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

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Nicki Minaj 2013 - By Fer Morrell

American rapper and songwriter Nicki Minaj has revealed that she often rewrites her song lyrics up to 10 times because she wants her songs to be perfect every time.

Trinidadian-born Minaj—the most-charted female rapper in the history of the Billboard Hot 100—feels it is important for up-and-coming songwriters to realise that getting to the top of the charts isn’t an easy process.

“Even now, I still rewrite verses five and six and seven and eight and nine and ten times because I want it to be perfect,” she recently told Redbull.com. “Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep trying, as if it’s your first day on the job. That’s how I think of it. When it comes to creating, I always feel like, wait a minute, I can’t take any shortcuts … People have to know I spent quality time on it. That’s my motto.”

One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced songwriters often make is to think their latest song is finished as soon as they’ve added the final chord or found a rhyme for the last line. The first draft could, of course, prove to be the one and the song may be ready for the demo studio. But in the majority of cases, ‘finishing’ a song is just the beginning.

As someone once said: “Great songs aren’t written, they’re rewritten …”

Every new song will probably need several rewrites before you have the final version. Some experienced writers have admitted that creating a hit song usually requires 10% writing and 90% rewriting.

Pro writers often produce a first draft of a new song, put it down for a few days, and then listen to it again. That’s usually when they can tell if the song truly has potential. Listening to it from a fresh perspective enables them to spot the weaknesses and assess how the song can be improved.

And strengthening a song often means having to change or leave out some of the favourite lyrics, rhymes, melodic phrases, chords (or even complete verses) that you started out with.

If you’ve already gone through the agony of having songs rejected by a publisher or a record company, ask yourself: ‘Could I have made my songs better if, like Nicki Minaj, I’d spent more time polishing them?’

Photo: Fer Morrell

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


Photo: Eva Rinaldi

Photo: Eva Rinaldi

“I’ve only ever written songs from the heart. I don’t really see the point in making music if it’s not an expression of self or a form of therapy.

“I could go three months without writing a single song and in one week I’ll write twenty. But I never want to write a song just to have a hit. I write a song because I want it to make me feel better. Other people have different ways of letting off steam. Mine is writing songs.

“It’s like when you’re angry with someone and you write an email or a letter to that person, and you write everything down … but you don’t give it to them. Songwriting is my way of getting out anger, aggression, happiness and love. It’s just about getting it out – and making you feel better.

“So it’s never been about the audience or pleasing people, or trying to fit in. It’s just been about myself and my love for music.”

—Ed Sheeran (in an interview with Charlie Rose of PBS)

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, a 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)


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).


A portion of music manuscript for Happy Birthday's predecessor, 'Good Morning to All' (courtesy of University of Louisville).

A portion of music manuscript for Happy Birthday’s predecessor, ‘Good Morning to All’ (courtesy of University of Louisville).

‘Happy Birthday To You’ is a staple of birthday parties around the world, but, until now, it couldn’t be sung in public or in TV shows and movies without paying a sizeable licence fee.

Now, though, a US federal judge has ruled that music publisher Warner/Chappell does not hold a valid copyright to the song.

Warner/Chappell has been collecting royalties on the song since acquiring the copyright in 1988 for some $25m (£16m). The publisher has reportedly been making around $2m a year from royalty payments whenever the song is used in a film, TV show, advertisement or any other kind of public performance. According to the Internet Movie Database, ‘Happy Birthday To You’ has been featured in nearly 150 films.

Judge George King has ruled that the original copyright (filed in 1935) was only granted for specific piano arrangements based on the original melody, and did not grant any rights to the lyrics.

The tune was composed in 1893 by two Kentucky sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill. They called their version ‘Good Morning To All’ which later evolved into the ‘Happy Birthday’ version which is now popular all over the world.

The case against Warner/Chappell was launched in 2013 by Rupa Marya and Robert Siegel, who are making a film about the history of the song. The music publisher wanted to charge $1,500 (£970) for the right to use the song in the film, but Marya and Siegel maintained that the song was in the public domain and should not be subject to copyright fees.

The ruling now puts the song in the public domain fifteen years before the copyright was due to expire in the US in 2030.

So here it is … royalty-free! And if it’s YOUR birthday today, happy birthday from all of us at The Hit Formula  …

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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).


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).

 


John Mayer“All I’ve ever wanted out of music is to look forward to waking up the next morning and seeing what’s going to come out of the guitar and what I’m going to figure out and what I’m going to create.”

—John Mayer (on the My Stupid Mouth fan forum)

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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).


ED SHEERAN

“If I write a song, there has to be a catalyst. It can’t just be like ‘I had a nice day’. It has to be like ‘I had the best day ever’ or the worst day ever. You can’t write a song from a bland experience, but you can write a song from two extremes.

“If you’re in a really good mood, you can write the best song, and if you’re in a really bad mood, you can write the best song. But if you’re just vanilla, you can’t.”

—Ed Sheeran (in an interview with CNN)

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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).


PINKPink – recent recipient of the prestigious President’s Award for outstanding achievement in songwriting at BMI’s 2015 Pop Awards – believes it’s important for songwriters to always be honest in their songwriting.

“I would say to aspiring songwriters, as long as you’re uncomfortable you’re probably on to something,” she says. “The more uncomfortable you are, and the more honest you’re being, the better the outcome will probably be.”

Pink believes strongly in the power of songwriters to speak truth through their music. Honest songs, she says, can often resonate strongly with listeners who are able to relate to those same experiences, hardships and situations in their own lives – whether it’s a broken love affair, a personal tragedy, or family problems.

If you can touch people’s emotions and make the listener feel something, it’s the sign of a good song.

As US singer-songwriter Jackson Browne once observed: “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.”

Pink believes it is essential to write your own story. “To me, it’s a necessity. I’ve always had to put pen to paper and just scratch out my rage since I was little.”

She says: “I’m an open book. I hide nothing. I’m expressive. I’m honest … When I work with people, we share our most intimate betrayals and heartache and love, and then we just start playing …

“As long as people are telling the truth, I’m listening,” she says. “But if you have nothing to say, I’m bored.”

Grammy Award winner, Pink – whose real name is Alecia Moore – has released six studio albums as a solo artist, as well as 2014’s Rose Ave., a debut album for her folk-inspired pop duo You+Me with Canadian musician Dallas Green. She has sold over 40 million albums (and 65 million singles) worldwide.

In being presented with BMI’s President’s Award, she joins previous recipients such as Taylor Swift, Gloria Estefan and Willie Nelson.

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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).


BRIAN WILSON - THE HIT FORMULA“The creative process is something that you kind of learn. You get a feel for it the better you get at it …

“I take walks at a park and that clears my brain out and makes me able to write songs better … I go to the studio and sit down at the piano and play chords. Whatever I feel like playing, you know? And then a melody starts to happen, and then the lyrics start to happen, and then you’ve got a song …”

— Brian Wilson (in an interview with American Songwriter 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).


METALLICA PROMO PHOTO-1200x120011Metallica’s longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett has warned songwriters who record and store song ideas on their phone to make sure they always keep the phone backed up.

Hammett speaks from bitter first-hand experience. He recently lost his phone which contained over 250 unused Metallica song ideas and riffs. Metallica are, of course, famous for their heavy riff-orientated sound.

“I lost my iPhone with 250 musical ideas,” Hammett told the podcast The Jasta Show. “I was crushed. It didn’t get backed up. 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?”

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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).