Piano - songwriter - theory

Using Music Theory to Communicate Your Musical Ideas

There’s a persistent myth in the songwriting world that the more music theory you know, the more your songwriting will suffer. If you believe this, you’re missing out on truly understanding what music theory is, and how you could be using it to your advantage. If you want some evidence for the power of music […]

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 […]

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, […]

Yes - Concert Tour

The Pros and Cons of Using Songwriting Formulas

In songwriting, you’re probably using a formula if you find yourself thinking, “After I write something like this, I should follow it up with something like that..” A songwriting formula is a way of simplifying the process, as well as giving your listeners something predictable. The predictable nature of songwriting formulas is what songwriters dislike about them. […]

Keyboard and Headphones

Songwriting Simplicity is Good; Mindlessness Not So Much

If you ask someone my age (a child of the 1960s, a teen of the 1970s) what they think of today’s pop music, you’ll probably get an earful. Most negative opinions of today’s music will come down to the fact that songs today seem uninspiring, noisy and mindless. “The melodies aren’t interesting”; “The chords are […]

Derek & the Dominos - Layla

How Many Unique Elements Make a Good Song Tune?

Pop songs are typically 3 or 4 minutes in length. And because this is not a long bit of time we’re talking about, it can be a problem if you put too many ideas together when you write that song. Think of it as a kind of musical “economy.” You’ll use one melody for the […]