Songwriting Tips, News & More

[EXPERT SONGWRITING ADVICE] Knitting a Sonic Fabric

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Mar 02, 2020 @08:00 AM

by Pat Pattison


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I was listening to John Mayer’s album Wildfire and was stopped dead by this line from his song Badge and Gun:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

The line made me feel something. I love when that happens. It’s always a sign that I need to take a closer look – to understand how the line did it – to find any useful tools that might help my students write even better songs. So, in I went.

First, the line is a wonderful, fresh way to say, “I wish I could go back to a younger, easier time.” Here’s a bit more context:

Gimme my badge and gun

Gimme the songs that I once sung

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

 

Of course, the image “badge and gun” works on many levels, but primarily creates a nostalgic look at a young boy dressed in cowboy hat and chaps, pretending to be an old-time sheriff in a dusty town, taming the Wild West. Ah, youth. Pretty cool.

But it’s not only what John Mayer says, it’s the way he says it:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Why does it sound so good? At first glance, it might seem like the line’s energy is a product of the internal rhyme between black and back.

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

But the simple internal rhyme doesn’t begin to explain why this line sounds so attractive. There’s a lot more happening.

Let’s take a closer look. First, at the vowels, other than the internal rhyme.

 

Assonance

Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound in non-rhyming stressed syllables, close enough to each other for the connection to be heard.

Listen to the short i (as in it) echo in gimme and kick:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

And the long o (as in go) echoing in those and alone

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

 

The vowel repetitions create an additional layer of sonic connections. Combined with the internal rhyme, these assonance connections help to knit a small piece of the lovely sonic fabric this line creates.

There’s a lot more vowel activity going on here, in addition to the simple assonance. But it’s a bit more subtle. Look:

 

Hidden Assonance

Many vowels contain more than one sound. They’re called diphthongs. When two diphthongs share one of their two sounds in common, they create hidden assonance.

Hidden assonance works a lot like the musical concept of voice leading:

…where each musical note transitions to the next in a smooth, harmonious way, moving as few notes as few steps as possible and thus often retaining common tones.

Hidden assonance works with common tones – two different diphthongs sharing one of their sounds in common.

The territory in hidden assonance can be a little slippery, since English vowel pronunciation can vary from country to country, region to region, town to town, even neighborhood to neighborhood. But whatever your vowel pronunciations, whenever you use diphthongs, hidden assonance will come into play. Just use your ears. You’ll hear it.

First, there are the straightforward diphthongs,

oi (as in boy) = long o (as in go) + long ē (as in me)

ou (as in couch) = ä (as in papa) + long ū (as in too)

Some of the long vowels are actually diphthongs too. Take the long a (as in lay) for example. It’s a combination of short ě (as in end) and long ē (as in me). Go ahead, say lay slowly a few times.

l ě ē

See how it works here:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Now say jet and lay slowly. Listen. Can you hear the short ě in jet echo the short ě in lay?

j ě t l ě ē

Pretty neat.

Like long a, long o (as in go) is a diphthong, containing two distinct sounds – short ŏ (as in hot) plus long ū (as in too). As you’ve seen, in

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

there are two long o sounds, those and alone. Both contain ū (as in “too”). Now listen to the vowel sounds in down, the more straightforward diphthong. It contains ä (as in papa) plus ū (as in too). So in

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

you can hear the long ū connecting those, down and alone. Voice leading. Slow them down and listen:

those = th ŏ ū se down =d ä ū n alone = al ŏ ū ne

All three share the long ū in common!

Another one. You know that the long a in lay is a combination of short e (as in end), and long ē (as in me). Now look at the long i in nights. It’s a combination of ä (as in “papa”) and long ē (as in me). So both lay and nights share long ē, connecting them with the obvious long ē of gimme!

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Again, slow them down and listen. Notice the hidden assonance – the connection between one of the sounds in the more complex diphthongs:

Gimm ē lay = l e ē nights = n ä ē ghts

There’s one more, which you’ve probably already noticed. Since the vowel sounds in down contain ä (as in papa) plus ū (as in too) and the long i in nights combines ä (as in papa) and long ē (as in me), it’s hard to miss that they both share ä:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

down =d ä ū n nights = n ä ē ghts

Slow them down and listen. Easy to hear now, isn’t it.

Hidden assonance may seem pretty subtle, but it’s no more subtle than the repetition of common tones in complex musical chords, an ordinary feature of musical voice leading. It’s a real thing. Musicians use it all the time. Lyricists can do it too, using the voice leading techniques available in hidden assonance. It adds yet another layer to the sonic fabric of a line. All of it created by vowel connections.

Now, let’s turn our attention to consonant sounds.

Alliteration

Here’s the most common understanding of alliteration:

The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.

Look at the alliteration of the b sound:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

And the l sound:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Pretty neat. Another layer kitted into our sonic fabric.

So is that it? Does that exhaust the layers in Mayer’s line? Nope. Not even close. As we did when we talked about hidden assonance, it’s possible to extend the concept of alliteration, treating it like the musical concept of voice-leading,

…where each musical note transitions to the next in a smooth, harmonious way, moving as few notes as few steps as possible and thus often retaining common tones.

Using this idea, we can talk about repetition of consonant sounds not only at the beginnings of words, but also inside words (medial alliteration) and at the ends of words (terminal alliteration).

First, find the k sounds in:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Yup.

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Now, find the n sounds:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Right:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Knit. Knit. Knit.

We could stop here and convince ourselves that we’ve gotten to the core of the line – that we’ve discovered why it’s so attractive sonically. And we’d be nearly right.

But there’s yet another layer of discovery, based on the work of the legendary literary critic Kenneth Burke from his ground-breaking work in his essay On Musicality in Verse. He calls it concealed alliteration.

 

Concealed Alliteration

Burke divides consonants into families, governed by where you place your tongue to produce the consonant sound. He recognizes three families: the M family, the N family and the Ng family. Say each one and notice the position of your tongue.

M is formed by closing your lips and flattening your tongue, forcing the air column into your nasal passages, but including your mouth as a resonating chamber.

N is formed by raising the tip of your tongue to your hard palate, again forcing the air column through your nasal passages, but this time including the back portion of your mouth as an attenuated resonating chamber.

Ng (as in “sing”) touches the middle of your tongue to your soft palate (velum), again forcing the air column through your nose, but this time excluding your mouth from acting as a resonating chamber.

