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

Tag Archives: formula for writing a hit song

Bernie_Elton_By_Bill_Claxtonsm-294x250

“I just go to the studio and there are 24 lyrics [from Bernie Taupin] waiting for me and I look through them and see which one I want to start with, and then I try and write a song. I never, ever know what the lyrics are gonna be upfront.

“When I first started writing with Bernie [49 years ago this year] it was exactly the same as it is now: I would get a lyric, I would go away, and write the melody and play it to him … then the band come in and learn it and we put it down.

“I don’t try to analyze it. It’s a strange approach, but it works.”

— Elton John (during an interview on ABC TV’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! show)

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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).


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)


 

Nicki Minaj 2013 - By Fer Morrell

American rapper and songwriter Nicki Minaj has revealed that she often rewrites her song lyrics up to 10 times because she wants her songs to be perfect every time.

Trinidadian-born Minaj—the most-charted female rapper in the history of the Billboard Hot 100—feels it is important for up-and-coming songwriters to realise that getting to the top of the charts isn’t an easy process.

“Even now, I still rewrite verses five and six and seven and eight and nine and ten times because I want it to be perfect,” she recently told Redbull.com. “Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep trying, as if it’s your first day on the job. That’s how I think of it. When it comes to creating, I always feel like, wait a minute, I can’t take any shortcuts … People have to know I spent quality time on it. That’s my motto.”

One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced songwriters often make is to think their latest song is finished as soon as they’ve added the final chord or found a rhyme for the last line. The first draft could, of course, prove to be the one and the song may be ready for the demo studio. But in the majority of cases, ‘finishing’ a song is just the beginning.

As someone once said: “Great songs aren’t written, they’re rewritten …”

Every new song will probably need several rewrites before you have the final version. Some experienced writers have admitted that creating a hit song usually requires 10% writing and 90% rewriting.

Pro writers often produce a first draft of a new song, put it down for a few days, and then listen to it again. That’s usually when they can tell if the song truly has potential. Listening to it from a fresh perspective enables them to spot the weaknesses and assess how the song can be improved.

And strengthening a song often means having to change or leave out some of the favourite lyrics, rhymes, melodic phrases, chords (or even complete verses) that you started out with.

If you’ve already gone through the agony of having songs rejected by a publisher or a record company, ask yourself: ‘Could I have made my songs better if, like Nicki Minaj, I’d spent more time polishing them?’

Photo: Fer Morrell

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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).


DRAKEAccording to Spotify’s latest annual music rankings, Drake was the world’s most streamed artist in 2015. He has racked up 1.8 million streams this year on the platform and reached 56 million listeners.

Meanwhile, Ed Sheeran was named the most streamed artist of the year in the UK on Spotify as well as being the most streamed artist of all time on the service. He has more than three billion streams to date.

The most streamed female of 2015 was Rihanna with over 1 billion streams and 57 million listeners.

Justin Bieber set the record for the most streams in a single day with 36 million streams on November 13.

Here’s the full list of Spotify’s 2015 rankings:

Global Results

Top Five Global Artists (also Top Five Global Male Artists)

  1. Drake
  2.  Ed Sheeran
  3. The Weeknd
  4. Maroon 5
  5. Kanye West

Top Five Global Female Artists

  1. Rihanna
  2. Ariana Grande
  3. Nicki Minaj
  4. Beyoncé
  5. Ellie Goulding

Top Five Global Tracks

  1. Lean On (feat. MØ & DJ Snake) – Major Lazer
  2. Cheerleader – Felix Jaehn Remix Radio Edit – OMI
  3. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson
  4. See You Again (feat. Charlie Puth) – Wiz Khalifa
  5. Love Me Like You Do – From “Fifty Shades Of Grey” – Ellie Goulding

Top Five Global Albums

  1. Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd
  2. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake
  3. Peace Is The Mission – Major Lazer
  4. Stories – Avicii
  5. Title – Meghan Trainor

Top Five Global Viral Tracks

  1. Sugar (feat. Francesco Yates) – Robin Schulz
  2. Hotline Bling – Drake
  3. Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better) – Felix Jaehn
  4. Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
  5. Here – Alessia Cara

Top Five Global Playlists

  1. Today’s Top Hits
  2. Afternoon Acoustic
  3. Baila Reggaeton
  4. Hot Country
  5. RapCaviar

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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).


ADELEAdele has unveiled a brand new song—titled ‘When We Were Young’—which was co-written with Canadian singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. The song is taken from Adele’s new album, 25, which is available from November 20.

Jesso’s music has been compared to singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s such as Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Emitt Rhodes.

Commenting on teaming up with the 30-year-old Canadian, Adele said: “I loved Tobias Jesso Jr’s song ‘Hollywood’ and I reached out to him when I was working on 25. I say I reached out… I got my manager to contact his manager. I’m pretty behind on social networking culture, I’d have no idea how to do it. Also I didn’t want to ask and have him say, “Absolutely not, I think you’re shit.” At least if my manager asks, he can absorb the rejection and just never tell me. Anyway, he was well up for it.”

And here’s the stunning result of their collaboration…

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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).

 


ADELE“In order for me to feel confident with one of my songs it has to really move me. That’s how I know that I’ve written a good song for myself – it’s when I start crying. It’s when I break out in tears in the vocal booth or in the studio, and I’ll need a moment to myself.

“You have to write about real life because otherwise how can you be relatable?”

—Adele (in an interview with New York Times)

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LAMONT DOZIER

“Knock on every door, and write seven days a week. I know that sounds kind of harsh, but let that be your priority. Write, write and write some more.

“Your work ethic has got to be to the bone. Writing songs should be your first love, and give it all the time it needs until you feel like you’ve accomplished or gotten the song that you think is worthy of letting the world hear.”

—Lamont Dozier (in an interview with American Songwriter magazine)

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