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

Tag Archives: song writing

GARTH BROOKSCountry superstar Garth Brooks recently learned the hard way that if you’re going to record and store song ideas on your phone you have to make sure you always keep the phone backed up … otherwise you run the risk of losing everything.

And that’s exactly what just happened to Garth Brooks. He lost six months’ worth of new music ideas for his next album when the personal cell phone on which he’d recorded them decided to stop working.

“All the new stuff I’ve been working on for six months was on a phone that’s been fried, and I can’t get the phone to come back up,” said Brooks. “It’s like losing your briefcase back in the Nineties! This is what happens when the old guy gets into technology …”

Brooks says he’s now counting on an IT tech specialist being able to somehow extract the memory from the dead phone and rescue his ideas for what would become his tenth album. Brooks fears the fried cell phone may have set back production on the new album which is intended to be the follow-up to 2014’s Man Against Machine.

The country legend’s experience is similar to that of Metallica’s longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. He recently lost his iPhone which contained more than 250 unused Metallica song ideas and riffs for the band’s next album. “I was crushed. It didn’t get backed up,” said Hammett. “When it happened, I was bummed out for about two or three days. I’m still looking for it to this day …”

Hammett added: “All you musicians out there who use your phone, make sure it’s backed up, right?”

In 2013, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran lost a phone which contained the only recording of his new, unreleased album (later released under the title x). Fortunately for Ed, the missing phone was eventually found in the back seat of a limo that had transported him to an awards ceremony in London.

So new songwriters beware!

If that potential hit song you’ve just written has been entrusted to digital media, make sure it is backed up. And if it’s the only copy of what could be your breakthrough song, play extra safe … and back it up more than once!

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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).

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Legendary songwriters Bobby Braddock, Willie Dixon, Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia, Toby Keith, Cyndi Lauper and Linda Perry will become the latest inductees of the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the organization’s 46th Annual Induction and Awards event in New York City on June 18, 2015.

Willie Dixon and Jerry Garcia will be inducted posthumously.

The 2015 inductees have been responsible for classic songs such as ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’,’ Little Red Rooster, ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E’, ‘Dark Star’, ‘Should’ve Been A Cowboy’, ‘Time After Time’ and ‘Beautiful’.

“Our 2015 line-up of inductees represents the rich diversity of American musical styles – Rock, Country, Blues and Pop – that have captivated the world over the past six decades,” said Songwriters Hall of Fame President & CEO Linda Moran. “Each one of these brilliant music creators have written instantly recognizable classics, songs that are both of their time and timeless.”

Established in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) is intended to be a bridge between music’s past and future.  In the Hall, musical pioneers are enshrined and celebrated, while the organization’s outreach to the music community grooms the next generation of songwriters.

Image via Songwriters Hall of Fame

Image via Songwriters Hall of Fame

Bobby Braddock:

Bobby Braddock is one of the most successful country music songwriters of all time.  He grew up in Florida, travelled the South as a rock and roll musician, and became a songwriter in Nashville in the mid-1960s.  He is the only living person to have written number one country hits in five consecutive decades, penning songs for artists such as Willie Nelson, Nancy Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, T. G. Sheppard and many more.

With 13 number one hits, his songs have become country music standards, including favourites such as, ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E,’ recorded by Tammy Wynette, ‘Golden Ring,’ the duet sung by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Tracy Lawrence’s, ‘Time Marches On,’ and Toby Keith’s 2001 hit, ‘I Wanna Talk About Me’ (the first #1 country rap song). ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ sung by George Jones, has led most surveys as the best country song of all time. In 2001, he embarked on a new career as a producer, discovering singer Blake Shelton and making several number one records with him.

Braddock’s most recent number one composition was Billy Currington’s, ‘People Are Crazy.’ In 2011, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and received the annual BMI Icon Award, and in 2012, received the ACM Poet’s Award.  He has received six CMA Song of the Year nominations, winning twice. He has received a total of 30 BMI airplay awards, and nine ‘Million Air’ awards for songs that received at least one million performances each.

Willie Dixon:

Willie Dixon, one of the most prolific songwriters of all time, has been referred to as ‘the poet laureate of the blues’ and the ‘father of modern Chicago blues.’ His songs have been recorded by countless artists across varying genres. ‘Hoochie Coochie Man,’ first recorded by Muddy Waters and later by Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Jimmy Smith, went on to be recognized by The Blues Foundation and the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence in pop music and in 2004, was selected for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.

