Songwriting Tips, News & More

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 04, 2011 @01:51 PM

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting, interviewed by Kiran Michaels

Ken Hirsch, Hit Songwriter


Ken Hirsch won First Prize in the Pop category of the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition as well as the Overall Second Prize with the song he wrote "Is That So Bad", co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell. He has also written the numerous hit songs such as “I've Never Been To Me” by Charlene and top 40 hit song “Two Less Lonely People In The World” by Air Supply. His songs have been recorded by legends in the music business. He talks to Kiran Michaels about how he writes songs and how he gets inspiration for it.  

1. You have written with the top names in the business today such as Hal David ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", "This Guy's in Love with You"), Gerry Goffin ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), Paul Williams ("Evergreen"), Howard Greenfield ("Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"), Ron Miller ("I've Never Been To Me" & "Touch Me in the Morning') and have written songs that have been recorded by the the biggest names: Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Air Supply, etc. Can you describe how you write a song? 

In my case, with most of the above co-writers, I created a complete melody first (which is always subject to change and molding)and then played it for them either live or on tape.  Most of these co-writers like to be inspired by a melody and rarely just write a freestanding lyric.  With Howie Greenfield, "Two Less Lonely People In The World" started as a title he had come up with from his personal book of titles and lyric fragments.  However, there have been just as many co-writes that happen simultaneously in the room which brings a whole other type of energy to the process.  On rare occasions I am given a partial/completed lyric or a lyric idea.  All three procedures are viable as long as the results work.  Every other blue moon I write both music and lyrics and thus avoid any creative conflicts and sharing of royalties!



2. Hal David, Gerry Goffin  and Howard Greenfield sounded like the people from the Brill Building. Did you ever write songs at the famed Brill building? 


No, when I was hitting the streets in 1970, it was kind of the end of the Brill building era  but a publisher I played my songs for in the building connected me with Doc Pomus ("Save The Last Dance For Me", "This Magic Moment"), one of the most famous of the Brill Building writers, who became my partner and mentor.  



3. How do you get ideas for creating a melody?

Other than seeing what bills need to be paid, usually an interesting set of intervals or chord progression can get the juices flowing.  

 

4. Who is your favorite songwriter, music wise? What did you learn from him/her?

In Pop it would have to be Burt Bacharach and Carol King.  Burt's sophistication combined with his innate soulfulness and Carol's ability to write hooks with a soulful energy are masterful.  They write melodies that are both accessible and unpredictable.  Then there's everyone else from Irving Berlin to Richard Rogers to Jule Styne to McCartney/Lennon to James Taylor to Ashford & Simpson, etc.



5. Who is your favorite songwriter, lyric wise?

I've been fortunate to write with some of the best so they all fall into that category.  I personally like lyrics that aren't too obscure, can be easily grasped or tell a great story.  Everyone from Sammy Cahn to Marty Panzer to so many of the country writers who really are wordsmiths of the first order.



6. How did you write your winning song? Did the melody come first or the lyrics or background music?

Our song "Is That So Bad" (co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell) actually started with a track that Peter was working on.  I added most of the melody and Rosie and Hillary, an artist we were working with, created the lyric.  It was loosely based on Hillary's own experience and then fleshed out by Rosie.  A fortunate confluence of events!  The final demo was produced by Smidi Smith and sung by Windy Wagner, so it's had quite a journey - so far! 



7. The top 3 winners this past year were all collaborations. Is collaboration in Songwriting important these days? 

It is and it isn't.  It depends on your strengths and ability to work with others.  But collaborations generally bring a lot of energy and ideas to the table that you necessarily wouldn't have come up with yourself.



8. Can you describe the collaboration with other writers and producers?

If everyone is pulling in the same direction it can be inspiring.  It helps if everyone can put their egos aside and concentrate on the work.  It's always a gamble, certain collaborators pull things out of you that you did not foresee.  It sometimes puts you into a different zone than what you're comfortable with but that can have positive results.  I've been writing a musical "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Robin Lerner ("This Kiss") and although we've never collaborated before we're both bringing different sensibilities to the project and it seems to be melding really well.  So the crapshoot this time is paying off!



