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You're ready to turn your lyrics or music into a song, congratulations! Now what? You may even have married lyrics and melody, but your song needs marriage counseling. Here you can learn how to craft a melody, by itself or to lyrics; tweak your lyrics to fit the music; write lyrics to an existing melody; how to add chords to your song. You can also find discussions and lessons on the finer points of music and lyrics that will help you develop your skills.
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best way to learn/improve songwriting? a discussion topic

#1 User is offline   paradise dismissed Icon

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:27 PM

what, in your opinion, is the best way to learn (or having learned, improve) writing songs? there are many different methods, such as reading a book (songwriting for dummies or better instruction books), listening to your favourite songs and incoorperating that into your writing or simply discovering your own means to write. I think optimally a combination of the three would be best, but certainly one must prioritize in order to get the best results. I also think to maximize your potential you have to have a full grasp of music theory and of literature.

my question is, ideologically, what is the best way to learn/improve songwriting?

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 09:26 PM

For every five people who respond to this thread, you'll get six different answers.

I've tried just about everything, and I'll tell you what worked best for me. I wrote to specific prompts. The Muse has occasionally had "create competitions" where you are given a ridiculous constraint and you have to write to it. For instance, one particularly baroque challenge was to write a lyric where the singer was someone who had trouble saying what was on their mind. The verse had to be *exactly* five syllables a line (for up to six lines, after which you could vary it); the chorus had to be *exactly* four syllables a line (for up to four lines, after which you could vary it); if you wrote a bridge, it had to be *exactly* four syllables a line, no exceptions.

Silly, yes? And there were many more assignments like that. But when you force yourself to write in a different way, you exercise different muscles. You get boxed into corners and have to write your way out. Not everything you wind up writing works, or is any good. But you sure learn things about process.

Another thing I used to do was to try to write a lyric "like" some of my favorite songwriters -- I wrote a Randy Newman lyric, a Paul Simon lyric, a Billy Joel lyric, a Dave Frishberg lyric. You try to slip on someone else's skin and write like them and you start to find out how they did what they did.

If you're a lyricist, try writing a lyric to already-existing music. It's very hard and takes me a while, but by forcing myself I have developed all sorts of different muscles, and have written in styles I would never have used had I been writing all by myself.

Write a song/lyric about a magazine article. Write a song/lyric based on painting. Take a paragraph from a book and transform it into a lyric.

The best way to learn is to try things outside of your comfort zone. It's better than any book.

(And that strange writing assignment, the five syllables, four syllables, thing? It was just a stupid online friendly game. But a composer picked up the lyric and it wound up winning some songwriting competitions. Keep writing)
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#3 User is offline   paradise dismissed Icon

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:16 PM

good response mulls, obviously it is subjective when it comes to perfecting ones art. i was just curious as to what peoples opinions were on how to do so.

and i totally agree that practising outside of your comfort zone can only benefit you, as long as you still revert back to what is true when the time comes to write something original. I myself have written lyrics that mimic the likes of dylan and cohen and while i tink they are good, i'm not nearly as proud of them as i am of lyrics that come from no particular influence

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 01:02 AM

View Postparadise dismissed, on 30 March 2012 - 09:16 PM, said:

good response mulls, obviously it is subjective when it comes to perfecting ones art. i was just curious as to what peoples opinions were on how to do so.

and i totally agree that practising outside of your comfort zone can only benefit you, as long as you still revert back to what is true when the time comes to write something original. I myself have written lyrics that mimic the likes of dylan and cohen and while i tink they are good, i'm not nearly as proud of them as i am of lyrics that come from no particular influence


I searched for years to find some insight into songwriting and lyric writing, and the typical response you'll get anywhere is something to the effect that "there are no rules". :rolleyes:

While the concept of there not being any rules may be true, accepting it as fact does little to answer the question of how writing is done as obviously guys like Dylan and Cohen don't stare endlessly as a blank sheet of paper (or word file) and simply wait for lyrics to come.

Through this site, I found an author named Pat Pattison who's published a number of books on lyric writing. A book of his that I would suggest is Writing Better Lyrics (link), which has helped me a great deal in my writing.

Here are some of the tools Pattison stresses:

1) Use metaphors (and similes) in your writing. Pattison can not stress this principle enough!

2) Avoid cliches, e.g. "Breaks my heart", "Can't live without you", "Nothing to lose", "O baby", etc.

3) Verse development

4) Stay consistent throughout your lyric, e.g. don't change perspectives in the middle of a song (first person, third person, etc.)

Of course there are a lot more ideas and tools that he introduces. It's a good read and very helpful. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

#5 User is offline   TimC Icon

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 02:16 AM

I also believe that deliberately writing a song in the style of a great songwriter is valuable. It's how painters learn their craft (actually, they copy works by great masters, but that doesn't quite work for songs). So write a Gershwin tune, Dylan, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Lennon-McCartney, whoever. It won't really come out like the model, but you'll discover interesting things along the way (one of my best songs resulted from an attempt to write a Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer song in the style of "One For My Baby").

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 06:37 AM

paradise dismissed

there are two things I constantly do to improve, but there are many others.

The first is write as much as you can. even a chorus or a verse a day at minimum...and they dont have to be amazing. what this does is gets the habit of writing everyday. the best Ive even done was three songs complete in one day, now were they the best? no. but there were some really good things in them.

The second is have very honest, too honest friends that can listen to them and give feedback.

think about this...you work a whole month on one song, then a friend noticed 10 glaring issues with it you failed to see....in my example, you would have known it on the first day.

the only other thing i can say...we all have influences, but eventually you have to have your own style. Id rather tell a story with a few little subpar things, then a song built perfectly with no emotion or connection with me or an audience.

If your writing as a job, then all bets are off on the last point.

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 11:55 AM

The most common answer you'll get is "writing songs" but I think more important is finding what inspires you to write BETTER songs. Anybody can put melody to words and music. But the best songwriters in the world have that something special and I believe what takes it to that level is inspiration.

Learning your instrument is always helpful too. I was able to strum a few guitar chords before I started songwriting but as I practiced and got better at it, progressing beyond just strumming chords, it opened up my creative process that little bit more. Coming up with a cool guitar lick can be all you need to write your next great song.
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#8 User is offline   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 12:38 PM

I'll add that learning other people's songs (good ones!) and discovering how they are constructed and what makes them work can be useful, too!

Mostly, it's about focusing on learning, which often means focusing on the parts that come less naturally. It's easy to fall back on the stuff you CAN do. The stuff you struggle with is where most improvements can come.
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#9 User is offline   ScenesFromPalacio Icon

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:09 PM

Quote

I'll add that learning other people's songs (good ones!) and discovering how they are constructed and what makes them work can be useful, too!