Also first recorded by Muddy Waters was ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You,’ later covered by a wide array of artists including Etta James, Adele, Van Morrison, and The Kinks, among others. One of his best-known compositions was ‘Little Red Rooster,’ which was recorded by the Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, the Grateful Dead, The Doors and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll. His other notable songs include ‘My Babe,’ ‘Spoonful’ and ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.’ He was inducted into The Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the ‘early influences’ (pre-rock) category in 1994.

Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter:

Songwriting partners Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia first paired together as performers in a folk duo in the early 1960s.  When Jerry formed the Grateful Dead in the mid-1960s, he looked to Robert for lyrics. Robert became an official lyricist for the band, and when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Robert was inducted as a band member, the only non-performer ever honoured.

Jerry wrote the music while Robert penned lyrics for songs such as, ‘Casey Jones’, ‘China Cat Sunflower,’ ‘St. Stephen’ and ‘Truckin,’’ which was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure.  With more than 35 million albums sold worldwide, other notable tracks include: ‘Dark Star’ (listed as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, and ranked at #57 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time), the 1987 single ‘Touch Of Grey’, and ‘Friend Of The Devil’ from the 1970 album American Beauty, which has been covered by Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, The Counting Crows, Elvis Costello, Lyle Lovett and John Mayer.  In 2007, the Grateful Dead received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Toby Keith:

Toby Keith has been one of the most consistent songwriters and hit makers of his era.  He has written a number one song for 20 consecutive years – from his first number one smash, ‘Should’ve Been A Cowboy’ to ‘How Do You Like Me Now?’, ‘Who’s Your Daddy’, ‘Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)’, ‘Beer For My Horses’, and ‘I Love This Bar’. He has been honoured with the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade distinction and is a three-time BMI Country Songwriter/Artist of the Year.  His albums have sold more than 40 million copies, and his tours have drawn more than one million fans each year for the last 14 years.

Cyndi Lauper:

Cyndi Lauper first found acclaim in 1983, co-writing a pair of memorable singles—’Time After Time’ and ‘She Bop’—for her seminal debut, She’s So Unusual.  Spring-boarding off this success, she co-wrote most of her follow-up album, True Colours, including the hit ‘Change of Heart’. As her craft evolved, so did her nuance for expressing social issues, notably on Hat Full of Stars (‘Sally’s Pigeons’, ‘A Part Hate’, ‘Broken Glass’) and Sisters of Avalon (‘Ballad of Cleo and Joe,’ ‘Say A Prayer’).

Throughout her career Cyndi has penned tracks with an assortment of her peers including Billy Joel, The Hooters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jeff Beck, Junior Vasquex, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Nellie McKay and Max Martin.  In 2013, those decades of songwriting culminated in Cyndi’s first foray into Broadway, composing the music for the critically adored Broadway musical Kinky Boots.  The musical won six Tony Awards, including one for her score, which made her the first woman to win solo in that category.  The show has gone on to set a box office record.  Cyndi’s spirited songwriting has earned her more than 50 million in album sales, two Grammys, an Emmy, and a Tony.

Linda Perry:

Growing up, Linda Perry was exposed to a wide-range of musical influences, and began to show interest in creating her own music at a very young age. By age fifteen, she had written her first song, titled ‘Pity Girl’. Perry joined 4 Non Blondes in the early 1990s, and is credited with writing the mega-hit ‘What’s Up’ which catapulted the band to international stardom (selling over seven million records worldwide).

In 2000, Perry began working with Pink on the twice Grammy-nominated album, M!ssundaztood which sold over 13 million copies. Perry wrote and produced eight tracks on the album, including the Grammy-nominated song ‘Get the Party Started’. Perry continued her work with Christina Aguilera, writing and producing several songs including the critically acclaimed pop-ballad ‘Hurt’ and the Grammy Award-winning ‘Beautiful’. Since then, she has written and produced songs with and for artists such as Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, James Blunt, The Dixie Chicks, and Celine Dion.

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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).


MARK RONSON - UPTOWN SPECIAL ALBUM COVERWhen Mark Ronson started working on his chart-topping album Uptown Special – his first album for four years – he wanted to push the boundaries for an R&B record by featuring ambitious, memorable lyrics that were about much more than standard themes like love and dancing.

He told The Atlantic magazine: “I’d just written the piece of music that became ‘Summer Breaking’ and I could already tell that the chords and the melody needed something more interesting than I was capable of doing.”

Ronson felt that the music was telling him it needed lyrics that told good stories.