9. What advice would you give to up-and-coming songwriters out there? 

It's all been said a million times but try to go with your gut and try not to compromise too much.  Having said that, try to be as objective as you can.  Don't fall in love with everything you write, many of the times it can be improved.  Don't be reluctant to give up on an idea if it's not working.  I try to separate myself from the writing and put myself in the place of the audience and imagine if I would enjoy listening to this song or if it moves me.  And it helps to have a very thick skin, never take the rejections personally - as hard as they may be to accept, there might be a fairy tale ending just around the corner.  And always keep the tape recorder running!

Ken will be performing his winning song along with a medley of his hit songs “I've Never Been To Me”, “Two Less Only People In The World”, etc at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at Bluebird Cafe on May 5th

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Ken Hirsch, hit songwriter, Billboard Top 40 Hit, Grammy, Gerry Goffin, Hal David, Carol King, Paul Williams, Howard Greenfield, Ron Miller, Brill Building

Tom Silverman: On Songwriters And The New Reality Of The Music Business

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 @06:17 PM

Tom Silverman On Songwriters And The New Reality Of The Music Business

Interview by Lorenz Rychner

 

Tom Silverman, founder the independent label Tommy Boy Records

Tom Silverman founded the independent label Tommy Boy thirty years ago. Over time it was home to a great many award-winning artists and consistently dominated the Dance charts.

Together with industry veteran Dave Lory, Tom Silverman launched the New Music Seminar (www.newmusicseminar.com) where today’s songwriters, artists, and recording musicians can tune into the latest industry trends as presented by high-profile producers, performers, and other industry figures who are at the forefront of the new developments.

We will report on the latest seminar taking place in February in Los Angeles. In the meantime, we wanted to hear Tom’s views on the state of the industry as it affects songwriters and new artists.—LzR

Formerly, songwriters/artists looking to make a career from performing their own material pretty much needed a record label deal to make it happen. Not now. What has changed?

Tom Silverman: I think it is important for songwriters to understand what’s going on with the music business, what the changes are, so that they can adapt and figure out the new ways of plugging in. There may be more opportunities than ever before, if you can see the big picture. A lot of them still think it’s business as usual.

So what I’m talking about is—as the business has gone downhill, like 80 percent in the last 10 years—the number of artists that are signed has decreased probably by 60 or 70 percent over what used to be released in the past by labels. People at labels have becoming very wary, they are not taking risks, they can’t afford to be wrong. In the old days if they batted .250 that was okay, now they have to bat .400. And on the ones that lose, they can’t really afford to lose that much money.

So who has the best chance to still benefit from a label deal?

Labels are looking for artists who already have a head of steam, who have built a base for themselves so they’re not starting from scratch. There are exceptions, but fewer and fewer. They are looking for artists who already have a big fanbase, like fifty thousand Facebook fans, a million YouTube views, so they are not starting from nothing. They are looking for different things than they used to look for, and radio isn’t necessarily breaking certain genres of music the way it used to. So all of that means that music is a lot different now.

How can a songwriter adapt if radio isn’t in his picture?

On radio you used to have about 30 seconds before the hook to get listeners interested before they would change station. For your songwriters it’s important to know that if you’re getting exposed on YouTube or on Spotify or even Pandora, you have five seconds to suck the listener in, because in ten seconds they could be somewhere else.

Goodbye intro...

Your readers might even consider using a different song structure for the promotional version, the one you put online, the one playing behind the YouTube video—instead of three or four minutes long, maybe it’ll be two minutes long because people’s attention span seems to have shortened compared to what it used to be. You want an opportunity to expose more music and give them a taste, and if they like it, they can go to iTunes and download the full four-minute version.

So there might be a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-out version of every song, in additon to the full three-verse version there might be a two-verse version...

...and the intro might not be an intro but the second half of the chorus to grab the listener...

Absolutely, so people have to start to experiment with different song lengths, different song structure. Listeners could be playing a game at the same time, checking their text messages—there are so many ways that people are ingesting music, it’s no longer either radio, or at a club, or in front of their hi-fi speakers at home.

And it’s mostly earbuds now...

