Document 128827

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Principles of Songwriting. © 2012 by Aaron Latina.
All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles or reviews. For details, contact
374 Media Group, PO Box 1373, St. Peters, MO 63376.
First Edition
Table of Contents
Chapter......................................................................................................................................... Page
Introduction..................................................................................................................01
Chapter One: The Hook...............................................................................................02
Chapter Two: Lyrics......................................................................................................03
Chapter Three: Music - Melody & Chords.....................................................................04
Chapter Four: Rythm & Tempo.....................................................................................05
Chapter Five: Form.......................................................................................................06
Chapter Six: Refining....................................................................................................07
Chapter Seven: Arrangement/Instrumentation..............................................................08
Chapter Eight: Copyright..............................................................................................09
Chapter Nine: Demo.....................................................................................................10
Chapter Ten: Marketing Your Music..............................................................................11
Chapter Eleven: Resources..........................................................................................12
Appendix................................................................................................................ 13-17
Did You Know?
Chuck Berry is listed as a co-author
with the Beach Boys on “Surfin’ U.S.A.”
because a court decided their song
sounded too much like Berry’s “Sweet
Little Sixteen.”
Introduction
What makes a song great?
Why is it memorable?
Songwriting is as much a CRAFT as it is ART.
The craft of songwriting can be honed and refined through study and practice.
In this course, we will take an in depth look at popular songs and examine the
art and craft of songwriting.
For centuries, aspiring composers have studied the works of previous writers and built upon their
creative methods and ideas. Popular music is no different. We become better songwriters by studying the songs of other writers. Great songwriters have a voracious appetite in listening to music, and
they regularly expose themselves to diverse musical genres.
For example:
Taylor Swift loves Def Leopard.
The Rolling Stones has been influenced through the decades by Blues, Disco,
Pop, Techno, and Rap.
Adele has roots in American Country, Motown, Kayne West, Alanis Morissette and Sinéad O’Connor.
Rihanna loves Brandy, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey,
Bob Marley & reggae.
Katy Perry regularly cites Freddie Mercury from Queen as a continuing influence in her music.
The best songwriters constantly listen to new music and find different sources for their inspiration.
Challenge yourself to listen to music outside your normal playlists. Find a concert in a totally different musical style than what you normally listen to. Create a Pandora station with artists you’ve never
heard of before. Subscribe to YouTube channels of popular artists in a different genre.
Successful songwriters write constantly. In fact, many carry with them a notepad to jot down lyric
ideas or use their smartphones to record musical thoughts as they come. Inspiration can come at
any time; you never want to lose a great idea.
Did You Know?
The song “Hotel California” was recorded
in the studio three different times until
the Eagles got the version that they liked.
They had trouble finding a key that fit Don
Henley’s voice.
01
The Hook
The hook is the most familiar part of a song.
It’s the most important, recurring phrase or musical idea of the entire song.
It’s that part of the song you keep humming hours after the song is over.
The One That Got Away - by Katy Perry (2011)
Without You - David Guetta (2011)
The Only Exception - by Paramore (2011)
Breathe - by Faith Hill (2001)
Higher - by Creed (1999)
Life Is A Highway - by Tom Cochrane (1992)
Look Away - by Chicago (1998)
We Built This City - by Starship (1985)
Beat It - by Michael Jackson (1982)
Stayin’ Alive - by Bee Gess (1978)
Let It Be - by The Beatles (1970)
My Girl - by The Temptations (1966)
Duke of Earl - by Gene Chandler (1962)
Jailhouse Rock - by Elvis Presley (1957)
Katy Perry
As a songwriter, you want to catch the ear of listener right away. What are they going to remember
about your song five minutes after they’ve listened to it? Why would they want to listen to your song
again? Why would they want to spend money on your song?
The hook is the first and best answer to these questions.
Ask these questions about your song.
It is:
Repetitive?
Memorable?
Attention-Grabbing?
Keep a diary of hooks as they come into your mind. Often, hooks can exist as a phrase for weeks or
months before you’re ready to write a full song around it.
