Joni Mitchell

With Good Lyrics, Subtlety Can Be Important

All the basic components of a song — especially the chords, melodies, lyrics — act as partners. Nothing happens in isolation. A good melody will sound even better if the chords support it. Lyrics sound better if the melody they’re delivered with matches the rhythm and basic contour of the words. Trying to get a […]

Drake in the studio

Writing Longer in a World of Shorter Songs

In today’s pop music world, songs are getting shorter. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, most songs were under three minutes in length. “Lonely Boy“, recorded by Paul Anka in 1959, was 2’30”, and that was typical. Starting in the later ’60s and into the ’70s there was a slow increase in the length of […]

Songwriter - Guitarist

Fine-Tuning Your Songwriting

I’m a trumpet player, though these days I do more writing and conducting than trumpet playing. Back when I was starting out, I was in final rehearsals for a one-off orchestra I had been hired to play in. I noticed that the principal trumpeter had a small ring of brass — sort of doughnut-shaped –that […]

Songwriting and writer's block

You’ve Got a Chorus Hook, But What Now?

It’s quite normal to come up with a catchy chorus hook as a first step in your songwriting process, since the hook contains elements that are easily sung, played and remembered. But once that hook has been developed, you might find that your creative mind lets you down: what do you do next? If you’re trying […]

Keyboard player - songwriter - chord inversions

Back and Forth Between Major and Minor Within the Same Chord Progression

Contrast is a big part of what makes great songs great. Even if that contrast is something as simple as loud versus soft (instrumentation) or low versus high (melodies), contrast is crucial to keeping audiences interested. Within chord progressions, contrast usually happens when differentiating between major and minor. Songs might feature a minor verse, and […]