Let’s work first with N, where you raise the tip of your tongue to your hard palate. What other consonants use this tongue position? Work your way through the alphabet and find them. I’ll wait.

Interesting, huh? Here is N’s family, listed from closer relatives to more distant cousins.

 

N

d

t

j

ch

l

 

Say the word down and notice what your tongue does at the beginning and end. Do you feel your tongue touching your hard palate twice? That’s concealed alliteration, created here by the repetition of the N position in the d and n of down. Pretty cool.

Take your time and find the members of N’s family in our line:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

I found j, t, l, d, and n.

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Say the line a few times, paying attention only to the times your tongue touches your hard palate. You can both hear and feel the connections created by the members of the N family. A pretty tight-knit bunch.

Now look for M’s family. Lips coming together, flat tongue. I’ll wait.

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Yup:

 

M

b

p

 

There are a few other distant cousins, but these will do. Now find M’s family, the concealed alliterations, in our line:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

I got:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Of course the b connection was already apparent as simple alliteration, but it’s nice to invite m to the party too. Say the line a few times and pay attention to your lips.

Nice.

Finally, Ng’s family, which touches the middle of your tongue to your soft palate (velum). Again, go through the alphabet and locate those consonants that position you tongue in the Ng position. I’ll be patient.

Yup, g and k.

Now find members of Ng’s family in our line.

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

Say the line a few times, concentration only on where you raise the middle of your tongue to your velum.

Of course you noticed k, which we found in our search for alliteration. But it’s nice to invite g to the party too:

Gimme those jet black kick back lay down nights alone

That pretty much does it. We’ve pretty much seen all the strands in this lovely fabric of sound. It may seem like a long journey just to understand one line, but by now you should have a pretty clear understanding of what makes this line so remarkable. Not only does it say something interesting by creating a complex and attractive metaphor, but it underscores the words by knitting an ingenious fabric of sound, weaving the ideas into a unified whole. Brilliant.

Of course it’s one thing to be able to analyze a line for its sonic fabric, and quite another to create a sonic fabric deliberately and consciously. Whether John Mayer composed this lovely sonic fabric fully aware of the choices he was making, or whether it “just came out that way” makes little difference. It’s still this complex blending of sound and meaning that makes his line work so well. Whether or not he did it on purpose, you can.

Creating a strong sonic fabric takes focus and practice. In my 2nd edition of Songwriting: Essential Guide To Rhyming: A Step-by Step Guide to Better Rhyming for Songwriters and Poets, you’ll find plenty of exercises to improve your knitting skills. Exercises not only for rhyme and rhyme types, but also exercises to help you create the more remote elements of your sonic fabric, including hidden assonance, concealed alliteration and even a new concept, family assonance.

In the meantime, listen carefully, have fun, and most of all, write fearlessly.

Pat Pattison

 

Also, watch this YouTube video about Pat Pattison's book:

 

 

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 (Penguin, Random House), Writing Better Lyrics (Penguin, Random House), 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, Tom Hambridge, and Joelle James; Artists Karmin, American Authors, Liz Longley, and Charlie Worsham; Hit writers Amy Allen, Justin Tranter, Greg Becker and many, many more.

https://www.patpattison.com/

 

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, Berklee, songwrite, Pat Pattison, Berklee College of Music, Rewrite, Alliteration, Assonance, Hidden Assonance, Proisody, Concealed Alliteration

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

How to Write Lyrics: 8 Tips to Inspire Your Meaning

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 03, 2020 @12:03 PM

by Steve Lipman

songwriting2

A painting is composed of shapes and colors, arranged in such a way to create a cohesive picture for the viewer. Painters become better with practice by showcasing their art and developing a personal creative process - most of the time. Sometimes, inspiration works in mysterious ways.

A song is very similar to a visual masterpiece. Each sound, phrase, and word - arranged in just the right order - elicits an emotional or intellectual response from the listener. A song is an intangible creation, built of many parts to achieve a myriad of effects.

Just as the visual artist might dive into the world of their craft, songwriters and lyricists are well-served by doing the same. Great lyrical songs touch their listeners by combining the impact of their words with the emotional power of its music. That’s why I suggest you ask the following questions about the song you are trying to write.

 

  1. What Do You Want to Say?

Painters often take time to visualize their work before the brush hits the canvas. Developing a guiding statement for your lyrics - what they want to say - keeps your message top of mind as you work. The question is: What is the subject of my song?

 

  1. Who Are You Writing To?

The listener may be the person you are addressing in your song. It could be someone else - someone who broke your heart or stole it. Or, it could be a series of rallying statements for the world at-large. Regardless, a song always speaks to someone or something.

Understanding who the song is speaking to gives lyricists direction with the finer details of writing such as tone, character, and point of view.

 

  1. How Do You Want to Say It?

What’s the emotion behind your message? Is it an aggressive call-to-action? Or, a sweet tune for the love of your life? Just as there’s a difference in what we might say to someone we’re mad or happy with, the emotional and psychological origins of your message should come out in your writing.

 

  1. Now What’s the Right Word?

Next, you need to think about the lyrics (words) in your song. Again, who is speaking them, and to whom, will help you determine how the lyrics are heard.

The right words put the listener exactly where you want them. Great lyrics convey a message effectively when they are embodied by the music. A song should feel like a complete experience, meaning that everything that needs to be said finds itself in your lyrics.

Finding the right words is tough. Sometimes, such as in the case with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n’ Roll,” a song can be completed in 15 minutes in the studio and get slapped onto an album.

On the other hand, Bob Dylan always said his song, “Tangled Up in Blue” took him “a decade to live, and two years to write.” Crafting great lyrics often takes care, patience, and time.

 

  1. How long does it take to write a song?

It could be somewhere between 15 minutes to a lifetime. Some songs are started but never finished. Sometimes the unfinished song is telling you that you don’t know enough about the subject you are writing about. And, sometimes, the passion behind the song dissipates. My advice is to write a song until you can’t write it any more. The song will let you know when it is completed. Learn from it and move on to the next song.

It’s what made “Tangled Up in Blue” take two years to write, and “Rock N’ Roll” take 15 minutes. If your song feels complete, it is. If it doesn’t feel complete, then it needs more work.

 

  1. The Next One will Always be Better

According to veteran songwriting coach Randy Klein, writing a great song requires drawing from past experiences.

Each song you attempt to create is a demonstration of your understanding of song craft, and of your ability to draft lyrics that make an impact. As you work on your current piece, it’s always helpful to reference past pieces and utilize the lessons you learned from their creation.

