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

Tag Archives: lyric writing

SONGWRITING TIPS: David Bowie's 'cut-up' method of writing lyricsWhen David Bowie released his twenty-fourth studio album, The Next Day, in 2013, a journalist asked him to explain his thinking behind the new songs, each of which featured unusual, cryptic lyrics and surreal imagery.

Bowie responded by sending the journalist a list of 42 words which supposedly provided the framework for the critically-acclaimed album.

Here are those 42 words:

Effigies … Indulgences … Anarchist … Violence … Chthonicum … Intimidation … Vampyric … Pantheon … Succubus … Hostage … Transference … Identity … Mauer … Interface … Flitting … Isolation … Revenge … Osmosis … Crusade … Tyrant … Domination … Indifference … Miasma … Pressgang … Displaced … Flight … Resettlement … Funereal … Glide … Trace … Balkan … Burial … Reverse … Manipulate … Origin … Text … Traitor … Urban … Comeuppance …. Tragic … Nerve … Mystification.

Quite a confusing lyrical framework for an album that ended up including song titles such as: ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’, ‘Love Is Lost’, ‘Where Are We Now?’, ‘Valentine’s Day’ and ‘The Next Day’.

Maybe the answer can be found in a 2008 interview with Bowie. In it he described how he often comes up with interesting lyric lines by employing the ‘cut-up’ writing technique used by postmodernist author William S. Burroughs in his controversial novel Naked Lunch.

‘Cut-up’ is a literary technique designed to add an element of chance to the creative process.

It involves taking a finished line of text and cutting it into pieces—usually with just one or two words on each piece. The resulting pieces are then rearranged to create a brand new text.

The cut-up concept can be traced back to the Dadaists of the 1920s, but it was developed further in the early 1950s by painter, writer and sound poet Brion Gysin—and then popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Burroughs.

David Bowie explained: “I use it for igniting anything that may be in my imagination … You write down a paragraph or two describing several different subjects, creating a kind of ‘story ingredients’ list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections; mix ’em up and reconnect them.

“You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations like this,” he said. “You can use them as is or, if you have a craven need to not lose control, bounce off these ideas and write whole new sections.”

This technique is also said to have influenced Kurt Cobain’s songwriting. And Thom Yorke applied a similar method on Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A. Yorke reportedly wrote single lines, put them into a hat, and drew them out at random while the band rehearsed the songs.

Here’s Bowie explaining his cut-up technique in the 1975 BBC TV documentary Cracked Actor

So there you have it … If you want to get all Bowie-esque and create some unusual and intriguing lyrics, simply reach for your lyric notebook and a pair of scissors – and start cutting and pasting!

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

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“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon 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) and HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

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 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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Grammy award-winning US singer-songwriter John Mayer claims he isn’t worried about writing hits any more. He insists that he no longer obsesses about dominating the charts. He now believes songs should focus more on being meaningful rather than simply having a catchy melody.

“I’m not worried about pop hits; I’m not worried about sales or relevance,” he recently told TIME.com. “I only care about one thing: tell your story. Tell YOUR story. … Follow where the road takes you.”

However, when telling your own story it is important to make sure that your song is not too narrow and personal. Don’t be too insular. Ideally, the song should be written in a way that leaves the audience thinking the song is about them and their lives—not about you.

People don’t really want to hear about your problems. They might, however, want to listen if your songs are about experiences, hardships and situations that everyone can relate to—such as a broken love affair, a personal tragedy, or a song about concern for the environment.

As singer-songwriter Jackson Browne once remarked when describing his own approach to storytelling: “I’m not looking to describe something that’s only true of my own circumstances. It’s all about reaching inside to something that you have in common with many.”

By writing about something that everyone experiences in his or her own life, you can touch people’s emotions. If you can engage listeners’ minds and make them feel something, it’s the sign of a good song.

On the subject of writing good songs, John Mayer urges new writers not to worry too much about whether a song is good or bad when they are writing it. “Just write it,” he says. “The rule is: write bad songs, but write ’em. If you start writing bad songs, you start writing better songs, and then you start getting really good.

“If you try to get into the building on the twelfth floor, you’ll never make it. You have to get in the basement floor and work up from there.”

Take a look at this quirky lyric video for ‘Paper Doll’ from John Mayer’s sixth album Paradise Valley.

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How [Not] to Write A Hit Song! - Smashwords cover - blog widgit 188x282How [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), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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 Rakuten’s 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

“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).