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Under The Hood Of An Exceptional Song, part 1 (music)

Katy Perry’s ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ (written by Perry, Max Martin, Sia Furler, Ali Payami, Skip Marley) is an exceptionally good song. Let’s look under the hood: (As always, I strongly encourage you to play and sing the song… if you do, what follows will have a lot more meaning. But at least listen – […]

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The Most Fun Way To Write A New Song

Songs happen in all kinds of different ways (see some examples here), but to me probably the most fun way is to start off with another song’s groove and grow a new song out of that. This way of writing is in a bit of a bad odor lately because of the result of the […]

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Don’t Be Afraid To Repeat The Title

Something I encounter quite often… songwriters who are not inclined to repeat, within the Chorus, the Title of the song. Sometimes repeating isn’t appropriate, of course. But I think it’s always worth keeping in mind as an option in a Title-based song. The last thing I want is for the Title (by definition the most […]

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How ‘4Chords/4Bars’ Songs Took Over The World

In the world of popular song, there’s nothing new in using what might be called a formulaic approach to harmony – letting the chords be a song’s predictable, familiar element – and saving the variations for the melody and lyric. In recent years a new harmonic convention has emerged in mainstream pop music. And it’s […]

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Video blogpost: Why Do I Sometimes Like Songs With Bad Lyrics?

Thank you for reading my weekly blogposts! This is the next in a series of short video posts called ‘Ask Tony’, answering questions sent to me by songwriters. Watch the video below (it’s 2:20 long). If you have any songwriting questions, please email them to me at  asktony@tonyconniff.com. Any suggestions are also welcome. And, at […]

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The Whys & The Ways To Improve A Melody

This is a followup to my last post about being willing to rewrite to get past the first layers of cliches (here). Today I’d like to emphasize how important it is to include melodies in this process of refining and honing. In my experience melody is the most underserved aspect of songwriting. Writers who think […]

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To Get Past The Cliches, You’ve Got To Explore

Many of us writers get very discouraged when our first version of an idea comes out profoundly cliched, as it often does. It’s easy to feel that this mundane result is an indictment – an indication of a lack of talent, originality, musicality, dexterity, cleverness, soulfulness, and the like. In truth, it’s usually just an […]

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How To Change Your Lyric’s P.O.V. from Verse to Chorus

Generally speaking, to change the point of view in the lyric of a song, it’s a good idea to (1) do it at the start of a new section, and (2) keep the sections’ P.O.V. consistent relative to each other. A great example is ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson. In the Verse, he sings about […]

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How Contemporary Songs Are Different; Part 2: Melody

I gave a talk at our Songwriting Day event in 2016 about the ways in which contemporary songs differ from songs of previous generations. The evolution of songwriting always fascinates me and, in a series of posts, I’m attempting to elucidate this evolution a little bit. In the first post I looked at some of […]

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NEW Video blogpost: ‘Why Are Songs Different Today?’

Thank you for reading my weekly blogposts! I’m starting something different this week: a series of short video posts called ‘Ask Tony’, answering questions sent to me by songwriters. Watch the first video below (it’s less than 3 minutes long). If you have any songwriting questions, please email them to me at  asktony@tonyconniff.com. Also, any […]

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Creating Your Habit of Songwriting

It’s hard for most of us songwriters to write a bunch of good songs unless we write a lot of songs. They don’t all come out the way we hope! To get the home runs, you have to get up to bat pretty frequently. So there needs to be some kind of Habit of Songwriting. […]

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When To Start Your Song With The Chorus

Most commonly, Verse/Chorus songs start with the Verse and build into the Chorus. This allows the song to begin its story or situation, and to build up drama and excitement, ideally climaxing at the Chorus. Almost all songs involve some kind of story, or a situation that’s summed up in the Chorus, or a question […]

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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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