Monthly Archives: October 2015

10 Songwriting Tips to Help You Out of a Rut

 

Songwriting is often seen as a talent that one either has or does not have. It’s true that talent can’t be taught, but if you are musically talented, you can still learn some techniques to improve your work. Writer’s block is often one of the most difficult challenges for a songwriter-it’s terrible to find yourself uninspired and frustrated. It seems the harder you try to force the words, the less willing they are to come. Here are a few tips and techniques to help you analyze your writing and get you out of the rut:

1. Titles. Keep in mind that you will always need song titles, and anytime you hear a word or phrase that evokes feeling or has a special meaning, write it down. Keep the list on your wall for inspiration.

2. Listen to other artists. Chances are, if you are an aspiring songwriter, you enjoy music. Listen to a wide variety of artists, especially those considered classics. Dissect the music and learn to recognize arranging tricks and song structures, then find out how to work the ones you like into your own music. This is a study, just like studying math or science-the more music you expose yourself to, the quicker you will learn how to apply tips and techniques to your own music.

3. Reverse chord order. Let’s say you’ve created this awesome chord sequence that you are completely in love with-and now you are banging your head against the wall trying to figure out what comes next. Sometimes, reversing the chord order of the sequence you already have and applying it to the next part of your song will work. If that doesn’t prove helpful, try reversing just one section of the chord sequence and repeating it, or doubling the length of time that each cord plays. You can also halve the note values in a chorus to create an illusion of increased tempo.

4. Switch up your instrument. If you prefer writing your songs with a keyboard, try using a guitar, and vice versa. Chords take on such a different resonance with different instruments, and that change can be helpful in formulating a melody. Sometimes it is helpful to write verses at the keyboard and use the guitar for the chorus.

5. Use free association. Free association can help you get started on lyrics when you have a song subject but are struggling with the actual writing. Sitting down at your computer, or with a notebook, and just writing down everything that comes to mind in association with your subject can result in a lot of usable words and phrases.

6. Develop a rhyme scheme. Some songwriters really struggle with rhyming. Many successful songwriters work rhyming into their music because it pleases the listener. Of course, every song doesn’t rhyme, but many hits have rhyming components that really work. If you really can’t develop a rhyme, don’t force it-rhyming too much or just badly will ruin your song and turn listeners off for sure. A rhyming dictionary and thesaurus are very helpful when attempting to develop a rhyme scheme. The rhyming dictionary will help you quickly find rhyming words, and a thesaurus is great for finding synonyms.

7. Hooks. We all know a successful song has to have a hook, but what many people don’t know is that a song should really have several hooks. In addition to your main musical/lyrical hook (which is the high point of the song), secondary hooks will maintain a listener’s attention. Short riffs between lines, catchy cord changes, or a vocal ad-lib are all great examples of secondary hooks.

8. Make your song interesting. There should be enough dynamic and metric interest in your songs to make them peak and subside. If you write a song that maintains one level throughout the whole thing, it’s not going to be interesting. Verses and choruses should differ-if one is short and choppy, the other should use longer, sustained notes.

9. Co-write. If you are really having trouble getting a song completed, try co-writing with another musician that you know. Gaining another artist’s perspective can help you write a unique song.

10. Change the number of chords. Try changing up the number of chords you usually use in your songwriting. If you usually use a lot of different chords, limit yourself to three. If you don’t typically use more than three, try writing a song with six.

Please feel free to contact us for more songwriting tips and techniques.

How To Write a Song That’s Culturally Relevant and Emotionally Compelling

 

How to write a song that’s much more than the repetition of second-grade-style rhymes–and that millions of people in today’s society can relate to–is a real feat, but not an impossible one!  Your composition can begin by simply looking closely at the 1970’s hit “Margaritaville” by folk-rock legend, Jimmy Buffett, as analyzed by songlyricist.com within its Song-of-the-Month critique.

Here, the special “lyrical qualities” of “a compelling and effective title, or hook, a clearly stated story, or theme, a logical progression of ideas, inventive rhyming, vivid and colorful imagery and a lyrical structure easily adapted to music” are analyzed as they relate to the wording and rhythmic style of “Margaritaville.”

