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Jessica Brandon

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How Words Change as a Song Progresses

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 01, 2019 @07:00 AM

How Words Change as a Song Progresses


by Gary Ewer

Songwriter2

Over the 4 minutes of a good song, it’s normal for some things to stay the same while other things change. The kinds of things that usually get set up at the beginning and resist change would be the tempo and the basic feel of the song. The kinds of things that change would be the chord progressions, the melodies, and of course the lyrics.

How do they change? Typically, they change depending on the song’s section. A verse melody tends to be lower in pitch than a chorus melody. A verse chord progression tends to be longer and have a more “wandering” quality than a chorus progression, which is usually shorter and tonally stronger.

And you become aware that the kinds of words—the way you’d say something – will be different in a chorus than in a verse. It may not be something you’ve noticed before, but if you struggle with words, and getting your lyric to sound strong and to have an impact, you’ve got to know how words change over the length of a song.

 

Verse Lyrics

Song lyrics can be neatly categorized as being narrative, describing people, situations and circumstances, or emotional, expressing feelings and reactions to whatever the story has been about.

In general, the telling of the story or describing of circumstances happens in a verse. So you’ll want to use your verse to set up a good story, and keep emotion to a minimum.

The verse lyric of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a great example. He uses the verse to sing about a situation that is, at its core, quite emotional, but he keeps that emotion controlled and minimal:

Now and then I think of when we were together

Like when you said you felt so happy you could die

Told myself that you were right for me

But felt so lonely in your company

But that was love and it's an ache I still remember.

 

As you can see, there is emotion, but it's controlled and measured.

 

Chorus Lyrics

A good chorus lyric allows the listener to generate and enjoy emotions that come from the story that’s been set up in the verse. That chorus lyric may add to the story, but its chief responsibility is to allow the listener to feel something. So that’s why you so often see exclamations (“Ooooh”, “yeah, yeah, yeah…”, or “whoa.” You’ll also see that a chorus lyric might use a catchy lyrical hook (“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”), but in any case, its main responsibility is to have the audience feel something emotional.

The chorus of “Somebody That I Used to Know” shows that the difference between verse and chorus is usually subtle, but it’s important:

But you didn't have to cut me off

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing

And I don't even need your love

But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

No, you didn't have to stoop so low

 

Bridge Lyrics

If your song contains a bridge, you’ll notice that those kinds of lyrics are a little different again. Because a bridge (or middle-8) is used to finish the story and to get to the point of the song, it’s common to see bridge lyrics that give a narrative style “then-this-happened” line, and follow it quickly with a “so-then-I-felt-this” kind of responding line. Or it might be a series of lines that, while adding to the story, are filled with emotion.

In the hit song “Just Give Me a Reason” (Pink, Jeff Bhasker, Nate Ruess), the bridge is a perfect demonstrator of what the lyric is supposed to do. We get an important part of the story (our relationship is a bit of a mess, but “nothing is as bad as it seems…”) – a perfect blend of story and emotion:

Oh, tear ducts and rust, I'll fix it for us

We're collecting dust, but our love's enough

You're holding it in, you're pouring a drink

No, nothing is as bad as it seems, we'll come clean

 

Why This Is Important

Whether we’re talking about music, stories, or even just real life, we generate emotions based on what we hear or experience. Emotions don’t just happen without some sort of back story. So if you use your song lyric to basically say “I feel so bad”, but you don’t give any kind of background to why, it becomes an empty emotion, and audiences will feel confused and ultimately bored.

So as you write your next song, do this:

  1. Write your verse lyric on one page and your chorus lyric on another.

  2. Read your verse lyric to yourself, and try to assess it for its story-telling qualities. It doesn’t need to be devoid of emotion, but you should be aware that its main purpose is to tell the audience what’s going on.

  3. Read the chorus to yourself, and try to assess it for the emotions it describes and generates. A good chorus doesn’t need to add to the story as such, but should express emotions that make sense when compared to the story of the verse.

When it works well, a song lyric acts as a kind of musical seesaw, where we feel emotion rising and falling. That kind of change over time is vital to keeping audiences listening and interested.

A couple of years ago I did a video that describes this important issue, using the song “Losing Sleep” by John Newman. You can see that lyric here: https://youtu.be/m4USyNw6-gk

 

Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” blog. Gary Ewer is a music instructor, clinician, conductor and composer. He has been writing about songwriting on his “Essential Secrets of Songwriting” blog for the past 11 years. http://www.secretsofsongwriting.com

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Verse, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, song demo, bridge, demo recording, Gary Ewer, music writing

5 Tips for Improving Your Song’s Melodic Hooks

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 01, 2019 @07:07 AM

5 Tips for Improving Your Song’s Melodic Hooks

by Jason Blume

 songwriting2015

Melodic hooks can be the heart of a song. These tasty bits of ear candy can make the difference between an “almost” – and a life-changing hit. They can be instrumental or sung and can occur in any section of a song – the intro, verse, chorus, pre-chorus, post-chorus, bridge, or outro. Catchy musical phrases hook in your listeners and keep them on the proverbial line. They can occur in multiple sections of a given song (i.e., a verse, a pre-chorus, and chorus) and although it is not typical, there can be more than one musical and/or vocal hook per section. But they are most frequently found in choruses and post-choruses.

