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Secrets of Song Writing

Secrets of Song Writing

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  • A Message From Gary Ewer…
  • Preface
  • The Desire to be Creative – It’s Human… It’s You
  • Chapter 1- Introduction to Writing Music
  • What’s Good Music?
  • What Makes Good Form?
  • What Makes a Good Melody?
  • What Makes Good Harmony?
  • What Makes a Good Lyric?
  • What Makes a Good Hook?
  • Is There a Composer in Me?
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • What Do You Need to be a Songwriter?
  • Let’s Get Started!
  • Make a Demo Recording – Yes, already!
  • Chapter 1 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 2- Your Music From the Inside
  • Learn From the Greats
  • The Success of Great Writers
  • Form
  • How Important is Form?
  • Good Form Means Good Design
  • Good Form Can’t be Accidental
  • Song Components Defined
  • Getting to Know Your Song
  • Chapter 2 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 3- Designing a Song
  • The Blueprint
  • The Contrast Principle of Composition
  • Macro Forms
  • Energy – the Forgotten Formal Element
  • Micro Forms
  • Micro Versus Macro
  • Chapter 3 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 4- Harmony
  • The Chord Muddle
  • Chord Progressions – A Mystery No Longer
  • I. Chord Basics
  • The Basic Triads of Any Major Key
  • II. How One Chord Moves to Another Chord
  • The V-I Progression
  • Why Some Progressions Work and Others Don’t
  • Making Good Two-Chord Progressions
  • When Progressions Sound Muddled
  • What About Minor Keys?
  • III. Integrating Balance When Building a Longer Progression
  • Building Progressions
  • Incorporating Balance
  • Harmonic Rhythm
  • IV. Expanding Your Chord Vocabulary
  • II. Modal Mixtures
  • III. Secondary Dominant Chords
  • IV. Suspensions
  • v. Inversions
  • Key Changes
  • Don’t Go Changin’… Without a Reason
  • I. Half-step-upward modulation
  • II. Miscellaneous Modulation (more than a whole
  • Chapter 4 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 5-Melody and Lyric
  • Melodic Energy
  • How “Yesterday” Works
  • Don’t Write Counterintuitively
  • What is Falsetto and Tessitura?
  • Writing Good Melodies
  • Getting Notes in the Right Place
  • Verse-Chorus Text Design
  • Song Sample
  • Shaping a Melody
  • Creating a Melody by Layering Ideas
  • Let’s Write a Song
  • Other Ways to Compose
  • The Text-First Method
  • The Rhythm/Beat-First Method
  • More About Lyrics
  • Too Many Words
  • A Good Lyric Isn’t Necessarily Deep
  • Balancing Lyrics and Melody
  • The Balance of “Hotel California”
  • Dealing with Unremarkable Lyrics
  • The Bridge
  • Chapter 5 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 6- The Hook
  • A Good Hook
  • Hook and Motif
  • Musical Lubricant
  • The Hook as a Basis for Your Song
  • The Myth of the Hook
  • Recognizing a Hook
  • Chapter 6 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 7- Inspiration
  • The Role of Inspiration
  • Misunderstanding Inspiration
  • THE Steps to Honing Your Songwriting Craft
  • Chapter 7 SUMMARY
  • Chapter 8- The World Beyond Composing – Now What?
  • The Most Important Principle of All
  • And now… what?
  • Getting Your Song Ready… A Brief Tutorial
  • Publishing
  • Mechanical Rights
  • Performing Rights Organizations
  • In Conclusion
  • Index


All original music samples within this book are the exclusive copyrighted property of Pantomime Music Publications, except where otherwise noted within the text.

Copyright © 2005 by Pantomime Music Publications P.O. Box 31177, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3K 5Y1 All rights reserved. Printed in Canada. This book is protected by Copyright. Permission must be obtained in writing from Pantomime Music Publications for the use of any original text or musical materials contained within this publication. Permission must be obtained from the publisher prior to any reproduction, storage in a retrieval system, or transmission in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or likewise.

This book, "The Essential Secrets of Songwriting", is sold only through Pantomime Music Publications. If you purchased or received it elsewhere, you should be aware that you are in possession of stolen property; it has been given away illegally and the author has not received payment.

ISBN 0-9738946-0-1


The Desire to be Creative – It’s Human… It’s You When Good Songs Go Bad Listen!

8 9
10 12 13

What’s Good Music? What Makes Good Form? What Makes a Good Melody? What Makes Good Harmony? What Makes a Good Lyric? What Makes a Good Hook? Is There a Composer in Me? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly What Do You Need to be a Songwriter? Let’s Get Started! Make a Demo Recording – Yes, already! Chapter 1 SUMMARY

17 21 22 25 27 28 29 29 30 32 32 35

Learn From the Greats The Success of Great Writers Form How Important is Form? Good Form Means Good Design Good Form Can’t be Accidental Song Components Defined Getting to Know Your Song

37 37 39 39 40 41 43 45

DESIGNING A SONG The Blueprint The Contrast Principle of Composition Macro Forms Energy – the Forgotten Formal Element Micro Forms Micro Versus Macro Chapter 3 SUMMARY 49 50 50 52 60 63 69 70 CHAPTER 4. Modal Mixtures iii. Adding a 7th to a V-Chord ii.HARMONY The Chord Muddle Chord Progressions – A Mystery No Longer I. Integrating Balance When Building a Longer Progression Building Progressions Incorporating Balance Harmonic Rhythm IV.Chapter 2 SUMMARY 48 CHAPTER 3. Suspensions v. Chord Basics The Basic Triads of Any Major Key II. Inversions Key Changes 71 72 72 76 78 79 79 79 82 85 88 92 93 95 97 99 100 104 106 110 112 115 5 . Expanding Your Chord Vocabulary i. Secondary Dominant Chords iv. How One Chord Moves to Another Chord The V-I Progression Why Some Progressions Work and Others Don’t Making Good Two-Chord Progressions When Progressions Sound Muddled What About Minor Keys? III.

Don’t Go Changin’… Without a Reason i. Miscellaneous Modulation (more than a whole tone) Chapter 4 SUMMARY 115 116 118 120 CHAPTER 5-MELODY AND LYRIC Melodic Energy How “Yesterday” Works Don’t Write Counterintuitively What is Falsetto and Tessitura? Writing Good Melodies Getting Notes in the Right Place Verse-Chorus Text Design Song Sample Shaping a Melody Creating a Melody by Layering Ideas Let’s Write a Song Other Ways to Compose The Text-First Method The Rhythm/Beat-First Method More About Lyrics Too Many Words A Good Lyric Isn’t Necessarily Deep Balancing Lyrics and Melody The Balance of “Hotel California” Dealing with Unremarkable Lyrics The Bridge Chapter 5 SUMMARY 122 123 124 126 127 128 128 130 131 134 136 136 143 143 143 144 145 147 148 149 150 153 156 CHAPTER 6. Half-step-upward modulation ii.THE HOOK A Good Hook Hook and Motif Musical Lubricant 6 158 159 160 161 .

INSPIRATION The Role of Inspiration Misunderstanding Inspiration The Steps to Honing Your Songwriting Craft Chapter 7 SUMMARY 170 171 171 173 177 CHAPTER 8.The Hook as a Basis for Your Song The Myth of the Hook Recognizing a Hook Chapter 6 SUMMARY 164 165 167 169 CHAPTER 7.THE WORLD BEYOND COMPOSING – NOW WHAT? 178 The Most Important Principle of All And now… what? Getting Your Song Ready… A Brief Tutorial Copyright Publishing Mechanical Rights Performing Rights Organizations In Conclusion Index 179 180 180 180 184 185 185 185 200 7 .

though during the school year my teaching duties may keep me from being as prompt as I would like. please write me directly at gary@pantomimemusic. Thank you for purchasing this book.A Message From Gary Ewer… I want to thank you for purchasing this ebook. as I have sought to study and compare popular music from the 1950s through to the music of today. please do so. I need to remind you (kindly. arranger. a teacher. I am a composer. trumpet player. orchestrator. If you would like to write me to comment on this book. Best wishes to you in all your musical endeavors! If you acquired this ebook through channels other than via the website secretsofsongwriting. or to ask a question. my CD and song file collection has grown somewhat.com. Pantomime Music Publications would be very grateful for any information you might be able to provide regarding the transaction. The Essential Secrets of Songwriting. I am asking that you please not give it away. I can at least guarantee that I read every email that comes to me. I believe that such a diverse job description has given me a unique perspective for understanding and communicating musical concepts. I hope!) that this book is not a free ebook. conductor and adjudicator.com. It is the culmination of years of thinking. researching and writing. 8 . If you would like to make a hard copy of portions of it to aid your own personal study. Please write info@pantomimemusic. I will do my best to reply. Through the process of writing this book. of course. or transfer it in any way to another person’s computer. and will eventually reply. as well as. But the book cannot be given or sold to anyone else. My career as a musician has been a rewarding mélange of job descriptions. in any format.com.

Preface 9 .

Recording Academy President and CEO at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. honed and used. no matter who you are. one fact can be stated right away – YOU CAN WRITE MUSIC. but the vast majority. most people are working at an amateur level. February 2000. probably at least 99%. ready to be tapped. You can be a songwriter. This is something we’ve known about the human race for some time now: the ability to be creative is already there.The Desire to be Creative – It’s Human… It’s You Because you are a human being reading this book. . certainly not the cause of it!” — Michael Greene. but also to do it well. enhances spatial intelligence in newborns. are not achieving any significant commercial success. and let's not forget that the arts are a compelling solution to teen violence. You want to be able not only to write songs. shaped. in the arts. There are lots of songwriters out there. That shouldn’t really surprise us. 10 “Music is a magical gift we must nourish and cultivate… especially now as scientific evidence proves that an education in the arts makes better math and science students.

The marketing end of the business will not happen unless you have created a good song.I am a great supporter of amateur involvement in music. trying to make it. It’s as if they say. “I want to be able to write commercially successful songs that I can sell to professional singers. marketing. THIS BOOK IS GOING TO HELP YOU. involving two major areas: creating and marketing. 11 . involving two major areas: creating and The songwriting business is a multidimensional world. trying to unlock the secrets of how to move forward in the music business.” as if it’s all just one big process. There are some really fine musicians out there. The marketing end of the business will not happen unless you have created a good song. And they are being thwarted by circumstances within and without of their sphere of influence. Creating a good song is where the process comes to a grinding halt for most people. The songwriting business is actually a multidimensional world. but it is frustrating to me when I see very talented people who are stuck in the amateur world. I wonder if I just described you? Amateur songwriters tend to look at the entire business of songwriting as a single-dimensional activity.

So few have really known why the songs of the world’s best seem to work so well. and why many writers’ songs might not be working yet. Most songs in the popular music realm use no more than five chords. often fewer. And their melodies usually encompass only seven or eight notes. if that! This book is called “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”. they are only secrets to those many people who haven’t noticed what the pros have been doing. and that word. So what are the secrets? You’ll learn that form is one of the most overlooked and essential components of a good song. makes it sound like you’ll learn things that no one has known before. It’s a principle that applies to so much in our life – not just music: KEEP IT SIMPLE. you are about to discover one of the most important principles of songwriting. But in fact. songs that are easy for people to remember. You’ll learn how 12 . “Secrets”. The biggest and best hits in the songwriting business are songs with simple melodies using a simple form. If you think that songs are complicated art forms.WHEN GOOD SONGS GO BAD It often surprises people when they discover how incredibly simple most of the biggest songs of the past fifty years are.

jazz. and not just to one style of music.to create a verse that begs for a chorus. blues.” But is it? Always remember that getting the song written takes time. Acquiring music legally is now a relatively easy process. on websites. 13 . We know it’s illegal. requiring many steps to finally get it pressed on to a CD for the awaiting pubic. You’ll learn how to contour a melody so that it makes sense. country. and most songs are available for download at a cost of $0. but it’s also disrespectful to the songwriter. or through Apple’s iTunes Store. or classical. If you’re really serious about songwriting – start listening now! This book will refer to dozens of songs and albums. And you’ll learn how to snag your audience with a hook that will keep people humming your songs all day. to name only two. LISTEN! If you aren’t listening to music on a daily basis. Most of the music can be purchased in CD stores. Listen all the time.99 per song from online services such as MSN Music Store or Apple’s iTunes Store. Let yourself become influenced by different styles – pop. all listed at the back. rock. Illegally acquiring the music means you are assigning that entire process a value of $0. Open your mind – let it grow! Victimless Crime? You’ll sometimes hear people calling the illegal downloading of music a “victimless crime. You’ll learn how to make chord progressions work so that they don’t just sound like muddle. then start! Trying to write songs without listening to the pros’ songs is like trying to draw a picture of something you’ve never seen.

And your musical brain will begin fusing ideas together in a way it hasn’t really done before. not just one. or bluegrass. If you are a pop songwriter. Big mistake! Have you ever had that nagging fear that everything you write is something that sounds familiar? And you wonder if you are simply plagiarizing music already written by someone else? The good news is that you probably aren’t. I know of people who deliberately try to limit how much music they listen to. listen to classical music. The more you listen.By listening to many genres. Even if you don’t like a particular style of music. keep in mind that there are great songs in every genre. 14 . But that fear is more common in songwriters who limit their listening experience to only one or two favourite performers. Great songs are great because they work. Listen to blues. The world’s best songwriters are able to speak intelligently about many different styles and writers from many genres. you will be subtly developing your own personal writing style in a way will differentiate you from all others. and we need to learn why they work. or country. the more material you’ll have at your disposal. because they don’t want to be unduly influenced by another songwriter.

It’s what this book will help you do. You’re about to discover that how you put those fragments together is what makes a great song. or if all you have are fragments of ideas that you want to learn how to fuse into great songs. Creativity ensures that you are writing things that no one has heard before. who cares?! 15 . If you get into a system of writing good music. Think of it this way… who’s the more “talented” artist. talent becomes a side issue. And you are going to love the process! Don’t fixate on “talent”. Coming up with the perfect balance and blend is what the successful songwriters do. Monet or Rembrandt? Who knows? And frankly. Predictability ensures that you are using conventional elements that make your song hum-able and memorable. This book is for you. Not that it’s not important… it’s just not worth worrying about.The best songs are a mixture of creativity and predictability. Fixate on writing good songs. whether you are already a songwriter who wants to make your songs better.

The index includes • copyright information • authorship • the performer typically associated with a given song • the format of the recording referenced • the recording label • the recording title.Chapter 1Introduction to Writing Music NOTE: Any songs mentioned in this text are listed by chapter of appearance at the end in the Index of Song Samples. and • the musical concept the song demonstrates (if applicable) 16 .

“W agner’ s mu sic is bet ter th an it sounds . If it's good you don't mess about it.What’s Good Music? In his au tobiog raphy. Mark Twa in sa id. you just enjoy it.” It’s a fun ny way of sa ying t hat it ’s pos sible to pla ce as much o r mor e impo rtance on th e str ucture of mu sic th an on the sou nd tha t that struc ture pro duces. t his can not be accep table. Enj oyment mu st be the Louis Armstrong ove rridin g char acteri stic o n whi ch we judge our mu sic.” Bob Marley “One good thing about music. when it hits you. you feel no pain. And e ven th ough “There's only two ways to sum up music: either it's good or it's bad. I n 17 . For the s erious songw riter.” Twa in was tryin g to b e funn y. you will meet p eople who fe el an apprec iation for t he arc hitect ure of certa in mus ic whi le not actua lly en joying the end resul t of t hat ar chitec ture – the sou nd of it.

oth er wor ds, if you w rite m usic t hat sh ows a high l evel o f int ellige nce in its c onstru ction, but t hat co nstruc tion d oes not resul t in s omethi ng ple asing to lis ten to , who cares about the const ruction? And while admit ting t hat be auty i s in the ey e (or in thi s case , the ear ) of t he beh older, this book adh eres t o the premis e that the sonic beaut y of t he fin al pro duct i s the ultima te aim in son gwriti ng.
“Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty. Magical music never leaves the memory.”

So what i s good music ? It i s imp ossibl e for one pe rson t o say that thi s pi ece of music is goo d whil e another is bad, if by good a nd bad we me an
Without form, music tends to end up a shapeless, directionless blob.
Sir Thomas Beecham

whe ther o r not we lik e the pie ce. On e pers on may like cou ntry mu sic, w hile a nother fin ds it revolt ing. O ne may lik e a me lody be cause it is rem inisce nt of a melo dy hea rd in childh ood, w hile f or


ano ther t he sam e melo dy mak es no real i mpact. For m ost lis teners , the qualit y of a piece of mu sic de pends in lar ge par t upon con text . I n pop mu sic, w e are more l ikely to enj oy a p iece i f a mu sician or gr oup we happe n to l ike per forms it. Th e song “Wild Honey Pie” i s of d ubious qua lity, and we re it not fo r the fact t hat th e Beat les sa ng it, we’d likely not e ven kn ow of it. If writing good music happened by simply sticking to a formula, we’d all be writing hit songs, and doing it daily. It is the mixture of many different components, all working together in a way that can be best described as “magic.” The re are aspec ts of musica l com positi on, ho wever, that are usual ly con sidere d a pre requis ite fo r good music , and it is those aspec ts tha t thi s book will concen trate on. Whe n crea ting m usic, there is so much t o talk about . But any discu ssion withou t men tionin g the fiv e basi c
“Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.”

asp ects of songwr iting is
jus t a wa ste of time. Ess ential ly, th ey are what thi s enti re boo k is a ll abo ut.

Paul Simon

The Five Basic Aspects of Song-writing: Form Melody Harmony/Rhythm Lyric Hook

• • • • •

Form is that aspect of music that we talk about when discussing the structure of music. For example, verse-chorus-verse-chorus, etc., is a type of form. Form helps to lend an aspect of predictability of design that is somewhat necessary in most styles of music. All other aspects of music (melody, harmony, lyric, etc.) require some attention to form. Without form, music tends to end up a shapeless, directionless blob. Melody needs to be fairly predictable while also

Form adds just the right balance of predictability and innovation. Form gives hints to the listener of what might happen in a song, and keeps it from simply being an aimless random walk through the woods. Predictability does not necessarily mean boredom.

being inventive and spontaneous. The harmony within a song also needs to be structured, while allowing for something impulsive and creative. Lyrics should be an artistic attempt to draw the listener into


a topic. And the hook is that vitally important, repetitious element that reels your audience in and keeps them there.

What Makes Good Form?
Notwithstanding the various important aspects of musical composition just listed, we can come up with a rather large list of songs that seems to violate the importance of one or more of those features. But essentially all songs, to be successful, need a perceivable, somewhat simplistic form. For example, who could listen to “Wild Honey Pie” by the Beatles and praise its creative melody or profound lyrics? Mind you, “Wild Honey Pie” was not a hit, and the Beatles did not pretend that it was anything more than… whatever it is. But there are songs that did become huge hits for groups, where the lyric was weak and the melody uninspiring. I’m not intending to alienate Elvis Presley fans when I say that “All Shook Up” is not an amazing lyric.1 The melody of the verse is extremely simplistic, most of it encompassing the interval of a perfect 4th. But “All Shook Up” was a huge monster hit. Why? Partly because of the person who sang it, but also because of that simplicity of form that I just mentioned. Sometimes what we look for in a song is


“A well a bless my soul/What's wrong with me?/I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree/My friends say I'm actin' wild as a bug/I'm in love/I'm all shook up/Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!”


but rather entertains us on a shallower level. . others say it’s the lyric. “If it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. It has a shape: it starts fairly low. “Oh.something that does not require us to think too hard. country. Dick Clark would say. That is true whether we’re talking rock & roll. jazz. then descends toward the end of the line. all the better. “All my troubles seemed so far away”. and rises through the line. Never underestimate simplicity! Who can say what it is we’re really looking for in a piece of music? Some say it’s the rhythm and energy. classical. Consider Paul McCartney’s masterful melody for “Yesterday”. I believe in yesterday. Making certain that you are consistent with your choice of brick ensures that your house has that pleasant feel of predictability.” What Makes a Good Melody? A good melody takes us on a journey. bluegrass… a good melody has a design that makes us feel like we’ve been taken somewhere.” This arch shape 22 Constructing and using a rhythmic motif is like trying to decide what colour brick to use for your house.

electric bass. subsiding again in the next verse. Here’s a sample (but by no means definitive) plan: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Most songs start in a very understated way. The majority of songs do this “power grab” in stages. then finishing with string orchestra. building toward the next chorus. drums. What makes the energy level rise is a mixture of things: instrumentation – in this case. and dynamics (general volume level). – an upper harmony line. starting with a simple piano accompaniment.follows the natural flow and meaning of the text. then building toward the chorus. then dissipates. 23 . The energy builds. starting at a relatively low energy level. is a good example of a melody that starts peacefully. and builds with only a slight ebbing of energy at the end of each verse. etc. finishing at a much higher energy level. etc. gathering power as they go. by Simon & Garfunkel.

You encounter this on the words “Yesterday”. ‘Yes. light coloured small bricks on another. Making certain that you are consistent with your choice of brick ensures that your house has that pleasant feel of predictability. are the repetitious elements that make music feel organized. ‘No. “here to stay”.It is impossible to consider melody without thinking about rhythm. etc. ‘Is there a meaning to music?’ My answer would be. Choosing the brick for your house Constructing and using a rhythmic motif is like trying to decide what colour brick to use for your house. This repeating rhythm helps to move the song along. Using dark red large bricks on one side.’ And ‘Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?’ My answer to that would be. Motifs. One of the features that makes “Yesterday” such a great melody is the fact that there is a repeating rhythm– a rhythmic motif – that helps to glue the song together. whether rhythmic or melodic. each line begins with a rhythmic idea consisting of two short notes followed by a long one. “far away”. In the verse. Aaron Copland ‘”The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking.’” 24 . A hook is a type of motif we’ll read about later. and wood paneling on the front would make the house look disheveled and messy.