 

  1. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Many songwriters forget there is a lot of power in the rewrite.

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of battling writer’s block - what many people may call “hitting the wall” - is by taking a different approach. More often than not, the first draft of a song is a collection of ideas which should be considered temporary.

Rewrites allow you to explore a different direction with your song, while using elements already created to guide the way. Many songwriters are completely surprised by what comes out of them during the rewriting process.

 

  1. Test Your Audience

If you’re inspired to write a song, it means you want to communicate something to someone else. Having a sample of who that “someone else” is may be invaluable to your editing process.

 

A phrase may resonate with us because it comes from within. Yet, it’s not uncommon for something meaningful to us to fall on someone else’s deaf ears. That’s why workshopping your lyrics with trusted listeners can inspire valuable revisions, or tell you the song is on the wrong track altogether. In this instance, remaining humble is key.

 

In the end, it’s your voice.

You may be sitting there asking yourself, “Does every songwriter incorporate each of these eight steps into their songwriting?”

The answer to that is absolutely not. Just like any form of art, songwriting is a personal journey, the success of which is most clearly determined by whether you’re happy with the finished product.

Any songwriter who wants to get better at writing lyrics can use any number of these steps to help them along the way. You may also decide you want to study songwriting in college, or take the journey on your own.

Either way, it’s your words, your voice, and your message going into people’s ears. Treat each song like an individual experience, a singular journey to navigate - and remember to always enjoy the process just as much as the finished product.

 

Steve Lipman is founder of Inside Music Schools, a music school admissions consultancy based near Boston, MA. He has experience counseling aspiring professional musicians from performance and songwriting to music production and music business. Having spent more than 40 years at Berklee College of Music as Director of Admissions, Assistant Dean of Students, and as Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, he is one of the country’s leading experts on contemporary music education and college admissions.

 

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, Berklee, songwrite, Berklee College of Music, Rewrite, visualize, Steve Lipman

[Songwriting Advice] 5 Tips for When You Have Songwriter’s Block

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Mar 12, 2018 @08:00 AM

[Songwriting Advice] 5 Tips for When You Have Songwriter’s Block

by Jon Anderson
songwriters-block.jpg

There aren’t many things more frustrating than staring at a blank page, waiting in vain for inspiration to strike.

If you’re a songwriter, there’s a good chance you know the feeling: words and melodies stuck in the back of your mind, full of potential but miles from becoming a coherent song. If you’re in front of your instrument, maybe you play through a few guitar licks that feel like old habits, or press out the piano chords you’ve been working through for months - but still nothing comes.

Or maybe you have a song that’s half written, and you’ve been playing through the existing parts over and over, hoping for the rest of it to spring to life - but it never does. Eventually, you either start playing fully completed songs that already exist, or just put the instruments away completely and give up.

It’s songwriter’s block. And, while it’s definitely exasperating, it’s also not uncommon.

Even prolific songwriters go through periods where writing feels hard. But, here’s the thing: they get through it - and so can you.

Stuck by songwriter’s block? Don’t give up. Here are five easy things to shake up your routine just enough to find the spark of inspiration you’ve been missing.

 

1. Start a “Lyric List”

One of the most practical ways to avoid songwriter’s block is to keep a running “lyric list.”

Basically, this is a place where you can write down words as they come to you, at any place and at any time. Too often, songwriters will be hit by the turn of a phrase, or a certain combination of words and ideas, only to have it disappear by the next time they pick up their instruments.

Yes, ideally, lyrics will come to you when you’re sitting down and intenti trying to write. But, probably more often, they’ll come to you while you’re driving, or while you’re doing the dishes, or while you’re talking to a friend.

Here’s what I recommend: keep a journal or running Google doc available to yourself at all times. When the words come, capture them in your list. They may be phrases, ideas, or both - the important thing is to record the things that inspire you.

Then, the next time you’re staring at a blank page and find yourself stuck, open up your list, and see if any of the ideas and words that have come to you in the past can spark inspiration in the place you are now.

 

2. Go for a Run

Sometimes, the mind just needs a change of speed. If you’ve been trying to write for hours and nothing’s coming, try going for a run. Anything that gets your heart rate up will do, but there’s something about running - and biking, too - that can put you in a helpful headspace.

Scientifically speaking, exercise helps to increase the blood flow to your brain, which can facilitate better mental processes (and maybe help you make musical connections that weren’t happening before).

Besides that though, there’s something about consciously checking out of songwriting and into a completely different activity that can help you to get unstuck. Whether it’s the scenery, the air, or the mental perseverance it takes to make it through your running route, the fact is that there’s something about running that helps get the creative juices flowing. But don’t just take my word for it - a bunch of famous writers were runners, too.

So, the next time you’re stuck, try going for a run.

 

3. Go Read Something

In the same way that checking out of a song and into running can jog your creative process, checking out of songwriting and into reading can help you, too.

Again, part of the benefit is in the mental switch. When you read, you’re immediately entering into ideas that aren’t your own - worlds, characters, stories, and words that offer a perspective through a different set of eyes. Who knows? You may find the inspiration you’ve been missing in a quote from the protagonist of a book, or you might find the the ideas in a story compelling enough to reprise in your song.

Another reading avenue I recommend: reading the processes of writers you admire. There are tons of songwriting blogs out there that dig into the ideas of songwriters. Go ahead - try searching for interviews with your favorite songwriters to get insight into their writing process.

Reading through their words and discovering what makes them tick may just help you to get unstuck.

 

4. Switch Parts

Let’s get a little more tactical. Have you been stuck with a great verse that you just haven’t found the chorus to follow up? Or, maybe you’ve written what you think is an ear-catching chorus, but have had a hard time getting the verses to flow from it.

Try switching things up. The easiest thing to do is to move parts that you’ve already written to the bridge - there’s a lot of creative freedom to be had in the bridge, after all, and many ideas can fit into that spot.

Maybe, though, what you’ve thought was the chorus makes more sense as the pre-chorus. Or, what you’ve been using as a verse is better suited to being the chorus.

If you’re stuck, try making a simple switch. Sure, there’s a chance that moving your song components around won’t help.

But there’s also a chance that it will.

 

5. Switch Instruments

Last but not least, one helpful way to get unstuck is to put down the instrument you’ve been trying to write on, and pick up another.

