SONGWRITING TIPS AND ADVICE ON THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOUND IN ALL HIT SONGS

Category Archives: Getting started

paul-mccartney-new- Photo by Mary McCartney 177x179

In a recent live Q&A session at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), Paul McCartney told Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker that, in the early days of The Beatles, he and John Lennon had to write catchy songs because it was the only way they could remember them. Portable tape recorders hadn’t been invented yet.

“We had to write songs you could remember easily,” McCartney said. “I think that turned out to be a good thing.

“John and I would have a writing session, go away and have an evening out, and in the middle of the evening we’d think, ‘What was that thing we wrote? Oh my God we’ve forgotten!’ But it would always come back to us in the morning.

“We said if we can’t remember it, how do we expect other people to? So, we were writing stuff that was memorable … and I think it still is.”

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SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and also across Europe. It is also available as a Kindle ebook in the United States and in the UK and Europe. Read more about the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.A 5-star rated book at Amazon, How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 

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TAYLOR SWIFT, 2013

“Songwriting is still the same uncomplicated process it was when I was 12 years old writing songs in my room,” said Taylor Swift in a recent interview with Harper’s BAZAAR magazine.

She said: “There are definitely moments when it’s like this cloud of an idea comes and just lands in front of your face, and you reach up and grab it.

“A lot of songwriting is things you learn, like structure, cultivating that skill and knowing how to craft a song. But there are mystical, magical moments—inexplicable moments—when an idea that is fully formed just pops into your head.”

Instead of allowing ideas to bubble to the surface naturally from their subconscious, many new writers tend to try too hard and end up forcing the creative process. They try to cram too much into a song—making it way too long and unnecessarily complicated, and leaving the listener feeling confused.

As Taylor Swift suggests, it is important to avoid over-thinking or over-writing your songs. Sometimes, the chords, melodies and lyrics that come to you instinctively are the right ones. So don’t spend forever searching for the perfect melody or lyrics. Don’t keep on going until you end up with way too many notes and words.

Just make sure your song form is clear, predictable and easy to follow. Keeping it simple will make it easier for people to remember the song.

In other words, know when to quit.

As Sting once remarked: “Songs have to be simple. It’s not like you have a huge canvas to paint on or a novel length to fill. You’ve got to tell the story in two verses, a chorus and a coda and that takes some skill.”

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SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and also across Europe. It is also available as a Kindle ebook in the United States and in the UK and Europe. Read more about the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 



SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

With more new songs being written every week than ever before, songwriters are finding it harder to sound original and find rhymes and phrases that have not already been used. Now, a new kind of rhyming dictionary—titled Surprising Rhyming—aims to make it easier for writers to avoid clichés and craft rhymes that people may not have heard before.

Built on the findings of an in-depth study of the kind of ingenious rhymes used by some of the world’s greatest songwriters and lyricists, Surprising Rhyming offers an astonishing array of alternative rhyme options. Its 624 pages contain over 150,000 rhyming solutions for some 1,400 different rhyme sounds. These rhyme types are much broader than those found in traditional rhyming dictionaries which tend to show only ‘perfect’ or ‘true’ rhymes.

Using too many perfect rhymes can sometimes make a lyric sound tedious and predictable—and prone to clichés. To avoid this, Surprising Rhyming focuses instead on off-the-wall false-rhymes, half-rhymes, slant-rhymes and near-rhymes that are less predictable than exact rhymes … and are therefore more likely to surprise an audience.

The book also includes many new words that have been added to standard dictionaries in recent years.

The thousands of ‘surprising’ rhymes crammed into Surprising Rhyming’s pages are based on analyses of the unconventional ‘imperfect’ rhymes that have been used by influential songwriters and lyricists such as: Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Sara Bareilles, James Bay, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Sia Furler, Hozier, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Carole King, Michael Kiwanuka, John Lennon, Lorde, John Mayer, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Bonnie McKee, Randy Newman, Dolly Parton, Christina Perri, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Paul Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Taylor Swift, Cat Stevens, Bernie Taupin, James Taylor, Jimmy Webb, Lucinda Williams, Stevie Wonder … and many more.

