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‘Just My Imagination’ – An Appreciation Of A Great Song

I recently was invited to see the new Broadway show about The Temptations, ‘Ain’t Too Proud’. It was no surprise that there were a lot of great songs in it. Included was a favorite of mine (and many people), ‘Just My Imagination’. (Listen below.) While enjoying this song, I was struck by the power of […]

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Is Your Chorus Really A Pre-Chorus?

A while back I attended a Songwriters Hall Of Fame Masters Session @ NYU that featured songwriter Desmond Child being interviewed by Phil Galdston. Desmond has been one of the most successful writers of pop hits for the last 30 years. He hasn’t just created hit songs, he’s co-written career-defining hit songs like Ricky Martin’s […]

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Why The Beatles Didn’t Write As Many Great Choruses As You Think

In discussing great Choruses, The Beatles usually come up; no discussion of superior songwriting is complete without the songs of Lennon & McCartney (and sometimes George Harrison). But not every catchy refrain or Title phrase they wrote is actually a Chorus. Many of the Beatles most popular songs were written in the AABA form, which […]

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When To Write A Song Using Less Than 20 Words

Sometimes songs with very few words can be really effective. I’m not talking here about songs that have only one word or phrase in or at the end of the Chorus (like ‘Tequila’, ‘Soulfinger’, ‘Do The Hustle’, etc). I’m talking about songs that actually have lyrics… just very few of them. A friend of mine […]

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Take This Step Before Recording Or Performing A New Song

I recently wrote a song call ‘Rise To Your Love’. Given the feel of the song, the vibe – it’s a simple, almost gospelly song – I thought the Title worked well. The Chorus repeated “(I’m gonna) Rise To Your Love” three times, with the same melody each time. A friend of mine, a trusted […]

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Unblocking The Songwriting Channel – A Lesson From Carole King

“Another thing I do is I might play someone else’s material that I really like and that sometimes unblocks a channel.” – Carole King I don’t know that I’ve ever had full-on ‘writer’s block’. Sometimes writing comes easy, sometimes hard… but I’ve never been completely at a loss. Obviously some writers have been there (or […]

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Songwriting Patience & Persistence – A Lesson From Tom Petty

One of my favorite songwriting lessons comes by way of the late great Tom Petty who was, in his wheelhouse (which wasn’t small), a masterful songwriter. He discussed this in an interview in Paul Zollo’s ‘Songwriters On Songwriting’ book. Mike Campbell, guitarist in his band The Heartbreakers and frequent writing partner, had written the whole […]

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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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What To Do When “I’ve Used These Same Chords Too Many Times!”

I think most songwriters (who write music) feel at times that they go to the same chord patterns too frequently. I know I feel that way sometimes. It’s inevitable, really. Not only that I’ll hear, for the ‘next chord’, one I’ve used there before, but also that my fingers will go to one of their […]

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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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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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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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Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ – Under The Hood

I think Stevie Wonder’s ‘Overjoyed’ is one of the best songs of the last 50 years. Certainly one of the greatest ballads. Musically it’s masterful. It’s a pleasure to just listen and be moved… but let’s spoil everything by looking under the hood. (You need to play and sing this one. Video below)) Start with […]

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Start Your Song With A Bass Line… Here Are Some Who Did

With some songs all you need, musically, is a melody and a bass line.  The bass will suggest chords but, to ‘hear’ the song, it’s not necessary to hear the chords; just the bass line. There are many songs with great bass parts that add immeasurably to the song. But this week I’m looking at […]

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Why And How To Avoid The Root In Your Melody

A good melody tells a story. It doesn’t just help tell the story of the words; it has its own story. (Sometimes the melody’s story is very different from the story in the words – it can also function as subtext to the lyric). Any good melody has drama. It starts somewhere, takes a journey, […]

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A Cheap Trick That Works… Sometimes

Going into a new key for your Chorus (every time; not just for the last Chorus) is considered by many many songwriters to be… well, cheating. Why? Because simply by changing key you potentially create a ‘fake’ version of the exciting lift that, in most cases, should come from the transition into the Chorus itself, […]

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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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