Ideally, unforgettable hooks pop into our heads–or pour out of our keyboards or guitars–spontaneously. But when they don’t, we can apply craft to create these extra-memorable melodic moments and add additional hooks to maximize our songs’ chances for success.

Let’s look at five ways to embellish our melodies and help them burn into listeners’ brains.

1. Use a Stutter

A stutter in a song occurs when melody is crafted so that part of a word—typically the first syllable—is repeated one or more times by the vocalist. A perfect example of a song with a st-st-st-stutter is Carrie Underwood’s smash hit, “Undo It” (written by Underwood with Kara DioGuardi, Marti Fredericksen, and Luke Laird). The title is sung “Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Uh-Undo It,” turning the stutter into the primary hook in the chorus. For another example, listen to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” (written by Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin). It’s hard to imagine that #1 song without its signature stutter, the “Buh-Buh-Buh” that precedes the name “Bennie.”

2. Repeat a Rhythm

Write a melody that includes a unique, instantly memorable rhythm in the vocal melody of a given section of your song (i.e., verse, chorus …). Then repeat this rhythm multiple times within the same part of the song. In order to accomplish this, each line that has the same rhythm needs to have the same—or approximately the same—number of syllables in the lyric that accompanies it.

This technique resulted in a powerhouse hook in GRAMMY winning Best Rock Song, “When I’m Gone” (recorded by 3 Doors Down and written by band members Brad Arnold, Todd Harrell, Matt Roberts, and Chris Henderson). Note how the last note of each line of the chorus is emphasized, and that every line of the chorus melody repeats almost the same rhythm, creating a melody that delivered it to the top of Billboard’s Top 40 Mainstream and Hot Mainstream Rock charts.

To hear another great example of the power of this technique, listen to the quirky rhythms in the melodic phrases that repeat in the verses of Old Dominion’s “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” (written by Jesse Frasure, BMI’s reigning Country Songwriter of the Year, with Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, and Brad Tursi). Also note the musical phrase that repeats in the choruses.

3. Include a “Nonsense Syllable”

In this context, a nonsense syllable refers to a sound that is sung but has no meaning. These include: “Ooh,” Oh,” Yo,” “Ay,” “Ahh,” “Ooh,” and “I.” These (and other sounds) can be joined together to create vocal hooks that combine melodies with sounds such as, “Oh-I, Oh-I, Oh,” “Ooh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh,” and “Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay-Oh-Ay-Oh.”

Camila Cabello’s breakthrough smash, “Havana” (featuring Young Thug, and written by Cabello with Jeffrey Williams, Frank Dukes, Brittany Hazzard, Ali Tamposi, Brian Lee, Andrew Watt, Pharrell Williams, Kaan Gunesberk, and Louis Bell) added the sound “ooh-na-na (ay, ay)” to the title to create an unforgettable hook.

Similarly, Sugarland used “Whoa-oh, whoa-oh” to take their song, “Stuck Like Glue” (written by Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush, Kevin Griffin, and Shy Carter) to the #1 slot on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs Chart, racking up more than 2.6 millions digital sales along the way.

4. Add a catchy post-chorus

A post-chorus can be defined as a part of a song that occurs after the chorus, providing an additional hook that typically includes vocals. It introduces melody that is not heard in the chorus or elsewhere in the song, and in many instances, it has few lyrics that have not previously been heard in the song. It often reiterates the title and incorporates nonsense syllables.

Examples of strong post-choruses include Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time” (written by Urban with James Abrahart and William Wells). For more information about post-chorus references, check out “The Power of Post-Choruses.”

5. Include a Catchy Instrumental Lick

A musical motif, sometimes referred to as a signature lick, is a melodic phrase that is typically introduced in a song’s intro and recurs throughout the song. Some hit songs, such as Vanessa Carlton’s “Thousand Miles” and Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" have multiple instrumental phrases that serve as hooks. Carlton’s #1 hit includes a motif that is played on piano during the intro and in the verses, as well as the instrumental hook played by the strings in the second half of the verses.

One of my favorite instrumental hooks is the guitar lick that introduces Rascal Flatts’ recording of “What Hurts the Most” (written by Jeffrey Steele and Steve Robson). This version of the song reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and Adult Contemporary charts and received a Country Song of the Year GRAMMY nomination. The same lick can be heard (with slight variations) played on a synthesizer in Cascada’s pop/dance recording of the same song.

