Monday, May 31, 2010

Rests (Songwriting tips)

Don't forget to include rests in the melody line. You can use rests to create emphasis and help shape melodic phrases. Rests between phrases allow room for the instrumental arrangement to take shape. (And, on a practical level, your singer needs to breathe.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

J♣ Rebel with a song

J♣ Jack of Clubs in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Jack of Clubs urges you to do the opposite of what people expect. If people think they know who you are as a songwriter and what kind of music you do, it's time to defy their expectations. Rebel against their typecasting. Shatter the mold.

People are getting a little too comfortable with who you are and what kind of songs you write.
Write a song that would surprise, shock, startle, and unsettle them.

(Note: We're not trying to undo years of carefully staged image-building! If your public image is working perfectly for you, you might choose not to release or perform this new song. But even if you don't release it, this can still be a valuable exercise that helps you flex your muscles and stretch your boundaries.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Collect ideas (Songwriting tips)

Keep a notebook of song ideas. Every time something interesting happens, think of a way you might write a song about it.

You don't have to write every song that you think of, but it's good practice to think of ways that a given idea can be turned into a song.

You should never find yourself short of song ideas to work with. Try to collect several new ideas every week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

8♦ Part Two

8♦ Eight of Diamonds in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Eight of Diamonds asks you to write a song that's a sequel to another song. Maybe it's your own song that needs a Part II, or you might feel inspired to write a response to someone else's famous song.

Remember that your new song need to stand on its own. You can't count on your audience being familiar with the song that serves as your inspiration.

If I remember my "American Top 40" anecdotes correctly, David Bowie's "Space Oddity" inspired him to write a sequel years later, "Ashes to Ashes," and that song in turn inspired Peter Schilling to write "Major Tom.")

Monday, May 17, 2010

Repetition (Songwriting tips)

Repetition affects perception.

For example, a "wrong note" played once might sound like a mistake. If you do it the same way three times, listeners will realize it's intentional, but it might come across as irritating. But if you do it 12 times, it might be a distinctive hook anchoring a memorable song.

Listeners who don't like a particular groove might complain that a song is "too repetitive," but those same listeners will like other songs that are just as repetitive, but that are in a different style that they feel more comfortable with.

There's no rule to tell you how much repetition is "right." It depends on the specifics of your song and your musical elements, and also on your audience and the context in which the song will appear.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

4♦ Guess the music

4♦ Four of Diamonds in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Four of Diamonds suggests a roundabout method for creating a new song. First, find a lyric sheet for a song you don't know. (Hint: You can do a Google search for some random combination of words, plus the word "lyrics.")

Write music for those lyrics, trying your best to guess what the original songwriter had in mind. When you're done, listen to the original song if you can. You'll probably be surprised at how different your treatment is from the song's original music. Most likely, you chose a different musical style, a different tempo, a different rhythmic structure, and different kinds of chords. (But if your music somehow ends up similar to the first songwriter's treatment, then you must throw your work out and start over with a different set of lyrics.)

Now you have just one little problem: your new song has lyrics whose copyright is owned by someone else. No sweat! Just write all-new lyrics for your new music.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Help the singer help your song (Songwriting tips)

A song is only as good as the singer's performance of it. Write with your singer's vocal strengths in mind. If a new singer picks up one of your songs, be willing to make changes where needed to suit the singer's voice.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

K♣ Your #1 hit

K♣ King of Clubs in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The King of Clubs commands that you write a brilliant hit song, your pop masterpiece that will compel everyone who hears it to dance and sing along.

There's n0 denying that this puts a lot of pressure on you. You don't want to crash and burn in your audience with the king. But this is no time to play it safe; you must go beyond everything you've done before if you hope to satisfy this royal request.

The stake are high, but all the work you've done up to this point has prepared you well for this moment. Go for it! And good luck!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shape (Songwriting tips)

The structure of a song is built by establishing patterns (creating expectations) and breaking them (introducing twists or surprises).

If your song is completely predictable or completely unpredictable, then you have missed your opportunity to give it a shape. Be sure to have some reassuring, familiar patterns and some unexpected elements as well.