Hooks on my mind...
02
Chapter One
Lyrics
Most often, songs begin with lyrics. The hook is developed into song lyrics.
The process varies greatly between different songwriters and projects.
There is no one tried and true approach to writing lyrics.
Many people start with the hook, build a full chorus around it, and then they work out to
the verses and other sections as the ideas mature and grow.
Lyrics don’t typically come all at once. Writing lyrics is a craft. It can take some time before you
settle on a full set of words that says what you want to say, connects with an audience and works
musically and structurally within the setting of the song. Be patient with your lyrics. It is better to let a
song sit for a while than to force lyrics that don’t work.
Keep a thesaurus handy! This will help you find words that better match the rhythm of the song.
Use a rhyming service (http://www.rhymer.com/).
Finding new words and rhymes will often aid you with creativity in your lyrics and help you break free
from occasional writer’s block.
Ask yourself, have you ever been struck by the lyrics or a phrase of a song?
What was it about those lyrics that resonated with you?
Often the answer is that a song hit you at just the right time and spoke right to you.
Often a song is tied to an event, and now when you hear that song again, it brings all those old
memories back again (for good or bad!)
Do your best to write from your own personal experiences. Most people connect with lyrics that are
written from the heart.
Here are some examples of songs with famous lyrics:
Man In The Mirror - by Michael Jackson
Tears In Heaven - by Eric Clapton
Imagine - by John Lennon
Jesus Take The Wheel - by Carrie Underwood
When I Get Where I’m Going - by Brad Paisley with Dolly Parton
Bless the Broken Road - by Rascal Flatts
Amazing Grace - by John Newton
03
Lyrics Notes
Chapter Two
Music - Melody & Chords
Often, songwriters will compose the music in their minds as they’re writing the lyrics.
You don’t have to wait until the lyrics are complete before adding the melody.
In fact, it is often helpful to allow emerging melodies to bend and shape future lyrics and phrases.
Lyrics must be singable. Allow the music to change the cadence of the lyrics. Replace lyrics that
don’t fit where the music is going. Make sure that the musical phrases land on natural accents of
individual words.
Melodies need to be memorable and repeatable. You want people to keep that melody in their heads
all day. The best songs have the best melodies.
Melody is only one aspect of music. Once a melody is written, chords must be added to the song.
A chord is defined as three or more different notes played at the same time. This can also be called
harmony. Chords communicate to the band what they are to play throughout the song.
Chords progress one to another and all relate back to the primary chord which is also the key that
the song is in.
For example, in a song that’s in a major key, these chords are complimentary:
In C: C - Dm - Em - F - G - Am
In every major key, the chords follow this pattern: I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi
In every minor key, the chords follow this pattern: i-III-iv-v (or V)- VI- VIII
In Cm: Cm - E - Fm - Gm (or G) - Ab - Bb
This is a guide, not a hard and fast set of rules. You would do well to start here then begin to experiment with other chords outside the key to add color and interest.
See Appendix on page 17 for more information on which chords work together in each key.
One final consideration: Don’t forget to pick a singable key!
Melody & Chord Notes
04
Chapter Three
Rhythm & Tempo
Rhythm is the pattern of beats with which the melody is sung.
Rhythm is also the design of the musical arrangement that helps move the song forward.
The rhythm section in most music is the drums and bass. They lay the rhythmic foundation on
which the melody and harmony are set.
Tempo is the speed at which the song travels (measured in beats per minute).
The three most common time signatures are:
3 / 4, 4 / 4, and 6 / 8 time
4/4 is the most common time signature in modern music.
Famous Examples of 3/4 Time:
Did You Know?
I’m With You - by Avril Levine
Kiss From A Rose - by Seal
Iris - by Goo Goo Dolls
Open Arms - by Journey
Unchained Melody - by The Righteous Brothers
“Yesterday” by The Beatles is the most
covered song of all time with over 3,000
different recorded versions.