If the song starts with a single chord vamped (repeated) over and over again with a simple rhythm. it’s a bit tricky to separate harmony from the other important components of composition. while that’s 25 . we know that the piece will likely not venture too far afield in its use of chords. But to speak generally. like almost every other aspect of music. Introductions to songs will set us up for the kind of harmonic sequences we’re going to encounter in the song. And though that journey may take us places we haven’t seen before. will make us feel like we’re taking a walk around the neighbourhood. about where we’re going before we leave the house. How that energy ebbs and flows is a very important consideration for composers. makes us feel like we’ve been taken on a bit of a journey. but most of what we encounter is pleasantly predictable. Good harmony. a good chord sequence. and say that good composition is the result of a carefully planned mixture of predictability and novelty. like a good melody. we like to know a bit Plotting the basic energy of most songs is like looking at a graph of the stock market: You can expect to see some dips. but you want the general trend to be upward. where we might see something out of the ordinary. then. I could stop here.What Makes Good Harmony? As with melody and rhythm.

true. we need even more than that. but worth it. They also have less expensive options (see below). as well as less expensive alternative geared to guitarists: Sibelius G7®) Noteworthy Composer® MidiNotate® MusicWrite 2000 Professional® Turandot® 26 . If you already read music. By being careful in your approach. Print your music. A quick search on Google will allow you to research these possibilities: Finale® (full version. A good notation program should be able to: Play your music back to you using realistic instrument sounds. Finale PrintMusic®. Finale NotePad®. Allow you to transpose your music into other keys easily. or free versions: Finale Allegro®. Allow you to enter notes with a MIDI keyboard. you can create songs that appeal to many people. Their full versions are quite expensive. as well as less expensive. and increase your audience base. Here’s a list of the “also-rans” that you can check out. Keep in mind that the people you are writing for are unpredictable in what they like and dislike. Finale SongWriter®. and Finale NotePad Plus® Sibelius® (full version. consider purchasing a good music notation program. Finale® and Sibelius® are the big ones. This is a “buyer beware” list… check out their demos thoroughly to make sure it does what you need.

27 . but his melodies and chords can be dealt with in minutes. Often you will encounter writers of lyrics whose ability as a wordsmith is astounding. and the lyric about is as deep as a mud puddle. maybe less. but whose use of melody and chords is quite simplistic by comparison. Leonard Cohen might be a good example of this. The importance of a weighty lyric. a good lyric can make your audience laugh or cry – sometimes both at the same time.What Makes a Good Lyric? A good lyric is usually one that says what it needs to in the most succinct way. pleasantly time-consuming venture. And once you’ve woven it into a beautiful melody with a killer chord progression. depends on the purpose of the song. you don’t get a lot of time to say what’s on your mind. insightful lyrics that can profoundly impress an audience. In most songs. There are individuals and groups that produce songs with deep. though. There are other composers writing songs where the main purpose is to get the listener dancing. An analysis of Cohen’s poetry will be a satisfying.

by Paul Simon. If that motif is easily A great hook is like the 10-cent ice cream cone at the local fast food joint: It’s what keeps ‘em coming back! remembered and pulls listeners back to a song. it can becomes a strong building component of a song. A songwriter creating a motif is the same as an architect deciding on a particular pattern of brick on a wall. It’s not terribly interesting on its own.” by Michael Jackson also uses a great hook to introduce the song. and serves as a compositional element through the rest of the work. His “da-da-da-DA” hook that introduces his 5th Symphony is a four-note motif that listeners get to hear more than two hundred more times through the first movement. you’ve got a hook! Some great hooks? The persistent rhythmic/melodic hook that introduces “You Can Call Me Al”. it is by definition their most easily remembered feature. It’s like an engine that drives the song along.What Makes a Good Hook? The composer Beethoven probably can lay claim to the most wellknown hook in the music world. but for those that do. the hook was what people sang over and over to themselves after song was done. 28 . and that’s what you want a hook to do! Not all songs use hooks. In both cases. but once repeated as a regular feature. “Beat It. is a really good one.

humans are creative animals. and the ugly. The Good. There’s no one right way to compose. and this book will help you determine where you are in the scale of the good. The best songwriters out there are the ones who are innovative from the very beginning of the process. you run the danger of simply writing the same song over and over again! Being creative means not just trying to come up with a unique tune. I cannot cause creativity to miraculously appear within you. Let’s focus first on getting your songs to be good. and retire on the French Riviera? I don’t know. the Bad and the Ugly As was stated earlier. there most certainly is. What I want to do is to provide you with the principles necessary for good composition. and can pay dividends at its conclusion. and make millions of dollars.Is There a Composer in Me? Yes. What you now need guidelines to manage the creativity that is lurking in the depths of your mind. but it’s likely that the creativity is already there. the main one of which is finding out who your efforts are marketable to. We have an innate ability to make something beautiful out of stuff in our minds. The journey to being a successful composer is an interesting one. if you rely on the same way of thinking all the time. Or a rhythm. That depends on many factors. Or a chord. Be creative. Some are better at it than others. Will you write songs. the bad. And in fact. It also means coming up with a unique way of composing. 29 . Try starting with a hook.

com on the web. and gives you a level of literacy that will eventually pay off for you. tape yourself singing it. . The first six lessons of that course will give you the basics you need. Does this mean you must be able to read music? It is not absolutely essential. The point of this book is that I want you to be able to look at and listen to what you’ve written. or find some other way of making sure you don’t forget it.What Do You Need to be a Songwriter? You need to be able to write your music down in some way. and to be able to come back to it later. I produce a two-CD-ROM course called “Gary Ewer’s Easy Music Theory”. for many reasons.2 If you don’t read music. but I strongly recommend it. because I want to talk about how to structure your music to be a seller! And whether you write it down. and can be done in mere days.EasyMusicTheory. your music will benefit from the basic advice you’ll find here. this book is still a help to you. 2 30 You can purchase “Gary Ewer’s Easy Music Theory” online by visiting www. even if that means just to write down the chords and lyrics. making adjustments and edits. Learning to read and write music on a musical staff is easy to learn.

Being able to read music and write it onto a musical staff is not what this book is about, and it’s not essential to being a good songwriter. What is essential is being able to hear the musical ideas in your head and to know what that is that you’re hearing. I am a strong believer that music theory can help your songwriting in many, many ways. The basics are easy to learn.

You never know when a great idea will hit you. That’s what it means to be human. You’ll discover that right in the middle of tying your shoe, something musical can pop into your head. You need to keep a notepad, or a small digital voice recorder in your pocket with you. Ideas often come to you when you’re mind is occupied with something else. Be prepared! Digital recorders are becoming a dime a dozen, and you don’t need an expensive one. Just something to get your thoughts down so you can work on them at a more convenient time. Here are some manufacturers of digital recorders. Be sure to compare prices… you don’t need anything fancy: Beat Sounds Olympus Panasonic Samsung Sony


Let’s Get Started!
Make a Demo Recording – Yes, already!
Why, you may be asking, am I making a demo already? Don’t I want to read this book first? The truth is that many songwriters don’t even really know what their own music sounds like. They spend a lot of time bent over their guitar, strumming away at musical ideas, and putting songs together. But the end result is that you only ever get to hear the song from your own very personal viewpoint. And the audience for your songs at this stage may only be very well-meaning friends and family, who may not feel free to give you an honest adjudication. You need to be able to listen to your music from a more objective position – from the speakers of a tape machine. Hearing yourself in this way is dramatically different from singing to yourself. For singers and songwriters who aren’t used to hearing themselves, it can be a brutal experience. We are often our own worse critics.


Maybe all you’ve got are a few fragments of ideas for songs, and the song hasn’t come together for you yet. Just keep reading. By the time you’ve finished this book, you’ll have the information, know-how and confidence to put those fragments together in a killer song! If you are ready to record a demo, let’s do it! The closer you can get it to what you’d ideally like to hear on the radio, the better. If you can, use some good players – not just you on the guitar or piano. If you have a band that you regularly play with, use them on the recording. The point is, you want to be able to hear your song, the way you’ve conceptualized it, and make it even better than you thought it could be. Use whatever instruments are appropriate – guitar, bass, drums, synth, even horns if it’s possible and appropriate to the song. It’s been said that when the Bee Gees did demos of their songs, they took so much care in the project that the demos could have gone to press as finished products. You may not have the technical equipment to do that level of recording, but get it to sound as good as you can. At this point, do not rent time at a local studio. No need to spend that kind of money yet. The great thing is that making high quality sound recordings is much easier and less expensive now than it was even just ten years ago. The quality of your microphone will be the biggest factor in the quality of your recording. So if you can, borrow a good microphone.

Another piece of advice: Try to do your recording as a live

performance, if possible. There should be no need to go back and do
overdubs unless they are really necessary for the song to work. The point here is to get the song into a shape and format that allows you to hear it the same way an audience will hear it. There’s an energy that comes from doing it live that gives you the truest sense of what the song is all about. Once you’ve got something on tape, move on to Chapter 2.

“Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.”- Igor Stravinsky


This ability will help you communicate your musical ideas to others. less is more. Listening to your song coming through headphones or speakers gives you important distance that can allow you to be more objective about your musical efforts. Melody. It’s a good idea to carry a recording device with you to record melodic and lyric fragments that come to you during your day. • • • • • • 35 . as well as increase the likelihood that you will be able to expand on your ideas.Chapter 1 SUMMARY Notes: • The five basic aspects of songwriting are Form. Harmony/Rhythm. Lyric and Hook. A good lyric impacts on the emotions of the audience. Make a demo recording of a song you’ve written. and contribute important design elements. Form adds just the right balance of predictability and innovation. Learning to read and write music on a five-line musical staff is a good idea. A good melody and good harmony take us on a journey.

Your Music From the Inside 36 .Chapter 2.

Learn From the Greats Your demo recording should feel like your baby! You need to feel a real love for the music you do. but be patient…. now we start the process of making it better. It may not be what you want yet. so great that they have changed the way we think about music. learn what makes their music work. Michael Jackson’s 1984 Thriller album was monumental in its effect on other songwriters and performers. The music industry is no different. and then do it in your own way. The Success of Great Writers There are great songs out there. and when that happens. a car model can become very popular. Many of today’s musicians look back at that 37 . Certainly that is true of albums. “Billie Jean”. like “Thriller”. Study the greats. and “Beat It”. stunned the musical world with their energy and innovation. They try to duplicate that car by creating a different one that offers the same popular features. One of the biggest oversights by budding songwriters today is the lack of ability to learn from great songwriters’ successes. Songs from that album. you’ll see other car companies jump on that popularity. And we do that by following the Golden Rule of being a songwriter: LEARN FROM THE GREATS. In the automobile industry.

and… well. and what you need to do now is to learn from their success. That being said.album as a defining work of art. it takes a good song to be a good song. 38 . In order for “Billie Jean” to have been a hit. Keep in mind that the thing that really sells Michael Jackson’s music is Jackson’s performance itself. there had to be elements of good composition there in order for the performers to make good performances. music that influenced who they are as writers and performers. from every genre and every era. I can’t really picture it. Performance is an enormously important aspect of what we’re talking about when we try to come up with successful songs. There are great songwriters out there. you can’t generally take garbage and make a treasure out of it. The same is true for any great song. Take “Billie Jean” and give it to Bob Dylan. or “Livin' La Vida Loca” from 1999. people write differently because of the music on the Thriller album. Whether you’re talking about “Red Sails in the Sunset” from 1935. Neither can I picture Michael Jackson singing “Like a Rolling Stone”. it needed to be the good song that it is. In other words.

and add strings halfway through – that’s a formal element. Almost any decision you make with regard to your music once you’ve created the melody and basic harmony is really a decision regarding the form of the music. melody. lyrics and hook. lets look at one feature that probably gets ignored more than any other: form. We’ll be looking at all those elements beginning in Chapter 3. If you decide that a verse should repeat again at the end of a song – that’s a formal element. If you think your music is bad. or at least needs some serious improvement. harmony/rhythm. mostly written by my own students. Form is what we’re talking about when we think about how music gets from beginning to end. If you start with a sax solo – that’s a formal element. The formal decisions you make when 39 . Before we do. If you decide that it should start with guitar. you may need to look no further than its basic structure.We looked very briefly at those elements earlier when we examined form. I have examined literally hundreds of songs and other compositions. And I make the following statement based on all that research: Bad form is the reason for most of the bad music out there. Form How Important is Form? Over my career.

Good Form Means Good Design Form is like a landscape – if your backyard is basically flat with only a tree in the middle. how those plants have been placed. 40 . Form may very likely be the most important.composing will be the most important reasons why your music succeeds or fails. an outro. should there be an intro. and it’s a bit boring. In other words. Landscape designers are experts at telling you not just what plants you should have. Always give some thought to how you plan to get your audience from the beginning to the end in an interesting way. you may be surprised to know that all the elements of good composition are probably already there! What is probably lacking is form and direction. if you think your music needs help. whether we need a bridge or not. But here is the crucial point: most lousy-looking backyards are not lousy because of the plants that are there. least mentioned feature of good songwriting. but far more importantly. But you can’t just start planting trees and flowers everywhere with no thought for the basic layout – the form – of your backyard. Form is the basic design of your song. They’re lousy because of Form is what we talk about when we wonder how many verses to write. where they should go. or some other element. you’ve pretty much seen everything there is to see with one look.

your song will be boring and lackluster. your song probably has formal problems. more than almost anything else about the song. but if they’re poorly organized. hopefully the more you’ll hear things you’d like to change. Good Form Can’t be Accidental The concept of form can seem a bit vague. The more you examine the topic of form. It’s likely that the more you listen. the more you will understand that form has many levels. If you have composed a song without much consideration for form. If you have composed a song without much consideration for form. The more you listen. It can be hard to figure out if your music has formal problems. the more you will become aware that it’s formal elements that need fixing. Bad formal design is the biggest reason why songs don’t work! All the elements to good songs can be there. You may be aware that the song isn’t working yet. as we will in the next chapter.Listen. your song probably has formal problems. but you may not know why it isn’t working. listen… You should be listening to that demo you made as many times as possible. listen. 41 .

but your songs will be better if you can plan them out.Many people write music. whether written by you. a chorus that repeats several times. Try this: Take a song. To assume that the verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus form will result in a great tune is like saying that your living room is fantastic because it has a sofa and two chairs. bridge. Yes. We may not use the word “architecture” to describe composing. scuffing their foot at a roped-off piece of land. or by a songwriter you like. Use a line to show the general shape and direction of the overall energy.. some famous songs use that form. “Here’s where I think a kitchen should go…” People who want a building constructed always hire a person to design it first. but some flops use it too. You need to examine your music from the macro to the micro level with regard to form. and possibly a bridge in the middle. Here’s a sample: 42 . There are no good builders out there. And there is. and draw a diagram of the song. choruses. You may find that you understand much more about that song once you see it written out in this way. If you were thinking of building a house. So there must be more. saying. the thought of doing that without a blueprint would be preposterous. believing that their song needs some verses. So what? Everyone’s living room has that. a coffee table and a couple of end tables. Make note of where the verses. occur. etc.

as examples. whether straightforward or in the abstract. the text for a chorus tends to be more like a commentary. A good intro pulls the listener into the song. Check out “Penny Lane” by The Beatles. Verse: Usually the beginning of the poem. Chorus texts will usually offer a “summing up” of how the things being sung about in the verse make the singer feel.M. choruses will use a different melody than the verse. Up to the first entry of the vocals is generally considered the intro. “You’re the Inspiration” by Chicago.E.Song Components Defined Let’s label and define the various parts that will likely define the form of your song: Intro: This is the first thing that happens in the song. The music tends to pull back dynamically after the intro. This is where you set the stage for what is to come. 43 . Chorus: More often than not. allowing the text to come forward without being upstaged by another aspect of the song. and makes them want to hear more. A verse will often be a narrative or other form of story. the rhythms and the basic beat. more reflective and less narrative than the text for a verse. or “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R. By and large. The intro will usually set up the essential harmonic language.

The bridge is usually a time where overall energy increases. and sets things up beautifully for a final verse or chorus. and the answer may be obvious. It helps build energy. Outro: The end of the piece. you can’t decide if your song needs a bridge. Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” is a good example of an outro with original music. with text that is usually commentary in format. Bring it out again once your head is cleared. It helps the song by allowing the songwriter to avoid being too repetitious. 44 . An outro can simply be the final verse repeated until faded. for example. designed to expand on the text of the chorus. or can be original music. A bridge will provide a new melody. The Classical term for the outro is “coda”. If. try not to obsess. try writing one and then put the song away for a day. When trying to decide what form your song should take.Bridge: Especially popular in verse-chorus formats.

1. intro. If one or more key changes. etc. which verse(s) or chorus(es) feature the key change? 45 .) 2. How many key changes does your song go through? (“None” or “one” is normal) 2..2. try answering the following questions: 1.e. Which chords does your song use consistently? (Don’t include chords that are used only once in the entire song.)? 2. verse.Getting to Know Your Song Now that we’ve defined the basic elements of a song. What is the basic overall design of your song (i. If you recorded a demo as suggested at the end of the previous chapter. we’re going to look at each aspect in detail. chorus.

How many verses exhibit a unique text (i.e. Describe it): 46 . how many verses of poetry does your song set? 5.. an aspect that reels your listener in and keeps them interested in your song. repetitious feature that you believe listeners will fixate on. Does your song have a “hook”? (A hook is a short.3. What do you like about the melody? 4.

This means that you should try not to become fixated on a song that might not be working for you.If you can all of the questions above. the next few chapters will help you understand the music you’ve written. It can take many tries at a song before you get it sounding the way you want. With experience. you’ve a good grasp of the basic innards of your song. 47 . write lots of songs! Many of the songs you’ll write will “sit on the shelf”. and will get you moving in the right direction to fix it. you’ll know when it’s time to start anew. but what you will have learned will help you in the next one you write. but creativity can be learned and practiced. Know when it’s time to leave it and begin the next song. It may seem counter-intuitive to say so. and see how your song can be improved. it may be time better spent to move on. If you couldn’t answer some of the questions. and frankly. Now let’s look at each question. Now we can begin to see if you’ve got the most out of it. If you want to write better songs.

fill out a “survey” about that song. bridge.Chapter 2 SUMMARY KEY NOTES AND QUOTES FROM CHAPTER 2: • • The Golden Rule of being a songwriter is: Learn from the greats. your song probably has formal problems. verse. If you have composed a song without much consideration for form. Bad form is the reason for most of all the bad music out there. Just writing down your observations will go a long way to solving nagging problems with it. When you write a song. The basic design elements of a song: intro. you can’t take garbage and make a treasure out of it. chorus. outro. 48 . Good form means good design. • • • • • Creativity can be learned and practiced. It takes a good song to be a good song.

Chapter 3.Designing a Song 49 .

Whether you’re talking about early Baroque concerti. we can learn from the experience of songwriters who have come before us. Contrast is the component that helps to build interest within a song. It’s the main formal principle in the writing of music: 50 . Fortunately. both musicians and architects know that design is not something to be left to casual thought.The Blueprint Designing your song is every bit as important as an architect coming up with a blueprint. basic templates have emerged that can serve as models for us today. The Contrast Principle of Composition Music historians will tell you that one of the most persistent features of composition from at least the sixteenth century to present day is the basic principle of contrast. and through millions of songs. Though no piece of music will kill you if it falls down around your ears. contrasting elements within a song has been standard practice for centuries. or 21st century pop songs. Through the years.

Don’t be afraid to change the design of your song as you work on it. 51 . and you can’t figure out why. Where Boredom Comes From If your songs somehow feel boring. We call them “macro” designs. Let’s look at some basic designs. Planning is vital. chorus. Contrasting elements within a song brings out beauty. So how do you contour music? We’ve already looked at some basic components that songwriters have incorporated into songwriting. in much the same way that landscapers create contours on flat land to create beauty.Form Principle #1 SONGS WITHOUT CONTRAST RISK BEING BORING. intro. Verse. But keep in mind that blindly throwing song elements together is like planting trees anywhere. Contrast sets things apart. solo. It’s like staring at a flat field with nothing to distinguish one part of it from another. bridge. because they refer to the overall design of the song. it is usually related to the absence of enough contrast. outro… these are all elements that can ensure that your song can rise and fall with the emotions of the text.

the labeling would be AA’. then move to a verse. start with a chorus. The text of a bridge is usually more emotional and passionate than the chorus. one that has stood the test of time. Macro Forms i. Though verse-chorus designs are basic structures that are not innovative in and of themselves. The form of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is: ABA Musicians usually refer to various sections of a song (verse. bridge. Often it is the smaller elements within a song. and sections that use material similar to another section use the same letter. that makes music work. The macro design of verse-chorus-bridge in various combinations is safe. or ABABCAB) This basic structure is a tried and true one. Verse-chorus-bridge designs (ABABCB. like the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”. Their song “Hey Jude” doesn’t even really have a chorus. For example. It’s more a series of verses and bridges. there are a minimum of two choruses prior to a bridge. Usually. a verse and chorus that uses the same melody would be labeled AA. the contrast they provide counters any risk of boredom. Some songs. and a 52 .M chorus. with a prolonged outro at the end. A bridge is a component of a song whose purpose is to help sustain and build energy for that final chorus. If the chorus material differs slightly. etc) by letter name. Unique melodic material gets a unique letter. The macro structure is best designed to be solid and predictable. The form of “The Star Spangled Banner” is: AABC. and not the innovation of the macro structure itself.