I remember in the old days when I was producing records we always used to have that single mono Auratone speaker that we used to listen to the final mix to make sure nothing was missing. That was what it would sound like on a car radio or a kitchen radio, like what most people would be listening to. Now they might just as well have a little white wire coming out with two earbuds, and a little compressor that makes it sound like 192 kbps, and see if it still passes muster. When you’re in the studio, you listen to huge studio speakers with big amps, great sound from 20 to 20, but that’s not how people are listening to music, really. These are things people should watch and consider.

On your seminar website I saw the term “Creative Quartet”. What is it?

I also call it the Creative Conundrum; it is composed of four elements that combine to make an artist a hit artist. There is a lot of clutter in a world where over a hundred thousand albums are released a year, and over 81,000 of them sell less than 100 units, and 17,000 releases sell only one unit! Thousands of musicians produce releases on their home computers, with programs like Garageband, and they pay maybe 35 dollars to put it up on TuneCore, and these releases don’t get bought by anyone, but they get in the way of the artists who are in real studios spending real money in real time trying to break through. There’s so much clutter out there, the artists have to have a sound, everything about them has to be differentiated to have a chance at breaking through.

What are the four elements?

Okay, so we break it down.

• The first is the song. It has to stand out, above the other songs actually, the composition, including lyrics and everything about how the song is written.

• Second is the production, the recording, the performance—everything that happens in the studio.

• The third element is the live show; a lot of groups are breaking because of the notoriety of their live shows. If they’re great live, then that could be how they market themselves and promote themselves, and in some cases, a great-enough live show can make an artist break, even if the songs are just OK and the production is just OK but they are just so amazing live. More and more that is the case, as radio is diminishing in power.

• The fourth and last area is becoming the most important, more and more, and that’s the image, the concept, the story, the platform, what does the artist stand for, what do they look like, what is their image. All of that stuff that previously was intangible back in the pre-video days.

Not image as strictly looks...?

In the video days the look became more important, but now in the YouTube days, people are buying artists based on what they stand for, “How do they affect me?”. Susan Boyle is a great example, that one little video of her ended up selling 31/2 million albums in six weeks this time last year, based on what people liked about her that she stood for—here’s this hausfrau from Northern England, able to beat the odds, and people thought anything is possible and they bought that story. She’s singing the same song that Rod Stewart and a million other people sang before, and the production was good and the performance was competent, but if it was any other artist, if wouldn’t have sold a thousand copies.

She was different...

...so the whole thing is, how do you differentiate yourself? Her story was differentiated, plus there was the X-factor, England, which leaked over into the US on YouTube and got tens of thousands of views if not more.

Think about Lady Gaga, if not for her image, would she be this big? I mean she has good songs and good productions, but without the image, I don’t think so. What about the Black Eyed Peas without Fergie? Sometimes you just have to put the package together in a way that it makes sense.

The image has always been important, but it has never been more important than it is now, and by image I don’t just mean the look, I mean the story, what they stand for, is it a political band, are they nonconformist, do they stand for something like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead maybe, or a jam band might. Is there a perception that they are meaningful, is their lifestyle something people can relate to, they’re buying the lifestyle more than they’re buying the music. “I’m into what this artist is into, so I’m buying this guy”, as opposed to just the song.

Is this order of the elements fixed, or is number four creeping up to take the place of number one?

Well, the order I gave you is the chronological order that starts with the song of course. If I were to list the four elements in terms of impact they might have on somebody’s career potential, I would move the image up.

To the top?

Yes, in a way it is already number one. The image shouldn’t be the afterthought. The concept of the group should be decided on before the song is even written, because—if the songs don’t fit the concept of what they’re standing for, then it’s a mismatch and doesn’t work.

So the first thing an artist has to say before even getting into the studio or starting to write is “what do I stand for, what am I trying to say, how am I going to be different from any other artist, how can I differentiate myself in this area”.

Then he’ll make songs that differentiate themselves because the hooks or whatever will be so outstanding that they’ll reach out from the internet and grab you by the throat and suck you right in. So the next morning when you wake up, that song is still stuck in your head. That’s the purpose of a great song, and then the production is getting the great performance that delivers that song.

