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Christmas – It’s That Time Of Year… To Hear Everything

Going to various places in New York City during this holiday season, Christmas songs of every era played constantly. I heard the classics, such as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘The Christmas Song’ (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”), ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’, on through ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, ‘Rockin’ Around […]

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Can You Write A One-Chord Song?

Have you ever tried writing a song with just one chord? This is an assignment I give occasionally in songwriting workshops and the results, particularly given how limited the idea can seem at first, are often really good. Lacking harmonic variety, successful one-chord songs seem to put a strong emphasis on the groove of the […]

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Jay-Z and Bruce Mythologize Themselves In Their Songs… You Can Try It Too

I recently finished one of the best books on Songwriting I’ve ever read: ‘Decoded’ by Jay-Z. It combines autobiography, thought-provoking observations, and a lot of deep-dive analysis of his own lyrics – which themselves contain a lot of autobiographical and observational elements. The forensics he does on his lyrics are fascinating. On one level he’s […]

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Improve Your Recordings By Using Contrast

One of my occasional posts about recording and producing songs: Recordings that are great but not too hard to understand are good to learn from, whether you’re an experienced producer or not. The recording of ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ by Thomas Dolby (listen below… and read along) works well along these lines. It’s a […]

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For Bob Dylan, Songwriter, the Nobel Prize for Literature Is Not A Promotion

I love to read; I read compulsively. I get anxious at the thought of having time on my hands and being caught without something interesting in printed form. I enjoy ‘literature’ of all sorts. At the moment, randomly, books by Anthony Trollope, John LeCarre, Robert Frost, and yes, Frank Conniff are on my night table. […]

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What A Difference A Note Makes (In A Chord)

In a song I’m currently working on, there’s an 8 bar section where I started with this simple progression: || C | G | F | G | C | G | Aminor | F || Once I had the melody pretty well worked out I started fooling around with these chords; trying different variations […]

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Songwriting Is Looking Inside… And Looking Outside

In terms of writing over a longer period of time, if one just writes autobiographically it’s very hard, almost impossible, to have enough variety to sustain listeners’ interest, not to mention our own. Few of us are able to plumb our own depths exclusively and make that exploration consistently fascinating. It might be even harder […]

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How To Make A Song Written In A Classic Style Sound Contemporary

Unless you’re a very strong performer, it’s difficult to make a dent as a songwriter without having good recordings of your songs. Otherwise how are people going to hear them? So I’m going to start occasionally using this blog to look at the recording aspect of songwriting. It can’t be ignored. Even if you don’t […]

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How To Use A Minor Chord… When The Ear Expects Major

I’ve recently been listening to a couple of songs that I really like that use the same harmonic idea, though in different ways – a Vminor chord when your ear expects a Vmajor chord… and it’s really cool. Two points about these recordings. They’re both from ‘neo-soul’ artists. And also… they’re both English. To my […]

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How To Set Up A Song’s Title

Titles are one of the most powerful tools in songwriting. They don’t just help listeners remember the song – though that’s important. When placed and used well, the Title builds a resonance over the course of the song; it gathers force partly through repetition, but also because of what’s placed around it, which can give […]

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Some Ways To Learn From The Songs You Love

Recently I came across a quote from artist/songwriter Aloe Blacc. What he said seemed almost too obvious… then I realized he was talking about things that may seem so obvious – to some – that they don’t get said enough. “Make a list of songs that you think are great, whether it be great for […]

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Learn About Songwriting… Then Don’t Think About It

As weird as it may seem to some who’ve read a post or two of mine, I don’t get too technical when I write songs. I believe I know, on a deeper level, much more than I consciously know, so I think I’m much better off being open to that material surfacing than if I […]

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It’s Usually Good To Know What Your Song’s About

I post songwriting-related quotes on Facebook regularly; not always because I agree with them but because I think they say something worth considering. I recently posted a quote from Taylor Swift, which I put up because I thought she expressed a pretty good songwriting approach: “Think, ‘What would I say to him right now if […]

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Sometimes Songs Announce Themselves With A Shy Whisper

That little fragment, that snippet of words and/or melody that comes to mind at odd moments? Sometimes annoying, sometimes amusing, a line pops into your head just when you least expect it… And then, if attention isn’t paid to it… poof… like Keyser Soze, it disappears. Guess what? That annoying melody or phrase… that could […]

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Let Us Now Praise Smokey Robinson

Let’s take a moment to praise one of the 20th Century’s great songwriters, universally acknowledged – Smokey Robinson. He’s still very active at the age of 76. Going back to 1957 (almost 60 years!), Smokey was Berry Gordy’s original partner on the creative end at Motown Records (originally call Tamla). Often with his frequent partner, […]

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Songs, Like Art, Can Range from Realism to Abstraction

I don’t know much about art but… wait for it… On the wall at my studio I have, among other things, a print of a painting by Mark Rothko. I like Rothko’s work. The pulsing blocks of color connect with me. But if you asked me what his paintings ‘mean’… I couldn’t tell you. I […]

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Revisiting Earlier Songs… As A More Experienced Writer

I try to do my best when I write a song. When I feel it’s as good as I can make it, knowing what I know as a songwriter at that time, then it’s ‘done’ In a way, my focus is on the next song or songs – maybe to a fault. I’ve never spent […]

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When You Hear That Inner Voice Saying Your Song Could Be Better…

Sometimes I finish a song… and I feel pretty good about it; it seems to be working well. At that point I might even perform and/or record it. But even then I can still find myself going through my life thinking about some aspect of the song that’s bothering me, that doesn’t sit quite right […]

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Like ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’, Your Ballad Might Be A Dance Hit

Most people know Mike Posner’s ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’ from the SeeB EDM dance remix, released a year ago, that became a worldwide megahit, rising to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, with over 460,000,000 hits on Youtube. When I first heard this version, I thought it was OK, but that the production […]

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Is ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ the Perfect Song?

I’ve heard people call Somewhere Over The Rainbow “the perfect song”. I don’t even think of that as something to strive for, but I do think the song is about as bulletproof as they come. For what it’s worth, the song is number one on the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording […]

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