Singer - songwriter

Why Chorus Melodies Are Usually Higher Than Verse Melodies

Good music isn’t determined by adherence to rules; it’s more a case that the best songs are guided by certain musical principles. One of those guiding principles is that chorus melodies should normally be pitched higher than verse melodies. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” describes […]

Songwriter - Guitarist

Adding Chords to a Melody: Focus On the Strong Beats

In my own composing of music, I would far rather work out a melody first, and then add the chords as a second step. That’s because melodies are what people hum to themselves; it’s hard to hum a chord progression. Many songwriters, however, work out the chord progression and backing rhythms first. There is one […]

Joni Mitchell

Controlling the Mood of a Song

Mood is one of the first things that’s conveyed by music. Listeners pick up the mood via the partnership of all the various song components, but mostly through: key choice (major versus minor); tempo; melodic shape; instrumental choices and effects; lyrics. I purposely placed lyrics at the bottom of that list, even though the lyrics […]

Singer - Songwriter

The Best Song Lyrics Have Emotions That Arrive in Waves

Even if a song is about something emotional (love, deep friendship, death of a loved one, etc.), it doesn’t work so well to have that lyric be deeply emotional all the time. If all the audience hears is heart-wrenching feelings from beginning to end, it starts to dull its own effect. It’s far better to have […]

Music Theory - Songwriting

Can Music Theory Increase Your Creative Abilities?

There is a decades-old myth in the pop music world that asserts that the more you understand music theory, the more it stunts your creative abilities. Where does the myth come from? I suspect it goes something like this: When a song sounds really good, theorists will pull it apart to try to understand why it […]

Guitarist - songwriter

Fixing Your Songs When You Can’t Identify the Problem

One of the biggest challenges in writing good music is figuring out why the song you’re writing isn’t working. You feel that it started with such promise, but now everything sounds lame. Probably the best thing you can do for a song that isn’t working is the easiest thing: play it for someone. Preferably play […]