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5 Ways To Evaluate Your Songwriting

Why evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your songwriting, an exercise that can be somewhat painful? Mostly because improvement is absolutely possible if specific areas are identified and worked on. Think of it like a bodybuilder (which I’m not). If you do enough steady work on your arms, your abdomen, etc., you’ll see improvement; you’ll […]

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The World’s Best Songwriting Tool

There are many elements that make up a good or great song. Music: melody, harmony, rhythm… Lyrics: story, meaning, characters, the sound of the words… Structure: finding the most suitable ‘container’ for the idea and then taking full advantage of it… And, in all these areas, understanding listeners’ expectations of genre and style, and utilizing […]

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Two Ways To Improve A Melody

1) Play or sing the melody, accompanied by only the bass notes (no chords). You can do this on the piano – play the melody with the right hand and the bass notes with the left. Or you can just sing the melody while playing the bass notes on any instrument that has some low […]

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How To Find Your Intro

They’re important. They’re the first thing people hear. But Intros – aka the part before the singing starts – are often taken for granted. When they work, they get the listener intrigued, involved, curious… Like with any good story, you want them thinking, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ What makes good intros is harder to […]

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Who Should Win The Argument In Your Song?

When you have a team working together, especially a talented one, not everyone’s going to agree. A lot of different ideas fly around. Ideally, at some point there will an agreement that one idea is the best one, and that’s the one that ’wins’ – the group goes with that. This is often how successful […]

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Staying Open To Last Minute Changes In A Song

Once I get a new song rolling I usually have some idea of where it’s going. This idea functions like directions on a map; it gives me a sense of how my journey will go, making it easier to move forward. It’s mostly intuitive, and it helps. Sometimes it makes sense to keep with my […]

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Under The Hood Of An Exceptional Song, part 2 (lyrics)

The lyrics of ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ celebrate the surface qualities of the song (dance, party, escape) and also critique them. The title itself embodies this duality – ”Chained To The Rhythm’. Good thing? Bad thing? Both? It’s easy to take the song on the surface level. Plenty of the lyrics support it and, on […]

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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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