Definitely..
The main thing for me is listening really attentively n regularly to lots of music i really love..Loving it and worshipping it..Really feeling n appreciating it as deeply n intensely as i can..
We're all sponges i think - and more n more the spirit of that music -its chordal/vocal movements,its vibe n attitude.its rythm has no choice but to start seeping into what you do..

#10 User is offline   R-N-R Jim Icon

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:21 PM

Hi

For me, my growth and improvement came about when I got a 4 track along with a bass guitar and drum machine to add instrumentation to my keyboard and guitar songs. I started to listen to my favorite groups differently...like "that's not a common chord, but I like it" or "that bass note really makes that chord come alive" and vice versa.

I grew even more as a writer due to the eclectic styles of music I listened to. Because I listened to music that didn't totally depend on verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/chorus/verse/chorus/end for a structure I was able to look at structure with no preconceived ideas on how a song should be written and arranged.
I didn't stifle myself with rules on how to write a song. But if I was writing a song of a certain genre, I would listen to enough of it to see why it works.

just my two cents worth
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#11 User is offline   Kenneth Bradshaw Icon

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 01:10 AM

Top Ten ways to improve your songwriting

1. Learn chords
2. Learn chords
3. Learn chords
4. Learn chords
5. Learn chords
6. Write from the heart (I don't' care if you rhyme or not)
7. Be bold
8. Learn basic rhythms
9. Read the treble cleff
10. Learn chords

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:53 AM

Different people learn best in different ways. The answer may also depend on how far along someone is already, and what their end goals are. A person that aspires to a songwriting job and/or commercial success is likely to have a different mindset and different approach than a hobbyist that wants to express himself/herself and maybe play some originals at local gigs.

I am in the hobbyist camp and no where near as accomplished or polished as many others of this forum. For me, the immersion groups, such as February Album writing month (FAWM) or 50 songs in 90 days (starts July 4th every year), were a huge boost. Participating in those events with a deadline, and a supportive group, forced me to allocate time to the task, and also forced me into using many tricks to constantly come up with new songs. Some of those exercises are already listed in the other replies.

A few more include: listening to a new song, one time only, and then trying to replicate the music in one pass. Unless a person is an amazing talent, the derived music will be significantly different from the original. Then write totally different lyrics to that music. Another exercise is finding some new lyrics written by someone else and writing music for that. The opposite is also powerful, finding a someone else's instrumental and adapting lyrics to their music. Other exercises are writing to a title, writing to a theme, writing to a current news event.

The groups with exercises with deadlines and output schedules, tend to be about dedicating time to songwriting, focusing on becoming better at the craft of songwriting, and freeing a person from the inner perfectionist that plagues a good many would-be songwriters. As a person becomes better at the craft of songwriting, they are that much better prepared to take a spark of inspiration and develop it into a full song.

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 07:25 PM

Quote

50 songs in 90 days



Woh..Did you all have to play those those songs to each other..?

Thats an insane task...I'm sure (hope) you're gonna get better as a songwriter by doing it - but maybe you got disillusioned as well..Even if you were Lennn/McCartney in their prime you're not gonna write 50 cool songs in such a short space of time
Thats impossible..

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 08:17 PM

I think a "marathon" writing session like that may allow you to see the difference between a good and a bad song because they stand side by side. If I wrote 50 songs like that, Im sure 10 would be worth keeping, 40 would go to the chop shop.

The interesting thing is how those addition 40 songs, although may not be "the best" can generate other ideas for complete song. For some people, it creates creativity.

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 01:57 AM

View PostScenesFromPalacio, on 02 April 2012 - 04:25 PM, said:

Quote

50 songs in 90 days



Woh..Did you all have to play those those songs to each other..?

Thats an insane task...I'm sure (hope) you're gonna get better as a songwriter by doing it - but maybe you got disillusioned as well..Even if you were Lennn/McCartney in their prime you're not gonna write 50 cool songs in such a short space of time
Thats impossible..


I'll tell you more about my story. I thought the same thing--impossible, especially from where I came from. Before my first participation, I wrote 12 songs in ten years, or about one song a year. I didn't make it to 50 that first summer, and most of what I wrote was terrible. I signed up that first year out of curiosity. At that time, a person had to sign up just to read what others were posting, and that was my plan, just to read the lyrics that others were writing. Then, as if by magic, a few days after I signed up, a song came to me, and another, and another. Three songs in one day! Again, before that it was a one song a year pace for me.

It helps to write fast, if a person wants to write songs for a living. For working songwriters, not great artists such as Lennon or McCartney, it is an extremely valuable skill to be able to crank songs out. Often times when collaborating, there is a very short time window when the other collaborators are available. The songwriter collaborator has to adapt to the schedule of the headliner, the star performer. Often times a song is needed for a live event, and that deadline will not move.

I am buddies with a brilliant songwriter, Harold Payne, who has an impressive list of credits. When he performs live, Harold makes up a song on the spot, when given a new title from the audience. It is an amazingly difficult task as he "writes" his song in the space of a few minutes. Most of them turn out to be humorous throwaway songs, but once in a while he creates a gem, and he has ended up recording a few of his spur of the moment creations in the studio.

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 02:13 AM

View Postporcupine, on 02 April 2012 - 05:17 PM, said:

I think a "marathon" writing session like that may allow you to see the difference between a good and a bad song because they stand side by side. If I wrote 50 songs like that, Im sure 10 would be worth keeping, 40 would go to the chop shop.

The interesting thing is how those addition 40 songs, although may not be "the best" can generate other ideas for complete song. For some people, it creates creativity.

Porcupine


I found that my ratio of "good songs" to "chop" remained constant no matter how many songs I was posting. There is a bare minimum of time involved, and that minimum varies depending on a lot of factors, but 90 days is a good chunk of time if a person spends some time every day. Quite a few finish their 50 songs in 50 days, and some of them push on to do 100 songs in the three months. Again, these are mostly quick sketches, not polished studio ready pieces. Some participants do a manic 12 or even 20 songs in one day, and quality suffers, but they are still creating.

What is important for many is to dedicate time to the task. Many prose writers set aside a couple of hours a day to dedicate to writing prose. Many songwriters would do well to do the same, of course, as real life permits. Giving up watching TV and/or Internet frees up a lot of time in many schedules. The 50 is just a number, if a person spends a hour every day for three months and ends up with 12 new songs, that can be a fine effort.

I'm still not much of a musician or a lyricist, so what I come up with is a far cry from what other more talented, more lyrics oriented participants come up with. Still, the thread asked for ideas, and these immersion events, were what gave me the biggest boost.

