|In This Edition
Let’s talk about songwriting. You know, my plan by now was to create something like an Easy Songwriting Blueprint to go with my Easy Home Recording Blueprint and Musician’s Blueprint to Getting Heard books and videos. But, with the membership having grown for my Blueprint series and with my own recording and production duties, I haven’t been able to create a songwriting guide for you.
But, this is important stuff, so I have put together this songwriting blog that I will add to from time to time.
And luckily, I am pleased to say that I have found a guide that covers pretty much all the bases that I was planning on covering.
After that, scroll back up here to the top of the page and watch my video (below) about one of my most reliable tips I use all the time to keep my writing juices flowing. The rest of this post continues after the video.
Even more important than having great sounding recordings, is the need to start with great songs.
Even then, to make a career of creating songs for release and licensing to movies and other artists, TV and ads, we will not only need quality but also quantity.
There are a few reasons that a songwriter needs to create as many songs as possible. Competition is one reason for sure, but as songwriters, we also need tons of songs because there are just so many different types of opportunities out there. Being able to submit your songs for consideration in a wide array of projects, is the single best way to increase our odds that one or more of our songs will be chosen to be used.
Think of each of your songs and recordings as a ticket placed in a box at a neighborhood raffle. One ticket equals a single chance to win the prize. But if you are able to place 10, 20, or 30 tickets in that box, there comes a point when you can not just hope to win but actually expect to win.
Songwriters who are doing well know this fact very well, and make no mistake, this fact drives them, motivates them to write more and more songs.
They know that their career success is rarely based on a single magic song. Success is mostly achieved by scattering so many good seeds on the field to increase the odds to the point that something has to take root.
Ok? So quality and quantity have to go together when it comes to carving out your spot as a successful songwriter.
Music’s Universally Understood Cues – How Your Message, Ideas and Intentions Are Communicated
Even if you have written a bucketful of songs, they really aren’t much use if they aren’t connecting effectively on an emotional level with listeners. That’s because it’s not just the idea within a song, it is how that idea is being communicated.
There is a “language of song” that we must understand. Clearly communicating the intentions of your song relies on the ancient (Seriously, literally ancient) cues that listeners need and expect in order to “feel” a song and understand it fully.
These cues have evolved over thousands of years and have now become part of the human experience on an almost cellular level.
Think of it this way:
Think of all the cues, physical cues and verbal cues, that we all expect and need when speaking to one another. The better you are at presenting the appropriate physical and verbal cues when speaking, the clearer your message and the more appreciated you and your message is to the person you’re talking to.
Picture delivering some kind of serious news to someone but instead of a quiet solemn voice and concerned facial expression, you choose to grin like a nut, and speak in a loud high pitched voice, pausing to laugh every few seconds. Your message is the same, but you have totally confused and even offended your listener, who may or may not give you a black eye, simply because of the way you presented your message.
We all know these conversational cues and the appropriate way to verbally communicate because we have unconsciously learned them bit by bit since childhood by observing life around us. So, these conversational cues come naturally to us.
Less obvious, but just as important are the musical cues used in successful songs of every style to deliver the intended message to listeners. Listeners and fans may not know why, but they expect these cues, this guidance, if they are to be captivated by your song.
In songwriting, these emotional cues are delivered via:
- effective song structure (to effectively guide the listener, maintain his or her attention, through the unfolding of the lyric and/or story of the song)
- mood (mood is largely determined by instrumentation)
- chord progression/chord voicing (to effectively guide, and somewhat take control, of the emotional ups and downs of the listener)
How can I learn this stuff? How can I write better songs that consistently connect with listeners and fans?
The key to becoming fluent in the language of songwriting and appropriate song arrangement lies right in front of all of us inside the thousands of existing successful songs out there. Every device, every technique for delivering every kind of emotional message, is right there within the recordings of the last 70 or more years.
All you have to do is listen to learn. Listen to learn. Listen to learn. Never stop. Always listen to learn. And, oh yeah, make and keep notes. It really is like learning a language. And once you’ve learned it, you immediately set yourself apart from the crowd.