There’s a huge difference between writing on guitar and piano, for example - just look at songs by Lady Gaga versus songs by Bob Dylan.

Stylistically, different instruments and sounds can lead you into different creative spaces. What you were constructing as a ballad on keys may feel looser and more upbeat on an acoustic guitar - and that could be just what the song needs. Or, what you’d been writing on your acoustic may sound like another piece entirely when you switch it over to an electric.

So, if you’re experiencing songwriter’s block, try writing a song on something else.

 

Keep Writing

Hopefully, a few of these ideas can help you overcome your songwriter’s block. Tactics aside, though, your biggest keys to coming unstuck will always be to examine things from new angles, and to keep writing.

So, if you have songwriter’s block, no matter what you do, don’t give up. Keep listening, keep trying new things, and keep writing.

If you do, the songs will come.

Jon Anderson is the founder of Two Story Melody, a music blog dedicated to uncovering the stories and processes behind beautiful songs. He's likes indie (or any good) music, good stories, and mango ice cream. twostorymelody.com


Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Writer’s Block, Melody writing, Lyric Writing Mistakes, Mismatched Syllables, Rewrite, Re-writing, Jon Anderson

[Songwriting Advice] Is Music Publishing The Holy Grail?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 @03:21 PM

[Songwriting Advice] Is Music Publishing The Holy Grail?

Music_Publishing_Contract.jpg

by Graham Turner

 

I started writing songs quite late in life relatively.

I’d mostly had a successful career in management and business, having started and managed one very successful business, followed by another disastrous one that ended up costing me my house.
It was during the aftermath of my failed business venture that I wrote a song that opened the door to my unexpected creative path.

Within my first two years of writing, I was offered 28 separate single song contracts with various publishers.

Strangely, I don’t really know why I set out to get a publishing deal, other than it seemed to be the Holy Grail of songwriters I’d met at the various Network Events I’d attended. I was even invited out to Nashville for a month to write with some of the best writers on the Planet. I learned a lot in a very short space of time. I was like a sponge; soaking up every piece of information I could. Lots of Tips and Tricks, about writing better songs, but also lots of plentiful advice about getting published.

I figured that while I was in Nashville, I would write and record 4 songs, get 100 CD’s done and put them in a rucksack so I could knock on every door on Music Row.

Before I left London, I went to see Dr Richard Niles, who had previously picked out one of my songs at a Network Event, as “ an excellent example of songwriting”.

I went to his house and played him 14 songs in the hope that he’d think all my songs were fantastic.
I came away quite bruised to learn that he didn’t think quite as much of some of these other efforts as the one he’d picked out previously.

He did narrow things down to 5 “potential hits’ that I could take with me.
So, armed with my new CD, I went door-knocking Nashville and was surprisingly, soon offered 4 single song contracts. I was over the moon.

I came back to London feeling like I had made it. I also came back with some regret; realising that I had, after all these years of being very commercially aware, I hadn’t actually given enough time to my creative side. Oh boy ! I wish I had discovered songwriting earlier in life.

A couple of weeks later, the publishing contracts came through.

I’m no lawyer but it was at this moment that I’m glad I had the business background I’d had, because to me, the contract was so loaded in favour of the Publisher, I thought “how can I even begin to negotiate this?”.
I took some legal advice, and sure enough, I needed to go back to the publisher and ask some pretty blunt questions about changing the terms to a more favourable arrangement.
A few days went by, and I was met with an email which basically said “ this is the same contract we’ve been using for years; if it’s good enough for Scottie Turner, it’s good enough for you. I thought “ who the hell is Scotty Turner? Little did I know he’d written with everyone from Buddy Holly to Willie Nelson.

I did say it was a steep learning curve.

There was no advance, completely exclusive rights to use my songs as they damn well please, anywhere in the world, for as long as they wanted and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it, even if I wanted to get out of it, in the event that they didn’t do anything at all with my songs. There were no guarantees about how they would help me promote the songs. So, in short, they were happy to sit back and take the money, but, as far as I could see, they were never actually going to do anything for their money, and no transparency about showing me any accounts.

I can see why some people get duped into thinking a publisher is a great person to have in your camp once a song is making money,  providing the terms are on an equal footing, but why on Earth would someone be so keen to sign something so detrimental? I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it, even now.

I’m still offered publishing deals, some from independents, some from Major publishers. I have friends, professional writers, who have either left their publisher or who can’t wait to get out of their publishing deal.

Some have had advances but most don’t. Either way, an advance is only a loan against potential future income. You still have to pay it back.

I probably sound like I’m against publishers. I’m not.

I’m happy to sign any deal that is going to be mutually beneficial, but like anything in this business, if it’s good enough for Scottie Turner, it probably means it belongs in a bygone era where Musicians and Songwriters were exploited, and it isn’t worth signing. Some might argue though, that with Streaming sites offering creatives like us such a pittance, the Scottie Turner model is as prevalent today, just living in the clouds.

There are 4 or 5 publishers that I deal with who I trust implicitly and who help me progress my songs. I have built these relationships from a humble door knock or from meeting them at network events. I don't drive them mad, but when I have something I think they could work with or they have something they think I can help with, we reach out.
 
Be careful out there with any deal that’s offered to you and seek proper legal advice. The Musicians Union provide some legal assistance for free as part of your membership and most lawyers are happy to give you some introductory advice before you commit to any fees.

We hope you enjoyed this story and piece of advice, to find out more about our friends at Music Gateway you can visit their website and check here Music Gateway Review.


Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, music publishing, Music Publishing Deal, Music Publishing Contract, Rewrite, Re-writing, graham tucker

[Songwriting Advice] Does Songwriting Take A Village?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 @08:00 AM

[Songwriting Advice] Does Songwriting Take A Village?

by Mark Cawley

Co-Writing.jpeg

 

The multi-way co-writes have been on songwriters' minds. This is the fifth consecutive year that all Top 3 winners of the USA Songwriting Competition were co-writes. A staggering 29 out of 30 songs in the Top 10 country category for the past 3 years were all co-writes.  And songwriters e-mailed us and called us to say "you are so unfair, all your top winners are all co-writes!".
 
The debate rages on about co-writing and the current state of multiple writers on a song. Check out the songwriting credits on the Grammy nominees for best song this year. A lot of names, eh? No Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Bacharach and David, Elton and Bernie and defiantly no Brian Wilsons or Carole Kings.