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 05:56 AM

I think the secret of writing *better* songs is to write *more* songs

If only 1 in 10 songs is a gem, then you need to write 100 before you have an album.

I should point out that I also employ an "extreme songwriting" technique - I pick a day, clear the calendar of all destractions, book into a motel room with my gear, and try to record 20 songs in a day. I have done it four times now, and written perhaps 65 songs in the last few years
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Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:55 PM

View Postparadise dismissed, on 30 March 2012 - 09:27 PM, said:

..........................
my question is, ideologically, what is the best way to learn/improve songwriting?

It's probably the same way to learn/improve any skill or artistic endeavor,
specifically in this case, always play or be around songwriters and/or musicians who are way better than you.

While i don't think you need to have a "full" grasp of music theory and of literature,
it would help to have a level of knowledge that allows your listeners to be emotionally interested in what you are saying both musically and lyrically.
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Posted 05 April 2012 - 10:17 AM

View Postfabkebab, on 04 April 2012 - 05:56 AM, said:

I think the secret of writing *better* songs is to write *more* songs

If only 1 in 10 songs is a gem, then you need to write 100 before you have an album.


I understand that many songwriters believe this. But I don't believe that songwriting is a volume business. It is a wonderful moral story to talk about perseverance and hard work making someone successful. And in many instances it is true. I think that most successful songwriters are good at the start. You may find exceptions, but I do not think that is not the rule

I think it unlikely that a good songwriter writes for volume. I think they work hard to make every song good. They cannot all be good. But I do not think 1 in 10 is the right ration, 3 in 5 or 4 in 5 maybe.

I apologize for this. I know that I am curt and opinionate. But other than encouraging us to work hard, I do not think this is true.

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 12:09 PM

View PostKenneth Bradshaw, on 05 April 2012 - 08:17 AM, said:

I understand that many songwriters believe this. But I don't believe that songwriting is a volume business. It is a wonderful moral story to talk about perseverance and hard work making someone successful. And in many instances it is true. I think that most successful songwriters are good at the start. You may find exceptions, but I do not think that is not the rule

I think it unlikely that a good songwriter writes for volume. I think they work hard to make every song good. They cannot all be good. But I do not think 1 in 10 is the right ration, 3 in 5 or 4 in 5 maybe.

I apologize for this. I know that I am curt and opinionate. But other than encouraging us to work hard, I do not think this is true.


AMEN to that.

And, no apology needed.

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 12:41 PM

View PostYamaki, on 05 April 2012 - 01:09 PM, said:

View PostKenneth Bradshaw, on 05 April 2012 - 08:17 AM, said:

I understand that many songwriters believe this. But I don't believe that songwriting is a volume business. It is a wonderful moral story to talk about perseverance and hard work making someone successful. And in many instances it is true. I think that most successful songwriters are good at the start. You may find exceptions, but I do not think that is not the rule

I think it unlikely that a good songwriter writes for volume. I think they work hard to make every song good. They cannot all be good. But I do not think 1 in 10 is the right ration, 3 in 5 or 4 in 5 maybe.

I apologize for this. I know that I am curt and opinionate. But other than encouraging us to work hard, I do not think this is true.


AMEN to that.

And, no apology needed.



It depends on where you are at in your songwriging - but if your writing is stifled by "writers block" or "paralysis by analysis" its an excellent approach.

A byproduct of building up "songwriting muscle" is that when you get a flash of inspiration, you have the skills to capture the idea and use it rather than have it slip between your fingers or end up as another entry in your "nice ideas" notebook

I would also agree with you that good songwriters must be good from the start - but the successful ones write many, many songs too!
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#22 User is offline   Theresa Icon

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 05:04 PM

I always love finding out how much I don't know. Keeps things interesting.
Still learning a great deal on here.

My lyrics come mostly in the morning just before I am fully awake.
It's very fragile like a glass egg. It's complete until I fully wake up. I have to grab something to write on quick. Wait too long and pieces are missing. Then I go through the same process the next morning.

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:57 AM

View PostKenneth Bradshaw, on 05 April 2012 - 10:17 AM, said:

View Postfabkebab, on 04 April 2012 - 05:56 AM, said:

I think the secret of writing *better* songs is to write *more* songs

If only 1 in 10 songs is a gem, then you need to write 100 before you have an album.


I understand that many songwriters believe this. But I don't believe that songwriting is a volume business. It is a wonderful moral story to talk about perseverance and hard work making someone successful. And in many instances it is true. I think that most successful songwriters are good at the start. You may find exceptions, but I do not think that is not the rule

I think it unlikely that a good songwriter writes for volume. I think they work hard to make every song good. They cannot all be good. But I do not think 1 in 10 is the right ration, 3 in 5 or 4 in 5 maybe.

I apologize for this. I know that I am curt and opinionate. But other than encouraging us to work hard, I do not think this is true.



It is an opinion some share, but not professional songwriters. Everyone I have ever known personally, read about or know anyone that had dealings with, and we are talking some very major songwriters, ALL have written volume. They threw away many more songs than they ever kept and the one for 10 is about right. They can adjust their volume as time goes on, but in the beginning they ALL write literally hundreds of songs. Quality only comes through Quantity. It is the only way it can come.

MAB

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:20 PM

It's simply true that if you have the patience and perseverence to keep writing, song after song, you will write a lot of bad ones and a few really great ones.

This is not because of the law of averages. It has to do with exercising your writing muscles to the point where you start using them without having to crank up the machinery. It has to do with stirring up your well of creativity so that it's in motion all the time and the unusual and unexpected ideas are closer to the surface and easier to connect.

If you don't want to do the "write every day" club, you don't have to -- but I don't see how anyone can insist it won't make your writing better in the long run.

I don't have the discipline to do this anymore, but I know it would help me if I did.

Also, if I exercised every day I'd be in better shape.
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Posted 09 April 2012 - 09:29 PM

It was a long way back in the thread and I can't remember who said it, Alistair maybe, or Steve, anyway it was about not only listening to songs but pulling them apart to see how they tick. Coming to recognize what makes them work enhances my ability to incorporate those elements into my own writing. It works much in the same way, I guess, as reading more helps to build vocabulary and strengthen grammar usage and spelling.

I don't write every day. Months and months can go by without me writing a single lyric or even attempting to do so, but I'm usually always listening to music, reading, or busy mentally engaging myself with something else which interests me. It sounds odd, but it seems to me that there's something cumulative working in the background of the learning process which progresses even when I'm not engaging in the specific discipline I'm still trying to master - as long as it's being fed by something related.

