Four Secrets to Writing Great Songs

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Of course, if you look at it from one perspective, songwriting is easy. Almost anyone can think up a melody and throw in some words. The hard part is writing songs that make other people sit up and take notice, songs that make people laugh or cry, songs that people walk around humming. The question you should be asking is, can you write songs as good as the best songs you hear on the radio? If you’re not making that your goal, your chances of succeeding as a songwriter are slim.

The Four Secrets to Writing Great Songs

So what does it take to be a successful songwriter, to write songs that good? The answer can be summed up as the following four rules:

1) Write songs for the right reason.

Writing great songs involves learning many things about music, creativity, words, and yourself ­ and the learning never stops, no matter how good you get. If you’re writing songs for the wrong reasons, you’ll never get enough satisfaction out of the process of songwriting to keep going. And if you don’t keep doing it over time, you won’t keep getting better ­ and getting closer to your goals.

2) Learn the creative processes that produce great melodies, lyrics, etc.

As we discussed earlier, this is a basic part of learning any creative skill. And this book will help you by explaining all the most important internal processes, so you don’t have to pick them up by trial and error.

3) Learn the so-called “rules of good songwriting” — and even more important, know why they usually work.

This is the “what your end result should be like, and why” part of the learning process.

4) Treat songwriting as an interactive game you’re playing with the listener.

This is a very important idea, and we’ll discuss it in great detail. Essentially, it means being aware that you’re not writing songs in a closet; you’re trying to make something happen inside the listener’s mind. The person who hears your song will have some reaction, and it’s your job to treat that response as useful information.

The first thing on the list — your motive — is a choice you make about what you’re going to focus on. The second and third items — learning the processes and “rules” of songwriting — simply calls for working with a teacher who understands them and can explain them to you. (That’s what this book is for.) Then it’s up to you to practice using the information. The fourth item is a very specific, overall way of looking at songwriting that ensures you’ll end up getting the reaction you want from your audience-and ensures that you’ll keep getting better at it. All of these things are learnable-including the creative processes that often seem so mysterious.

© 1996 by Christopher Kent. All Rights Reserved.