Songwriting Tips, News & More

The Valuable Chord Tricks All Major Hit Songwriters Use (Part 1)

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 10, 2020 @08:00 AM

by Dave Kelly

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The vast majority of songwriters begin their composing life depending on the same 4, 5, or if they are really adventurous, 6 chords. Those chords are technically called “diatonics”, and they’re the chords built on the first six notes of any major scale. There is also a 7th chord that technically should be added to the set, but it has been considered a troublemaker for years, so we’ll come back to that in a moment.

For now, check if any of your songs are limited to using only two or more of these 6 chords. Include checking through any songs you play that were written by other people.

Key of C – C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am

Key of D – D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm

Key of E – E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m

Key of G – G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em

Key of A – A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m

Almost 50% of all the hit songs released over the past fifty years, were composed using only diatonic chords. I’m sure you probably know many of these songs. They tend to sound very similar to each other.

But what if you want your song to sound a bit more interesting than the run-of-the-mill song you hear everybody else writing? Well, officially that’s easy. You just need to add in one or more of the 18 chords not included in the diatonics list. But knowing which one to add, and where to add it is the hard part.

It’s also dangerous. The moment you leave the safety and familiarity of the key chords, you risk sounding strange, jazzy, progressive, scary, discordant, unpleasant or worse, sounding amateur. And that’s enough to stop most composers from venturing beyond the same old 5 or 6 chords. So, you can understand why there are so many songs written that way, when trying anything else is likely to make you sound like you don’t know what you’re doing.

That’s why top professional songwriters depend on 6 specific chord usages or tricks to help them effortlessly place the right chords in the perfect spot, ensuring their songs always sound exceptional.

This first lesson is going to address the easiest of these chord tricks to insert into your writing. It involves the 7th chord that we left out of our original list of diatonic chords at the beginning of this article. It’s called a diminished chord. In the key of C it would be a Bdim, and is technically the seventh chord in the diatonic family, and would be added to the other six we’ve discussed already, if that is, it didn’t sound so odd to the ear of the general public.

Because of its discordant sound, the diminished chord has been replaced over the past 50 years within popular music, by the far more appealing and pleasant sounding “flattened seven (b7).” In the key of C this is a Bb.

Key of C – C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, [Bb]

Key of D – D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, [C]

Key of E – E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, [D]

Key of G – G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, [F]

Key of A – A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, [G]

Although the flattened 7 doesn’t technically belong in the diatonic family of chords, ever since the introduction of the blues, it’s been adopted and included in hundreds of hit songs that would otherwise have been limited to 5 or 6 predictable diatonics. The power of flattened 7 chord in a major key is instead of having just three major chords to write music with, it gives you a 4th major chord. This 4th major chord makes a difference! Try it for yourself. If you are trained it music theory it may seem like you are breaking the rules, but your ears will tell you something quite different… you’re enhancing the music.

There are many ways to use this new addition to the family. One common way is to place it between two of the same chords. This was one of the ways favored by The Beatles. For instance, in the key of C that could be C-Bb-C or F-Bb-F or Am-Bb-Am.

Another option is to use it at the start of a song section, possibly a bridge, giving the song a much-needed lift at that point.

On the other hand, when placed at the end of a verse section, it can create tension that will be resolved during the chorus.

But no matter where you place the flattened 7 among the other six diatonics it will sound completely at home. In fact, it will spice up any standard song just by its inclusion.

Try playing around with adding it to the other 6 chords. You’ll like how it sounds, and you’ll quickly realize that you’ve heard that type of chord movement before in higher quality songs from well-respected writers. Give it a try and see if you don’t immediately sound more like a pro.

 

Dave Kelly has worked closely with many of the greatest musical artists in the world, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Genesis and Aerosmith. He is an award-winning recording artist and songwriter and has recently completed the first volume in the Secret of Songwriting Series entitled Secret of Chords (www.secretofchords.com) with the second volume, Secret of Melody, due out late February.