We practice diligently in the beginning as we're learning the basics. Once that basic skill is firmly implanted it seems to suck up everything around it - into it. I consider myself a better lyricist now than I was 10 years ago yet I write much less often. When I do find myself inspired to write, the basics are still there, as they've been all along, but even after a long dry spell, it seems as if my writing is better than it had been previously, by leaps and bounds, sometimes. It's a strange thing but it's happened so often, I've come to accept it as a given, for me anyway. Would I be a better writer if I pushed myself to write more, even when I didn't feel like it? I've tried that many times, ending up with lackluster lyrics devoid of inspiration, which they were. For some, that may work. It simply doesn't for me.

Diverse life experiences are definitely a benefit. In their absence, I think that having the ability to at least view things from different perspectives is pretty important. Personal experience is a great start but I see lyrics sometimes where it seems the writer has written solely for his or her own benefit. Detailing an experience that may have affected them greatly but is either too unfamiliar, too mundane, or too egocentric for most listeners to take on board and relate to.

I think it's the lyric-writer's task to take an experience, emotion, situation, opinion, whatever, and open it up as widely as possible - to make it as accessible as possible to as many listeners as possible. The trick lies in not losing the purity of its personal nature as well as in making sure the listener is not left questioning whether what they're hearing is genuine and personal to the performer.

Guy loves girl
Guy loses girl
Guy is torn apart

How to write about this for a listener who has never had this experience or even for those who have? Do you write it straight? You can and you'll have a lyric some can relate to. Or, you could identify and isolate the key emotions that many more will have had experience with. Love and loss, in this case. The lyric would be written for the main purpose of conveying and eliciting these emotions by using (manipulating) the basic details. The details are not insignificant by any means but each one of them needs to carry it's own weight in driving home the main message.

And through all this manipulation, sincerity must shine through.

Even when writing to strictly entertain, the writer has to remove himself from the song/lyric in order to reach the audience but not to the extent that there's no one there for the audience to reach back to.

I think writers who've had a problem coming to terms with this have managed to improve, once they understand the need for it.

I think the Janis Ian song "At Seventeen" is a perfect example of a writer opening up their own personal experience wide enough to allow anyone who had ever felt dismissed or less than, to relate.

I know it was a revelation for me, when I realized that I had to become somewhat dishonest to write a better lyric, but it's made all the difference in my writing, I think.
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Posted 13 April 2012 - 08:59 PM

Obviously, there is no "pat answer" here. Everything from some odd configuration of words overheard coming out out of someone else's mouth, to zmulls' "Writing to the limitation", work.

I think the universal key is writing from a title. Have a title first, and go from there. That seems to be the one technique with the most "juice". The challenge is mining for the title. When in doubt, take a favorite song, and write your own song from the same title.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:16 AM

View PostMABBO, on 09 April 2012 - 07:57 AM, said:

View PostKenneth Bradshaw, on 05 April 2012 - 10:17 AM, said:

View Postfabkebab, on 04 April 2012 - 05:56 AM, said:

I think the secret of writing *better* songs is to write *more* songs

If only 1 in 10 songs is a gem, then you need to write 100 before you have an album.


I understand that many songwriters believe this. But I don't believe that songwriting is a volume business. It is a wonderful moral story to talk about perseverance and hard work making someone successful. And in many instances it is true. I think that most successful songwriters are good at the start. You may find exceptions, but I do not think that is not the rule

I think it unlikely that a good songwriter writes for volume. I think they work hard to make every song good. They cannot all be good. But I do not think 1 in 10 is the right ration, 3 in 5 or 4 in 5 maybe.

I apologize for this. I know that I am curt and opinionate. But other than encouraging us to work hard, I do not think this is true.



It is an opinion some share, but not professional songwriters. Everyone I have ever known personally, read about or know anyone that had dealings with, and we are talking some very major songwriters, ALL have written volume. They threw away many more songs than they ever kept and the one for 10 is about right. They can adjust their volume as time goes on, but in the beginning they ALL write literally hundreds of songs. Quality only comes through Quantity. It is the only way it can come.

MAB


Think about what you just said. Can you really not tell that you are writing a bad song until after it is finished? I hear you talk of volume and only a percentage being good. But it makes no sense. Why wouldn't you fix the song as you were writing it rather than chalk it up to a volume experience? If you don’t know it is a bad song, how can you improve; if you know it is a bad song, then fix it. Tell me of another occupation where 1 out of 10 is a good number. Even in baseball a good batter is doing .300. Yes, hard work improves everything a person does. But good songwriters are not putting out volumes of bad material to find a few gems. Yes, some songs are bad from any writer. Just as some books are inferior even from best selling authors. But the percentages are not 1 in 10. Best selling authors are not writing 10 books to every success and best selling songwriters are not writing 10 songs to every good one. You can tell that by just going to their catalogs.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 02:57 AM

Hey kenneth
I think there are 3 reasons why I consider writing in volume
1 excercise. If you exercise 3 times a week instead of only 1 time, you do get better faster.
2 its fun, the more I write, the more I love writing
3 is the most complex answer...we don't know what we don't know. Let's say I've writen one song. I don't know how to improve it. I need to write and write to figure things out. When I started to write, I didn't read any books, know of any other songwriters who I could sit down with, I just had my inexperience, a pen and a guitar and to be honest...I sucked...but I didn't know that yet. Afcter I had writen 3o songs, I could personally see what I did better..
To say that all my songs cannot be improved is insane and my ego would not allow me to improve. Now that I'm in the hundred of songs, it is very clear what I am doing better, but I will continue to learn. I asked john hiatt how many unfinished songs he has and his response was the are all unfinished, I just get as close as I can.
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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:14 AM

Porcupine,

There is nothing wrong with writing in volume. I think of and forget a half dozen songs every time I drive to work. Just don't let platitudes replace logic. Everybody can continue to learn. Finished songs can be presented in a fresh new light - always - so every song in a way can be claimed "unfinished". But one who writes generally has a handle on what they are doing, and generally fairly early. I keep hearing about struggling with the craft. But when I review great songwriters that I know of, their early stuff is generally pretty good and when I hear stories of struggling, when I get to the roots of those stories, the struggle is usually more in gaining musicianship and/or recognition, not in honing the songwriting craft. Don't get me wrong. I believe in practice and improvement in everything, including the songwriting craft. I am only saying that the ratios are wrong. Good songwriters are 1) general good early on, 2) have a ratio of more good songs to bad. They are not shuffling through a lot of dirt for a few gems. If you want to make the point "hit songs", then the ratios are closer, maybe even too favorable. But for good well-crafting work, good songwriters are general putting out good stuff.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:38 AM

I agree with you Kenneth with the exception of a point I tried to make. What if you are not a good songwriter? and more importantly, you don't know it? You learn right? Thats where most people are at on this board. They want to know how to improve the craft of writing songs. If a beginning songwriter wrote 5 songs, you have to agree that one of the 5 have something of value. Thats conditioning, pure and simple...people tell you what they like, and you try to do it again...or you like something and continue it.

