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Songwriting Techniques -- WMD'S: Weapons of Musical Destruction
By Paul Babelay - 01/09/2010 - 10:51 PM EST

Songwriting techniques are usually a "what-you-should-do list."

But after demo-ing songs of all sorts for many years, I've created a list of Essential Songwriting WMD's --

(Weapons of Musical Destruction) -- that will kill your song. - or at least wound it sufficiently. :-)

This is not an exhaustive list,...(I'm not sure there is such a thing as an exhaustive list of songwriting techniques.)

But it should get you up and running.

Remember this is what not to do, written with tongue in listen with good humor, and enjoy.

Songwriting Technique #1. Very long instrumental intro. I'm talking minimum of 48 or so bars of technical virtuosity that your mother and closest pals will tremble over. This is where you show the record execs that they don't know jack and you won't sell out with simple, recognizable melodies or anything repeatable...just let it rip.

Songwriting Technique #2. When you decide to sing, keep us guessing. Today's lyrics have become way too predictable. Give us all a good lesson in stream-of-consciousness song construction. When possible, don't actually say anything concrete, just imply it. Use imagery instead of coming out and introducing people or places... you know, kinda surreal in a very poetic sort of "flowingness."

Songwriting Technique #3. If that's not your strong suit, then give us every little detail possible. And somebody's gotta get us back to 7 - 10 minute songs. If it takes 5 Verses and a couple of Bridges to get your story told, you're the man or woman for the job. Also, try to introduce something new into every Chorus. It will help build excitement as the listener keeps anticipating the big finish.

Songwriting Technique #4. Get another solo in there. Actually, just a good jam can be very effective here. Jam bands are back in style and everybody that knows classic music will appreciate where you're going with this. If possible, get the tempo to speed up quite a bit during this section.

Songwriting Technique #5. Don't take any advice from the engineer. Or the studio manager, or musicians you've hired to play on your session. They don't really understand what you're going for.

Songwriting Technique #6. Repeat songwriting technique #5. I can't stress #5 too much. No conformity. You see, they are probably a bit jealous about your project and, truth be known, they're just trying to tear you down. Stand your ground. Don't be intimidated. You've got a pure vision on this thing...don't let it get polluted. Do not conform!

Songwriting Technique #7. Insist that the musicians learn it like you play it. You've performed on YouTube and a few open-mic settings where people were deeply touched and moved. There's magic in those 7/8 measures that must be captured.

Songwriting Technique #8. Don't let the musicians play too simply. Many studio musicians will be lazy and try to play very little. You're paying them good money to play good, really good... and you heard these guys could jam. So crack the whip on the bums. Don't let them hide behind "taste" and "foundation". Get them busy, playing more notes to earn their money. Make sure they use all the songwriting techniques.

Songwriting Technique #9. Bring in some of your friends to play and sing background harmonies. Try to find those that have never recorded before but know a lot about it. They can also be a huge help to the engineer on mic placement and mixing.

Songwriting Technique #10. Don't try to sound like anybody else! Be unique. This is very important for breaking into the business. Your music should never be pigeonholed into any one genre. Your music is Bob Marley, Nora Jones, Moby or Led Zeppelin all rolled into one. Do not allow labels and you most certainly will retain all your publishing rights throughout your career.

 If you're already using one or two of these official "bad songwriting techniques" in your songs, congratulations, you're ahead of the pack. If you use all of these babies, you're gonna' be huge. BIG...BIG AS THE GREAT OUTDOORS.

That should be enough to get your creative juices foaming. Tune in next time as I help you understand the danger of Keys and Scales... how they are way too constricting and can force you into melodic decisions that rob you of your uniquelessness. :-)

All joking aside for a moment. We are "all about" helping you find your sound, and each song's unique vibe. Sometimes in the pursuit for that "uniqueness," we confuse "unique" with something else. And we trip up along the way.

We hope that this humorous, but serious list, will point you in the right direction. Till next time... keep chasing your vibe.  You can do it!

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