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Songwriting Survey
Some Tips For Beginners:

Charles McCullough
A songwriter/producer churnin' out the bangin' hits in L.A., writes:
The two best  exercises I've ever done were to write something, anything as soon as I wake up in the morning.  Don't get out of bed, or brush your teeth, just write the first thing that comes to mind. (Thanks for that exercise Pat!!) The second exercise was to disect popular songs. The top 5 songs on the chart, learn to play the songs, learn the voicings of the lyrics and the structure of the song.  It's a pretty technical, however I found a pattern to how songs were structured and written.  Also check out 2 books by Pat Pattison "How to Create and Manage Structure" and "Rhyming Techniques and Strategies". Thats my 2 cents!!!  Keep Writing!!
A songwriter/flyfisherman from the Midwest, writes:
1.  Listen to every kind of music that you can, from classical to country, to pop, to rap.
2.  Find out what makes that music popular to others
3.  What is it about that style that you like/dislike?
4.  Write, write, write....listen, listen, listen
Tad Cautious
A depressive hack, tortured by the successes of his past, writes:
I've found a lot of friends of mine have written a handful of great songs that they know are great, and then get stuck.  Sometimes doing well right away can be your biggest liability.  But a couple things I've heard have helped me with this, one being something the writer Hayden Carruth said:"When I have writer's block, I just lower my standards." and the other being something Picasso said, something like, "The greatest hinderence to creativity is good taste."  A lot of my persistance in songwriting is tremendously humbling, because I ALWAYS feel ridiculous right away, trying to make something up (somehow the songs don't come out that way, luckily).  But recognize that keeping up your process is going to keep you going.  A friend of mine said, "When I'm writing more, I'm writing more," which is totally true.  Give up and renew and start again.  Also, here's a plain ol' trick.  I try to write as many dumb songs as possible.  One afternoon I listened to Beck's "Odelay" until I got an idea, then got up and tried it out & repeated as necessary. Good luck.  Try shit out & don't be afraid to suck.
Heather Borean
A Musician from Mississauga (Ontario,Canada), writes:
My tip probably isn't really original but... Write what you know,  write what moves you or means something to you. 

Writing often is important,  but I've always thought that quality is better than quantity I'd rather write one or two really excellent songs in a year than 30 or so forgettable Of course you have to write a lot of BAD songs before you write many good ones.

A performing songwriter from Barcelona, Spain, writes:
Study what is it that makes you love the songs you love; study chord progressions, and listen to the opinions of others, qualified or not, with an open mind on the way to improve your craft. -The books that have helped very much are Sheila Davis's and Pat Pattison's.
Seth Neuffer
A songwriter that writes jazz, rock, contemporary classical, and everynow and then a wierd polka song or two, writes:
My suggestion to songwriters and composers is to learn different instruments for a more fluent style of writing.  Plus it'll help with writing different styles.  What I do sometimes if I'm writing a song about the ocean, I'll take a trip to the beach.  The environment is an important factor in changing music style.  And keep writing music.  The more you write, the easier it'll be and the songs will most likely improve with practice.  Well this should go without saying, but, you must know your theory.  Music theory is an important element that all musicians and songwriters should learn about.  Music is one of the most important things to some people and it should not be treated lightly.  Write your music from the bottom of your soul. 
Lucinda Marie Bradley
A Published Poet, Songwriter and English major from Illinois, writes:
Just keep your mind open to ideas from any source possible.  Listening to music really helps this.  One online thing that I use to submit my work is by using search engines and going to any links that interest me.  Type in the words: songwriting or songwriting contests or any other words that can help your research for good web sites.  I haven't really used many books to help with my writing though I have used some poetry books which spurred some ideas.  Whatever works for you is the best thing to do.
Kim Such
A singer / songwriter from Midwestern Ontario, writes:
About writing....the main thing is to just start..keep a journal, notebook, paper pad whatever is covenient and start putting your ideas down on paper and keeping them in a binder or folder to revise, review and add to.  Listen to the music that is out there now, try to learn the styles and structures then use that knowledge and add your own unique flavour to it. As someone said in another survey answer it's best to pick the style of music that you relate to and enjoy...get feedback from others on your work. There are several great online resources right now with hints, tips etc... such as Jeff Mallet's, Dave Kennedy's and many more listed in the links sections of this web site. it Canada or the States: There are several excellent songwriting organizations to assist songwriters with education and issues such as copyright and publishing.  In Canada the Songwriter's Association of Canada is one of these. The Canadian Music Directory is also an excellent resource for writers, performers and musicians in Canada. It's available in book or CD ROM format.
A young songwriter from Chicago, writes:
Write!  My advice would be to keep writing even when you can't anymore!  For me,  the best songs happen to be the ones that weeks or months ago, I absolutly hated.  There are a lot of web sites out there that help.  Look for sights for writers and young writers.  The list is endless.  A book I would strongly suggest is the Market Guide For Young Writers by Henderson.  Each new edition has added tips and it helps you learn how to start getting your stuff published.
A singer/songwriter in L.A., writes:
Always try your best and if you know you have what it takes, you are the only one who does, until you make it, then eveyone will say they always knew too!  Never ever give up! The ones who make it are the persistent ones!
Sandy Patten
A student from CSUB who's embarking on a writing career (hopefully), writes:
There's a few tips that I've picked up on the way and I'd like to pass them on. Tip #1: Be your own judge. Everyone will have a suggestion on how you to write your song and you are going to have to evaluate those suggestions and figure out which ones will be beneficial to you and which ones are not. You don't have to use all the suggestions made. It is YOUR song and YOU choose what suggestions will be used in the rewrite(s). YOU MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS - WHAT GOES AND WHAT STAYS IS UP TO YOU. Tip #2: Be willing to take criticism. Some people are going to tell ask you why in the world you want to be a songwriter and to go and find something you are good at; others will ask you for your autograph that way they'll have it BEFORE you are an award-winning songwriter. Some critics are going to be extremely harsh and you will want to cry. And other times, you'll have your ego stroked and petted as the compliments are layered on you one by one. Take everything in stride. Tip#3: Keep writing. Don't stop.

