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 […]

Neil Young

Neil Young, “Rockin’ In the Free World”: Why It Works

“Rockin’ in the Free World” is one of Neil Young’s most popular songs. It’s number 216 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Every time I ever do a “Why It Works” analysis of a song on this blog, you’ll see me mentioning some aspect of the simplicity of design as a positive feature, […]

Songwriter with guitar

Charting Trends In Your Songwriting Style

Here’s an idea that might help you get a clear picture of the kinds of songs you like to write, as well as making it easy to identify other characteristics in your songwriting style: make a chart. There are probably lots of ways to do this, but here’s one that is easy, and can be […]