 

For information on the 25th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, songwrite, Bob Dylan, Chords, Rewrite, non-diatonic chords, diatonic, Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Genesis, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd

Top 10 Songs Remembering John F Kennedy

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 @09:42 AM

By Jessica Brandon

Top 10 Songs Remembering John F Kennedy

Where were you on November 22, 1963? I wished I can say where I was, but I wasn't born yet. However, In remembrance of the sad day 50 years ago when John F. Kennedy was assasinated, here's a look at 10 Songs remembering John F. Kennedy, some songs are also honoring the late president:

 

"Life in a Northern Town" - Dream Academy (1985)

 

"The Day John Kennedy Died" - Lou Reed (1982)

 

"Sympathy for the Devil" - The Rolling Stones (1968)

 

"He Was a Friend of Mine" - The Byrds (1965)

 

Bob Dylan, 'Chimes of Freedom'

 

 

 

"Civil War" - Guns N' Roses (1990)

 

"Brain of J" - Pearl Jam (1998)

 

"Born in the 50's" - The Police (1978)

 

Otis Spann, 'Sad Day in Texas'

 

The Beach Boys, 'Warmth of the Sun'

 

Do you have a song Remembering John F Kennedy? If so, we would like to hear from you, please post your YouTube or Soundcloud URL in the comment box.

 

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

 

 

Tags: Song writing, Songwriting, Bob Dylan, John F Kennedy, jfk, Dream Academy, songs about jfk, The Beach Boys, Otis Spann, Pearl Jam, Lou Reed, jfk songs, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Guns N' Roses

Legendary Music Producer Phil Ramone Dies

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sat, Mar 30, 2013 @04:43 PM

 

Legendary Music Producer Phil Ramone Dies

(edited by Jessica Brandon)

 

Phil Ramone, legendary producer

Phil Ramone has worked with virtually every top music star including Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Paul Simon, often as a producer, occasionally as a songwriter. He recorded Marilyn Monroe’s infamous performance of “Happy Birthday” to JFK. He’s the co-founder of A&R Recording, Inc. He had a key role in the release of the first ever album, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.

A former violin prodigy and expert engineer, he worked with Dylan, Sinatra, McCartney, Bennett, Charles, Streisand, Simon, Joel and Bacharach and spent more than 50 years in the business.

Phil Ramone, the instinctive music producer whose mixing mastery for Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Paul Simon and Billy Joel helped fashion some of the most sumptuous and top-selling albums of his era, has died. He was 72. 

Ramone was married to Karen Ichiuji-Ramone (a.k.a. Karen Kamon, who had a top 100 hit in 1983 "Manhunt", featured in the hit movie and stage musical "Flashdance"), with whom he had three sons.

The 14-time Grammy winner and 33-time nominee once dubbed “The Pope of Pop” was hospitalized in late Feb. with an aortic aneurysm in New York and died Saturday morning at New York Presbyterian Hospital, according to Ramone's son Matt.

A native of South Africa who at age 10 performed as a violinist for Queen Elizabeth II, Ramone spent years working as a songwriter, engineer and acoustics expert in New York before charting a path that would make him a trusted studio partner in the eyes (and ears) of the industry’s biggest stars.

Among the albums on which he worked were Streisand’s 1967 live A Happening in Central Park; Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram (1971), sandwiched between the Beatles and Wings eras; Dylan’s aching Blood on the Tracks (1975); Simon’s pop classic Still Crazy After All These Years (1975); Joel’s critical and commercial breakthrough The Stranger (1977); Sinatra’s last-gasp Duets (1993), a model of technical wizardry; and Charles’ final album, the mega-selling Genius Loves Company (2004).

Ramone served as a songwriter in New York’s famed Brill Building music factory and worked early on with Quincy Jones, Tom Dowd, Creed Taylor, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller and Burt Bacharach & Hal David, among others. In 1959, he launched the A&R Recording studios on Seventh Avenue in New York, where Blood on the Tracks and so many other classics were recorded.

“Players are like prodigies, thoroughbreds," he added. "You have to handle them with care.”
Born on Jan. 5, 1941, Ramone at age 3 began studying the piano and violin, and he attended the Juilliard School in New York as a teenager. Although he was an accomplished performer and composer, he was attracted to the technical side of music and became a wizard working with the dials.


Ramone was nominated for 33 Grammy awards, winning 14 awards and a technical Grammy for a lifetime of innovative contributions to the recording industry:
1965 – Best Engineered Recording (non classical), for Getz/Gilberto
1970 – Best Musical Show Album for producing Promises, Promises
1976 – Album of the Year for producing Still Crazy After All These Years
1979 – Record of the Year for producing "Just the Way You Are"
1980 – Album of the Year for producing 52nd Street
1981 – Producer of the Year (non classical)
1984 – Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special, for Flashdance
1995 – Best Musical Show Album for producing Passion
2003 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, for producing "Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings The Blues"
2005 – Album of the Year and Best Surround Sound Album for producing Genius Loves Company
2006 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing The Art of Romance
2007 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing Duets: An American Classic
2012 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing Duets II

 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Songwriting, producer, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Phil Ramone, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart

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