Writing a song that’s hard-to-stop-listening-to, as well as culturally relevant–and that includes all of the above-described “lyrical qualities”–can just as easily be accomplished because  (and after) you’ve perused a 1967 Beatles’ composition which appeared on the Fab Four’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Please follow along as we emphasize exactly how Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote the million-selling song–

AN EFFECTIVE TITLE–“She’s Leaving Home”

The 1960’s (remember?!!) was a period of great social unrest which included race riots, sit ins, draft dodgers and young adults (girls, too!) leaving home in droves to pursue “meaningful lives” (that they considered)–much different from their parents’. Back then, moms and dads strove to “live in the every-house-looks-the-same suburbs,” to keep good-paying jobs for decades–regardless of whether or not work felt “meaningful”–and to give their children “everything material thing they (the parents) never had.” The troubles were: Professional dads were often “at the office” or “on the road” 60 hours a week, and moms became anxious to “keep up with the Jones’s.” This left little “meaningful” time and energy for the kids. The title “She’s Leaving Home,” though, may not be appropriate today, as adult children and their spouses (and many with children) are moving back home with mom and dad because they may have college degrees, but they can’t find full-time, good-paying jobs!

CLEARLY-STATED STORY, OR THEME

This Beatles’ song is/was actually written as a story in which: 1) Young woman leaves home very early in the morning after leaving a note that “she hoped would say more,” 2) Mother awakens first, sees the note and cries out, “Daddy, our baby’s gone!” 3) Mother and father wail and bemoan (what they see as) the facts that, “We sacrificed most of our lives (for daughter); We gave her everything money could buy; We struggled hard all our lives; What did we do wrong?!” 4) Two days later, the daughter is meeting a man “about a job.” She has no intention of returning to her parents’ home–ever!–This story “plot” definitely contains an EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND PROGRESSION OF IDEAS.

INVENTIVE RHYMING–

The first three lines of the first stanza of “She’s Leaving Home” employ the long “o” sound in assonance–the repetition of an “identical or similar” vowel sound. This “o” assonance–within the words “o’clock,” “closing,” “note,” and “more”–effectively matches the song’s theme, as the concept of “moaning” and “oh-noing” is extent throughout.

The second stanza, again, capitalizes on this long “o”, or “moaning” pattern with its choice, and repetition, of the words “most,” “home,” “alone” and “so.” Actually, the word “alone” appears five times, including refrains, and is used to refer to the mother(3rd stanza): “standing alone at the top of the stairs.” The Beatles adeptly imply that mother has really been “alone” a long time, because she’s been “emotionally estranged” from her daughter for years.

In the 5th and final stanza, the rhyming words “buy,” “something inside,” “denied,” and “bye bye” strongly suggest that identifying with material things leaves one “internally bereft (something inside),” without (“denied”) real affection and, ultimately, alone(“bye bye”).

LYRIC STRUCTURE EASILY ADAPTED TO MUSIC–

The Beatles’ use of the word “she” to harmonize on a high note–and to hold this harmony for up to 10 counts(in stanzas 2, 4 and 5)– physically expresses how the mother and father must have screamed (and held the scream) “shhhheeeeee!” in their rage over (what they saw as) their daughter’s “thoughtlessness” and self-centeredness. Seldom has their been (since the 60’s) a more effective “lyric/music structure” to convey strong, painful emotions than within this song!

VIVID IMAGERY–

Lennon and McCartney are/have been well-known for their song imagery, and “She’s Leaving Home” is no exception. The phrases “silently closing her bedroom door,” “clutching her handkerchief,” “quietly turning the backdoor key,” “father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown,” “standing alone at the top of the stairs,” “cries to her husband, ‘Daddy, our baby’s gone!'” give us an intimate look into the mind of the daughter, who feels a certain “death knell” at leaving, but knows she must–and into the egos of the parents, who “snore away, oblivious” to the fact that their “baby” is not really “theirs,” but a “child of the universe” who wants to discover values that fit for her.

So, writing an award-winning song can be “pretty heavy,” can’t it? No doubt the Beatles tapped deep (and perhaps, unexpressed) feelings from their own teen and young adult years for this composition.  And, you can, too!

Please contact us to contribute–and to have critiqued–your culturally relevant and emotionally compelling composition. Our judging is based on the “special elements” within your writing–not on the “production value” of your song.