Archive for October, 2008

Down time

October 31, 2008

This is an administrative announcement for users of Songwriter’s Tip Jar Forums.

This weekend, the building where our server is located is undergoing testing of the electrical system and our server must be shutdown for the duration.

So the STJ forum web site will be down starting on Friday at 5:30pm EST, all day Sat and Sunday. I apologize for the downtime.

Fortunately, that doesn’t affect this blog, which is hosted elsewhere.

Where DO those songs come from, anyway?

October 31, 2008

Inspiration is on-again/off-again for me. I haven’t written a song in a great while, actually.

I think for me, the most potent, prolific times were when I had a muse — a woman. A serious romantic involvement. I hope this doesn’t come off as sounding like the music all came from my groin, cuz it didn’t. As a matter of fact when it felt REAL, like love and not lust, is when I got the most ideas. That’s when music would just flow, unimpeded by my own, or anyone else’s judgments. It felt very powerful, as if I were a channel, or something.

And don’t think for a minute that the music and the feelings were all euphoric, either — no, no, no!! But it seemed to be the intensity of the feeling, more than the feeling itself. In fact, I think I wrote the most songs as a result of women I loved that weren’t available to me! You know, unrequited love, and all that. It’s as if my mind shuts down to regular day-to-day functioning, and songwriting is a
catharsis that helps me to find my way back to life as usual.

Perhaps this is why songs — pop, country, etc. — are predominantly about love won, or love lost?


Dry spells

October 30, 2008

Like most of us, I guess, I go through dry spells. During these times I like to say to myself “OK, it’s not working now, so I’m going to stop trying for awhile.” That alone can break spell. It the takes the ‘force’ out of it.

Another trick is to learn to play some new songs (other peoples’ songs). It’s fun and it keeps me doing something musical, even though I’m not writing. But the best part is, the process of figuring out the chords and voicings and learning the lyrics of other writers’ songs often wakes up my muse and the dry spell is over.

Sell your used gear

October 29, 2008
Classified Ads for musicians

Classified Ads for musicians

Buy and sell stuff, kinda like the classified ads in your local newspaper, only expanded to a worldwide audience of songwriters.

Registered STJ Forums members can now sell used instruments, microphones, tuners, stomp boxes, PA equipment, recording gear, books, sheet music, etc. by placing a free classified ad on the message boards. It’s free to register and free to post your classified ads.

This is not meant for commercial retail sales or for hawking your CD or your instructional video course. If you are a music retailer and want to reach our songwriter community with your paid ad, please contact us.

Check it out at Songwriter’s Tip Jar Forums classifieds.

Unsolicited testimonial

October 28, 2008

Dear Robert & Dan,

I hope you’re doing fine, buddies! Generally, thanks for continuing to educate us on STJ. But I would like to, this week specifically thank you very much for availing the song writing tips from Jason Blume.

This has answered my for long most pressing song writing questions and I must admit those questions were the principal reason I joined STJ in the first place. You have therefore exactly lived up to my expectations and I feel I did the exact right thing by joining STJ. Please accept my thanks.

Asante (Thank you in Kiswahili)

Have a nice week.

Andrew Ng’ang’a
Marketing Consultant
Nairobi, Kenya

Andrew, You are very welcome. For anyone who missed it, we posted info and this link to the Jason Blume book Six Steps to Songwriting Success a couple of days ago.

Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting

October 27, 2008

Ralph Murphy’s songwriting credits include Ronnie Milsap’s “He Got You,” Crystal Gayle’s “Half The Way” and Kathy Mattea’s “Seeds.” He is a veteran songwriter/publisher/producer, an instructor for NSAI’s Song Camps, and Assistant Vice President for ASCAP Nashville.

Check out Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting, a series of articles featured on the ASCAP site.

