Elton John

Sometimes Principles Confuse Us

Lately it seems that I’ve been getting a lot of comments, both through email and in the comments section at the ends of various posts, questioning some of the various songwriting principles I write about. Mainly, a comment will go something like this: “You say that chorus progressions are shorter than verse progressions, but I […]

Guitarist - songwriter on stage

Songwriting and Other One-Sided Conversations

If you ask songwriters to describe the most difficult part of starting any songwriting process, I’m sure many — perhaps most — would say, “Deciding what to write about.” A song is a kind of social interaction. There are vague similarities between singing a song you’ve written, and having a conversation with someone, but with the […]

Finding Alternatives to the Standard I-IV-V-I Progression

The typical 3-chord song has been the workhorse of early rock and roll. Go back to the 50s, and it’s the mainstay of most songs. By 3-chord songs, we’re talking usually about this progression: I  IV  V7  I  (C  F  G7  C) And then, of course, the writer might throw something else in, particularly in […]

Do Audiences Understand What You’re Writing?

In today’s social media world, we can get fooled into thinking that because something sounds smart, clever or pithy — or even just rhymes — that it must be true. “You never learn anything by doing it right.” (Yes, you do.) “Rules are meant to be broken.” (No, they aren’t.) Clever online statements of course […]

Frustrated Songwriter

Not Every Song Works

You can spend a lot of time trying to get your next song working, but sometimes you have to stop and wonder: has the time you’ve put into it been worth it? On the one hand, you could argue that the answer will always be “yes.” I’ve felt that if a song takes you a year […]

Songwriting - Editing Lyrics

The Power (and Necessity) of Editing Your Songs

The best editing in the creative arts makes things shorter, not longer. That’s not a rule, and it’s not exclusively true, but it’s almost always the case. Pop songs tend to be 3-4 minutes in length. That’s usually because of the subject matter. People think it’s because we don’t have attention spans that will allow […]