Songwriting: It’s Like Riding a Bicycle

Bicycle in your mindRemember when you learned to ride your first bicycle? It wasn’t easy. You fell down a lot, but you kept trying. At first you needed someone to hold on, keeping you steady. Then you used training wheels to help you stay upright as you pedaled. Then, finally, you were able to ride on your own. You had found that complicated thing called balance. After that, it was a breeze! The process of writing songs is a lot like riding a bike. It’s all about finding a balance!

=> Balance Melody, Chords, Lyrics – Writing a song that listeners will love involves finding a good balance between melody, lyrics, and chords. If you have a busy lyric with a lot of words and images then writing a melody that’s easy for listeners to follow might give your song more appeal. On the other hand, if you have a complicated melody with a lot of rhythmic interest and interval jumps, then keeping your chord progression simple might be a good idea. Try the chord progressions on this page to get things going.

When there are too many things demanding their attention, listeners don’t know what to focus on and that can be frustrating. If they’re feeling confused or overwhelmed, they’re  likely to tune out.

A good rule of thumb: As the complexity of one of your song elements goes up – lyrics, melody, or chords – consider organizing the other elements in easy-to-follow patterns or using more repetition.

We all love to write those beautiful, poetic lines but they can sometimes be hard for listeners to understand.

=> Balance within each song element – We all love to write beautiful, poetic lines but they can sometimes be hard for listeners to understand. So, try to mix in a few conversational  lines that come right out and say what you want the listener to know. If you don’t feel comfortable interweaving poetic and conversational within a single song section, consider making your verse the evocative, poetic section, then come straight to the point in your chorus. Let the singer come right out and say what he or she feels so the listener knows what’s going on.

The same idea can be applied to melody.  If you have a verse with a fast-paced, complicated melody, consider writing a chorus with a little breathing room. Stretch out the melody notes in the chorus and use fewer notes per beat. use a little more repetition or a simple melodic pattern. Give the listener a chance to absorb what’s happening before plunging into another verse.

=> Study the balance in your genre – Each genre has a balance of melody, lyrics, and chords that gives it a characteristic sound. For instance, the Pop genre tends to have a lot  of melodic interest. Verse, pre-chorus, and chorus all have different melodies with changing dynamics and rhythmic twists.  Pop lyrics  maintain a balance by staying focused on a single emotional situation that’s clearly defined in the chorus.

The Country genre, on the other hand, relies on lyric stories with more physical detail and development than Pop.  Listeners need to pay attention to the lyric in order to get the full impact. As a result, Country melodies tend to be a little less complex than in the Pop field. This doesn’t mean you can write a boring melody, ever! You’ll still need to keep your listeners interested with strong melody patterns and plenty of contrast between sections. But you might want to use fewer melodic twists than you would in the Pop genre.

=> Balance craft and inspiration – Balance is also an essential part of your approach to songwriting as a whole. Finding a balance between inspiration and song craft can help you express your deepest thoughts and feelings and in a way that listeners can understand and respond to.

Inspiration can be a very personal thing, sometimes giving you lines that may mean something to you but not to your listener.

Inspiration is the heart of your songwriting. It’s what guides you, tells you what’s important, and delivers that brilliant line out of the blue. But inspiration can be a very personal thing, sometimes giving you lines that may mean something to you but not to your listener. If you balance inspiration with an equal amount of song craft, you’ll end up communicating more effectively, surrounding those inspired gems with lines that support them and keep the listener involved.  Continue reading “Songwriting: It’s Like Riding a Bicycle”

Faster & Better: Pick Up Your Songwriting Speed

We all want to be more creative, have more songs in the catalog, and feel satisfied that we’re getting things accomplished. It’s just that reality doesn’t always work out that way. More often than not…

  • We don’t have any good ideas for new songs.
  • We’re not sure what kinds of songs we should be writing and for what market.
  • We get stuck working on one song that’s in trouble.
  • We’re scared our songs aren’t good enough so we don’t finish them.

We all know that good quality has to be maintained, but I bet you could write more songs and keep the quality at the level you want or even improve it. Here are a whole bunch of ideas for writing FASTER and BETTER.

The quickest way to get started.STUDY SUCCESSFUL SONGS
This is the quickest way to solve a lot of the problems I just listed. Spend at least one to two hours per week listening to songs on the music charts, or songs used in Film & TV. Of course, you won’t like everything you hear. You may have to dig a while before you uncover a song you want to learn from. But it’s worth it and it’s an essential part of the job of songwriting.

