James Taylor

Stealing (Not Stealing) Songs

A number of years ago I wrote a blog post called “Deliberately Sounding Like Your Songwriting Hero.” In it, I advocated pretending that you were your favourite songwriter, trying to write a song that would sound to everyone else that it was written by that person. The reason was a simple one: It would focus […]

Marvin Gaye

The Secret Power of the Melody: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

The 1960s hit song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine“, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was a Motown hit for several groups. Gladys Knight & the Pips released it in 1967, and it went to number 1 on the R&B Singles chart. You’re probably more familiar with the Marvin Gaye version, released in […]

George Harrison

Solutions For the Two Main Reasons Why a Song Might Fail to Impress

In reality, there’s many possible reasons why a song that started with a lot of promise winds up being one where the audience has a ho-hum reaction. But if you’re looking for a likely culprit, here are two of the most common reasons for a song that misses the mark: The hook isn’t doing its […]

Songwriter-Guitarist

The Power of Creative Chord Changes

By creative chords, I mean any progressions that stray from the typical 3- or 4-chord changes that strongly reinforce the key your song is in. Standard progressions are the most common ones you’ll find in most of the pop genres, like: I-IV-V-I (C-F-G-C) I-ii-V-I (C-Dm-G-C) I-vi-IV-I (C-Am-F-C) I-vi-V-I (C-Am-G-C) There are more to add to […]

A cluttered workspace

A First Step to Keeping Your Songwriting Output From Fizzling

I’ve always felt that the first step to keeping your songwriting output from fizzling is to have a well organized, tidy workspace. I don’t want to present myself as the model for this: I try, but like most people, my workspace can get a bit out of control. If you think it’s time to put […]

Guitar - piano

Songwriting: Hiding the Good Stuff

When you hear a song that you really like, what is it that you like about it? The answer probably changes from song to song. It might be the way the melody sounds for one song, while for another it might be the lyrics. But those are superficial characteristics. (I don’t use the word superficial […]