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101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them

Book Description

Give Your Songwriting a Competitive Edge

This book takes you on the songwriter's journey from the first inspiration for a song to the collection of worldwide royalties. Experienced songwriters Pat and Pete Luboff point out the stumbling blocks you'll encounter along the way, and how to turn them into stepping stones to songwriting success. In 101 fun and easy-to-read chapters, you'll find tips on:

  • building solid, marketable song structures
  • creating the perfect lyrics accompanied by moving melodies
  • forming productive and profitable collaboration ventures
  • producing effective demos that you can pitch
  • tracking your royalty collection

You'll also discover how new technology is changing songwriting and how to use that to your advantage. Plus, you'll get insider tips on traveling to and living in the songwriting centers of the country–Los Angeles, New York City, and Nashville. Everything you need to live and succeed at the songwriter's life can be found in this great resource.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Table of Contents
  8. PART 1: IN THE BEGINNING: Wobbly Song Foundations
    1. 1. THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY: Be prepared to capture music and lyric ideas when they come
    2. 2. IT’S HERE SOMEWHERE: Have an organized place to keep your song notes
    3. 3. THE TOO-EARLY EDITOR: Don’t stop the creative flow by judging too early in the process
    4. 4. DON’T MESS WITH MY MUSE: Don’t think that discipline will hamper your creativity
    5. 5. NOWHERESVILLE: Know what you’re trying to say
    6. 6. HEARD BUT NOT SCENE: Have a clear idea of all the details of the song’s setting
    7. 7. WHY BOTHER?: Make sure each song will motivate an artist to sing its message
    8. 8. SONGS FROM THE HEAD: Avoid writing songs that are too philosophical, emotionally removed, and cerebral
    9. 9. REALITY ISN’T EVERYTHING: Don’t force a song to fit your reality; let it have its own integrity
    10. 10. I DID IT THEIR WAY: Don’t write to impress or please others; write from your own passion
    11. 11. NO BONES ABOUT IT: Give your songs structure
    12. 12. WRITING YESTERDAY: Don’t try to write a song like today’s hit; don’t write dated material
  9. PART 2: WHAT IN THE WORD?: Watching What You Say in Your Lyrics
    1. 13. THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE: Don’t be intentionally obscure in your lyrics
    2. 14. NOWHERE PERSON: Don’t give the singer a negative persona to identify with in your lyrics
    3. 15. WHO IS “YOU”?: Don’t mix up pronouns in a lyric
    4. 16. NOT NAMING THE GAME: Make sure the title is not buried or nonexistent
    5. 17. I’M BIDING MY LINES: Get to the point in the first two lines of your song
    6. 18. ONE SONG, MANY LANGUAGES: Don’t write lyrics with an inappropriate mix of conversational tones
    7. 19. X-RATED: Be careful with sex in your songs
    8. 20. SING ME A ?: Don’t depend on punctuation marks to give meaning to your song
    9. 21. LYRICAL HANGOVERS: Watch out for lyric phrases that hang over to the next melody line instead of ending with their own melodic phrase
    10. 22. TO SING THE UNSINGABLE WORD: Beware of tongue-twisting word combinations and hard consonants on long notes
    11. 23. I CAN’T SEE IT: Use picture words in your lyrics; instead of talking about the subject, show it
    12. 24. NO REASON TO RHYME: Avoid inconsistent or nonexistent rhyme schemes
    13. 25. EPIC PROPORTIONS: Write songs of reasonable length
    14. 26. NOT ENOUGH IS NOT ENOUGH: Write enough to express your ideas completely
    15. 27. A POEM IS A POEM IS A POEM (NOT A LYRIC): Don’t mistake poetry for lyrics
