guitarist - songwriter

When Practice Might Not Make Perfect

We use the expression “practice makes perfect” to remind ourselves that simply knowing something isn’t enough. Once armed with knowledge, you need to put it to work for you. And that’s the practice part. In school you learned the basic concepts of mathematics. Once you acquired that knowledge, your teacher gave you endless exercises to help you […]

Elton John

Sometimes Principles Confuse Us

Lately it seems that I’ve been getting a lot of comments, both through email and in the comments section at the ends of various posts, questioning some of the various songwriting principles I write about. Mainly, a comment will go something like this: “You say that chorus progressions are shorter than verse progressions, but I […]

Carpentry tools

Songwriting Lessons from the Unlikeliest Sources

I don’t know if you feel the same way, but sometimes I learn the best lessons regarding music by thinking of something completely unmusical. Metaphors speak loudly and meaningfully to me. I like building things out of wood. It’s something I love, even if I’m not doing it at a professional level. But with every […]

Songwriting notepad

Identifying the Principles That Guide Good Songwriting

In order to help students fully understand a topic, teachers will identify a list of principles that strive to explain as much as possible with as few words as possible. We teachers of music do that very thing: we study as large a collection of music as possible, and then come up with a few statements […]

Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody

The Power and Danger of Musical Innovation

There is a reason why treating the principles of good songwriting as if they were rules is a bad idea: you might inadvertently kill a good song. If good musical composition were guided by rules, many number 1 hits would likely have been tossed into the trash bin due to the fact that they did something […]

Songs are like trees

The Difference Between Rules and Principles in Songwriting

In a way, it’s hard to speak of “errors” in songwriting, because that implies that there are rules that have been broken. Songwriting isn’t guided by rules in the traditional sense of that word. If rules governed the creative process, writing music would hold little if any interest for us. Instead of rules, we are […]