Maybe a song doesn’t have to have all four of those things, but it should have two or three.

Maybe an artist doesn’t do live show but his videos are killer...

...or there may be a case where the song is just so great that it overwhelms the need for an image. But usually those ones will sell a lot of singles on downloads but not albums. People always buy the album if the artist is meaningful to them, but not if only the song is big; then they don’t need the rest of the songs on the album, they just want the one song.

A lot of consumers just enjoy songs, and don’t have to have an artist attached to it, they just like that record. That’s OK, by the way; the new business, the economics of singles, could become substantial, because the other change in the business now, back to the way it used to be in the ’50s, is that five times as many singles are selling than albums. So I think a lot of writers, producers and artists are missing the opportunity to make hit singles.

I think also the artists are making the mistake of trying to make an album right away. I think the idea is to make a song, find the one song that’s going to move people, then the album will come out of that. Use the song to prospect, to tune up, to find your audience.

Sticking to singles allows someone to test the waters without breaking the bank.

Yes, and that’s not new. When I started Tommy Boy, we only did twelve-inches, we didn’t do 45s and we didn’t do albums yet. Until we found a twelve-inch that resonated, even in 1981 money, $3.98 was already four times what now a download is, and most of them only had two or three versions of the same song—instrumental, a cappella, maybe bonus beats and the radio version or the album version, so that was a good margin for us in those days. Imagine today, in dollars adjusted for inflation... that would be like nine or ten bucks. Imagine if you could get nine dollars per download, we’d have better economics and we could sign more artists than we’re signing now.

Anyway, that’s really what needs to be known. Making a whole album for a new artist, a writer or a producer will spend a whole lot of time, and usually that artist isn’t going to get picked up. But in the same amount of time they could do five or six different artists with two songs each and test those, and when one connects, then make the album. If it doesn’t connect, make another single.

Why are we as an industry so fixated on the album? It’s an anachronism that we have refused to accept. People are so egotistical, they think people want to buy a body of work from an artist or group when nobody even knows who they are yet. That’s pure ego, and it’s time for that to really stop for new artists. Once an artist is established and has built a fan base, when there is a demand, it’s a different thing. Until they do, a single is a fabulous tool for prospecting.

You also have a different perspective on making money from one’s music.

How do you change your mindset when you realize that music is the way you build your relationships with your fan base, but it’s not necessarily the way you’ll be making money? The way you’re gonna make money is merchandise, touring, maybe some music sales, and maybe other things we haven’t even thought of yet. But it’s the relationship that you’re monetizing, not the records per se.

So these are some of the things that we’re gonna be discussing at the seminar.

 

More about Tom Silverman can be found at www.newmusicseminar.com/blog/about-us/staff/ 

 

Excerpted from the March edition of Recording Magazine 2011

©2011 Music Maker Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission. 5408 Idylwild Trail, Boulder, CO 80301  Tel: (303) 516-9118 Fax: (303) 516-9119  For Subscription Information, call: 1-800-582-8326 or www.recordingmag.com For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

Tags: song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Songwriters, Song writers, Tom Silverman, tommy boy records, the music business, the new reality, New Music Seminar

Songwriters Tip: Presenting Yourself as a Pro

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 02, 2011 @05:25 PM

Presenting Yourself as a Pro

(By Molly-Ann Leikin)

Molly-Ann Leikin
In Nashville, one of the most successful songwriters of all time writes on Mondays and Wednesdays, then spends the rest of the week wearing another hat altogether.  The man is not a tunesmith on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.  He is in business.  That’s when he pitches his songs.


Business people make professional-sounding phone calls, write professional-looking mail email, texts, and check their spelling. They arrive on time, look solid and immediately gain the respect of the person on the other side of the desk – in our case, the guy with the contract and the money.      


Recently, while interviewing candidates for a job in my company, people I’d spoken to at length on the phone who sounded like great possibilities, showed up late and stoned in flip flops.  They texted during our conversation, spelled songwriting with two t’s and didn’t know who David Foster was.  Folks - that’s not it.
If you looked at yourself in the mirror, would you hire you?  Would you want to do business with the person you’re looking at?  Do you appear to be a solid investment?  And most important, do you know what the guy on the other side of the desk needs - not just what you want him to want?    