TIME is the only answer. Time to study, read, listen and learn. The percentages of good songs do increase because of maturity. In my teens, I thought I was going to have 500+ people at a local gig to see me..the first gig I ever had...15, ten were family, 5 watched tv. But I learned. I learned what I needed to do to get more people out and get their attention.

The same thing applies for me with songwriting. I will fail, we all will. we make mistakes in grammar, phrases and notes...but sometimes we get em as best that we can and that 1 in 10 song at the beginning is what Im talking about. By the time you go from 10 to 100 songs, your % should have increased of having a better song

This board increases that too. Just like our ideas on improving songs are looked at, our songs are listened to and if they have something of value to the listener, they try to replicate the idea in their music. Not really stealing but using the same paint brush to get a better stroke, we all use different colors.

Dont mean to ramble, but I do undedrstand what you mean Kenneth, I just think everyone is at a different learning point and skill set. Cant exclude anyone from writing the next big hit.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:20 AM

Porcupine,

Yes. In the range you are describing, I am totally on board with you.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:57 PM

The context MABBO was talking about is professional writers at the beginning of their careers. 100% of those I know had to write a lot of bad ones to get to the really good ones. Part of learning to be a great writer is learning how to identify bad ideas/bad lines/bad melodies/etc., and that isn't an ability the vast majority of people are born with. The first song I had recorded was in '85. When I listen to the songs I was writing at that time, I shudder - very few really good ones and a majority that didn't measure up. My ratio is much better now, but I've had almost 30 years of writing that have enabled me to know right away if an idea is worth pursuing or not. I don't believe in the notion that you can take a bad idea and write it into a good song. If the idea/title/hook (or whatever you choose to call it) is crap to start with, a bunch of rewriting and honing will give you a well-crafted crappy song when all is said and done. I wrote for a time for Acuff/Rose, which was Hank Williams' publishing company. I had the opportunity to listen to a bunch of his unrecorded songs, and I can tell you there are some horrible, horrible songs in there. Everybody writes bad songs, and nobody I'm aware of writes a higher percentage of great songs to bad and/or mediocre ones. You just never hear them.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 01:05 PM

From an overview of the thread, I see a broad general recognition of what I identify as the three main stages of learning/improving craft skills:
Emulation - Assimilation - Innovation.

Trying to copy our heroes and mentors, those to whom we make ourselves notionally 'apprenticed', enables us to internalise the way they work and begin to understand it from the 'inside'. Once we have learned the language repertoire in this fashion we are freed to apply the techniques authentically to our own chosen problems.

But I am not completely persuaded by this idea that the solution lies in mere volume.
From my end of the game, I'd suggest that if only 1 in 10 songs is any good it means the first two stages are not yet fully completed.
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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:11 PM

View PostLazz, on 15 April 2012 - 07:05 PM, said:

From an overview of the thread, I see a broad general recognition of what I identify as the three main stages of learning/improving craft skills:
Emulation - Assimilation - Innovation.


That can't work. As an ex Management Consultant, unless I can fit it into a 2x2 matrix I have a problem.

Oh.. wait.. I have it! My favourite! Pontification!

That works!

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:17 PM

Kenneth,

I don't know how many songwriters you have been around or how many very good, and highly successful writers you have known, but in Nashville we get quite a few. And most all of their stories start out with "I can't believe what I used to think was good in my songs", "Or as one put it, "My God What was I thinking?" It is part of the fraternity of being in and around the music business with constant immersion. Your knowledge, your craft, everything about what you do improves over time and doing it over and over. Do you think the Beatles just jumped into Revolver and Sgt. Pepper? Read anything ever written about or by them. They threw away litereally hundreds of songs, kept pieces, canablized things they did or just threw them out. Why was George Harrison's first album, "All things Must Pass" was a triple album? Because they were all songs that didn't make the final cut of the Beatles songs. And there are some pretty great songs there. And yet, everything that George, Paul, Ringo, John wrote, weren't jewels. Some are, some are not.

One of mine and Roger's good friends,is the number one song plugger in Nashville. Gets many major label cuts. One of his first job in the industry was working for a publishing company, Buckhorn Music, and his job was going through hundreds of Kris Kristofferson songs. He says "Kris is known for about five HUGE songs. But everything that Kris wrote were not great. He wrote a LOT of dogs.

I have written with a lot of hit writers, been around a lot of hit artist, of all genres, from all over the world. We get so many writers here like Barry Gibb, Paul McCartney. Kid Rock. Peter Frampton, Robert Plant, and about anything else you can name in ADDITION to country writers. It is one of the most constant themes you hear in ALL of their private discussions, seminars, panels, interviews. That we ALL write a TON of absolute crap. Some come to it quite late. I know enormously successful writers that didn't even pick up an instrument until their late thirties or forties. I also know of some of the most amazing writers and artists that were incredible from the age of 12 or 13 that you have never heard of because things just didn't work for them.

You can go to dozens of writer's nights and hear amazing songs from people that most will never hear. Things just sometimes don't work out, substance abuse, getting burned out, family pressures, a lot of reasons that people simply give up. And then thousands of "one hit wonders" that just happened to be in the right place/right time, and are never able to repeat their feat. Some are good, some just lucky.

But with anyone that does this for a living or have the dedication to keep it up, usually write a LOT of songs. And as they get later in their career, they write less because the individual craft on each one gets better. But that is the only way it does get better. and if you think that "you know when a song is good or not", ask about the thousands of huge hit songs that someone wrote in 15 minutes as a lark, and became a standard, and then ask them about the hundreds of other songs they agonized over for months and years that never did anything.

That's the reality of the business. You don't have to accept it. Many don't until they are around it all the time. But if you do any study of history you are going to find writing a LOT of songs to get to a small amount that actually work. By the way, my numbers of one for ten, are actually quite optimistic. Talk to most publishers, producers, artists, hit writers, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC reps,and they will say the numbers are closer to one in a hundred.

Take it for what it is or ignore it. Just my experience. I can only report on what I have heard from those who have done it and talk about my own experiences. All I can do.

MAB

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:18 PM

Quote

From an overview of the thread, I see a broad general recognition of what I identify as the three main stages of learning/improving craft skills:
Emulation - Assimilation - Innovation.

Trying to copy our heroes and mentors, those to whom we make ourselves notionally 'apprenticed', enables us to internalise the way they work and begin to understand it from the 'inside'. Once we have learned the language repertoire in this fashion we are freed to apply the techniques authentically to our own chosen problems.


