaker gives to make his point. You remember the pictures. Everything’s a movie. Songs are just short movies.

But have you ever asked yourself why it’s so important to use pictures? Why can’t people communicate in abstract ideas? Why is the impression not as lasting and the message not as clear?

I think it’s because, as human beings, we are part matter and part non-matter. The material parts of us, the body and body-oriented mind, crave visual impressions, tactile sensation and other sensory input. We like to eat and look and smell and taste because we have bodies. But we also seek meaning because we are more than bodies. This cohabitation of physical and ethereal is who we are. So in art, we seek both the concrete and the abstract. Maybe the message is abstract, but we crave for it to be delivered in a concrete way, with the senses involved.

When I was studying John Donne’s poetry in college, one of the most fascinating concepts to me was the actual definition of Platonic love. It was misconstrued to mean love without sex. But I was taught its actual meaning was one of sex where the bodies were engaged but the souls were also. I think the best songs are those that pay due homage to the senses, but also deliver a message with meaning beyond the physical. In “The Song Remembers When,” by Hugh Prestwood, for instance, every verse describes a scene we can see, from the check-out counter when the song comes on, to driving through the Rockies, etc. But beyond and within the pictures, there are messages that contain irrefutable human truths. Among them are the following: 1) when we love with innocence and optimism, we never really forget that love, we can only suppress the memories, and 2) music will bring back a memory against all will to the contrary. Prestwood couches irony and regret in these symbolic terms: “But that’s just a lot of water underneath a bridge I burned...” It calls up the pictures, but they take on a deeper dimension through the twisted cliches being linked together in an original manner.

We’ve been talking about lyrics, but music is one of the elements in art which speaks directly to our true nature, which is not physical. Melody and harmony can communicate straight to the spirit. Maybe that’s why for certain audiences, who seek to deny the non-physical, volume and drums are extremely important. It’s hard to get music to appeal on a physical level without them. Yes, music goes in through the ears, but it affects us on a level which is simply not “of this world.”

This physical and spiritual dichotomy/co-existence shows up in many areas of the music field, not only in writing. In fact, it occurred to me the other day why we’re having so much trouble explaining to people what an intellectual property is and that stealing a song by downloading it is just as criminal as stealing a book from Barnes and Noble. They think if it’s a song and it’s on the radio or the Internet, it’s just air. It doesn’t have “physical properties” so it doesn’t really exist for these people. It’s a level of awareness that suggests “asleepness,” but many people are, for the most part, asleep. In their unawareness, they believe what they can touch and feel and see is all that exists. And yet they are moved by the more ethereal component of life. They will fall in love with a personality and swear it’s a body they love. They will take hours arguing against the existence of any spirituality insisting that all prescience is coincidence. They’re not necessarily from Missouri, but “show me” is their motto. And the proof had better be physical.

Is this person your target audience? If so, then you’d be well advised to involve the senses in your lyrics. When you have the choice to be sensual or not, be sensual. If you have any other message, “lay it between the lines,” as Peter Paul & Mary said in “I Dig Rock & Roll Music,” because these listeners don’t want to be bothered and will miss the deeper layers anyway. Even if your target audience is awake and aware, use pictures with them also. Lead your audience to the story you want to tell by using sensory images. They’re simply more lasting. They’re also very forgiving. There are artists who are pretty unfathomable, but they use enough pictures that they get away with murder in the area of communication.

In Texas during my mother’s era, there used to be an expression, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” This was not advice to surgeons. It was advice to women. Feed the man first. The same goes for songwriters. Feed your audience pictures. Listeners eat them up. But then give them something to digest, something for the heart that involves them, lifts them, inspires them, moves them as people, not just people with bodies.

After all, we have a very powerful weapon in our hands: a song. We might as well use it with some degree of responsibility.

 

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 most 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 to: www.harrietschock.com

  

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

   

  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Harriet Schock, pictures

Secrets about Songwriters Block I wish I'd discovered decades sooner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 @07:00 AM

Secrets about Songwriters Block I wish I'd discovered decades sooner

by Gary Ewer

Songwriters Block

Creativity comes from divergent thinking, and the stresses of work and family life can cause it to disappear and leave you with the dreaded songwriter’s block.