It would help if you consider yourself a potential business partner, not somebody begging for a shot.  That sure changes the dynamic, doesn’t it?       


Do you have a business card?  If not, get one.  A clever one.  Make it as original as your music.  After all, nobody can stuff a CD in his wallet.  At least not yet.        Always remember this:  you have something to contribute to the literature of music that nobody else but you can, because nobody else but you is you.  
Present it in a professional manner, and you’re half way home.

© 2011 Molly-Ann Leikin
Molly-Ann Leikin is a Career Mastery Coach and Songwriting Consultant.  An Emmy nominee, Molly has 14 gold and platinum records, plus four ASCAP Country Music Awards.  She's the author of "How To Write A Hit Song" and "How To Be A Hit Songwriter" and has written themes and songs for over four dozen TV shows and movies, including "Violet” that won an Oscar.   Molly has helped launch the careers of thousands of singers and songwriters, three of whom have Grammy nominations.  She can be reached at: www.songmd.com or 800-851-6588.    

Tags: Songwriting, American Idol, Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriters Tip, Presenting Yourself as a Pro, song writing. song writer, The Carpenters, Emmy Awards, Country Music Awards

Songwriting Tip: 5 Tips to Build a Kick Ass EPK

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 01, 2011 @12:31 PM

5 Tips to Build a Kick Ass EPK (Press Kit) by Tess

EPK sonicbids

 

High fidelity audio is key. Long gone are the days where a cheaply recorded demo is fine to shop to promoters and music buyers. With high-quality studio equipment becoming more and more accessible and home studios beefing up, it’s hard to ask any music professional to ignore the fidelity of your recording anymore. Keep the demos as a fun thing to share with fans on your blog, while your EPK highlights your highest quality work.

 

Invest in a quality Main Photo. Picture an image of 4 flannel-wearing guys, one holding a fiddle, all with long beards standing in a grassy field. Now, picture an image of 3 girls, all dressed in purple with loads of pink lipstick and their hair taking up half of the frame. You can at least safely assume these two bands don’t make the same genre of music, even though you haven’t heard either of them play. What I’m trying to say here is that your image matters. I know that ideally your “music will speak for itself” …but I hate to say it… it doesn’t. The viewer of your EPK sees that before anything else and it sets an immediate expectation of who you are and what you’re about. You main photo is your first impression. So don’t skimp on investing in your promo photos and make sure it gives off the right image for your sound.

 

Write a descriptive Elevator Pitch. If you were riding in an elevator with a stranger, and you had 30 seconds to sell your band to that person, what would you say? Choose your words carefully on your EPK elevator pitch, because this is your chance to grab the reader’s attention. The most important thing to remember is that the pitch should describe the music, because music is what the reader is looking for. The second thing to remember is that arrogance, triteness, and vagueness don’t work well. Avoid saying things like: “You’ve never heard anything like this before!” or “My music defies all genre and comparisons.” If you want to talk quality, highlighting a single great quote from a blogger or a recent award is a good tactic to get the point across.

 

Display complete Calendar Dates. A complete and up-to-date Gig Calendar is one of the most important and useful things to have in your EPK. It’s pretty simple: your calendar is your line-item resume. Promoters, especially those for performance opportunities, want to know the types of venues you are playing, how often you are performing, and even what nights of the week you tend to play. A complete calendar that includes past performance dates gives viewers a great idea as to where you are in your career, and if you’re a good fit for their gig. Also, many promoters prefer to see bands live themselves before booking - without the where and when, no one will know where to go to see you play and they most likely won’t go to the extra effort to head to your Myspace to check it out.

 

List out your Press Reviews. It’s nice to tell everyone how great you are, but it’s even better if you can show how great other people say you are. Keep in mind that brevity isn’t just the soul of wit – it’s the soul of everything in the music world. Choose the best quotes from the best articles and include those. And when I say “Press” I don’t mean only the New York Times. Posting links to bloggers that gave you a shout is definitely something to include.