A good online resources is Glade's "Songwriter" Page. You can post your lyrics on a message board and receive good critiques. Another good source is "The Music and Audio Songwriting Forum". You can meet collaborators and publishers there. A third online resource is Jeff Mallet's Homepage. He's got a lot of helpful info for songwriters.

Criss Spoto
A songwriter/vocalist/musician from Tampa, writes:
Write when you are inspired.  Don't force it.  When you feel pressure to write, you'll find the results are weak, whereas if you write as you are inspired and 'on the fly', the material is so much more viable.
Shay Gosnell
A songwriter and Recording Studio owner from NC, writes:
First I sent them to my cousin and other contacts I have made in Nashville.I have called Record Co's,and artist managers to ask permission to send material for review.If you don't have permission to send it and have a code on the envelope you are wasting your time and money.I have also contacted other artist on the web that are looking for material and met others who were singing in Nashville at places such as Leftys and just ask them if they needed material.Contact a good Publishing Co. and ask them if they will review your material.
Nick Scarpa
A Performing Country Songwriter from New England, writes:
Songwriting has to be one of those things you do because you love it. Kind of like going fishing... you can sit there for hours with your line in the water and pull up an occasional sunfish. Getting a song published or recorded by a major artist can be like waiting for that record-breaking catch! You have to keep doing it in hopes that one of 'em will see the bait and go for it! I am currently reading Molly-Ann Leikins book, "How to write a hit song." I think I write pretty good songs, but the people who have been signed, or whose songs have been picked are filled with bits of wisdom and reading books or searching for online material can only help us in our quest: To hear our song being played on the radio! There are many online resources that are available to help you in your journey. A couple of my favorites are - - - Dave Kennedy's site (

One of the best ways to become successful is to keep writing! And my favorite for inspiration - Prayer!!

God Luck!