Adapted and excerpted from Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-start Your Words and Music (Backbeat Books). Reprinted with permission.

When did you know you were a songwriter? You may have come to it as an adult, but more than likely the seeds were sown when you were a young teenager, maybe even younger. Perhaps it was while learning those first few chords on your new guitar. Or maybe you started conjuring up musical ideas while trying to stave off boredom, practicing for your piano lessons.

Whenever it was, at some point you came to a realization that the ability to create music was within you. And you realized something else: writing music gave you a pleasure that simply playing it could not. You experienced a deep sense of satisfaction and pride every time you completed a song.

As this young musician, you suddenly found a new and exciting way to express yourself, and it was satisfying. Your developing musical mind allowed you to realize that certain sounds, chords and melodic shapes held meaning for you. As your songwriting abilities matured and improved, you found courage to express your musical abilities to others. You started feeling confident to allow others to listen to your songs at high school variety shows, local cafés, and songwriters circles. And this exposed you to the work of other songwriters, which led to changes and a further maturing of your writing style. You found yourself able to take chances, and to express yourself in new and innovative ways.

 

Divergent thinking

In psychology, the ability to think creatively is a product of “divergent thinking.” That’s a term that refers to one’s knack for exploring several possible ideas or answers in the processing of information. As we know, thinking creatively often means thinking, saying, doing, and writing things that are unexpected. Certainly to be a songwriter requires it.

Research shows that creative thinking can be significantly damaged by many aspects of what it means to live in today’s busy world: physical and mental exhaustion, the lack of structure in daily scheduling, and excessive drug and/or alcohol use.

The inability to compose songs should not be automatically interpreted as songwriter’s block. Being distracted by family duties, having an oppressive work or school schedule, or worrying about aspects of one’s health are all issues that can keep musicians from being creative.

When we cannot compose because of those types of problems, the dilemma should not be seen as a kind of songwriter’s block, but rather as the direct result of a mental distraction. One could say that once all distractions are resolved, writer’s block is what remains if you cannot write.

It’s normal for anyone involved in the creative arts to have moments during the writing process when they feel stuck, unable to create new ideas. When these moments keep them struggling for a few hours, even a day or two, we would simply say that it’s a normal struggle that happens anytime someone tries to be creative. Most people know this, but when it happens it can be immediately worrisome.

To use an analogy, a day without rain does not mean drought. If, however, that day or two becomes several, or stretches into weeks or months, it is most certainly a drought, and – as with songwriter’s block – it is an issue of severity. Here is a list of feelings and experiences that people with writer’s block suffer, many or all of which you are probably encountering right now:

  • You feel almost totally uninspired.
  • You can’t seem to generate musical ideas that could lead to a finished song.
  • Negative comments from others about your music have caused you to fear writing.
  • Positive comments from others about your music make you worry that you’ll let your audience and supporters down.
  • Rather than stimulating your creative mind and generating excitement, the success of other songwriters saps your confidence.
  • Your own songs sound boring to you.
  • Your last few songs all sound the same.

As you can see, writer’s block is a sapping of a songwriter’s creative abilities and inspiration, made worse by an overwhelming sense of fear.

 

You’re not alone

The term “writer’s block” is, of course, not exclusive to the world of musical composition. All those who create for a living – novelists, columnists, choreographers, playwrights, even visual artists – are painfully familiar with the dreaded term. Almost anyone who must create a work of art, who must generate something original from their brain, knows the sinking feeling of staring at a blank piece of paper with their mind going similarly blank.

If you’re like most songwriters, there will be times when giving the bathroom a good scrub feels more appealing than sitting down to write. So when creative ideas evaporate, and your musical imagination has all but disappeared, what’s going on?

For authors, writer’s block is a well-studied, highly scrutinized phenomenon in the fields of medical research and psychology; in short, very much written about by people with lots of letters after their names. Not so much in the music world, however.

