Everyone Has A Song In Their Heart

Songwriting isn’t a science. It’s a multi-varied art form. Even when songs are written by different band members in the same group, the results can turn out quite differently. If you are an awake listener, you should have no difficulty telling the difference between a John Lennon song and a Paul McCartney song even if they were on the same Beatles record. The same thing holds when listening to a Don Henley song compared to a Glenn Frey song even though they were side by side on an Eagles CD. This story is the same in band after band where there are multiple songwriters in the band. So even in the same musical genre, which we have to realize is the case when songwriters are in the same band, there is something unique about the musical output from one writer compared to another. And that’s in the same niche, style, genre, or whatever you want to call it.

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What about comparisons of songs across wildly divergent styles; Heavy Metal compared to Jazz, Folk compared to Hip Hop, Pop compared to Hard Rock, Country compared to R & B. There is so much difference between all these types of music, and yet we have to notice something profound. Ozzy Osbourne and Mozart used the same scales. Even more significant is that as different as all these styles of music are from each other, after closer observation, they are more alike than they are different. Don’t you think it could be a remarkably beneficial exercise to study the parts of music and learn what makes a song a song, regardless of style.

There are thousands of rules, but they’re not all applied to every song at the same time. Using different structures and forms, different cadences, different harmonic progressions, rhyme schemes or no rhymes, melodies that are super melodic or melodies that are monotone or talk-sung, super chatty or minimalist lyrics, all contribute to make each song different and the niche, style or genre it is in be more unique.

The purpose of this blog is to help you explore your own songwriting if you are already a writer, or to motivate you to begin writing if you’ve always wanted to. It will be filled with tips, strategies to try in your writing, analysis of some existing songs, and a mixed bag of other beneficial info. Check back from time to time to see what’s new, and we’ll see you on the radio, iTunes, CD Baby, or wherever you market your music.

Songwriting Lessons- Selecting Your Chord Progression

Songwriting uses the chord progression as the setting for the song, kind of like the set and scenery in a play. Just like the actors move and speak and have their being upon the stage, set, and scenery, so do the words and melody dance on that very stage that is created by the progression of chords.  If you have a deep understanding of how the lyrics, the melody, and the chords interact, and you can select the chords to elicit the same mood that the words are depicting and the melody conveys, then you have a great shot at creating a powerful song.

If you’re very observant, you will notice that a whole lot of songs use very similar if not identical progressions. That similarity is what allows the songs to lock into their genre and styles and be seen as in the pocket of the style they are competing in. Some progressions have a harder edge and are perfect for hard rock, metal, and strong blues. Others are way more relaxed and support strong, singable melodies, and as a result, are more pop and light rock sounding, even folky sometimes, although that depends more on the arrangement than the song itself.

We have cycled through the use and borderline overuse of several main progressions over the years. The I-vi-IV-V progression was everywhere in the 1950s and 60s. In addition there were hundreds, maybe thousands of songs written to the I-IV-V-IV progression , like Twist And Shout, La Bamba, Good Lovin’, Hang On Sloopy, Summer Nights (from Grease), Louie, Louie (with a modified V chord making it minor), and a whole lot more. I’ve included a video here by the Axis of Awesome demonstrating the current popularity of the I-V-vi-IV progression in today’s music. There’s a little bit of swearing, but it makes the point really well about how many songs can very creatively use the same progression, and yet sound completely original.

In the next post I will give you some great exercises to work with to get your juices flowing around the use of chord progressions.

And remember, if you’re looking for a coach to help you get your songwriting where you want it to be, we recommend My Songwriting Coach.

Songwriting Lessons – Can Songwriting Really Be Taught

Songwriting lessons are out there to be found, but do they really work? Can someone actually teach you to be a songwriter if you’re not one already. Well I’d like to answer that with some observations. Every type of artist receives inspiration and then processes that inspiration through their knowledge base. Painters paint, sculptors sculpt, poets write in verse, novelists write prose; you get the picture. We can even break down the process to a finer level. Painters paint according to their understanding and training. Some painters paint in oils, some in acrylics, some in watercolors, some use colored chalks, and many more variations. Even painters who paint in oils vary from using brushes to a palette knife, painting on canvas or painting on board. This all happens according to their knowledge base.

David Randle, My Songwriting Coach

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So what happens when that inspiration comes to an aspiring songwriter? Well, if our songwriter only knows a couple of chords, we’re likely to get a two chord song. Now I’m not disparaging two chord songs. The band America had a major hit with a two chord song called “Horse With No Name.” But it’s one thing to have a broad knowledge base and choose to express with two chords, as opposed to being forced to write with two chords because that’s all you know. Understanding chord progressions, cadences, chord extension and substitution, secondary chords, and relative and parallel key areas will equip you with powerful tools that you can creatively use to express yourself. I maintain that the more you know, the wider the possible range of expression to interpret your inspiration. more…

Breaking Down The Songwriting Elements

Songwriting is a skill and an expressive art form. A song usually comes from inspiration, however, if we intend to expand our command of the skill set, we need to at least minimally, be aware of the elements that make up a song, and then learn to control those elements as a part of our self-expression. I won’t go into ridiculous dictionary definitions of the words song or songwriting, but will defer to the determinations of The Library Of Congress with regards to what constitutes a song, and for our purposes, we will be talking about vocal music as opposed to instrumental music.

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The first element is the lyrics. They are the essential element of communications in the song, telling the story or presenting a philosophical position. The Library Of Congress will assign a copyright to lyrics alone, so if you have some great lyrics that you have yet to have set to music, they are a candidate for copyright submission. If you are an amazing lyricist, don’t let anyone tell you that you are not a songwriter. It’s just that in order to have a completed song, you will need to learn the other elements, or team up with a writer who is more dominant on those other elements. more…