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Monday, January 20, 2014

Songwriting Tips

Songwriting tip number one is: Create an exceptional title. To do this brainstorm ideas playing with antonyms (Bad can be Good). or alliteration (Talking on a Telephone). Or maybe snatch an interesting snippet of conversation (Hey, Did You Happen To See The Most Beautiful Girl In The World?) rhyme (Chill Pill). Other useful devices for brainstorming titles include the switching of words in a familiar expression (Hurt So Good) maxims, adages epigrams and colloquiallisms.

Songwriting tip number two? Don't get too wordy. It's very common for newbie writers to have choruses that say too much and bore the listener with 16 bars where 8 would suffice.
Another common problem is stuffing so many words in a line there's no space to breathe. Literally, the singer can't take a breath between phrases and figuratively because the listener has no break to comprehend the rapid fire outpouring. Sum up the point of your lyric in the chorus then end it.

Songwriting tip three: Separate the chorus from the verse. So many songs have basically verse after monotonous verse. One may be marked "chorus" and repeats like a chorus, but functionally, it's really a verse. Same metre, same length. Vary the length of the notes so if the verse is mostly quarter notes (1 note per beat in 4/4 time) the chorus is whole notes (4 beats per note) or halfs (2 beats per note). This will make your choruses very distinct.

Songwriting tip number four? Replace cliches in the body of the lyric. New songwriters tend to write songs that are really just a series of tired old cliches everyone has heard many times before. The trick is to take a line like "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" and twist it around into something fresh. Cliches are boring. Fresh is interesting. "You can't teach an old musician new licks" is silly but that's the idea of what you need to do- twist it around until you have something cool and original.

Tip five: Don't reverse the natural order of words very much. Lyrics should be conversational. An exception is okay if it's really amazing. The line "Beautiful the mess we are" in "Better Than A Hallelujah (recorded by Amy Grant) is a good example of the rule being broken successfully.

Tip six is on how to create a melody. If you're having trouble creating a good melody, stop trying to create it all at once in one run-on piece. Instead try singing a series of short phrases with brief breaks in between that build to something. You might sing a phrase, go a little higher or lower in pitch on the next phrase, then repeat the original and finish big. The verses in "Smoke From A Distant Fire (Sanford Townsend Band) is a good example of doing just that.
And tip seven is the most important: Rewrite until the song simply can't get any better.

Do you have unpublished songs available? Producers of major label acts are looking for songs that employ twist, conflict and suspense right now, right here. Be sure to "follow" the blog to get fresh updates.

Bill Watson is the owner of Play It Again Demos which is a demo service for songwriters and song publishers. He has also written magazine articles for publications as diverse as Gig Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Songwriter's Monthly, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Afield. His book "Guitar Shop: A Beginner's Guide To Learning Rhythm and Lead Guitar" was #1 in its category on for nearly two years.

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