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

Category Archives: Getting started

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).


Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff (right)

Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff (right)

“A great song has to make you feel a certain way. Songs can make you happy and sad, they can help you fall in love. They have to do something. That’s when you get a reaction.

“There are some songs on the radio that just play and you don’t even know they’re there. You hear others and immediately turn it up. There’s something to that. It’s got to capture your ears, because that’s where it hits you first. Then it’s got to soothe your soul.”

Leon Huff

(in an interview with Jonathan Widran of SongwriterUniverse).

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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 (North America) and  HERE (UK & Europe).


EMELI SANDEScottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé recently explained her approach to writing hit songs during a special coaching session at BBC Radio 1’s Academy in Glasgow.

In a video extract from the session (see below), 27-year-old Emeli opens up about her songwriting process and shares tips on how to write a great song. She also explains how she wrote songs like ‘River,’ ‘Next to Me’ and ‘Clown’ from her debut album, Our Version of Events.

Emeli wrote her first fully-structured song when she was only seven years old, and has so far received 18 awards—including three Brit awards and four MOBO Awards. She won the coveted Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically in 2013 with her song ‘Next to Me’. The same song also picked up the PRS for Music award for Most Performed Work in 2013.

Emeli Sandé may have received huge acclaim in recent years, but she certainly knows how it feels to be a young songwriter struggling for recognition. She once commented: “I was an underdog. Nobody wanted to sign me. When people don’t believe in you, you want to prove them wrong.

“I want to encourage any underdog to achieve their dreams.”

In another pointed remark, she once said: “My song ‘Clown’ was written when I couldn’t find anyone who believed in me as an artist. Maybe those labels will think twice next time a young songwriter comes along.”

Emeli’s advice to all aspiring songwriters is to “keep going” and focus on honing your craft. “Stay brave, I think that’s a big thing,” she says. “Always be ready to go, and don’t always think about the negative. It could go amazing … Don’t give up.”

Here is Emeli’s inspiring video from the coaching session at BBC Radio 1’s Academy in Glasgow …

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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 (North America) and  HERE (UK and Europe).


Macklemore and Ryan LewisWe all have the same 24 hours in a day as songwriters like Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (pictured), so how come they are able to turn out so many hit songs on a regular basis while other writers can’t?

One reason, it seems, is that some writers may have the talent to write hit songs, but they lack the determination, focus and self-discipline to make it happen.

John Legend, for example, believes success as a songwriter is as much about working hard as it is talent. “There’s this mistaken belief that everything is about talent,” he told Q magazine, “but talent has to be cultivated and developed. If it’s not nurtured, pushed and challenged it’s not going to happen.”

Diane Warren, one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, says she spent 20 years writing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day, before she felt she could finally take the occasional weekend off!

Experienced songwriters know how important it is to challenge yourself to write something every day—even when you don’t feel like it—otherwise potential hit songs will never get written.

Establishing a consistent writing habit—making it part of your daily routine—will boost your creativity and productivity, and lead to better songs.

As Burt Bacharach once remarked: “Music breeds its own inspiration. You can only do it by doing it. You may not feel like it, but you push yourself.”

Nick Cave agrees: “I go into my office every day and work—whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.”

PJ Harvey takes a similar view: “If you want to be good at anything, you have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. I work every day at trying to improve my writing, and I really enjoy it.”

Of course, no two creative people are the same in the way they find their inspiration. That’s why it is so important to identify the most creative time of day for you. Some people like to write something as soon as they wake up in the morning, when their mind is fresh and full of ideas. Some work better late at night.

The fascinating infographic below—created by Info We Trustshows the daily routines of some of history’s most creative individuals—including composers, painters, writers, scientists and philosophers. It is based on Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, in which he investigated the rigid daily rituals that legendary creative figures practised in order to carve out enough time, every day, to work their craft.

How does your daily writing routine compare with the creative masters below?

CREATIVE ROUTINES - INFOGRAPHIC

 Click the infographic for larger image

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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, and Barnes & Noble's Nook store 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) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

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


The IFPI – the worldwide music industry trade body – has launched an innovative video designed to highlight the huge and constant impact that hit songs have had on people’s lives over the past 100 years.

Titled Music Remains, the 90-second video is a race through time filmed at London’s famous Abbey Road studios. It features British rapper MC Pepstar performing lyrics about what recorded music means to him over a soundtrack that moves through iconic music tracks of the last 100 years.

Produced by music industry creative director Steve Milbourne and film director Martin Stirling of Unit 9 Films, the video features an amazing ‘Recorded Music Rube Goldberg Machine’ (remember those clever Honda TV adverts?).

Filmed as a compelling one-shot video, the unique machine shows recorded music technologies changing over the decades. It uses an ingenious chain reaction which cascades through the generations, beginning with a gramophone and ending with an iPad.