At a recent songwriting workshop, I led my students through an exercise during which they applied each of these techniques to one of their songs. They explored including a stutter, repeating hooky rhythms, adding nonsense syllables, writing a post-chorus, and incorporating a catchy musical lick.

One unforgettable hook can be your song’s ticket to the top of the charts. But why stop at one, when multiple hooks can maximize your chances of success?

Try these tools in your own songs. Not every song will be benefit from each of these techniques; the decision needs to be made on a song-by-song basis. But you won’t know whether one or more of these melodic tools might take your song to the next level unless you try.
 

(Reprint Permission granted by BMI)

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

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, song demo, Jason Blume, demo recording, Instrumental Hooks, Catchy Rhythm, syllables, music writing, Instrumental Lick, Melodic Hooks, Stutter, post-chorus

Songwriters Podcast Radio Program 2019

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Mar 11, 2019 @05:04 PM

Songwriters Podcast Radio Program


Click here to listen to the latest edition of the Songwriters Radio Program featuring: David Wilcox, Priscilla Renae, latest Grammy winner - Lucy Kalantari, Ships Have Sailed, Michael McDaniel, Darrell Scott, Ari Gold, Breaking Southwest, etc.

In its landmark year, the USA Songwriting Competition is currently accepting entries. To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition online, Click Here>>

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, Meghan Trainor, Pricilla Renea, Lucy Kalantari

[Songwriting Advice] Size Matters: A Study in Prosody

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Mar 01, 2019 @07:00 AM

[Songwriting Advice] Size Matters: A Study in Prosody

by Pat Pattison

 LanaDelRay

Lana Del Ray’s single, Ride, creates a picturesque and surreal journey down an open road, leading us through a landscape that fuses relationships, mental turmoil and escape. The song is about motion, about the instability of a physical circumstance and mental state that causes her to lean into the future, to slide away from the confines of her past. Or something like that.

Anyway, it currently has over 62 million views on youtube, so lotsa folks like it.

Here are the first four sections:

(Insert Ride (unedited) here)

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble,

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

I just ride,

Just ride

 

Again, the song is all about moving. Yet, at the end of the last section, I didn’t feel the urge to move. I should have, but I didn’t. Why not?

First, let’s take a minute to talk about the concept of Prosody.

 

Prosody

Aristotle said that every great work of art contains the same feature – unity. Everything in the work belongs –supports every other element. Another word for unity is prosody – the “appropriate relationship between elements, whatever they may be.” Some examples of prosody in songs might be:

Prosody between words and music: a minor key could create, a feeling of sadness to support or even create sadness in an idea.

Prosody between syllables and notes: appropriate relationship between stressed syllables and stressed notes – a really big deal in songwriting. When they are lined up properly, the shape of the melody matches the natural shape of the language.

Prosody between rhythm and meaning: obvious examples like

 

“you gotta stop!.......(pause).................look and listen.”

 

Or writing a song about galloping horses in a triplet feel.

 

The elements of the song must all join together to support the central intent, idea and emotion of the work. Everything fits. Prosody is the appropriate relationship between elements.

Stable vs. Unstable

Stable vs. unstable is an effective window into prosody – a practical tool for creating prosody because it covers every aspect of a song: from the idea, to the melody, the rhythm, the chords, the lyric structure --everything. It governs the choices you make. Ask yourself, is the emotion in this section stable or unstable? Once you answer that question, you have a standard for making all your other choices.

 

Number of Lines

Every section you’ll ever write – verses, choruses, pre-choruses, bridges—will have (here it comes, get ready) some number of lines or other! OK, not much of a revelation. Even more specifically, every section you’ll ever write will have either an even number of lines, or an odd number of lines. Wow. Even more of an, um, revelation…

Now let’s talk a bit about an odd number of lines. An odd number of lines feels, er, odd -- off balance, unresolved, incomplete UNSTABLE. Let’s say you’re writing a verse where the idea is something like: “Baby, since you left me I’ve been feeling lost, odd -- off balance, unresolved, incomplete, UNSTABLE. Just theoretically, do you think this verse would be better with an even number of lines or an odd number of lines? Right. An odd number of lines.

This changes everything. You’ve recognized, maybe for the first time, that there can be a relationship between what you say and how many lines you use to say it. You’re feeling UNSTABLE, and the odd or UNSTABLE number of lines supports that feeling. Prosody. Your structure (in this case, your number of lines) can support meaning.

An even number of lines tends to feel, well, even -- solid, resolved, balanced, STABLE. Let’s say that your message is something like: “Baby, you’re the answer to all my prayers. I’ll be with you forever. I’m your rock. You can count on me.” How many lines should you use? Odd or even? Right. Even. You want a solid feeling in the structure to support the emotion you’re trying to communicate. “I mean it. You can trust me.” Prosody.

