The Importance of a Good Song Title

For many songs in the pop genres, creating the title is a bit of a no-brainer. You simply take the bit of lyric that comes along with the chorus hook or refrain, the bit that repeats probably more than any other bits, and there’s your title: “Happy” (Pharrell Williams) “Just Give Me a Reason” (Pink, […]

Alicia Keys

Orchestrating Your Songs to Expand Your Sound Palette

If you still write songs in the traditional way — sitting on the edge of your bed with a guitar and working it all out — you probably perform your songs with your band, or perhaps as a solo performer, with guitar or keyboard as your main instrument. Lately I’ve been giving Peter Gabriel’s album […]

Songwriting - Editing Lyrics

The Power (and Necessity) of Editing Your Songs

The best editing in the creative arts makes things shorter, not longer. That’s not a rule, and it’s not exclusively true, but it’s almost always the case. Pop songs tend to be 3-4 minutes in length. That’s usually because of the subject matter. People think it’s because we don’t have attention spans that will allow […]

Songwriter - Pianist

Chords That Eventually Find the Tonic

In music, the tonic chord is the one that represents the key. So for a song in C major, C is the tonic. To use a metaphor, it’s home. Progressions may meander around seemingly aimlessly, but once you play the tonic chord, you sense relaxation: you’re home. Are you a chords-first songwriter? Are you getting […]

Guitar - songwriting talent

What Talents Do You Need To Be a Songwriter?

You might think that the answer to this question, “What talents do I need to be a songwriter?” would start with an examination of basic musical abilities: the ability to sing in tune, and of course to be creative. But I think the first step toward being a good songwriter is not a talent at […]

Singer - Songwriter

Creative Exhaustion

What we call writer’s block has many possible causes, but most of them related to fear, and in particular a fear of failure. But fear is not often the first step in a creative block. For many songwriters, it’s creative exhaustion. Chapter 5 of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” shows how melody and lyric need to work […]