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Know of any great songwriting books?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by MelodyMaker310, Aug 3, 2012.

  1. Hey everyone,
    So I've been playing bass for a couple years now - kinda trying to break into the songwriting part of things. Was wondering if anyone knew of any great songwriting books to help me improve on all levels. If I also come across anything out there that ends up working I'll let ya know. Thank you for your recommendations!
  2. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I didn't buy it when I saw it, but I liked Karl Coryat's songwriting book when I saw it in a bookstore a few years back.

    Unfortunately everything you really need to know about songwriting is precisely everything that avoids easy elucidation in a book. All the songs I've finished are the ones where I had something besides the sounds: a visual image, an idea, a phrase that synergizes with the actual sound/music to become a larger entity of its own.

    The thing that got me writing music was discovering February Album Writing Month in 2006. The idea was to write 14 songs in 28 days. I "only" finished 5, but it kick-started a creative process that continues to this day, ever growing in intensity.

    IMO having a need to write music...making a commitment to a contest, a deadline, or filling out your band's set list...will pull music out of you. Koryat's book suggests forming songwriting "guilds" with like-minded people for just such a purpose.

    Amusingly, though I've played bass for 27 years and jazz for about 20, the things I write rarely feature bass and almost never sound like jazz. At first I thought that was strange, now it makes me chuckle because the creative process keeps revealing things I didn't know about myself.

    Try all sorts of different approaches: write a song on the bass, then on another instrument or none at all. Write a song with lyrics if you normally do instrumentals, or start with an intriguing title, and build off the images it conjures in your mind's eye.

    I never start with a style in mind, instead letting the music dictate what it wants to be. The pieces I've written range from ambient to freakfolk, solo piano and guitar pieces, musique concrete/sound collage, spoken word, boombastic beats and country/western campfire singalongs...that said, it would be an interesting exercise to deliberately write in a specific style.

    Though I have a year of music school and a bunch of theory/technique under my belt, I find my writing process is more informed by visual design principles (foreground/background, balance, contrast, light/dark, color/texture) than musical ones. Go figure!

    Bob Dylan said "A song is anything that can walk by itself." It's a matter of framing your idea(s), rather than cranking out verses, choruses, and middle 8s because that's what you're "supposed " to do. Of course, you should "reverse-engineer" the songs you love to see what makes them tick...I also find it helpful to look at music that I don't particularly like, but that is still effective in getting its point across.

    Sorry for the longwinded answer that only barely addresses your question, this is one of my favorite musical topics these days!

  3. Hey Winston!
    That's some great advice! Maybe a little too complex for what I'm looking for though, hehe but I'll absolutely keep all of your advice in mind.

    I actually went out this past weekend and picked up the book "How to Write a Hit Song" by Molly-Ann Leikin, it really seems to grasp exactly what I was looking for. I'm going to continue to read this one and if it has some great advice that I can share then I'll do it up!

    Still would love to see other posts and keep the discussion going. Has anyone else read this book I'm reading?


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