Famous Examples of 6/8 Time:
Breakaway - by Kelly Clarkson
Everybody Hurts - by REM
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues - by Elton John
Show Me The Way - Styx
Unforgettable - by Nat King Cole
Keep Holding On - by Avril Lavigne
Make sure that your tempo matches the emotion and feel of your song.
Also ensure that the tempo you choose makes the most sense with the lyrics being sung.
There is no formula. Experiment with different speeds and discover where the song
wants to settle in.
Rhythm & Tempo Notes
05
Chapter Four
Form
How a song is constructed is very important-as important as the material itself.
The form is how you choose to organize all the musical material into something
that makes sense to the audience.
The form should support everything you’ve written to this point.
Most important, the form should enhance the hook and give it the
best chance of being memorable.
In general, you should spend about half of your song in the chorus.
Many writers make mistakes in constructing their form.
• Don’t write too many verses. Your hook is probably in the chorus.
• Don’t write a bridge just because everyone does
• Do make sure it’s obvious when you move from each section
There are many forms used in music.
The most popular form is:
A-B-A-B-C-B or (Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus)
Most songs fit this basic pattern and use variations for creativity.
There is not one best form for every song. In fact, that would make things boring.
This is a guide to start from and move out from there.
Here are some popular songs and their forms.
Hey, Soul Sister - by Train is A-B-A-B-C-B-B
The Climb - by Miley Cyrus is A-B-A-B-C-B
In A Second - by Aly & AJ is A-B-A-B-C-B
Jar of Hearts - by Christina Perri is A-B-A-B-C-B-B
Heartless - by Kanye West is B-A-A-B-A-A-B-C-B
When You Look Me In the Eyes - by Jonas Brothers is A-B-A-B-C-B-B
Don’t Stop Believing - by Journey is A-A-B-A-B-B(instrumental)-B-B
Hey Jude - by The Beetles is A-A-B-A-B-A-C-C-C-C-C-C
Bohemian Rhapsody - by Queen is A-B-B-B(instrumental)-C-C-D(instrumental)-E-F-B
Form Notes
06
Chapter Five
Refining
Every idea benefits from refinement, and songwriting is no different.
Most art forms start with more ideas than will be used in the finished product.
For example, movies have hours of footage that never make it into the finished film. Refining means
choosing which ideas don’t make the final product. As a songwriter, you shouldn’t try to fit every
musical idea or lyric into your song.
Keep things simple. The simplest songs are the most memorable.
Reduce. Most people try to impress by putting too much information in their songs.
Limit yourself to only one hook per song.
Save unused material for another song.
Ask yourself:
• Do you really need that extra verse?
• Will a 4 or 6 line verse tell the same story as a verse with 8-12 lines?
• Do you really need an instrumental bridge?
• Is this a 3½ minute song that you’ve stretched into 5?
Let a song sit and mature for some time before you finish it. Often your first idea is not the best, and
a song can be strengthened by giving it some time. Let others hear and speak into your song, especially those friends who will tell you the truth.
As you refine, ask these questions:
• Is that melody the best way to sing those lyrics?
• Is there a better phrase or word that would make that line more interesting?
• Is my hook strong enough?
• Is my chorus catchy enough?
• Is there a chord change that could make this song more original?
Finally, ask others what they think your song is about. A little variance makes things interesting, but
if people are way off, you may want to revise and clarify what you are trying to say and the musical
methods you are using to say it.
Refining Thoughts
07
Chapter Six
Arrangement (Instrumentation)
Once a song has been completed to your satisfaction, it is time to start putting
some instruments with it.
What instruments are you going to use with your song?
Instrument choices are important as they will define the genre of your song.
Is this is country song, pop, rock, etc.?
There is quite a lot of crossover of instruments in various genres, and it’s in experimenting with different instrument combinations that can make a song more interesting to the ear. Experimenting with
different instrument combinations can make a song more interesting to your audience.
Rock music features drums and guitars.
Pop music features keyboards, guitars and drums.
Country music features vocals and guitars.