Lavigne’s expertise regarding the use of her voice. 0’16” Verse 1 Low energy level that builds from middle to Chorus. 1’40” Chorus Repeat of first chorus 2’04” Bridge Slight ebbing of energy for four bars. Several repeats of chorus 1’18” Verse Same energy as 2nd half of Verse 1. makes this song work so well. ii. 2’28” Chorus Low energy similar to beginning for 4 bars. The fact that it is done so often does not diminish its effectiveness. then the energy rises to highest point thus far. This is a typical design that many songwriters follow.perfect example is “Fall to Pieces. and the expert control over the energy levels of the various components of the form. 0’54” Chorus Energetic drive that dissipates slightly at conclusion. along with dissipation of energy. Simple verse design (AAA…) A simple verse design is one that uses the same music for the both the verse and the chorus. then dramatic increase of energy to match previous choruses. 3’12” Outro Modification of melodic and harmonic material.” by Avril Lavigne and Raine Maida. and is why it has become such a big hit for her. Here is a sketch of how the various components of that song are timed: 0’00” Intro Low-key guitar and light keyboard. The most common genre that uses this design is 53 .

a melody is featured in the first two bars of each four bar section. by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. for example.the 12-bar blues. The interlude helps to break up the possible monotony of having the same melody repeat so many times. is an example of the blues.S. you will want to consider solos and modifying of instrumentation at certain key structural points in the song to help propel the song forward. inserting an instrumental interlude between chorus and the next verse. There are other non-blues songs that use the same melody in both verse and chorus: “Born in the U. If you choose a simple verse design for your song.”. The song “Hound Dog”. A 12-bar blues uses a melody based on a somewhat standard chord progression: Bars 1-4 G / G / G / G7 5-8 C7 / C7 / G / G / 9-12 D7 / C / G /D7 The progression and melody is repeated for both the verse and chorus. In the standard blues form. Many bluegrass songs do. by Bruce Springsteen. 54 . The last two bars of each section often features an “answering figure” by a solo instrument.A. Much of early rock and roll was designed using blues patterns. and made famous by Elvis Presley.

or at least tell an interesting story. People will judge your lyrics critically. it’s a tricky form to use. Verse-without-chorus design (AAA…) One of the trickiest design structures to apply is one that uses only a series of verses.iii. As with the simple verse design. with no real chorus or bridge. since chorus texts typically offer a resolution of emotional questions raised in a chorus (see Chapter 5). the text for this form must be carefully considered. Such music is the analogical equivalent of flat landscape. your lyric should be a good stand-alone story or work of poetry. Also. your lyric should be a strong stand-alone work of poetry. requiring a strong lyric or careful instrumental manipulation to make it work. you need another element that stands out.” (recorded by Glen Campbell) and the traditional “The House of the Rising Sun” are good examples. If you have chosen such a design. Usually verse–without-chorus structures need a strong lyric. You can see it all with one look. Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”. Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix. because boredom can set in due to the lack of variety that a distinct chorus offers. coupled with a strong 55 . So be careful when using it. one that ensures that the listener hasn’t “seen it all” in one look. In the verse–without-chorus design energy becomes an issue because of repetition. If you have chosen a verse-without-chorus structure. If you have chosen a verse-without-chorus structure. Sometimes this form.

with extraordinary plays-on-words. But money may not be (and perhaps should not be) the measure of success here. can come across as cerebral. Anyone familiar with their music would tell you that the songs from 1971’s Foxtrot album are far more than simple songs. because (sadly. while getting a handle on “Invisible Touch” (from their 1986 album of the same name) is a much more straightforward verse-chorus-bridge design. What is successful is if you have provided the right 56 . imagery and poetry. Genesis was not a commercial success until their compositional style changed to something less complicated. And “Invisible Touch” as a song probably made Genesis more money than all of their early albums put together. cerebral music tends to shrink an audience. And with only a few exceptions. something that the average listener could get into. than a complicated emotional journey that uses metaphors and analogies. The early music from super group Genesis featured many songs with verse-without-chorus designs. I feel) most people would rather hear a simple song about the primal instinct of love.lyric. They are true compositions. So analyzing the text of their song cycle “Supper’s Ready” (from Foxtrot. But a commercial success they were not. 1972) could take you weeks.

refrains tend to be shorter than choruses. while choruses usually are stand-alone self-contained units. Chapter 4. If your text isn’t strong. They act to bring a close to a verse. 57 . The line “For the times. Usually a refrain is a line or two. If your lyric has a particular theme. “Let it Be” (The Beatles) and “Suzanne” (Leonard Cohen). Verse-refrain design (AAA…) A refrain is similar to a chorus. except that in the pop music world. they are a-changin’” is a good example of a refrain. try incorporating a key change somewhere. a theme that would benefit by reminding your audience of “what it’s all about” (“like a bridge over troubled water/ I will ease your mind”) then the verse-refrain form might be suitable. In a sense. The refrain has the effect of “bringing it all together. iv. The verse–without-chorus design is good for strong text. (See “Changing Key”. and tend to give an extra sense of meaning and significance to the verse.vehicle for your text. each verse ending with that line. Refrains usually don’t stand well by themselves.) The verse–withoutchorus design also benefits from instrumental solos and interesting underscoring. they are the end to the verse. Dylan writes many verses for his song.” Refrains make it sound like all those words in the verse had a reason for being there. Some other songs that use the verse-refrain format: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel).

There needs to be a strong lyric. very strong. many would-be composers use through-composed forms. Listeners feel most comfortable when they hear something repeat. with no structural elements returning. Genesis uses a type of through-composition in their song “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” from Selling England by the Pound. not knowing where you are going. If you feel the need to write your 58 .v. exhibiting no melodic similarities to the previous verse. It is possible. Through-composed music is the equivalent of going for a walk. or (more importantly) if you will ever get home. The through-composed format for songs is a format where each verse is a different. A through-composed design means that song elements change throughout the song. But they pull it all together by using a chorus that repeats identically each time. Avoid this unless you know what you are doing. Such a form is difficult to make work. Be careful using the through-composed design. but other design features need to be very. Curiously. or fascinating innovative features that crop up along the way. Between the choruses there are two verses that bear no resemblance to each other. most often to their song’s detriment. because audiences like when they hear things repeat. Through-composed design.

Like throughcomposed music. vi. Lake & Palmer. try taking the first verse and repeating it at the end if at all possible. Some songs have a design that defy categorization. Yes. Songs using an ad hoc design tend to come across as true compositions. and ensure that the structure you come up with is the one that really brings the meaning of the poem forward. Progressive rock composers from the 70s were the greatest proponents of the ad hoc design. so you should be listening to Emerson. 59 . Through-composed doesn’t. and King Crimson for examples. Pink Floyd. Aimless wandering will sound disorganized and unsettled. The main difference between the through-composed design and ad hoc is that ad hoc uses repeating elements that the audience will recognize. or set of poems. Using an ad hoc design means that you should give much thought to your poetry. Ad hoc design. ad hoc designs are frequently used to fit the structure of a given poem. Using an ad hoc design does not mean letting your song meander.music so that each verse has a different melody. if one can make the differentiation between that and simple songwriting. early Genesis (up to 1977).

Much of the music from the Progressive Rock era of the ‘70s would fall into this formal category. The increasing energy entices the listener to keep listening. The usual course of events is to have the energy increase as a song progresses. Every song is unique in how it handles overall energy. The listener needs to feel the highs and lows of the music: energetic sections contrasted with more serene areas. Energy – the Forgotten Formal Element All songs contain a certain amount of energy. 60 . governed by the overall sentiment of the text. Because the contrasts offered in ad hoc designs do not come by way of the predictability of verse and chorus designs. The general mass of energy contained by a song will often ebb and flow as the song progresses. standard and ad hoc are mutually exclusive terms). Songs with subdued energy come across as sounding reflective and thoughtful. and it is vital that composers control it carefully. there are some basic principles that are necessary to consider. The main one is to ensure that the musical structure is governed by the concept of contrast. Energy is the force that causes us to move our body as we listen. Songs with driving energy want us to get up and dance.Though it’s not possible to describe standard ad hoc designs (by definition. finding examples often means looking for more obscure songs that are primarily textdriven.

To demonstrate a common approach. violation of this basic tenet is the cause of many failing songs feeling listless and unexciting. Energy will normally increase in fits and starts throughout a song. we’d come up with something like this: Intro 5 1stVrs 4 1stChr 7 2ndVrs 5 2ndChr 7 Brdge 8 3rdVrs 4 3rdChr 7 Plotting the energy as a line. it would look like this: 61 . study the following chart. THE ENERGY OF THE END OF A SONG SHOULD EQUAL OR EXCEED THE ENERGY AT THE BEGINNING.Form Principle #2 IN GENERAL. Though this principle seems obvious. If we were to assign numeric values to represent the energy of the song. It’s an “energy graph” of the song “Real Love” by the Beatles.

offering symmetry. Song designs are all about incorporating contrast into music by using formal elements. 62 . raising the general pitch of the voice and accompanying instruments. • • increasing harmonic rhythm (see Chapter 4) increasing the basic beat (i.. The energy increase will come from one or a combination of the following factors: • • • increasing volume. more likely.In general. To speak of form means to speak of harmony. you want the energy of your song to be at least maintained. or. increased over the length of the song. increasing instrumentation. This immediate dissipation of energy is a strong formal element. because it allows the song to end at the same energy level as the beginning. and then relinquish that energy at the very last line or two of the song.e. And the writer has followed the principle of increasing the energy levels as the song progresses. making the basic beat busier) There is a common exception to Form Principle #2: many songs build energy as they go.

as entities within the song. Introduction As we know. melody. so it’s time now to look at those closely. bridge… they are all micro forms within a song. country. We’ve already defined these parts before. indicating the tempo and beat. songwriters would often play through one or more verses of a song as an instrumental introduction before the vocals would finally start. 3. an introduction sets up the rest of the song by: 1.rhythm. 2. verse. establishing a beginning energy level. Nowadays. jazz or 63 . setting the mood. Fixing energy problems will usually fix a form. In general. chorus. A micro form is a component of the larger song form. rock. forms work or don’t work because of the energy levels of the micro forms. Micro Forms Examining micro forms means looking at the individual components of a song. and other components of composition. 4. indicating the kind of harmonic language to be expected. whether pop. Decades ago. We’ll see that energy is the main quality we must consider. Introduction. but let’s now look at each one as a contributor to the macro form.

4. Generally. and follow some basic guidelines: 1. 3.other genre. It’s not very common for an introduction to upstage a verse. 64 . introductions are shorter. possibly between the second chorus and the bridge. A person should be able to feel the basic mood and aura of your song from the introduction. and often this is achieved with no attempt at a recognizable melody. Don’t try to use chords or rhythms in your introduction that don’t seem to have much to do with your song. Think of it as the lobby of a nice restaurant. or build slightly. then dissipate as it connects to the verse. The introduction’s main purpose is to set the mood. The lobby should indicate the kind of décor and food to be expected once you enter the main part of the restaurant. 2. The music of the introduction can be used as a connecting element between the chorus and the start of verse 2. the energy of an introduction should be maintained. This gives the song a nice feeling of cohesion.

An introduction should be shorter than verses. or raising the general range of the voice. The beginning of a verse should be it’s lowest energy point. Consult the following table as a guideline: 4 bar verse 6 bar verse 8 bar verse 16 bar verse Verse In order to keep an audience listening to your song. using the adding of instruments. the energy should build. intensifying the drum kit. Four is rare. they need to build energy. Eight or sixteen measures is most common. The length of a verse in measures (bars) should be a factor of four. Without this intensification the song risks becoming boring or directionless. In order for verses to work well as micro forms. you need to keep them thinking that something bigger and better is going to happen in the next few seconds. Once a verse has passed its midpoint. 65 = = = = 2-4 bar intro 2-4 bar intro 4 bar intro 4-8 bar intro . An increasing of tempo is rarely if ever used. increasing loudness. and twelve is common only in twelve-bar blues.

It doesn’t take much… adding a tambourine.61). In others. the dynamic. That constant sense of anticipation is crucial. and it is what form is all about. or will begin as a lower energy version of verse 1 before building to the final chorus.A two-verse song should mean that the second verse will either duplicate the energy of the first verse. or intensify that energy slightly with the addition of an instrument. the instrumentation. Whether in the text. rather than what is now happening. The third verse will either maintain and increase the energy levels of verse 2. listeners are subconsciously waiting for the next “moment”. That’s what building energy throughout a song is all about. A musical composition requires that you get your audience more interested in what is going to happen. 66 . having the drummer move from hi-hat cymbal to ride cymbal is all that is necessary. or some other aspect… sensing that something great is going to happen is what sells songs. It’s about subtly indicating that something good is going to happen. or other percussion instrument is common in some styles. Even as a wonderful moment may be occurring in a song. A three-verse song will usually mean that a bridge will be used between the second chorus and the third verse (see “Bridge” on p.

In especially the eight or sixteen-bar chorus. 67 . the solo should be played by an instrument that can successfully intensify energy. build on it. twelve (blues) or sixteen bars long. The end of a bridge should be its most intense part if the bridge is to connect to a final chorus. jazz and country music. eight. and lowering the dynamic (loudness) of the music. a chorus should be four (rare). An instrumental solo is a great way to build energy while providing variety of sound possibilities. Dissipating of energy comes from dropping instruments from the arrangement. Like the verse. rock. diminishing the activity of the drum kit. Sometimes the bridge can be instrumental. Bridge A bridge needs to build energy. The bridge should dissipate its energy at its last few beats if it is to connect to an additional verse. in order to set up for the next verse. more likely. Depending on the genre. the second half of a chorus should feature an intensifying of the musical arrangement. Saxophone and guitar are popular favourites in pop. The end of a chorus should dissipate the energy it has built.Chorus The chorus will take the energy presented by the previous verse and either maintain it or.

including repeating a line of the chorus with only vocal harmonies (without instrumental accompaniment). so you should be careful that the text and mood of the song warrants a long fade. Surprise moments can be what keeps audiences interested in subsequent listenings. These are decisions that are generally made at the production stage. because a repeat and fade cannot be easily accomplished in a live performance. or to compose new music entirely. To give the impression that the emotion of the text is eternal.Outro An outro is whatever you do to end the song after its final chorus. 68 . A repeat and fade is a way for writers to give the impression that the song’s energy cannot be dissipated without compromising the text. A very common outro is the repeat and fade. A short fade can sound dismissive. a writer will usually suggest a repeat and fade. so don’t be afraid to allow impulse to have an important role in your song. Always check the connecting moments between the different components to ensure that you have complete control over the basic energy of the song. and can sound corny if you try! The energy levels of a song need to always be closely examined. A long fade tends to add a degree of profundity to the music. But that spontaneity should be completely under your control. There are other common and interesting ways to end songs.

and you will need to look at how the individual components connect. but you feel there is an unbalance somewhere. You now know that there are several components to a song.Micro Versus Macro I had mentioned that problems with a song will often mean that there are problems with the form of a song. 69 . If each component of a song seems to work on its own. and that the problems songwriters encounter will require you to examine either the macro or micro level. We’ve looked at the form of the song. this is usually an indication that the energy of the song is not consistent. beginning with harmony. and it’s now time to examine the other important components of a composition.

Chapter 3 SUMMARY

In this chapter you have learned: FORM PRINCIPLE#1: SONGS WITHOUT CONTRAST RISK BEING BORING. FORM PRINCIPLE #2: IN GENERAL, THE ENERGY OF THE END OF A SONG SHOULD EQUAL OR EXCEED THE ENERGY AT THE BEGINNING. KEY NOTES AND QUOTES FROM CHAPTER 3: • • Planning the form of a song is vital to the overall strength of the song. Musicians usually refer to various sections of a song (verse, chorus, bridge, etc) by letter name. Unique melodic material gets a unique letter, and sections that use material similar to another section use the same letter. There are various formal designs possible for songs: o Verse-chorus-bridge designs o Simple verse design o Verse-without-chorus design o Verse-refrain design o Through-composed design o Ad hoc design All songs contain energy, and that energy will often ebb and flow as the song progresses; it must be carefully controlled. The common exception to Form Principle #2 is that many songs will build energy as they go, but relinquish it at the last line or so of the song Macro forms are large-scale forms that apply to an entire song. Micro forms are the smaller components that go together to make a macro form.

• • •


Chapter 4- Harmony


The Chord Muddle
For many budding songwriters, their biggest setback is simply not knowing how chords go together. It’s almost as if they think, “There are thousands of chords to choose from… which ones do I choose for my song?” This chapter is going to hopefully go a long way to clarifying what I call the chord muddle.

Chord Progressions – A Mystery No Longer
You will see more eyes glaze over when it comes to discussions of chord progressions than with almost any other aspect of songwriting. Everyone understands what good lyrics are (ignoring taste and writing ability for the moment!) and everyone has a basic understanding of beat and rhythm. But start discussing chord progressions, and that’s when the muddle begins. There are all sorts of theoretical reasons why progressions work the way they do, but I want to simplify things here. My desire to simplify is not actually to dumb anything down; I want to make sure you understand the basic principle at work here: If it sounds good, use it. Some composers are so fixated on “am-I-allowed-to” that they place “does-it-sound-good” second in importance, which is for any songwriter an error in judgment.

The neat thing is that the theory behind why chords work the way they do is quite simple. And if you find that a chord progression works, you’ll also find that music theory will support that progression. What we’re looking for are ways to simplify the process of finding the right chords for your song. I like to use the analogy of going for a walk to describe chord progressions. The key that your song is in defines the chords you’ll use, just like the city you take your walk in will define what buildings you’ll see. That key chord, which we’ll be referring to as the tonic chord, is like your house. The other chords represent a short walk you take around your neighbourhood. Eventually you’ll return home again. It’s not complicated. But I have heard chord progressions that make me picture someone going for a walk, where they meander aimlessly through the town. And if they get
Music theory tells us why chords work the way they do. It was never meant to tell us what chords to choose! You need to trust your ear. You can let theory tell you what your choices are, but you must trust your ear and your own musicality to determine what chords to finally use. To repeat: Theory tells us why chords work, but not necessarily which ones to use.

Creativity has always been up to you!


it feels a like a surprise. It’s not guesswork! This chapter has four sections. each one building on the knowledge of the previous section: I. So what makes a good chord progression? Why do chords work the way they do? Why do some progressions excite us and pull us forward. at best. How One Chord Moves to Another Chord. That’s the chord muddle! There are some great walks you can take around your neighbourhood that may involve visiting places you’ve not been before. Any surprises on your walk should make sense on some level. and find yourself in New York! There are ways to get to New York. turn the corner. In working through each section. These aren’t rules. Expanding Chord Vocabulary. There are real reasons why some progressions work and others don’t. we’ll uncover four basic principles of chord progressions. You can’t set out from your house in Toronto.back home again. IV. they are guiding 74 . but the walk should not be random. II. while others sound lame and just sit there? Learning how to make chord progressions work requires us to learn certain things in a certain order. Chord Basics. but not randomly. III. Integrating Balance When Building a Longer Progression. and the whole walk was just unpleasant.

and hopefully provide an analysis that you can apply.secretsofsongwriting. to your own music. These principles are meant to merely suggest reasons for why songs we know and love work.principles. if you wish. Don’t forget… you can hear all of the written musical samples in this book by visiting www.com 75 . you will be able to list many songs that violate the principles. And like anything in the arts.

A triad is a 3-note chord that consists of a root (called note 1). Chord Basics Let’s use the C-major scale to begin with. (We’ll use examples on a musical staff. don’t worry – you will still be able to understand this section by the note names used and the chord symbols. but if your reading skills are weak. So the root of an e-minor chord is E.3…). Using each note of a scale as a root. chords that consist of a simple letter name with no numbers afterward) are known as triads. and a 5th. we can create a chord. A chord is the simultaneous sounding of three or more notes. Sample 1 Some basic theory: The root of a chord is the note that gives a chord its name. The basic chords that you know and love (i.2. We can also refer to those notes by number (1.) Every note of a scale can be identified by its note name (C.. a 3rd.I. D. A triad is a three-note 76 . E…).e.

Minor. you will discover: The chord based on the 1st note 2nd note 3rd note 4th note 5th note 6th note 7th note will always be ………………… ………………… ………………… ………………… ………………… ………………… major.chord that consists of a root. formed by what we sometimes call “stacking thirds”. there are seven basic triads that can be formed on top of the notes of that major scale. There are other more complicated chords out there that involve more than three separate pitches. And when you create those triads without extra modifications. Every time you strum a chord on a guitar. a third.” . Minor. minor. and a fifth. Diminished. Major.Harlan Howard 77 . “Country music is three chords and the truth. Since there are seven notes in a major scale. even though six strings are making six notes. third or fifth. each one of those six strings is producing one of the three possible notes I just mentioned – a root. Major. but we’re talking here about basic triads.

It will be fun learning how to modify those chords for various purposes. and lower-case numerals for minor and diminished. So the chord based on the first note is called a I-chord (upper case I. and so on. the chord on the second note is called a ii-chord (lower case ii. are those triads: Sample 2 Those are the basic chords that you will use if you write a piece in C major. But these will be the basic triads that you will more often than not use in your song. and how include other interesting ones in that mix. 78 . those seven chords will be our starting point. because it is a D minor chord). Notice that we used upper-case numerals for chords that are major. How We Refer to Chords One tradition in the music world is to refer to chords using Roman numerals. then. No more guess work! We haven’t talked yet about how these chords can move from one to another.The Basic Triads of Any Major Key Here. because it is a C major chord).

but this is where all the muddle begins for so many songwriters! In the last section. in this key) and the V-chord (G major) are the most commonly used chords in most songs.II. you're showing off. the Ichord (C major. you’ll know that two of those chords. The songs that have been written on that simple two-chord progression could fill books! How and why the V-chord moves so easily to the I-chord is based on some basic principles of how chords like to move. Read on! Why Some Progressions Work and Others Don’t How chords progress is what it’s all about.” 79 . How One Chord Moves to Another Chord The V-I Progression If you know pop music. but funny): “If you play more than two chords. I showed all the chords that naturally occur in C major: C major (I) D minor (ii) E minor (iii) F major (IV) G major (V) A minor (vi) B diminished (viio) From Woody Guthrie (not necessarily true.

it makes a strong progression. and you’ll go a long way to clearing up the muddle if you realize this: a chord that moves up by four notes or down by five notes to reach the next chord makes a very strong progression. The G major chord moving to the C major chord is called a V-I progression. and it’s one of the strongest progressions we have. The main reason why this is true is because when a chord moves in that manner. The listeners’ ears latch on to that common tone. There are ways that chords like to move. it means that one of the notes will be in common. Both chords have the note G in common: Sample 3 Because both the C major chord and the G major chord have the note G in common. Let’s use an illustration from the key of C major that we’ve been using as our example. whether they are consciously aware of it or 80 . That will likely just result in a muddled progression.But just because they all naturally exist in C major doesn’t mean that you can begin flipping from one chord to another.

let me state the Chord Progression Principle #1 that will go a very long way to clearing up the chord muddle: Harmony Principle #1: TWO CHORDS THAT HAVE A NOTE IN COMMON WILL FORM A STRONG PROGRESSION. and why practically every song ever written uses it. The V-chord and the I-chord have a note in common. Now you know part of the reason why that V-I progression is so strong. So now. This principle was not invented by theorists. THE PROGRESSION BECOMES EVEN STRONGER. And there’s a third reason it is so strong: it’s not just that V likes to go to I. It wasn’t really invented by anyone. 2. actually – of observation and study of existing music. The root of the V-chord is four notes away from the root of the I-chord. It comes from years – centuries. and why it is the most common progression we know. it’s also that the I-chord is the tonic chord of the key you’ve chosen. It’s because: 1. AND IF THAT FIRST CHORD MOVES UP BY FOUR NOTES OR DOWN BY FIVE NOTES TO REACH THE NEXT CHORD.not. So the V-I progression is the strongest progression we can 81 .

