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

Tag Archives: song writing

ROYAL BLOODIt is generally accepted that the chorus is the part of a song that is meant to get stuck in people’s heads. It’s the section that is really supposed to sell a song and sustain the listener’s interest—usually with a strong dynamic flow in the verse that transports the listener to an emotional lift in the chorus.

The normal means of achieving this is by making sure the chorus has a memorable melodic hook that stands out from the verse and a lyric (with a repetitive title line) that hammers home the message of the song.

But can a conventional chorus be replaced by a riff?

Yes it can, according to Royal Blood, the hotly-tipped two-piece from Brighton, England who are set on “rewriting the rules of rock” by playing an unusual combination of bass and drums.

Royal Blood’s singer and bassist Mike Kerr recently told the BBC’s Mark Savage: “The philosophy behind this band was ‘can a riff be a chorus?’ Can you make verses, choruses and bridges – classic, standard songwriting – out of riffs, without it being disgusting?”

The answer, according to Savage, is a resounding “Yes”—with Royal Blood already being hailed as the “saviours of rock and roll” by several music magazines.

Read the full story by the BBC’s Mark Savage 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 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).


STEVIE WONDER“I think melodies are like angels from heaven expressing a place for the heart to follow …

“You feel moments of passion in a tender way and moments of passion in a way that’s like ‘Let’s hit it’. Different emotions happen at different times. Some days are very mellow, some days are a little crazy, and that’s the same with music.”

—Stevie Wonder

MORE SONGWRITING TIPS

“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).


EMELI SANDE + JAGUARWriting songs that are tailored to suit specific artists is as old as Tin Pan Alley itself. And ‘drive-time’ songs have inspired countless themed compilation albums over the years. But multi-platinum British singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé is gearing up to create a tailor-made ‘driving’ song with a difference … it’s a launch song for Jaguar’s new sports car, the Jaguar XE.

Emeli Sandé will be collaborating with Jaguar to create a song based on the kind of experiences that people find exhilarating. This theme is intended to reflect the fact that ‘Exhilaration’ is at the heart of the new car, according to Jaguar.

But before Emeli sits down at her piano to start writing the words and music for the new song, she’s asking her fans to use the hashtag #FeelXE on social media to share words, pictures, sounds and films that express what makes them feel exhilarated.

Emeli will then write the ‘exhilarating’ song based on the responses provided by her fans.

“I always thought it’d be cool to interact with the fans to create,” Emeli Sandé told Mashable.com. “The challenge is I don’t know what’s going to come at me, but it’s kind of like live music—when you get on stage, you don’t know how it’s going to go. My eyes are open to different feelings of exhilaration.”

Emeli’s song for the Jaguar XE will be performed for the first time at a secret location alongside the River Thames in London on September 8. It will be part of a spectacular, audio-visual event to mark the launch of the new car.

“I can’t wait to start collaborating with the world, looking at what defines Exhilaration for them, and premiering the track in London at what is going to be an incredible event!” said Emeli.

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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).


AVICIIThe trend toward songwriters mixing up music genres in order to create something different and fresh—and also help them reach new audiences—appears to be gathering pace.

Swedish dance producer/writer Avicii has just announced that his next album will blend rock with electronic dance music (EDM). This follows his previous flirtation with a combination of bluegrass and big-room house on his crossover hit ‘Wake Me Up’.

Avicii says he plans to add a rock flavour to his next album with guest appearances from Jon Bon Jovi, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian and Chris Martin of Coldplay. Other guest artists are expected to include Wyclef Jean and Matisyahu (on a reggae/EDM duet).

With his new (as yet untitled) album, Avicii is also echoing the recent call by Disclosure for EDM writers to use a broader range of chords and song structures.

Commenting on the new album, Avicii recently told Rolling Stone magazine: “It’s going to be a lot more song-oriented. True [his 2013 debut album], was an attempt at that, getting electronic music in a song format.”

Other singer-songwriters who are taking this ‘fusion’ approach to writing songs include Taylor Swift who has hinted that her new album will push the boundaries of her sound by featuring greater cross-pollination between different genres.

