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

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Ed_Sheeran_2013 - Photo - Eva Rinaldi

Photo: Eva Rinaldi

“I think songwriting is a form of therapy … I think any time I’ve ever got down or ever felt low the one thing that picks me up from that is writing a song about it because at least you’ve got a positive experience out of a bad experience.”

— Ed Sheeran (in an interview with Kirsty Young for BBC Radio Four’s ‘Desert Island Discs’).

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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).

 


Aimee Mann

“I write songs because I like to know what people are feeling, and with, for example, a 15-person songwriting team I’d like to know, who is doing the thinking? Who is doing the feeling?

“They give songwriting credits to so many people in a way that I never would. I suppose they’re crafting a song for mass consumption in a way that is just not my thing – it isn’t personal enough.

“People are just coming up with a topic that might sell, or what approach might sell. There is craft, but not the way I like. There is attention to detail, but not the way that I like. Where are the rhymes, images, turns of phrases, metaphors? It’s all very meat and potatoes, and of not much interest to me.”

— Aimee Mann (in an interview with The Irish Times). Her new album Mental Illness is now on release through Super Ego Records.

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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).

 


MEP 14

Max Martin — regarded by many as the most successful songwriter of this century — has revealed the secret behind his 22 Number One hits in an interview with journalist Jan Gradvall of the Swedish magazine, Di Weekend. In the interview, Martin — who will be inducted into the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame in June 2017 — highlights what he believes are the key characteristics of a hit song.

“A great pop song should be felt when you hear it,” Martin told Gradvall. “You can hear songs that are technically great, songs that tick all the boxes. But for a song to be felt, you need something else. Something that sticks to you, something that makes you feel: ‘I need to hear that song again’.”

Martin believes listeners should be able to recognize a song immediately. But they should also be able to discover something new in the song every time they hear it, so that it holds their interest and lasts over time. “You must be able to have more than one favourite part in the same composition,” he says.

At the same time, though, Martin believes new elements should be introduced into a song one at a time so listeners can get to know each one before they’re ready for the next. As he puts it: “Like in a movie, you can’t introduce ten characters in the first scene.”

Martin’s phenomenally successful songwriting process includes treating each song like a journey, with the song building as it moves along through each section. Even parts that have the same melody and the same lyrics — such as the repeated choruses — should never sound exactly the same each time, he insists. “It’s the same melody and all that,” says Martin, “but what really happens is that the energy changes. It’s all about getting the listener to keep his or her concentration.”

When constructing a melody, it’s important to strike a balance between the verse, pre-chorus and chorus. “If you’ve got a verse with a lot of rhythm,” Martin told Di Weekend, “you want to pair it with something that doesn’t.” For example, a section with longer notes so listeners can take it all in. Or a melody that might not start at the same beat. “Sweet and salt might be a description that’s easier to grasp,” he explains. “You need a balance, at all times.”

Max Martin has had writing credits on 22 songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100, the third most of any songwriter after John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. Martin’s most recent Hot 100 hits have included The Weeknd’s 2015 hit, ‘Can’t Feel My Face’, and Justin Timberlake’s 2016 single ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ which won a Grammy in 2017. With sales in the hundreds of millions, Martin is considered as one of the most successful producers and songwriters of the 21st century.

You can read Jan Gradvall’s full interview with Max Martin HERE …

# # # #

“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).

# # # #

“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).

 


Bob Dylan

“Rhyming doesn’t have to be exact anymore,” Bob Dylan told Paul Zollo of American Songwriter magazine in a 2012 interview. “It gives you a thrill to rhyme something and you think, ‘Well, that’s never been rhymed before’. Nobody’s going to care if you rhyme ‘represent’ with ‘ferment’, you know. Nobody’s gonna care.”

Dylan—who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature—once admitted to Rolling Stone magazine that he stunned himself when he wrote the first two lines of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and rhymed “kiddin’ you” with “didn’t you”. “It just about knocked me out,” he said.

Historically, many classic pop songs from the rock era have tended to feature ‘perfect’ rhymes where a one-syllable word is rhymed with another one-syllable word (such as ‘kiss’ and ‘miss’), or where two words have the same spelling in the last syllable (such as ‘love and ‘above’).

These days, it’s best to steer clear of perfect rhymes, if you can, because rhymes that are too exact can often limit the expression of true emotion.

You can create a much greater impact by rhyming words that don’t have the same combination of letters but sound similar (such as ‘clown’ and ‘around’, or ‘made’ and ‘late’). This is because sound-alike words tend to engage listeners more than words with the same spelling, as in the case of Dylan’s “kiddin’ you” and “didn’t you”.

Using ‘false’ rhymes that create word pictures – or which convey what you want to say more accurately – can often be much more effective than pure rhymes.

It’s not enough to simply go through the alphabet looking for words that rhyme, irrespective of whether or not the chosen word helps to underpin the meaning of your song and drive the story forward. This approach usually results in clichéd rhymes that we’ve all heard many times before.

You can surprise the listener by having the rhyme fall on the second or third syllable of a multi-syllable word instead of at the end (for example, put the rhyme on the syllable that is stressed most strongly in normal speech, such as ‘unachievable’ and ‘believable’).

You can also rhyme a multi-syllable word with a word that only has one syllable (such as ‘sublime’ and ‘time’). This device can make a lyric much more interesting.

So don’t weaken a potentially good song by going for the easiest and most obvious rhyme. These days, lyricists have to be much more adventurous. Challenge yourself and make your rhymes less predictable.

As the great Stephen Sondheim once remarked: “The ears expect certain rhymes, so you want to fool them because one of the things you want to do in a song is surprise an audience”

# # # #

“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).

 


sting-london16_bmi_rasic-004_1024_682_90_s-photo-by-brian-rosic

Photo by Brian Rasic

“Your real job as a songwriter is to provide a soundtrack to people’s emotional lives, touchstones for their emotional landscapes, their memories. And that’s an unexpected and unanticipated honour as well as a privilege.”

—Sting on receiving the BMI Icon Award on 10 October 2016 at the 2016 BMI Awards in London.

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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).