Eric Thompson
A pop songwriter from Chicago, writes:
Depends what type of song you are trying to write. I like rock music, especially a song with good structure and hooks. I like and listen to all kinds of popular music from all decades and all styles. The type I write could be classified as adult alternative/pop/rock. I am currently in an up and coming  new original band from Chicago. One of the basic principles I use in all my song writing, because I am trying to write songs for the radio is KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Donít try and reinvent the wheel, listen to the radio and look at  how the songs are structured and written. If you are trying to write songs, that you someday want to get on the radio, you have to write songs for the melody and for the singer. This means keeping a simple structure and not to many chord changes. It is easier to come up with a good melody over less chords  than more. The trick is to use those same three or four chords, make them your own and put some good hooky melody over it with some passion. It is much harder than it seems.  To many original bands that I encounter end up being jam bands and with no structure to there songs and no hooks. Go look at song books of some of your favorite artists and see how they write. Most top songs that get radio play are really simple, less words with good hooks and melody, especially in the chorus. Good luck and keep trying, but learn from your mistakes and write, write, write.The more mud you throw against the barn wall the more chance some of it is going to stick.
Tom Moran
A Deliberate Stranger from PA, writes:
Watch out for people who'll try to rip you off. Believe me, they are out there just waiting. Don't under any circumstance have anything to do with anyone who wants you to "invest" money into your own career. If your stuff is good, people will pay you. The best book - "Guerilla P.R.", a must!!!
A rapper and soul music lyricist from Australia, writes:
Just to keep writing.  If you write one crap song keep it, cuz eventually you'll create a stockpile of lyrics you can mould into one song.
David Ryshpan
A Songwriter/Pianist from Thornhill Ontario, writes:
Seeing as I am a young songwriter myself, I am not the one to be dispensing advice. However, this site and Jeff Mallett's site are good references to start with. Check out anything that will help. You can never learn too much.
Mikki Bakken
A singer/songwriter from NY, writes:
I'm a performing songwriter, so I have the advantage of being able to " sell my own songs " to the audience and make needed adjustments when necessary.

I became a better writer when I began to know my instrument better. Being a four chord guitar  player did not lend itself to interesting songs. Being able to play more than one instrument is a big plus and makes you more saleable if you are an artist as well.

There are plenty of internet areas for exchanging and critiquing demos etc. Open mics are also a great resource for young writers. A site I would recommend is AOL's COMPOSERS COFFEEHOUSE < keyword "Composers" >.

Dave Kennedy
A songwriter in Delaware, writes:
"Nashville Songwriting" is a great book by Jerry Cupit.  He's written some great hit songs and he knows the Nashville thing.  This book is very easy to understand.   It is a great quick tool!  (By the way he's connected to Kevin Sharp, Ken Mellons and other great artists!) Jerry Cupit and Mitch Ballard  are grade "A", good people who are trying to help us songwriters!
Here's their webpage:

Kay-Lynn Carew
A Nashville writer from Arizona, writes:
My only suggestion so far is that I see a lot of young writers on-line placing ads looking for publishers. My best advice would be, if you were a publisher with people beating down your front door to give you tapes, would you be looking on the net for songs?
Wincy Ong
A 16-year old songwriter from Gramophone Studios, writes:
Young songwriters? Hmmm.... This is my advice: do what you want to do, say what you want to say and do it through your catalog of songs. Youth is the time where songwriting should be honed. And oh yeah listen to the Beatles. An online resource would be my songwriting site, Gramophone Studios. Please do visit it. A good book that I recommend is "Revolution in the Head" by Ian MacDonald and "Everything You Wanted to Know About Songwriting" by Cliffie Stone.
A young songwriter in California, writes:
I've just started writing songs when I felt comfortable with my guitar playing skills. I'm fairly new but I like to share my tips and suggestions. To write songs, you first have to be surround by music, people, things. Observe your env't and take in everything. Eventually a musical tune, conversation or a brush of wind will set you off. And write down anything that comes into your mind even if it is a one-liner because it will eventually be a full-blown song.
Bill Luton
A Successful Singer/Songwriter from Maryland, writes:
Keep trying even if you run into a block.  It will come before too long.  Anyone can do it.  I suggest Taxi online  Please E-mail me if you have any questions
Dusty Bray
An amatuer composer from Georgia, writes:
Being only 15yrs. my self, the most important tip that I can give to other beginners is to write everything down.  Organize your thoughts in a small booklet that you can easily carry around with you (ideas always come at the worst times). No matter how insignificant or how vague the idea write it down so that it might be used latter. I also like to surf the net and keep a running log of interesting theory sites that I can get ideas from. It is also very important to be open to many styles of music, and understand how they relate.  Some of my best ideas come from the most obscure styles.
A Songwriter/Musician/Engineer/Producer from PA, writes:
LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! I believe songs are like term papers. They have to start somewhere, take you somewhere, and leave you somewhere. to do that in 4 minutes, you need an outline for the piece. Map it out BEFORE you start, and word it so you're saying a lot in a short period of time. Aim for above average lyrics to keep your audience listening to something everyone can relate to. Listen to the songs on the radio...THEY ALL HAVE OUTLINES FOR YOU TO FOLLOW! Try to hone in on what each verse deals with, and mimic their journey. Try it with your own song, and if your song is not taking your listener somewhere precise, and in a certain order of events,RE-WRITE IT. It's just like reading a manual to learn how to do something...after you've read the manual, you know exactly how to perform that function! Songwriting is the SAME THING, EXCEPT YOU'RE LISTENING TO THE MANUAL! LISTEN TO WHAT'S OUT THERE.....and the best of luck to everyone!
Gavin Baker
A young songwriter from Florida, writes:
I haven't really ever attempted to get any of my songs to a publisher, but I have advice that might help others. Follow others who are popular. I'll go back to my old example: Metallica. They didn't start out popular-who does?-but Ozzy Osbourne took them into his show as an opening act, and so they became mighty popular. This can be seen in form of that an album released in '91 is still in the top (200? 300?) selling albums in the country. That's an accomplishment.
Chris Conway
A songwriter from Andromeda living in the UK, writes:
1. Go to places where you can play your songs to people. Keep going back and doing it. You'll learn something each time.
2. Record yourself, even in a basic way. Listen to it and think how it could be better. Play the tape when others are in the room and gauge how you feel whilst it's playing.
3. It is OK to throw a song away if it's not working. Sometimes too much effort is spent on fixing a song that is unfixable. Don't worry, a better one is just around the corner!
4. Be on the look out for "empty" words. eg "I crept out" says more than "I went out" That's all I can think of at 3am off the top of my head.
Terri Bright
A singer-songwriter who lives in Boston, but isn't from there, writes:
Read Strunk and White's "Elements of Style."  And, most importantly- read! You know, books. I am amazed how many writers do not read.  The bottom line is, good writing is transferrable.
Rich McNeany
A songwriter in AK, writes:
My 2 cents would be, ask yourself why you want to be a songwriter. If you write because you enjoy it, then you don't need my're doing fine...just fine! Keep writing and keep enjoying it, and I'm sure whoever hears your songs will enjoy them. If you're looking to make it in the music industry, well then you're not really songwriting, but trying to sell a product. There are lots of books out there that deal with the marketing aspects of the music industry, and I've read a couple, but they're all saying the same thing. DON'T trust anyone, pay anyone, and keep trying to sell yourself. Well, I've chosen the first path. I write because I enjoy it, and most of the best songs are the ones we never record. The ones that come spontaneously in the emotion of the moment. Whatever your path, all the best in your ventures.
Bob Clayton
A living-room songster with a traditional folk bent, writes:
Basically, I'd point people to sites like my internet friend Charles Wolff's, at

for some very good advice indeed.  Other advice?  Keep an open mind and an open ear, don't be afraid to write about anything, there's no such thing as a "finished" song (just ones that escape), you always get your best ideas at the worst times, writer's block is just pre-censoring by your own mental taste buds, and new strings on your guitar can give you the ooomph you need to write something new ('cause new strings need playing, and playing begets ideas).

Fred Haddock
A songwriter from Texas now in Virginia soon to be Tx. again, writes:
I would suggest using different tools.Learn other instruments-create diversity.Likewise in your recreational listening.Branch out your musical tastes.Write in different time sigs-experiment with styles.Basically-be diverse and true to who you are.Collaberation is fun too.
A very helpful songwriter, writes:
Publishing Services& Nashville Entertainment Industry Online Directory
The above links are two of the best I've found for those who are interested in the Nashville scene. Publishing Services is a company called Songtek. What I liked about them was how straight forward their submission policy is. They also have an open door and are not looking to charge anyone money to listen. Everything they have to say in their site is designed to be helpful to new writers.   The NEIOD is a site where you can find every Publisher in this town who is worth contacting or anything else pertaining to the music business here. I hope you find them useful.
Michael Drange
A singer-songwriter from California, writes:
Try to write every day. Put writing at the top of your list of things to do. I have listed some useful sites on my home page, and plan to list more as I find them. Books: The Craft and Business of Songwriting by John Braheny &       Songwriter's Market .

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