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

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John Legend

John Legend believes gaining success as a songwriter is as much about working hard as it is talent.

“It sounds obvious, but there’s this mistaken belief that everything is about talent, but talent has to be cultivated and developed,” he once told Q magazine. “If it’s not nurtured, pushed and challenged it’s not going to happen.”

Legend says he’s proud of the fact that he started work on his career when he was little more than a toddler and insists he will never apologise for being demanding. “I was four and I begged my mom to get me piano lessons,” he told Q. “I was a precocious little kid. There was a lot of music in our house so I think me wanting to play was me trying to be a part of what was going on. It was a chance to perform.”

With his music inspired by the classic soul and R&B music he grew up listening to, Legend says his songwriting process is “almost the exact opposite” of how most other writers work. He believes the music should drive the lyrics.

“Some people start from a poetry base,” he says. “They’ll write a bunch of lyrics, then try to put them to music. I try to develop a compelling musical idea and make the words fit into it.”

He explains: “I usually start playing a melody and find the chords I like. Then I start singing something to it to see what works.

“I usually write the chorus first because that helps guide me into where I want the verses to go. Then I start fooling around with chord progressions for the verse.”

Most established songwriters would agree with John Legend that hard work is the key to success. The initial spark that ignites a song idea is a gift. From then on, it’s all about putting in the hours to get it right. And it calls for an exceptional level of self-motivation and self-belief, as well as talent.

The truly great songwriters just make it look easy. In reality, though, they have to put in hundreds of hours of hard work—making many mistakes along the way—in order to hone their talent and achieve their greatness.

Diane Warren, one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, says she spent 20 years writing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day before she felt she could finally take the occasional weekend off!

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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 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

“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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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

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Benny_Andersson - photo by Nicho Södling

“So many songs are now written by committee … Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like”, which won Song of the Year at this year’s Grammys, was credited to eight writers.

“I don’t understand how that works because, for me, a song starts with a melody combined with chords. I arrange the song with bass and drums after the song is finished, not the other way around.

“If I start with the drums and the bass and then add some chords, randomly, and then try to write a melody … I don’t know how that works. I don’t get it.

“What that lacks, I think, is a ‘sender’. If someone likes my music, that’s me; it’s me sending it to you. If there are seven or eight people behind it, are they all honest? Do they all mean it?”

— ABBA’s Benny Andersson (in an interview with Music Business Worldwide magazine)

Photo by Nicho Södling

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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 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

“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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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 lyrics

When 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 came 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 used it for igniting anything that may have been 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, then mix them up and reconnect them.

“You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations,” 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.”

The ‘cut-up’ 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

In the early 1990s, Bowie developed a more advanced version of his ‘cut-up’ technique when he teamed up with Gracenote co-founder Ty Roberts to create the Verbasizera custom program for Apple’s Mac which is now regarded as an early form of AI-based songwriting.

The Verbasizer randomized portions of Bowie’s inputted text sentences to create new ones with new meanings and moods. It would cut up and reassemble Bowie’s words electronically, much like he had done with paper, scissors and glue back in the 1970s. Bowie made use of the Verbasizer to create the lyrics and liner notes for his 1995 album Outside.

“What you end up with is a real kaleidoscope of meanings and topic and nouns and verbs all sort of slamming into each other,” Bowie explained in this 1997 documentary about the Verbasizer …

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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 Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) and 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 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 Rakuten’s 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).


Foo_Fighters_-_Rock_am_Ring_2018-5671 Andreas Lawen, Fotandi

Photo: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi

As experienced songwriters know, you only have a limited amount of time in which to grab a listener’s attention and create a lasting impression on them. If your song structure and lyrics are too complicated and difficult to understand, listeners may find it hard to grasp what you’re trying to communicate to them … and they could soon lose interest in the song.

The Foo Fighters’ frontman Dave Grohl compares this challenge to trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. “You have to try to find a melody and lyric that will braid together and create four minutes of memory that you’ll have for the rest of your life,” he explained in a recent Billboard Chart Beat podcast.