  10. PART 3: MAKING THE MUSIC: Melodic Mistakes
    1. 28. TO STUDY OR NOT TO STUDY MUSIC: Don’t think you have to study music theory extensively or play a musical instrument expertly
    2. 29. FREE SAMPLES: Don’t think you can sample from previous recordings for free
    3. 30. MISMATCHMAKING: Don’t forget prosody: the marriage between words and music
    4. 31. LOST, LOST ON THE RANGE: Don’t write a melody that has too wide a range for most singers
    5. 32. THE LONG AND WINDING MELODY: Be sure your melodies lead to the hook; don’t let them wander
    6. 33. THE HOOK LINE IS SUNK: Be certain you have a melodic hook or that your title pays off melodically
    7. 34. JUST ONE HOOK: Include melodic, rhythmic, and instrumental subhooks
    8. 35. IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD: Make sure your chords aren’t too complex or oversimplified
    9. 36. DON’T PLAY IT AGAIN, PLEASE: Make sure your verses and chorus aren’t too alike in rhythm and melody
  11. PART 4: ONCE WRITTEN, LOOK TWICE: Rewriting Wrongs
    1. 37. DON’T SAY NOTHING BAD ABOUT MY BABY: Learn to accept feedback on your songs
    2. 38. STRANGER IN A STRANGE SONG: Check to see that your message is clear—not hidden between the lines
    3. 39. TWO DIFFERENT SONGS: Be sure the verses and the chorus aren’t about two different things
    4. 40. TOO MUCH IS MORE THAN ENOUGH: Don’t include song parts or lyrics that don’t add to the forward motion of the song
    5. 41. NEVER SAY REWRITE: Be willing to rewrite
    6. 42. KILLING IT GRADUALLY WITH REWRITES: Don’t rewrite a song to death
  12. PART 5: TWO HEADS, OR MORE, ARE BETTER: Collaboration Misconceptions
    1. 43. DOING IT ALL: Don’t think you can/must write it all yourself
    2. 44. DIVING IN, CRAWLING OUT: Have an agreement with your collaborator before you start working on a song
    3. 45. WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE: Talk openly with your co-writer about every aspect of the song
    4. 46. LET’S DO IT MY WAY: Don’t insist on your way when a collaborator disagrees
    5. 47. I TAKE THAT BACK: Don’t try to change your collaboration agreement after the song is written
    6. 48. MISSING PERSONS: Know how to deal with a song when there’s interest but you can’t find your collaborator
    1. 49. NO UP-FRONT FEEDBACK: Don’t spend money on demos before getting informed feedback on the song
    2. 50. POISONING THE PRODUCTION WELL: Don’t have an overbearing or put-down attitude in the studio
    3. 51. TOO MANY DEMOS SPOIL THE WALLET: Don’t make too many demos at once
    4. 52. TOO MANY PRODUCERS SPOIL THE DEMO: Don’t let everyone else make your demo decisions
    5. 53. BIG-BUDGET BLUES: Don’t spend too much money on one demo
    6. 54. JUST JAM IT: Have a clear idea of the feel and sound you’re going for in the demo
    7. 55. SELF-SUNG DEMO HERO: Avoid singing the demo yourself; hire a dynamite singer
    8. 56. LITTLE VOICE LOST: Put the vocal up front in the mix
    9. 57. I CAN’T FIND YOUR KEY: Be sure to lay the tracks in the singer’s key
    10. 58. INSERT INSTRUMENTAL INTERMISSION: Don’t put long instrumental breaks in a song demo
    11. 59. A BIG OVERPRODUCTION: Keep your demo uncluttered
    12. 60. CAN’T STOP NOW: Don’t continue to work when the session is going badly
    13. 61. SENDING MONEY DOWN THE DEMO HOLE: Make the best of mail-order demos
  14. PART 7: ALLOW ME TO PRESENT MY SONG: Pitching Package Pratfalls
    1. 62. NO WAY IN: Don’t seal your demo package with a roll of tape and a thousand staples
    2. 63. LYRICS IN LONGHAND: Don’t send handwritten lyric sheets
    3. 64. READ THIS LEAD SHEET: Don’t send the lyrics on a four-page lead sheet
    4. 65. SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST: Don’t put your best song at the end of a twelve-song demo CD