On the other hand, an odd number of lines feels, er, odd. Like it’s missing something. It creates a feeling of leaning forward. It feels unstable.

With this in mind, let’s take another look at these sections of Ride:

(Insert Ride (unedited) here)

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble,

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

I just ride,

Just ride

 

All four sections have an even number of lines. At least in this regard, all four feel stable. They don’t move. Let me repeat that: they don’t move.

Though the song is all about moving, all four sections stop. All four sections balance. That may not be an issue in the first section, where she’s stating facts. No drama, no motion, just facts.

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

The even-numbered six-line section supports the facts nicely. Even the second section, where she’s giving commands, seems appropriate for an even number of lines:

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

But it seems to me that sections three and four might profit from some instability, especially the title lines, the emotional centerpiece of the whole song:

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

I just ride,

Just ride

 

I’m an obsessive tinkerer, so I wondered what this might sound as a three lines section. It’s easy enough to toss the song into Garageband and do a little chopping, so I did. Here’s what it sounds like, omitting the third line:

(Insert Ride Edit 1 Chorus here)

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

Just ride

 

Nice. Can you feel the motion? The longing? The instability? Yup, the number of lines actually creates a feeling all by itself. It comments on the words like a film score comments on the images on the screen. It tells you how to feel about what you’re hearing, simply by applying the concept of Prosody, in this case, working with the number of lines in the section. The section moves forward, supporting the idea, Ride.

Listen to it in the context of all four sections.

(Insert Ride Edit 1 Complete here)

Still, the third section feels like it balances and stops motion with its even number of lines, making the last section have to do all the emotional work. What if the third section,

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble,

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

could push forward too? After all, it’s drenched with longing:

 

Back to Garageband for another edit, deleting the third line. Listen:

(Insert Ride Edit 2 Pre-Chorus here)

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

Now, combined with the unstable fourth section, you can feel even more motion:

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

Just ride

Now all four sections create prosody – their structures support their meaning, and, in the process, create a nice contrast between stable and unstable sections, making the third and fourth section’s forward motion seem even more dramatic:

(Insert Ride Edit 2 Complete here)

 

I've been out on that open road

You can be my full time daddy,

White and gold

Singing blues has been getting old

You can be my full time baby,

Hot or cold

 

Don't break me down

I've been travelin' too long

I've been trying too hard

With one pretty song

 

I hear the birds on the summer breeze,

I drive fast, I am alone in midnight

But I, I've got a war in my mind

 

So, I just ride,

Just ride,

Just ride

 

The structure of each section helps support the idea, using number of lines to make them move or stop.

Number of lines: one of the many tools affecting how your song creates an extra level of feeling. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Take a look at a few more applications of the use of an odd number of lines. Here are the first verses and chorus to Yes’s 1983 hit, Owner of a Lonely Heart:

(Insert Owner of a Lonely Heart (unedited) here)

 

Move yourself,

you always live your life

Never thinking of the future

Prove yourself

You are the move you make

Take your chances win or loser

 

See yourself,

you are the steps you take

You and you and that's the only way

Shake, shake yourself

You are every move you make

So the story goes

 

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a broken heart

Owner of a lonely heart

 

If I had a lonely heart, I’d feel a sense of longing, of something missing. Try this:

(Insert Owner of a Lonely Heart Edit here)

 

Move yourself,

you always live your life

Never thinking of the future

Prove yourself

You are the move you make

Take your chances win or loser

 

See yourself,

you are the steps you take

You and you and that's the only way

Shake, shake yourself

You are every move you make

So the story goes

 

Owner of a lonely heart

Owner of a broken heart

Owner of a lonely heart

 

Now you can feel it. The odd number of lines makes a huge difference.

John Mayer did it right the first time in his Grammy-winning “Your Body is a Wonderland.” His three-line chorus creates a sense of longing, a desire for more:

(Insert Your Body Is A Wonderland unedited here)

 

We got the afternoon

You got this room for two

One thing I've left to do

Discover me

Discovering you

 

One mile to every inch of

Your skin like porcelain

One pair of candy lips and

Your bubblegum tongue

 

Cause if you want love

We'll make it

Swim in a deep sea

Of blankets

Take all your big plans

And break 'em

This is bound to be awhile

 

Your body is a wonderland

Your body is a wonder (I'll use my hands)

Your body is a wonderland

 

Without the sense of longing created by the odd number of lines, I doubt the song would have been John’s first Grammy. Judge for yourself. Listen to my Garageband edit, where I inserted an extra line into the chorus:

(Insert Wonderland Edit here)

 

We got the afternoon

You got this room for two

One thing I've left to do

Discover me

Discovering you

 

One mile to every inch of

Your skin like porcelain

One pair of candy lips and

Your bubblegum tongue

 

Cause if you want love

We'll make it

Swim in a deep sea

Of blankets

Take all your big plans

And break 'em

This is bound to be awhile

 

Your body is a wonderland

Your body is a wonderland

Your body is a wonder (I'll use my hands)

Your body is a wonderland

 

The even number of lines in the chorus stops motion and erases the sense of longing completely.

