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Staying Open To Songwriting Influence and Inspiration

Sometimes a songwriter is inspired – excited creatively and/or financially – to use a chunk of another song’s chords, groove, melody, or just ‘vibe’ in  their own song. Or to tell the story in a song’s lyric in their own way. There’s a great tradition of songwriters writing their own ‘take’ on another song. There’s […]

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Has Your Songwriting Routine Become A Rut?

There is of course no correct way to write a song; no right way to get to the music or the lyrics. Some people write on piano, some guitar… some use an omnichord or autoharp, some create a cappella, some to tracks. Some write music to a lyric; some write a beat and create melody […]

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Finding A Lyric’s ‘Angle’ Makes It Much Easier To Write

A very common situation: I’ve got a Title and at least a substantial part of the rest of the Chorus lyric (if there is any – sometimes the Title’s all the Chorus lyric you need). I’ve also got the music mostly worked out – melody, chords, etc. But I still need lyrics for several Verses. […]

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The $12 Gadget That Changed Pop Music History

It’s always been important to play your instrument ‘in tune’. But what does ‘in tune’ mean? Instruments like guitars and pianos are tempered (which basically means that you can play in all keys, but slightly and equally out of tune in each; as opposed to playing perfectly in tune in only one key… which is […]

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Don’t Let The Listener Get Ahead Of Your Song

It’s not a good sign, to put it mildly, when I get the feeling that the listener can intuitively predict my next line before I sing it. I may like the line; it may work for the song. But if the listener is not only keeping up with me but is actually ahead of me […]

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The Spectrum Of Great Songwriters

Philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously separated writers and thinkers into two basic categories – Hedgehogs and Foxes. He took this from an ancient Greek saying: “A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one important thing.” As Berlin saw it, Hedgehogs – like Dostoyevsky, Nietsche, Ibsen – see life through the lens of one defining […]

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Aretha Franklin, Songwriter: An Appreciation

Aretha Franklin’s stature as a songwriter will never equal her monumental accomplishments as a singer. She didn’t write many songs (at least that were recorded), but some of the ones she wrote are really good, and her recordings turned them into classics. She couldn’t have been better served by her musicians, as well as – […]

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Two Ways To Go Deeper In Your Lyrics

Each song is a custom-made world unto itself. Of course, like in any popular art form, there are genres that most songs fit into in some way. But each song, if it works, comes into its own individual existence. Just like people. And, like people, some are more fully realized than others. When we’re writing, […]

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Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ – Under The Hood

I think Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ is one of the best songs of the last 50 years. Certainly one of the greatest ballads. Musically it’s masterful. It’s a pleasure to just listen and be moved… but let’s spoil everything by looking under the hood. (You need to play and sing this one. Video below)) Start with […]

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Start Your Song With A Bass Line… Here Are Some Who Did

With some songs all you need, musically, is a melody and a bass line.  The bass will suggest chords but, to ‘hear’ the song, it’s not necessary to hear the chords; just the bass line. There are many songs with great bass parts that add immeasurably to the song. But this week I’m looking at […]

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Why And How To Avoid The Root In Your Melody

A good melody tells a story. It doesn’t just help tell the story of the words; it has its own story. (Sometimes the melody’s story is very different from the story in the words – it can also function as subtext to the lyric). Any good melody has drama. It starts somewhere, takes a journey, […]

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Beware The Songwriting ‘Expert’ (Including Me)

I’ve been writing songs for a long time, and teaching and coaching other songwriters for close to 20 years. I hope that I’m helping some of those writers (and readers). But I never call myself a songwriting ‘expert’. In fact, beyond being a proud songwriter, I don’t know what to call myself, other than a […]

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The One Unarguable Truth About Songwriting

There’s one fact of songwriting life that I’ve never been able to get around. It’s this: The songs just don’t write themselves. There’s a part of me that wants to avoid the heavy mental lifting and investment of time that’s involved in writing new songs and developing as a songwriter, in keeping the writing muscles […]

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A Cheap Trick That Works… Sometimes

Going into a new key for your Chorus (every time; not just for the last Chorus) is considered by many many songwriters to be… well, cheating. Why? Because simply by changing key you potentially create a ‘fake’ version of the exciting lift that, in most cases, should come from the transition into the Chorus itself, […]

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What To Do When Your Song… Bores You

I’m working on a song and I lose interest in it because if I’m honest I have to admit that it bores me. Not everything in it, or the main idea… but something about it doesn’t excite me anymore… if it ever did. I hate to admit how often this makes me want to give […]

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Remember… Your Songwriting Doesn’t ALWAYS Suck

There are days… there are days when I just don’t have it. I poke around for ideas and nothing comes up. My energy is off, I’m tired… I’m slumping… I just can’t get going. BUT… I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. Something in me says there’s still hope, so I’m not giving […]

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An Easy Way To Do Your Song A Favor

As much as we might prefer it not to be so, the quality of a performance or recording of a song can’t help but have an effect, positive or negative, on the perception of that song. This goes for even experienced listeners who are used to ‘hearing past’ weaknesses in performances. For most of us, […]

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3 Ways To Make Your Chord Progressions Less Predictable

Something we may not think about much is how predictable the rhythms of chords usually are. Chords almost always land in the same places – on the first beat of a bar, or the first and third beat, or the first beat and the ‘and’ of two (the 8th note after beat 2). And songs […]

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Can Your Song Work With Three Sections Before The Chorus?

Songs with a Pre-Chorus almost always follow the same basic structure: Verse/Pre-Chorus/Chorus. Sometimes the Verse will vary somewhat as it progresses, but usually there are just the three discrete and easily identifiable sections (for example, in Billie Jean, I Try, Refugee, many many more). However, in some songs the Verse has two very different sections […]

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A Way To Make Your Melody Less Predictable

Like everyone, in my songwriting I have patterns I easily fall into. Comfort zone chord progressions, rhythms, tempos, melody lines… As I pointed out last week (here), one of the most insidious of these is having the rhythms of the melody be the same, or too similar, in every phrase. This is a recipe for […]

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