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

Tag Archives: hit song

Every new song you write and perform could be helping listeners to feel better, it seems.  A new scientific study in Canada – published in the journal Science – has found that listening to new music is rewarding for the brain.

Using MRI scans, a team of Canadian scientists found that areas in the reward centre of the brain become active when people hear a song for the first time. And connections in the brain region called the nucleus accumbens “light up” and become stronger the more the listener enjoys what he or she is hearing.

“We know that the nucleus accumbens is involved with reward,” Dr Valorie Salimpoor, from the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, told the BBC World Service’s Science in Action programme. “But music is abstract. It’s not like you’re really hungry and you’re about to get a piece of food and you’re really excited about it because you’re going to eat it. The same thing applies to sex or money. That’s when you would normally see activity in the nucleus accumbens.

“But what’s cool is that you’re anticipating and getting excited over something entirely abstract – and that’s the next sound that is coming up.”

The study was conducted at the Montreal Neurological Centre at McGill University. The scientists played 19 volunteers 60 excerpts of new music while the participants were lying in an MRI machine. As they listened to the 30-second tracks, they were able to ‘buy’ the songs they liked in a simulated online music store.

Dr Salimpoor said: “As they are listening to this music, we can look at their brain activity and figure out how they are appreciating or enjoying this music before they even tell us anything.”

The researchers found that the nucleus accumbens was also interacting with another region of the brain called the auditory cortical stores – an area that ‘saves’ sound information based on music that people have been exposed to in the past.

Dr Salimpoor said: “This part of the brain will be unique for each individual, because we’ve all heard different music in the past.”

The Canadian scientists say they now intend to study how the ‘rewarding’ effects of new music can help to drive people’s music tastes – and whether brain activity can explain why people are drawn to different styles of music.

Maybe such advances in neuroscience will finally give aspiring songwriters a means of finding out whether the song they’ve just written and agonized over for weeks really is a potential hit!

(Image via Picgifs.com)

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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).


Taylor SwiftA new US TV commercial for Diet Coke shows Taylor Swift writing her latest single ‘22’ – supposedly being inspired by the can of Diet Coke that the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is seen enjoying throughout the ad.

Filmed in Nashville, the TV ad – titled ‘Music That Moves’ – also features performances by Taylor’s fans singing and dancing along with the new song.

“Taylor is a true artist, deeply involved in the full creative process, from writing to production to release,” says Stuart Kronauge, general manager, Sparkling Beverages, Coca-Cola North America.

“The ‘Music That Moves’ ad shows Taylor in her natural element – penning lyrics that one day will speak volumes to millions of fans the world over … all while sipping on a Diet Coke. The commercial serves as a peek behind the curtain at an extraordinary day in the life of a true American superstar.

“Whether you’re writing a hit song like Taylor, or simply singing along, Diet Coke helps you Stay Extraordinary.”

You can judge for yourself 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).


For a song to become a great song, it must be able to reach out and touch listeners and stimulate an emotional response within them. It should take them on a memorable and emotional journey. It should make them feel something.

That’s why Amy Grant, the Nashville-based Christian singer-songwriter, believes the greatest compliment a songwriter can receive is to have someone tell you that your song captures exactly what they’re feeling inside.

“The challenge of a songwriter is to articulate – in an accessible way – things we go through, if what you are trying to do is to make people feel connected to their own life, ” says Amy. “I’m inspired by specific situations and try to capture in a song what people feel.”

On May 14, the six-times Grammy award winner will release her first full album of all-new songs in 10 years.

Titled How Mercy Looks From Here, the new album was produced by Marshall Altman and includes guest vocalists James Taylor, Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Will Hoge, and Eric Pasley (who wrote the only song on the album not written by Grant). Amy’s husband, Vince Gill, also makes an appearance.

Watch the official video for Amy Grant’s 1991 hit ‘Good For Me’ HERE…

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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).


Most songwriters would agree that keeping your songwriter’s antenna switched on to the world around you at all times is the best way to come up with great song ideas.

Being observant and keeping your mind constantly open for new ideas through your experiences, thoughts, feelings and observations can lead to some interesting songs.