Thats a really interesting way of putting it Lazz -I've never quite thought of it that way before -but it feels right..
I think the 3 processes are going on all the time tho- even once you develop a certain level of skill/artistry to express yourself more freely ('innovate' to whatever degree)

There's always gonna be artists who can express themselves in lots of areas you want to reach with more freedom than you tho -so in that way to keep growing artistically you're always gonna 'apprentice' yourself to someone when you hear music you truly love.Try to find out/feel how it works intuitively or scientifically..
To not be constantly doing that on some level would mean stagnation i reckon..

I think the difficulty when you've already written alot of songs (at least for me ) is not repeating yourself..
Its like i can get a song idea that 'works' alright, but then i think -well i've already got this other song that expresses a very similar mood/feel/vibe/whatever to this new one i've got -only the old one does it better..
In that case -i'd think it'd just be better to leave that new idea as just the rough exercise it was- than spend days n days trying to craft a lyric for it - n polish it musically so i can add another song to my book for the sake of it..
I'd make a choice now to spend my time playing guitar/singing-trying to get a new song thats got its own distinct personality that i havn't expressed before -even if that might take a month or 2..

Its one thing i've noticed about a great band like The Beatles...They've got very very few songs where you think..Yeh that songs alright i guess, but they expressed that same sound/feel/mood/vibe/whatever better in an earlier song...Nearly all their songs (that made it onto their records ) have got strong, distinct individual personalities of their own..

Lesser bands might have one brilliant song -but then have 10 others that are kinda just weaker versions of that one cool song..

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:04 PM

Mabbo,

We all know great songwriters and musicians. I don't think I am the greatest drummer in the world. But I've been in the studios and I have played with at least one megastar, and with various members the top big bands, and with top union sidemen. Almost every time I play, I am with outstanding musicians. You just are not unique in your experiences. Neither am I. If you read the general comments on this site, many of the musicians here have a great depth of experience.

I am sure that a lot of musicians modestly claim that they write a lot of crap. But I think it is more modesty than truth. But lets take the classics. Show me what part of the Beethoven or Mozart or Bach catalogs are crap. To put out what they did there must be thousands of bad pieces hiding somewhere.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:06 PM

View PostKenneth Bradshaw, on 15 April 2012 - 08:04 PM, said:

But lets take the classics. Show me what part of the Beethoven or Mozart or Bach catalogs are crap. To put out what they did there must be thousands of bad pieces hiding somewhere.


Realistically, how many of us are going to be celebrated 200 years after their death?

I think you are picking some exceptional writers, not just the run of the mill. A couple of things they do have in common, however, are
1 ) They have "hits" which stand above the body of their work
2 ) They wrote a whole lot of music
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Posted 17 April 2012 - 08:35 AM

Kenneth,

Let me ask you this. On the first day you picked up sticks, sat behind a kit, got on a practice pad, could you play complicated riffs, have a high hat, bass, toms, cymbals, precussion, cut time, and sing all at once? If you could then you must be the most amazing drummer on earth. Why do you think songwriting is any different? It is an aqquired skill, and yes,there are some that come with skills early, but there are none that come into the world fully developed. That simply makes no sense.

We are probably never going to agree on this, and you are going to believe how you believe based on your own experiences. And yes, I have seen many people review and comment on certain pieces of Motzart, Bethoven, and others that they felt did not measure up to their other works. While not being "crap" there are some that stand out more than others and yes, pretty much every writer who has ever lived have things they claim were learning experiences, and did not consider their best work. In some of their own words they were "writing crap." It is all relative.

But here's the thing. You can write one song every fifty years if you want to. That is your choice. You can do exactly whatever you feel comfortable doing. I can't. I live in a different world and appearently a different business. And the vast majority of professional writers, musicians, etc. that have ever lived, live in that one too. Again, did you just drum one time and say "That is it. I have achieved it all.?"

I can't even understand that mentality.

MAB

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:15 AM

I have not problem with practicing. I have no problem with volume. I have no problem with some pieces being better than others. If you go back to my comments, I have agree to all of that, although I strongly disagree on your ratios. What I do believe is that 1) the skill is demonstrated early, 2) increased musicianship is the best way to improve songwriting skills, 3) songwriters control their craft. While some songs are not as good as others, they are not stumbling blindly into an occasional hit - only achieved through volume. Is volume one of the ingredients to be a better songwriter? Probably, but not the main one. More important are 1) musicianship, 2) self-confidence, 3) and a natural affinity to music.

I picked these classical artist, not because I believed they never wrote anything inferior (although its not 10 to 1). I choose them because they are all know as musicians and writers who controlled their craft.

I have no problem with telling someone to write a song a day. More importantly, I would tell them to study the harmonies of Karen Fairchild and figure out why she sometimes hits the root of a chord rather than harmonize.

#41 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:53 AM

Kenneth Bradshaw said:

Is volume one of the ingredients to be a better songwriter?

Not really.

The background assumption seems to be that “practice makes perfect”. Yet few people in truth become good writers however much they write. Many just become increasingly fluent with bad writing. That’s because their goal is to reduce each challenge to the point that it can be handled easily within their existing competence. Like using a cookie-cutter. It’s a "problem-reducing" approach. Once it’s done, it’s over, eliminated. And we learn nothing from it.

Experts work differently.
It ain’t what they do: it’s the way they do it.
They use a “progressive problem-solving” approach.

Studies and experiments that have been made in writing, programming, teaching and medicine, as well as music, find that when working at the edge of their competence, the more expert people go about things in ways that result in their learning still more. So those more expert just keep gaining in expertise while the less expert make little progress.

And the good news is that ‘novices’ who approach their problem in a fashion similar to that of the ‘experts’ improve in leaps and bounds.

This is how the approach would unfold for a songwriter:
  • Each song is approached as a new problem
  • A new problem requires new solutions to be developed
  • Practice is based around generating problems and then finding solutions
  • The new song problem is reformulated in ways that challenge previously acquired and similar-looking knowledge, maybe negates it.
  • The songwriter is highly aware of the learning processes going on
  • The songwriter self-critiques/monitors/evaluates in an on-going way

It makes sense to me.
Every inch of expertise I have gained has been in pursuit of a problem solution.
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#42 User is offline   Roger Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:11 PM

I'm a firm believer that great songwriters are not created, they are born with that ability. Someone with little or not talent can study all they want, write thousands of songs, read every book on songwriting in existence, go to all the workshops, and the best they'll ever be is a well-crafted mediocre songwriter. Point being, you can become better at it, but if you don't have the natural ability you'll never be exceptional at it. An example would be athletes...some have athletic talent, others don't - it's just the way it is. I always wanted to be a baseball player, but I didn't have the talent. Thankfully I was given other talents to work with.

