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What’s the REAL Title Of Your Song?

You can call your song anything you want.  You can use a word or phrase that’s in the song… or just take something you like seeing at the top of the lyric page or sheet music and name it that.  Your call. But the real title is the word or phrase that the listener is […]

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Harmonize Your Song By Not Listening To The Chords

When choosing chords for (harmonizing) a song, you can tell a lot from listening to the melody and words with just the bass notes. I believe that the core of harmony’s emotional impact on a melody primarily has to do with the relationship between the melody and the bass notes.  Maybe it’s partly because I’m […]

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The Title: To Rhyme Or Not? And, If So… Where And How?

In a song I wrote recently I was puzzled, not for the first time, about whether to rhyme the line preceding the Title with the Title and, if so, where and how to do it.  These same issues actually come up with any rhyming in a song; rhyming is always a choice.  But the stakes […]

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The Eternal Songwriting Question: Stick With What I Know? Adapt? Or Both?

The kind of songs I grew up with, the genres I loved the most, the styles of music I played for most of my teenage years and adult life as a freelance musician – my ‘comfort zone’ songs – I know them very well.  Writing songs in these styles comes naturally to me because I […]

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Songwriting Day 2014: Put 40 Songwriters Together In A Room And Shake…

It’s interesting when you get 35-50 songwriters together for a full day, as we do at these annual Songwriting Days, one of which we had this past Sunday.  A lot of surprising experiences happen…  People connect with others – maybe potential collaborators – that they wouldn’t otherwise have met; presenters bring up ideas that make […]

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Songwriters… Be Impatiently Patient

Ideas and inspiration are indispensable, but for most writers putting in the hours is how one learns to be a songwriter.  There are very rare exceptions… and I hate to say it but… like me, you’re probably not one of them.  Putting in the time is how we improve, how that standout song happens. I’ve […]

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Places To Find Songwriting Inspiration – And Ways To Use It

It’s no surprise that artists get inspiration from other artists, both in their field and in other fields, as well as from life itself.  If I love a song, I’ve found some ways to dig more deeply into it.  Many times this leads me to write a song of my own Some little thing the […]

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Confidence + Humility = Creativity

Most of the great musicians and songwriters that I’ve met and worked with have two things in common. One is that they have confidence.  They’re experienced creators.  They’re professionals.  They’ve already met many challenges (of music and of the personalities in music) and have a strong sense that they have the combination of talent, skills […]

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When I Get Sick Of The Song I’m Writing

Songwriting, like recording, is usually a very repetitive process.  I have to play the song over and over, often hundreds of times, before I get it ‘right’ (if that moment ever comes!). There’s usually an initial excitement, or at least an intense curiosity, when I start something new.  Something has captured my ears – a […]

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When Songs DON’T Rhyme – Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’… and Others

The useful, musical qualities of rhyme are many – though that’s not the subject of this post.  Suffice to say that almost every single popular song (99%+?) uses rhymes.  A lot.  We’re really used to hearing rhymes in songs. But what about songs that don’t use rhyme? Recently I started thinking about Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ […]

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What Makes A Song A ‘Song’?

Why do songs need structure… and why do they have the structures that they do? I’d say song structure amounts to this: a combination of repetition and variation in the music and words that makes the listener feel like they’ve heard a ‘Song’. As children we listen to nursery rhymes like ‘Three Blind Mice’, ‘Rockabye […]

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Slow Down

Once I’ve got the music for a song pretty together – the melody, the rhythm, and the harmony – I’ve learned that it’s very useful to… s l o w   t h i n g s   d o w n. When I slow things down I notice a lot of things that just fly by […]

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Songwriting: There Are No Rules

I’m a musician and songwriter who for over a decade has also been facilitating Songwriting workshops and teaching Songwriting.  And I still haven’t found any ‘rules’ or ‘formulas’ for songwriting. There are customs and traditions, all of which, when used well, can add tremendous power and resonance to a song; both structurally and because listeners […]

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Take Apart ONE Song

Here’s a way to get deeper into the craft, the nuts and bolts, of songwriting: Take Apart One Song. Pick a song you really love (not one of yours…) and break that one song down as far as possible into its component parts.  I can pretty much guarantee you’ll learn a lot. In practice, how […]

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In The Era Of Oprah, Most Good Songs Are Still About Trouble

In this era of therapy, Oprah, ‘having a positive attitude’, affirmations, ‘the secret’, even ‘the seacrest’, it’s common to think that one’s songs should also always be uplifting, have a positive ‘message’, a happy ending, etc. Though there are many great songs of new love, hope, inspiration, most good songs are about trouble… struggle.  Just […]

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We Respond To Songs Primarily As SOUND

When working on a song and concentrating hard on the component parts – lyrics, melody, chords, rhythms – it’s easy to forget that we respond to songs primarily as SOUND.  That is, not to the particulars but to the overall sound, and the feeling we get from that. This is more obviously true in a […]

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Think Out Of The Songwriting ‘Box’: Drop A Bar!

We’ve all heard tens of thousands of songs.  If a song is extremely predictable, most listeners, even the most musically disinterested or uneducated among us, can feel instinctively what’s going to happen next.  If a song follows the same exact pattern that’s been heard thousands of times before, unless it’s unusually well done the listener […]

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Returning To My List Of Song Titles

Some songwriters won’t even start a song without a Title they feel good about. I understand the thinking behind this – what’s the point of investing a lot of time and energy into a song when you don’t even know if you’ll end up with a strong ‘Big Idea’?  And in most popular songs, across […]

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‘Write it down, no matter how dumb it seems at the time.’

I wrote a note to myself the other day – ‘Write it down, no matter how dumb it seems at the time.’  I often have this thought when working on a lyric. For me it happens something like this:  I have an idea that makes me cringe; it’s so stupid/awkward/obvious/obscure/pretentious/disconnected, etc.  Although I don’t keep […]

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Let The Words Change The Melody Sometimes

A very common songwriter’s dilemma is to have a melody line and a lyric for that melody… the melody seems right, and the lyric is saying what I want it to say… but they don’t quite fit together. Often the lyric is a little short or long… and that’s what I work on adjusting.  But […]

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