"Despacito," Ramón Ayala Rodriguez, Justin Bieber, Jason Boyd, Erika Ender, Luis Fonsi & Marty James Garton Jr., songwriters (Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber)


"4:44," Shawn Carter & Dion Wilson, songwriters (Jay-Z)
"Issues," Benjamin Levin, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Julia Michaels & Justin Drew Tranter, songwriters (Julia Michaels)


"1-800-273-8255," Alessia Caracciolo, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, Arjun Ivatury, Khalid Robinson & Andrew Taggart, songwriters (Logic featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid)


"That's What I Like," Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus & Jonathan Yip, songwriters (Bruno Mars)

I've had major cuts that I wrote on my own, with a co-writer, with 2 co-writers and even a few with 5. When I've gotten up to more than 2 I got a little confused about who did what I admit. But…

As I mentioned, Ive had a few experiences with 5 or more writers including a #1 with Day And Night” by Billie Piper and the story behind that one is a typical example of how it can happen and, in this case, I couldnt complain. I was writing a bunch with Eliot Kennedy in the UK and Eliot had a team at Steelworks in Sheffield. The studio turned out a bunch of hits, sort of Motown style. Artists came in, the team wrote with them, did pre-production in house as well as the final record.

I loved this process enough to sign with them on their joint venture with Universal. Gave me some great opportunities I never would have had otherwise as most of these projects werent taking outside songs. I might do my part with Eliot, his partners take it to final production, the artist is there and, in the end, multiple writers. It becomes about numbers and how much faster you can turn out songs with a team. I had the same experience writing with The Spice Girls there and more. Did I miss the idea of writing on my own or with another writer? Sure, but I found I could do that AND write with a group sometimes but, and its a big but, it worked because much of my time was spent as a team member.

Beyond this method you see lots of songs that, due to losing (or settling) a lawsuit are legally required to add the writers of the original source of inspiration or sample. Case in point, “Uptown Funk” now has 9 writers listed. I love that song so…can it still be inspired if it takes a village to produce it?

All this is a hot topic of debate with songwriters the past few years. I coach writers all over the world and I understand the frustration when they feel it’s impossible to break in to a production team or to write a song that could be pitched to the Beyonces of the world. It’s not impossible but it is getting pretty rare to see a song written by one writer, not connected in some fashion to the label or production team associated with the record.

So…what’s the kid in his or her bedroom, making music and dreaming supposed to do? How about 4 ideas to start?

  1. Be your own artist. You still might get pressure from a label to write with the current crop of hitmakers but at worst your ideas make it to the record!

  2. Develop mad tracking skills. More and more successful writers are coming from the ranks of track guys. Even here in Nashville you might find a great track guy in the same writing session with a couple of proven hit makers.

  3. Similar to my 2nd point but in this case, become part of a production team. Maybe you start by making tea and graduate to being a part of the creative process. For this you need to be a good hang as well as adept at more than one skill.

  4. Be awesome. An overused word but in this case it works. Be so awesome in your songwriting that the powers that be can’t overlook you. Still hard to be heard but some of the ones who have made this work took to the streets, to social media and to clubs until their tribe grew and they became names. Ed Sheeran is one great case in point. Started as a busker.

In the end, this current state is just that . . . the current state. Complaining about the songwriting business and how unfair it is or how “watered down” the songs are is good fodder for social media posts but not for change. For that I think you work within it or work outside it and again…be awesome


About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.

 

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Mark Cawley, Melody writing, Mismatched Syllables, Rewrite, Re-writing

[Songwriting Tips] Finding Time to Write

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Feb 01, 2018 @08:00 AM

[Songwriting Tips] Finding Time to Write

By Sara Light
Finding Time to Write.jpg

 

Sara and her husband Danny have been contributing articles on songwriting for a few years on our blog. In this latest edition, Sara talks about taking the time to write songs - which many songwriters today can certainly relate to her.

“Who will free me from hurry, flurry, the feeling of a crowd pushing behind me, of being hustled and crushed? How can I regain even for a minute the feeling of ample leisure I had during my early, my creative years? Then I seldom felt fussed, or hurried. There was time for work, for play, for love, the confidence that if a task was not done at the appointed time, I easily could fit it into another hour. I used to take leisure for granted, as I did time itself.”  — Bernard Berenson, Sunset and Twilight, from the Diaries of 1947-1958

I am finding that the older I get, the more difficult it is to feel unencumbered. I do not have the same sense I did in my 20’s and 30’s of having the time or energy to follow my muse, explore my own interests, or even rest my mind.  The tasks that I commit to now, even the ones I voluntarily choose, come with a sense of heaviness;  How will I fit that in to my schedule? What do I prioritize today? If I do THIS, it’ll take away from THAT.

I’m beginning 2018 pretty well. I’m back to starting most days with a yoga video and green tea BEFORE I check my schedule, answer my emails and walk my dog. I’m even on a streak with my Head space meditation app and I’m finally able to turn off my brain at night and get some deep sleep. And, check this out, I’m writing a blog entry (an activity that I enjoy, but usually fits into the “how will I fit that into my schedule today?” category).

Some of the lessons I find that are working for me this year that I haven’t tried in the past are:

  •      Doing a little bit consistently can be as satisfying as going “all in”.  This is a good one for songwriters. If you only have a couple of minutes to work on a song today, do that. Don’t wait until you have half a day to devote to writing a whole new song. If you think one new title today call that your day’s work and let yourself feel accomplished.
  •     Good is good enough.  Perfection isn’t a mandatory requirement. Just get the job done the best you can in the time you have and move on. Don’t berate yourself for not doing something exactly the way you imagined.  This frees up a lot of time.
  •     Deadlines are often flexible.  I have been noticing that a lot of the people around me also feel crunched for time. Because of that, they often are more than happy to move around appointments and extend deadlines. They, too, have a million other things they can fit into that slot.  Flexibility reduces stress.
  •     Take a break from social media. Yikes, lately, I have been seeing so many articles about the addictive (aka drug-like) qualities of those pings and likes and notifications. It wasn’t a coincidence that on my birthday this year, as much as I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the sweet notes and well-wishes throughout the day on Facebook, I also left my notebook with my favorite recipes on a shelf in the grocery store (never to be recovered), threw my dog’s leash out with the trash and generally walked around with fog-brain as if I were hung-over.  This week, I resisted the urge to post a cute picture of my daughter hugging our dog in the unusually snowy day in Nashville. That meant that I also missed seeing all the  photos of my friends’ kids. But the payoff was additional time and FOCUS.
    “The only way past it, is through it.”   This is my new mantra every time my procrastination instinct kicks in. I got this one from an interview by Gretchen Rubin of writer Greer Hendricks .
 
