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Songwriter's Toolbox

Author: michael shorr

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Want to learn what makes great songs great? In each podcast of the Songwriter's Toolbox we highlight a professional songwriting tool. But you don't have to know music theory - the show is meant to be accessible to everyone. Music lovers love it because they can hear more of what's going on in songs. Songwriters love it because they learn practical tools to improve their own songwriting. The Songwriter's Toolbox is where I keep that tools that I use in my role as the Song Analyst on national weekly radio program Art of the Song - Creativity Radio (www.artofthesong.org). It's also the title of my forthcoming book! FYI: In my daily life I'm Creative Director for Chocolate Strawberry Studios (www.ChocolateStrawberryStudios.com).
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How does a great writer layer meanings in their lyrics?  In "Into the Fire", Bruce Springsteen gives us a fantastic example.  Also, today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC.  I'm sharing this amazing song (and the story behind it) as a remembrance of those who died that day - from office workers to passengers to police and fire fighters - and in the spirit of giving comfort to those who lost loved ones in those attacks.SongToolbox_Fire_Springsteen.mp3
I always knew that a song title was important. I just didn't realize how massively important! In this podcast, I share one of the most astonishing things I've learned about songwriting ever.If you're interested in checking out the title categories (and maybe suggesting some of your own), I've posted this list on our website, artofthesong.org on the "Forum" page.
Here's a great tool to streamline the process of writing a powerful chorus. Bruce Springsteen uses it and so can you.
What makes a compelling song? Sometimes, it's the same thing that makes a compelling story: clearly defined characters who face obstacles that block their goals and the journey to overcome that opposition. Invariably, there's some lessons learned, too. It's a classic model for a story and a great way to write a song, too.
One of the most effective ways to make your songs stay fresh, keep listeners interested and really build drama is contrast. One of my favorite songwriting teachers, Jai Josefs, makes this point all the time.Contrast is a fundamental tool great songwriters use. They make sure that the sections of their songs - verse, chorus, bridge, etc. - each sound different. How do you create in your songs? This is where a deep understanding of lyrics and music theory really pays off. As Pat Pattison, at Berklee, likes to say, just ask "What do you got?" and then ask "What's different?" The more you know about lyric writing and music theory, the more you'll understand what you've got and what would be different. But we all have lots of experience listening to music - and we know intuitively when things sound different. So, whether by ear or by training, you can play around with making your song sections sound different from one another.To illustrate this point with melodies, let's check out the Eagles' song "Take it Easy."Happy songwriting!BTW: If you'd like to hear some of the music I've written, you can go to my music website: www.ChocolateStrawberryStudios.comPlease comment if you'd like to. I look forward to hearing what you think!
Where do songwriters find things to write songs about? For Janis Ian, a great source was the newspaper.You can check out Janis Ian's music and more at www.janisian.com. Janis is a legendary and extraordinary songwriter. She's also written a lot of great articles about songwriting and being a singer-songwriter including a column in Performing Songwriter magazine. (You can read many of these article on her website - click on "Prose".) In fact, she's written about lots of things - she's very smart, compassionate and interested in almost everything. (She'd probably say that these are qualities that help in her songwriting too.)And you can hear some of the music I've written at my music website: www.ChocolateStrawberryStudios.comThanks again for listening. And please comment - I look forward to hearing what you think!
Today's tool from my Songwriter's Toolbox is called "Weaving a Story". We'll learn about this tool by checking out the song "The Bike" by a master storyteller: singer-songwriter Amy Correia. Wait till you hear how she weaves her tale!You can check out Amy's music and more on MySpace at www.myspace.com/amycorreiaAnd remember: it isn't a rule, it's just a tool to make songs more powerful.
Today's tool from my Songwriter's Toolbox is "Being ready for inspiration." We'll learn about this tool by checking out the song "The Other Side" by folk singer-songwriter extraordinaire Don Conoscenti. www.donconoscenti.comRemember: it isn't a rule, it's just a tool to help give birth to great songs.
Ever get discouraged in your songwriting? Today's tool helps me get inspired again. It comes from singer-songwriter-instrumentalist-teacher-philosopher Don Richmond. It's called "The Water and The Conduit" and I hope you find it as helpful as I do.You can check out Don's music and more on http://donrichmond.com/dons.htm. Plus, Don's written an extraordinary book called "Getting Your Music Past the Fear." You can order a copy through his website.By the way, you can hear some of the music I've written at my biz website: www.ChocolateStrawberryStudios.comThanks again for listening. And please comment - I look forward to hearing what you think!
Today we learn about phrasing in Jackson Browne's song "The Pretender."It's my first post of a podcast. Let's see how it works!By the way, The Songwriter's Toolbox is where I keep that tools that I use in my role as the Song Analyst on Art of the Song - Creativity Radio (www.artofthesong.org). It's also the title of my forthcoming book! Stay tuned....
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