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This icon indicates the under-our-breath, down-and-dirty truth that you now have the dubious privilege of knowing. With whom you share these boardroom secrets is entirely up to you, but please, act responsibly! We all have songs inside us just waiting to come out.
The real key to songwriting is not only figuring out the combination to what unlocks that music within you, but also developing methods to capture these little gems of inspiration before they fly away. Also important is knowing where your taste in music might lie?
Are you heavy metal, easy listening, or one of the hundreds of shades in between? In this part, we not only look at many of the different directions your song can take, we give you everything you need to get started in your songwriting journey. This book is for everyone who shares the dream of harnessing the songwriting power we all have within. When you know the elements that make up a great song and how the pros go about writing one, you can get on the right path to creating one of your own. Song ideas can be just as illusive.
Songwriting is all about capturing the moment of musical inspiration at its source. This is perhaps the single most important element of songwriting because, like the moment that rain turns to snow, at the instant of inspiration, your mind grows wings and a song takes flight.
In this chapter, we explore the various places to mine for golden nuggets of inspiration for your songs, ways to gather that information, and methods of documenting your ideas. We also demonstrate the importance of brainstorming ideas with others to let inspiration flow, and provide simple exercises to show you the way. So, you want to write songs.
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But writing a song can be an intimidating process. After all, where do you really begin? Music training is not a prerequisite for songwriting. Notice we said may. Funnyman Mel Brooks composed the musical score to his hit Broadway show The Producers by humming the melodies into a tape recorder and having someone translate that into musical notes on a page. Musical ability could also help you with the rhythm of your words and the structure of your songs. That being said, even though musical expertise is advantageous, it is not required by any means. A song is made up of chords a combination of two or more tones sounded together in harmony , a melody the arrangement of single tones in sequence — the part you sing , a rhythm the beat or pulse of the song , and words often called lyrics in the context of a song.
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Many successful songwriters excel in one area or another. Rare individuals can do it all. Even the ones who are a songwriting one-man band often choose to collaborate with others to come up with that magical song that comes from a blend of styles and personalities. Most of what I know about songwriting, I learned by being a fan of music. Truly the best teacher is listening. I emulated the styles of songs that inspired me, and gradually, over the course of many years, integrated these influences into a style of my own.
The Beatles created songs by absorbing those influences and adding their own unique personalities. The fact that they could barely read music hardly mattered at all. They had ears! Studying music theory, history, and arrangement can only enhance your abilities as a writer, but it would be a mistake to infer that formal training is a necessity to write a great song.
Start with your love for the songs you hear and then tap into all you have to express in your soul.
On the other hand, many legendary composers have extensive musical training in all forms of music, including classical composition. In college, my harmony teacher told me at the end of the semester, You know all that stuff I taught you about avoiding parallel fifths?
Forget about it! If it sounds good, just do it! By the way, that was the only formal music training I ever got, other than two years of piano and a few years of saxophone lessons. It is my belief that life is the best teacher, and listening to and enjoying a good song are perhaps the best ways to learn to do it yourself. Although some songwriters do well with the trial-and-error method, the more you know about music, the better chance you have to write a great song.
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The more adept you can become at an instrument, the easier it will be to create and demonstrate the ideas in your head. You do not need to enroll in a college course to study music, because there are other ways to get instruction in music theory, composition, instrumental performance, and voice at a per-session rate.
Qualified, reasonably priced private teachers can be located through your local music shop or record store or in the back pages of the local freebie entertainment newspaper and through a simple Internet search. Finding someone who inspires you will make songwriting a lot easier. Paul McCartney has said some of his best songs came to him in his dreams. Billy Joel also got the song River of Dreams from — you guessed it — a dream.
And Sting, former lead singer of the group The Police, awakened in the middle of the night, wrote a song in ten minutes flat, then went back to sleep. The song?
Every Breath You Take. When a melody or a lyrical idea pops into your head, make sure you have a way of freezing it in time. Try to carry with you, at all times, a notebook to jot down ideas and a digital recorder to capture your musical phrases. A flash of inspiration may hit you when you least expect it. Be ready to catch it — then be prepared to work hard at turning the initial idea into a finished song. Not to worry. In the meantime, take a look at the unique ways you look at and feel about the world around you, the moods you project in life, and all the emotions will undoubtedly be projected in your songs.
These emotions are a great place to tap into when you are looking for ideas and inspirations to begin your songs. We are always chasing that perfect song in life, that magical moment where the stars align. But nothing is ever perfect. Those imperfections echo our humanity. These songs are true expressions of what our lives are like, imperfect but worn; comfortable. But the chase is fun, and we keep on chasing. Meanwhile, we take pictures along the way and document our feelings through words, through phrases, through titles of songs and through performance as well.
Songwriting tips. Learn how to write a song.
Some writers are able to project a powerful optimism through their melodies, chord progressions, and lyrics, while others are able to project wonder, a bittersweet sadness, or pure intense anger. Let it out in single doses to begin with.
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Whatever the mood or genre, all great songs have the ability to move people, to make them feel something. Psychologists say that songs can put us in touch with our feelings. We all know what it feels like to be happy, sad, afraid, or in love. Often, a song is what puts us in touch with those emotions — instantaneously. Expressing your authentic feelings in a song can be therapeutic to you as a person; those feelings can also be the clay from which a lasting song can be sculpted. If your audience can see a little bit of themselves within your song, if they can identify directly with what you are saying, your song just may stay in their hearts and minds and their iPods long after it has dropped off the Billboard charts.
In a survey based on performances, sheet music, and record sales, Variety, the entertainment trade paper, once named the most popular songs of all time. An analysis of the themes of those titles showed that about 85 percent of them were love songs.