 

Sonicbids.com is a sponsor of the 16th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. If you want some more tips, check out the Sonicbids Lounge – our blog dedicated to educational content – or find me on Twitter @SonicbidsTess and we can keep the conversation going.

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, sonicbids, EPK, press kit, electronic press kit, music production, music artist

USA Songwriting Competition's Christopher Tin Wins 2 Grammy Awards

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 @02:35 PM

Christopher Tin

USA Songwriting Competition winner Christopher Tin wins 2 Grammy Awards at last night's 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. This marks a historic win, making Christopher the only USA Songwriting Competition winner to win 2 Grammy Awards in the same year. Christopher Tin won an honorable mention award at the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition with the same song that won two Grammy awards. 


Christopher Tin is an American, Grammy-winning composer whose work is primarily classical, with a world music influence. He won two Grammy Awards for his classical crossover album, Calling All Dawns. He is also a composer for films, video games and commercials. Tin is best known for his composition Baba Yetu, featured in the 2005 computer game, Civilization IV. Christopher Tin made video game history today, becoming the first composer to win a Grammy Award for a song composed for a game. Tin took out the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) at the 53rd Grammy Awards in Los Angeles yesterday for his composition "Baba Yetu", the opening track from Sid Meier's Civilization IV. Tin also won the Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album for his debut album, Calling All Dawns, which also features the song "Baba Yetu".


He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, becoming the first to be awarded one for film scoring, to study composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music in London, and he graduated with a MMus with Distinction. He was also the winner of the Horovitz composition prize, and graduated with the highest grades in his class. He was also commissioned by the US Embassy in London to compose music for a string quartet. In 2003, he became a Sundance Institute Film Music Lab Fellow.
Darrell Scott (2005 USA Songwriting Competition First Prize Winner, Country) was nominated for a Grammy Award of Best Country Instrumental Performance of his song "Willow Creek" at the latest 53rd Grammy awards. 


Past USA Songwriting Competition winners that have gone on to win Grammy awards include: Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxler who won first prize in the Children's catgeory of the USA Songwriting 2004 and won a Grammy in 2005. Current top winner of the USA Songwriting Competition, Alannah Myles won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Performance in 1991. Dave Merenda (Honorable Mention Winner, 15th USA Songwriting Competition) won a grammy award as a co-writer with Sarah McLaughlin with their song "I will Remember You". Dave will be performing live at USA Songwriting Competition's songwriters showcase during the SXSW (South By South West) on Friday 18, 2011 at Borders Books & Music (4477 S. Lamar, Austin, TX).


USA Songwriting Competition has a long history of having winners getting success, recording and publishing contracts, have their songs placed on the charts as well as having their songs placed on film and television. 2009 First Prize winner (country) was signed to Universal Records. 2005 First Prize winner (Pop) Kate Voegele was signed to Interscope Records the year after she won and had her winning song hit top 40 on the Billboard Charts, her latest album hit Top 10 on the Billboard 200 Album charts this summer. 2007 Overall Grand Prize Winner Ari Gold had his winning song “Where The Music Takes You” hit #10 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Judges include A&R managers from record labels such as Warner, Capitol Records, Universal, BMG/SONY Music. 

For more information on the 16th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, visit:

http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, USA Songwriting Competition, Composer, Grammy, Grammy Awards, Hits, Christopher Tin, Royal College of Music, London, composing

Songwriting Tip: Creating A Standout Chorus

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 @06:18 PM

Creating A Standout Chorus
by Danny Arena 
dannyarena.jpg
One of the most common musical traps songwriters fall into is having a chorus that sounds too much like the verse. Remember that the whole point of having different sections in your song is to have variety. As a general rule of thumb, different musical sections such as verses, lifts, choruses and bridges should contrast each other. This makes each section unique, which keeps the song musically interesting. This is especially important in the chorus section, which really needs to stand out from the rest of the song. 

So how we can apply this idea of creating contrast to the music? Since music has three fundamental components (melody, harmony, and rhythm), we have three ways of creating a contrast between different musical sections. Let’s explore each of these methods of contrast a little more carefully.