That’s when Ronson took the unusual step of contacting Michael Chabon, the music-loving, Pulitzer prize-winning author of seven novels, including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

As a result, the acclaimed American author’s lyrics now feature on more than half the tracks on Uptown Special.

“Michael is one of the greatest living American authors and has this way with language,” Ronson told The Atlantic. “He brought something to this record that no other songwriter would have thought of in a million years.”

Michael Chabon recently told BBC Radio 4: “Mark was hoping for something different where there might be personas created in a more literary way whose stories were going to be revealed in the unfolding of the lyrics.”

With some songs, Chabon wrote the lyrics first and Ronson composed music to fit the words (like Elton John and Bernie Taupin); for other songs, the author was sent a basic track and he had to come up with lyrics to fit the melody.

Mark Ronson (left) and Michael Chabon. Photo: Gearbox Records/Twitter

Mark Ronson (left) and Michael Chabon. Photo: Gearbox Records/Twitter

Mark Ronson’s highly successful collaboration with Michael Chabon is not the first time an acclaimed novelist has crossed over the border into the world of music. Booker-prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro writes lyrics for jazz singer Stacey Kent; Tom Waits has worked with William Burroughs; Salman Rushdie’s words have been used by U2; and Nick Hornby wrote lyrics for Ben Folds’ 2010 album Lonely Avenue.

A good novel and great lyrics share the same ability to use well-chosen words to reach people on an emotional level. And they can both create powerful imagery through the potent use of devices such as metaphor, simile and personification. But lyricists have to work their magic under much tighter constraints than novelists. An author can pour out his or her feelings on page after page of dense and structurally complex text; the lyricist has to be more concise and work within the confines of a clearly defined song structure and rhythm.

Talking about his lyric-writing experience with Ben Folds, Nick Hornby once observed: “You have to learn to scale back the length of the narrative.”

Michael Chabon admitted that adapting the relative freedom of his novel-writing style to the precise musical and rhythmic restrictions of a song was a “brilliant challenge”.

He told The Guardian newspaper: “I had way too many verses. The lines were much too long with far too many syllables. There was this whole issue of singability I had no experience of.”

He added: “Just because something looks good on the page doesn’t guarantee it can be a viable lyric. Sometimes you need a line not to be brilliant or memorable or dazzling. You need it to fit …”.

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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).


BRAD PAISLEYAmerican singer-songwriter and award-winning country star Brad Paisley believes songwriters should always think of the images their words will create in listeners’ minds when they’re working on new songs and writing lyrics.

“My idea of country music is always about the pictures it paints for you,” triple Grammy Award winner Paisley recently told ABC News Radio. “I don’t like songs that don’t give me images in my mind.”

Paisley—who has sold over 12 million albums and has won 28 country music awards—says the same ‘visual’ approach to songwriting should also be applied to pop and rock songs. He points to The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ as a great example. “I don’t know totally what that song’s about, but you know, ‘On a dark desert highway’, you know, it’s just…you see everything they’re sayin’.”

Choosing words that paint a picture in the listener’s imagination is also important because it will enable you to reach him or her on an emotional level … and make them feel what you’re feeling.

This aspect of the craft of successful songwriting is a major challenge because you have to skilfully use powerful devices such as metaphor, simile, personification and rhyme within the constraints of a clearly defined song structure and rhythm. And you only have three minutes or so in which to get some vivid colours onto your lyrical canvas to captivate the listener.

That’s why many top writers’ lyrical language is often simpler and more down to earth—with short descriptive phrases that are easily understood and can therefore immediately connect with the listener.

JONI MITCHELLJoni Mitchell is another singer-songwriter who has always taken a highly visual approach to songwriting: “My style of songwriting is influenced by cinema,” she once remarked. “I’m a frustrated filmmaker… It’s very visual. You’re scoring the actress, but the actress is singing the lines and trying to get them as conversational as film.”

Joni added: “A fan once said to me, ‘Girl, you make me see pictures in my head!’ and I took that as a great compliment. That’s exactly my intention.”

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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 & Europe).


Photo: Dwight McCann

Photo: Dwight McCann

 

“There’s really no art to songwriting. I think it’s a gift. I think that everybody gets a gift, God gives everyone a gift …

“That’s why I’m not one of those songwriters where I have to take myself to an isolated place for two months so I can write. It just happens to me out of the clear blue. I’m on the plane or somewhere and an idea comes. It can be a line, a thought or a melody. There’s no sequence.”

—Smokey Robinson (on CBS This Morning)

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).