The Beatles supported the surrealism of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds effectively with this three-line chorus:

(Insert Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds unedited here)

 

Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

 

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green

Towering over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

And she's gone

 

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

 

Again, I’ve inserted an extra line in the chorus. Listen to the song now as it grinds to a dull halt with my Garageband-balanced chorus:

(Insert Lucy (edit) here)

 

Picture yourself in a boat on a river

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

 

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green

Towering over your head

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes

And she's gone

 

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

 

It changes the feeling of the song completely.

Every section you write WILL have some number of lines, either odd or even. Ask yourself the simple question, “How do I feel in this section, stable or unstable?” Your number of lines, one of the many structural tools in your tool-belt, can help you gain even more emotion by supporting and enhancing your intent.

Prosody. It’s not rocket surgery. It’s simply having tools in your tool-belt and knowing how to use them. Prosody gives you an efficient window into effective composition.

Size matters.

 

 

 

Pat Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches lyric writing and poetry. In addition to his four books, Songwriting Without Boundaries (Writer’s Digest Books), Writing Better Lyrics (Writer’s Digest Books), The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure (Berklee Press), and The Essential Guide to Rhyming (Berklee Press), Pat has developed five online courses for Berklee Online: three on lyric writing, one on poetry, and one on creative writing, all available through online.berklee.edu. His filmed series of lectures for Coursera.org has over 1,600,000 students enrolled to date. Pat has written over fifty articles for various magazines and blogs and has chapters in both The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi) and the Handbook on Creative Writing (Edinburgh University Press). He
continues to present songwriting clinics across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Pat’s students include multiple Grammy-winner Gillian Welch, John Mayer, AND Tom Hambridge, Karmin, American Authors, Liz Longley, Greg Becker, Charlie Worsham, and many more.

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Prosody, Berklee, songwrite, Recording, lyric writing, song demo, Pat Pattison, demo recording, Catchy Rhythm, music writing, Instrumental Lick, Lana Del Ray, ride

USA Songwriting Competition Winner Lucy Kalantari Wins a Grammy

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 @08:23 PM

USA Songwriting Competition Winner Lucy Kalantari Wins a Grammy


LucyKalantari-GrammyWin-2019

USA Songwriting Competition Honorable Mention winner (2017 Competition) and finalist (2018 Competition) Lucy Kalantari of New York, NY won a Grammy Award earlier tonight for Best Children’s Album. Her album All The Sounds by Lucy Kalantari & The Jazz Cats included her 5 year old son Darius Kalantari, who played the cello on the album.

Before she made an acceptance speech, she handed the Grammy trophy to her 5 year old son, she told him "Don't drop it". She went on to say "Thank you to the Recording Academy, thank you to the voters. I have been making music all my life. I have to honor all the sounds in my heart and in my head. This is beautiful. This is such an honor to be on the ballot with all these nominees".

She went on to say “This album was written and recorded by a Latina woman. It was produced by a woman.” She also gave a shout out to her mom in Dominican Republic and appeared overwhelmed by her win.

She beat out other nominees in her category such as Tim Kubart (Grammy award winner in 2016), Falu, The Pop Ups and Frank & Deane.

Lucy Kalantari is an award winning children’s artist based in Brooklyn, New York, making jazz age inspired music for families. Since the Fall 2017 Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats has been featured on Sprout House, the musically-infused programming block on Universal Kids. Her songs are on steady rotation on SiriusXM Kids Place Live and other family radio programs around the country.

ABOUT USA SONGWRITING COMPETITION
USA Songwriting Competition has a long history of having winners getting recording and publishing contracts, have their songs placed on the charts as well as having their songs placed on film and television, and winning Grammy Awards.

Meghan Trainor (USA Songwriting Competition finalist) won Best New Artist in the 2016 Grammy Awards, making her the only winner in the top categories (Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, etc) of the Grammy Awards. Meghan Trainor hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, and debuting #1 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts. She has a total of 9 songs that have hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts as an artist.

Christopher Tinn (USA Songwriting Competition First Prize winner, Instrumental category in 2014, Finalist in 2010) won two Grammy Awards for his classical crossover album Calling All Dawns in 2011.

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer (USA Songwriting Competition 2011 First Prize winner, Children’s music category) have earned two Grammy Awards for their recordings “cELLAbration: a Tribute to Ella Jenkins” in 2004 and for “Bon Appétit!” in 2005. Their CDs “Postcards” and “Banjo Talkin’” were both Grammy Awards nominated in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. They have received a total of 12 Grammy nominations so far.

