Songwriter

Five Steps to Making Words Singable

Do you find it reasonably easy to write words (lyrics, poetry, etc.), but when you try to create songs with those words, everything sounds corny, random, and just plain bad? You read the words, and they sound just fine; you try singing them, and they sound a bit lame. The best songwriters are best because of […]

Songwriter - lyrics

Forced Rhymes: the Ever-Present Danger of Rhyming Dictionaries

Apparently Bruce Springsteen used a rhyming dictionary to come up with the lyrics to “Blinded By the Light.” That cleared up a long-held puzzlement for me: I was finding it hard to understand how in the world his musical mind was coming up with those lyrical images: Madman drummers bummers and indians in the summer […]

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 […]

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 […]

Pensive songwriter

7 Common Songwriting Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

Songwriting is problem-solving. For every song you’ve ever written that really works well, you’ve probably solved dozens or more problems that have taken you from the initial concept through to the finished product. Over the past couple of decades I’ve helped songwriters solve issues related to their songwriting, either working directly via in-person or online […]

Paul Simon

Weaving Lyrics Together With a Simple Metaphor: Paul Simon’s “Kathy’s Song”

The best lyrics are the ones that sound conversational when you read them. By sounding conversational, the ideas you’re conveying are going to have the best chance for touching the heart of the listener. Conversational lyrics touch the heart because they’re more likely to use simple, everyday words, the kind that are usually the most […]