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

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“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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HOW MANY SONGWRITERS

“I write the songs that make the whole world sing” wrote Beach Boy Bruce Johnston in his award-winning 1975 song which became a global hit for Barry Manilow. Today, the lyric would probably have to be reworked as: “WE write the songs …”.

That’s because the number of chart songs written by solo songwriters has fallen dramatically since Johnston created ‘I Write the Songs’. Back in 1975, 51 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 were credited to a single writer. The figure had fallen to 32 by 1995, just 14 in 2005, and only a handful in 2015 — most notably Fetty Wap’s ‘Trap Queen’ (written solely by Fetty Wap, aka Willie Maxwell) and ‘Take Me To Church’ by Hozier.

There has been an increasing shift to ‘music-by-committee’ in recent years. Today, many producers of artists who don’t write their own songs are finding that the best way to consistently generate hits is to use the American TV ‘writers room’ model — with large numbers of pop writers working in teams.

Of course, songs created by more than one writer have been around since the dawn of Tin Pan Alley. Historically (with the exception of Holland-Dozier-Holland), hit songwriting teams have mostly been duos — with one partner responsible for composing the melody and the other charged with writing the lyrics.

Words-and-music duos have been responsible for some of the greatest songs of the past 100 years: Richard Rodgers and lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, George and Ira Gershwin, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and many more.

The  increase in the number of writers attached to a hit song  — especially in the pop genre — is particularly evident with the so-called track-and-hook approach to song creation. This basically involves a split between the writing of the beat (track) and the hooks (melodies) instead of the traditional ‘words and music’ delineation.

Today, songwriting partnerships can be almost as large as a soccer team. In fact, ‘Uptown Funk’ — the Mark Ronson hit assembled from a variety of sources — has eleven different writers attached to its credits.

Britney_Spears_2013English boy band One Direction had an average of five songwriters per track on their hit album Take Me Home. Britney Spears went two better with her track ‘Ooh La La’ which was featured in the Smurfs movie, The Smurfs 2. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ‘Ooh La La’ was the result of a seven-way collaboration between Lukasz Gottwald, Joshua Coleman, Henry Walter, Bonnie McKee, Jacob Kasher Hindlin, Lola Blanc and Fransisca Hall.

As a result of this trend, there have been calls for limits to be imposed on the number of writers who can legitimately claim to be responsible for a hit — especially when it comes to submitting songs for awards. The British Academy of Songwriters Composers & Authors (Basca), for example, wants to restrict the number of writers allowed on works submitted for its annual Ivor Novello Awards to six.

Leading British songwriter Graham Gouldman — whose many hits include ‘I’m Not in Love’ (10cc), ‘Bus Stop’ (The Hollies) and ‘For Your Love’ and ‘Heart Full of Soul’ (The Yardbirds) — believes the current situation has become “ridiculous”.

“Historically, songwriting partnerships have been between two people,” Gouldman recently told The Independent newspaper. “Now the drum programmer wants to get a credit for creating the drum part. There are bands I know who divide each song into bars and someone says, ‘I created five bars and they are repeated three times so that’s 15 bars’. Someone might say that their 10 per cent is the most hooky part of the song. It’s impossible to quantify these contributions.”

John Seabrook, author of the excellent book The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, believes the TV ‘writers room’ approach can be traced back to Sweden in 1994 … to the hit-factory model created by Cheiron Studios co-founder Denniz Pop (Ace of Base, Backstreet Boys) and his protégé Max Martin (pictured below).

According to Seabrook, an important part of Denniz PoP’s vision for Cheiron was that songwriting should be a collaborative effort – with songwriters assigned different parts of a song, such as the central chord progression or riff, the chorus, the bridge and the hook. The teams of writers were then expected to willingly share credit.

MEP 14“The track-and-hook method of songwriting is at the basis of a lot of these changes,” says Seabrook. “A track is almost a canvas with some background painted into it, and different people add hooks and a bridge and a chorus and slowly it becomes a song, rather than springing fully formed from the imagination of a Burt Bacharach, sitting at the piano.”

This development is also changing the traditional method of trying to get an artist to cover songs. Instead of pitching songs on spec to a producer or an A&R exec, major labels now often convene so-called ‘writing camps’ for their biggest artists. These communal songwriting sessions typically involve an array of musicians from different genres — all with the same aim of trying to get a piece of a song on the limited track listing for a top-tier album.

So what is the optimum number of writers required to create a hit song in 2016?

At least four … and possibly half a dozen. That’s according to research conducted by Hit Songs Deconstructed, which specialises in analysing the craft and trends that shape today’s chart-topping hits.

Hit Songs Deconstructed found that about half of the Top 10 hits in Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2015 were written by teams consisting of five or more songwriters, compared with teams of at least four writers in 2014. Its research showed that 199 credited songwriters were responsible for crafting the 59 songs that charted within the Hot 100 Top 10 in 2014.

“If you plan on writing a hit song, you’d better find a writing partner,” suggests Hit Songs Deconstructed’s founder David Penn.

(Main photo: KidBilly Music)

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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)


BRIAN WILSON - THE HIT FORMULA“The creative process is something that you kind of learn. You get a feel for it the better you get at it …

“I take walks at a park and that clears my brain out and makes me able to write songs better … I go to the studio and sit down at the piano and play chords. Whatever I feel like playing, you know? And then a melody starts to happen, and then the lyrics start to happen, and then you’ve got a song …”

— Brian Wilson (in an interview with American Songwriter magazine)

MORE SONGWRITING TIPS

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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),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


MIKE BATT “My advice to songwriters who can’t write anything on a given day is to just write something. Some shit. A crap verse. It might lead to an interesting chorus that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t written the crap verse.

“The skill is to identify—either then or later—what’s what, throw away the bad bit, and build on the good bit … Just put something on that blank paper to stop it from being blank.”

—Mike Batt

(in an interview with PRS For Music’s ‘M’ magazine)

More songwriting tips

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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),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).