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Songwriting Tips by Gary Ewer.

Write better songs and chords by learning The Essential Secrets of Songwriting


  • How to write lyrics that really connect with listeners;
  • How to create melodies that everyone will remember;
  • How to build chord progressions that actually work!
  • How a great hook might save your song.

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Gary Ewer
Clinician, Composer and Arranger. Owner of Pantomime Music Publications, Nova Scotia, Canada


Recent Blog Post:

7 Top Tips for Songwriters

Recently posted on “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting" Blog.

No matter what genre you call your own, many of the suggestions I give to songwriters can and do apply to all music. Most of the time, the structural elements that make a country song work will be the same ones that make metal, folk, pop, jazz, and even classical work. Here’s a list of the top 7 tips, in no particular order, that I've been giving to songwriters over the past several years. [READ FULL ARTICLE... ]

The Essential Secrets of Songwriting website shows you how great songs work. Read daily articles that explore the fascinating world of songwriting.

If you struggle with writing a great song, and you can't seem to finish any song you start, Gary Ewer has written a set of songwriting ebooks designed to get you doing the thing you love. Let those e-books be your guide. They'll show you how to improve your writing skills by showing you how lyrics, melodies, hooks, chord progressions, and every other aspect of good music works. The books take a look at hit songs from the past, showing how and why they became winners.

Along with tons of chord progressions and formulas you can use, you'll be writing the songs that you always knew you could write! The instructional e-books come with sound samples and a glossary of musical terms, so even if you don't read music, these e-books will clear up the muddle and get you enjoying songwriting again.

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Check Out These Songwriting Articles:


How to Make a Downward Key Change Work


  Changing key is something that, when done properly, can add variety and excitement to music. Most of the time, key changes will happen as the verse moves to the chorus, and will most often be in an upward direction. But there is a way to make downward key changes work well, and it involves thinking carefully about how you construct your verse and chorus melodies.

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How and Why Bad Song Design Brings on Writer’s Block


  Most people think that writer's block happens when you just don't feel very inspired to create. But in fact, a lack of inspiration is a symptom, not a cause. The cause of most creative blocks is a fear of failure. And more often than not, it's a failure of musical design rather than anything else. You'll cure most creative blocks if you take a closer look at how you're putting your songs together.

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Touching the Heart of the Audience: A Songwriter’s Most Important Task


  If you think that the most important way to get emotions is to express emotions, you may be missing an important opportunity for writing lyrics that really touch the heart of the listener. Good lyrics require you to set a foundation in the verse, leaving emotions for the chorus. If you mess up that basic principle, you'll be writing songs that mean a lot to you, but leave your audience wanting more.

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Creating Chord Progressions That Beg for the Chorus


  In songwriting, the term,"begging for the chorus" simply means that the verse has a way of building tension and song energy that eventually gets released in the chorus. But how is that done? You might think that it involves adding instruments, making everything progressively louder until the chorus finally happens, but that's not the usual way. It has much more to do with how chords work.

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What Songwriters Can Learn From Apple Inc. About Song Intros

 According to the Walter Isaacson biography, "Steve Jobs", Apple Inc. has a great interest in how their computers are packaged. Simply put, if it takes too long to unbox a computer, consumer excitement is diminished. If it happens too quickly, excitement and anticipation has no time to build. There's an important lesson to be learned with this for songwriters: intros are great potential builders of musical excitement.

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Focusing Your Lyrics: Try Writing a Short Essay

 A common problem for songwriters is the developing of an idea for a song topic. It's not usually good enough to simply say you're going to write about love or peace. You need something more specific, and that's when the ideas seem to dry up. How can you dig down and create an interesting lyric? One great idea is to try writing an essay as a first step to writing a lyric. It helps focus your creative mind.

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Curing the Problem of Too Much Tonic Chord
 Most of the time, songwriters worry too much about chord progressions that appear to be boring. More than any other element of a song, a boring progression does not necessarily mean that the song is going to be boring. In fact, a predictable progression allows songs to be more memorable. But too much tonic chord - that can be a problem. Here's what to do about that.