Making Good Two-Chord Progressions It may sound like the only progressions you’re allowed to have are ones that feature a common tone. In our “going-for-a-walk” analogy. 82 . while others are non-load bearing. we’d say… your stroll around the city may take you to some spectacular landmarks. Check out the list of chord progressions on page 84. and not a little boring. In fact. and more fragile ones. A building made up of just non-load bearing walls will fall down! But those walls are necessary to the design and beauty of the overall building. Those are the progressions that are considered very strong. The other progressions are considered less strong than the ones we’ve looked at. Some walls are load bearing walls. but less strong does not mean undesirable. it’s like stepping from your front doorstep into your house. Another analogy that you might find helpful is to imagine an architect designing a building. the best songs are ones that feature a combination of strong progressions. whose roots are four notes away from each other.use. over an entire song. for example. but other parts of your walk may be great in an understated way. But there are lots of other types of progressions. music would be far too predictable. Walking past a nice flowerbed. That’s not true – if it were true. Using our walk analogy.

If songs could make you do something we'd all love one another. The first ones listed on each line are considered the strongest progressions. You can use this chart as a guide when constructing progressions that are longer. EXAMPLE: Consider the progression C – Am – Dm – G – C. so it’s of medium strength. one that will be pleasant to the ear. The progression then goes to Dm. So… this is where true composition comes into play. Some of the progressions from the fragile end of the chart can be the ones that add uniqueness to your music. Try playing it on your guitar or piano. So this progression rates as a very strong progression. 83 . The thing is… strong can also equate to predictable. and each progression on the line becomes gradually more “fragile”. which is also very strong.“A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges. The progression ends with G going to C. If you like a progression. So is Dm to G.” Benny Green “There are more love songs than anything else. and you’ll probably like it. The C to Am is in the middle of the first line. starting on each chord of the C major scale. use it. Am to Dm is considered very strong. Think carefully about your choices! Don’t just use all strong ones.” – Frank Zappa HOW TO USE THE CHART ON THE NEXT PAGE The chart shows several possible two-chord progressions. Keep in mind that “fragile” does not mean “undesirable”. But it’s a good idea to balance the use of a few progressions from the fragile end of the chart with some from the stronger end.


Mix & match! People who live in glass houses… Don’t be afraid of the progressions at the fragile end of the chart. Perhaps the expression should be. I’d place bets that the reason the progression is unsatisfying is because too many chord-pairs come from the fragile end of the chart. Those aren’t bad. Nonetheless. The concept of strong progressions being formed by chords whose roots are four notes was actually developed hundreds of years ago. your music can start to sound a little predictable. and the principle still holds true today. You do have glass in your house. Too many from the strong end makes your music seem predictable and possibly boring. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t write music!” 85 . But too much use will cause your progressions to sound like they have lost focus.When Progressions Sound Muddled Think about the music you’ve written where the chords seem somehow unsettled to you. and your listeners may lose track of what key they’re in. right? But an entire house of glass is not desirable. Too many chord pairs from the fragile end of the chart will make your music feel confusing and muddled. And when you use too many strong progressions. “fragile” doesn’t mean “bad”.

. (Evans and Ham. while the chorus uses mainly strong ones. If you decide to use fragile progressions for this reason.Fragile is Not All Bad Is there a pattern we can follow for when to use strong progressions and when to use fragile ones? Many great songs use so-called fragile progressions within a verse whose lyric conveys sadness. i. All cement gives you no windows. of course. recorded by Harry Nilsson and more recently by Mariah Carrie)..”) 86 . it’s often best to ensure that the chorus uses progressions from the strong end of the chart.. if living is without you. The song “Without You”. The fragile progressions make us feel the unsettled nature of his anxiety and emotion (“No I can’t forget this evening / or your face as you were leaving…”). use both. occur in the verse. while the strong progressions in the chorus suit the more straight-ahead nature of the chorus lyric (“I can’t live. the classic “hurting song”. is a great example of this.e. This combination really works well. but the majority of the fragile ones Balancing strong and weak progressions in your song is a bit like balancing amounts of cement and glass when constructing a building. or emotional trauma. The song makes good use of both strong and fragile progressions. and all windows gives you no strength or solidity. The best buildings.

A CHORUS USUALLY REQUIRES MORE STRONG PROGRESSIONS. 87 .Sample 4 Songs that feature fragile progressions in the verse and strong ones in the chorus are so numerous that we can state a second principle of chord progressions: Harmony Principle #2 A VERSE WILL USUALLY TOLERATE MORE FRAGILE PROGRESSIONS THAN A CHORUS.

while verses will often tell the audience what’s happening. a verse with numerous fragile progressions will need a chorus with strong progressions. What About Minor Keys? We haven’t yet talked about music in a minor key yet. Think of it this way: A verse usually recounts events or imagery intended to stir up emotions and draw the listener into the song. because most of the pop music out there has tended to be in major keys. we just need to employ the same process we used to come up with chords for a major key: Sample 5 88 . For stability. something less complicated. To discover the chords of minor keys. and you should consider it. This has the effect of making the music feel unsettled (in a good way). Progressions from the fragile end of the chart will allow a certain vagueness to exist in the tonality. Enter the chorus: it brings closure to the verse.Though not a rule. ensuring that the chorus has more strong progressions will allow it to act as “closure” to a verse. creating a need for something more straightforward. But music in minor keys can be beautiful. And it makes for a nicely structured song. As we’ll see in Chapter 6. a chorus will tell them how the songwriter feels about what’s happening.

In pop music. the V-chord is minor. 89 . For example. The most common chords in minor key music are: i. major. By being major. A centuries-old tradition has been established that states that a V-chord. iv and VI. minor. for variety. But as we discovered earlier. In major keys. In the case of a minor key: The chord based on the 1st note 2nd note 3rd note 4thnote 5th note 6th note 7th note will always be ………………… ………………… ………………… ………………… ………………… ………………… minor. it is very common for minor key music to slide into the relative major key. so we often raise the 3rd to make it major. sounds more solid if it is major. In minor keys. the most common function of the V-chord is to move easily to the tonic. This is true in minor keys as well. the V-chord is naturally a major chord. diminished. 3 In minor keys. however. major. so no adjustment needs to be made. major. a song in A minor will often move into C major. major3. the V-chord is naturally a minor chord. it moves to the I-chord more easily. Also.The chords that we build on each note of a minor scale will be a different quality from their major key counterparts. whether in a major key or minor key. the V-chord is actually not all that common. and back again.

Many songwriters use a mixture of minor and major modes within the same piece of music. but the phrase then ends on A minor. the principle of strong and fragile progressions applies to minor key music. Consider this progression: Sample 6 Am – F – G – Am These four chords come from the key of C major. Minor key music can be powerfully evocative. The F major and G major chords sound briefly as if they are going to pull the music into C major. the progression would be solidly in A minor. But you will find that the basic back beat of the music. 90 . Don’t be afraid to try composing in the minor key.Just as with major key music. Some writers purposely stay away from minor keys because they think the music will be too dreary. If the third chord had been an E major chord instead of G major. This ambiguity of mode is a well-used tool by many songwriters. the lyric and the melody will do as much or more to control the mood of the music you write. but they also come from A minor.

will be a popular choice. and abhorring violence against our fellow humans. 91 . Successful songs are ones that allow the audience to put themselves in the singer’s world. consumerism and consumer greed. whatever the topic may be. But why love? People find it irresistible to allow themselves to be pulled into a song that describes strong emotions they’ve felt before. They like to know that others have felt that same sentiment. If you are looking for great song material. choosing love. but you may want to describe other issues that have been on your mind. And we never tire of it! Love has been a topic of song ever since there have been songs.Here are some other progressions in the minor mode: Sample 7 Am – Dm – E – Am Am – F – Dm – Bdim – C – F – E – Am Am – Dm – E – F – C – Dm – E – Am Am – G – C – F – Dm – E – Am – G Songs about love have got to be about the most common songs out there. Some other popular choices for song material: the environment. particularly of the “unrequited” variety. Love is the most popular. visions of a better world. And they like to know that there’s a song out there that perhaps describes that feeling.

Integrating Balance When Building a Longer Progression In Douglas Adams’ book. We’ve seen that longer progressions can be understood as two-chord progressions attached one to another. all chords will instantly disappear and be replaced by a bowl of petunias and a whale. it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. The Chart of Two-Chord Progressions is a useful tool for determining how strong your chord sequences are. And we’ve also seen that some progressions feel 4 The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Inc. Adams might tell such writers that if they ever discover the “ultimate answer” as to how chord progressions work. “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here. as if there is some overall directive. 4 92 . ©1980 by Douglas Adams.III. some law that guides their creation. They search for the elusive “rule” that governs all progressions.” It reminds me of how so many musicians try to comprehend the mystery of chord progressions. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe4. he writes. Published by arrangement with Crown Publishers.

and each chord shares a common tone with the chord before it. it’s like saying that we see everywhere we go in relation to where our house is. The possibilities available to us to build on that simple two-chord progression are endless. 93 . but try this as one strong option: If we take that V-I progression. But that still doesn’t really answer the question… How do we construct a longer progression? How do we know if it’s a good one? Most songs are designed to reinforce the I-chord as the key chord – the tonic chord. And we know that no matter where our walk takes us. as we call it. and that it is optimum to use a mixture of both in your song. In our “going-for-a-walk” analogy. It’s what Chord Progression Principle #1 is all about. and put a chord in front of it that is four notes down from the V-chord. It’s having progressions that. So it’s not just a matter of trying to have strong progressions. point toward that tonic chord as having special significance. The progression is strong because each chord moves up four notes to reach the root of the next chord. we have this three chord progression: ii – V – I. it usually takes us back to our house. either separately or jointly. You can write lots of songs that use those three chords. Building Progressions The strongest progression we have is the V-I progression.tonally solid while others are less so.

your music would be quite repetitive.The Circle-of Fifths Progression Now. Be aware of that as you use it. And if all you did was use that progression. But many songwriters use it as a starting point. It’s a very solid one to consider. mainly because it adheres to Chord Progression Principle #1: each chord shares a common tone with the next one in the sequence. Consider this one: Sample 8 Em – Am – Dm – G – Em – F – G – C It works really well because it features chord changes from the strong end of the Two-Chord Progression Chart. In C major. You can keep extending it backward: four notes below the vi-chord is the iii-chord. we’re talking about these chords: Am – Dm – G – C. to add a chord in front of that progression try going down four notes below the ii-chord. The progression is now four chords long: vi – ii – V – I. the circle-of-fifths sequence is only one possibility. A progression that uses chords whose roots rise by a 4th (or descend by a 5th) in this way is called a circle of fifths progression. and the root of each chord rises by four notes. A circle-of-fifths progression works well and feels so solid. The circle-of-fifths progression is strong. It’s mainly a circle-of-fifths 94 . so that means it will be predictable. That gives us the vi-chord. Of course.

however. By jumping to the F major chord. This time. Not all progressions use the circle-of-fifths. But the G major chord progresses to an E minor. then to G major. If you can get your phrases to make sense. your chords will have a fighting chance. to feel balanced. we haven’t dealt with another important issue – that of how chord progressions are inextricably linked to phrases. we expect to hear a C major chord following. of course. we successfully leap out of the circle-of-fifths sequence and bring the progression to a close. with a final cadence on C major. it proceeds to an F major chord. Incorporating Balance Though we now know how progressions work. Consider the following two progressions: 95 . because it follows the pattern of four-notes-up. When it gets to the G major chord in the middle.progression. But it is a good one to use as a starting point because it uses so many strong twochord progressions. and now we expect the sequence to start over.

but the first one is an example of a progression that works really well. because it would allow that bar to better balance with bar 1. Does this mean that the progression is “wrong”? We should 96 . Now consider the second progression. There’s nothing wrong with the progression. subdivided into two smaller ones. and the third and fourth bars wander back. there is a symmetry. It’s not just that it uses a mixture of strong and fragile progressions. The first two bars of the progression wander away from C. The second and fourth bars are similar by the fact that they use one chord lasting the entire bar. Putting two chords in bar 3 would make it a better progression. It feels balanced. but something feels a tiny bit unsatisfying about it.Sample 9 Play through them both on a guitar or piano. It’s a four-bar phrase. Neither one feels wrong. The first and third bars are similar in that they both use two chords. It’s bar 3 that is the problem. It’s got to do with balanced phrases.

not be thinking of these progressions as being “right” or “wrong”, but in this case, we can certainly say that Progression 1 is “better” than Progression 2 because of the balance and symmetry issue.

Harmonic Rhythm
Balance is a bit of an abstract concept. It would be ludicrous to say that balance, or any other concept, for that matter, is a constant value. Nothing in the arts works that way. Nonetheless, music in the pop song world usually works by providing certain perceivable and predictable patterns to the listener. The patterns I am talking about here are not necessarily rhythmic patterns, as we usually mean when we use that term. I am speaking of the frequency and pacing of the chord changes. This is known as the harmonic rhythm of the song. It leads us to our third principle of chord progressions:

HARMONY Principle #3

In Progression 1 from page 96, the first bar consisted of two chords, each lasting two beats. The next bar contained one chord, lasting for the entire bar. The third and fourth bars repeat that pattern. That pattern of two chords in one bar and one in the next is an important

feature of the song, serving as a pervasive pattern for the song as a whole. The pattern can be anything you like. In Bob Seger’s song,

“Like a Rock”, each chord lasts two entire bars. That’s its harmonic rhythm.
Slow harmonic rhythm, combined with a relaxed instrumental treatment, gives a pensive, meditative quality to the music. But slow harmonic rhythm combined with an energetic driving pulse gives the music a gritty, determined air. Some songs use a combination. James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Face” changes chords on every beat for two bars, then switches to chords that last for two beats. This is the basic pattern for much of the song. Changing the harmonic rhythm within a song should not be done haphazardly. Songs that move from a slower to a fast harmonic rhythm generally gain energy. So do that if it’s the effect you are going for. That gained energy is sometimes difficult to dissipate within a section, so increasing the frequency of your chord changes is best achieved by introducing the effect in a new, higher energy section such as a chorus or a bridge.


IV. Expanding Your Chord Vocabulary
So far, the chords we’ve talked about have been triads that occur naturally within a certain major or minor key. Our ingenuity and imagination could allow us to write possibly thousands of songs or more using just those chords. But now it’s time to let your imagination soar! The possibilities are almost endless regarding how to manipulate chords to come up with something distinctive for your song. There are numerous books of chords in print that can list the many thousands of possibilities. But some chords are real winners, ones you’ll want to be sure to consider for your songs. We’re going to briefly describe some simple but very effective modifications to the chords we’ve already studied, as well as consider other gems for increasing your chord vocabulary. Of all the possible variations on chords we could study, these will be the most common, and most useful: I. Adding a 7th to a chord II. Modal Mixtures III. Secondary Dominants IV. Suspensions V. Inversions



Adding a 7th to a V-Chord

The most common modification to the V-chord you will encounter is the addition of a 7th. This means counting seven notes up from the root of the chord, and adding that note to the existing three notes. The resulting chord, G7, has four notes: G, B, D, and F.
Sample 10

You’ll notice that the F causes the chord to want to move even more so to the C major chord. That’s called strengthening the

dominant function.
Simplicity can be a good thing. And in chord progressions, the truth is that you do not need a huge arsenal of chords. Woody Guthrie’s song, “This Land is Your Land” is a good example of a song that can be performed using only the tonic, subdominant and dominant chords:

Woody Guthrie


Sample 11 F C This land is your land. chiefly. Adding chords to their vocabulary had the same effect as adding words to verbal vocabulary. Much of the music from the 50s and early 60s could be covered by using the I. this land is my land G7 C From California to the New York Island F C From the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters G7 C This land was made for you and me. songwriters used other chords with increasing frequency. IV and V chords from any key. As the 60s progressed into the 70s. more chords allowed writers to be even more precise and descriptive. 101 .

Simplicity trumps complication in the chord game. Chord choices are not meant to complicate music – they are meant to add meaning and clarification to the moods portrayed in the text. you make subtle changes to the atmosphere of the song. because two of the notes of the IV-chord also show up in the ii-chord: Sample 12 The vi-chord can sometimes serve as an interesting substitute for a Ichord. or replace one with another.Increasing your chord vocabulary will allow you to subtly shade your musical ideas with colors that are perhaps a bit more understated and clever. and the style of the song. The final choices really depend on your own taste. because two of the notes of the I-chord also show up in the vichord: Sample 13 Every time you modify a chord. The ii-chord can take the place of the IV-chord in a progression. 102 .

and start to create a certain mood: Sample 14 C7 F C Am This land is your land. IV and V all sound great if you add a major 7th. You will find that I.This Land… Revisited Now let’s go back to This Land is Your Land. you’ll notice that the new chord choices add flavour. This is determined by the key you’re in. and apply some of the new chords we’ve looked at. This time. Some chords work well by adding a major 7th. this land is my land Dm G7 C C7 From California to the New York Island F C Am From the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters Dm G7 C This land was made for you and me. while ii. while others sound better when you add a minor 7th. iii and viio sound best with a minor 7th. when you play it. Try 103 . Adding 7ths to Other Chords Remember the 7th that we added to the V-chord? You can actually add a 7th to almost any chord. Adding a 7th to a ii-chord or a vi-chord can sound really nice.

Try playing the following progression on your guitar or piano: Sample 15 The F minor chord in bar 4 is a borrowed chord. and to a IV creates that famous blues effect. we mean whether a song is in a major key or a minor one. You should note that in blues progressions. appropriately enough. we discovered why some chords work so well when in a certain key. borrowed chords. or modal mixtures. through Ab. It produces an air of melancholy. II. and creates really interesting possibilities. However.experimenting to see what you like. 104 . The IV-chord offers probably the most common opportunity for this situation. it is possible to “borrow” chords from one mode and use them in another. and provides a lovely descending inner line that moves from the note A. By this usage of the word “mode”. to G. adding a minor 7th to a I. It’s a great sound. while other chords seem to be a bit strange. Chords that come from the opposite mode are called. Modal Mixtures From earlier in this chapter.

I’ve got something to Every time you introduce a new chord in your song. such as Paul Kelly’s “Personally”. on the words. Good songs show a balance between predictability and innovation. made famous by Karla Bonoff.Any chord that actually belongs in the opposite mode to the one you are writing in is called a modal mixture. But it’s that distinctive flavour that can add that bit of variety you may be looking for. deliver / That the mailman can’t deliver…) The well-known duet “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (written by the Bee Gees). but too many can result in fatigue. with more emphasis on the former than the latter. He uses a minor iv-chord toward the end of each verse (on the words. Be careful not to use them too much. Landmarks are good. or borrowed chord. There are lots of songs out there using borrowed chords. uses a modal mixture iv-chord toward the end of the first verse. Check out these progressions that use other modal mixtures: 105 .” It’s a great chord to spice up an otherwise ordinary progression. “All this love we feel needs no conversation. the effect is similar to viewing a new landmark while taking a walk. because they are very distinctive. Be careful not to inundate your audience with too many chords. The minor iv-chord is probably the most commonly used borrowed chord. especially unusual ones.

Consider this progression: Sample 17 106 .Sample 16 III. the ii-chord is B-D-F#. In A major. Secondary Dominant Chords We know that a ii-chord from a major key naturally occurs as a minor chord.

instead of playing this B minor chord. it provides an interesting modification if. We know that ii-chords are either minor (in major keys) or diminished (in minor keys). or five down (as in this example). what is it? It’s a particular type of chord called a secondary dominant. it holds two of the main qualities of being a dominant chord. and the presence of that D# in the B major chord strengthens its desire to want to move to the E major chord – four notes up. The topic of 107 . In a manner of speaking. So we call it a secondary dominant. So if it isn’t a borrowed chord.If the B minor chord is followed by a chord whose root is four notes up. when you change a minor chord into a major chord. Because of these characteristics. You’ll notice that it has a particularly distinctive colour. Essentially. and so you will need to ensure that it fits in with the style of your song. it is pretending to be a dominant chord. you change it to B major: Sample 18 It’s not a borrowed chord. you are often creating a secondary dominant. How to Add Secondary Dominants to Your Music Try adding some secondary dominant chords to your song. in this way: It is major. because there is no major ii-chord in either major or minor keys.

But you can create secondary dominants easily by taking a minor chord and raising the 3rd to make it major. This will work if your minor chord proceeds to a chord whose root is four notes up. Go back to that five-chord progression at the beginning of this section. and we’ve only touched the topic here. and make that F# minor chord major.secondary dominants could be the topic of complete chapters within a theory text. or five notes down. and you will get this: Sample 19 “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John makes use of a secondary dominant chord in the second part of the verse: Sample 20 108 .

written by Jesse Harris. Normally the chord based on the 6th note is minor. but in this case Harris makes it major: Sample 21 Secondary Dominants That Don’t Act “Dominant” It is possible to create secondary dominant chords that don’t rise by four notes to the next chord. The third chord of the song is a chord based on the 6th note of the key of the song (Db major). In other words. “Come Away With Me”. Here’s a progression in E major that demonstrates this: Sample 22 109 . recorded by Norah Jones on her Grammy winning album. they don’t pretend to be the dominant chord of the one that follows.Another song from more recent times is “One Flight Down”.

Suspensions A suspension is a particular type of chord that makes use of a non- chord-tone. we will create a beautiful chord called a suspension: 110 . because it is 3 letter names above the root). take a look at this diagram from page 80: Sample 23 It’s the diagram we used to show the common tone between a V-chord and a I-chord. and raise it by a half tone. if it followed the theory just described concerning secondary dominant chords. IV.The F# major chord in bar 2 would normally want to move on to a B chord (a V-chord). The G major chord uses three pitches: G. If we take the middle tone (called the 3rd. To show how it works. But this F# major chord progresses to a IV-chord (A major). and so acts simply as an interesting colour for a iichord. B and D.

an upper root of the chord is replaced with a note that is a tone higher. Generally. Gsus4. Suspended chords are quite versatile. because you can technically “suspend” any tone in a chord. this kind of chord needs to be “resolved” by allowing the C to descend down to where it usually is for a G major chord – to B. the Gsus4 is identical to a standard G major chord.That chord. There are other types. It will take some experimentation on your part to know which tones sound the best when suspended. is a G major chord in which the 3rd has been raised (suspended) a half tone to C. though. Usually. V-chords in any key will sound good with the 3rd suspended – the so-called “sus4” chords. In a sus9 chord. The same type of suspension works well on I-chords as well. Trust your ears. and which chords to do it to. and probably the most common type after the sus4 is the sus9 chord (also called sus2). It then resolves to a standard triad. Here are sus4 and sus9 from the key of D major: Sample 24 111 . Except for that pitch.