  • Melodic Contrast - To create an effective melodic contrast, make sure that the chorus is higher than the verse. The easiest test of this is to try and draw a line representing the melody in your song. If you have a hill or peak in the chorus compared to the verse, then you’ve probably done your job. On the other hand, if you end up with a fairly straight line, you have what I call a "flatline" melody (it means exactly what the term implies - the song has been pronounced melodically dead). Often this happens if a writer begins the verse in their highest singing register. When they get to the chorus, there’s nowhere higher they can sing, so it stays in the same range. The end result is a melody that doesn’t move enough. The simplest way to avoid this trap is to write the verse in a comfortable, but low melodic range. This gives you plenty of room to move upward in the chorus. If you write the chorus first, try to keep it in your upper singing register. This will give you room to make the verse melody lower while still creating an effective contrast. Naturally, you have to keep an eye on the overall range to make sure it’s not beyond a typical singer’s range (usually an octave plus three or four notes). 
  • Harmonic Contrast - A second way to make different musical sections contrast is harmonically. The chords used in a song supply the musical foundation for the melody as well as establishing the emotional feel of the song. If both the verse and chorus use the same chord progression, there’s a good chance those sections will sound too similar. The same goes for the bridge or lift section. Try to consciously choose a different chord progression for each different musical section. The easiest way to achieve this is to start each section on a different chord. If the verse starts on a G chord then begin the chorus on a different chord like C, and your bridge on an Am chord. For example, the verse to the Grammy award winning song, "Wind Beneath My Wings" (Henley/Silbar) starts on a G chord while the chorus begins on an Em chord. This doesn’t mean you can’t start both your verse and chorus on the same chord, but if you do, be sure to include some other method of contrast.
  • Rhythmic Contrast - A third way to create an effective contrast between sections is by changing the rhythm of the melody between the verse and chorus. The best example I can think of is the perennial Howard/Arlen song, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (which contains a bridge or "B" section rather than a chorus). Try to imagine the rhythm of the verse melody in your head. Hear those big long half notes on words like "way" and "up"? For the most part, the verse rhythm is composed of half notes. Now try to hear the bridge section of the song ("someday I’ll wish"). Can you tell the difference? The bridge section is comprised mainly of the quicker rhythm of eighth notes, which creates an effective contrast to the half notes in the verse. It’s also interesting to note that both the verse and the bridge begin on the same chord and are in the same melodic range. The rhythmic change supplies the only musical contrast between the verse and bridge sections and it’s enough to keep us tuned in to the song. If you’re solely a lyricist, rhythmic contrast is a great thing that you can build into your lyrics by simply paying particular attention to the rhythm of the words in each section

Just remember when you’re looking for a way to create a distinctive chorus, remember you have several options. Hope to see you on the charts. 


Songwriter Danny Arena Danny Arena 
is a Tony-Award nominated songwriter and co-founder of www.SongU.com. SongU.com provides multi-level song writing courses developed by award-winning songwriters, song feedback, mentoring, one-on-one song coaching, co-writing, unscreened pitching opportunities and more. For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go tp: http://www.songwriting.net 

Tags: Chorus, Songwriting, Billboard Charts, Danny Arena, SongU.com, Tony-Award nominated songwriter

Kate Voegele Talks About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Aug 24, 2010 @09:59 AM

Kate Voegele won first prize in the Pop category of the USA Songwriting Competition in 2005 and became the youngest winner at that time at just 18 years old as a teen phenom.

She went on to perform at USA Songwriting Competition showcase at SXSW (see picture below) and was signed to Interscope Records shortly after. Her winning song "Only Fooling Myself" went on to hit top 40 on the Billboard charts that year. Her 2nd album hit the Billboard 200 Album charts at #10. She has appeared on major TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", acted in "One Tree Hill" and toured with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. 

Kate Voegele Performing at USA Songwriting Competition showcase at SXSW

 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, Kate Voegele, how to write a song, American Idol, writing songs, Lyrics, lyric writing, USA Songwriting Competition, Billboard Charts, One Tree Hill, Billboard Album Charts, Hits, hit song writer, tips on how to write a song, Conan O'Brien

Songwriting Advice: The Missing Structure of the Music Industry

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 @04:05 PM

Missing Structure of the Music Industry

The music industry is an interesting one. 20 percent of the music industry record labels owned by Sony, Universal, EMI and Warner owns 80 percent of the music industry. This Pareto's Principle like "80-20" rule is hard to acknowledge but true. 