2013 winner American Authors were signed to Island Records, and hit #1 on the Billboard Charts and went Double Platinum.

The 2017 top winner Pricilla Renea had her song “Love So Soft” recorded by Kelly Clarkson, it hit #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Her songs have recorded by other big name artists such as Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, Demi Lovato, Rihanna, Madonna, Selena Gomez and Chris Brown. Several of her songs have hit the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

USA Songwriting Competition is sponsored by: D’Addario Strings, Godin Guitars, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, New Music Weekly, Loggins Promotion, Airplay Access, Audio-Technica, FL Software, Sonoma Wireworks, Berklee College of Music, DiscMakers, CDBaby, StoryBlocks, School of Rock, Final Mix Software and more.


In its landmark 24th year, the USA Songwriting Competition is currently accepting entries. To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition online, Click Here>>

 
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6 Benefits of Collaboration in Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 04, 2019 @07:00 AM

6 Benefits of Collaboration in Songwriting

by Pam Sheyne

melissaaxelandywhitebyjamesejacoby

If you glance at the songwriter credits on any music charts these days, you’ll notice that most hit songs are written by more than one writer. In fact, the 1 or 2 people it used to take to write a song, is on the wane, it now takes a village. Six out of seven of the past seven years top winners were multi-way collaborations.

Collaboration has become the new workplace in many creative industries and it’s the combination of talent, skill-set, chemistry and how connected you are, that all add up to the recipe of success.

I myself, have been a collaborator for over 25 years and what I wanted to share with those of you who have never ventured out to write with others, is that the benefits of collaboration far outweigh the negatives. It might take a while to find “your people” and the right partners, but just like a marriage, when you find the one or few you have chemistry with, it will be much more fun than writing songs on your own.

So, what are some of the benefits of collaboration? Here are 6 for starters:

  • Working with people who compliment your skillset, lightens the load and increases productivity.   Few people are masters at everything, so know what you are good at and master that to the best of your ability.  Find collaborators that mirror your skills and bring something else to the table. If you’re not a whizz at Pro-tools you may want to leave that to someone who is experienced and faster at it.  In the long run, it will save you many hours in the studio and mean you can concentrate on writing more songs.

  • Working with people who are more experienced than you, helps you fine tune your skills and elevates you and your craft.  You can’t get to the top of the ladder without climbing all of the steps and putting the work in, (well, for most people that is the case).  Make the effort to go out to songwriter gigs, and open mic’s in your area.  Search for songwriting camps, music events and extend your network beyond your city or country. You will meet successful songwriters and business professionals at these events who might be able and willing to help connect you with the right people. Becoming a part of a music community is key to meeting and finding new collaborators, offer your help and get involved.

  • Extend your network and you will find “your people” and the ones you have the best chemistry with.  When I first started out, I wrote with anyone would write with me. I eventually traveled to other countries to write with other songwriters and built a network of co-writers and friends around the world that I love working with. Songwriting is such a unique and social craft and you will find it’s much more fun working with your friends and people you enjoy hanging with. Side note: you will learn something from every co-writer you work with, even if it’s not to go back and write with them again!

  • Enhances your professional and personal development.  Us creative types can be sensitive people but if you challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, you will grow into a better writer and develop your “people skills”. Collaboration means you will have to learn to be a politician and your ability to debate, will help you figure out which ideas to fight for and which ones to let go of. Ultimately you are all working for the same goal at the end of the day, aiming high to write the best possible song.

  • More people marketing the song and finding a home for it can only enhance your strike rate.  Ideally, you want to work with people who are connected, the ones who are published, managed and have close connections with artists and record companies. Getting your song out to the right people is key so once you finish your song, you need someone to find a home for it. The more collaborators who are connected, the better the chance of finding opportunities for your songs. It isn’t over when the song is written, now the fun begins. Your songs are like your children, you want to give them the best chance in life so take care in deciding which home they go to.

  • Different minds bring different perspectives and a mix of styles.  The best part about collaborating is mixing perspectives, styles and cultures. You might never have tried such an idea on your own or written from this perspective. I love it when a co-writer challenges me to see something from another angle. Some collaborations are not easy, in fact sometimes it can be a difficult birth, but in the end when the song is done and you and your new friends are punching the air with excitement, the buzz is knowing the journey was worth every minute.



Pam Sheyne is a multi-platinum selling songwriter, vocal producer, singer and mentor.  Her song writing career has achieved success on a global scale and includes international hit records and song placements in numerous films and TV shows around the world.  With 50+ million record sales, 100+ platinum sales, she is also a prestigious Ivor Novello Award winning songwriter and a 7 times BMI Radio Play Award recipient.  Pam, and her business partner Richard Harris, started SongWriterCamps, (www.songwritercamps) and offer camps, workshops and one to one mentoring sessions for aspiring songwriters and artists.

