James Taylor

Stealing (Not Stealing) Songs

A number of years ago I wrote a blog post called “Deliberately Sounding Like Your Songwriting Hero.” In it, I advocated pretending that you were your favourite songwriter, trying to write a song that would sound to everyone else that it was written by that person. The reason was a simple one: It would focus […]

Peter Gabriel in Concert

Imitation Isn’t Just Flattery — It’s an Important Songwriting Tool

All songwriters have an instinct for being unique. Why would you purposely try to write a song that sounds like someone else wrote it? You wouldn’t normally do that, except… imitation can be a powerful songwriting tool, particularly for learning and developing good technique. And the good thing is that if you purposely try to […]

Piano keyboard and guitar

Tips for Songwriters: Avoiding Accidental Plagiarism

Given the few notes within an octave and the millions of songs that have been written using them, accidental plagiarism is a constant companion for most songwriters. Every time you come up with a great songwriting idea — especially something that you really like — you’re immediately wondering if you’ve stolen the idea from an […]

guitar, pencil and notepad

Honing Your Lyric-Writing Skills

If you find lyrics are the hardest part of songwriting, the best way forward is to try to emulate the greats. Whenever I hear songwriters describing the difficulties they have with lyrics, it’s almost always that they feel that they’re “lame.” In other words, it’s not so much that they don’t know what to write […]

Singer - Songwriter

On Being Influenced by Other Songwriters

Originality is everything in songwriting. Every time you sit down to write, you obviously need to be writing something that no one else has written before. It’s that need for originality that causes a kind of fear in some songwriters: the fear of accidentally plagiarizing someone’s song. In particular, some songwriters are afraid to spend […]

Guitar, headphones and music

How Listening Makes You a Better Songwriter

As a songwriter, you do something that many people find difficult: you create new musical ideas and pull them all together into a final product called a song. You may be the kind of writer that finds it easy to do, so perhaps you’re writing a new song or two every week. But you might […]