Get Inspired: Study Great Holiday Songs

Here’s a list of great holiday songs you can listen to on Youtube. Each one has something offer to today’s songwriters as examples of great song craft.  As you listen, notice the  structure, lyric imagery/action words, melody style, and production. For more detailed info on writing and pitching holiday songs, read Holiday Songs: ‘Tis the Season.

Winter Wonderland  – Jason Mraz with an excellent  version of this seasonal classic. The vocal has a contemporary jazz flavor and conveys warmth, upbeat energy, and fun. The production is just guitar and vocal and nothin’ else! It’s simple and it’s effective.

Learn more about creating basic, barebones arrangements.

Silver Bells  – Notice how the imagery circles around a single idea – a busy street at holiday time. Contrasting with the bustle of the street and embodying the spirit of Christmas is the tight focus on silver bells in the chorus – an image of tradition, purity, and light. Try something like this with a family, home, or holiday party setting.

Watch this video to learn more about using images in your lyrics.

Take a Walk Through Bethlehem   This lyric demonstrates a very effective way to express the biblical story of Christmas and make it relevant to today’s world. Notice how the lyric evokes feelings  and paints pictures rather than making statements about what the songwriter thinks.

Find out how to add more emotion to your lyrics.

The Christmas Waltz  This beautiful Christmas song is in 3/4 time. Try an unusual time signature or groove to create a unique holiday song. The raw sound of the piano and simple guitar/vocal arrangement give this track an “indie” feel. It has had over 360,000 views on youTube!

All I Want for Christmas Is You  This is a theme that’s popular with songwriters and has been used many times. If you want to write a Christmas love song like this one, see if you can give it a fresh angle. Spend some time thinking about how you’ll approach it before you start writing.

Here are some tips for bringing your lyric theme to life. 

If On a Winter’s Night   Sting explains the inspiration behind his wonderful album “Winter” which started out as a Christmas album and broadened into an evocation of a season – both its darkness and its beauty. See if there are some ideas in what he says that suggest songs to you. For you folks “down under,” summer is your holiday season. Try expressing the feelings, sights, and sounds that go with that idea!

Do It Now!
Write a  song based on the holiday or season of your choice. Use some of the techniques you hear in the songs listed above.

by Robin Frederick

Robin's books at Amazon.comThis post is based on my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.

Reprints of this article by permission.

Author: Robin Frederick

Robin Frederick is the author of Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. She has written and produced more than 500 songs for television, records, theater, and audio products. She is a former Director of A&R for Rhino Records and Executive Producer of 60 albums. Visit Robin's websites for more songwriting tips and inspiration: www.RobinFrederick.com and www.MySongCoach.com.