Having said that, the great/exceptional writers that I know and have met all still believe they can write even better, and work towards doing that. How? By writing more songs. Volume did not, and does not, make them great - but they improve by trial & error, same as everyone else does.

#43 User is offline   MABBO Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:26 PM

Kenneth and Lazz,

I speak primarily from a Nashville perspective, but many writers from many other formats often come here, through their travels. I actually was in the rock world before I did anything in Nashville, so I do come from that background. I have been mediocre in many formats of music. I have been pretty lucky in my relationships since moving to Nashville 25 years ago, in that many people have included me in conversations, shows, recording, long bus trips, workshops around the country and other countries, and I have been priveledged to meet a lot of people from all levels and various degrees of fame. My comments on anything are an accumliations of personal experience, conversations with many many writers (many very famous, Grammy and other award winners) publishers, producers, artists, label heads, or research that I have done. I read a great deal and musical history in all genres are one of my passions. When you read about a lot of these legends from Motown, The Brill building, LA, and get to know and talk to them it gives an interesting perspective.

When I moved to Nashville, I kept hearing quantity leads to quality, all the time in every corner, every workshop, every thing or person I met. I, like you, didn't believe it, thinking I would only wait until "I wrote quality." Even though I got a cut my first night in town and thought I knew what I was doing, the more I learned, the less I realized I knew. And as I was around very successful writers, that theme contiued over and over. The first time I heard the "One hundred songs to get one really great one" came from Bobby Braddock, who wrote "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Which is considered the top country song ever written. I also met people who knew Hank Williams Sr., who talked about finding hundreds and hundreds of songs, half finished pieces of songs, and things he would start and never finish because he lost interest or to be honest, the drugs and alcohol took their toll. The "One Hundred number" kept popping up and overhearing conversations with people like "Harland Howard", considered the "Grandfather of Country songwriters" with a number one record in each of five decades, would say "A man's not even a songwriter until he has written over one hundred songs. Then write a hundred more..." There was a producer that used to ask new writers how many songs they had written, if they told him less than one hundred, he would say "go writer a hundred and bring me the last three."

The trait I saw over and over and over with every single successful writer was a HUGE quantity of work. They wrote hundreds of songs a year, and very few got serious attention and even less got serious action. The unspoken number percentage is that 4% of a writer's catalogue gets significant attention throughout his or her lifetime. So the higher a four per cent you have, the higher your chances are. For me it led to a formula:
Activity leads to Proximaty which leads to Opportunities.

It is not only the writing of the song. It is the continuous marketing, pitching, and "behind the scenes on songs." That is 85% of the success of songs. Just the nature of the beast.

To answer your questions:
#1. What Skill is demonstrated early. It varies just like people vary. I know of a half dozen people that got a number one song on almost the first song they ever wrote. Almost everything in Nashville is co-written. So they were in the right place at the right time. With several of those people, if you hear the songs they wrote after, you realize how lucky they were. They have nothing else.

I have seen 14 and 15 year olds have amazing talent early. One. Taylor Swift is now the biggest money maker out there. Many hate her, but she does resonate with her fans and do what many many millions of others try to do. And from meeting her principal co-writer, and her publisher, she did the majority of that herself, without help from others.

I have seen people do it for many, many years, and be incredible at what they do, be the envy of everyone in town, everyone goes to their shows, they are quoted in interviews with hugely successful writers as one of their biggest influences, yet have never had anything anyone outside a small circle knows.

The biggest example is people that do it very average until they write with the right person and it turns everything around. Suddenly it is as if someone turned on a faucet and everything they do comes out amazingly. Or they start getting cuts and hits when their "friends get in a better position to say yes" in that friends who are artists, record company execs or producers. A rising tide lifts all boats.They are asked "What are you doing now you weren't doing then?" They say, "nothing. My friends just got in better positions." And sometimes the most obvious things are usually right in front of us, but takes someone else to point it out. Little things can make enormous differences.

It is as different as the day is long.

2. Increased musicianship is a great way to increase songwriting, but not always the way. There are some very successful writers that couldn't sing or play their way out of a paper bag. But have a certain gift and a personality that endears them to others and allows them to find the people they need to help them get to the next levels.

3. Many songwriters will tell you exactly that the bumbled into a situation. I could tell you many stories of a huge number one song being written because someone else didn't show up for a writing session. That someone was asked to help finish something that got logjammed. That someone came up with a central phrase or line that took writers in a direction they didn't know which changed everything. Luck plays a great deal of it. But luck, to me, is when opportunity and preparation meet.

Personally, I can't depend on any of that. I write as much as I can, with as many people that will have me, try to pass on what I have learned and help people as much as I can. And for the most of what I do, I am paid for. I get to write, talk about, help others in writing, recording, performing, and all things music and the business. For me, the more I have done it has made all the difference. I am fast, can generally hit my target and help other people to "pay it forward."

Other people can make their way the best they can. But the most common theme I have experienced with professional songwriters is just like musicians, athletes or any other profession. The more you do it, the better you are at it.

MAB

#44 User is offline   Kenneth Bradshaw Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:16 PM

Again, I have no problem with volume. It just is not as important as a general musical foundation. I think the benefit of writing over and over is that you are improving your musical foundation, and from that songwriting improves. So if you are asking someone to write a song every day, you are better off teaching them to study chords every day and write a song a week. The foundation needs to improve more than the direct honing of writing skills. Likewise, I can understand an ABAB bridge song structure in a morning and still watch "I love Lucy" in the afternoons. But chords and harmony - that takes work.

#45 User is offline   Roger Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:51 PM

View PostKenneth Bradshaw, on 17 April 2012 - 12:16 PM, said:

Again, I have no problem with volume. It just is not as important as a general musical foundation. I think the benefit of writing over and over is that you are improving your musical foundation, and from that songwriting improves. So if you are asking someone to write a song every day, you are better off teaching them to study chords every day and write a song a week. The foundation needs to improve more than the direct honing of writing skills. Likewise, I can understand an ABAB bridge song structure in a morning and still watch "I love Lucy" in the afternoons. But chords and harmony - that takes work.



One of my best friends is a writer who has had about a dozen #1 hits, and is most likely about to be inducted into the Songwriter Hall Of Fame this year. In addition to the hits he's written, he's had many, many other songs recorded. Almost his entire catalog of songs he wrote by himself.

I bring this up because he can't really sing, can barely play more than 3 chords on a guitar, and doesn't play piano at all.

