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

Tag Archives: songwriting mistakes

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).

 


lorde-photo-by-brendan-walter

Photo by Brendan Walter

In a recent interview with Zane Lowe on his Beats 1 show on Apple Music, Lorde revealed how her new single ‘Green Light’ — from her upcoming album Melodrama — was inspired by her first major heartbreak. But instead of the song’s intense lyrics sounding gloomy, the song actually oozes joy because, as Lorde explained, it’s all about someone giving the ‘green light’ to a fresh start after the end of a relationship.

“The song is actually about a heartbreak,” Lorde told Zane Lowe. “And it’s not something that I really am used to writing about. It took me a while to be able to figure out how to write about that. It was my first major heartbreak. And the song is really about those moments kind of immediately after your life changes and about all the silly little things that you gravitate towards.”

She added: “It sounds so happy and then the lyrics are so intense obviously. And I realized I was like, ‘how come this thing is coming out so joyous sounding?’. And I realized this is that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess. That’s her tonight but tomorrow she starts to rebuild. And that’s the song for me.”

And here’s the song …

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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).

 


john-legend

“I think we have to be honest in our songs. I always quote Nina Simone that ‘it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times that you’re living in.’ It doesn’t mean that every song has to be political, but it does mean you should be honest with how you’re feeling and what’s important to you …”

– John Legend (New York Times – TimesTalks)

# # # #

“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).

 


tom-odell-2

British singer-songwriter Tom Odell believes it’s important to imagine every little detail in the scene you’re describing in a verse if you want to create word pictures that express the physical experience of the emotions you’re trying to convey.

“I almost have to live it in my head in order to write a song,” Odell recently told Dale Kawashima of SongwriterUniverse magazine.

One of the most frequent mistakes in lyric writing is trying to evoke an emotional response in listeners simply by telling them what you’re feeling or thinking. 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. In other words, invite the audience into the world of your song by allowing them to ‘watch’ the story unfold like a movie.

By describing each scene as if you’re looking through the lens of a video 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.

For example, Tom Odell’s beautiful song ‘Constellations’—from his 2016 album Wrong Crowd—opens with him talking to a girl in a busy bar and his lyrics vividly describe the scene.

“In order to write that,” Odell told SongwriterUniverse, “I had to imagine every detail in that bar—the chatting in the bar, the gentle hum of the bar, the headlights passing outside, the chair that squeaks, the look on [the girl’s] face. But obviously you can’t get all of that detail in the song. You can only pick a few of those details to sing. But in order to get those details I had to almost write so many verses to get to that point.

“I had to imagine it all in my head—the picture on the wall, the girl’s voice, the jacket on the back of the chair—all those details.”

# # # #

“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).


billy-bragg_shot_by_kris_krug

Photo: Kris Krug

“It’s a good time to be a political songwriter … Let’s have another generation of young songwriters come along and tell us all about it, about the pressure they feel under.”
—Billy Bragg (in an interview with Music Week)

# # # #

“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”

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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).