Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, all! Sorry for the quiet weeks on the blog. It's been a busy time for my Christmas band, Bah & the Humbugs. We just posted four new songs, including two that I wrote, on the band's website,

Bah & the Humbugs are appearing in a live radio concert today, December 24, at approximately 4 p.m. US Eastern time, on radio station WXPN in Philadelphia. You can listen online from anywhere in the world; see the website for details.

I'll be back in the new year with more songwriting insights.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

7♥ Start fresh in a new space

7♥ Seven of Hearts in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

Seven of Hearts invites you to remind yourself what it's like to be a beginner. As a beginner, you can bring a fresh, brash, and naive attitude to your songwriting. In contrast, if you work in the same songwriting idiom for years, your work can become fussy, self-conscious, and formulaic.

Audiences love the fresh energy that a newcomer brings to the stage, and they can easily forgive a few technical shortcomings or other flaws. At the same time, no amount of technical skill and cleverness can make up for the dreariness that a long-experienced performer brings to the stage after he starts to get tired of his own work. As a creative artist, you must do whatever it takes to keep things fresh for yourself.

This week, become a beginner again. Start with a musical instrument and/or a performance style that you don't usually play. Practice for a while until you just barely start to get comfortable with this new instrument or new style. Then, let something emerge — a new song — that's the natural expression of this new musical format.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

6♠ The moral of the story

6♠ Six of Spades in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song
The Six of Spades invites you to write a song based on a message or moral lesson. This is a tricky assignment, because people instinctively stiffen and back away as soon as they sense that you're trying to teach or preach or sell them something. Yet there are many well-loved songs that are built around a moral lesson.

Look at your own music collection and find some message-based songs. How did the songwriters do it? And how did you react to the song's lesson?

Here are three tips that will help you avoid sounding preachy:
  • Keep it light-hearted. Use a light, easy touch.
  • Keep it personal. Tell what you know and believe from personal experience.
  • Tell an engaging story, one that perfectly illustrates your message.
Now, to start with, you'll want to pick a lesson or message for your song. Think broadly—there are many different kinds of messages that a song can convey. Here are some examples to start you thinking:
  • Don't be late. Don't keep people waiting.
  • You must follow your heart, even if people don't understand.
  • It's worth an extra effort to make love last.
  • Let's all stop global warming.
  • Your choices have consequences that you have to live with.
  • Hatred and violence are bad.
  • You'll do better if you're realistic about your situation.
  • Everyone has the potential to be a star.
  • Don't burn the bridges after you cross them.
  • Spending less money boosts your bottom line just as much as earning more money.
  • Don't wait for something fun to happen. It's up to you to make it happen.
  • Everyone deserves a second chance.
Those are all worthy messages, but they aren't very catchy. Your challenge as a songwriter is to express your message in an artful and appealing way. You want people to sing along, even the people who aren't sure that they agree with your song's message. Make them believe, if only for a moment, that "Everyone deserves a second chance."