Though research in the specific field of songwriter’s block is a bit thin, research on the concept of creativity is, thankfully, more abundant. Understanding writer’s block, whether talking about an author attempting to finish a novel or a composer trying to finish a song, requires an understanding of the concept of creativity.

Researchers know that the ability to think creatively is part of being human, and has little to do with background or personality. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of what it means to be creative comes from Teresa Amabile, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and a researcher in the field of creativity, who depicts it with three intersecting circles representing three different elements: expertise (knowledge), motivation, and creative-thinking skills.

As a songwriter, the “expertise” part of that formula is easy to grasp: it is the understanding of the basic mechanics of how music works. Motivation is the enthusiasm you feel for songwriting as a personal activity. But it’s that third component, the “creative-thinking skills,” that is the trickiest one to delineate.

Keep in mind that Amabile is writing with her business school hat on, addressing managers of businesses and organizations, not songwriters. Nonetheless, her definition, “Creative-thinking skills determine how flexibly and imaginatively people approach problems,” makes one thing clear: creative-thinking skills will not be something that can be easily quantified. And if we cannot quantify them, that makes an accurate understanding of what it means to be creative a bit sticky as well.

Home-remedies – these “here’s-what-I-tried” kind of solutions, might not satisfy you. Perhaps you need better solutions, ones supported by research, and ones that can, if possible, represent a more permanent cure. If you really want songwriting to return you to that feeling of joy you once experienced, a solution needs to accomplish two things:

1) cure the block you’re experiencing today; and

2) teach you strategies that will make the more debilitating forms of writer’s block a thing of the past – permanently. It’s no good curing songwriter’s block if you sense that it could return again at any time.

A quick and permanent solution should be the aim and desire of every songwriter.

 

Pro tip

Discouraged, and can’t seem to get back in a good place, psychologically? Research has shown that the simple act of remembering the good times can have a positive effect on your mood, and may be all you need to return you to a positive frame of mind. Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D, suggests something unique for doing this: when you’re feeling great, write a letter to your discouraged self as if you’re a supportive friend helping someone through a tough time.

Tell yourself that you know what it’s like to feel discouraged with your songwriting. And most importantly, remind yourself that the current songwriting drought has been solvable before, and will be solvable again. Then seal the letter and put it away. When the time comes that you feel the grip of songwriter’s block, take the letter out and read it. It will feel like a vote of confidence and encouragement that will quite possibly get you back on the right track.

 

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)!

 

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

   

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Songwriting, writers block, songwriters block

Songwriting Tip: Secrets for Writing the Best Songs for Sync Licensing

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 @07:00 AM

Secrets for Writing the Best Songs for Sync Licensing

by Dave Kusek

The Best Songs for Sync Licensing

In the past three years, all the top winning songs of the USA Songwriting Competition were placed in Box Office Hit Movies. The current winning song was also featured on the first episode of the hit TV show "American Idol" last Wednesday (January 6th). Music industry expert Dave Kusek talks about the secrets behind the lucrative sync licensing.

As a songwriter, you’re totally ahead of the pack when it comes to scoring sync license opportunities. You know how to create emotion with your melodies, how to convey a story with your lyrics, and how to set the mood with a few notes. But, because the music in TV and film is used to support the action rather than be the main event, you need to think about the songs you submit for sync opportunities a little differently.

To help you out, I created a free video lesson going through the easiest way for indie artists to break into the world of licensing. But first, check out these 4 tips that will help you start figuring out what songs you should focus your efforts on when it comes to licensing.  

Keep in mind that even weird or niche songs that don’t fit with these guidelines can get licensed given the right opportunity. But it will definitely take a little more research on your part to find productions that are looking for music off the mainstream path.

Also, you shouldn’t feel like you need to change your art to adapt to licensing situations. These tips and guidelines are to help you choose the songs to focus your sync licensing efforts on, not an instruction manual to songwriting for film and TV.

