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

Tag Archives: songwriting advice

Tom Odell, Orange Warsaw FestivalTom Odell’s beautiful song ‘Constellations’—from his 2016 album Wrong Crowd—opens with Tom talking to a girl in a busy bar and his lyrics vividly describe the scene. It’s a great example of why songwriters should always show listeners what is happening in their song, rather than just tell them …

“In order to write it,” Tom Odell told Dale Kawashima of SongwriterUniverse magazine, “I had to imagine every detail in that bar—the picture on the wall, the girl’s voice, the jacket on the back of the chair, the gentle hum of the bar, the chair that squeaks, the look on her face.”

He explained: “I almost had to live it in my head in order to write the song. But obviously you can’t get all of that detail in the song. You can only pick a few of those details to sing.”

One of the most frequent mistakes in lyric writing is trying to evoke a strong emotional response in listeners simply by stating what you’re feeling or thinking (for example, “I’m getting mad” or “I’m feeling down”).

This is actually one of the least effective ways to make a lasting connection with the people who hear your song. In the verse lyrics especially, you need to show listeners what the song is about by painting vivid word pictures that describe the physical experience of the emotions you want to convey.

In other words, invite the audience into the world of your song by allowing them to “watch” the story unfold like a movie. If you describe each scene as if you’re looking through the lens of a film camera, you’ll be able to help people ‘see’ and experience what the performer of your song is feeling.

You can also help listeners to enter your song by including descriptions of familiar, tangible objects in your lyrics—such as an empty chair, a wine glass, a framed photograph, and other concrete nouns which refer to physical entities that can be observed by at least one of the senses. These images are more likely to engage listeners than a dull statement of fact.

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

She 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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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 also across Europe. Read more about the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).

“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, a 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), 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 KoboBooks.

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

 

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SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

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. It contains 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 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 624 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).

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 are struggling to find rhymes or phrases that haven’t been heard before. 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 is now available as a 624-page paperback from Amazon in North America and the UK and Europe.

Read more about the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).

 

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BONO

“I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment – and that’s not good.

“When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine – I don’t care …

“In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam …”.

Bono (in a new interview with Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone)

(Bono photo by Daniel Hazard)

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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, a 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), 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 KoboBooks.

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


INSPIRATIONAL SONGWRITING TIPS - STING (2)

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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, a 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), 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 KoboBooks.

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

 


spotify-2016-637x358

Spotify is launching Secret Genius, a global initiative that, the company says, is designed to highlight the contribution songwriters make to the music industry and artists’ careers.

At the same time, though, Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s chairman and CEO Martin Bandier is calling on music streaming services like Spotify to fully credit songwriters on their sites.

“I’ve always believed that songwriters are not getting proper recognition,” said Bandier. “This is even more prevalent today on the leading music streaming services. Far too often the songwriter’s contribution is overlooked or even forgotten. I have no doubt that this lack of public recognition has played a major part in why songwriters are not treated on an equal basis as the recording artist.”

According to Spotify, its Secret Genius scheme will launch multiple programs that aim to strengthen the streaming giant’s commitment to supporting the creative community. Initiatives will include an ambassador program, global songwriting workshops, The Secret Genius Awards, special podcasts and curated playlists.

“Songwriters and producers are the backbone of the industry and we want to help celebrate these incredibly talented people,” said Troy Carter, Spotify’s Global Head of Creator Services. “The goal of Secret Genius is to give credit where credit is due by shining a light on these amazing creators.”

The Secret Genius Awards will aim to honour the best songwriters and producers while the Secret Genius Podcasts will feature interviews with the songwriters behind some of today’s biggest hits.

Thirteen leading songwriters from around the world will also host a special Songshop where they will invite their peers to collaborate to create a hit song.

Songwriter Justin Tranter (DNCE, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber) said: “Spotify cracked the magical code of how to make music consumption really work in the digital age. So I’m honoured to be a part of them taking that one step further with their Secret Genius ambassador program. Working with some of the most talented artists, producers and fellow writers in the world has allowed me to make music the whole world has heard, and I’m excited to share that even more.”

