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

Tag Archives: songwriting techniques

MAX MARTIN

“I don’t think Max Martin is human,” says record label boss and reality TV judge Simon Cowell. “Nobody human can do everything he’s done over the years. He has helped to make and define a sound and that’s what makes him a genius.”

With record sales in the hundreds of millions, Max Martin is acknowledged as one of the most successful songwriters and producers of the 21st century. His huge back catalogue includes massive hit songs for Adele, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, The Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber, Robyn, The Weeknd, and many more …

He has had writing credits on 22 songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 (that’s about 6% of all US Number One songs since 1991), which means he’s the third most successful songwriter in US chart history behind only Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

In this rare Masterclass interview with Swedish journalist Jan Gradvall, the usually publicity-shy Max Martin discusses his phenomenally successful songwriting process … and reveals the special ingredients that make a great pop song.

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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 Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), 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 (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

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

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

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

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TAYLOR SWIFT, 2013

“Songwriting is still the same uncomplicated process it was when I was 12 years old writing songs in my room,” said Taylor Swift in a recent interview with Harper’s BAZAAR magazine.

She said: “There are definitely moments when it’s like this cloud of an idea comes and just lands in front of your face, and you reach up and grab it.

“A lot of songwriting is things you learn, like structure, cultivating that skill and knowing how to craft a song. But there are mystical, magical moments—inexplicable moments—when an idea that is fully formed just pops into your head.”

Instead of allowing ideas to bubble to the surface naturally from their subconscious, many new writers tend to try too hard and end up forcing the creative process. They try to cram too much into a song—making it way too long and unnecessarily complicated, and leaving the listener feeling confused.

As Taylor Swift suggests, it is important to avoid over-thinking or over-writing your songs. Sometimes, the chords, melodies and lyrics that come to you instinctively are the right ones. So don’t spend forever searching for the perfect melody or lyrics. Don’t keep on going until you end up with way too many notes and words.

Just make sure your song form is clear, predictable and easy to follow. Keeping it simple will make it easier for people to remember the song.

In other words, know when to quit.

As Sting once remarked: “Songs have to be simple. It’s not like you have a huge canvas to paint on or a novel length to fill. You’ve got to tell the story in two verses, a chorus and a coda and that takes some skill.”

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SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and also across Europe. It is also available as a Kindle ebook in the United States and in the UK and Europe. Read more about 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 (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, Orange Warsaw FestivalTom Odell’s beautiful song ‘Constellations’—from his 2016 album Wrong Crowd—opens with Tom talking to a girl in a busy bar and his lyrics vividly describe the scene. It’s a great example of why songwriters should always show listeners what is happening in their song, rather than just tell them …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She added: “A fan once said to me, ‘Girl, you make me see pictures in my head!’ and I took that as a great compliment—that’s exactly my intention.”

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SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and also across Europe. Read more about the book HERE (USA) and HERE (UK).

“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

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

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

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

 


SURPRISING RHYMING – AN ALTERNATIVE RHYMING DICTIONARY FOR SONGWRITERS AND POETS

With more new songs being written every week than ever before, songwriters are finding it harder to sound original and find rhymes and phrases that have not already been used. Now, a new kind of rhyming dictionary—titled Surprising Rhyming—aims to make it easier for writers to avoid clichés and craft rhymes that people may not have heard before.

Built on the findings of an in-depth study of the kind of ingenious rhymes used by some of the world’s greatest songwriters and lyricists, Surprising Rhyming offers an astonishing array of alternative rhyme options. Its 624 pages contain over 150,000 rhyming solutions for some 1,400 different rhyme sounds. These rhyme types are much broader than those found in traditional rhyming dictionaries which tend to show only ‘perfect’ or ‘true’ rhymes.

Using too many perfect rhymes can sometimes make a lyric sound tedious and predictable—and prone to clichés. To avoid this, Surprising Rhyming focuses instead on off-the-wall false-rhymes, half-rhymes, slant-rhymes and near-rhymes that are less predictable than exact rhymes … and are therefore more likely to surprise an audience.

The book also includes many new words that have been added to standard dictionaries in recent years.

The thousands of ‘surprising’ rhymes crammed into Surprising Rhyming’s pages are based on analyses of the unconventional ‘imperfect’ rhymes that have been used by influential songwriters and lyricists such as: Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Sara Bareilles, James Bay, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Sia Furler, Hozier, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Carole King, Michael Kiwanuka, John Lennon, Lorde, John Mayer, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Bonnie McKee, Randy Newman, Dolly Parton, Christina Perri, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Paul Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Taylor Swift, Cat Stevens, Bernie Taupin, James Taylor, Jimmy Webb, Lucinda Williams, Stevie Wonder … and many more.

The concept of the book was inspired by a remark made by Stephen Sondheim, the legendary Broadway composer and lyricist. In a PBS News Hour interview, Sondheim described how people’s ears have come to expect certain rhymes and suggested that writers should try to fool their audience by coming up with rhymes that will take listeners by surprise.

The ‘surprising’ rhymes listed in this book are typically formed by words with similar but not identical sounds (such as rain/blame or day/late) rather than the more predictable ‘perfect’ rhymes found in traditional rhyming dictionaries (like rain/pain or day/stay).

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 pairs “true” more imaginatively with words like “smooth”, “tune”, “gloom”, “soon” and “groove”.

If your rhyme word is “suffer”, traditional rhyming dictionaries offer rhymes like “rougher”, “tougher” or “buffer”. Surprising Rhyming’s alternative suggestions for “suffer” include: “lover”, “brother”, “summer”, “discover” and “another”.

And 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 is a new kind of rhyming dictionary that encourages writers to be more adventurous in their approach to rhyming,” explained the book’s creator and editor, Brian Oliver, author of the five-star rated book How [Not] to Write a Hit Song! 101 Common Mistakes to Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success.

He said: “Many of the cleverest perfect rhymes have been used so many times over the years that they’ve now become tired clichés and writers often struggle to find rhymes or phrases that haven’t been heard before. As a brainstorming tool,  Surprising Rhyming is designed to enable writers to challenge themselves and make their rhymes bolder and more original … and less predictable.”

The book is laid out clearly to make it quick and easy to find the perfect word to achieve a memorable rhyme. There are separate sections for one-, two-, three- and four-syllable rhymes, along with many useful tips on rhyming.

“SURPRISING RHYMING” – 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 (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

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

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BONO

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

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

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

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

(Bono photo by Daniel Hazard)

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

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

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

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


TAYLOR SWIFT, 2013

Spare a thought for Taylor Swift the next time you’re working on a new song and you’re going through the agony of trying to find the right chord progression, or struggling to find the right lyric line or a clever rhyme. Seems it happens to her too.

In this behind-the-scenes video, Taylor Swift provides a rare glimpse into her songwriting process. She shares personal videos of herself at the piano and on guitar when she was creating her song ‘Gorgeous’ from her sixth studio album, Reputation. The song is composed in the key of C major with a tempo of 92 beats per minute, with Taylor’s vocals spanning from G3 to C5.

She co-wrote the song with Max Martin and Shellback.

Top photo: Jana Zills

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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).


Tom Petty

“To me, Tom Petty represented a kind of songwriting I idolized: complex simplicity.

“It said so much in the lyrics, the concepts, the stories, the message, the nuances … but always brought you back to a hook that got stuck in everyone’s head.

“He motivated thousands of guitarists to learn to play just because they wanted to be able to play ‘Free Fallin’. Count me as one of them.”

Taylor Swift (in an interview with Rolling Stone).

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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).