Neil Young

Borrowing Ideas From Other Writers’ Songs

John Lennon tells the story that Yoko was playing Moonlight Sonata on the piano and he asked her to play the chords backwards. From that reversed performance he composed his song “Because”, from The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album. I’ve listened to Moonlight Sonata many times, including listening to it backwards (on YouTube you can find […]

songwriter's challenges

The Most Important Part of Being a Student of Songwriting

The best songwriters that I know consider themselves to be “students” of songwriting, even if only in an unofficial sense. They consider every song that they hear to be an opportunity to learn something. The problem with being a student of songwriting is that we all hold very strong opinions about music. We have our […]

Peter Gabriel in Concert

Imitation Isn’t Just Flattery — It’s an Important Songwriting Tool

All songwriters have an instinct for being unique. Why would you purposely try to write a song that sounds like someone else wrote it? You wouldn’t normally do that, except… imitation can be a powerful songwriting tool, particularly for learning and developing good technique. And the good thing is that if you purposely try to […]

Joni Mitchell

Viewing Your Songs in Chronological Order

All songwriters fight with frustration. I’d say that if you don’t get frustrated from time to time, you’re not growing the way you should. Artistic growth requires getting excited about what you’re writing, but it also requires feeling dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction is not a negative reaction if you use it to propel you forward. Chapter 5 of […]

Songwriter - Guitarist

Fine-Tuning Your Songwriting

I’m a trumpet player, though these days I do more writing and conducting than trumpet playing. Back when I was starting out, I was in final rehearsals for a one-off orchestra I had been hired to play in. I noticed that the principal trumpeter had a small ring of brass — sort of doughnut-shaped –that […]

Guitar - Songwriter

A Goal-Oriented Approach to Songwriting as a Problem-Solving Technique

Occasionally I write about goal-oriented songwriting on this blog, but haven’t done so for quite a while, and I think it’s worth describing it and encouraging you in that direction from time to time. In songwriting, a goal-oriented approach means that you write one particular section of your song, and then you write the section […]