Neil Young

Neil Young, “Rockin’ In the Free World”: Why It Works

“Rockin’ in the Free World” is one of Neil Young’s most popular songs. It’s number 216 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Every time I ever do a “Why It Works” analysis of a song on this blog, you’ll see me mentioning some aspect of the simplicity of design as a positive feature, […]

Led Zeppelin

The Best Songs Are Partnerships of Ideas

Make a little list of what you consider to be the best songs you know, and you’ll probably see one thing that is in common: each song represents a partnership of ideas. What does that term “partnership of ideas” mean? It refers to the fact that all the various components of a song — the […]

Brian Wilson - Tony Asher

How a Song’s Chorus Makes Use of Musically Strong Elements

When you listen to a song just for entertainment, you’re not usually aware that parts of the song are musically ambiguous in some way, while other parts are clear and strong. Let’s say, for example, that you start your song by writing a verse that uses this short progression: C-Bb-C-Bb-C-Bb… There’s a kind of ambiguity associated […]

Songwriter - editing music

The Partnership of Musical Elements Within Good Songs

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about song hooks, and how to diagnose problems you might be having with the hook for your song: “When Your Song’s Hook Isn’t Doing Its Job.” In that article I gave a list of four important characteristics of good hooks. “Hooks and Riffs: How They […]

Songwriter

Don’t Give Up So Easily

Once you’ve written a song, you like to think of it as your baby, something that had a gestation period, and now — here it is! Except… you’re not very happy with it. The song’s done, but it just sounds lame to you. The first step in dealing with a song that doesn’t work very […]

Creating a Hierarchy of Songwriting Elements: What’s Most Important?

For every song you ever hear, it’s possible to compile a short list of elements that go together that make the song. For most, that list will include lyrics, melody, chords, rhythm (groove), instrumentation, and so on. Because every song is a musical journey, and every journey must be to some degree unique, the priority a […]