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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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The Quickest Way To Bring Fresh Ears To A New Song

Deep into a new song, at some point it becomes hard, almost impossible, to get a clear perspective on what I have. As excited and engaged as I may be, the various alternatives for  Verses, lines, words, melody variations, chord choices, etc. can become a blur. I’ve found that the best way to hear music […]

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Why You Sometimes Like Songs With Bad Lyrics

In a song, everything is sound. So, before we even perceive the content of lyrics – the literal meaning and the emotions attached to that meaning – we get a feeling from the sound of the words. Those words may say something that’s coherent and substantial. But they also may not – and that might […]

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Don’t Give Away Your Chorus Before Its Time

This post is about avoiding something that I think can hurt a song – I watch out for it in my own writing and I notice it in many songs of writers I’ve worked with. To cut to the chase, the ‘antidote’ to this potential damage can perhaps best be summarized this way: Don’t give […]

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The Importance Of Being Picky… Very Picky

I’ve written various posts related to how important it is to write without judgement… to let ideas flow out as much as one can, knowing that their quality will usually vary unpredictably. And to, for the moment, take the ideas as they come, without judgement. But today I write about the importance of being picky… […]

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By Now Hip Hop Has Influenced All Songwriting – Even Country

It’s no secret that by now Hip Hop has influenced every kind of popular songwriting that can be called contemporary, and that songwriting cannot and will not never go back to the way it was pre-Hip Hop. Good new songs are still being written all the time in traditional styles. But songwriting, like everything else, […]

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Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ – The Art of Generating Momentum

Coldplay’s 2008 hit, ‘Viva La Vida’ is an intense, rousing, and satisfying song. It combines a lot of relatively simple elements, with complex results. Listen to it below. Looking at the elements… Chords: About as standard as they come – although the way they’re delivered, primarily by marcato strings, is unusual for a pop song. […]

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Bowie – A Songwriting Look Inside ‘Young Americans’

Today it only seems right to look at a song of David Bowie’s; let’s make it one of my favorites – ‘Young Americans’. When I listen to this record it disarms me. I can’t help but notice great things about the songwriting, some of which I’ll get into here, but as with all great recordings […]

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Iron & Wine – The Indirect Style And Sound Of Sam Beam’s Songwriting

Iron & Wine is singer/songwriter Sam Beam and whichever musicians and singers he decides to combine with. To me he’s one of the most interesting songwriters and record-makers around. I liked ‘Boy With A Coin’, the Iron & Wine song under discussion here, as soon as I heard it; just the sound of it, before […]

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Easy To Sing Is A Damn Good Thing: ‘Let It Snow’ Part 2

While scribbling away on our pads or pecking away at our iPads, as we write and revise lyrics, it can be easy to forget that lyrics are for singing… even when we ourselves are the ones who have to sing them! Lyrics are not for reading off a page or reciting. They’re musical words, made […]

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How Adele Sets Up A Great Chorus

A big part of why understanding song structure is so important is that listeners bring expectations, based upon what they’re familiar with. At this point, the most common song structures are practically hardwired into music lovers’ brains. (And, like those brains, song structures are also evolving.) It’s like watching a film: most of them fall […]

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