 

1. Vague Lyrics Work Best

As a songwriter, you probably use specific lyrics to help the listeners visualize and connect with a song. But this can sometimes backfire with sync licensing. In film and TV, the music is there to reinforce and support the scene. And that means your lyrics need to be relevant to what’s going on.

Think about it like this. If you write a song about a man named Francis who feels lost in life and packs up to move to Tokyo Japan only to find the love of his life in Harajuku station, it can only be used in a scene where the character feels lost, moves to Japan and finds their soul mate in a train station. And the chance that a movie with that exact scenario comes along is slim to none.

On the other hand, a song about feeling lost, self-exploration, and finding love in unexpected places would definitely fit in a ton of movies or TV shows. As you can see, the vagueness can make a song more adaptable and more licensable.

 

2. Stick with Common Themes

Take a minute to think about all the movies and shows you see on TV. More likely than not, they’re all based on a few common themes. Love, heartbreak, break ups, triumph over a struggle, suspense, and revenge are all plot lines you see popping up over and over again.

Filmmakers and TV producers always come back to these themes, because they work. It may seem cliché, but there will always be a market for music that supports these themes, so break out your cheesiest break up song and get it out there!

 

3. Stay Away from Explicit Content

As you surely know, film and TV have to stick to pretty strict age ratings. So what does that mean for you? Well if your song has too much swearing or explicit content, you’ve just seriously cut down your options to just R rated movies.

For sure, more adult themes can be a very important part of your art and the message you’re trying to get across, and you should have to compromise on that with your fans. But if you’re serious about going after sync, you could create clean versions of your songs and submit those PG versions to sync opportunities.

Explicit content aside, if you’re going after opportunities with companies like Disney, definitely take the time to also submit written out lyrics. Supervisors have to be very careful about the music they choose when working on content for a younger audience, and helping them out like this will definitely make you stand out from the crowd.

 

4. Don’t Forget Your Back Catalog

Most of the mainstream music industry is ruled by the newest and latest releases. But the world of sync licensing knows no time period. It’s not really about finding songs that are popular. Music supervisors are looking for the best song to support the scene, and this means you can and should submit songs from your back catalog.


If you want to learn more about music licensing, check out this short free video lesson. If you watch the whole lesson, you’ll get a secret free ebook with even more insider information on what music supervisors look for in music they license.

 

Dave Kusek is a digital strategist, consultant, entrepreneur, digital music pioneer, author, speaker, educator and Senior Partner and Chief Digital Officer at Digital Cowboys. Dave was Vice President at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the founder and CEO of Berkleemusic.com. Prior to that, Kusek helped develop the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), was co-inventor of the first electronic drums “Synare”, and co-founder of Passport Designs, the first music software company. In 2005 he co-authored the best selling music business book “The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution”.

Kusek is a founding faculty member at Berkleemusic and has been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Billboard, Wired, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Associated Press, Boston Business Journal, MTV, CNBC, SF Chronicle, Forbes, NBC-TV, Nightly Business Report, NPR, Financial Times, Guardian, Midem, Music Hack Day, Digital Music Forum, NAMM, AES, IEBA, MacWorld, Comdex, SXSW and Digital Hollywood.

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

   

   

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Writing songs for film and TV, Writing Songs for Sync Licensing, Sync Licensing, Writing Music for Sync Licensing, Writing Music for film and TV

How To Write A Hit Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jan 08, 2016 @09:48 AM

How To Write A Hit Song

by Mark Cawley

 songwriting

If chart success is your songwriting goal, then you need to pay attention to how today’s hits are actually written. MARK CAWLEY of iDoCoach.com shares some thoughts on breaking into a very competitive field..

Even as I sit down to write this, I can hear the groans. “Who is this guy? How can he claim to know how to write a hit? And if he knows, how come he hasn’t written a ton of them?”

So let me back up. No one can guarantee a hit. No label, no producer, no artist, and no songwriter. Max Martin misses, Diane Warren misses, Ryan Tedder misses. They all miss more often than they hit! There is no formula. But there are things you can do to up the odds of your song getting heard, cut, and (if all the stars align) becoming a hit.

