Peter Gabriel

The Best Songs Fluctuate Between Fragile and Strong Moments

I talk a lot about the concept of “fragile” versus “strong” in songwriting, and particularly when I’m talking about chord progressions. In that regard, “strong” means “clearly indicating the key with a short, unambiguous set of chord changes.” With chords, “fragile” means the opposite: making the key less clear — less obvious, by creating a […]

Band concert

Experimenting With Tempo To Make a Song Better

You may not think of tempo as being part of a song that warrants a lot of experimentation. Usually in the songwriting process you’re focusing on chord choice, melody notes, and of course lyrics. But tempo has a huge role to play especially in creating a mood for your song. Moreover, it can allow you […]

singer - songwriter

In Songwriting, What’s Worse Than Predictability?

If there’s one thing songwriters usually strive for, it’s uniqueness. No one wants to simply write songs that sound like everything else that’s going on out there. That would make it hard to build a fan base of your own. Except… there is something worse than being overly predictable in your writing style (and predictability […]

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, […]

Guitar - Songwriter

5 Tips For Using a Chords-First Songwriting Process

A chords-first songwriting process has a few challenges that need to be dealt with. One of the main problems is that there is a tendency to focus more on the chords than on the melody. That can lead to songs that don’t have enough of a tune to be memorable. “Hooks and Riffs: How They […]

Singer - Open mic

When a Song Sounds Bad, Take a Look at the Structure Underneath

When a song sounds great, we like to think that there’s a certain magic involved. But if you are a student of songwriting, as most good songwriters consider themselves to be, you’ll know that it’s not magic that makes a song great. A song sounds great when it follows basic musical principles. And we love […]