Any time you “dress up” a chord with a note that doesn’t normally belong to it. v. you’ve used a non-chord-tone. Inversions are used in popular music styles for one or both of two main reasons: 1. The sus9 is less demanding – composers often use the sus9 simply as a composite sound without resolving it to a triad. for variety in chord choice. because the suspended tone causes such tension within the chord. 112 . A root position triad means that the root of the chord is the lowest sounding note. Inversions So far we’ve only used chords that appear in root position.Suspensions are just one of an entire category of chords that use nonchord-tones. The sus4 really requires a resolution. that triad is said to be in first inversion. Trust your ears – you’ll know if the chord needs resolution. A triad with the 5th of the chord as the lowest sounding note is said to be in second inversion. When a triad is played with the 3rd of the chord as the lowest sounding note. But it is possible to invert chords – to allow a non-root note already in the chord to be the lowest pitch. to smooth out a bass line. 2.

Used in this manner. cowritten by Eric Clapton.Guitarists know these chords as slash chords. demonstrates a first inversion chord being used as a passing chord in the instrumental ending of the song: 113 . they are known as passing chords. Placing the 5th at the bottom removes a lot of that stability. A root position chord is considered to be solid. while placing the 3rd at the bottom (first inversion) removes a bit of that stability. So inverted triads will usually not be good chords with which to end phrases or sections of songs. They’re great chords for getting from one stable chord to another. The song “Layla”. because they are indicated using a slash to separate the chord name from the bass note: Sample 25 When and How to Use Inversions So when and how should inversions be used? An inversion has the effect of decreasing the tonal stability of a chord.

Here are some samples: Sample 27 114 . the pedal tone will either be the tonic note (key note) or the dominant note (the root note of the V-chord). A variation on the so-called “slash chord” is the pedal tone. That inverted chord in bar 2 of the example has the effect of pulling the listener along into bar 3. Clapton provides a bit of variety while still keeping the notes of the chord. that’s a strong progression. He merely places a different chord tone at the bottom. A pedal tone is a pitch (usually in the bass) that is held through several chord changes. More often than not. But by using the C/E as a passing chord.Sample 26 The progression could have easily been played by extending that C major chord in the first bar to last for two full bars before moving on to the F major chord. but try different tones to see if you like the effect.

115 .It’s important to keep track of where your bass notes are. and helps propel it forward. by The Original Caste. This was a great decision because it is basically a verse-chorus song. and where they’re moving when you use inversions. in danger of being too repetitious. inversion or not. The song “One Tin Soldier”. The key change adds a feeling of anticipation to the song. Key changes can be very useful in verse-chorus designs.) Key Changes Don’t Go Changin’… Without a Reason A key change. should occur for a specific reason. Songs with many repeating features are good candidates for a key change. and offer variety to a song that is in danger of becoming stale. known in learned circles as a “modulation”. A well-placed key change can inject spice. When using any chord. not haphazardly. Inversions should exist for a reason – they shouldn’t simply be used randomly. uses a key change before the last verse. avoid having the bass jump by six semitones (a diminished 4th.

but must be used carefully and conservatively. Used too often. then playing a chord that is the dominant chord of the new key. less frequently. A half step modulation is usually prepared by ending the verse or chorus. The songwriter raises the key by one semitone (half step). or. by a whole tone. and the music suddenly all bumps up one semitone. then continue with the next verse or chorus in the new key. Observe the following chord progression. imagine that the first four chords bring the chorus to a close. This means that the chorus comes to a close. this time in the new key: Sample 28 Chorus Modulating Chord Chorus: new key Chords: C F G C // Ab // Db Gb Ab Db This kind of modulation is exciting. In this example. This is what 116 . it can become corny and trite. and then the chorus is repeated. Half-step-upward modulation This type of modulation is very common.There are two common types of modulations: I. The half step upward modulation can also be done through what is called an “abrupt modulation”. The next chord is the modulating chord.

and it is particularly exciting.happens in “One Tin Soldier”. “Goodbye to Love” employs this kind of key change. This type of modulation happens usually at the ends of choruses. The Carpenters song. “There may come a time when I will see that I’ve been wrong. Consider it a one-use effect. keep in mind that if you decide to modulate up a semitone. Even less common. before a verse moves into a chorus. before the next line comes in (set again to the same notes). it can become trite if used more than once. But again. Listeners tend to have a curious reaction of feeling manipulated somehow if the songwriter uses it too much. This is useful if your verse or chorus have repetitious elements. is the modulation that happens in the middle of a verse or chorus. Inc.5” Then.” 5 Goodbye to Love. 117 . but worth a look. or. less commonly. © 1972 by Almo Music Corp. they abruptly raise the key (by a whole tone)./Hammer and Nails Music. and then deliver the ultimate line. we get two lines of text that are set to the very same notes: “What lies in the future is a mystery to us all / No one can predict the wheel of fortune as it falls. and you want to inject some variety toward the end of a piece of music. Toward the end of the last verse.

A song that shows this kind of key change is “Islands in the Stream”. gives a shot of energy to that part of the piece. as recorded by the early 70s band Ocean does the same type of modulation. Here are some basic bits of advice for doing key changes: 1. “Put Your Hand in the Hand”. along with the introduction of those trademark harmonies at that moment.This was a great decision. by Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton. One singer can handle a song in a certain key. the key changes to accommodate that singer’s range.e. They are more rare. than downward modulations. The change of key. a very awkward 118 . to put the song in the right range for the singer. The key changes when Dolly takes over the lyric. Upward modulations work far better. Miscellaneous Modulation (more than a whole tone) Other key changes (i. and then when it is time for the second singer to take over. because vocal range becomes a factor: if your song takes you close to your upper range limit. So why would you consider modulating upward by more than a tone? The most common occurrence of this type of key change would be during duets. because the new dominant chord is a diminished 4th away from the original key.. and with far more predictable results. A downward modulation is difficult to do. Also. then modulating up a fourth will take you beyond. larger than a whole tone) can occur in songs. II.

Modulations work better toward the end of a piece than they do toward the beginning. dynamic (i. Avoid downward modulations. 3. If your song has one modulation. It also saps energy from the music in a massive way. or at least a maintaining. loudness) or instrumentation. and you will probably find that increasing overall energy makes a modulation work better. singing style. 4. maintain the levels of loudness and instrumentation. of basic energy. Upward modulations combined with a lessening of instrumentation or dynamic level are usually counterintuitive. and so it’s not terribly useful. being sure you know what the effect is. 2. Most songs should feature an increase. make it occur at least two-thirds of the way along. Modulations of more than a tone sometimes have unpredictable results. 119 . An upward modulation should be accompanied by an intensifying of lyric.e. Its immediate consequence is usually a dramatic change in overall energy.interval indeed. At a minimum. So sing through that part of the song using the modulation several times..

(IV) o The fifth chord is major.Chapter 4 SUMMARY In this chapter you have learned: Harmony Principle #1: TWO CHORDS THAT HAVE A NOTE IN COMMON WILL FORM A STRONG PROGRESSION. (III) o The fourth chord is minor. (vi) o The seventh chord is diminished. (i) o o The second chord is diminished. (V) o The sixth chord is minor. Building a chord on each note of a major scale gives us seven chords that belong to that key: o The first chord (also called the tonic chord) is major. (V) o The sixth chord is major. (viio) Building a chord on each note of a minor scale gives us seven chords that belong to that key: o The first chord is minor. (VI) • 120 . (iv) o The fifth chord is major. A CHORUS USUALLY REQUIRES MORE STRONG PROGRESSIONS. (I) o The second chord is minor. (ii) o The third chord is minor. AND IF THAT FIRST CHORD MOVES UP BY FOUR NOTES OR DOWN BY FIVE NOTES TO REACH THE NEXT CHORD. (iii) o The fourth chord is major. THE PROGRESSION BECOMES EVEN STRONGER. Harmony Principle #3 THERE SHOULD BE A PERCEIVABLE AND SOMEWHAT PREDICTABLE PATTERN TO THE PLANNING OF CHORD CHANGES. KEY NOTES AND QUOTES FROM CHAPTER 3: • Songwriters often refer to chords within a key by a Roman numeral. Harmony Principle #2 A VERSE WILL USUALLY TOLERATE MORE FRAGILE PROGRESSIONS THAN A CHORUS. (ii ) o The third chord is major.

Simplicity trumps complication in the chord game. Songs that move from a slower to a fast harmonic rhythm generally gain energy. When using any chord. inversion or not. Landmarks are good.) Key changes are a good way of energizing a song. Longer progressions should be a mixture of strong and fragile progressions.o • The seventh chord is major. Two-chord progressions are strong if they adhere to Principle #1. but too many can result in fatigue. The V-I progression is the strongest one we can use. An inverted chord means that the bass note is a note from the triad other than the root. avoid having the bass jump by six semitones (a diminished 4th. It’s like going from our doorstep into our house. Balancing strong and weak progressions in your song is a bit like balancing amounts of cement and glass when constructing a building. and all windows gives you no strength or solidity. The tonic chord is our house. Too many from the strong end makes your music seem predictable and possibly boring. (VII) Taking a walk is a good analogy for how chord progressions work. Every time you introduce a new chord in your song. • • • • • • • • • • • • 121 . All cement gives you no windows. Increasing your chord vocabulary will allow you to subtly shade your musical ideas with colors that are perhaps a bit more understated and clever. but can be trite if used too often. The harmonic rhythm of a song should be a relatively regular pattern. the V-chord (dominant chord) is our front doorstep. The circle-of-fifths progression works so well because it is comprised of chord progressions from the strong end of the Two-chord-Progression Chart. The best buildings use both. the effect is similar to viewing a new landmark while taking a walk. Other chords take us further from our house. Too many chord pairs from the fragile end of the chart will make your music feel confusing and muddled.

Chapter 5-Melody and Lyric 122 .

but… not by that much. Gwen Stefani and others. Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” has the distinction of being the most rerecorded song in history. But songs that were hits in the ‘60s and ‘70s are finding themselves getting a makeover and being reissued by today’s leading performers. Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” has been covered by several in the past decade. Dave Matthews. including Amy Grant and Counting Crows. the differences will be obvious. There are great original songs being written today. It’s been done over 2500 times. 123 . And even though the style of today’s music differs quite noticeably from the music of yesteryear. If you go back enough in time. And it’s the mark of a great song when so many performers hear it and come up with their own way to present it. by really fine songwriters: Chris Martin from Coldplay. of course. there are striking similarities that ensure that we can learn lessons for tomorrow with the music of any era.Melodic Energy The structure of melodies changes with the times.

allies in the quest for that great song. How “Yesterday” Works I mentioned in Chapter 2 that a good melody takes us on a journey. is structured to match the emotional content of the text. It’s a problem for many beginner songwriters – when the text and the melody don’t seem to have much to do with each other. It consists of four phrases. especially with regard to how melodic shape. and must be. It follows that “journey” notion well.These chapter deals with melody and lyric together. melodically. because it makes no sense to talk about one without discussing the other. The two are. and used Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” as an example. 124 . where each phrase. lyric and vocal range work together. The song uses vocal range as its main source of energy: Vocal Range and Vocal Energy McCartney’s ability to write melodies is extraordinary.

the more dynamic and energetic the music. Immediately. the voice enters in the singer’s lowest range.” By setting that line to the highest notes of 125 . Singers being required to sing in their upper register will need to use a lot more physically demanding technique to produce and sustain those notes. giving us back the feeling of remorse. The fact that this part of the melody gives the singer his highest notes makes us feel his torment. on the line. The melody eases downward on “Now it looks as though they’re here to stay”. The highest notes of “Yesterday” occur later in the song. the melody rises to its highest notes. The vocal line fully relaxes on “Oh I believe in yesterday. In “Yesterday”. and becomes part of the interpretation of a performance. promoting the strongest feeling of sorrow and angst on the words “All my troubles seemed so far away”.When you write songs.” McCartney manipulates his audience in the best way possible. It’s an energy that can be heard. Combining that fact with the nostalgic nature of the word. you will notice that in general. “Now I long for yesterday. the higher the voice. “Yesterday…” causes the audience to feel that nostalgia and remorse.

the song. Make sure that vocal range and text are strongly allied. text and vocal range give us our first principle of writing melodies: Melody/Lyric Principle #1: THE SHAPE OF A MELODY MUST BE PLANNED WITH VOCAL RANGE. Nonetheless… 126 . McCartney tells us what this song is all about… longing for yesterday. it simply confuses the listener to have that text set to a voice very high in its range. This integrating of melody. screaming out how peaceful the world seems. Don’t Write Counterintuitively To write counterintuitively means to write in such a way that two or more features of a song seem to be at cross-purposes. HARMONY AND TEXT IN MIND. If you are setting a text that has to do with a tender kiss at the beach. where the singer is meant to portray the quiet solitude of that moment.

not aggressive or tense. The general range of a song is called its tessitura. The falsetto voice is a little unpredictable. if the tessitura of the song is high. can switch into falsetto to continue singing higher in pitch. Some singers. and thus do a good job of using their falsetto range. Singers that use falsetto are able to sing in a very high range. to name a few. Prince. and continue into a higher range. they can extend it considerably beyond this threshold by creating a “break” in their voice. and still sound lyrical and sweet. so if you are writing music for another singer. When singers (usually male) raise the pitch of their voice to its high limit. 127 . be certain to get the entire story on that singer’s range. Some singers are famous for the beauty of their falsetto voice: Smoky Robinson. Some falsetto singers can vary the kind of falsetto they produce – everything from a sweet velvety sound (Smoky Robinson) to something more aggressive (Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin). many male singers work at making that break less conspicuous. Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. often without unduly raising the vocal energy of their performance. This type of voice is called “falsetto”. if required. The normal range for most men extends upward to a little past “middle C” on the piano.What is Falsetto and Tessitura? …there are ways for a human voice to sound very high. However. Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. and it’s fairly easy for men to sing in. and Chris Martin of Coldplay. Falsetto is tricky to use because there is a somewhat noticeable break (called the passaggio) between the normal voice and falsetto. and whether or not they have a useable falsetto.

and your bed won’t be in the dining room. Once the basic structure of a building is known. within which the melody is eventually going to reside. Getting Notes in the Right Place How does this analogy work for writing melodies? For many songwriters. Hand-in-hand with the chord pattern is an underlying rhythmic motif that will form the backbone of your song. the process of composition begins by vamping a two or three chord pattern. It’s like laying down a shell.Writing Good Melodies Imagine that you’ve rented an apartment or bought a house. 128 . Your clothes hamper won’t likely be in the living room. In our analogy of the new house. but there are some things you know for certain. a structure. try thinking of the chords as being like the overall shape and structure of the walls around you. and trying to visualize where you’re going to put all the furniture. For example. you won’t be putting your bookshelves in the bathroom. It may seem like a blur of ideas at this point. and the underlying rhythm is the colour of the walls. there are at least some decisions that are easy to make. You’re looking around you.

For these people. The neat thing is that this is a house that you get to build. Group compositional efforts are relatively common in popular music.Where the walls are placed will determine a lot with regard to where things go. Composing by layering various elements means coming up with those elements together. There is no one way to write. They’ll develop the chord patterns. bouncing ideas off band mates. melody. and if you don’t like the rooms. text and other components more or less simultaneously. writers will develop the text as a standalone entity first. working out the other aspects later in a separate process. In other circumstances. and you may find that many songs you write will happen in different ways. bits at a time. the songwriting process usually begins with one person bringing the shell for a song to a band rehearsal. and the other members all contribute ideas as the song grows and modifies. Some songwriters like to work with others. 129 . Most songwriters layer their songs to at least an extent. you can invent new ones! There are as many ways to write as there are composers.

while choruses usually need stronger ones. When you construct your melody and begin applying text. In the analogy we used of trying to place furniture in your new house. writing melodies is borne out of laying down a chord and rhythm layer first. you need to remember these basic principles: Melody/Lyric Principle #2: A) A VERSE CAN USE TEXT THAT IS NARRATIVE AND INCONCLUSIVE. AND USE STRONGER CHORD PROGRESSIONS. This has to do with the nature of the kind of text we use in verses and choruses. 130 . we discovered that verses can tolerate more fragile progressions. Melodies essentially begin as improvisations that gradually focus in on creating a more solidly identifiable tune.For most songwriters of middle-of-the-road songs. This is composition by layering. it’s like actually coming up with the entire house first. Verse-Chorus Text Design When we looked at verse-chorus chord progression issues. WITH PREDOMINANTLY FRAGILE CHORD PROGRESSIONS. B) A CHORUS CAN USE TEXT THAT IS REFLECTIVE AND DRAWS CONCLUSIONS.

Song Sample Because writing music is an art form. Let’s look at a song that follows Principles #2 and 3 closely: Backstreet Boys: “Never Gone” (from the Album Never Gone) Verse: F Dm The things we did. you’ll see those two principles being followed much of the time.Melody/Lyric Principle #3: THE PRESENCE OF THE KEYNOTE (TONIC NOTE) WILL STRENGTHEN THE UNDERLYING STRUCTURE OF A MELODY. No doubt we can all think of songs that do not follow some or any principles. CHORUSES CAN AND SHOULD FEATURE THE TONIC NOTE IN ITS MELODY MORE THAN VERSES. But if you look at the music of the great songwriters from any era. generalizations can be dangerous to make. the things we said F/C Bb Keep coming back to me and make me smile again F Dm You showed me how to face the truth F/C Bb Everything that's good in me I owe to you Am Bb Though the distance that's between us F C Now may seem to be too far 131 .

never far F/C Bb In my heart is where you are F Dm Always close. The text of the verse is melancholy.Am Bb It will never separate us F C Deep inside I know you are Chorus: F Dm Never gone. The second part of verse 1 introduces a simple and understated drum beat. in keeping with the nature of the text. The pulse is gentle. demonstrating Principle #2. and tells a story of two lovers parting on good terms. The first part of the verse uses mainly fragile progressions (F – Dm – F/C Bb). telling the listener what’s going on in the 132 . setting up the mood perfectly in short order. The text is simple. every day F/C Bb Every step along the way Dm C Am Bb Even though for now we've gotta say goodbye Dm C Am Bb I know you will be forever in my life (yeah) F Never gone… This song begins with a beautifully evocative piano solo. allowing the song to gain energy that culminates in the chorus.

demonstrating Principle #3. using more strong progressions. using predominantly fragile progressions. You want verses to feel inconclusive. Curiously. You make verses feel inconclusive primarily by: 1. constructing your melody to focus on notes other than the tonic note. and always as a passing note. So why does the chorus feel so strong? It is because the tonic note is featured so much in the melody of the chorus. the music begins to feature stronger progressions (Am – Bb – F – C). In the verse. . it makes your audience keep listening to find out how it all turns out in the end. 3. 2. It’s an important feature of any song.singer’s life. using a text that tells a story or describes feelings without being too conclusive. always on weak beats. particularly at the beginning and middle sections. Principles #2 and #3 go hand-in-hand because they both deal with how to make a melody stronger in some cases. This constant reiteration of the tonic note is the secret to how the melody is so strong. 3. In the second part of the verse. the tonic note is only rarely presented. You make choruses feel conclusive and strong primarily by: 1. the chorus reverts to the chords of the first part of the verse. 133 particularly at the beginning and end of the chorus. using text that expresses conclusive statements about emotions and decisions. the tonic note is presented no less than twelve times in the first eight bars. The first part of the chorus features the tonic note as the most important note. constructing your melody to focus on the tonic note. weaker in others. the singer begins to show courage and strength (“Though the distance that’s between us… It will never separate us…”). In keeping with this show of strength. 2. Ease your way to the tonic as the verse meets up with the chorus. In the chorus.

It is because of the higher tessitura of the chorus notes. complementing the higher energy that comes with a higher voice. Generally speaking. They need to be contoured in such a way that they have internal energy that propels them forward. This is appropriate. You will set the chorus up beautifully if your verse melody heads upward as it approaches the chorus. There’s much that can be said about this shaping of melodies. Within each verse or chorus. There needs to be shape. This is because chorus text is usually more emotive. Melodies need shape. because the second part 134 . all based on this basic principle: Melody/Lyric Principle #4: THE LATTER HALF OF VERSES WILL OFTEN BE PITCHED HIGHER THAN THE FIRST HALF. even without a chord sequence to help. the second part of the verse shows higher range than the first part. CHORUS NOTES ARE OFTEN HIGHER THAN VERSE NOTES. melodies need to show intelligent design elements. In “Never Gone”. chorus text will lend itself well to higher range than verse text.Shaping a Melody There is another reason why the chorus of “Never Gone” feels so strong.

Good male pop singers can slip into and out of falsetto without their audience really knowing. Generally. Higher tessitura means that the notes are higher in pitch. or caring for that matter. lying higher in a singer’s voice. choruses should have a higher tessitura than verses. It’s not uncommon for a chorus to repeat that tonic note and keep returning to it. 135 .of the verse shows more emotion and strength. and focus more on the tonic note. The higher voice helps the audience feel that text.

I want to. Let’s Write a Song Let’s take a look at how the layering process can help you create songs. it is like sculpture: songs begin as an unfashioned piece of material that is gradually honed until desired shapes come forward. In reality. Layering simply means that a song will begin as a chord pattern. somewhat spontaneously. or some other simple structure.Creating a Melody by Layering Ideas It is entirely possible that “Never Gone” was created by the layering of musical ideas until a completed song emerged. But I want to speed up the process here right now. or rhythm. 136 . As that structure is played and modified. In that way. so that we can see how layering elements together can produce a good song. gradually evolving into the completed song. the best songwriters out there spend a good amount of time before the composition process working on lyrics and other elements. try to create a song by layering various elements of that song one by one. piecing fragments together over time. other layers are added.

