Tag Archives: lyrics


With more new songs being written every week than ever before, songwriters are finding it harder to sound original and find rhymes and phrases that have not already been used. Now, a new kind of rhyming dictionary—titled Surprising Rhyming—aims to make it easier for writers to avoid clichés and craft rhymes that people may not have heard before.

Built on the findings of an in-depth study of the kind of ingenious rhymes used by some of the world’s greatest songwriters and lyricists, Surprising Rhyming offers an astonishing array of alternative rhyme options. Its 624 pages contain over 150,000 rhyming solutions for some 1,400 different rhyme sounds. These rhyme types are much broader than those found in traditional rhyming dictionaries which tend to show only ‘perfect’ or ‘true’ rhymes.

Using too many perfect rhymes can sometimes make a lyric sound tedious and predictable—and prone to clichés. To avoid this, Surprising Rhyming focuses instead on off-the-wall false-rhymes, half-rhymes, slant-rhymes and near-rhymes that are less predictable than exact rhymes … and are therefore more likely to surprise an audience.

The book also includes many new words that have been added to standard dictionaries in recent years.

The thousands of ‘surprising’ rhymes crammed into Surprising Rhyming’s pages are based on analyses of the unconventional ‘imperfect’ rhymes that have been used by influential songwriters and lyricists such as: Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Sara Bareilles, James Bay, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Sia Furler, Hozier, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Carole King, Michael Kiwanuka, John Lennon, Lorde, John Mayer, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Bonnie McKee, Randy Newman, Dolly Parton, Christina Perri, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Paul Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Taylor Swift, Cat Stevens, Bernie Taupin, James Taylor, Jimmy Webb, Lucinda Williams, Stevie Wonder … and many more.

The concept of the book was inspired by a remark made by Stephen Sondheim, the legendary Broadway composer and lyricist. In a PBS News Hour interview, Sondheim described how people’s ears have come to expect certain rhymes and suggested that writers should try to fool their audience by coming up with rhymes that will take listeners by surprise.

The ‘surprising’ rhymes listed in this book are typically formed by words with similar but not identical sounds (such as rain/blame or day/late) rather than the more predictable ‘perfect’ rhymes found in traditional rhyming dictionaries (like rain/pain or day/stay).

For example, if you’re looking for a rhyme for the word “true”, rhyming dictionaries typically offer perfect rhymes such as “blue”, “due”, “knew” or “who”. Instead, Surprising Rhyming pairs “true” more imaginatively with words like “smooth”, “tune”, “gloom”, “soon” and “groove”.

If your rhyme word is “suffer”, traditional rhyming dictionaries offer rhymes like “rougher”, “tougher” or “buffer”. Surprising Rhyming’s alternative suggestions for “suffer” include: “lover”, “brother”, “summer”, “discover” and “another”.

And if you need a rhyme for the word “gamble”, you’ll normally be offered “ramble”, “scramble” or “shamble”. But Surprising Rhyming’s solutions also include: “bangle”, “dangle”, “candle” and “handle”.

Surprising Rhyming is a new kind of rhyming dictionary that encourages writers to be more adventurous in their approach to rhyming,” explained the book’s creator and editor, Brian Oliver, author of the five-star rated book How [Not] to Write a Hit Song! 101 Common Mistakes to Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success.

He said: “Many of the cleverest perfect rhymes have been used so many times over the years that they’ve now become tired clichés and writers often struggle to find rhymes or phrases that haven’t been heard before. As a brainstorming tool,  Surprising Rhyming is designed to enable writers to challenge themselves and make their rhymes bolder and more original … and less predictable.”

The book is laid out clearly to make it quick and easy to find the perfect word to achieve a memorable rhyme. There are separate sections for one-, two-, three- and four-syllable rhymes, along with many useful tips on rhyming.

“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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“From my experience, I can count on one of Billy Joe Shaver’s hands the number of times that a song was purely inspiration. The vast majority of the time, I get a verse, or a chorus, and that’s it – the rest is work. And you have to learn to do it to be great. But you can learn how the mechanics work, and you can get better at it.”

— Steve Earle (in an interview with San Francisco Examiner)

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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 [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).

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).

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).

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…

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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), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

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