About Sara Light
Sara Light has been writing professionally in Nashville since 1996. Her credits include the John Michael Montgomery title track and the hit single "Home To You" which received an ASCAP airplay award in addition to being named SESAC song of the year for having garnered 2 million spins on radio. She also composed songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy, The Musical" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score." Sara has always combined her love of teaching with her love of songwriting and has given countless songwriting seminars throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2001 she co-founded, along with her husband Danny Arena, the online educational website www.SongU.com. Besides being one of the main administrators (and now bloggers) Sara teaches Song Feedback and Lyric Writing at www.SongU.com

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, record label, music publisher, Sara Light, song demo, Co-Writing Songs, Rewrite

Top Ten tips for Entering Songwriting Competitions

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Jan 07, 2018 @07:24 PM

Top Ten tips for Entering Songwriting Competitions

By Jamie Anderson & Ira Greenfield
Innovative-Songwriting-Process.jpg

Most people think that entering Songwriting Competitions have to be a pain-inducing experience that’s akin to getting a root canal. The truth is that many songs that have done well have taken steps to make sure the songs sound good.  You’ll discover when you read through these 10 tips on entering songwriting competitions doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. In fact, you probably have all the knowledge you need to write a great song now.
 
It is always good to enter Songwriting Competitions to test out how good your songs really are. Here are ten tips to help you improve your chances of doing well in Songwriting Competitions:  

1. Vocals & Pronunciation. Put the vocals high in the mix, make sure pronunciation is clear. The lyrics can’t be judged if they can’t be heard. If people unfamiliar with your song can’t follow the story, then you need to remix it so the band doesn’t overpower your poignant lyrics. Also, make sure that the vocalist pronounces the lyrics properly. Our event director Eddie Phoon was a distinguished panelist at a Nashville Music Conference many years ago on a demo listening panel. The panel consisted on A&R director from record labels and music publishing companies, they listened to a Rock/Alternative song and everyone in the panel liked it except him. He said he liked the song but not the lyrics, he said he didn't get the lyrics “Open Your Ass”. The band responded “No, it's open your ears”, the crowd roared with laughter! Lesson learned: pronounce your lyrics properly, make sure the listener knows what you are talking about.

2. Make sure you’ve put your song in the right category. Just because you sing about Nashville doesn’t make it a country song. Load it up with weepy pedal steel, a mournful fiddle and make sure there’s a little twang in the singer’s voice. If you don’t sound like Carrie Underwood or Eric Church, hire someone who does to sing your song. Is it jazz? It should have something beyond one ninth chord and a host of major chords. Use chord substitutions to give it that smooth jazz sound. Is it folk? Add an acoustic guitar. Bluegrass? Better put in a banjo. Lyrics are important, too. If you’re singing about trucks and bars, it’s not jazz, unless you’ve been at said bar and consumed a couple of six packs. Listen to songs popular in that style and note the lyrics and arrangement. Don’t be that songwriter who wastes a good song by submitting it in the wrong category.

3. Arrangement & Collaboration. It’s not an arrangement contest. We don’t care if Clapton is your guitar player. Give us a compelling story or lyrics rich in metaphor. If you want to show off that hotshot guitar player, try a best band contest.  Instrumentals are in another category, of course, and for those, make sure there’s an engaging melody that repeats several times.

If you feel that you are great in writing great melodies but not that great in writing lyrics, go find a lyric writer. In the past 5 years of the USA Songwriting Competition, all top winning songs were written by more than one songwriter. Same goes for the Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, most of the hits todays are multi-way collaborations.
 
4. Have a short intro. The judges have already listened to a hundred songs and consumed a pot of coffee. They don’t need a 24-bar intro. I know “Stairway to Heaven” has a really long cool intro, but then again, you are not Led Zeppelin. Be kind. If you’ve got lyrics, get to them in 8 bars or less. If it’s an instrumental, get to the central melody right away.

5. Have a lyric sheet that actually reflects what’s being sung. If there’s a word or two that’s different, no problem, but make sure you’ve included all the verses and everything that’s key to the song. If you forget the last verse, we’ll never know if mama gets out of prison. A missing bridge, especially one with the theme of the song, could cost you that coveted winning prize.
 
6. Avoid common rhymes like heart/start, fire/desire, shelf/self, do/blue, together/weather, right/light, and light/night. These are typical clichés. "You are my fire, the one desire...". They’ve been used in thousands of songs and have completely lost their emotional impact. A good rhyming dictionary can help you. Don’t forget about imperfect rhymes – these are the ones where the vowel sound matches but maybe not much else, such as right/fly or cape/lane.
 
7. Don’t use rain as a metaphor for sadness. Fred Rose already wrote “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and Willie Nelson already sung it. You can’t top that. Likewise, don’t use a storm as a metaphor for anger or a sunny day for being happy. Pretty much, stay away from weather metaphors. Besides, songs like these have been done before. So, try to write in a refreshing manner.

8. Tune your guitar. Many judges are musicians and unlike some audience members, they not only notice stuff like that, they’re distracted by it. Likewise, if your drummer is always a half beat off or if the harmonies are sour. Sure, it’s not a best band contest, but why complicate matters? Many of the song demos are sign way off key. It would be rather difficult for the judges to hear the melody if it is sung off key.
 
9. Don’t tell us your emotions, show us. “I’m sad you left me,” is boring. Tell us about the rose pressed in the family bible or how you found his keys on the kitchen counter. Think like a good cinematographer. A talking head is coma-inducing (“I feel sad” or “You’re so mean”) but add a vivid landscape and a great mystery and you’ve got Citizen Kane. In other words - show, don't tell.

10. Look for a unique angle and use detail, avoid being derivative. “She broke my heart and left me” has been sung a million times. We don’t care anymore. “She slammed the door and on the way out, ran over my foot with her new cherry red Ford truck” – now that’s interesting. Use all your senses. Did he give you a rose? How did it smell? Don’t just tell us it’s red – go to a thesaurus and tell us it’s fuchsia, deep pink or maroon. Don’t tell us you like his kiss. Tell us how it tastes. Don’t tell us her dress is pretty, tell us it feels like warm silk.