Step 2 – Creating and Fusing Melodic and Text Fragments I began to improvise a melody above this progression. with perhaps a little arpeggiating (chord “noodling”). and the song will eventually have more than two chords. play it many times. and try to discover whatever you can that can be used and brought forward. 137 . Maybe you envision a repeating rhythm underneath. I only have two chords to go on. I’ve come across the following progression that’s caught my attention: Sample 29 A rather simple two-chord progression like this can serve as an underlying layer for an entire song. Perhaps if I keep this progression I can do something with that G as I arrange the final version of the song.Step 1 – An Underlying Layer After some meandering around on my keyboard. You may find that the chords sound great played simply. But it will be good to try to bring forward melodic ideas and fragments at this point. trying different rhythmic ideas. Whatever it is. and found myself bringing that note forward. At this point. I became a bit fixated on the common tone G that exists in both chords. no doubt. When I tried noodling on this progression. Play the two chords many times.

my text will need to feel like it is summing up feelings and/or events that a verse would present. And I’m remembering that a chorus melody may want to feature that tonic note more frequently than a verse. Step 3 – Expanding the Chord Layer It’s likely that this song will use more than the two chords I’ve been vamping. I’m keeping the Chord Progression Principles in mind. If this is working out to be a verse. I try to get a feeling for structural elements. And I ask myself certain questions: Do I feel like this fragment is going to work out to be part of a verse or a chorus? Am I envisioning text. I begin writing down words and text phrases that are coming to mind. If it’s a chorus. My initial fragments have been coming together a bit. and given me something like this for a chord progression: Sample 30 138 . so I’ll try creating more chords. or even a subject area? If so. I know that I can be somewhat free in using fragile progressions.As I work on this fragment.

the second half features chords from the stronger end. It wanders away from and back to that Cadd9 chord. I’d probably choose to repeat what I’ve got there. the 9th simply adding a nice bit of colour to the C major chord. and so nothing will be shocking or out-of-place to the listener. all the chords come from the key of C major. allowing energy to build. but as you can see. At this point. It starts on Cadd9. Step 4 – Fusing Melodic Fragments into Sections It is at this point that I begin to piece together melodic bits into a composite melody. The first part of the sequence is comprised mainly of progressions from the fragile end of the Two-Chord Progression Chart. with the thought in mind that the underlying accompaniment will get a little busier the second time through.This makes a great chord layer to use as a basis for a melody. Bars 5-8 take us slightly further afield. and I’m going to try writing them down to try with some melody: 139 . I’ve been mulling some text fragments over in my mind as I’ve been working. So far… So what do we have so far? Just a progression that seems to work quite nicely.

I find my lyric here to be a bit too straight ahead. I am only moderately satisfied with what I’ve got so far. Don’t forget… you can hear all of the written musical samples in this book by visiting www. because I am starting to think ahead to the chorus.com 140 .secretsofsongwriting. so I can change anything I want.Sample 31 Well. but the good news is… it’s my song. I want to use more imagery than this. But for now. Personally. I’ll leave it. so I’m probably going to go back and change it.

As I continue working on this song. and featuring the tonic note more often. For example. I might try this as a starting point as the melody and text for the chorus: Sample 32 141 . which fits with the more “hopeful” text.I’ve used stronger progressions in the second half of the melody. I know that when I write the chorus. knowing that I’d never allow that to be my finished song. I find myself writing things down that I won’t be keeping. The reason is this: It is easier to edit something you’ve written down than something that resides only in your mind. using a higher tessitura. At times. I’ll want to make it stronger by perhaps using stronger progressions. even if I know that the text. So don’t be afraid to write things down. chords or melody won’t be what I’ll finally want. I’ll continue to put ideas down.

but you’ll find that the best songwriters out there give plenty of good thought to lyrics. this isn’t the direction I want to go in with the text. while the chorus is more emotional and conclusive in nature. 142 . All this proves a point: Just because you use proper songwriting technique does not mean you will automatically produce a hit song. It’s all part of the process. But it’s important to get them down on paper somehow. I’d choose to work on the text separately for quite a while before beginning the composition process.Now my mind is confirming that for me. I’ve followed basic principles in getting this far. while the chorus takes the singer much higher. The verse text is mainly narrative and inconclusive. It’s too literal. Many great songwriters can compose hundreds if not thousands of songs before a hit comes along. while the chorus features it many times. In reality. The verse only occasionally gives the tonic note. If your theory isn’t strong enough to write notes. though I’ve sat here “in real time” writing this song. Despite my unhappiness with my text. Don’t be afraid to scrap ideas and start again. And the verse is relatively low in the singer’s range. sing and play it into a digital or tape recorder. There are many songwriters who “sketch together” the lyric as they fumble for words. and I was hoping to come up with less obvious ways to show how I feel.

be certain that when you look at the final product that the poetry comes through first and foremost. you’ll want to listen to lots of writers who place the lyric high in importance: Peter Gabriel. 143 . Brian Eno. and Michelle Branch. and composers of dance music usually have a particular way of working.Other Ways to Compose The Text-First Method In my opinion. some of the best songwriters out there are the ones that start with text first. Kate Bush. That’s a similar story for many poet-songwriters. If your poetry is important to you. who records on Madonna’s Maverick Records. Laurie Anderson. If you love poetic text. techno. you are probably already aware of the terms house. Chris Martin. I say this. where the message of the text is secondary. If making dance music is your interest. As I mentioned before. Branch. became a guitarist so that she could play well enough to set her poetry to music and perform it. looking for musical ways to present their poetry to others. because I am partial to intelligently written text. They are poets. The Rhythm/Beat-First Method If you love the thought of getting people out on the dance floor. you’ll place beat and rhythm higher in importance than the melody or lyric. you have to make sure that other elements of your composition do not upstage your text. Music of this character is often highly electronic in nature.

It requires equipment (synthesizers. that may not be the song to tell the world your thoughts on greed and capitalism. incorporating the Roland TB 303 bass machine to produced a more highly electronic. Some text is extremely simple. House music evolved out of the disco craze of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. A dance number may not need much beyond “love ya baby”. Trance is a highly charged. energetic style of dance music. etc. Good text means that it does what it was meant to do. More About Lyrics Good text is vital to a good song. Dance music is a particular genre that really needs its own book. Good text doesn’t mean that it has to be a stunning poem. If it’s mainly a dance number with a driving beat meant to get everyone out on the dance floor. 144 . industrial sound. and that simplicity may be exactly what the song needs.trance. Techno evolved from House. progressive. Its most immediately noticeable feature is the incessant kick-drum beat. ambient and others. sequences.) and the style of composing differs radically from the kind of songwriting dealt with in this book.

You need to see text. Their music is a fantastic example of songwriting at its best.Too Many Words a big problem with text is often that it is too wordy – too much information being communicated. and the melodic and harmonic treatment of the text is winning fans all over the world. never consider text without also considering melody and harmony. As Melody/Lyric Principle #1 says. I’ve mentioned the band Coldplay several times in this chapter. All of these can make listeners’ brains start to turn off. “The clock on the wall” is better than “The clock that is on the wall. Be concise in your lyrics. Chord changes happen almost as washes of sound. it is complicated by the fact that the melody itself tends to be complex and involved. to fit with the complicated text.” 145 . And often when this happens. The lyric is usually very strong. melody and harmony as three corners of the composition triangle that need to be in balance. Coldplay’s music is cleverly written – a true weaving-together of all aspects of music. where chords morph from one to the other as they serve to convey the meaning of the lyric.

A complex melody can upstage a deep lyric. That being said. Complexity in music is not necessarily a drawback. which I think is a perfect example of balance between lyric. But some bands use this intricacy well. set to a complicated melody with a complicated chord structure. Intricacy runs the risk of being interpreted as pomposity. and some of the early progressive rock bands had to wait ten years to see any sort of commercial success. their music stands as monuments of the twentieth century. To properly convey the intricate storylines. If you adopt a less conventional vehicle for your music. it will usually take you longer to build a fan base for your music. all that complexity may across as being a bit pretentious. The danger in complicated lyrics. is that you might lose some of your audience in what they view as a sea of cerebral gobbledygook. King Crimson and others were studies in musical composition that confounded some while thoroughly entertaining others. You’d never guess that it could be 146 . writers sometimes feel the need to abandon the simple verse-chorus structures of mainstream songwriting. classics of their day. The song is basically a lively country song. abstract lyrics will benefit from a more predictable harmonic and melodic structure. Also. These bands considered themselves to be story-tellers more than just singersongwriters. Just be careful. People are somewhat mistrusting of new approaches to music. Early music from Genesis. Yes. But losing your audience is. Gentle Giant.Sometimes. Don’t try to make profound lyrics sound even more profound by adding profundity! There is a song by the John Denver called “Love is Everywhere”. however. with almost a “hootenanny” feel. melody and harmony.

And I wonder if I would feel the same way about it if the melody and chords were complex. They are quite simplistic. It really depends on what your song is “about”. A Good Lyric Isn’t Necessarily Deep You don’t need deep lyrics to have a good song.anything more than that. ©1975 Cherry Lane Music. 147 . like an emotion or an event. You may want to state something simply. but if you look at the lyrics. and WB Music Corp. you’ll see that there is deep meaning: Follow your heart like a flying stallion Race with the sun to the edge of night Form your truth like a gold medallion Dance in the circle of the love and the light6 I love that lyric. and the emotions are predictable. Jennifer Lopez co-wrote a song called “Again”. If what you are writing about is straightforward. The concept is simple. which attempts to convey her feelings about a love-turned-friendship. don’t try to write lyrics that are overly profound or intricate. Music of 1091. But they aren’t. and in the best way possible they stay out of the way of the lyrics. And the lyrics work well because… they are simple and predictable: 6 Love is Everywhere.

7 “Again”. But if it isn’t. In other words. Nuyorican Publishing. If it’s all about the poetry. Balancing Lyrics and Melody Songs with unremarkable lyrics need a good hook or melody.. Reggie Hamlet Publishing 148 .7 It’s great if your lyrics can exist as a stand-alone poem. ©2002..Like an angel out the sky you came Clearing up all the clouds. make sure that the poem comes forth clearly by not allowing the melody and harmony to upstage it. you need to decide what your song is about. But to have a great song does not necessarily mean that the lyric must be strong. the sadness and the rain So pure and healing was the love you bring I knew inside. Jaedon Christopher Publishing.. Cori Tiffani Publishing..(It felt so right) For me. like the ones above. With you it seems I may have found Some other kind of love.. Sony/ATV Songs LLC. To find that thing that makes it right. it needs something more in another category. I’ve struggled all my life. a captivating underlying rhythm... Sony/ATV Tunes.. or some other remarkable feature.

but that doesn’t mean that you should write garbage. that doesn’t mean you should leave the walls blank.It’s important to discuss this a bit here. that make their statement softly. 149 . That’s unremarkable… not bad. coupled with its high range. because I need to clarify: A complex lyric doesn’t mean that you must dumb the melody down. One of the Eagles’ biggest hits was “Hotel California”. But it tells a good story. Think of it this way: the walls in your house might be offwhite. There are few if any big leaps. not complex at all. Let’s go back to the analogy of the living room used in Chapter 2. In fact. or have really bad pictures on them. If you really like your fireplace and want it to be a focal point in your living room. Your lyrics don’t need to be astounding poetry. it’s quite strong. To make that fireplace really take its proper place as a focal point. and as lyrics go. and doesn’t wander much from its starting notes. This. people will be so busy remarking to themselves how boring the walls are that they won’t notice your beautiful fireplace. The Balance of “Hotel California” When setting a strong lyric. The melody is not complex. it is clever. But while not complex. gives it an agitated feel. the guideline is that you should have a melody and an accompaniment that allow the lyric to shine forth. It’s important to know the difference. and just what the song needs. if the walls are blank. It’s actually a bit reserved. it needs pictures that are simple but elegant. It’s not a profound lyric. The melodic phrases are made up of short one-bar subphrases.

Many believe it’s about a drug-induced trip. debate. it had to be 150 . the meanings of specific lines. or perhaps over-indulgence. while others believe it is a song about Satanism. it impels listeners to discuss. the listening public was deep in the throes of the disco era. That’s when you know that a lyric and the accompanying melody and harmonies are in perfect balance. When a lyric is as strong as this one is. But the structure of the melody allows the text to shine. and otherwise argue. it was mostly about the rhythm. Dealing with Unremarkable Lyrics If your lyric is less remarkable. it is almost always the text they talk about. Sometimes a song is about the harmony. At that time. Don Henley from the Eagles has actually put forward at least two different views of the text.When fans of the song talk about “Hotel California”. And it’s great to hear fans of the song try to decipher its meaning. or the underlying rhythm. and never the melody or harmonies. don’t assume you have a dud. During the mid to late 70s.

Take these rather-lessthan-weighty words from one of the ‘70s supergroups. uh-huh. I like it. Reading the text of a disco-era tune is often an exercise in… nothing much. I like it. uh-huh…8 8 “That’s the Way (I Like It)” © 1975 Harry Wayne Casey. I like it. uh-huh. that’s the way. uh-huh uh-huh. so the lyrics generally took a back seat.danceable. uh-huh. that’s how mainstream music was judged. That underlying disco beat was what the song was about. that’s the way. That’s the way. And do it the very best you can. uh-huh uh-huh. Tell me I’m your loving man. uh-huh. Oh. uh-huh. I like it. uh-huh uh-huh. uh-huh. Richard Raymond Finch 151 . That’s the way. KC & the Sunshine Band: Oh. That’s the way. I like it. When you give me all your love. uh-huh. uh-huh uh-huh. uh-huh. uh-huh uh-huh. uh-huh. When you take me by the hand. With few exceptions.

So how did this song actually survive? And not just survive.Disco Duck. 9 More. It’s hard to believe that anyone actually took the time to write the words to “That’s the Way (I like it)” down. They’ll just get lost otherwise. As listeners. we instinctively know that when a song is rhythm-driven.. “Shake Shake Shake” (“Shake your bootie…”). the text won’t likely be anything that we would call “poetry”. More. But if you want the song to be about the beat. More”9 (“How do you like it/ How do you like it…”). Disco was big in the late 70s. about the grooving background rhythm. and the lyrics weren’t necessarily gems. KC could have been singing the words to Aunt Mary’s Muffin Mix recipe. lighten up on the lyrics. and it still would have become a hit. More. So did other memorable disco tunes with shockingly weak lyrics: “More. but become one of the big hits from the decade? It’s that driving beat and the horn shots.. More ©1976 Gregg Diamond 152 . and “Disco Duck”10 (“Went to a party the other night / All the ladies were treating me right / Moving my feet to the disco beat / How in the world could I keep my seat / All of a sudden I began to change / I was on the dance floor acting strange / Flapping my arms I began to cluck / Look at me. I’m the disco duck…) Don’t be Weak So what do we do with all of this information? The most important advice is: Don’t set out to deliberately write weak lyrics. Don’t write weak anything. meant for dancing. and Other Lyrical Misfortunes.

©1976 Fretone Records. If you imagined someone saying to Lavigne after the second chorus. The lyric of that song describes a painful breakup of two lovers. before the final verse or chorus.The Bridge A bridge is the part of the song usually after the second or third chorus. 153 . we looked at Avril Lavigne’s “Fall to Pieces” as a good example of a form that contains a bridge. 2. to intensify melodic and lyric energy. it’s the text of a bridge that really sets it apart from the verse or chorus. to provide additional melodic material. In Chapter 3. Someone stops you and says. “Tell me more…”. and you’ve just finished singing the second chorus. More than melody. the text of the bridge is the perfect reply: “Wanna know who you are / Wanna to 10 Disco Duck. The best way to conceptualize this type of text is to imagine singing your song. “Tell me more about how this all makes you feel”. The purpose of a bridge is twofold: 1. Inc. reducing the risk of melodic boredom.

With this in mind. keep this advice in mind: Harmonize the beginning of the bridge with a chord other than the tonic chord. and an intensifying of energy of the piece. Another popular choice is the IV-chord (a D major chord in the key of A major). Starting on a vi-chord is a popular choice. if your piece is in A major. As the bridge progresses. then. Chords based on the fifth note of a scale (“dominant” 11 Fall to Pieces. The bridge needs to feel somewhat unsettled. Lavigne allows the energy to dissipate slightly at the beginning of the bridge before driving the piece forward four bars later. 154 . start the bridge with an F# minor chord.e. you will need to give thought to having the end of the bridge meet up with the chorus. because the audience needs to feel that the conclusive nature of the chorus is needed once again after the bridge. ©2004 Avril Lavigne Publishing. This gives it that anxious quality that many bridges need. i. Ltd. In “Fall to Pieces”. serves as an intensifying of emotions in the text..know where to start / I wanna know what this means / Wanna know how you feel / Wanna know what is real / I wanna know everything / Everything…” 11 The bridge. The controlling of the energy in this manner provides that all-important contouring that is so crucial to good music.

e. 155 . The proper way to study the art of songwriting is to write it. Some people spend more time talking about writing music than actually writing it. There are times that you should be listening (set aside time every day). you may want to have an E major chord be the joining chord between bridge and chorus. and there are times you should be reading about it.chords) are a good choice. A major in the key of A major).. But the one and only way to actually improve your songwriting craft is to do it. If the first chord of your bridge is the tonic chord (i.

Songs usually start as vague shells that become more distinct and defined as the writer hones the elements. KEY NOTES AND STATEMENTS FROM CHAPTER 5: • • • The general trend of energy throughout a song should be upward. Composing by layering song elements is a common way to compose. WITH PREDOMINANTLY FRAGILE CHORD PROGRESSIONS. The notes in verses should move upward as they approach the chorus. The word “tessitura” refers to the general range of a song. Melody/Lyric Principle #3: THE PRESENCE OF THE KEYNOTE (TONIC NOTE) WILL STRENGTHEN THE UNDERLYING STRUCTURE OF A MELODY.Chapter 5 SUMMARY In this chapter you have learned: Melody/Lyric Principle #1: THE SHAPE OF A MELODY MUST BE PLANNED WITH VOCAL RANGE. o You make verses feel inconclusive primarily by: using predominantly fragile progressions. B) A CHORUS CAN USE TEXT THAT IS REFLECTIVE AND DRAWS CONCLUSIONS. Melody/Lyric Principle #4: THE HIGHEST NOTES OF MELODIES WILL MORE OFTEN THAN NOT OCCUR IN CHORUSES. AND USE STRONGER CHORD PROGRESSIONS. Choruses will usually have a higher tessitura than verses. Melody/Lyric Principle #2: A) A VERSE CAN USE TEXT THAT IS NARRATIVE AND INCONCLUSIVE. HARMONY AND TEXT IN MIND. You want verses to sound less conclusive than choruses. • 156 . using a text that tells a story or describes feelings without being too conclusive. Much of this honing happens concurrently. CHORUSES CAN AND SHOULD FEATURE THE TONIC NOTE IN ITS MELODY MORE THAN VERSES.

Don’t set out to deliberately write weak lyrics. Be sure that the bridge you construct builds energy. melody and harmony as three corners of the composition triangle that need to be in balance. Just because you use proper songwriting technique does not mean you will automatically produce a hit song. but that doesn’t mean that you should write garbage. Your lyrics don’t need to be astounding poetry. Good text means that it does what it was meant to do. Don’t try to make profound lyrics sound even more profound by adding profundity.constructing your melody to focus on notes other than the tonic note. Complexity in music is not necessarily a drawback. particularly at the beginning and middle sections. A bridge is the part of the song usually after the second or third chorus. about the grooving background rhythm. lighten up on the lyrics. particularly at the beginning and end of the chorus. constructing your melody to focus on the tonic note. • • • Melodies need to be contoured in such a way that they have internal energy that propels them forward. Ease your way to the tonic as the verse meets up with the chorus. Good text is vital to a good song. You need to see text. It’s important to know the difference. o You make choruses feel conclusive and strong primarily by: using more strong progressions. before the final verse or chorus. Intricacy runs the risk of being interpreted as pomposity. That’s unremarkable… not bad. But if you want the song to be about the beat. Don’t write weak anything. and that simplicity may be exactly what the song needs. Good text doesn’t mean that it has to be a stunning poem. using text that expresses conclusive statements about emotions and decisions. Think of it this way: the walls in your house might be offwhite. setting the audience up for the final chorus. even without a chord sequence to help. Some text is extremely simple. • • • • • • 157 . But losing your audience is.

Chapter 6.The Hook 158 .

I love that song!” If you listen to a piece of music and find yourself humming a certain couple of notes or bars all day long – that’s the hook! Back in the early 70s. Though not a hook’s primary purpose. it’s whatever gets the audience into your pocket.A Good Hook can take a good song and In fishing. a hook is whatever gets the fish into the boat. melody. In a way. an audience may not be too forgiving of an entire CD of bad songs with catchy hooks. it can make you forget that a song has unremarkable lyrics. Never underestimate the value of a good hook. “Oh. and someone will invariably say. however short it might be. A good hook make it fantastic. The hook may be the prominent part of some chorus. That descending chord progression – that riveting five-chord shot – is the hook that kept the tune in everyone’s head. you’ll only have to sing that hook. or a ho-hum chord progression. everyone I know was singing those opening guitar chords in Chicago’s hit “25 or 6 to 4”. They’ll be able to see through that. Hooks are so strong that even when they aren’t being played you can still “hear them” somehow. That being said. In music. or could be the chorus itself. and brought them back to the song. If you sing the hook from a song. hooks are indefinable. because they are being redefined every time a writer 159 .

Hook and Motif I mentioned Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony before. A motif is a short melodic or rhythmic idea that a composer uses in a piece to create a sense of cohesion throughout a work. Here’s a great example: The American national anthem begins with what we call a dotted rhythm – a longish note (a dotted eighth note) followed by a short one (a sixteenth note). but here is the main difference: In order to be a hook. The descending two-note figure every time Petula Clark sang.composes one. “Down----town!” is a great hook. easily remembered. You may not be aware of the various motifs that a composer uses. That dotted eighth – sixteenth note figure is a basic motif that recurs many times 160 . or it isn’t a hook. it is important to know that there is a difference. In the case of the opening to Beethoven’s Fifth – it’s both. it must be short. but a motif may not necessarily be a hook. but you need to be aware of a hook. That figure doesn’t just show up in her melody. and needs to stand out as a highly distinctive feature. and then some evenly spaced quarter notes. and described that famous four-note figure as a motif. A hook may be a motif. it also becomes an integral part of the background accompaniment throughout the song. You may think that I just described a hook. A motif is an important building block. When you talk about motifs and hooks. but it provides its cohesion more from the background.