Pam is also a founding member and executive committee member of SONA (Songwriters of North America) a grass roots advocacy group based in LA that actively fights for songwriter rights in the digital age. In 2018 SONA was instrumental in helping the Music Modernisation Act pass as a law.

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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The Real Stuff Is The Good Stuff – How to Write A Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Feb 01, 2019 @07:07 AM

[Expert Songwriting Advice] The Real Stuff Is The Good Stuff – How to Write A Song

by Mark Cawley

rsz_markcawley-songwriter

 

There is no one way to write a song. You may write melody first or mix it up but for our purposes, lets start with writing your lyric.

Whats a good place to start once you have a title or an idea of what youre going to write about? Prose. Think about the title, say it out loud ... a bunch. What does it bring to mind? Got something? Take a few minutes and write the idea in prose. Dont rhyme, dont worry about being clever, just write a couple of lines describing what youre going to write about. Lennon and McCartney could have written, “” Penny Laneis about the images of everyday people on the street in my town and what they mean to me.

Prose serves a couple of purposes. As you write your lyric, check your prose to see if youre still writing about one thing. Is everything supporting your idea? As you try to write, prose may reveal there's really nothing there. This has happened to me more than once, and Im usually grateful I was saved from spending all day on a non-starter of an idea.

The next step is a biggie and usually a big mistake. You begin to write.I mean write in a bad way. You dont want to sound like just anybody, so you try to sound like a “writer.” I always think of the famous Saturday Night Live skit with Jon Lovitz as the Master Thespian. Just search YouTube for a few moments and youll get the idea. You dont want to feel the sweat in your lyric.

Instead of jumping right in, try closing your eyes, think about your idea, and then write what you see. Dont rhyme, dont worry about cadence or how cool it looks on the page, just write. If youre writing a song about meeting the love of your life talk about the time of day, name the place you met, what was the weather like? Color of her hair? Even the smallest detail can make the difference between a generic lyric and one that comes to life. If its a car whats the make? These details make up the real stuff. Write the real stuff because its the good stuff. You can make it pretty later.

Remember the editor? Still dead. What do I mean? If you begin to self-edit in the moment its toxic. Ive mentored songwriters who have found themselves stuck simply because they were focusing on a line or an idea way too early. Before they had enough on the page to even begin to think about the editing process. Write first, edit later. Much later.

Hopefully youre filling up that page now but once in a while, take a look at the prose you wrote earlier. Does everything in your lyric still support your prose? Does your third verse introduce a cat into the story of two people falling in lust? Hard choices, but the cat probably has to go. Again, most lyrics are about one thing. Prose can help you remember what that thing actually is.

 

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other songwriters around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Chaka Khan and The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting Competition and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. His first book , “Song Journey”, based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting, will be released in April 2019. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. http://www.idocoach.com/

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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How to Become a Topline Songwriter

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jan 16, 2019 @04:31 PM

[Songwriting Advice] How to Become a Topline Songwriter

 by Karen Randle

lacey-williams-374971

What is Toplining?

Toplining is writing a vocal part over an already written music bed. This is popular in the EDM, Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop/Rap world.  It is a different sense of songwriting in the part that you’re writing a crucial section of the song, but it is not songwriting in that you’re creating a new totally song from scratch. If someone hires you to do toplining, they’ve already created the "beats" or music and you will be expected to write the rest - the melody and lyrics.

 

What skills do you need as a Topline Songwriter?

If you’re a topliner, your main musical gifts are your ability to

  1. write catchy melodies;
  2. add good lyrics, and then
  3. sing well.

 

Legal Case Involving Toplining

In 2011, there was a famous legal case involving DJ Avicii vs Leona Lewis, as they settled a dispute in which the Swedish DJ had attempted to get a high court injunction to block the release of Lewis's new single, Collide, alleging that the instrumental track for the single was copied from Avicii's forthcoming single, Fade Into Darkness.

So how did Leona Lewis end up recording an almost identical track to Avicii's without realising their releases were going to collide? It's because of the common practice – especially among DJ/producers and dance labels such as Avicii's label Ministry of Sound – of sending out a track to a multitude of topline writers, asking them to come up with melody and lyrics (the topline) for the track. The writers then have to record said topline, so the DJ can have his pick of the bunch and select the one he/she likes best. In this case, one of the topline demos containing Avicii's backing track that was not picked found its way to Lewis, who recorded it, prompting the dispute.

 

Why do people hire topliners?

Producers are often really talented at creating beats and synth tracks. They can do this part but aren’t confident in their vocal melody or lyric writing skills. That would be where a topliner comes in. Sometimes instrument players want to hire topliners instead of writing the whole thing themselves. There are many possibilities!

How common is toplining?

Many writers do it for EDM, Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop/Rap producers, commercials, bands, and other situations where people don’t want to write the vocal part. The other 10% is songwriting – writing the full song for clients from the ground up. If you want to get paid work as a songwriter you’ll definitely want to try toplining as an option.

