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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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Is This The Most Overlooked Aspect Of Good Songwriting?

I’ve worked with a lot of songwriters. The single most glaring area of weakness I hear has to do with predictable rhythms in the melody. I’ve often said that in all its aspects melody is the most neglected part of songwriting. Neglected by songwriters, that is. And the biggest offender is not the choice of […]

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Writing A Song… When You Feel Like You’ve Forgotten How To Write A Song

I did a show about a month ago where I played some new songs of mine. One of them was even brand new… I’d written it in the previous week and decided to give it a try. That’s often a mistake. As a rule it’s better to let something cool a little before I commit […]

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Before You Give Up On A Song…

When writing a song it’s practically impossible for me to tell if it’s going to be a keeper or not. Naturally I’m excited about the song idea or I wouldn’t be spending the time developing it. But at some point I start to wonder… is this really any good? Am I just fooling myself? Do […]

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How Problems With Your Song Can Fix Themselves

I heard a great quote recently from songwriter Dan Wilson (Adele) about not worrying too much if there’s a line you can’t get right: “Just sing it a few times… It’ll probably fix itself.” It’s easy to look at a song, when you’re writing it, as if it’s something on exhibit; under glass, or in […]

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Why Imitation Is The Sincerest Way To Get Better

I started out playing music on electric guitar and soon enough found a more congenial home on bass guitar – which I still play professionally – before branching out into other things… such as writing this blog. During my first few years of playing the bass, I never consciously imitated anyone, although I was influenced […]

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Why Does It Take 7 People To Write A Song?

This is a question I get asked pretty frequently these days. Especially by songwriters who mostly write alone or with one collaborator. They see up to 9, 10, 11 writers on current hit songs and can’t understand how this occurs. It’s different in every case, but maybe I can give you an idea of some […]

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Why Good Titles Are More Valuable Than Ever

The component parts of contemporary songwriting are going in many directions at once. While some rhyming becomes more and more intricate… other rhyming gets looser; sometimes in the same song. Some melodies get longer and more elaborate… others get simpler. Lyric content and storytelling of some songs get more layered and complex… while others get […]

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