Have you ever noticed that writing songs is difficult?
Have you had times when you wanted to write a great song and for some reason couldn’t come up with anything?
Have you been writing songs for years and still haven’t had a single one?
Do you want to know the secret truth about songwriting?
If so, have you ever searched for this secret online?
If so, I’m sorry. From recent experience, I have learned how frustrating it can be to research the truth about songwriting – or any subject matter now – here on the internet.
If you do, you will find plenty of sources that promise to deliver this truth. A lot! Unfortunately – and this applies to other sites online – many of these sources are unnecessary, bogus, or worse.
This is life in the age of disinformation. It has not been that long since we heard about the World Wide Web. This phrase with that artful alliteration of songwriters suggested an ever-growing body of wisdom and knowledge on all subjects known to man.
It seemed quite likely that after a few years with all of this knowledge, humanity would evolve as old divisions were supplanted by the true knowledge of compassion, and we would ultimately be unified into a new era of enlightenment.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out that way.
Instead of an ultimate enlightenment tool, we have obtained a proliferating compendium of all known knowledge, as well as all unknown knowledge, pseudo-knowledge, no-knowledge, imitation-knowledge, misinformation, false assumptions, hate, rage, delusion, pornography, paranoia and really bad advice. Rather than unifying humanity with an expansive intelligence, it has made us more confused and worried than ever. The truth was once something we had some sort of consensus on. Not so much.
An extreme example of this was found in Google statistics which track the most searched questions on Google. Regarding the moon, by far the most asked question is “Is the moon real?”
Is the moon real? This is not a good sign. Humans have argued for eons. Still, the reality of the moon was a topic that there wasn’t much debate on. It wasn’t a serious topic, after all, to debate, like climate change, or whether the earth is flat. (It doesn’t. It’s sharp.)
So if we can’t figure out whether the moon is real or not, or maybe a hologram or the result of mass hypnosis, finding the truth about songwriting is bound to be difficult.
So: beware of songwriters! Beware of any source that promises to make songwriting easier or teach you how to write a hit or write a hit fast.
Why? Because writing songs is not easy. Writing a hit is not a science. There is no formula, nor even a repeatable method. If there had been any, any of those computer geniuses in the world who can hack the Pentagon any morning surely would have written a hit streak by now.
So any source that offers you advice on how to write a 30s hit song is suspect. 30 minutes? What is the rush? It can sometimes take 30 minutes just to get the coffee and start tuning the guitar.
But if a site offers concrete ideas, with practical examples, it’s probably one written by a songwriter and / or musician, which makes all the difference. But there are some over there. To find them, however, it takes a lot of wading through the great mud of disinformation. Wear boots.
These disinformation sites feed on the natural desire of aspiring songwriters to learn more about this elusive process. Often they ask and answer basic questions, as if the exercise itself is helpful. Although the questions are all pretty good, the answers, well, not so much.
QUESTION: “How do you end a song that needs one more verse and you don’t have any more?”
REPLY: “To end a song, just generate more ideas, then use those ideas to write the other parts of the song that you need.. ”
Oh! Simply generate. This is helpful. Where do these song generators just come from? Then we get more details.
QUESTION: How do you find musical ideas?
ANSWER: You can use chord progressions to inspire more musical ideas.
Chord progressions? Cool!
What are these? Can I get them on Amazon?
Even definitions of the most basic elements of songwriting – like melody – are distorted.
“There’s the melody, which are the notes you think of when you hum the chorus of a song. For example, hum the notes of these songs: “Hey Jude…” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow…” You hummed the melody.
This is useless. A melody is more than a refrain. It’s all air. Plus, as some of us know, the first line of “Hey Jude” isn’t the chorus. It does not have a choir.
Simple things, they complicate, while oversimplifying what is complex.
The mission here is to add clarity, not more confusion. Provide good answers and ask questions. Questions about the melody, for example, are not straightforward. As Dave Brubeck said, “The secret of a melody is a secret.” So any source that attempts to shorten to the simple answer is suspect.
QUESTION: How to write a melody?
ANSWER: Once you have the first line of a melody, try to repeat it for the second line. Then go somewhere else for the third line and go back to your original to complete it. You can hear this pattern in the verse melody of “Every Breath You Take” by the police.
Can you? This leaves out an important ingredient: the agreements. By repeating a melodic line while moving the chord below, it creates a nice effect. In this song, he starts on the I chord for that first phrase, and the second on the VI chord, the minor. In G, it would start with G and go into E minor.
Simply repeating the melody without the chords is not the same and has nothing to do with the example.
QUESTION: How could it take over a year to write a 4 minute song?
ANSWER: You have no process… having no sense of process is not freedom. It’s anarchy… if you don’t get stuck, you make it to the end of your song and realize it’s really not good. It’s because you don’t have a process. “
Okay, that helps. A process. Like what – a creative process? A spiritual process? A process of self-destruction and reinvention? What did I put myself here?
“Whatever processes work for you, use them. “
Oh! But what if none of my processes are working for me? They all seem to be working against me.
You got the idea.
If a site has good questions, but no real answers, look elsewhere. The questions are great, but the answers really matter a lot.
It’s not bad at all. There are many reliable and credible sources of information. They are few and far between. But there are some, like SecretsofSongwriting.com, that offer good ideas and practical, thoughtful advice. This is almost always an indication that the writer is himself a musician or a songwriter.
In this case, it is true. Gary Ewer is a musician, songwriter and teacher in Canada. He knows what he is talking about. He has reflected on these issues and shares his ideas in a clear and simple way. His article 10 tips for writing great song melodies is one of the few with such a title to offer valuable information. It does the real job of the songwriter, examining the ranges of melodies, the use of hops and skips between notes, how to distinguish the melody from the chorus from the verse, and other relevant ideas. Only someone who writes songs would understand these aspects and be able to simply relate so many considerations.
It is also done with the understanding, which is essential, that there are always great songs that do just the opposite. That there are no rules, only ideas that have worked at some point. This is the crux of the matter. Songwriters learn all aspects of this art and craft, but are ready at any time to give up one of them and move on to a new song. And sometimes, doing the exact opposite of the usual way, or the way you’ve done it a hundred times, is the best way to go.
Everything that works, works. But there is only one way to do it. This is where Part 2 begins, which stars Billie Eilish and Finneas, and finally shares the secret truth about songwriting.