Success in the music industry is in the eye of the beholder. Less than one out of a hundred artists (music artists such as singer-songwriters) will have a song or album on the record charts such as Billboard or make 1 million in sales. That's less than 1%. This superstar 1% level control 80% of all music sales, songs you hear on the radio, downloads, concerts, etc. Singer-songwriters such as Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kate Voegele, Darrell Scott have sustaining careers, playing large venues hitting the Billboard Charts or making 1 million in sales.

The remaining 99% of the rest of the industry struggle to get signed, let alone hitting the charts, remaining in perpetual captivity. Most independent artists print 1,000 copies of their CDs and struggle to even sell half (500). They would make $80,000 or less per year in revenues or concert tickets per year. With no direction 99% remain in this captivity as they struggle through each day. The top 1% are using a system that 99% aren't.  

However, there is a solution, it is called The Hit Songwriter Process™ , this is a proven method used by major record labels would release 99% of the music industry. The music artists break through out of that captivity and shatter the ceiling of complexity. This missing structure is what missing in the music industry. The general public thinks American Idol and America's Got Talent are means to an end. The missing structure is a tough 8 step method to make a music artist breakthrough. 

The Hit Songwriter Process™ , is the missing structure where talent and ambitious music artists can achieve the $1 million in sales and above. It is the only way to do it in a strategic manner 

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Kate Voegele, Ari Gold, American Idol, Darrell Scott, Music Industry, The Hit Songwriter Process, The Missing Structure, Madonna

Top 10 Most Influential Songwriters Alive

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 24, 2010 @09:55 PM

 

By Ira Greenfield

A few weeks ago, I sent out a tweet to ask who you think is the best songwriter alive. We received many messages on who they think is the best. This is a list I have compiled:

Bob Dylan

 

1. Bob Dylan
With inconic songs such as "Blowing In The Wind", "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Times Are A Changing", Dylan social messages ranked high above other songwriters today.


2. Paul McCartney
Paul is the most successful songwriter in the world, according to the Guiness Books of world records. With his stints in the greatest rock group in the world "The Beatles", later with "The Wings" and went on to a solo career. With his late co-writer Lennon,they are considered one of the greatest songwriting collaboration in history.


3. Elton John
He has written numerous hit songs with Bernie Taupin, their iconic songs "Your Song", "Candle In The Wind", "Rocketman". Not a day goes by that you do not hear any of these songs in a cover band in a hotel bar.


4. Neil Young
Neil has been in lengendary bands such as "Buffalo Springfield", "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" and later on a solo career.


5. Bruce Springsteen
With rock anthems such as "Born To Run", "Born In The USA", "Glory Days", need I say more?


6. Diane Warren
Just about every artist has cut a song written by Diane Warren. She was the first songwriter in the history of Billboard magazine to have seven hits, all by different artists, on the singles chart at the same time. Warren owns her own publishing company, Realsongs, which gives her control over her songs. Her number 1 hits include "Because You Loved Me", "Un-Break My Heart", "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". She still remains the most in demand songwriter in the music industry today.


7. Desmond Child
Desmond has written iconic number 1 hits such as "Livin' on a Prayer", "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' La Vida Loca". His diverse list of artists such as Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin, Cher, Aerosmith and Clay Aiken, Desmond is running close to Dianne Warren.


8. Paul Simon
From his days with Garfunkel, his solo career, his stint with South Africian music, Paul has written songs that mean something.


9. Brian Wilson
Brian was the primary songwriter in The Beach Boys, also functioning as the band's main producer, composer, and arranger. In 1988, Wilson and his band-mates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which refers to him as "One of the few undisputed geniuses in popular music".


10. Leonard Cohen
Leonard Norman Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist. In 2010, Cohen received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Lou Reed described Cohen as belonging to the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters."

 

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


Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Bob Dylan, Diane Warren, Paul Simon, Desmond Child, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Top 10 best songwriters, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson, Leonard Cohen

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