However, Sony/ATV’s Martin Bandier insists that streaming services should focus on making the public aware of the songwriter’s contribution in the same way as the label credits of old on physical records.

“When I look today at the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, I ask: where are the names of the songwriters?” said Bandier. “It’s as if the songwriters do not exist and the only people who matter are the recording artists. However, without the songwriters coming up with the words and music in the first place, there would be nothing for the artist to record and no music to stream.

“The wider world – and most especially streaming companies – must start to fully acknowledge the essential contribution that songwriters make to music and to the success of the music business. And that should start by identifying them today.”

Bandier added: “So I call upon all music streaming services and others to prominently show the names of the songwriters who wrote the songs just as they clearly credit the artists who recorded them. It’s a tiny step but a hugely symbolic one that will once again put the role of the songwriter front and center and remind everyone of the songwriter’s vital contribution to music and the industry.”

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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, a 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), 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 KoboBooks.

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

 


Stevie Wonder

In his recent ASCAP Expo speech in Los Angeles, Stevie Wonder insisted that songwriting should never be hurried. He revealed that he has never been motivated by deadlines to complete his work. “Everyone at Motown would love if I could have done that,” he said. “But if it doesn’t feel right, it’s just not done.”

Most experienced songwriters would probably agree that trying too hard to make a song happen — force-feeding the songwriting process — rarely leads to great results. A song that is laboured often lacks the emotion of something that comes naturally like a perfectly-formed idea that you just pluck out of the air (or, more accurately, out of your subconscious).

“If you don’t try and force it, a song will find the proper moment to come to life,” says Valerie Simpson who co-wrote classic songs such as ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and ‘Solid (As a Rock)’ with her late husband Nickolas Ashford.

Neil Young holds a similar view: “If you don’t have an idea and you don’t hear anything going over and over in your head, don’t sit down and try to write a song. Go mow the lawn…”.

When inspiration does come, though, don’t stop the flow. Take the chords, melodies and lyrics that come instinctively and accept that they may change during the creative process. Don’t go chasing the ‘perfect’ melody or rhyme or the correct phrasing — just get the first draft of the song written.

If you spend too much time trying to perfect one element of the song, you may lose your connection with the spark that ignited the idea in the first place.

Above all, though, don’t try to rush a new song. Be patient.

We’ve all heard the stories about classic songs that were written in 10 minutes, but the majority of well-crafted songs are actually the result of many rounds of re-writes and careful polishing.

Ed Sheeran once told American Songwriter magazine that he’d spent five years working on a particular song. It just kept evolving, he said, so he kept adding more and more things to it. And Stevie Wonder surprised everyone by revealing that the new song he performed at this year’s ASCAP Expo, ‘Where’s Our Love Song’, was one he’d been writing since 1971!

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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, a 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), 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 KoboBooks.

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

 


leonard_cohen_2008

Ten inspirational quotes on songwriting from the late Leonard Cohen:

1. “Music is the emotional life of most people.”

2. “I think that songs primarily are for courting, for finding your mate. For deep things. For summoning love. For healing broken nights, and for the central accompaniment to life’s tasks. Which is no mean or small thing.” (from Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo).

3. “If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.”

4. “[A song] doesn’t come to me in the form of an idea. It comes in the form of an image.”

5. “I can work on a verse for a very long time before realizing it’s not any good and then, and only then, can I discard it.”

6. “A line will have a kind of rhythm that will indicate, at the very least, where the voice will go up and where the voice will go down. I guess that’s the rudimentary beginnings of what they call melody.” (from Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo).

7. “Journalists, especially English journalists, were very cruel to me. They said I only knew three chords when I knew five!”

8. “[When I finally finish a song] there’s a wonderful sense of done-ness. That’s the thing I like best. That sense of finish-ness.” (from Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo).

9. “Success [in songwriting] is survival.”

10. “I’m very grateful to have stumbled into this line of work. It’s tough but I like it.” (from Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo).

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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, a 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), 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 KoboBooks.

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