Where does a noobie songwriter go for advice?
Old 22nd March 2012
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Where does a noobie songwriter go for advice?

Where does a noobie songwriter (like me) go to learn more about songwriting methods and maybe the business fo songwriting? Are there any sites or blogs or organizations that you particularly like? Songwriting schools or classes online?
I have a few songs that people (other than my mom) seem to like & I wonder if songwriting or writing background music is something I should look into.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
Old 22nd March 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 

None of the great songwriters ever attended songwriting classes or looked at websites. They sat down at a piano or with a guitar and figured out songs they liked note by note, chord by chord. If you're not willing to do this, then your failure is probably guaranteed.

Music is not an ordinary business where you go to school, get taught by an instructor, and then go out and send your resume in to some place. A lot of it comes down to networking. You either need to be in a band, writing songs for them, or you need to be a solo performer on your instrument of choice. This way, you're out there in the community, and meeting other musicians and people in the industry. At some point you will meet someone who might want to use something that you've done.

Best starting place is to get the big white Beatles - Complete Scores book. It's about $50. You can see how each instrumental and vocal part was written. Supplement that by looking at Alan W. Pollack's analysis for each beatles songs. Search his name on Google. This will give you a complete foundation for pop/rock/soul/blues, etc. The whole learning process will take you 5-10 years depending on level of obsessive dedication. Good luck.
Old 22nd March 2012
  #3
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Daniel Munro's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsowa View Post
None of the great songwriters ever attended songwriting classes or looked at websites.
While I agree with some of what you posted, this is just not true. Though not all great songwriters have attended formal lessons specifically on songwriting, many have. One that immediately springs to mind is John Mayer.

To the OP. If you would like some clear, precise advise on the major elements of popular songwriting, without spending 5-10 years, you can read Pat Pattison's "Writing Better Lyrics" (coincidentally, this is the man who was John Mayer's songwriting teacher), and listen to Jason Blume's "Writing Hit Melodies".

These alone will in no ways make you a good songwriter. But if you pay attention, you will have all the tools at your disposal to write hit songs. The next part is like jdsowa said, HEAPS of networking and songwriting practice.
Old 22nd March 2012
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmachineshop View Post
Are there any sites or blogs or organizations that you particularly like?
For some method insights into how others write hit songs, read as many interviews as you can at songfacts.com: Songwriter Interviews

Estimated reading investment time: about 2 hours

I actually prefer the interviews in Paul Zollo's book Songwriters on Songwriting because they're more in depth. Unfortunately, you have to buy that book whereas the songfacts website I mentioned is free. If you find those interviews helpful, get the Paul Zollo book.

For the business side of music, read all the blog archives at Eric Beall's site: Music Publishing Blog | Eric Beall

Estimated reading investment time: about 4 hours

If you find his writing helpful, you'll want to buy his books. His books cover extra detailed information that's not in the blogs.

Quote:
Songwriting schools or classes online?
I'm not aware of any websites at this point that offer structured lessons that would be better than just you using your favorite songs teach you. Listen to your favorite songs carefully on your own. Yes, you may have heard Song X 1000 times but you can still listen to it differently the 1001st time. The key is to listen with a deliberate de-construction type of mindset. E.g. listen to the verses -- how is verse2 different from verse1? Isolate the bridge section -- how is it different from the chorus? Did the instrumentation change? How? When do harmonies go in and out of different lyric sections? Etc,