The Spice Girls' 'Wannabe' is the catchiest hit single in UK chart history

Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ –  catchiest hit single in UK chart history

A new scientific study—designed to unlock the secrets of what makes music memorable—has highlighted the importance of getting your intro right in terms of its length and catchy melodic hook.

If you’re aiming to write a song with commercial potential, it’s important to understand how little time you have to attract the listener’s attention at the beginning of the song.

A short dynamic intro that leads quickly into the first verse is often the key to pulling the listener in.

An analysis of today’s hit songs shows that many intros are typically either four bars or eight bars long and, on average, last for about 10 seconds.

However, a recent citizen science experiment—developed by the UK’s Museum of Science and Industry (Mosi)—suggests that songwriters may have even less time than that to catch the listener’s ear

Less than five seconds, in fact.

The study revealed that The Spice Girls’ 1996 hit, ‘Wannabe’, has the catchiest and most memorable intro in UK chart history. Music fans participating in the online experiment were able to recognize the song in just 2.3 seconds, compared with an average of five seconds for other songs.

Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No. 5’ was in second place (identified within an average of 2.48 seconds), while Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ was third (with an average time of 2.62 seconds). Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’ was fourth.

The research was based on an online interactive game, called Hooked on Music. People who played the game were asked if they recognized a song which was randomly selected from more than 1,000 clips of best-selling songs from the 1940s through to the present day. The results were based on data collected from more than 12,000 participants.

Lady Gaga (Photo: Net-a-Porter)

Lady Gaga (Photo: Net-a-Porter)

The Hooked on Music concept was created by computational musicologist Dr. Ashley Burgoyne and Professor Henkjan Honing from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Dr. Burgoyne told BBC News: “I work within a group that studies music cognition in general – any way in which the brain processes music – and we were particularly interested in music and memory and why exactly it is that certain pieces of music stay in your memory for such a long time.”

He added: “You may only hear something a couple of times yet 10 years later you immediately realize that you have heard it before. Yet other songs, even if you have heard them a lot, do not have this effect.

“We wanted to see if it was possible to identify whether the most memorable pieces of music shared particular characteristics.”

This, said Dr. Burgoyne, included scientifically testing different hypotheses about the musical hook, including the musical features that make something catchy and the importance of very strong melodic hooks.

The new study’s results show that, from a commercial point of view, it’s a mistake to believe that the perfect way to set the stage for your first verse is to tease the listener with a long, intricate intro designed to create a feeling of anticipation.

An intro that is too long and self-indulgent will simply make the song harder for people to remember. Such an intro is unlikely to make listeners sit up and take notice. It will also take up valuable time and slow down the listener’s journey to the all-important first chorus.

Not all songs require an instrumental intro, of course. Some songs may open with the chorus, a solo vocal, or go straight into the first verse. But, if you feel your song needs an intro, make sure it is memorable and impactful by approaching it in exactly the same way as writing a catchy, melodic hook for your chorus.

Top 10 Catchiest Intros:

1. Spice Girls – ‘Wannabe’

2. Lou Bega – ‘Mambo No. 5’

3. Survivor – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’

4. Lady Gaga – ‘Just Dance’

5. ABBA – ‘SOS’

6. Roy Orbison – ‘Pretty Woman’

7. Michael Jackson – ‘Beat It’

8. Whitney Houston – ‘I Will Always Love You’

9. The Human League – ‘Don’t You Want Me’

10. Aerosmith – ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’

(Source: Hooked on Music experiment/Mosi)

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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 & Europe).


Photo: Christian Sahm

Photo: Christian Sahm

Eric Clapton has written a new song dedicated to his late Cream bandmate Jack Bruce (pictured right) who died on October 25, aged 71.

Titled ‘For Jack’, the short instrumental follows a statement which Clapton released on hearing the news of Bruce’s death. In it, he said his former collaborator was a “great musician and composer, and a tremendous inspiration to me”.

You can listen to Eric Clapton’s tribute track ‘For Jack’ HERE …

As well as being one of the most gifted and influential bass players in rock history, Jack Bruce also co-wrote most of Cream’s singles (with lyricist Pete Brown). His songs included the classic hits: ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, ‘White Room’, and ‘I Feel Free’.

After Cream split in 1968, Jack Bruce maintained a solo career that spanned several decades. Although famous for his work as a vocalist, bass guitarist and songwriter, Bruce also played double bass, harmonica, piano and cello. He was trained as a classical cellist and considered himself a jazz musician, although much of his catalogue of compositions tended toward blues and rock.

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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 & Europe).