 

Look Around You

Start by doing your homework. Listen to the hits and look for patterns. Are you hearing lots of songs about affirmation? Songs that say ‘I wanna see you be brave, stronger, beautiful, happy’? Songwriters have long understood that one of the quickest ways to a listener’s heart is to lift them up with your song. There’s a fancy term for this called ‘second person positive,’ which basically means writing lyrics that make someone else feel great about themselves. A classic example of this it would be the Joe Cocker standard, “You Are So Beautiful.”

I’m in Nashville and every publisher, artist and producer right now is asking for ‘uptempo positive’. The reason for this is the sheer volume of ballads and midtempo songs they get: for some reason, when a writer gets in the room with an acoustic guitar or a piano they turn into Ed Sheeran or James Taylor. It can be hard to create the energy required unless you plan for it, but again, your chances of getting that hit improve by giving the powers that be what they’re asking for.

One of the very best ways I know is to get in the habit of deconstructing recent hits. Go beyond just learning to play them: write down the structure, print out the lyric, make notes about the production. I’m always amazed at the songwriting clients I get who will say they want to write a huge song, but who pay absolutely no attention to the current hits. If you’re writing pop or even new country and still creating long intros, lots of verses, using only one hook, and aren’t familiar with terms like ‘post-chorus’, you might have a harder road.

Try going one step beyond deconstructing and create a playlist with a couple of hits along with a song of your own. Try to pick ones that might have a bit in common with yours, but the idea is to be objective. Does your song hold up to the two hits? If not, why? Go back to your notes. What’s different? The point is not to clone, just get this info into your subconscious so the next song you write is at least informed by structural ideas that are more current.

 

Do It Yourself

A bit of a disclaimer here. Even though you’re listening to the radio and learning the structural and lyrical as well as musical content, the songs you’re hearing were probably written and recorded as much as a year ago. If you set out to write something exactly like what you’re hearing, you’re likely already too late! So what can you do now?

Try and take it all in and then add yourself to the mix. What makes you different as a songwriter? Can you bring something fresh to your songwriting? You could argue there’s nothing new under the Sun, but I would disagree. Music goes in cycles, styles change, old becomes new every once in a while. Our job is to tap into a listener’s head and create something that a whole lot of people are gonna love at the same time.

It’s not easy, but the chances get better by not only honing your craft, but learning what came before (even if it’s only a month back). It all goes into your toolbox as a songwriter and gives you the best chance of writing a hit.

 

Team Up

Finally, I want to talk about the biggest obstacle to writing that hit on your own. This is something that comes up in my sessions all the time: people say to me, “I look at the writing credits on a Beyoncé song and see six writers! How can I hope to be heard, if I’m not part of one of these writing crews?” It’s a tough one. But keep in mind, not every song is a hit by committee!

 

There are two ways to go to access this route. One is to create your own team. If you’re a writer but have no aspirations to produce, find someone who’s interested in production and work with them. If you’re a writer but not the artist, look for local talent; find someone with star potential and hitch your wagon to them. Hit songwriter Liz Rose co-write with Taylor Swift when no one else really wanted to know, and that worked out rather well for her…

 

The other route is to join an existing team. I just read an interview with Dr Luke in which he talked about signing writers to his publishing company, usually for their unique talent. Anything from track-builders to vibe masters that know how to get the most out of co-writing with an artist. The point was they gained entry to the writing process, and some have moved from being the fourth writer on a song to producing artists and co-writing with them. I did this for a few years, working with Eliot Kennedy and his hit machine Steelworks in the UK. By getting access to the artists he was working with, I got cuts on many of them, including the No 1 single Day & Night by Billie Piper.

 

Again, there’s no magic bullet for writing a hit... but you can definitely educate yourself to get your best shot. Good luck!

 

[Reprinted by permission from Songwriter Magazine]

 

ABOUT MARK CAWLEY

Born in Syracuse, NEW YORK, Mark has LIVED in Nashville FOR the last 20 years. His songs have been recorded by Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, The Spice Girls and many more. These days, he mentors WRITERS AND ARTISTS around the globe via iDoCoach.