Also, be aware that the vast majority of songwriter websites and forums are heavily tilted towards lyrics instead of music. Lyric writing, lyric critiques, lyric dissection, etc. Lyrics are important but they are over-emphasized on songwriting websites. If you come from the school of thought that considers the music-vs-lyrics "importance ratio" as 50% music / 50% lyics or even 90% music / 10% lyrics, you'll realize all those lyric-heavy websites are off the mark in terms of helping you improve your "product." (My Pet Theory: I believe that songwriting websites are naturally skewed toward lyrics because it's easier to convey "words" back and forth among participants rather than "music" ideas. E.g. it's easier for more people to show and recognize that "love" rhymes with "dove" whereas it's more abstract to talk about a II chord acting as a substitute for a IV chord, etc. Also, I guess it's theoretically possible for a song forum to enable seamless "music" idea discussion via instant soundclips sharing but a ton of awkward technology has to been in the chain to make this frictionless -- hence we have a dominance of lyrics discussion.)
Old 22nd March 2012
  #5
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Daniel Munro's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason West View Post
I actually prefer the interviews in Paul Zollo's book Songwriters on Songwriting because they're more in depth.
Great book indeed! I still own this. I first read it at a Library, over 10 years ago, when I was just starting out on this journey. It was really great to learn the mindset of the songwriters I admired.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason West View Post
Listen to your favorite songs carefully on your own. Yes, you may have heard Song X 1000 times but you can still listen to it differently the 1001st time. The key is to listen with a deliberate de-construction type of mindset. E.g. listen to the verses -- how is verse2 different from verse1? Isolate the bridge section -- how is it different from the chorus? Did the instrumentation change? How? When do harmonies go in and out of different lyric sections? Etc,
I agree with all this, with a caveat: trying to analyse songs yourself in order to ascertain what makes them popular is a long and mostly unnecessary process. You can get an easy, generally accepted view from people who have already done this to 1000s of popular songs and found their common traits for you. Books like the one I mentioned for lyrics and the audio book I mentioned for music do just this. Why reinvent the wheel? Afterwards, if it still intrigues you, perhaps you can investigate the truth of those books for yourself.

I agree with what Jason says about the focus of songwriting tutelage being far too heavy on lyric content, at times.

Some of the biggest mistakes I see made by new songwriters are:
1. Not having a good overall song structure. ABABCB is good. AAAAAA is not.
2. Not having enough melodic and rhythmic repetition
3. Not having enough contrast between the Verses and the Chorus
4. Not defining a hook to base the song around
5. Overuse of lyrical cliche (our brains switch off when we hear to much of this - find original words and rhymes).

There are many, many more but those spring immediately to mind. Avoid those and you'll be doing much better than most new songwriters I meet.
Old 23rd March 2012
  #6
People ain't gunna like this. . .

Read all the books, watch all the videos, study all the scores, look at all the websites, go to all seminars, and the rest and you'll be able to kid yourself into thinking you can write a song.

Real songs/music come from people who are born with that ability, or at least the people who have the right psychological background to tap into.

Song writing is a world where academic theory holds no value, IMO musical theory is the auto-tune of song-writing.
Old 23rd March 2012
  #7
Gear doesn't kill people.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by benherron.rrr View Post
People ain't gunna like this. . .

Read all the books, watch all the videos, study all the scores, look at all the websites, go to all seminars, and the rest and you'll be able to kid yourself into thinking you can write a song.

Real songs/music come from people who are born with that ability, or at least the people who have the right psychological background to tap into.

Song writing is a world where academic theory holds no value, IMO musical theory is the auto-tune of song-writing.
You are right and wrong.

Intuition (what you call ability or psychological background) is the key to songwriting. Some people are born with a very high level of it. Some are born with basically none. Without it, all the tricks, tips, books and even good advice in the world don't mean squat and won't do squat. The mistake most people make is studying all that stuff when they should instead be absorbing music and developing their unconscious intuition. Why do most make this mistake? Because studying books and tips is measurable and easily done. Developing your intuition is not. Only one leads to great songs. The good news is that with enough intelligent application and persistence anyone can develop their intuition to a higher level and become a better songwriter. How? Listen. To everything you can. When you've made the leap necessary (and you'll know when you have) you can study tools, tips and texts in earnest and they will be worthwhile and useful.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. - Albert Einstein

If you have intuition and good instincts and good taste, then it's a matter of preference whether to study formal theory or not. It's certainly not going to make you write better songs but it can be a very useful tool if you already have your intuition up to par. If on the other hand you don't have your songwriting intuition in place, studying theory too early may very well hamper you from ever getting there. I've seen this more times than I can count with great musicians and arrangers.
Old 24th March 2012
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benherron.rrr View Post
Read all the books, watch all the videos, study all the scores, look at all the websites, go to all seminars, and the rest and you'll be able to kid yourself into thinking you can write a song.
I guess it never occurs to you that people can self-select themselves into this endeavor. It's not like the songwriting forums and seminars are being flooded with tone-deaf accountants and ex NFL football players who have delusions of grandeur to write top-40 hit songs.

The OP already stated he wrote songs.
He also stated others already liked those songs.
He now wants to know more.
That's self-selection at work.