The difference is that a motif may do its work from the background. the fact that a restaurant uses burgundy red throughout its décor could be considered a motif. A motif is a structural element of a piece of music that forms the backbone of that piece.” co-written by Roy Orbison. Hooks can be any aspect of a song. but a motif need not necessarily be a hook. creating cohesion throughout a song by being repetitious. A hook by definition must be noticeable. the harmony. The spectacular fried chicken they serve would be the hook that brings you back. and helps to glue the entire song together by virtue of the fact that the rhythm happens over and over. and then comes back 161 . More often than not. per se. To think of it another way. It provides structure and cohesion. It’s the figure that introduces the song. But did you know of the existence of that motif before I mentioned it just now? Probably not. whatever the songwriter has done to set the chorus words is often a hook. Musical Lubricant Arguably one of the most distinctive hooks from the ‘60s is the opening guitar figure in “Oh. So is a hook. hooks appear in choruses. Pretty Woman. but may not be overtly noticeable. recurring many times.throughout the anthem. But it is not a hook. A hook will likely be a type of motif. It can be a part of the melody. the lyric. or some combination of any or all of those aspects.

that distorted guitar glissando that was another great hook. An instrumental hook provides a groove. and then flinging your melody across it – it just keeps going! Another great hook is the recurring clavinet figure in “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. The “Baker Street” sax melody is an eight bar melody. He starts the song with that riff. and very easy to remember. Embedded in that hook was a guitar shot. and keeps using it for the duration of the song. It’s the glue that holds the piece together. That hook is so strong that I don’t think the song ever even has to end! And Gerry Rafferty had a big hit with “Baker Street” back in 1978. A hook like this one is like greasing up a tile floor. repeated. A hook within a hook! A melodic/instrumental hook is a figure that needs to be short enough that people can remember it. That song featured a great sax solo which was a wonderful melodic hook. But it is just a four-bar question/answer format melody that is very repetitive.time and again. If you are going to incorporate a melodic/instrumental hook into your 162 .

but many serve as the basis for the intro. And a melodic/instrumental hook usually needs to be laced with a strong rhythm. Follow this primary principle: Hook Principle #1 MAKE IT SHORT AND MEMORABLE. Long hooks lose focus. a tag between choruses and verses. keep it on the short side if possible. Stevie Wonder’s is only two. and lose their reason for existing. 163 . less distinctive. Pretty Woman” is only one bar long. Orbison’s guitar lick in “Oh. Strong rhythm is an important component of a melodic hook. and then as an outro. something that makes it dig in and groove. and keep it simple.song. The clavinet lick in Stevie Wonder’s Superstition does. Don’t feel that the hook must necessarily persist through the entire song. Making a melodic hook too long makes it less memorable. Many songwriters will use the creation of a hook as a starting point for a song.

And some hooks are very subtle.The Hook as a Basis for Your Song Many songwriters develop a good hook first. or Rafferty actually show up as a part of the melody of the song. Wonder. Maybe it lacks a “moment”. seem to be a bit boring. “Hey Jude” is a perfect example. None of the hooks that I’ve mentioned by Orbison. They are stand-alone melodies that decorate and complement the main melody. 164 . This is not true. your song is weaker. So how do you know if your song needs a hook? Sometimes melodies can be beautiful. and don’t really have a memorable hook. but taken all together. The hook need not necessarily be strongly related to the basic melody of your song. or have beautiful moments. This method is great if you find that your song lacks pizzazz. You may find it possible to work in the opposite direction – take a song and develop a hook for it. and then use that hook as a basis for a song. but a cleverly understated one. but the song would survive without it. It has a fantastic outro that basically is a hook. A melodic hook can be what would liven up such a melody. The descending two-note pattern on the opening words “Hey Jude…” is a hook. The Subtle Hook There are many songwriting instructors out there that try to tell students that without a hook. Some songs are really fantastic works. million sellers.

And if your song doesn’t have an obvious hook. not why a song is good. a song with problems. 165 . many others. and fix what you think is wrong about it. Notwithstanding. it’s best to take a closer look at your song. by the traditional sense of the word “hook”. If you think your song is good only because of the hook. It serves as an intro. but it is best to think of a hook as a component of a good song. I don’t trust musicians who fixate on the hook as the be-all and end-all. don’t worry. and make you forget your problems! Songs need a focal point. and is strongly featured in an outro. A good hook may save a song. Many of their biggest songs start without even an intro (“Penny Lane”. But if you listen to the Beatles music.Many composers use a hook to set up a piece. “Hey Jude” “Hello Goodbye”. The Myth of the Hook It is a myth that your song needs a hook. but that is not to say it needs a hook. an aspect that draws attention to itself. It may not need one. and many. “All My Loving”. then recurs many times. What is true is that many more songs suffer from lack of form and overall shape than they do lack of hook. Then the hook becomes a crown that your song can wear. you’ll notice that they were not big users of hooks. a hook can take an otherwise boring song.

A good hook can only mask existing problems to a certain extent. 166 . every song has a hook if people want to listen to it. boring songs will greatly benefit from the interest a hook will generate. That will make the 10cent ice cream an even better hook. that won’t solve the problem that the rest of the food your establishment offers is bad. Another important thought: A hook is. technically. remember this important principle: Hook Principle #2 ADDING A HOOK TO A BAD SONG GIVES YOU A BAD SONG WITH A HOOK. whatever brings people back to your song. if the 10-cent ice cream cone is the hook that gets people into your store. That being said.Whether you use one or not. The good restaurateur will fix what is bad about the food. it’s better to fix what is unremarkable first before worrying about the hook. But the principle really means to say that if you have problems in your song. so in a sense. fix the problems directly. If you have a song that is unremarkable. To use a previous analogy.

Keep it short. Simple and catchy are the key words. Make rhythm a memorable component. This means that you should make the underlying rhythm of a hook simple but catchy. This is why it’s so important to keep every idea you write. This is why it can be so important to somehow write down or record any musical ideas you get. 2. many fragments of songs that don’t make it into songs. The more complicated it is.Recognizing a Hook The issue of writing a hook is not so much about writing than it is recognizing a hook. you’ll write many. But here are the things you’ll want to make sure you keep in mind as you work a hook into your song: 1. because you never know when it can serve as a component of another song. A hook is composed in much the same way that you would compose any other part of your song. A hook needs to be memorable. 167 . the less memorable it will be. the less memorable it will be. But if you are a normal writer. These ideas could form the basis for a hook in another song. and the longer the hook. A hook does not need to have any obvious relation to the rest of your song.

between choruses and verses. The most important feature of a hook is a simple one: to bring people back to your song. and 2) it won’t fix a song with problems.3. Remember these two things about hooks: 1) Keep it short. 168 . and as an outro (like “Baker Street”). Use it as an intro. (Like “Superstition”) don’t force it. Don’t force a hook. If you can’t find a way to work a hook to be a constant feature of your song.

it’s better to fix what is unremarkable first before worrying about the hook. make rhythm a memorable component. a hook is whatever gets the fish into the boat. A hook must be short. A hook may be a motif. Hook Principle #2 ADDING A HOOK TO A BAD SONG GIVES YOU A BAD SONG WITH A HOOK. and don’t force a hook into your song if it doesn’t seem to want to be there. A hook can liven up a good song that just needs something a bit more memorable about it. It is a myth that your song needs a hook. If you have a song that is unremarkable. 169 • • • • • • . but a motif may not necessarily be a hook. it’s whatever gets the audience into your pocket. easily remembered. What is true is that many more songs suffer from lack of form and overall shape than they do lack of hook. In music. KEY NOTES AND QUOTES FROM CHAPTER 6: • In fishing. If you listen to a piece of music and find yourself humming a certain couple of notes or bars all day long – that’s the hook! A motif is a short melodic or rhythmic idea that a composer uses in a piece to create a sense of cohesion throughout a work.Chapter 6 SUMMARY In this chapter you have learned: Hook Principle #1 MAKE IT SHORT AND MEMORABLE. Keep a hook short. by the traditional sense of the word “hook”. and needs to stand out as a highly distinctive feature.

Chapter 7Inspiration 170 .

the funeral of a family member. But there is an important aspect of writing that we haven’t really addressed yet: inspiration. But these are rare happenings in our lives. who claim to be able to write at least one song a day. no matter which genre of composition you examine. 171 . About creating a better song. or for some other emotionally significant occasion. This book has been about taking your ideas for songs and making them better. Are they really being inspired to write that much? The answer may surprise you: most songwriters and composers.The Role of Inspiration In the preface I mentioned that songwriters will need to deal with the creative side and the marketing side of songwriting. and no doubt we will need more than emotionally charged events to write music. Misunderstanding Inspiration There are times when you will find yourself inspired to write something – perhaps for the wedding of a friend. place a very low level of importance on the role of inspiration. How much of a role does inspiration play in the composing of a song? What about those songwriters who have composed literally thousands of songs.

This is. where musical 172 “The great composer…does not set to work because he is inspired. waiting for inspiration. without a doubt. far down on the list of necessities in the songwriting process. If you are waiting for inspiration to compose your song – don’t wait! Start writing without it. generally. as if the writer is in communion with the songwriting gods. because if you are a normal human. but becomes inspired because he is working.Inspiration is. Inspiration is often perceived to be a magical sort of quality. There is the romantic notion of the composer. you could be waiting a long time. where he begins to write furiously before all the musical ideas that just floated into his brain disappear again.” -Ernest Newman . the most misunderstood part of the compositional process. It bears repeating that most composers would place the importance of inspiration far. There will be times when you will feel inspired to write. suddenly jumping up and running to his desk. And did you notice that not once in the previous chapters did I even mention the word “inspiration”? Inspiration is not a necessary first step for good composition. a myth.

write down as much as possible. It is best to get into a habit of writing. you know what will work and what won’t. 2. you can! Writing music is more about craft than anything else. It’s vital to good songwriting technique and style that you are 173 .ideas flow freely and easily. Listen to recordings of other writer’s songs every day. and not necessary for writing good songs. Set aside a regular time every day for writing. If you are a serious writer. you will be happy to know that most of the world’s great songwriters feel the same way. If you feel most of the time that writing songs is hard work. That knowledge will be based on your months or years of experience. try to find a regular time every day that you can devote to composition. And as I mentioned in Chapter 5. But this is rare for most writers. THE Steps to Honing Your Songwriting Craft So how is it that some songwriters claim to have written thousands of songs – can you really write that much without inspiration? Yes. with aspirations to become the kind of songwriter whose songs are sought after and recorded. By craft I mean that with time. You can always trash things you don’t like. At such times you’ll almost feel that you are being led by a supernatural force. So the relevant question is really: how can you improve your craft? Here are some suggestions: 1.

set a timer for a half hour. By listening to your music being played back to you. “Free Fallin’”. then go nuts! See if you can write a song in a half hour. don’t worry! This is just an exercise to hone your craft. Try listening to genres that you wouldn’t normally listen to. Record your music and listen to it. If the song you wrote is horrible. Set even tougher limitations for yourself. you gain the same perspective that an audience does. Try testing your craft by setting a time limit to come up with a song. which uses only E. Writers who constrain themselves to only listening to their own music are limiting the potential for ideas and thoughts.) 174 .being influenced by as many outside sources as possible. F# and G#. Find a text. check out Tom Petty’s song. 3. or write one out. not just as it comes out of your own mouth and piano. (If you think that’s not possible. It’s important to be listening to your own music as it comes out of your sound system. If you can. No need to rent time in a studio for this – just a cassette tape machine or small digital recorder will do. How about this idea: Choose three notes. and write an entire song using only three notes in your melody. Give yourself songwriting challenges. congratulations! It means that your songwriting craft is improving. 4.

what would “A Hard Day’s Night” be like 175 . Because inspiration is an unreliable first step for composition. or even just one chord that you like. but it is rare. A single solitary fragment can become a hook for a song. Inspiration is wonderful when it is the beginning of a songwriting process. and stick to it. 2. set aside the same hour or hours weekly. Sometimes only a fragment of a line will occur to you. unnecessary. save it on a tape. This may be every day. As an example of how important this can be. and. or you’ll stumble across a neat way to say something. or write it down if you’re able. write it down. it may only be on the weekends. Even if it’s just one word. If a melodic fragments pops into your mind. Keep a notepad with you to jot down lyric ideas. You’ll find that that habitual writing time is far more valuable than waiting for inspiration. You will likely find a way to fashion it into a real text through the songwriting process.Don’t wait for inspiration. but if you are a student. or working full-time. Whatever your availability. it’s going to be important to do some things to help you get your songwriting process started: 1. 3. What is more necessary is to set a regular writing time. Write down chord progressions that you stumble across. to be frank.

by the way. included the following notes: D A C F G: a Dm7 with a G added. 176 . (That chord. from time to time) but inspiration as a necessity for good songs is a myth. It’s wonderful when you feel inspired (and you will.without that defining single chord at the start of that song.) To sum up – Don’t wait for inspiration.

Give yourself songwriting challenges. Listen to recordings of other writer’s songs every day. Record your music and listen to it. place a very low level of importance on the role of inspiration.Chapter 7 SUMMARY KEY NOTES AND QUOTES FROM CHAPTER 7: • Most songwriters and composers. no matter which genre of composition you examine. you could be waiting a long time. because if you are a normal human. but becomes inspired because he is working. not just as it comes out of your own mouth and piano. • • • • • • 177 . Try testing your craft by setting a time limit to come up with a song. “The great composer…does not set to work because he is inspired. If you are waiting for inspiration to compose your song – don’t wait! Start writing without it. It’s important to be listening to your own music as it comes out of your sound system.” -Ernest Newman Set aside a regular time every day for writing.

The World Beyond Composing – Now What? 178 .Chapter 8.

there are real reasons that can be addressed. What I need you to know. If your song is a failure. we can say that it is not only a principle. is that if your song isn’t working. don’t throw it out! Go back into the main chapters of this book. Is that a principle? Because a principle is a fundamental truth. 179 . and what all of the songwriting principles of this book have been trying to tell you. If you burn the evening meal. but probably the most important one of this book. you may have to throw it out and order a pizza. The answer is probably the biggest secret of all… the secret that stunts the progress of most would-be writers. It may be that up to now your music hasn’t been working for you.The Most Important Principle of All Someone asked me recently to say what I hoped this book could do for songwriters that other books already out there aren’t already doing. If you learn nothing else from this book. and discover the ways that you can fix the problems. You can take a song that has problems and solve those problems. remember this: BAD SONGS Are GOOD SONGS that can be fixed.

and start a new one. But there are things you must do if you are going to perform your music professionally. Composers from Mozart right through to today’s pop songwriters have stowed music away all their lives. That is the subject for another book. or market your music to others. Getting Your Song Ready… A Brief Tutorial COPYRIGHT Once you’ve written your song. you are the only person permitted to make copies of that music.That being said. You need to get your music into a fixed form. If you have your music in print form (handwritten or 180 . it’s also important not to fixate on problems that are mystifying you. And now… what? It hasn’t been the intention of this book to deal with the marketing end of songwriting. either a recording or print music. Sometimes the best answer to fixing a bad song is to put it away for now. bringing it out again sometimes years later once their songwriting craft improves. it is automatically copyrighted. This means that unless you transfer that copyright to a publisher or another person. You’ll be able to come back to it once your mind has cleared.

Library of Congress Washington. this will not necessarily protect you from others who might dispute the authorship of the song. You should contact that office directly.copyright. Gary Ewer It’s important to note that even though you are the copyright owner. then your name.gov/ United Kingdom: Copyright enquiries should be made to: Telephone: 0845 9 500 505 (UK callers only . Quebec K1A 0C9 http://strategis. Example: ©2005. then the year..ca (follow the links to “Copyrights”) United States of America: Copyright Office. DC 20559 http://www. or search their respective websites: Canada: Canadian Intellectual Property Office Place du Portage I 50 Victoria St.charged at local rate) International callers: +44 (0)1633 813930 181 . This usually requires registering your music with your government’s copyright agency.computer-notated) put the copyright symbol at the bottom of the first page of music. and have placed your copyright symbol at the bottom of your music.gc. Room C-114 Gatineau.ic.

Mailing a Copy of Your Song to Yourself is Not Enough Many people advise songwriters to mail a copy of their newly-written song to themselves by Registered Mail before showing it to other singers. The titles of songs are not usually copyright protected.You should note that copyright law differs from country to country. Be certain that you contact the government office of your country of residence. so it is important to not accept information from non-governmental websites as the unquestionable truth. so if you hear a song on the radio that appears to have taken the title of your song as its own. This period of time is usually fifty or seventy-five years. A 182 . this offers very little legal protection in a court of law. Check with a copyright office to be certain. In many countries. the copyright on music or text will expire after a certain period of time after the death of the writer. producers. or arrangers. In truth. that is not necessarily copyright infringement. you need the permission of the copyright owner of that text. Copyright is a highly misunderstood area of law for many. Using Other Writers’ Texts If you find a poem that you would like to set to music. The most reliable way to prove ownership is to register your work in your government’s copyright office.

especially if you think they are performable by others. if that work is copyright protected. And how do other singers get to know about your songs? This is usually accomplished by a publishing company. And even in the case of a lawyer. and has been happening for years. you really must know who to trust in matters of copyright. It pays to do your research. and it is never wise to take the word of someone not in the legal field or government.created work for which the copyright has expired is said to be in the public domain. 183 . It will require you to research the title to ascertain the status. Register your songs. The good news is that dealing with copyright through your government’s copyright office is safe. It is unwise to trust information that you’ve found on a website if it is not a government website. Know Who to Trust And on the topic of research. The issue of copyright is a legal issue. If there isn’t a copyright notice on the text you want to use. that does not mean it is a public domain work. their reading of the law may only be a legal opinion that may not stand up to a legal challenge. Using someone else’s work without their permission is illegal.

for a small annual fee through your local state or provincial government. If you do publish through a publishing company. producers and other persons of influence in the business. you can create a company name (“Silly Music Publications”. total copyright is transferred. For example. for example) that you can use in the copyright notice on your music (©2005 Silly Music Publications) You will need to check with the government of your state.Publishing If your song is to be recorded by another performer. province or other local government in your country of residence to ensure you follow proper legal requirements for this sort of “self publishing”. it is a good idea to get your music published. 184 . that a publisher will make a judgment as to whether your song is likely to be a commercial success. however. but more often than not. the typical arrangement is that they will assume the copyright of the song. Most songs remain in unpublished form. Keep in mind. a company will work out a shared copyright deal. Creating Your Own Publishing “Company” Some songwriters create their own company name through which they can assign a publisher’s copyright. It is the publishing company that will pitch your song to performers. Sometimes.

you have jumped a major hurdle. Performing Rights Organizations Another agency in the marketing end of the business is the performing rights organization. usually on a 50-50 basis. Connections to the business side 185 . If your songs are good. Inc. it is creation-related.The advantage to having a recognized company publish your songs is that they usually have well-established lines of communication through which they can distribute your song. Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music. and that fee is shared with you.) In Canada. Authors and Music Publishers in Canada) controls the performing licenses of many Canadian composers. This means that the performer will need to pay your publisher a fee for every copy of a CD they produce. SOCAN (Society of Composers. Mechanical Rights If someone else records your songs. This is the institution that licenses the performance of your copyrighted song. In Conclusion The biggest impediment to getting your songs out into the world is not business-related. they will need to acquire “mechanical rights” to do so. The most well known agencies are ASCAP (American Society of Composers. Performers need to obtain a license to sing your song in public.

Commercial success usually comes to those who are patient enough to wait for it. The more people out there doing your music. to successfully market your songs. too. If you have friends or relatives who sing with a band. It takes doggedness. mixed in with a good measure of patience. Create a good recording that you can shop around to publishers. send them your music with a demo CD. drive and determination. Send your recording to the local radio station. Good luck! 186 . Sometimes it involves a bit of luck. and try to get them performing your songs. That process starts with you.of the songwriting world will be irrelevant to you if you don’t have a good song to market. singing in cafés and in shows. Hang in there. the higher the chances that the right person will hear it and want to publish or perform it. Getting your songs out there means to get them performed.

187 .

© Livin’ La Vida Loca Innovative music Innovative music 188 . © Paul Simon Music You Can Call Me Al. Songs are listed below by chapter of reference in this text: Title CHAPTER 1 All Shook Up. Learning from the pros is what you need to improve your own skills. © Mijac Music Red Sails in the Sunset. ©1956 R&H Music Co. songs by professional songwriters were referenced.Index of Song Samples Throughout The Essential Secrets of Songwriting. © Paul Simon Music Beat It! © Mijac Music Title Building energy Paul Simon Michael Jackson Good hook Good hook Composer / Performer Rod Temperton/ Michael Jackson Michael Jackson Jimmy Kennedy & Hugh Williams/ Bing Crosby Desmond Child & Robi Rosa/ Ricky Martin Format/Label/Recording Title CD: Sony: Thriller CD: Sony: Thriller CD: MCA: Top O the Morning – Irish Collection CD: Sony: Ricky Martin Concept CHAPTER 2 Thriller ©1982 Rodsongs (PRS) Billie Jean. ©1965 Northern Songs Composer / Performer Otis Blackwell / Elvis Presley Lennon & McCartney / The Beatles Simon & Garfunkel Format/Label/Recording Title CD: RCA: Elvis’ Golden Records CD: Capitol: Help! CD: Sony: Bridge Over Troubled Water CD: Warner Bos/WEA: Graceland CD: Sony: Thriller Good melodic shape Concept Bridge Over Troubled Water. You can purchase many of these songs individually from the Apple® iTunes Music Store. Yesterday. Take the time to familiarize yourself with as many of these songs as possible.