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, hit song, Lyrics, Writing Music, writing lyrics, Song writers, writing hit melodies

Songwriting Tip: Defaulting to the Nearest Cliché

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 @03:12 PM

Defaulting to the Nearest Cliché

by Harriet Schock

 CLICHE2

Computer language is replete with analogies. For instance, I think metaphors are like icons which can be dragged across the screen containing loads of information under them. And I think when we give in to using cliches, it’s like we’re using a default setting in our creative psyches.

Clichés can be musical or lyrical. They can be patterns created by our predecessors or patterns we have set, ourselves. I had a student recently who had written the phrase “tenderly kiss” and I asked him why he needed the “tenderly.” He said he’d heard it in about 30 songs and thought it should be in his. Eventually he saw that as the reason why it should not be in his. But like the old pair of shoes that’s ruining our feet, cliches are so comfortable. They slide on so easily. But they generally look worn-out.

Leaving the play, Julius Caesar, I overheard an audience member complain that Shakespeare was riddled with cliches. I had to laugh. I suppose it never occurred to this person that the lines became famous after he wrote them. We could all hope for that. But for the most part, the cliches in songwriting are just things we default to when we’re lazy or temporarily forgetful. It takes constant vigilance to avoid them.

What’s so bad about clichés? The world is full of them, right? In my opinion, the danger of cliches is that they allow the listener to escape. As long as you’re communicating with impact, the listener will be there, interested. But have you ever said a word over and over and over and suddenly it has no meaning? As a child, did you ever say “January, January, January, January…” until you started laughing because it sounded so odd? It no longer communicated “January.” I often marvel that 80-year-old Roman Catholic Priests can have said the same service every week for over half a century and still understand what the words mean. Overuse often robs individual words and word groups of their meaning. So what do we do to avoid them?

One way around clichés is to be as specific as possible. The pictures you pull out to tell your story with are the real tools of your lyric writing. And the more specific those pictures are, the more unique to your experience, the less likely they are to be cliches. No one else has had the exact experience you have, so if you describe it in detail, it will be uniquely yours. These details can be visual, aural, tactile and olfactory; I just use the word “picture” to cover all the senses.

So far we’ve been talking about lyrical clichés, and those which were created by our predecessors, but what about musical ones and ones we create, ourselves? Often we create our own musical clichés by defaulting to comfortable chord changes and melodic patterns. It’s good to have a recognizable style, but not to the point that all your songs sound alike. One way to get away from this type of cliché is to write away from the instrument you usually write on. Your ear may not go to those patterns your hands are slaves to. So if you write as long as you can, away from the instrument, you can sometimes break through those musical default cliches. Another way to avoid them is by playing in a key that’s unfamiliar. Sometimes you’ll hit a chord, not knowing what you’re playing and it’ll be great. It’s like the old joke: What does a jazzer do when he plays a wrong note? He plays it again. Carlos Olmeda wrote a song called “Dear Ana” which I love. There’s one particular chord I wait for with great anticipation. One night I asked him how he got that chord and he admitted it was a mistake that he loved when he heard it so he kept it. It’s so unsuspected. It’s thrilling when it happens that way.

Decades ago, in 1988, once Bobby Brown had used that unexpected diminished chord in “My Prerogative,” it seemed like everyone was using it.  It’s delightful to find something original, musically, because the pull to default to the nearest cliché in chord progressions is as strong as gravity. Melody also falls victim to it as people color within the lines by avoiding those non-chordal tones which can create such nice tension and interest.

Stephen King talks about writing to one imaginary reader. The next time you write a song, maybe you could write it for an imaginary listener. And when you do, and you feel like defaulting to the nearest cliché, ask yourself if your imaginary listener would still be listening. If not, then try one of the solutions I’ve mentioned above. Or make up one of your own! And if it works, let me know what it is.

 

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 most 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 to: www.harrietschock.com

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Songwriting, Helen Reddy, lyric writing, cliche