“To me, the challenge is always trying to craft a song that is simple in a way that people will connect to it emotionally,” he said. “Even just a melody … that’s a funny thing. A lyric is one thing, but there’s something that a melody can do … just the sound of a minor scale, or a major scale rising in a chorus. The notes will twist your heart.”

As Dave Grohl acknowledges, for a song to become a great song it must be able to reach out and touch listeners and stimulate an emotional response within them. It should make them feel something and take them on an emotional journey.

The great George Gershwin once described songwriting as “an emotional science”, and scientific studies have shown that a wide range of notes can imply joy or uneasiness, while a narrower range of notes can suggest tranquillity, sadness or triumph.

Major chords often convey happiness or joy, while minor chords are associated with sadness. Using a mix of minor chords and major chords can add extra depth and colour to a song. But chord progressions should not be so complicated that they don’t flow properly and end up wandering aimlessly.

And remember, a song should contain only one story, or one message, told from a single point of view. Lyrically, you can avoid confusing the listener by using the viewpoint character’s thoughts and perceptions to drive the song.

New songwriters, who are still developing their craft, often fall into the trap of believing that every line of their song has to be clever or tricky in order to make an impression on the listener. What they should really be focusing on is making sure that the structure of their song is clear, simple and easy to follow. This will make it easier for people to feel an emotional connection with the song.

As Dave Grohl suggests, even within a simple song form the use of certain chord progressions and recurring sequences of notes can have an emotional effect on the listener. The Foo Fighters’ classic song “Times Like These” is a great example of this …

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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 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

“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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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


 

Paul_Weller_S4_0054_SMALLER-920x584From Paul Weller’s emergence as a songwriting force with the power punk of The Jam in the 1970s to the soul sounds of The Style Council in the 1980s—followed by many diverse solo albums since—he has continually evolved his approach to songwriting. Weller warns that writers who don’t seek new challenges risk simply repeating themselves and could start to bore their listeners as a result.

“No matter what age you are, there’s always something else to learn,” he told Another Man magazine in a recent interview. “I just want to keep finding new things—new ground. You have to keep moving forward.”

Weller believes it’s essential for songwriters to set themselves a goal with each new song. “I might have an idea, however vague it is at the time, of where I want to try and take the music,” he told Another Man. “Sometimes you get there, sometimes you don’t – and sometimes you end up with something that isn’t what you set out to do, but is something else again, and something that surprises you because you didn’t realise you could go there.”

He added: “It’s a question of setting yourself a certain amount of challenges. Otherwise it’s too easy to get caught in a cycle of doing the same things over and over again.”

When new writers achieve an important breakthrough and discover a songwriting ‘formula’ that really works for them, they are naturally tempted to stick to it on every song. The innovation could be the result of a particular chord progression—or the use of a specific climactic chord change or a musical phrase—and it helps them create a new kind of song that evokes the best response they’ve ever had from listeners.

While they may want to take advantage of this winning ‘formula’ to help them establish their own distinctive sound and style, they should be careful not to end up writing songs that are all built around the same few notes, chords and keys. Each new song may sound great on its own, but there’s a danger that a writer could end up with a collection of songs that all sound alike—especially if he or she puts them together on the same demo submission, or on a showcase album, or on their own website and YouTube channel.

Paul Weller believes that being open to collaboration with other people is one way of constantly exploring new things and “expanding your own world”. For example, on his latest solo album, True Meanings (his 14th studio album), Weller has teamed up with other talent such as Lucy Rose, Conor O’Brien from Villagers, and Erland Cooper.

It has resulted in yet another new ‘sound’ for Paul Weller, as this beautiful track, ‘Gravity,’ demonstrates …

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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).

“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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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 Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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

 


Brian Oliver - colour - PhotoPad (THUMBNAIL) by Brian Oliver

An extract from his new book, “Surprising Rhyming for Songwriters and Poets”, an alternative rhyming dictionary designed to help writers create unique rhymes and avoid tired old clichés. It contains over 150,000 rhyming solutions for some 1,400 different rhyme sounds.

SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETSAs a music publisher I’ve listened to thousands of demos by aspiring songwriters and, despite always hoping to discover a fresh new talent, I’ve ended up feeling disappointed because I found I could predict what the next rhyme was going to be on almost every line. Inexperienced writers often weaken a potentially good song by going for the easiest and most obvious rhyme, or by using the same rhyme sound too many times in a row. This simply makes the lyrics sound boring, monotonous and colorless. As the legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim once remarked: “The ears expect certain rhymes, so you want to fool them because one of the things you want to do is surprise an audience.”

It’s not enough to simply go through the alphabet trying to think of words that rhyme—irrespective of whether the chosen word helps to underpin the meaning of your song and drive the story forward. This lazy approach usually results in worn-out, clichéd rhymes that we’ve all heard countless times before.

Lyrics don’t always have to rhyme, of course, but rhyming is a mnemonic device that assists the memory and makes it easier for people to remember a song. Rhyming also plays an important part in giving a lyric a sense of form and symmetry.

“In a couplet, the first rhyme is like a question to which the second rhyme is an answer,” explains English poet James Fenton, a former Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. “In most quatrains [four-line verses], space is created between the rhyme that poses the question and the rhyme that gives the answer … it’s like a pleasure deferred.”

Historically, many pop songs in the rock era have featured ‘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’).

But perfect rhymes tend to get tedious. And many of the cleverest perfect rhymes have been used so many times over the years that they’ve now become clichés.

Hit songwriting is more sophisticated these days, and publishers and A&R reps have much higher expectations of lyricists. So, if you have a rhyme in your head, ask yourself if you’ve heard it before. If it sounds too familiar, try finding another way of saying it—perhaps by using a metaphor rather than just a literal rhyme, or an off-the-wall ‘imperfect’ rhyme.

Sometimes, simply putting an unexpected adjective or a visual descriptor (like Homer’s “rosy-fingered dawn” and “wine-dark sea”) in front of a clichéd rhyming noun can surprise the listener and make the cliché sound less familiar.

You can often 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 lyrics are meant for the ears, so how words sound is more important than how they’re written. It’s the similarity between the sound of the syllables (for example, ‘rougher’ and ‘suffer’) that creates the rhyme and engages the listener, rather than the words themselves.

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 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.

In fact, many established songwriters now try to steer clear of perfect rhymes because they’ve recognized that rhymes that are too exact can sometimes limit the expression of true emotion. Using imperfect rhymes to create word pictures—or to convey what you want to say more accurately—can often be much more effective than pure rhymes.

With imperfect rhymes (also referred to as false-rhymes, half-rhymes, slant-rhymes or near-rhymes), the vowel sounds are identical, but the consonants that follow or precede those vowel sounds are different and don’t match. For example: ‘forever’ and ‘together’, ‘time’ and ‘mind’, or ‘make’ and ‘fate’. The matching vowels are enough to make the rhyme work.

When people hear the word ‘man’, for example, they will naturally expect to hear something like ‘can’ or ‘ran’ as the rhyme. If you unexpectedly slip in a rhyme that has an extra consonant at the end (for example, the word ‘stand’), they may listen more closely to hear what comes next.

Unpredictable rhymes can also be created by varying the rhyme sounds in your choice of words. For example, a single-sound rhyme in a multi-syllable word (such as ‘indicate’ and ‘celebrate’ or ‘fingernail’ and ‘fairy tale’), You can also use double-sound rhymes (‘walking’ and ’talking’), or triple-sound rhymes (‘addiction’ and ‘prediction’).

Instead of rhyming a noun with a noun, or a verb with a verb, you can also create an unexpected rhyme by pairing different parts of speech, such as a noun and an adjective (for example, ‘guess’ and ‘pointless’).

Sara BareillesMany experienced writers feel that using imperfect rhymes gives them greater freedom and flexibility to create word pictures. It also provides an ingenious way to avoid employing rhyming clichés or rhymes that are too obvious. For example, in her award-winning 2013 song ‘Brave’ (co-written with Jack Antonoff), Sara Bareilles (left) rhymes ‘outcast’ with ‘backlash’, ‘inside’ with ‘sunlight’, ‘there’ with ‘stared’, and ‘run’ with ‘tongue’.