A few examples:

  • What Publishers Really Want
  • The Realities of Co-Writing
  • Drawing Maximum Attention to Your Hook
  • The Mighty Pronoun: The Little Big Word
  • Overcoming “Writer’s Assumption”
  • Making the Most of Your Songwriting Seminar
  • Why Not to Sing Your Own Demos

How I got a song recorded by the Gipsy Kings

October 25, 2008

Following up on yesterday’s post about Jason Blume, here’s a short article he wrote detailing the circuitous path it took him to get a cut of a song he thought was highly unique and unpitchable, and some lessons from that experience.

How I got a song recorded by Grammy-winners, the Gipsy Kings.

Songwriter’s Checklist

October 24, 2008

Jason Blume is one of the few songwriters to ever achieve the distinction of having his songs on Billboard’s Pop, R&B, and Country charts – all at the same time. With his songs recorded by pop superstars Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, as well as country stars including Collin Raye, the Oak Ridge Boys and John Berry, Blume’s songs are included on albums that have sold more than 45 million copies!

What an introduction! So if this guy gave you some advice on songwriting, would you take it? You would certainly want to hear what he has to say. I attended several of Jason’s songwriting workshops and read his book “6 Steps to Songwriting Success – The Comprehensive Guide to Writing and Marketing Hit Songs.” His information is first hand and invaluable.

For a quick glimpse, check out this songwriter’s checklist I found online.

The revised edition of “6 Steps to Songwriting Success” was just released last month. Read a full description here at

The ins & outs of intros and outros

October 23, 2008

Sometimes writing a song isn’t so hard once you get started. But how do you get there? How about a good intro?

In years past, a song’s introduction was typically longer and served a different purpose than it is does today. Old songs like Bicycle Built for Two (“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do”) started with an intro that sounded nothing like the rest of the song. This is OK, as there are no rules here.

Many intros to songs today serve the purpose of establishing a rhythm or a riff to set the tone of the song. Think of “Ricki Don’t Lose that Number” by Steely Dan, or “Day Tripper” by the Beatles.

Here is a way to get things going to set up a feel for your lyrics: Introduce the song with a melody or some chords with a distinct rhythm that FEELS right for your song. Then bring in the next piece of your arrangement, be it the first verse right away, or maybe the chorus.

Maybe the intro could lead the listener to expect something predictable, then you surprise them with a clever change. Whatever seems to work probably DOES work, so go with it. Don’t worry — you can always change it again — you’re the boss.

When an intro works well, it often shows up again at the end of the song as an ending or “outro.” Kind of like bookends. Fade ins for intros and fade outs for outros are also options.

There are also many abrupt song endings that not only work, but are downright clever. You could end a minor chorus on a major chord, for example, or sing the last chorus a capella, or gradually slow down the last few bars (called ritardando or ritard, for short). These are common, so if you want to be unique, try something totally different.

To review some terms, a fadeout is when the overall volume gradually decreases. A ritard. is when the tempo gradually decreases. Ritards can be used effectively elsewhere in a song, not just at the end. You should be able to feel it.

Intros and outros are useful in getting your juices flowing. But don’t forget the fundamental rule of songwriting: There ARE no rules. Anything goes. It’s up to you.

How to write a bridge

October 22, 2008

Somebody has probably written a book on bridges. But in brief, let me give you some ideas, some places to start.

The bridge is new territory. You’ve already established what the main parts of the song sound like with your verses and chorus. Now the listener is ready to hear something new, something different. It definitely should contrast a bit from the sound of your verses and chorus.

Lyrically, it doesn’t have to be all new ideas, but it could be either a summation of the song’s message expressed in a new way or a new angle on the main message of the song. It can be cool when the lyrics of the bridge make the listener hear the next chorus in a whole new light, from a new perspective. It can be as short as one line. Two line bridges are common as are three and four lines.

Musically, the bridge should depart from the song, and by the end of the bridge, lead back into the chorus. The very simplest way to get into it is to make sure the bridge starts on a different chord than the starting chord of the verse and the starting chord of the chorus. That may be all you need to get started on a new musical idea.

Sometimes the bridge will start on a chord that hasn’t been heard anywhere else in the song. It doesn’t have to modulate, but that’s a way to go as well. Modulating to a relative major or minor is good, but other modulations will work too.

I hope this has been helpful.