    5. 66. FEAR OF FIRST CLASS: Don’t send songs by certified or registered mail
    6. 67. GUESS WHO WROTE THIS: Put your name and phone number on all parts of your presentation package
  15. PART 8: MAKING DISCONNECTIONS: How Not to Get Your Songs Heard
    1. 68. PITCHING PARANOIA: Avoid coming across with a defensive attitude, afraid of being ripped off
    2. 69. COPYRIGHT IT, RIGHT?: Don’t register every song individually with the Copyright Office
    3. 70. STAYING IN THE CLOSET: Don’t be afraid to pitch or show your songs
    4. 71. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: Don’t send songs to a company without a specific person’s name
    5. 72. ONE PITCH AT A TIME: Don’t pitch to only one potential recording situation at a time
    6. 73. SHOTGUN PITCHING: Pinpoint your pitches; don’t force the wrong song on the right contact
    7. 74. I’LL GIVE YOU EVERYTHING: Don’t be willing to sign everything and anything away at the slightest interest by a publisher
    8. 75. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF NOTHING: Don’t be inflexible in negotiating rights
    9. 76. NO SIR, THAT’S MY BABY: Don’t be reluctant to let go of a song because you’re saving it for your “artist deal”
    10. 77. HOLD IT, HOLD IT, NEVER LET IT GO: Know how to deal with songs that get stuck “on hold” with producers
    11. 78. MAKE ME A STAR: Don’t think that someone is going to “make you” a success
    12. 79. NEVER AGAIN: Don’t give up after being rejected
    13. 80. BURNING BRIDGES: Don’t leave a trail of enemies behind
    14. 81. LET MIKEY DO IT: Don’t expect to sit back and let the publisher or lawyer do all the work
    15. 82. READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!: Know what you’re doing before you move to a music center
    16. 83. DISTANT DREAMS: Don’t despair of being a songwriter because you live in the middle of nowhere
    17. 84. POLITICALLY INCORRECT: Don’t think that politics have nothing to do with songwriting
    18. 85. BOONDOCKS BLUES: Don’t think you’re not important to the songwriting world because you don’t live in a music center
  16. PART 9: THE CD RELEASE PARTY’S OVER: Post-Record Release Problems
    1. 86. MAJOR LABEL MISHAPS: The record deal rainbow does not necessarily lead to a pot of gold
    2. 87. INDEPENDENCE DAZE: Don’t think your work is done when you’ve produced your own CD
    3. 88. IN IT FOR THE MONEY: Don’t think you’ll get rich quick on one lucky break
    4. 89. MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY: Be willing to relinquish control over the finished product
    5. 90. WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW WILL HURT YOU: Register a song that is getting airplay with your performance rights organization
    6. 91. ONCE IS ENOUGH: Join your PRO twice if you’re self-publishing
    7. 92. NO PAPER TRAIL: Don’t lose those contracts!
    8. 93. IT OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES: Learn about the drawbacks of writing songs for films and TV
    9. 94. PENNIES FROM HEAVEN: Don’t think your royalties will automatically come to you
    10. 95. FALLING OFF THE MOUNTAIN: Cope with your success
  17. PART 10: WILD WEIRD WEB: Internet Entanglements
    1. 96. FEAR OF THE FUTURE: “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself …”
    2. 97. JUST A CLICK AWAY: Be careful what you click for on the Internet
    3. 98. CYBER SONG SHARKS: Steer clear of companies that advertise they are “looking for hit songs”
    4. 99. NO CONTEST: There are “contests” and there are real contests—choose wisely
    5. 100. FAME CALLING: Be wary of the caller who says, “I’m gonna make you a star.”
    6. 101. DOLLARS AND NONSENSE: Make careful choices about where you spend your money on songwriting
  18. AFTERWORD: “The fundamental things apply as time goes by …”