How do I get started as a topliner?

First, you’ll want to hone your craft. Don’t take a paid gig until you know exactly how to do it. Get some free music beds or background music online and practice writing to it.  See how many ideas you can create. Use one track to create several songs. Set up your social media and let people know you’re available for toplining services.

How do I get paid for toplining?

This can be tricky, since you are writing part of the song but not all of it. You can work this several ways.

 

    Option 1: No up-front pay, but larger royalty split

        I actually don’t recommend this one often. Unless you are sure the song will sell and generate revenue (if the client already has proven sales and a large following), you’re unlikely to make a ton of money off of royalties. Still, if you want the work and the client doesn’t have money but is willing to split 50/50 with you, it might be an option

    Option 2: Work For Hire (no royalties, all up-front pay)

        This is most common for many topline writers. Many writers do this because they are not sure what will happen to the song after they are done with it, and the writer need the money up front (musicians don’t often live lavishly, in case you’re wondering). However, the obvious downside to this is that if the song ever does become huge, the topline writer will make nothing off of sales. So it’s important to decide if this is a risk you’re willing to take.

    Option 3: A combination of the above

        Let’s say you are offered a lower rate than you would normally accept, or the client doesn’t have enough to pay. This is a good time to negotiate royalties with them if you’re willing to do this. Create an amount of up-front pay combined with royalties that will make both of you happy.

Toplining isn’t for everyone, but it is not taking the place of traditional songwriting. But it’s a reflection of today’s new technological possibilities. Done well, it can result in catchy songs that are fulfilling to write.

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Eight Ways to Get Inspiration on Writing Songs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Sep 21, 2018 @01:49 PM

Eight Ways to Get Inspiration on Writing Songs

by Jean Jennings

 JeradFinck2

Do you often wonder how some people always seem energetic, upbeat and motivated when it is time to get the job done? Not only this, in fact, for some people it does not matter how big or small the project is because then also they meet deadlines without even complaining or giving excuses about why the task is not complete so far. Therefore, if you want to be a part of ‘Nothing Can Stop You from Getting the Job Done’ group, then below are the eight tips you must know to stay encouraged, motivated and inspired to complete your tasks:

 

Write Goals

Writing your goals on the piece of a paper is the best piece of advice I would give you to get motivated and stay encouraged. When you write out your goals in spite of storing the information in your head, then you can see the list of things you need to accomplish. Also, you get to know what needs to be done which gives you the motivation to complete your task at the earliest.

 

Music

Have you ever been in the dumps while playing your favorite upbeat song and have you ever seen changing your entire mood from being sad to being positive and upbeat? If not, then try listening to your favorite track when you are sad because multiple people who exercise to music usually, stay motivated and inspired as music helps them keep going.

 

Read Inspirational Literature

The most excellent way to begin your day with an upbeat way is to wake up a couple of minutes earlier than your normal routine and read one or two paragraphs of inspirational literature such as Bible, Bhagwat Geeta, devotionals, inspirational poems, and many more. Therefore, read the inspirational writing to stay motivated.

 

Hang Out with Positive People

If you are around negative people, then you have to fight to maintain your motivation as negative people are draining most time. Therefore, if you want to increase your motivation, then you hang out with people who are high strung, confident and always inspire you to keep going.

 

Set Goals which Challenge You to Rise

Make sure you set goals which challenge you to grow. If you continue setting goals which are easy to achieve, then you will lose your motivation because in this case, you are left with nothing for which you can survive.

 

Take Breaks

If you keep on working for long periods of time and do not even take breaks, then generally, you get drained and lose interest in your current task. Therefore, take breaks to rejuvenate your mind and your body. Also, if you possess a rejuvenating mind and body, then you will have the energy you need to complete the jobs to be done in the longer run

 

Break Down Bigger Tasks into Smaller Tasks

If you have enormous tasks in hand to continue with, then you must break them down into smaller steps to prevent getting overwhelmed and discouraged. Practicing this strategy will amaze you at how easy it is to complete an enormous task only in a couple of hours.

 

Read Inspirational Quotes

The simplest and fastest way to get inspired is to read inspirational quotes. As sometimes all you need to hear to get inspired is, ‘If the other person can do it, then I can also do it.’ Therefore, implement this story to keep you motivated all the time to get the job done.

  

Jean Jennings is the content creator of "Soundwhich" which is an online music portal, and with a vast collection of royalty free music free of charge provides a comfortable, affordable, flexible and creative pace to its users to customize soundtrack for YouTube videos, ads, TV programs, and games.

 

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

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

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

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

by Larry Butler

 5WaysforSinger-SongwritersForSuccess

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Avoid watching or following both real and fantasy sports.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

[Reprint Permission by Music Connection Magazine]

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

 

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

 

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

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