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What Are You Recalling When You Remember a Song?


 When songs work, it means that they are being remembered, not just enjoyed at the moment of listening. That's an important difference to note. People don't just remember a moment in the melody, or a specific chord or lyrical phrase. They remember the relationship between those components. In that sense, you're really remembering a musical journey when you remember a song. Here's more. 

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Adding Chords to Melodies: Look for the Strong Beats

 If you've got a melody and want to add chords to it, it starts by looking at the strong beats first. That's because the chords you choose need to work with the strong beats of a melody. Once you've identified the notes on the strong beats, it's a simple matter of choosing chords that accommodate the most notes between the strong beats. It's not as complicated as it might sound.

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The Difference Between Imagination and Creativity


  We usually use the words creativity and imagination in the same wa, but they really are not synonymous. Imagination refers to our ability to dream up ideas in our mind, and creativity is our ability to assemble those imagined ideas into something great. When writer's block hits, it's more often than not to be a problem with the imagination than it is to be a problem with creativity. Here's more about that.

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Popular Past Articles:


Which Chords with Which Notes? Harmonizing a Melody
Coming up with the melody after endless strumming of chords can often result in a tune that is directionless and uninspiring. What probably scares writers off of writing a melody first is… how do you harmonize it?

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5 Tips for Choosing a Song’s Key
As a first step to choosing a key for your song, you’ll want to be sure, naturally, that the chosen key allows the song to be singable... So I’m not really addressing that part of the process in this post. There’s so much more to consider than to simply where the song feels easy to sing.

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10 Top Features That Show Up in Most Hit Songs
If you’re a songwriter and you aren’t listening to music from a decade or more ago, you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to improve your songwriting skills. There are lots of differences between hits of the 1960s and hits today. But the main difference is performance style. Generally, the overall structural elements that made songs into hits 40 years ago are the same elements you’ll find in hit songs today.

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Making a MIDI Orchestra Sound Real

MIDI stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface." Many of you use MIDI to create instrumentations for your songs... Used well, MIDI can make it sound as if you hired a full symphonic orchestra for your recording. Used poorly, MIDI can make your song sound cheap and amateur!

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Ideas for Completing your Half-Written Songs
Everyone who writes music has got tons of musical fragments that have gone nowhere.Surely those bits of melodies, lyrics and chord progressions have got some use! Here are some ideas for what you can do to finish up a song that has a start, but no end.

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5 Improvisation Activities That Generate Song Ideas
I applaud the songwriter who spends as much or more time working out small songwriting challenges than they do actually writing songs. So here are some ideas for improvising your way to a great song.

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Gary Ewer received his B.Mus degree in Music Composition from Dalhousie University in 1982, and then continued studies with various composers at McGill University. His career has been mainly in the teaching of music at all levels of education from grade school through to university: music theory, ear training, composition, arranging and orchestration. He also has conducted choirs, orchestras and bands. His compositions, mainly for choirs and orchestras, have been composed for, and performed by, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Symphony Nova Scotia, The Elmer Isler Singers, and many others.

Through his high school years, Gary’s main interest was in pop music; Genesis, Yes, and Chicago were his main influences. His university training was largely Classical, but far from abandoning his interest in pop, he saw how, on many levels, pop songwriters and Classical composers were all attempting to do the same thing: compose musical works (though in very different styles) that takes listeners on a coherent musical journey. His interest in the relationship between the pop and Classical worlds eventually led him to write a text for songwriters (“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”) that analyzes hit songs in much the same way a Classical musician would analyze a symphony: by showing writers what works, why it works, and how to use those same kinds of ideas in their own music.

Gary is has recently finished a senior instructorship at Dalhousie University to devote himself to composition and trumpet playing, and to do more writing, including maintaining the Essential Secrets of Songwriting Blog.

"Hey Gary, I love your page and you wouldn't believe how much it has helped me."
-Stephen, California