Many songs that we hear are rather derivative in it's melodic lines as well as parts of the lyrics feels as if it has been plagiarized.
 
We have heard submissions in the USA Songwriting Competition where songwriters try to write the derivative songs that were number one on the charts at one time and end up being awkward. One case was a songwriter who took the entire track of Jennifer Lopez song "If You Had My Love" and wrote a similar melody to the background music, even the melodic line's rhythm was so similar. The chorus even copied the melody of the original song. Our judges thought the song has been plagiarized big time, let alone not being creative as the judges left the room singing to Jennifer Lopez song instead of this song that was entered. Needless to say, that song didn't win.
 
Now go tune your guitar, fire the drummer and write some great songs.
  
 
Jamie Anderson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist who’s taught songwriting and other courses at Duke University, arts centers, in her studio, and via Skype. Her experience in music is varied, from songwriting competition director to playing hundreds of gigs in the US and Canada. She’s also judged other song contests and released ten albums of original music. Coffee is her super power. www.jamieanderson.com and www.jamiebobamie.wordpress.com

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, record label, music publisher, song demo, Co-Writing Songs, Plagiarism, Rewrite

Eight Reasons Why You Should Have a Co-writer

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Dec 08, 2017 @02:46 PM

[Songwriting Tip] Eight Reasons Why You Should Have a Co-writer

By Jake Gakovik

 Supremetracks 1 TIFF selected-8.jpg

Opinions about co-writing songs are very much divided—some love it, some hate it. Although a lot of songwriters frown upon the idea of working with other songwriters, co-writing is actually more common than you might imagine.

Take a look at the songs on any of the charts, at any given time, and chances are you’ll find that a lot of them are the result of a cooperation between co-writers. You will even see a lot of songs created by teams of 4+ songwriters!

Some of the most successful music of all time has been the creation of co-writing teams like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and many more.

If you’re still not if sure co-writing is your thing, here are eight reasons why you should give it a try. Who knows, the results could be chart-topping.

  1. Improve your style with new techniques and writing skills

Every songwriter has different writing skills and a different songwriting process. Sometimes this process works and your skills are all you need to create a hit song. More often than not, though, this is not the case.

In a lot of situations, working as hard as you can is simply not enough for you to write that one song that will help you make it in the music world.

Combining your skill set with another songwriter, who can also have a different writing process, can be good for you. Co-writing is a great chance for you to improve your own process by seeing how someone else approaches the same song and to adopt some new writing techniques.

Most importantly, if you find a partner with whom you can create a mutually-beneficial relationship, where you add value to each other’s work, you’ll be on the right way to success.

  1. Learn about your strengths and weaknesses

No one is perfect. We all have our flaws and skills, or talents we lack. Knowing that about yourself is a big step towards finding your voice and your style. Another way you could deal with your weaknesses is to find someone who excels in the areas you don’t and vice versa.

Working with someone else on achieving the same goal can also help you identify a character trait that you didn’t know you had. Your partner could play a big role in helping you work on that specific weak point.

Once you get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you will see if you’re a good fit for each other and if working together will produce great results.

  1. Let your creativity soar and have fun

Writing your song is the fun part, especially if you’re working with someone else. Share the energy and excitement with your writing partner and it will definitely show in the song you create.

With high spirits, a positive atmosphere and good energy, creativity is bound to flow! If, at some point, you get stuck, just talking to your co-writer about it can help you overcome the block and get back into creative waters.

  1. Use a new set of eyes (and ears) to improve your songs

Say you started writing a song, but never finished it. There’s a number of reasons why this might happen, as we all know. Perhaps you just ran out of inspiration or you didn’t like it and decided to leave it be. Maybe you just got stuck and couldn’t finish it.

Try showing your unfinished work to your songwriting partner. They may have some ideas on how to finish the song and make it even better than you ever thought possible when you gave up on it.

This doesn’t have to apply only to abandoned and unfinished work. If you have a song you have finished but you’re not sure it’s good enough, ask your partner for feedback and maybe you’ll end up with a hit song.

  1.  Be accountable to someone else

No matter how responsible you are as a person, tight deadlines and time pressure can affect us all. Even if you mark you calendar and firmly determine the time when you’re going to sit down and write, something can always come up in the last possible minute.

By scheduling in time for work, you actually make a commitment and become accountable to someone else but yourself. This is a great way to keep yourself honest and dedicated to the writing routine. It’s much harder to avoid responsibility when you’re responsible for more than just your own work.

  1. Work half as hard and have twice the results

This is one of the practical reasons you should have a co-writer for your songs. However obvious this may sound, people often forget about the fact that two people working together generally need half the time and effort needed to write a song than it would take them if they were working individually.

Of course, that’s not always the case, but usually two heads are better than one.

You could also look at it this way: in the time you would need to write one song yourself, you and your writing partner could create two or more songs that are influenced by both your techniques and styles.

  1. Split the costs of your demo in two

This is another practical reason that people forget about more often than not.

When you and your writing partner are done with the song and you both think it’s ready to be heard by people, it’s time to create a demo. You have couple of choices here:

  • You can turn to professionals to record your demo right away, or
  • You can record the demo yourself and then hire professionals to turn it into a master track through professional studio tracking and post production.

Either way, you have someone to split the costs with which gets you one step closer to getting your songs in front of relevant people and companies.

  1. More people will be pitching your song

Once your song is written and demo recorded, it’s time to start pitching. This is usually the boring part for most songwriters, but when you have a partner by your side, the work immediately becomes easier as there is now two of you doing the pitching.

It’s not just the number of people that matters here. Since you worked hard on the song together, it’s important to both of you that the song succeeds, which is why you’ll do your best. A great little bonus is that with a partner you have more contacts in the music industry and the ability to grow your network, which can certainly come in handy for any future work.

 

The truth is that co-writing is not for everyone, but unless you give it a shot, you will never know if it’s your thing. Even if you decide to do it, it could take some time before you find the winning combination of skills and knowledge in your co-writing partner. But when you do find a partner you connect with and that you can really work with, you’ll get to experience the happiness and satisfaction that only comes from putting a great song into the world. Just imagine what the world would have missed if, for example, Paul McCartney decided to exclude John Lennon from the songwriting process.

 

Jake Gakovik is a session guitarist, music entrepreneur, and co-founder of www.supremetracks.com, a professional online recording studio where you can get your songs arranged, recorded and mastered by award-winning music professionals.