JESSIE JJessie J also shares this view: “I feel like pop’s taken a really good turn at the moment,” she recently remarked. “I feel like artists are experimenting. That’s what music should be about, pushing boundaries.”

And British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s new hit album, X, features a broad mix of genres, sonic ideas and songwriting styles that stretch his original folk rock sound. Sheeran said he deliberately set out to “rock the boat a little bit” with his new music.

As a possible indication of Avicii’s upcoming collaboration with Chris Martin, here’s his remix of Coldplay’s ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ …

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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).


Photo: David Shankbone

Photo: David Shankbone

Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Billy Joel is to be honoured with the prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He will receive the prize in Washington, D.C. in November.

Joel follows in the footsteps of six previous recipients: Carole King, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney and songwriting partners Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David.

The Gershwin Prize honours individuals for lifetime achievement in popular music. It is named after legendary songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billlington said: “Billy Joel is a storyteller of the highest order. There is an intimacy to his songwriting that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music.”

Billy Joel said: “The great composer, George Gershwin, has been a personal inspiration to me throughout my career. And the Library’s decision to include me among those songwriters who have been past recipients is a milestone for me.”

Six-time Grammy Award winner Billy Joel was presented with a Grammy Legend Award in 1990. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

During his 50-year career, he has had 33 Top 40 hits and has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. His Grammy awards include Song of the Year and Album of the Year in 1978 for ‘Just the Way You Are’.

Since releasing his first hit song, ‘Piano Man’, in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States.

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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).


JONI MITCHELL“My style of songwriting is influenced by cinema. 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.

“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.”

—Joni Mitchell

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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).


Etta James's 'At Last' is Spotify's most popular 'first dance' song

Etta James’s ‘At Last’ is Spotify’s most popular ‘first dance’ song

Many songwriters dream of being able to come up with an evergreen song that will still mean something special to listeners in years to come (and, ideally, keep earning royalties for years to come!).

One example of this is the kind of song that newly married couples choose for their ‘first dance’ at their wedding celebrations—a song that will always bring back those ‘special day’ feelings for them.

Now, leading music streaming service Spotify has unveiled a list of the world’s 10 most popular ‘first dance’ wedding songs, based on the listening choices made by many of its 40 million active users across 56 countries.

Spotify studied over 30,000 wedding-themed playlists and also analyzed 12,000 single-track playlists named ‘First Dance’ in order to identify listeners’ most popular wedding choices.

According to Spotify, the world’s most popular ‘first dance’ song is Etta James’s 1960 classic ‘At Last’ which was originally written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren in 1941 for the film musical Orchestra Wives (performed in the movie by Glenn Miller and his orchestra).

Here is Spotify’s ‘First Dance’ Top 10:

1. Etta James – ‘At Last’
2. Jason Mraz – ‘I Won’t Give Up’
3. Ray LaMontagne – ‘You Are the Best Thing’
4. John Legend – ‘All of Me’
5. Jack Johnson – ‘Better Together’
6. Christina Perri – ‘A Thousand Years’
7. Michael Buble – ‘Everything’
8. Bright Eyes – ‘First Day Of My Life’
9. Brad Paisley – ‘Then’
10. Adele – ‘Make You Feel My Love’

If you can write a song that becomes someone’s ‘special song’ with a lyrical message and melody that will always remind them of a particular day (such as their wedding), then it is indeed a great achievement.

When Grammy Award-winner Drake released his 2013 single ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ (subsequently covered by the Arctic Monkeys), he hoped the song would go on to become a “timeless” wedding song that would still be played at nuptials in years to come.

“I thought it would be great if we had a record that was still played at weddings in ten years … something that just has timeless writing and a timeless melody,” he told MTV News at the time.

Burt Bacharach shares this view. “I like to write songs that will last,” he once remarked. “Once a record is out of the charts it’s dead, as a record. But if it’s a good song it’ll stay around.”

And there are solid scientific findings to support this ‘long-lasting’ approach to songwriting.