Rap music features electronic sounds and drums tracks.
Did You Know?
Sylvester Stallone called the band
Survivor and asked them to write a
new song for the movie Rocky III.
What they wrote become the #1 hit
in 1982, “Eye Of The Tiger.”
Interesting arrangement examples:
Someone Like You - by Adele uses only piano
Viva La Vida - by Cold Play uses a signature string combo
Rolling In The Deep - by Adele uses background vocalists excellently
The arrangement can totally change a song:
Teenage Dream - by Glee or by Katy Perry or by Mike Tomkins
Somewhere Over The Rainbow - by Judy Garland or Rufus Wainwright or Eva Cassidy or Israel
Kamakawiwo’Ole by Straight No Chaser or Glee or The Celtic Women
The First Cut Is The Deepest - by Cat Stevens or Sheryl Crow or Rod Stewart
There isn’t just one way to arrange your song. If this is a weak area for you, enlist help from someone who excels at an instrument different from you. Collaboration with other artists in this phase can
bring a lot of life to your music.
Arrangement Thoughts
08
Chapter Seven
Copyright
Why should you copyright your material?
The law stipulates that from the moment of creation, the artist owns the
copyright of their original material.
Copyrighting is protecting your ideas and creations from the exploitation of others.
Currently in the United States, copyrights are secure from the moment of creation through the death
of the composer plus 70 years.
There is no legal way to prove derivative ownership without registering your copyright.
How to copyright:
First, you must take the time to document your song. The law stipulates that you already own the
copyright to your song the moment you first document that song in a fixed copy. A copy is defined
as something other people can read and then reproduce your song.
Good: A chord chart is a set of lyrics with corresponding chord symbols.
Better: A lead sheet is a notated musical copy of your song with lyrics, chords and the melody line.
Good: Poor man’s Copyright: You create sheet music of your song, put it in a sealed envelope, mail
it to yourself, and NEVER open it. Because of the date stamp put on the envelope by the post office,
you have automatic documentation of the date the work was written.
Better: Register your copyright with the United States Copyright Office
http://www.copyright.gov/
The current fee for online registration of copyright is $35.
It will generally take four months to receive your copyright certificate.
In 2000, singer Michael Bolton was fined $5.4
million after his 1991 song “Love Is A Wonderful Thing” was discovered to be stolen from the
1966 song by the Isley Brothers.
Copyright
09
Chapter Eight
Demo
The best way to get your song heard by the largest number of people is to produce a demo or
sound recording of your work.
Many people jump too quickly to this step and record an unfinished or underdeveloped
song. However, once a song is ready to be heard by the masses, it’s time to record.
The tools at our disposal have never been better. In years past, a songwriter would need to spend a
good deal of money to rent studio space and an engineer’s time to record, edit, master and produce
song recordings. But now, there are many free or low-cost ways to build your own personal digital
audio workstation (DAW).
For music notation, the best options are:
Finale from MakeMusic, Inc. http://www.finalemusic.com
- Finale is the industry standard for music notation engraving.
Sibelius from Avid http://www.sibelius.com
- Many people now prefer Sibelius over Finale and many online retailers use Sibelius as their sheet
music platform.
For Music Production Software:
ProTools by Avid (PC & Mac)
Logic by Apple (Mac only)
Sonar by Cakewalk (PC only)
Cubase by Steinberg (PC only)
GarageBand by Apple (Mac only)
Digital Performer by MOTU (Mac only)
Ableton Live (PC & Mac)
Reason by Propellerhead (PC & Mac)
Other notation options:
MuseScore http://musescore.org/
Music Software, Inc http://www.notation.com/
Noteflight http://www.noteflight.com/
Demo Thoughts
10
Chapter Nine
Marketing Your Music
Marketing your music has never been easier than it is today.
In the past, a songwriter would need to submit a three-song demo to an
overworked record label executive.
If your first song didn’t impress in 10-30 seconds, nothing would become of your songs.
The process is called pitching, and much has been written on that topic.