You’ll find that people more and more will “get” what you’re saying as a songwriter and feel your songs.
Every, I mean EVERY, successful songwriter has learned this. Song structure and the “meaning” humans have assigned to types of melody, chord choices and tempos, is like a vast oral history that has been handed down and shared among songwriters through the ages.
“ The songs of the present and the past are all part of a vast “how to” resource for songwriters. It should be a source of pride and honor for all songwriters to acknowledge, refer to, learn from and use this resource. “
Songwriting is a constant process of referral and creativity. Successful songwriters REFER to many songs in the style they are currently writing and then accesses their own CREATIVITY to write an original song of their own.
Unlocking the songwriting lessons that live inside all successful songs
The first way to use existing songs as a songwriting resource is as a way of preventing or at least shortening that awful feeling of writer’s block. Here’s how:
- Let’s say you are all set to write a song but you are drawing a mental blank and aren’t coming up with a melody you like. Rather than force it and cause yourself to really get down, just break down the process into simple do-able steps.
- Ask yourself, “What style of tune would I love to write today?” Or, in the case of a songwriter who focuses on getting his songs licensed, the question would be “What style of tune do I have to write for this opportunity?” Either way, it’s a nice simple question that’s easy to answer.
- Next question you ask yourself: “What would be the ideal existing song or songs that represent this style?” Cool. We’re keeping things fun, and now we get to go over to YouTube to find and listen to some good tunes in the style we’re after.
So there you are listening and soon you’re thinking, “Man, that song by So-and-So works so well. Let’s check it out a bit deeper and see what’s under the hood and why it works so well”
- First you check the tempo or beats-per-minute of the song using a metronome.
- Then you look up the song’s chords online as well as the lyrics. (I always find comfort in looking up the chord progression for most popular songs because they are often so simple and elegantly put together. It keeps me focused and reminds me that with the songwriting process, simpler is often better.)
This is the point that I play the song on my guitar or keyboard starting by playing it at the tempo and rhythm that it was recorded.
As I play it over and over, I begin to make changes perhaps by leaving out one of the chords and substituting it for a new one.
Or maybe I play the chords in the reverse order.
Then, I may change the key of the song, which in effect changes all the chords entirely.
When things are sounding different, I am able to start humming my own melody over my new groove. (Note: My song in the video above started with me playing “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix. By the time I was done adding, subtracting, nudging and tweaking the two songs aren’t very similar at all.)
This technique for me, is always a fantastic way to bust out of a writer’s block.
I picture my mind like a room. Sometimes a room gets cluttered and isn’t functional anymore. The best way to clean a room like that is to take everything out and put it in the hall. Then you methodically re-build the room one item at a time.
NOTE: By the way, you can turn this technique upside down as well. You can refer to a song that is of a different genre you are planning for a song. Let’s say you want to write a song in a 70’s R & B style like Marvin Gay or Smokey Robinson. You can go check out songs and their structure and arrangement choices by other great writers in as different a style as Def Leppard or The Stones or maybe a girl-pop sound like Sixpence None The Richer. Use your imagination by appreciating and referring to the work of all other songwriters. There are gems of knowledge to be gathered from all of them.
Success For Your Songs – A great source of songwriting tips and how-to’s from Anthony Ceseri
As I said, if I wrote a songwriting guide it would include many of the tips and tricks for successful songwriting in Success For Your Songs by Anthony Ceseri.
How to access and download the free reports and tips:
Anthony has provided a free download link for the free tips version of his full guide. The report is called “Techniques From The Hits Vol.1″.
You will also receive his 8 followup tips email series as well as “How to Make Your Melodies 10 Times More Marketable”.
Signup for the report and email tipsheet here. (Or click the image on the left).
Anthony’s free content as well as his full guide, “Success For Your Songs” are full of great stuff that you’ll be able to put to use right away as you write your next song. You’ll see.
That’s it from me today. All the best to all of you.
~ Owen Critchley ~
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