Quote:
Song writing is a world where academic theory holds no value, IMO musical theory is the auto-tune of song-writing.
Doesn't look like the OP asked for academic formalism and nobody offered such advice. You're complaint doesn't apply to this thread.
Old 26th March 2012
  #9
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1. pick a song that you really love
2. learn all the chords
3. learn & understand the harmonic chord sequence: ex. (I vi IV V) or (I vi ii V)
(if you don't understand what these roman numerals mean,
find someone who knows and get them to show you)
4. map out the song form: ex. (vrs, chr, vrs, chr, br, vrs, chr, chr)
5. sing and hum the melody over the chord progression. even if it's just enough to understand how the melody is relating to the chords.
6. pick another song and do it again

if you do this, i guarantee you're gonna get really good at songwriting. also, write some stuff that really means something to you, something that moves you, something that you believe in; don't write some goofy sounding crap that sounds like everything else. there's too much meaningless music out there nowadays and we don't want you to fall into the same abyss. find who you are through the songs you write. good luck!
Old 26th March 2012
  #10
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fastlanestoner's Avatar
 

You need look no further than your favorite records for this. Take what you can from everything and create something totally your own
Old 27th March 2012
  #11
Old 27th March 2012
  #12
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Beat Poet's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmachineshop View Post
Where does a noobie songwriter (like me) go to learn more about songwriting methods and maybe the business fo songwriting? Are there any sites or blogs or organizations that you particularly like? Songwriting schools or classes online?
I have a few songs that people (other than my mom) seem to like & I wonder if songwriting or writing background music is something I should look into.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
Your record collection is the best place to start son, delve in and take notes and influences!

EDIT - Ahh drat, this has already been said. Well, it's doubly important
Old 27th March 2012
  #13
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Unclenny's Avatar
With it being so easy to record these days.....I think one of the best things you can do is track your songs and put them out for peer review. You need not be a proficient engineer for this to be effective, as a good song will always speak over substandard recording technique.

There are many good forums, including this one, where you can get meaningful advise as to where to plot your songwriting course.

There is nothing like putting your new material out for review by folks like us. Thick skin can be important in your early going.
Old 29th March 2012
  #14
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rnaple's Avatar
 

I forget where I had seen this. Definitely on this site. A book named: "Tunesmith" by Jimmy Webb
I bought it because of this. Just went through the first and into the second chapter. It is absolutely fascinating.

If you want to read these books...or even just some of them. But you don't want to buy. You can get them from your local library. The library will get you anything you want from anywhere. Heck...The UniBomber was getting books in their original language through the little library in Helena.
Old 29th March 2012
  #15
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I've always found it helpful to pick a song you really like and try and emulate it in some way. That helps with the style and feel. Those can be tough things to figure out without inspiration of some kind.

GC
Old 23rd May 2012
  #16
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Thread Starter
Great information guys....appreciate it!
Old 24th May 2012
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmachineshop View Post
Great information guys....appreciate it!
+1
Old 24th May 2012
  #18
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Old 26th May 2012
  #19
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relativityema's Avatar
 

Take what the pros do, and try to understand what they're doing as opposed to the amateurs.

Learn about songwriting from a certain author, try what they have to say, and if it works, follow that author more.

Try my site too; Here it is
Old 30th May 2012
  #20
Here for the gear
To me it depends on what you are trying to do with your songwriting. If for yourself, family friends etc., not sure it matters-just write what you feel, and let the format just be as it ends up. On the other hand, if you want to sell the music, you need to learn the "language" that buyers (artists, labels etc) are looking for. Plus one on the Sheila Davis book, a huge start on that. And I am with Daniel Munro's points above, all good ones imo. Although you probably could write a brilliant story song using AAAA and maybe even sell it, chances are the people you are pitching are looking more for ABABCB or other conventionally structured material. So for me your writing and structure really depends on who you are really writing the song for.

Paul Ryan
www.ryantunes.com
Old 16th June 2012
  #21
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I've been into songwriting for years and I can't think of any better advise than this book.

"6 Steps to Songwriting Success: The Comprehensive Guide to Writing and Marketing Hit Songs"
By Jason Blume.

The only book you'll ever need on songwriting.

Other than that; write songs. Every day. And find people to cowrite with if possible.
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