But today, there are so many ways to get your music out and by-pass traditional major labels. Plus,
bands and artists generally split royalties with their labels and only receive 10-15% from their own
music. More and more bands are deciding to go their own way instead of giving record labels up to
90% of the money made from their songs.
Facebook is a great way to connect with future fans. Create a facebook page for your band and post
songs.
Create a twitter account for your band and encourage fans to follow you. Make sure you post
regular, interesting content or you will lose the interest of your fan base.
Create your own website for your band with clips, pictures and music.
Use YouTube or Vimeo to post videos or your music and connect with your fans.
MySpace has nearly disappeared as a social platform, but it is still very active and useful for bands.
To sell your music, choose a digital service such as CDbaby, Magnature and iTunes.
Consider using a service like ZMX Music. The company will prepare sheet music for you from your
mp3s. They also sell the music on their website and give you 30-50% of the royalties.
How will you market your music?
11
Chapter Ten
Resources
For further reading and study:
Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting: 126 Proven Techniques for Writing Songs That Sell
by Robin Frederick
Six Steps to Songwriting Success, Revised Edition: The Comprehensive Guide to Writing
and Marketing Hit Songs by Jason Blume
Craft and Business of Songwriting 3rd Edition (Craft & Business of Songwriting) by John Braheny
The Songwriting Sourcebook: How to Turn Chords Into Great Songs by Rikky Rooksby
Songwriting for Dummies by Jim Peterik
Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting by Jimmy Webb
Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison
Songwriting: Essential Guide to Rhyming: A Step-by-Step Guide to Better Rhyming and Lyrics
(Songwriting Guides) by Pat Pattison
The Art of Writing Great Lyrics by Pamela Phillips Oland
Songwriters On Songwriting: Revised And Expanded by Paul Zollo
101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them: How to Craft and Sell Your Songs by Pat Luboff
Other Resources
12
Chapter Eleven
Appendix
Appendix Table of Contents
Lyrics........................................................................................................................... 14
Circle of 5ths............................................................................................................... 15
Keys............................................................................................................................ 16
Notes.......................................................................................................................... 17
Chords Progressions................................................................................................... 18
Did You Know?
To this day, Carly Simon has never publicly
revealed the identity of the person in her
song written in 1973, “You’re So Vain.”
13
Lyrics
You should always keep these tools handy as you are writing lyrics:
Rhyming:
Merriam-Webster’s Rhyming Dictionary
The Complete Rhyming Dictionary: Including The Poet’s Craft Book by Clement Wood and Ronald J.
Bogus
Essential Songwriter’s Rhyming Dictionary by Kevin M. Mitchell
http://www.rhymer.com/
Dictionary:
New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, 4th Edition
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary by Merriam-Webster Inc.
http://dictionary.reference.com/
Thesaurus:
Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases by Peter Mark Roget
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, Second Edition by Merriam-Webster Inc.
http://thesaurus.com/
14
Appendix 1
Circle of 5ths
C
F
G
Bb
Major
Keys
D
d
a
e
g
Eb
b
Minor
Keys
c
fs
cs
f
bb
(as)
eb s
(d )
A
gs
(gs)
Ab
E
Db
(C#)
Gb
(F#)
15
B
(Cb)
Appendix 2
Keys
Below is a list of the keys in music.
C Major or A Minor
Cb Major or Ab Minor
G Major or E Minor
Gb Major or Eb Minor
D Major or B Minor
Db Major or Bb Minor
A Major or F# Minor
Ab Major or F Minor
E Major or C# Minor
Eb Major or C Minor
B Major or G# Minor
Bb Major or G Minor
F# Major or D# Minor
F Major or D Minor
C# Major or A# Minor
16
Appendix 3
Chord Progressions
C Major
C# Major
G Major
Cb Major
D Major
Gb Major
A Major
Db Major
Ab Major
E Major
Eb Major
B Major
Bb Major
F# Major
F Major
17
Appendix 4
Future Songs
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© 2012 | Aaron Latina | All Rights Reserved
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