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An Easy Way To Do Your Song A Favor

As much as we might prefer it not to be so, the quality of a performance or recording of a song can’t help but have an effect, positive or negative, on the perception of that song. This goes for even experienced listeners who are used to ‘hearing past’ weaknesses in performances. For most of us, […]

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3 Ways To Make Your Chord Progressions Less Predictable

Something we may not think about much is how predictable the rhythms of chords usually are. Chords almost always land in the same places – on the first beat of a bar, or the first and third beat, or the first beat and the ‘and’ of two (the 8th note after beat 2). And songs […]

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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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Writing A Song… When You Feel Like You’ve Forgotten How To Write A Song

I did a show about a month ago where I played some new songs of mine. One of them was even brand new… I’d written it in the previous week and decided to give it a try. That’s often a mistake. As a rule it’s better to let something cool a little before I commit […]

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Before You Give Up On A Song…

When writing a song it’s practically impossible for me to tell if it’s going to be a keeper or not. Naturally I’m excited about the song idea or I wouldn’t be spending the time developing it. But at some point I start to wonder… is this really any good? Am I just fooling myself? Do […]

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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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Why Good Titles Are More Valuable Than Ever

The component parts of contemporary songwriting are going in many directions at once. While some rhyming becomes more and more intricate… other rhyming gets looser; sometimes in the same song. Some melodies get longer and more elaborate… others get simpler. Lyric content and storytelling of some songs get more layered and complex… while others get […]

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9 Ways To Start A Song

The beginnings of songs are mysterious and varied; they start in many different ways.  This week I’m going to go through some of the ways in which this first impulse happens for me, from ways I think are more common to the more idiosyncratic: The Title.  A phrase hits me in conversation, reading, listening… or […]

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4 Ways To Listen To Modern Songs… If You’re Used To Listening To 20th Century Songs

Many areas of modern pop songwriting are extremely innovative, historically speaking. A lot of songwriting elements have been radically changing and evolving in recent years; it’s an exciting time to be writing songs (not counting the financial part!). The word that comes to my mind most here is Freedom. However, if you mostly listen to […]

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3 Ways To Finish Songs

There are all kinds of ways to work on and finish songs. No one process is inherently better than another, and each writer has their own. From my own experience, and from the experience of working with many songwriters, I’d say they run across a spectrum, on which I’m going to define three points; looking […]

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Modern Songwriting’s Freedom From Traditional ‘Continuity’

Recently a friend of mine directed me to a song by The Neighbourhood – ‘Daddy Issues’ (below). Though it’s pretty conventional musically (the lyrics are more edgy), it does have an interesting feature or two. This song does something – and does it well – that I hear more and more in songs these days […]

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The ‘Simple Chorus, Complicated Verse’ Song

There is evidence throughout pop songwriting history – at least its Verse/Chorus song part – that if you have a simple and very strong Chorus, often consisting of one or two lines… you can get away with murder in the Verses. I started noticing this as a kind of ‘formula’ when Sting frequently used the […]

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Inside A Classic Christmas Song

Around this time of year I like to take a look at one of the Christmas songs that are perennials. The holiday classics have a place in our lives unlike any other songs. We hear them – more or less the same ones –  every year. Their listeners cut across all demographic boundaries. And every […]

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7 Steps To Your Brand New Song

Stuck? Lacking inspiration? Here’s a great way into a new song. The recipe: 1) Pick a song you like and that you admire for its craftsmanship. Any style. 2) Get as familiar as you can with singing the melody. Hum or sing it with just sounds (‘la la, ah, mm mm’ etc.). Let go of […]

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You Can’t Trust Your Memory When You’re Writing a Song

There are times when I treat every beginning-of-a-song idea for what it is – the seed of a potentially good song… who knows, maybe my best yet. Of course, most of my ideas don’t end up that way. But that’s how I have to think of them – with a belief they might end well. […]

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At What Point Does It Become A Co-Write?

When I work with songwriters as a producer or musician, in a workshop or class, or as a one-on-one songwriting coach, any suggestions I make for their song are included. There’s no question of co-writing. I’m trying to help the writer find their own way with their song. If in the process I suggest a line […]

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