Joni Mitchell

Writing Song Melodies That Can Build a Fanbase

Do you get stuck at the melody-writing stage of songwriting? Do you find chords easy, but melody hard? What can you do to come up with melodies that are enticing and attractive to an audience? Melodies and lyrics are the trickiest parts of songwriting for most songwriters, because those are likely the parts of songs […]

Guitar

Making Use of Musical Momentum

If you’re familiar with Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”, you will know that it is comprised of a 32-bar long melody in two 16-bar parts which repeats, over and over again, with the only change being the orchestration of the melody. There is no other musical development. No change of key, no change of tempo, no competing […]

Songwriter with guitar and paper

Songwriting, and the Tricky Task of Remembering Patterns

When I taught ear training at university, I had students of widely varying abilities. Some could, as they say, hear paint dry, while others “couldn’t hear a bus.” One of the tasks my students had was to notate melodies as I played them at the piano. (I won’t go into the technique I used for […]

Piano-playing songwriter

Changing Your Songwriting Approach

In order for an athlete to improve, something needs to change. A golfer who wants to improve needs to develop a different stance, or perhaps hold the club differently, or do some other thing in a different way. Athletes work all the time on that simple idea of change. If they aren’t changing something, their […]

Joni Mitchell

Theme and Variations as a Songwriting Technique

A common musical form that classical composers have loved for centuries is theme and variations; a melody is repeated, changed in some way, but still similar enough to the original that it’s recognizable. It was a measure of a composer’s musical imagination, and fun for an audience to hear what might happen next with the […]

Songwriting Creativity is a Two-Step Process

I read a quote recently by Paul McCartney (I believe it might have been Philip Norman’s book “Paul McCartney: The Life”) in which he said that he didn’t know how to write songs, he only knew how to finish them. That quote shows great insight. I’ve made it a large part of my life to […]