It goes back to the point I made earlier, I think it's a gift you either have or don't' have. Writing songs has little to do with being a talented musician and everything to do with being musical - the two are not synonymous.
The greats have an ability to just "know" when something is good or not. The repetition of writing a lot makes the process faster and more consistent for them.

#46 User is offline   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:24 PM

I would agree that it's necessary to have some innate ability (because that ability will probably determine how far we can progress).

However, the question is about learning and improving (rather than "being good"), so is there a "best" way to learn that suits everyone?

There are lots of models of preferred learning styles and we all use a variety of different learning strategies, often driven by our preferences.

I'l just drop this here ... I think examples of every learning style has been represented in one form or another on this thread. Maybe, if we find we aren't progressing swiftly enough using our preferred styles, another style is worth a try?

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#47 User is offline   Lazz Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:11 PM

Marc.

I keep meaning to say how pleased I am that you and Roger are here. Sincerely. I am also fully on board and supportive of Roger’s incredibly valuable organising and lobbying work. (Great job. Well done. Big applause. Don’t stop.) I think it’s terrific that both of you are still managing to make a living with what you do, and especially terrific that you are sharing and helping others along their way. And of course the other most huge and invaluable thing about your input is that it represents a real insider’s view from Nashville – incredibly important for those whose dreams and desires have them facing firmly in that particular direction.

What gives me a real big smile, though, is how much I might regularly be able to disagree while still echoing your sentiments almost word for word.

Like this,for instance:

MABBO said:

I have been pretty lucky in my relationships ..... in that many people have included me in conversations, shows, recording, long bus trips, workshops around the country and other countries, and I have been priveledged to meet a lot of people from all levels and various degrees of fame. My comments on anything are an accumliations of personal experience, conversations with many many writers (many very famous, Grammy and other award winners) publishers, producers, artists, label heads, or research that I have done. I read a great deal and musical history in all genres are one of my passions. When you read about a lot of these legends ... and get to know and talk to them it gives an interesting perspective.

I can say exactly the same with equal honesty.
(If I chose to.)

My own professional involvement with music goes back at least as long as yours, maybe even a little bit more, and in almost twenty countries.
This personal career experience, like yours, regularly leads me to very same conclusion:

MABBO said:

I live in a different world and appearently a different business. And the vast majority of professional writers, musicians, etc. that have ever lived, live in that one too.

Yet I still find myself often pragmatically in disagreement with what you are saying.

Now, I know from time to time you insert a disclaimer that you speak only from a Nashville perspective, and that perspective (I repeat) is highly valued, but there is absolutely no way that it defines the world of the “vast majority of professional writers, musicians, etc. that have ever lived”. Nashville is the centre of Nashville, not the centre of music’s universe. For the professional musician, that universe is much much bigger than country and rock and pop. Many people seem to presume that those fields or genres constitute the entire professional working world of music because that's all they know of and are interested in, but believe me (or not), those fields constitute only the merest fraction of the gigs a professional jobbing musician will get the call for.

Let me clarify – there are those get lucky, who have some ‘hits’, and make loads of money – however, just because they have a swollen bank balance due to the vagaries of the business, this does not make ‘em, in my book (and also in the book of every other professional I know), this accident does not make ‘em automatically ‘professional musicians’.

Like Roger's guy, for instance -

Roger said:

he can't really sing, can barely play more than 3 chords on a guitar, and doesn't play piano at all

- he simply couldn't make the cut as a "professional musician" however many #1 hits he has chalked up.

(Yeah – I know – I live in a different world.)

MABBO said:

When I moved to Nashville, I kept hearing quantity leads to quality, all the time in every corner, every workshop, every thing or person I met. I, like you, didn't believe it

You believe it now.
But your belief doesn’t make it true.
It isn’t.

MABBO said:

we ALL write a TON of absolute crap

Absolutely.
But the solution to writing crap is not really to write crap in greater volume, is it?
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and the second best to sing them"

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The relation and balance of the two arts is a problem that has to be resolved anew in every song that is composed.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica

#48 User is offline   Roger Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:22 PM

Quote

- he simply couldn't make the cut as a "professional musician" however many #1 hits he has chalked up.


Lazz,
Thanks for the thoughtful response...we can always agree to disagree, that's the beauty of this type of forum.
I would (only a bit tongue in cheek) take exception to you taking exception on the comment above. The thread is about how to learn/improve songwriting. Being a 'professional musician' has nothing to do with it, the two can be mutually exclusive. My reason for bringing up the writer in question at all was to demonstrate that songwriting talent is not necessarily improved or inhibited by one's performing/playing ability.
Cheers,
RB

#49 User is offline   MABBO Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:25 PM

Lazz,

I try to be as detailed as I can on what I am saying. I always preference I am coming from the Nashville perspective. But as you noticed at the beginning of my post, I have met many many writers from other cultures, other countries, other styles of music besides Nashville and country. I mentioned Motown, the Brill Building, LA, England, and others as well, in addition to country writers. Also I have read a ton of books and interviews with many many more. What I am talking about is most professional writers I have ever met as well as myelf and most in the history of music. One of the themes that goes over and over are the writing HUNDREDS OF SONGS. It is something that I have seen in almost every hit writer I have ever had any knowledge of and is kind of the "DUH!" That most people I know anything about. You might know of other people, if you do, please mention them. These threads are about the sharing of information and each others perspectives of the various aspects of craft and the industry.

And no, the answer to writing crap is to write more crap, is a pretty nonsensical thing to say. you write the "crap" to get past it and to write better songs. and in many cases throughout history, again, with personal people that I have talked to, hung out with, heard their seminars, their stories (and I am talking about many of the people mentioned by writers on these threads as the 'standards' they use, i.e. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson) they talk about the very same things. It is in their words, not mine.

This is an issue that never seems to have an end so I'll finish my part as I always do, anyone who does this can make choices to do whatever they feel they need to. I only relate things I have personal knowledge of, or know those who HAVE personal knowledge of. I'm just a messenger here.

M

#50 User is offline   Alistair S Icon

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:12 PM

Here's a suggestion:

Writing a lot is a good thing. However, it isn't sufficient to write a lot if that is all we do. We need to do other things as well.

Also, it has to be done with purpose. If we simply write and rewrite the same old crap we won't advance very quickly, if at all. It's a bit like someone who has done the same thing every day for 10 years claiming that they have 10 years' experience (they don't - they have maybe one year's experience, repeated 10 times, if that).

However, if we continue to challenge ourselves to improve and work to do so, writing a lot is good. Each new thing we write is a challenge and a learning opportunity.

After all, that's what writers do. They write. Sitting waiting for inspiration doesn't take us very far (and I know nobody is suggesting that it does). Inspiration comes when we work, mostly.

I'd add that rewriting is also good.
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