But flicking through stacks of old thrift shop photographs does it for New York singer-songwriter Elisa Flynn (pictured above; photo by Elizabeth Graham). She finds that random second-hand photos of strangers can inspire lots of innovative ideas.

“I once picked up an evocative and weird picture of a woman in the woods balancing a tuft of moss on her wild, orange hair,” Elisa told Courier Life’s Brooklyn Daily. “It inspired me to write a song about the woman being lost in the woods and how she wants to stay there.”

Try looking at old photos of people you don’t know, and ask yourself Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why?-type questions about each photo. The answers to these questions may generate words, phrases and lyrical themes that could stimulate some interesting song ideas!

Of course, a good title or a lyric line can also come from overhearing a conversation on a train or in a café … or an event that you witness … or while you’re waiting at a traffic light. Similarly, a headline in a newspaper, on a website, or a billboard might spark a great idea for a song.

What is the strangest source of inspiration you’ve ever found for one of your songs?

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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).


When you start working on a new song don’t think about what you’re doing intellectually, just go with the creative flow and have fun, urges Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman. She calls it “creative flow songwriting”.

Beth recently told PRS for Music’s ‘M’ magazine: “The creative flow is just like oxygen flowing everywhere and people absorb different amounts of it depending on their capacity.  I believe it’s where the best stuff comes through.

“One of the things I do when I teach a songwriting workshop is to encourage everybody to become more of a sponge for that creative flow.”

It’s an approach that has certainly worked well for Beth. She has written hits for artists such as Elton John, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Roberta Flack, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Her songs have also been featured in countless movies and TV shows.

“Of course it’s important to learn all of the technical skills of how to tighten up a song and how to recognize when a song could be better,” she told ‘M’, “but when I’m writing – especially when I’m starting the process of writing – I’m not looking at it intellectually. On the front end, I don’t want my brain driving the car.”

She added: ”I follow that creative flow blindly until something pops through, and it’s so much fun. I’ve learnt to trust it and I think that’s how the greatest songs are written.”

Here’s Beth Nielsen Chapman’s full interview with ‘M’ magazine…

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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).


John LegendIt’s the age old ‘chicken and egg’ songwriting question: Which should come first, the words or the music?

For nine times Grammy Award winner John Legend, it’s the music that leads the way every time.

“I have a structured songwriting process,” says the 34-year-old US singer-songwriter. “I start with the music and try to come up with musical ideas, then the melody, then the hook, and the lyrics come last.

“Some people start with the lyrics first because they know what they want to talk about and they just write a whole bunch of lyrical ideas, but for me the music tells me what to talk about.”

In recent months, Legend has been busy putting his songwriting approach into action and is about to release his first new album for nearly five years. Titled Love in the Future (executive produced by Kanye West and Dave Tozer), the new album follows Get Lifted (2004), Once Again (2006) and Evolver (2008).

The first official single from Love in the Future – a collaboration with Rick Ross called ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ – will be released later this month.

In the meantime, you can listen to a beautiful new song from the album, ‘The Beginning’, HERE…

# # # #

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).


Music publishers and A&R executives sometimes reject perfectly good songs by new writers because the songs lack that ‘special something’ that makes them stand out from the crowd.

The answer, according to US singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, is to try to “shock” people by writing a song that is so different and groundbreaking that it becomes “an event”. But he admits that writing this kind of “big” song is “one of the hardest things to ever do”.

Bruno recently revealed that Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is his favourite song. “That song’s an event,” he told GQ magazine. “And that’s what I want to do. I’m sure that song shocked the world.”

He also lists songs like Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as “events”. “Kurt Cobain put everything he got into that song, and he meant it. It’s that unexplainable high…That feeling that you keep on chasing and chasing. Because it’s nothing, man. It’s taking the air and turning it into something. That’s the feeling.”

Bruno Mars hit the music scene in 2010 with his first album Doo-Wops & Hooligans which included the worldwide number-one singles ‘Just the Way You Are’ and ‘Grenade’.

