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Why Are Some Songs Easy To Write? And Some A Slog?

Some songs take weeks, months, even years to write… and even then they might not be right (whatever that is). Even Bob Dylan, known as a fast writer, rewrote ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Mississippi’, already great songs, over and over, through many years, trying to satisfy himself. He may still be rewriting them! Other […]

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Working Backwards From The Rhyme Can Unlock Your Song

Instead of working from the beginning of the line and discovering the rhyme at the end, as I often do, I sometimes ‘work backwards from the rhyme’. It can be very helpful. It’s usually most helpful when I haven’t yet got a fix on what I want to say in the Verses; I haven’t yet […]

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Inside ‘We Are The Champions’

Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ (written by Freddie Mercury) always intrigued me. Though I can’t say I loved it, I’ve always been impressed by how stirring its Chorus is, and how gutsy the over-the-top lyrics are. It takes nerve to write an anthem like this… and own it. Looking more closely at the song gave […]

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The Uses and Misuses Of ‘We’

‘We’ is a pronoun that pops up a lot in songs. If you’re singing to, about, or with someone else, a specific person or persons, the use of ‘we’ is common and perfect – ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’, ‘We Belong Together’, ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’, ‘We Belong To The […]

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An Easy Way To Find New Song Titles

A month ago I wrote a song called ‘The Less I Know The Better’. Yesterday I was going through my scraps of paper and receipts with possible song Titles scribbled on them and I found the Title that started that song. It was, then, ’The Less You Know The Better’. I’d forgotten this was where […]

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Staying Open To Songwriting Influence and Inspiration

Sometimes a songwriter is inspired – excited creatively and/or financially – to use a chunk of another song’s chords, groove, melody, or just ‘vibe’ in  their own song. Or to tell the story in a song’s lyric in their own way. There’s a great tradition of songwriters writing their own ‘take’ on another song. There’s […]

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Has Your Songwriting Routine Become A Rut?

There is of course no correct way to write a song; no right way to get to the music or the lyrics. Some people write on piano, some guitar… some use an omnichord or autoharp, some create a cappella, some to tracks. Some write music to a lyric; some write a beat and create melody […]

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Finding A Lyric’s ‘Angle’ Makes It Much Easier To Write

A very common situation: I’ve got a Title and at least a substantial part of the rest of the Chorus lyric (if there is any – sometimes the Title’s all the Chorus lyric you need). I’ve also got the music mostly worked out – melody, chords, etc. But I still need lyrics for several Verses. […]

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Don’t Let The Listener Get Ahead Of Your Song

It’s not a good sign, to put it mildly, when I get the feeling that the listener can intuitively predict my next line before I sing it. I may like the line; it may work for the song. But if the listener is not only keeping up with me but is actually ahead of me […]

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The Spectrum Of Great Songwriters

Philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously separated writers and thinkers into two basic categories – Hedgehogs and Foxes. He took this from an ancient Greek saying: “A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one important thing.” As Berlin saw it, Hedgehogs – like Dostoyevsky, Nietsche, Ibsen – see life through the lens of one defining […]

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Aretha Franklin, Songwriter: An Appreciation

Aretha Franklin’s stature as a songwriter will never equal her monumental accomplishments as a singer. She didn’t write many songs (at least that were recorded), but some of the ones she wrote are really good, and her recordings turned them into classics. She couldn’t have been better served by her musicians, as well as – […]

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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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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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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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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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