The concept of the book was inspired by a remark made by Stephen Sondheim, the legendary Broadway composer and lyricist. In a PBS News Hour interview, Sondheim described how people’s ears have come to expect certain rhymes and suggested that writers should try to fool their audience by coming up with rhymes that will take listeners by surprise.

The ‘surprising’ rhymes listed in this book are typically formed by words with similar but not identical sounds (such as rain/blame or day/late) rather than the more predictable ‘perfect’ rhymes found in traditional rhyming dictionaries (like rain/pain or day/stay).

For example, if you’re looking for a rhyme for the word “true”, rhyming dictionaries typically offer perfect rhymes such as “blue”, “due”, “knew” or “who”. Instead, Surprising Rhyming pairs “true” more imaginatively with words like “smooth”, “tune”, “gloom”, “soon” and “groove”.

If your rhyme word is “suffer”, traditional rhyming dictionaries offer rhymes like “rougher”, “tougher” or “buffer”. Surprising Rhyming’s alternative suggestions for “suffer” include: “lover”, “brother”, “summer”, “discover” and “another”.

And if you need a rhyme for the word “gamble”, you’ll normally be offered “ramble”, “scramble” or “shamble”. But Surprising Rhyming’s solutions also include: “bangle”, “dangle”, “candle” and “handle”.

Surprising Rhyming is a new kind of rhyming dictionary that encourages writers to be more adventurous in their approach to rhyming,” explained the book’s creator and editor, Brian Oliver, author of the five-star rated book How [Not] to Write a Hit Song! 101 Common Mistakes to Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success.

He said: “Many of the cleverest perfect rhymes have been used so many times over the years that they’ve now become tired clichés and writers often struggle to find rhymes or phrases that haven’t been heard before. As a brainstorming tool,  Surprising Rhyming is designed to enable writers to challenge themselves and make their rhymes bolder and more original … and less predictable.”

The book is laid out clearly to make it quick and easy to find the perfect word to achieve a memorable rhyme. There are separate sections for one-, two-, three- and four-syllable rhymes, along with many useful tips on rhyming.

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and across Europe. It is also available as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle store in the United States, the UK and Europe, as well as Apple’s iTunes Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a free sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

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john-legend

“I think we have to be honest in our songs. I always quote Nina Simone that ‘it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times that you’re living in.’ It doesn’t mean that every song has to be political, but it does mean you should be honest with how you’re feeling and what’s important to you …”

– John Legend (New York Times – TimesTalks)

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL

A new book titled “How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” aims to help aspiring songwriters steer clear of the many traps they can easily fall into when writing lyrics for their songs.

Written by experienced music publisher and music consultant Brian Oliver, the book takes a close look at the essential lyrical elements that are consistently found in the structure of all hit songs.

It highlights the most common errors that are made when these key components are built into a song, and shows writers who are just starting out how to avoid such mistakes in their own lyrics.

This new book is the follow-up to Brian Oliver’s five-star rated title: “How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success”.

Written in an easy, non-technical style, “How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics!” identifies many frequent causes of lyrical shortcomings—from common mistakes in the basic construction of song lyrics … to making flawed choices with titles, opening lines, lyrical hooks, verb selection, rhyming patterns, and more.

The book also highlights other causes of lyric writing problems—such as having the wrong mental attitude, not paying enough attention to ‘creative preparation’, and not taking steps to avoid writer’s block.

“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics!” includes important tips on fixing and strengthening lyrics, along with a comprehensive checklist of more than 100 potential hazards that writers can measure their own lyrics against—no matter how ‘finished’ they think their songs are.

Most songwriters have, at some stage, had to endure the disappointment of having their songs rejected and ended up asking: “Could I have done more to make my songs better?”. This book aims to help writers recognise weaknesses in their lyrics, so that they can re-work them, make them stronger, and hopefully achieve the breakthrough they’re striving for.

The book’s author Brian Oliver—who has worked with legendary songwriters such as Neil Diamond, Janis Ian, Albert Hammond and Gilbert O’Sullivan—warns that aspiring writers’ chances of success could be hampered if they fail to spend enough time polishing and editing their lyrics and eradicating weaknesses.

Says Oliver: “When a new lyric idea suddenly hits you – and everything comes together so quickly that the song almost writes itself – it’s very easy to fall into the trap of rushing straight into a studio and recording a demo. You then confidently submit the song to a music company believing it’s the best thing you’ve ever written – only to suffer the agony of having the song rejected.