Here’s the Music Remains video, followed by a ‘behind the scenes’ video which looks at how the amazing Rube Goldberg Machine was created …

 

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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 US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

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


Alicia Keys recently revealed that she managed to maintain her unique voice and songwriting style despite being pushed “in different directions” early in her career.

She thinks writers have to really believe in what they want to do—and then keep working at it until other people start to believe in it too.

The 32-year-old singer-songwriter is classically trained and is a highly accomplished musician. She began playing the piano at the age of seven and studied classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven at performing arts schools in New York.

However, it seems her rich musical knowledge and diversity proved to be quite a challenge for her managers in the early stages of her career. They found it hard to package her as a typical pop songstress.

“People definitely tried to push me in different directions for sure,” she recently told VH1’s Storytellers. “I was very familiar with the street, had a lot of street knowledge, very clear, very rough around the edges. But at the same time I had studied classical music.”

She added: “I loved everything from Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z to Nina Simone, Patrice Rushen and Donny Hathaway to Erik Satie and Chopin, and everything in the middle. There was no kind of direct path or prototype for anyone to follow. So I think all they knew to do was to kind of push me as close to maybe something they saw that worked before.”

A lack of focus is one of the biggest weaknesses of many new songwriters. This is usually because the writers have no idea where they are heading when they start out. As a result, their career simply meanders from one direction to another with no clear distinction between them—and often with no real progress.

Fortunately, Alicia Keys was strong enough to maintain her focus and remain true to herself. “It was my goal to make people love me,” she said.

When starting any new job, you are more likely to be successful if you are given a proper description of what you’re supposed to be doing … and what you’re expected to achieve.

Songwriting is no different, except it is down to you to define your job description in terms of genre, style and career path, and then set yourself clear goals—and stick to them.

Watch this Songs in A Minor documentary about Alicia’s early career

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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, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

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


Finding the ideal writing place at home where you can focus and be creative can substantially increase your productivity as a songwriter. But it needs to be a clutter-free zone where you feel comfortable and have no distractions.

It should be a special place where you can close the door, turn off your phone, and give your mind the focused time it needs to get your creative juices flowing.

British singer-songwriter Dido – ASCAP’s Songwriter of The Year in 2007 – says she gets easily distracted by mess around her. So she always makes sure she completes her household chores before sitting down to write new songs.

Although inspiration often strikes the ‘White Flag’ writer when she’s busy doing the cleaning, she admits she can’t concentrate on new material until she has finished all of her tasks.

“I find it quite hard to write if I haven’t tidied up,” she recently told Britain’s Hello! magazine. “It’s so annoying. I wish I could forget that I need to empty the dishwasher but I can’t. Having said that, I have a lot of ideas when I’m cleaning, doing something domestic.”

Dido attained international success with her debut album No Angel in 1999. The album sold over of 21 million copies worldwide and won several awards – including the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Act, two NRJ Awards for Best New Act and Best Album, and two Brit Awards for Best British Female and Best Album.

Her next album Life for Rent (2003) continued her success with the hit singles ‘White Flag’ and ‘Life for Rent’. And her third studio album, Safe Trip Home (2008), received critical acclaim – including an Academy Award nomination for the song ‘If I Rise’.

No Angel and Life for Rent are among the best-selling albums in UK chart history.

Dido’s new album, Girl Who Got Away, is released on March 4 in Europe and March 26 in America.

You can watch a video for ‘No Freedom’, the first single from the new album, HERE…

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is now available from Amazon’s Kindle Store for only US$7.22 or GB£4.78.

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

Also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music).


JIMMY WEBBIf you see songwriting as an easy way to get rich quick, you’ll need to think again if you really want to achieve success.

Let’s be clear, songwriting is not easy. And writing hit songs is even harder. As Jimmy Webb (pictured) once observed: “Songwriting is hell on Earth. If it isn’t, then you’re doing it wrong.”

We’ve all heard about people who finished a song in the time it takes to boil an egg and it went on to earn a fortune. Country legend Hank Williams used to say: “If a song can’t be written in 20 minutes, it ain’t worth writing”. Lady Gaga wrote her first single  ‘Just Dance’ in 10 minutes—the same length of time it took the Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston to write the Barry Manilow classic ‘I Write the Songs’.

The truly great songwriters just make it look easy.

In reality, though, they have to put in hours and hours of hard work—making many mistakes along the way—in order to hone their talent and achieve their greatness. Diane Warren, one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, spent 20 years writing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day before she felt she could finally take the occasional weekend off!

The great Sammy Cahn put it like this: “Writing a song can be agony or ecstasy. It can take half an hour or half a year.”

That’s why it’s important to understand that hit songwriting is a process. It’s an art and a craft.

The initial spark that ignites your song idea is a gift. From then on, it’s all about hard work.

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How (Not) To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success’ is now available from Amazon’s Kindle Store for only US$7.22 or GB£4.78.

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

Also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music).