 

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, record label, music publisher, song demo, Co-Writing Songs, Plagiarism, Rewrite

The Songwriter’s Survival Guide

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Nov 03, 2017 @12:50 PM

The Songwriter’s Survival Guide
by Joe Hoten

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Song writing is one hair-tearingly frustrating, jump-out-of-your-seatingly exciting and air-punchingly rewarding pastime. That's quite a lot to experience from one activity, so if you're ready for that kind of roller coaster ride – one with plenty of loop-the-loops and vertical drops – then here are a few things to watch out for when you're penning your next number 1.

Humble Beginnings

Staring at a blank page can be like being lost on an Antarctic plain – nowhere to go, and no hope in sight. But, while being able to do absolutely anything can seem daunting, you've got to try and see the opportunity in it. Don't get carried away being overwhelmed by all the greatest songs ever written glaring down at you. Everybody goes through a little self-doubt now and then, but all it does is arrest your development. You can end up thinking your way into inaction. Just pick up your guitar and play. Or pick up your pen and write. Do, or do not. Once you've started messing around with a riff, a melody, even a single chord, the wheels will begin to turn, and you'll find yourself inching towards your goal.

Try not to discount anything before you've even done it. This is an easy trap to fall into, but it always comes down to this: you can't improve upon nothing. If you accept that a masterpiece isn't just going to drop out of your head onto your piece of paper, you'll find it a lot easier to rack up a respectable amount of 'OK' ideas that you can then hone and polish. A great idea can stem from anything – lyrics can inspire certain movements within your melody, or a particular chord could make you feel something that surprises you. Whatever it is that sparks that initial interest, run with it as far as you can.

Finding the Right Words

The music is a huge part of the emotionality of your song, but it’s up to your lyrics to convey your message literally. Keep them artful, rhythmical and true to your own character. People can spot a faker a mile off – say what you mean, and mean what you say, and everything else will follow.

Also, as tempting as it may be to flip things on their heads, beware of such tropes as writing depressing lyrics to happy music. It's completely possible to pull off, but equally possible to fluff up. That sort of thing is rarely so black and white as to simply swap out your majors for minors – you'd be going for more of an ironic melancholy that may best be saved for later. For the first few songs, pick the themes and vocabulary that do suit your music, just so you become accustomed to the effects such pairings can have. Learn how to roll before you reinvent the wheel.

The Great Plagiarism

All too often songwriters clap their hands together with glee as the final pieces of their puzzle fall into place… only to realise that the picture they’ve put together is strangely familiar. And that’s because they’ve unwittingly re-written somebody else’s song. This can be pretty soul-crushing to double check, but it's definitely worth it in the long run. No self-respecting creative mind would be at ease knowing it'd just regurgitated someone else's work, so you're probably going to have to carry on listening to as broad a range of music as you can manage. Sure, you'll notice trends reappearing across genres, and by all means use them for your own ends – but take heed of how they make you feel. If you notice a bunch of songs that sound the same and you find it a little tedious, it's time for you to buck that particular trend.

The Finished Product?

Is it really possible to know when your song's truly complete? Perhaps not when there always seems to be something else to think about. Is your melody hummable? Is the structure interesting? Does your verse flow nicely enough into your chorus? Is your word choice clear enough for your meaning? These are the questions that can keep you up at night. It's difficult not to become obsessive about every tiny little detail, second and third guessing every decision you've made, but at some point you're just going to have to throw your hands up and say 'that's enough!' When practically every note and every syllable could be different, sometimes you just have to go with your heart. After all, that's whereabouts your song's going to be felt when your fans hear it.

Phase 2

Now the writing phase is complete, congratulations are in order! Well done. And now for the bad news. You should probably prepare to want to change everything all over again, because now other people are going to hear your song.

Live It and Love It

The first thing to do is make sure you've learned your song inside out. This brings with it its own obstacles. Some say practice makes perfect, some say familiarity breeds contempt. In the context of learning songs, you need to find the happy middle ground. Learn it well enough so that it becomes second nature, as you'll be a lot more comfortable in front of an audience, and will hopefully develop a few muscle memories. But don't bore yourself to the edge of sanity either – we don't want a passionless recital from a robot who's fried their own circuits.

It’s great to try to test yourself – the comfort zone is where your creativity curls up and dies. By all means throw in a new technique you’ve been studying, go crazy with syncopation, make your rhymes and references as unusual as you like – just make sure you can pull it off. That’s what you wanted, after all. It certainly would suck if you vaingloriously flew straight at the sun only to have your wings melted off as you plummet into the sea of failure. Reading off your tablet doesn’t show the same degree of dedication as rattling off lines committed to memory, and fluffing up your carefully written solo probably won't win anybody over either. Prove to everyone you're serious about this – you're already been through the writing rigmarole, so you owe it to your creation. Let it live! Play it live! Well!

Rewrite the Wrongs


Once you've played your song a few times – and especially once you've written a few more – it's natural to start rethinking it. This is not necessarily a drawback. In a few rare cases, a song is just born immaculate – in which case, don't slap God in the face and change it! But as you learn more and more about music, you probably will start to think of choices you didn't make with your song back then as missed opportunities.

Revising your own work is a right and a necessity. Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to skip this stage – only once you have something to improve upon will you be able to see what needs to be improved. There’s nothing worse than rushing a song and allowing your fans and bandmates to get know a version of it you’re not satisfied with, then visibly tiring of it then making changes they may not take kindly to. This should by no means stop you road testing your song, because, especially if this takes place before trusted friends and peers, you may get the essential feedback you need to make the leap from good to brilliant. But you've got to play this hand carefully, and swiftly too – there must be a cut-off point between showcasing the idea and the big reveal where you actually decide definitively that it's as good as it's going to get. You can always move onto a new song, after all.

So there's a few little potholes you might encounter on your road to success. While a couple of them might slow you down, they're unlikely to stop you in your tracks. Don't be afraid of falling into traps such as these – if anything, trigger them for yourself. Do accidentally-on-purpose rip someone off, do write unfittingly upbeat music for your hard-hitting couplets, do stretch yourself musically and risk tripping over yourself in public. Like anything, it's a learning curve, and you'll probably learn best by doing it. Make mistakes, break some eggs, and realise none of these things are really going to hurt you, or mean that you're any less of a songwriter. In all likelihood, you'll be all the stronger for it.

 

Written by Joe Hoten, from Bands For Hire https://www.bandsforhire.net

 

Information on the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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