“Sometimes it’s better just to slow down, take a step back, and re-examine each element of your new lyrics,” he says. “If you don’t spend a little more time polishing your lyrics, there is a danger that they may still contain weaknesses that you failed to spot first time around.”

“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other good book stores as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Kobo Books.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).

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Stephen_Stills_2012-10-22_2

If you try to force too many messages into one song, you could end up being overloaded with verses, warns former Buffalo Springfield and CSN star Stephen Stills who wrote the rock classics ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Love the One You’re With’.

Stills believes writers should never be afraid to take a pair of scissors to their songs. “If I’ve got too many verses,” he says, “I’ll cut out two verses and then take the meaning of the song and condense it.”

Unfortunately, many new writers tend to try too hard and end up cramming too much into a song—making it way too long and unnecessarily complicated … and leaving the listener feeling confused.

That’s why it’s so important to avoid over-thinking or over-writing your songs. Sometimes, the chords, melodies and lyrics that come to you instinctively are the right ones, so don’t spend forever searching for the perfect melody or words. In other words, know when to quit.

That’s something that Dave Matthews – lead singer, songwriter and guitarist with the Dave Matthews Band – admits he finds hard to do. “I take it too far sometimes,” he once told Rolling Stone magazine. “When I listen to my favorite songwriters, they have such simple melodies and chords. I occasionally manage to stop at the right time, but all too often I keep on going until I have way too many notes and words.”

These days, a hit song tends to comprise just one story told from one point of view. So stay focused. If you have several unrelated points that you want to get across to listeners, try putting them in separate songs.

And don’t try to be too tricky with your chord progressions. Just concentrate on creating music and lyrics that can hold the listener’s attention … and write a melody that is easy for them to remember.

In short, don’t sabotage your songs by being too smart for your own good.

Here’s Stephen Stills with a perfect three verses-plus-chorus classic ….

Stephen Stills photo: SolarScott

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.

 How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


apple-music-memo-lead-582x402An all-new app from Apple called Music Memos will allow songwriters to quickly capture, organize and develop musical ideas on their iPhone. At the same time, a major update to Apple’s GarageBand for iOS on iPhone or iPad has introduced several new features, including Live Loops.

Many musicians and songwriters already use the Voice Memos app on their iPhone to quickly record ideas. According to Apple, the new Music Memos app is inspired by Voice Memos and takes the functionality even further by adding musician-friendly features designed specifically for songwriting and developing musical ideas.

With Music Memos, says Apple, you can record any musical instrument through the iPhone’s built-in microphone in a high-quality, uncompressed format, then name, tag and rate it to start building a library of your ideas. The app can analyse rhythm and chords of acoustic guitar and piano recordings, and instantly add drums and a bass line to provide a virtual, customizable backing band that plays along to match the feel of your song.

Apple says Music Memos can even provide basic notation that displays the chords that were played. With iCloud, Music Memos will automatically be available across all of a songwriter’s Apple devices – so the memos can be opened in GarageBand or Logic Pro X to further develop new songs.

“The innovative new Music Memos app will help musicians quickly capture their ideas on iPhone and iPad whenever inspiration strikes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “GarageBand is the most popular music creation app in the world, and this update helps everyone easily tap into their musical talent with the powerful new Live Loops and Drummer features, and adds support for the larger iPad Pro screen and 3D Touch on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.”

Ryan AdamsSinger-songwriter Ryan Adams (pictured) says he is already a big fan of the new Music Memos app. “Sometimes ideas come faster than I can get them into my notebook so I’ve used Voice Memos and Notes to quickly capture songs before they’re lost. Music Memos is like if those two apps came together to form some kind of superpower for songs.”

He added: “It quite literally blew my mind how Music Memos could transform a single guitar idea into a whole composition with a virtual drummer loose enough that it felt like you were having your mind read by some A.I. musician and a choice of stand-up or electric bass accompaniments.”

Music Memos is available for free on the App Store and is compatible with iPhone 4s and later, and iPad 2 and later.

For more information about the new Music Memos app, visit: http://www.apple.com/music-memos.

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

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