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You Can’t Trust Your Memory When You’re Writing a Song

There are times when I treat every beginning-of-a-song idea for what it is – the seed of a potentially good song… who knows, maybe my best yet. Of course, most of my ideas don’t end up that way. But that’s how I have to think of them – with a belief they might end well. […]

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At What Point Does It Become A Co-Write?

When I work with songwriters as a producer or musician, in a workshop or class, or as a one-on-one songwriting coach, any suggestions I make for their song are included. There’s no question of co-writing. I’m trying to help the writer find their own way with their song. If in the process I suggest a line […]

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How To Surprise Your Listener

Working on a new song recently I was faced with a typical songwriting problem. One so mundane that I thought sharing how it looked to me, and what I’ve done about it so far (the song’s not finished), might be worthwhile. My first draft lyric for the Verses was something like – I could come […]

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The Evolution Of Rhyme

When I heard Taylor Swift’s single ‘Gorgeous’ (video below) the first thing I noticed was the almost complete lack of ‘true’ rhymes. Rhyming has gotten much looser in recent years, for some very good reasons, but this is an extreme example. And since it was written by experienced songwriters Swift and hit-making monsters Max Martin […]

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4 Tips For Making Your Recordings ‘Broadcast Quality’

I’ve had many songwriters come to me saying they need to make the recordings of their songs ‘broadcast quality’. They either want me to produce their songs, or to help them make their own recordings better. ‘Broadcast quality’ is something that publishers, licensing companies, and ‘middlemen’ like Taxi often request. What does it mean… and […]

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Melody: Keep The Shape, Change The Inversion

Sometimes I get the shape of the melody right, but not the register. Let’s say we’re in the key of ‘C’ and the first phrase of the melody starts on the root, goes up, and then back down – the notes being C D E G E G D C. Try singing those notes in […]

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Why Your Musicians Don’t Know Your Lyrics… And Why It May Not Matter

A big part of my preparation and education, if you want to call it that, for being songwriter was (and is) playing hundreds and thousands of songs on gigs, in recording sessions, in Broadway shows. A lot of covers, a lot of originals. I was a bass player – a sideman – and I still […]

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3 Ways To Take A Break From Songwriting

Looking over the last six or seven years, I can see I’ve been a relatively productive songwriter. I don’t have an exact count, but I’ve written well over a hundred songs. Yet in recent months I’ve only written a few. Before that, in the last year or two, I’d already slowed down somewhat, mostly because […]

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The Greatness Of Becker & Fagen (Steely Dan)

I join the world of popular music and beyond in mourning the death this week of Walter Becker, partners with Donald Fagen in a songwriting/recording team responsible for some of the greatest songs and recorded music of the 20th century, much of it under the band name Steely Dan. Becker & Fagen were originals. They […]

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The Chords of ‘Wichita Lineman’ Blew Me Away

The recent loss of Glen Campbell – a music business legend if there ever was one – got me thinking about and listening again to my favorite of Glen’s hits – ‘Wichita Lineman’, written by Jimmy Webb (it’s also by far my favorite Jimmy Webb song). This led me to breaking down the music of […]

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Who Says You Can’t Rhyme ‘Orange’?

Rhymes are perfect, or ‘true’, when they have the exact same sound at the end – like round/sound, fine/line, game/same, etc. Anything else you might traditionally call a rhyme would be a ‘false’, or imperfect, rhyme. That’s where the vowel sound is the same or similar, but the following consonant isn’t exactly the same… like […]

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When I Stopped Using My Song’s 1st Verse To Clear My Throat

When beginning a conversation, especially with someone you don’t know well, it’s normal to spend a little time on pleasantries, polite chitchat… It breaks the ice. “How’ve you been? How’s your husband/wife? How are the kids? How’s work?” Etc. After that, unless some earth-shattering event is reported, you move on to the business at hand. […]

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What Happens When You Discover Your Title? Focus Happens.

Irving Berlin’s classic songwriting advice to “repeat the Title as often as possible so people know what to ask for when they go to buy it” doesn’t hold nearly as true anymore (as I discuss here). But there are still a lot of other good reasons to write Title-based songs… I’m going to concentrate on […]

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Is Writing A Song A Hero’s Journey?

Recently I was watching a video in which author David Mamet talked about writing drama (plays, screenplays). He made a direct comparison between the journey of the hero of the story and that of the writer writing it. In stories, the hero’s role is to meet challenges, deal with them, and hopefully surmount them. In […]

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Developing Songwriting Mindfulness

What does it mean to be a Songwriter? Well… if you write songs, you’re a songwriter. That’s the simple answer. The quality of the songs may be open to eternal debate… but if you write ‘em… There’s also a state of mind involved. Songwriters think and see the world like a songwriter. That is, we […]

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Where To Place Your Title

If you’re writing a Title-based song – where the Title is the most important lyric in it and it’s the phrase or word you most want listeners to remember – then it’s critical to put the Title in a memorable place in your melody. This can be at the high point of the Chorus melody […]

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How To Use Every Chord In The Book and Still Have A Hit Song

One of the things most current hit songs have in common, other than non-stop melody lines, are simple chords. If you listen to the songs on the charts now, most have only a few chords – and almost all those chords are triads. At the moment (June, 2017), it’s even rare to hear chords with […]

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Songwriting Tools Are Not Rules

There are a lot of truisms in songwriting – old school rules of thumb that remain valid and useful today in many, if not most, kinds of songwriting… things like ‘Verses should match one another in their melody, rhythm, and scan’, or ‘Lyrics should be sung the same way you’d pronounce them when spoken’, or […]

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Don’t Let The SOUND Put You Off Current Pop Songs

Some people born in 1990 listen to certain current pop recordings and can’t relate to the way they sound. That goes double for someone born in 1975, maybe triple for someone born in 1960, etc. This is because of things like differences in the way songs are put together now, the rhyming… And, most especially, […]

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Great Songs With Titles That Are Questions?

There have been many great songs whose Titles are a Question. Why does this work as well and as often as it does? A question expresses a need; a need to know. Since feeling an overwhelming desire for someone or something is often at the core of good songs, a question can be a great […]

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