His second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, features the hit single ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ which some people felt was blasphemous. Bruno denies this and says it was “just poetry”. However, he concedes that some of his songs – such as ‘Grenade’, ‘Liquor Store Blues’, and ‘Talking to the Moon’ – do address darker subjects like self-destructive behaviour.

“I don’t ever want to come out with something safe,” he said.

# # # #

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).


Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift advises new songwriters to use their past relationships to inspire great song ideas.

The six times Grammy award winner always tries to draw on emotions she has actually experienced, she says, because she believes people can relate to songs more if they are based on real personal experiences.

But it seems 23-year-old Taylor’s ‘true life’ approach to songwriting is making life hell for One Direction’s Harry Styles, her former boyfriend.

Harry is said to be worried about what her next songwriting move is going to be. She has already written the hit song ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ about the break-up of their relationship, and she has reportedly aimed another jab at Harry in the promotional video for her new song ‘22’. The poor guy apparently doesn’t know what to expect next!

The 19-year-old One Direction star is reported to have told friends that he now regrets dating her because she keeps mocking him in her music. For Taylor, though, it’s all good material for her songs.

Different kinds of experiences inspire different kinds of songs, she says. “That’s why emotions are so beautiful to write about because they all sound so different to me.”

Taylor explains that real feelings can result in several types of songs – from ‘missing-him’ songs and ‘frustrated-and-confused, don’t-know-why-it-ended’ songs … to ‘I know we can’t be together but I miss you right now’ songs.

She says personal experiences can also inspire sad songs ‘tinged with anger’, guilt-laded songs, and sad songs that contain ‘a little bit of hope that he’ll come back’.

“I think songwriting is the ultimate form of being able to make anything that happens in your life productive,” Taylor insists. “If you get out of a bad relationship that was a complete waste of time, you can write about it and it can become a benefit to your career. How sweet is that?”

You can watch Taylor’s video for ‘22’ HERE…

The video for ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ can be seen HERE…

# # # #

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).


This week’s 2013 BRIT Awards event proved to be a nerve-wracking time for UK singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran – and not just because the winners were being announced.

The 22-year-old found that his mobile phone containing the only recording of his new, unreleased album went missing before the show.

Sheeran – whose hit single ‘The A Team’ was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards – confessed to “freaking out a little” on realizing that he had misplaced his phone.

He also admitted that it wasn’t the first time he had lost a phone containing new material. “I lost the MP3 that everything was on in Ibiza,” he said. “But the album hasn’t come out yet so that’s good.”

Fears that his new material may be leaked were eventually allayed, however. The phone turned up in the back of the car that had transported Sheeran to the BRIT Awards venue … but not before the award-winning writer had learnt how important it is to keep a safety copy of new songs!

Unfortunately, being well-organized is often a significant weak spot for many songwriters. If you’re a new writer, it’s a failing that could affect your chances of success – especially if the only recording of that potential hit song you’ve just written goes missing…

You can watch the Official Video for Ed Sheeran’s ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ HERE…

# # # #

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).


“You have to be honest and true about what you’re writing,” says BRIT Award winner Emeli Sandé (pictured), “and then that way it resonates with people.”

The Scottish singer-songwriter’s heartfelt songs have certainly resonated with lots of people over the past 12 months. At this week’s 2013 BRIT Awards ceremony in London, she won the coveted Best Album prize for Our Version of Events.

The 25-year-old, who received a major boost by appearing at the 2012 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, also picked up the Best British Female award. She had gone into the event with four nominations in total, including two in the Best Single category.

“I think I’m a very unlikely pop star,” an emotional Sandé said in a humble acceptance speech after receiving the Best Album prize. “This is an album I wrote because I didn’t have the confidence to say these things in person.

“For me, that so many people have connected with this album and found strength in these words makes me feel incredible and it doesn’t make me feel as lonely.”

She capped her success at the BRIT Awards by closing the ceremony with a medley of her singles ‘Clown’ and ‘Next to Me’.

Backstage, she added that she felt her decision to leave medical school to pursue music had finally “paid off”.

“I was an underdog,” she said, “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.”

Emeli Sandé’s success should certainly be an inspiration to all struggling singer-songwriters who are determined to make it. In a 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.”

# # # #

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).