Imperfect rhymes have always been used in hip-hop in conjunction with assonance (the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within lyric lines). In one section of his 1992 song ‘N.Y. State of Mind’, rapper Nas manages to rhyme the word ‘prosperous’ with the words ‘dangerous’, ‘blamin’ us’ and ‘hostages’.

If you study the latest chart hits and compare where the rhymes are positioned—and what kind of rhymes are being used—you’re likely to find much looser (and more conversational) ‘near rhymes’ placed in the middle of the lines in the verse, instead of at the end of each line (which is the traditional approach).

This is partly due to the influence of hip-hop since the late 1980s. Run DMC’s classic 1986 album Raising Hell is credited with paving the way for much greater use of mid-line rhymes rather than relying on end rhymes. Although internal rhymes had been used previously, they had never been employed so consistently over a whole album as on Raising Hell.

An internal rhyming pattern involves repeating vowels and consonants (and combinations of both) within each individual line. A good example of this is Phil Lynott’s classic Thin Lizzy song ‘With Love’ which includes the line: “I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless”.

Using mid-line rhymes in this way helps to build the lyrical rhythm and can strengthen the forward motion of the verse.

You can surprise listeners by having your internal rhyme fall on the second or third syllable of a multi-syllable word instead of at the end—for example, by putting 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’).

RakimIn 1987, acclaimed hip-hop lyricist Rakim (right) pioneered the multi-syllabic approach to rhyming with compound rhymes that paired one word with two words, such as ‘righteous’ and ‘might just’. It was a style (since adopted by other rappers) that introduced a rapid, continuous, rhythmic flow, based on deeply-woven rhyme structures that incorporated internal rhymes.

Since then, pop music has absorbed the rhyming patterns and inventive near-rhymes and multi-syllabic rhymes used in hip-hop in a very real way.

Today, Eminem (who has admitted he often spends hours studying a rhyming dictionary) tends to fill his songs with more internal rhymes than anyone else in contemporary pop. He once told Rolling Stone magazine: “Even as a kid, I always wanted the most words to rhyme. If I saw a word like ‘transcendalistic tendencies’, I would write it out on a piece of paper and underneath I’d line a word up with each syllable. Even if it didn’t make sense, that’s the kind of drill I would do.”

Consistency is essential when it comes to creating impactful rhyming schemes. For example, if you use internal rhymes in the first verse, you should put them in the same place in the subsequent verses in order to maintain the kind of symmetry that listeners like to hear.

My new book, Surprising Rhyming, is a new kind of rhyming dictionary that aims to make it easier for writers to avoid clichés and craft rhymes that people may not have heard before. It contains rhyme types that are much broader than those found in traditional rhyming dictionaries which tend to show only ‘perfect’ or ‘true’ rhymes.

For example, if you’re looking for a rhyme for the word “true”, rhyming dictionaries typically offer perfect rhymes such as “blue”, “due”, “knew” or “who”. Instead, Surprising Rhyming also pairs “true” more imaginatively with words like “gloom”, “soon”, “groove” and “dude”.

If you need a rhyme for the word “gamble”, you’ll normally be offered “ramble”, “scramble” or “shamble”. But Surprising Rhyming’s solutions also include: “bangle”, “dangle”, “candle” and “handle”.

Surprising Rhyming includes over 150,000 rhyming solutions for some 1400 different rhyme sounds. These are based on the findings of an in-depth study of the kind of ingenious ‘near’ rhymes 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.

Even when you’re using a rhyming dictionary like Surprising Rhyming as a creative brainstorming tool, don’t always go for the most obvious rhyme word. By digging deeper, you can often discover rhymes that inspire new themes or fresh ideas that can take your lyrics in a more exciting (and less predictable) direction.

So challenge yourself … Surprise your audience!

# # # #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).

“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, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s 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, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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

 


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.”

# # # #

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).