E. Jonathan Three Music Co.S. ©1968 Northern Songs Hey Jude. ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing Fall to Pieces. Mike Mills and Michael Stipe/ R. Peter Buck. CD: Sony: Best of the Best Gold. Hound Dog.Johnny Cash CD: Capitol: By the Time I Get to Phoenix Same melody for verse and chorus Same melody for verse and chorus Verse-without-chorus structure Verse-without chorus structure Jimmy Webb/ Glen Campbell Traditional melody. The House of the Rising Sun. CPE Music Inc Chorus-verse design CD: Arista: Under My Skin Verse design [ALSO CHAPTER 6: Hook. Ltd. ©1969 EMI Sosaha Music. Song with no intro] Verse-chorus-bridge design Leiber & Stoller/ Elvis Presley Bruce Springsteen Johnny Cash CD: RCA: Elvis’ Golden Records CD: Sony: Born in the U. I Walk the Line. ©1956 House of cash. ©2004 Avril Lavigne Publishing.A. ©1965 Beechwood Music corporation .M. Aurelius Music (ASCAP) Title Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles David Foster & Peter Cetera/ Chicago Bill Berry. arranged by Alan Price/ The Animals CD: Golgr: House of the Rising Sun [IMPORT] Verse-without chorus structure 189 . ©1952 Leiber & Stoller Born in the U.S.A. © 1970 Lamminations Music/. Robert Lamm/ Chicago CD: Capitol: Magical Mystery Tour CD: Warner Bros/WEA: Chicago 17 CD: Capitol: Document Verse-chorus design Verse-chorus design Verse-chorus design CD: Rhino/WEA: Chicago II Outro [ALSO CHAPTER 6: Hook] Composer / Performer Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Lavigne & Maida Format/Label/Recording Title CD: Capitol: The Beatles Past Masters Volume 2 CD: Capitol: The Beatles 1 Concept CHAPTER 3 Lady Madonna.Penny Lane You’re the Inspiration It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) 25 or 6 to 4. Inc By the Time I Get to Phoenix.

Supper’s Ready. ©Lenono Music Banks/ Collins/ Gabriel/ Hackett/ Rutherford / Genesis Banks/ Collins/ Rutherford/ Genesis CD: Atlantic/ WEA: Foxtrot CD: Atlantic/ WEA: Invisible Touch Bob Dylan CD: Sony: The Times They Are A-Changin’ Refrain form Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Leonard Cohen CD: Capitol: Let it Be CD: Sony: The Songs of Leonard Cohen Refrain form Verse-refrain form Banks/ Collins/ Gabriel/ Hackett/ Rutherford / Genesis John Lennon/ The Beatles CD: Atlantic/WEA: Selling England By the Pound CD: EMI International: Real Love [CD-SINGLE] [IMPORT] Format/Label/Recording Title CD: RCA: Harry Nilsson: All Time Greatest Hits CD: Capitol: Like a Rock Through-composed verse structure Good energy & pacing Title Composer / Performer Ham & Evans/ Harry Nilsson Bob Seger/ Bob Seger & the Siver Bullet Band Concept CHAPTER 4 Without You. ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing Suzanne. © 1967 Leonard Cohen and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada Company I know What I like (In Your Wardrobe). published by Anthony Banks Ltd/Philip Collins Ltd/Michael Rutherford Ltd/Hit and Run Music (Publishing) Ltd The Times They Are A-Changin’. ©1972. Gear Publishing Co. Invisible Touch. ©1974. © 1970 Apple Publishing Ltd. Hit & Run Music Real Love. Stratsong Ltd. Copyright © 1963. © 1985. (ASCAP) Strong vs fragile progressions Two-bar harmonic rhythm 190 . renewed 1991 Special Rider Music Let It Be. Like a Rock.

©Beanly Songs Layla. Robin Gibb/ Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton Elton John & Bernie Taupin/ Elton John Jesse Harris/ Norah Jones Eric Clapton & James Gordon/ Derek and the Dominos Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter/ The Original Caste John Bettis & Richard Carpenter/ The Carpenters CD: Sony: Wild Heart of the Young CD: Capitol: Duets Modal mixture ivchord Modal mixture ivchord CD: Island: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player CD: Blue Note Records: Come Away With Me CD: Polydor/PGD: Layla Secondary dominant chord Secondary dominant chord Chord inversion CD: TA Records: One Tin Soldier CD: A&M: Carpenters: Love Songs Modulation Modulation Gene McLellan/ Ocean LP: Yorkville/ARC: Put Your Hand in the Hand Modulation Composer / Performer Joni Mitchell Format/Label/Recording Title CD: Warner Bros/WEA: Big Yellow Taxi [CD SINGLE] Concept CHAPTER 5 Big Yellow Taxi. Put Your Hand in the Hand ©1970. Maurice. ©1977. ©1969 ABC/Dunhill Music. James Taylor This Land is Your Land. ©1970 Unichapell Music Inc. SonyATV Tree Publishing Islands in the Stream. One Tin Soldier. © 1972 by Almo Music Corp. Inc. ©1972 Elton John & Bernie Taupin One Flight Down. (BMI) Personally. Goodbye to Love. ©1983 Gibb Brothers Music and Crompton Songs Crocodile Rock. © 1970 Siquomb Publishing Verse-refrain form 191 . Inc. 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music./Hammer and Nails Music. ©1978. Beechwood Music Title James Taylor CD: Sony: JT Varying harmonic rhythm Variations with harmonies Woody Guthrie/ various artists CD: Music Little People: This Land is Your Land: Songs of Unity Paul Kelly/ Karla Bonoff Barry. Inc. ©1956 (renewed 1984).Your Smiling Face.

Joe Henry. Sony/ATV Tunes. Gary Baker. Richard Raymond Finch/ K. Again. John Sommers. Jennifer Lopez. and the Sunshine Band Rick Dees/ Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots CD: Elektra/WEA: Hotel California CD: Rhino/WEA: The Best of KC & the Sunshine Band Story-lyric Simple lyric CD: Kama Sutra / Buddah: Andrea True Connection – Greatest Hits CD: Rhino/WEA: The Best of KC & the Sunshine Band Simple lyric Simple lyric CD: Rhino/WEA: Super Hits of the ‘70s: Have a Nice Day Simple lyric 192 . Sony/ATV Songs LLC. Music of 1091. Steven Diamond.C. Reggie Hamlet CD: Jive: Never Gone Strong verse-chorus structure CD: BMG Music: Windsong Strong lyric CD: Sony: This is Me… Then Beautifully simple lyric Glenn Frey. Richard Raymond Finch/ K. © 1976 Harry Wayne Casey. ©1975 Fingers Music That’s the Way (I like it). Cori Tiffani Publishing. Nuyorican Publishing. ©2002. Troy Oliver.C. ©©1976 Fretone Records. More. Richard Raymond Finch More. and the Sunshine Band Gregg Diamond/ Andrea True Connection Harry Wayne Casey. Inc. Reggie Hamlet Publishing Hotel California. © 1975 Harry Wayne Casey. More. Jaedon Christopher Publishing. Don Henley/ The Eagles Harry Wayne Casey. ©2005 Zomba Recording Love is Everywhere. Richard Raymond Finch Disco Duck. ©1976 Gregg Diamond Shake Your Bootie.Never Gone. ©1975 Cherry Lane Music. Kevin Richardson/ Backstreet Boys John Denver. and WB Music Corp. Steve Weisberg/ John Denver Cory Rooney.

Pretty Woman: Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits Hook Hook Concept CHAPTER 6 Downtown. ©1978 Universal Songs of Polygram International Penny Lane. SBK April Music. Orbi Lee Publishing.. ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing Title CD: Capitol: The Beatles 1962-1966 CD: Capitol: Magical Mystery Tour Song with no intro Song with no intro Format/Label/Recording Title CD: MCA Records: Full Moon Fever CD: Capitol: The Beatles 1962-1966 Concept CHAPTER 7 Free Fallin’ ©1989.Inc Baker Street. . Roy Orbison. ©1964 Universal MCA Music Publishing Oh. ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing Hello Goodbye. R Key Darkus Publishing. Pretty Woman. ©1975 Black Bull Music Inc.Title Composer / Performer Anthony Peter Hatch/ Petua Clark Joe Melson. ©1964 Barbara Orbison Music Co. Sony/ATV Acuff Rose Music Superstition. ©1967 Northern Songs Stevie Wonder CD: Motown/PGD: Stevie Wonder – The Definitive Collection CD: Disky Records: Baker Street [IMPORT] CD: Capitol: Magical Mystery Tour Hook Gerry Rafferty Hook Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Composer / Performer Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne/ Tom Petty Lennon & McCartney/ The Beatles Song with no intro All My Loving. Jobete Music Co. Gone Gator Music Hard Day’s Night. ©1966 Sony/ATV Music Publishing Melody with three pitches Interesting opening chord 193 . Ray Rush/ Roy Orbison Format/Label/Recording Title CD: GNP Crescendo: Greatest Hits of Petula Clark CD: Madacy Records: Oh.

and more conclusive. or do so in less obvious ways. and the overall energy of a song increases through the bridge.GLOSSARY 3rd 5th 7th The note of a chord or scale that is three notes above the root. All phrases end with a cadence. See “arpeggio” The concluding two-or-three chord pattern at the end of a musical phrase. The text of a bridge features an intensifying of emotions. A series of chords that is usually designed to emphasize a certain chord as the tonic chord. Lines of text and melody that form the next part of a song after a verse. often using the structure of the text as its main controlling aspect. The text of a chorus is usually more emotional than a verse. Progressions either strongly call attention to the tonic. See “Chord progression”. Ad hoc design Arpeggio Borrowed chord Bridge Broken chord Cadence Chord Chord progression Chord sequence Chorus 194 . The note of a chord or scale that is seven notes above the root. Three or more notes sounding simultaneously. also called a “broken chord” See “Modal mixture” The part of a song usually before the final chorus. Playing the notes of a chord in succession rather than at the same time. The note of a chord or scale that is five notes above the root. A song form in which the basic structure is invented for one particular piece.

instrumentation. the differentiation between various sections of a song by varying aspects such as loudness.g. The ability. the structure.e.. reflective and pitched low have a low energy level.Circle-of-fifths A sequence of chords in which the roots of each chord is four notes lower than the succeeding chord. with male singers. In music. Many pop singers develop this ability to increase their range and modify their tonal output. to sing notes higher than normal. The pattern governing the predictability of chord changes. this is called implied harmony. The fifth note of a scale. The ability to use one’s imagination to create a work of art. many songs add 9ths to chords. Instrumentation is a major factor in the governing of energy.. Country and blues are examples of two different genres.g. A chord built on the fifth note is called the dominant chord. and songs that are louder and pitched higher have a high energy level. quick chord changes = quick harmonic rhythm The combination of several tones performed simultaneously. The kind of chords that a song might use. etc. verse-chorus-bridge) Micro level forms refer to phrase designs (e. It is meant be a sketch. In songwriting. AABA) A classification or grouping of artwork that all display a similar style or form. Songs that are quiet. as part of the basic harmonic language of that piece. range. When melodies are written to infer the harmony by outlining notes from chords. the overall power of a song. A recording of a song that serves as a work-in-progress for improving the final produced version. A very strong and predictable progression. 195 Contrast Creativity Demo Dominant Energy Falsetto Form Genre Harmonic language Harmonic rhythm Harmony . i. esp. Demos will likely not have the same polish as a final version. Macro level forms refer to overall designs (e. For example. In songwriting.

borrowing a chord from a major scale if in a minor key.) The text of a song. C/E means a C major chord with an E in the bass. e.g. the interval between the tonic and dominant note of a scale is a perfect 5th. A short musical idea (rhythmic.) Key change. The first bars of a song. A “hook” can be a motif.g. Students of music theory learn to read and write music using graphic symbols. In pop music nomenclature. In western cultures.. Usually the part of the song that is most easily brought to mind. Borrowing a chord from a minor scale if in a major key. A sequence of notes. tempo and style of the song. the “repeat and fade” serves as an outro. The distance between two notes. (See “Hook”). The study of written music. and is meant to attract listeners. or combination of both) that forms the backbone of a song. (e. Fm is a borrowed iv-chord when in the key of C major. with a slash in between. the bass note second.Hook A short. Used to set up the harmonic language. these are often referred to as “slash chords” because of the practice of showing the main chord name first. Placing a note other than the root at the bottom of a chord. A motif may or may not be immediately noticeable as an important constructional element. melodic. placing the 5th at the bottom is called “second inversion”. this usually means notes and rests on a five-line staff. Also called a borrowed chord. The formal element in a song that serves as the end. (e.g. In many songs. easily remembered element of a song that brings a listener back. Usually instrumental. Placing the 3rd at the bottom is called “first inversion”. Interval Introduction Inversion Lyric Melody Modal mixture Modulation Motif Music theory Outro 196 ..

A short. a bridge. A song is made up of many phrases. the chord based on the first note of a scale is given the Roman numeral I. often associated with guitar playing. Phrases can be divided into sub-phrases. See “Suspension” See “Suspension” Phrase Refrain Rhythm Riff Roman numerals Root Secondary dominant chord Semitone Slash chord Song Sus2 Sus4 197 . etc. repeated musical idea. A short. a major chord that usually ascends by four notes that is usually minor. with lyrics. similar in meaning to a “lick”. In music. Usually contains verses and choruses. A musical phrase in which the chord names change. usually occurring at the end of a verse. the note that gives the chord its name. Phrases are delineated by cadences. but the same note is held throughout in one particular instrument (usually bass). In Songwriting. Many musicians refer to the chords found in a certain key by Roman numerals. the smallest interval in most pop music See “Inversion” In the context of this book. The bottom note of a chord. repeated section of a song. any self-contained musical work of 3 – 10 minutes.. a musical thought. Pattern of sound that implies an underlying beat or tempo. For example.e. taking a minor chord and making it major is the normal way to create a secondary dominant. as well as an intro. and the one on the fifth note is given V. i. A half step.Passing chord Pedal tone A chord that usually occurs on a weak beat between two chords on successive strong beats.

The first note of a scale. Lines of text and melody that form the first part of a song after the introduction. Sus4 and sus9 (sus2) are the most common suspensions in pop music.Sus9 Suspension See “Suspension” The purposeful hold up of a tone in a chord before allowing it to descend to its normal location within a chord. normally resolving to a C major chord: C-E-G. Repetition of a musical phrase. A chord built on the first note is called the tonic chord. Talent Tessitura Tonic Vamp Verse 198 . Natural aptitude or skill. Csus4 is: C-F-G. The range within which most of the notes of a piece of music occur. The text of a verse is usually narrative or otherwise descriptive of events.

199 .

A. 14. 13. 88. 61. 105. 32 All My Loving. 92.. 105. 13. 140. 13. Mariah. 51. 188 B ea tles. 86. 73. 189 200 . 70. 37. 165. 67. 88. 193 bass. 21. 143 By the Time I Get to Phoenix. 156 chorus. Petula. 131. 113. 159. Michelle. 159. 183. 48. 190 audience. 168. Glen. 146 creative. 55. 185. 37. 20. 142. 154. 14. 191 Bonoff. 144 Anderson. 194. Laurie.Index A A Hard Day’s Night. 23. 195 copyright. 43. 56. 33. 189. 13. 169 Branch. 123. 22 coda. 143 Bridge Over Troubled Water. 52. 123. 86 Cash. 35. 127 Beethoven. 66. Leonard. 23. 28. 193 All Shook Up. 182 country. 160. 27. 44 Cohen. 161. 29 creativity. 189. 141. 51. 64. 33. 188 Bush. 10. 112. 21. 138. 68. 190 Bee Gees. 197 Beat It. 87. 145 Come Away With Me. 100. 55. 189. 185. 43. 95. 117. 18. 121. Johnny. 54. 21. 55. 26. 132. 192 Baker Street. 21. 98. 20. 153. 191 contrast. 53. 56. 195 Clapton. 189 C Campbell. 50. 182. 116. 14. 13. 44. 188 ambient. 54. 57. 57. 191 Carrie. 57. 57 Coldplay. 157. 92 adjudication. 115. 127. 58. 45. 113. 154. 104 BMI. 29 B Backstreet Boys. 189 Chicago. 144. 191 Clark. 52. 97. 175 Adams. 22. 32. 57. 13. 188. Kate. 180. 28. 135. 193 classical. 44. 43. 72. 165. 196. 157. 156. 34. 22. 27. 55. 134. Eric. 143 ASCAP. 38. 14. 125. 42. 189 chord progressions. 121. 114. 162. 109. 117. 60. 146. 133. 159. 23. 74. 54 blues. 15. 160 Big Yellow Taxi. Karla. 130. 87. 191 Born in the U. 184 copyright infringement. 181. 191 Billie Jean. 54.S. 120. Douglas. the. 19. 188 bluegrass. 189 Carpenters.

55. 21. 39. 48. 151. 56. 191 government. 189 house. 122. 164. 148. 120. 35. 149. 113. Michael. 72. 161. 190 Free Fallin’. 22 John. 41 Denver. 192 Downtown. 159. 163. 13. 104. 166. 165. 182. 192 Hey Jude. 142. 118. 23. 54 Livin' La Vida Loca. 188 jazz. 190. 149. 54. 145. 55. 53. 146. 195 Intro. Woody. Jesse. The. 191 K KC & the Sunshine Band. 56. 54.Crocodile Rock. 88. 183. 162. 168. 165. 189 imagery. 192 Love is Everywhere. 53. 160. 23. 20. 105. 40. 147. 100. 195 Harris. 152. 190 hook. 33. 143 Evans and Ham. 41. Avril. 146. 197 201 H harmonic sequences. 13. 58 I Walk the Line. 46. 38. Peter. 169. 37. 21. 162. 28. 167. See Chord Progressions harmony. 128. Don. 150 Eno. 136. 57. 43. 43 iTunes. 109. 191 Leiber. 28. 56. 30. 196 lyrics. Jerry. 197 Guthrie. 38. 24. 12. 189 I I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe). 169. 193 Henley. 172. 156. 192 Disco Duck. 35. 191 Hello Goodbye. 147. 190 Goodbye to Love. 105 L Lavigne. 192 Kelly. the. 30 Genesis. 61 Invisible Touch. 39. 189 . 108. 117. 25. 191 D Dance music. 20. Jennifer. 192 Hound Dog. Brian. 55. 188 Lopez. 151. 157. 159. 85. 43. 195 form. 184 guitar. 150. Bob. 194. 33 Dylan. 121. 154. 13. 27. 127. 190 Islands in the Stream. 153. 70. 191 It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). 165. 54. 181. 192 lyric. 55. 170. 33. 152. 86 F falsetto. 52. 171. 189 Layla. 38. 37. 32. 62. 120. 67. 148. 130. 53. 128. 140 inspiration. 58. 35. 131. 149. 165. 191 G Gabriel. 157 House of the Rising Sun. 39. 62. 77. 119. 164. 147. 188 E Eagles. 191. 39. 174. 159. 33 Hotel California. 161. 93. 74. 167. 198 Foxtrot. 144 demo. 3. 147. 108. 20. 153. 146. 193 J Jackson. Elton. 196 horns. John. 96. 73. 189 instrumentation. 143 Gary Ewer’s Easy Music Theory. 143. 20. 53. 160 drums. 56. Paul. 82. 150. 188. 32.

123 mechanical rights. 86. 110. 165. 68. 48. 127. 69 microphone. 25. 118. 134. 32. 186 Rafferty. 114 Penny Lane. 27. 188 simplicity. 184. 191 Orbison. 13. 185 Put Your Hand in the Hand. 22. 13. 168. 157 pop. 124. 197 rock. 144 publish. 12. 97. 119 More More More. 29. 191 passing chord. 196. 188 Registered Mail. 62. Roy. 97. 74. 193 One Flight Down. 196. 191 root position triad. 23. 44. 72.E. 164. 42. 57. 149. 54 Superstition. 157 singer. 50. 185 Personally. 190 S secondary dominant. 186 publisher. 145. 46. 88. Paul. 112. 189 Stefani. 20. 130. 118. 55. 143. 131. 56. 128. 22. 124. 161. 43. 180. 63. 118. 142. 35. 28. 189 Maida. 108. 63. 130. 161. 117. 136. 193 Red Sails in the Sunset. 19. 90. Paul. 193 performing rights organization. 198 Presley. 189. 35. 20. 184. 58 Shake Shake Shake. 21. 14. 125. Chris. 117. 21. 188 Simon. 94.M macro design. 194. 185 melody. 141. 136. 10. 146. 113. 188 Springsteen. Harry. 191 Oh. 142 progressive. 125. 142 slash chords. 54. 164. 191 R R. 126. 143. 37. 134. 192 Nilsson. 65. 197 Selling England by the Pound. Gwen. 53. 174. Elvis. 123. 130. Gerry. 54 Rogers. 116. 43. 152. 111. 193 outro. 57. 123 Stoller. 198 micro design. 162. 27. 137. 63. Mike. 44. 69. Raine. 190 synthesizer. Dolly. Pretty Woman. 160. 148. 53 Martin. Kenny. 63. 162. 116. 191 Petty. Bruce. 112 sus9. 42.M. 118. 38. 3. 113. 105. 185 songwriter. 52. 46. 33. 159. 109. 133. 15. 54. 13. 129.. 144. 70 Madonna. 88. 51. 189. 128. 131. 188 202 . 24. 148. 105. 112 N Never Gone. 190 sus4. 196 SOCAN. 33 modulation. Dave. 197. 156. 195. 189 radio. 22. 123 McMartney. 109. 38. Tom. 123. 133. 60. 161. 11. 44. 143. 23. 143. 118. 43. 161. 140. 59. 143. 17. 79. 43. 136. 14. 101. 131. 152 principles. 193 poetry. 150. 182 P Parton. 111 Suzanne. 152 Simon & Garfunkel. 115. 143 Matthews. 162. 111. 59. 139. 51. 79. 182. 107. 196 ownership. 18. 54. 57. 157. 53. 33 O Ocean. 56. 193 Supper’s Ready. 126. 52. 105. 110. 21. 185. 79. 182 rhythm. 163. 198 suspension. 147. 39.

Mark. 24. Richard. 54. 193 V verse. 157. 132. 13. 20. 53. 188 You Can Call Me Al. 103. 45. 88. 43. 115. 37. 189 70. 134. 17 25 or 6 to 4. 44. 39. 159. 197. 100. 86 Wonder. Y Yesterday. 190. 42. 48. 117. 133. 138. 163. 58. 57. 120. 28. 92 This Land is Your Land. 125. 194. 52. 105. 86. 124. 108. 116. 198 The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. 59. 21. 22. 21 Without You. 17 Webb. 198 W Wagner. Jimmy. 189. 123. 44. 24. Stevie. 144 Twain. 130. 191 Thriller. 55. 156.T techno. 127. 188 trance. 60. 55. 19. 188 203 . 142. 195. 153. 189 Wild Honey Pie. 143 tessitura. 87. 23. 162.

xchng” website.xchng is a free stock photo site.hu 204 . Stock. http://sxc. Brazil. Eduardo Galvani.Credits Most of the photographs used in this text are from the “stock. View more photos from Mr. Galvani by browsing http://sxc.hu. Photo on page 72: “Fingers on Guitar”.

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