How Interesting Your Chords Are Isn’t the Most Important Part of a Song

However you start the songwriting process, you’re likely starting with the aspect of music with which you feel most comfortable. Start with lyrics? You probably find words easy to combine and finesse. Start with chords? You likely feel most comfortable setting the mood and colour of the music. If you’re a chords-first songwriter, you’re probably […]

The Who - My Generation

Your Song and Its Message

Songwriters like to talk about a song’s message — the backstory we pick up from the lyrics. There’s a common belief that the best songs are the ones that present a cogent, powerful (even if subtle) message. But message is a tricky concept, because in fact, history shows that the best songs — the ones, for […]

Rush

Astonishing Beginnings, and What They Can Do For Your Songs

Every time I hear the opening bars of “Thus Spake Zarathustra“, by Richard Strauss, even after decades of being familiar with it, I still feel an incredible sense of awe and amazement. You may not know that title, but you do know the piece: it’s the theme from “2001: a Space Odyssey.” Context is everything. […]

Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven

Dealing With Emotional Topics When Writing a Song

We know that songs work when they connect on an emotional level to listeners. But some topics are the kind for which the emotions are deep and extraordinarily powerful. More than simply singing about love, I’m talking about songs that deal with life-changing circumstances: A tragic, unexpected death of a close friend or family member (Eric […]

Game-Changer Music

There are moments in music history that can be described as game-changers. Whether that moment is a song (“Like a Rolling Stone”), an album (“Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), or even an event (Woodstock Festival), most things that present as a game-changer in the arts happen almost by accident. No one can predict, it […]

Are You Overloading Your Songs?

As a student of music composition at university, I did a good amount of writing for music ensembles of every configuration. Orchestras, string quartets, choirs, guitar ensembles… I loved the challenges that writing for these groups presented. Some pieces I wrote were short, but in modern day “classical” music, it wasn’t unusual to write multi-movement pieces […]