In 2008, researchers at the University of Leeds in England found that music has a powerful influence on the storage and retrieval of long-term memories. A piece of music can become so closely associated with an event from a person’s life that hearing the music again evokes powerful memories of the original experience.

In a recent UK survey, half of the men and women interviewed said they are taken back to memories of a past relationship whenever they hear a certain song. And 20% said they have a particular song that always reminds them of their first kiss.

That’s why music is sometimes called ‘the language of emotion’. It has an amazing power to influence people’s emotions and behaviour. As Oliver Sacks, the noted British neuroscientist and author, puts it: “Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Here’s Etta James’s classic recording of ‘At Last’ to bring back a few memories …

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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).


DIANE WARREN“I can’t say that I actually live what I write. It is the method actor type of writing that I do. I know what people think and feel so I write those feelings the best that I can.

“I see pictures in my mind and become the character in the song as I’m writing. It’s kind of method songwriting, where you’re the actor in the song.”

—Diane Warren

                      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).


DISCLOSUREMost experienced songwriters recognize the importance of keeping each new song sounding fresh and different by creating plenty of variety in their chord progressions. They’re aware of the danger of writing songs that are all built around the same few notes, chords and keys—a criticism that is often leveled at electronic dance music (EDM).

Now, leading British electronic dance duo Disclosure—consisting of brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence—are aiming to change all that. Their mission, they say, is to bring greater depth to EDM by using song structures, writing processes and a wider range of chords that aren’t usually found in this genre.

“We’re trying to bring class and soul into the songwriting … using jazz chords that have emotion instead of boring, stabby EDM triads,” Howard Lawrence recently told Billboard magazine. “You can play [our song] ‘Latch’ in a massive nightclub or cover it in a jazz ensemble.”

His brother Guy Lawrence added: “There are acoustic guitar covers of [our song] ‘White Noise’ on YouTube. You can’t do that with your average house tune. The only thing that makes it dance music are the beats.”

Disclosure’s music is seen as a synthesis of house, pop and UK garage, with a strong emphasis on traditional song structure (their influences surprisingly include singer-songwriters Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush).

“Our songs often feature a fat layer of choruses and verses instead of a big build up, a drop and a big pyro explosion usually found in EDM,” said Guy. “It’s more about the meaning of the song, the structure … it’s a little deeper.”

Disclosure may be breaking new ground in the EDM market, but they’re not the first to discover that you can enhance the feel of a song by using so-called ‘jazz chords’, such as thirds, fifths, sevenths, ninths, elevenths or thirteenths.

In the 1920s, the great George Gershwin reshaped popular music by taking jazz elements and certain harmonies and combining them with Tin Pan Alley pop in a way that hadn’t been done before.

In the modern era, ‘jazz chords’ such as ninths, elevenths and thirteenths are featured prominently in songs like Billy Joel’s ‘Just the Way You Are’, ‘Ebony and Ivory’ by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, and Mariah Carey’s ‘Love Takes Time’.

Carole King’s classic song ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ even uses elevenths in a minor key!

Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’—one of the most covered songs of all time—is a great example of how to make a simple tune harmonically interesting. The song doesn’t just feature ordinary majors, minors and sevenths; it also includes a mixture of fifths, thirds and seconds, and a couple of well-chosen variant chords.

“Even if chords are simple, they should rub,” says songwriting legend Jimmy Webb. “They should have dissonances in them.”

He adds: “I’ve always used a lot of alternate bass lines, suspensions, widely spaced voicings, and different textures to get very warm chords. Sometimes you set up strange chords by placing a chord in front of it that’s going to set it off like a diamond in a gold band.”

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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).

 


MIKE BATT “My advice to songwriters who can’t write anything on a given day is to just write something. Some shit. A crap verse. It might lead to an interesting chorus that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t written the crap verse.

“The skill is to identify—either then or later—what’s what, throw away the bad bit, and build on the good bit … Just put something on that blank paper to stop it from being blank.”

—Mike Batt

(in an interview with PRS For Music’s ‘M’ magazine)

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).