Too often we think of our songwriting career as ONLY the act of songwriting, but there’s so much more. Laying the groundwork for new songs, learning how others creatively use song craft, getting inspired, feeling like you could beat those songs – all of these are ways you can up your game. Get your ears used to hearing what’s successful out there and your songwriting will improve.

READ THIS: Here’s an article on my website with a list of resources where you can find successful artists and bands in a range of styles to listen to.

Embed current songs to give yourself an instant feel for the style
When you find a song you like, get a copy of the lyrics. (you can find them online or take them down by ear.) Practice singing along with the track until it’s comfortable for you. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Many current singer-songwriter songs have complex melodies and phrasing. Just learn it one section at a time. If the song isn’t in your vocal range, talk-sing along with it until you get a feel for the rhythm of the melody. These days, the rhythm of the notes is as important as note pitches.  Continue reading “Faster & Better: Pick Up Your Songwriting Speed”

Music Producers: What They Do and How to Find One

If you’re an artist or band making an Indie CD or EP, or a songwriter recording a master to pitch to film and TV, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about hiring that magical, mystical creature called “The Music Producer.”

So… how does that work? What does a music producer do? How do you know if you’ve found the right one? Where do you find one? Let’s begin with the most basic question and go from there.

What do you want from a producer?

Start by asking what it is you want a producer to do for you. There’s probably a range of things. Among them, maybe you want a producer to…

  • Help you define your style and find your genre
  • Make your song sound like a hit
  • Co-write a hit song with you
  • Advise you on the music business
  • Walk your song into a record label, publisher, or music supervisor when it’s done

Is this realistic? Is there any producer who can really do these things for you? Probably not, at least not now. A producer can add to your effort but cannot replace a solid foundation, laid down by you, before you ever start looking. Without that foundation, there’s no way to know what kind of producer you’re looking for.

 Lay your foundation

There are several things you should do before you start the hunt for a producer. Unfortunately, too often we hope that someone else will do them for us. But these are a crucial part of your job as a songwriter or artist.

➤ 1. Know your market and audience

Who will you be playing these songs for? Will you be pitching them to a music publisher for established artists? Pitching to film and TV? To a label as an artist? Are you building up your fan base on YouTube? Selling this CD or EP at live gigs?

Of course, you could be doing all of these, but one or two will be more important than the rest. Think about that audience and what appeals to them right now. Make a list of  artists or bands that are successful in those markets. Continue reading “Music Producers: What They Do and How to Find One”

What to Do AFTER You Write Your Song

Your song is finished. You like what you’ve written. You think it has commercial potential. Now what will you do with it? You’ve got options. You can start by pitching it directly to music publishers or, in today’s Internet-driven music business, you might decide to create a buzz around your song on a site like YouTube.

Here are six tips for increasing your chances of finding a home for your song in the music business.

1. Know what GENRE you’re writing in. For the best chance of success, write your songs in a contemporary style that you hear on the radio or on film and TV. Music publishers and music supervisors look for songs that appeal to an established audience. If you fit in to a style with proven appeal, you’ll have a better chance of a successful pitch.

This doesn’t mean you should write a song in a style you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable with. Stay true to your emotions and themes, but you can make small decisions as you go along that will steer your song toward a more marketable sound if you keep a genre in mind as you go along.

For the best result, ask yourself what genre you want to write in BEFORE you write your song. Then you’ll be able to shape your song as you go along. Then, when a music publisher asks you what current style you’re writing in, or what artist do you sound like, you’ll have your answer ready.

Find out how to break down a genre and study it.

2. Aim your song toward a USE. Will you pitch to film & TV music libraries? Or pitch to other artists through a music publisher or personal contact? Or perform it in your own live shows? Each of these songs has to perform a different job. This will suggest, for example, how big and catchy your chorus needs to be. For an artist looking for a hit single, think big, irresistibly hummable chorus. For a film & TV song, you can keep it more low key and intimate.

A great song that works for one type of use may not work well for a different use. Just because a song isn’t a hit single, doesn’t mean it isn’t a great song. Maybe it would be perfect under a scene in a prime time TV series.  Study songs that are successful in the market you want to write for and learn from them.

More about writing songs for movies and TV shows.

3. Know which contemporary artists are similar to you. The first thing the music industry will ask is who do you sound like (if you’re an artist) or what style/artist do your songs sound like. This is standard shorthand for the industry so be ready with an honest, accurate answer. It’s not that they want you to copy or sound exactly like someone else, but they need a ballpark so they can quickly assess whether you fit into their current needs.  Continue reading “What to Do AFTER You Write Your Song”