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Songwriting Productivity: The Use of Deadlines

When asked which came first, the music or the lyrics, the great lyricist Sammy Cahn famously replied, “The phone call”. There’s nothing like a deadline to spur creativity.  And internal deadlines (“I WILL have this done by Wednesday!”) are usually not as effective as external ones. The deadline can be anything – a recording session, […]

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First I Tell The Song, Then The Song Tells Me

If I’m lucky, I start out a song with an idea I like  – music, words, feel; whatever I can get – and some ideas about where I might go with it. Or I might be messing around – aka ‘writing’ – and come across something I like. This then leads to other thoughts about […]

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Themes Obsessive & Habitual

In our lyrics, we tend to write about the same things over and over.  We all have our themes: love, romantic love, romance, sexual love, sex, loss. commitment, betrayal, optimism, skepticism, joy, anger, heartbreak, even obsession itself… among many others… They seem to embed themselves in our songs no matter how we try to guide […]

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The Delicate Balance: Music & Lyrics

Every song, by definition, balances music and lyrics.  How well a song works often has to do with how well that balance is struck. On the spectrum of great songwriting, I think of Burt Bacharach and Hal David as being at one extreme.  Complicated music, direct lyrics.  The simple perfection of David’s lyrics can often […]

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The Melodies of Adele

Much has been made of the recent success of Adele – her powerful singing, throwback soulfulness, old school production, emotional directness… All true, but what struck me right away about her songs was the length and legato quality of her melodies – unusual in an era where singing (particularly on strongly rhythmic songs) is more […]

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Modern Songwriting starts with Chuck Berry

Welcome to a weekly blog I’ll be writing on songwriting- and music-related subjects! I couldn’t think of a better place to start than with Chuck Berry.  It’s easy to take him for granted at this point in musical history… but that would be a mistake.  Even though a lot of his songs (like Johnny B. […]

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