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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 3 (production)

This Max Martin/Ali Payami production sounds very full but, relatively speaking, there aren’t as many elements as you’d think. The parts are not numerous… but something changes in some way each time they come around. As Max Martin says, “I like it when a song is like a journey, building up along the way. That […]

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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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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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