During my 35 years in the music business as a songwriter, producer, author, record label exec, and recording artist, I’ve collected a lot of useful, no-nonsense info and I love to share it!
My books are used in some of the top universities and music schools in the U.S. to teach all levels of songwriting, from beginning to advanced. I hope you’ll enjoy your visit and find plenty of inspiration. And be sure to check out my SONGWRITING BLOG at MySongCoach.com – for the latest in songwriting craft and tools. ~ May your songs flow!
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There are always a whole lotta party-all-night, feel-good songs on the Country music charts, especially in the summer. It’s a theme with tons of appeal for Country listeners.
The songwriting on all these hits is solid, of course, but, after a while you might start to notice a certain same-ness to the lyrics. They all seem to have pickup trucks, beer, and girls in shorts. So, wouldn’t it be cool if you could write a hit song with this commercially appealing theme and set yourself a little apart from the crowd? Let’s take a look at a Country hit that does exactly that.
“Play It Again,” the summer 2014 hit song recorded by Luke Bryan, has the required tailgate and girl in shorts but the song brings this girl to life in a way that’s vivid and believable. You get a real sense of both the singer’s character and the girl’s. The song plays out like a series of scenes, fun to watch and easy to get caught up in.
Take a listen to the song on YouTube. I chose a video with lyrics rather than images so you can run your own mental movie while you listen. Notice how the song paints pictures for you.
Artist: Luke Bryan Writers: Dallas Davidson & Ashley Gorley The Shortcut numbers below refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).
The genre is Contemporary Country. (What is a genre?)
The song structure is…
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS Continue reading →
A good story has long been one of the hallmarks of a great Country song and today’s Country hits are stuffed full of vivid characters and details. But sometimes, in all the clever word-smithing, we forget that every great story has emotion at its heart. The best songs are driven by the singer’s feelings.
Here’s a Country hit that packs a huge emotional punch, Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck.” Listen to the song, then read about it and learn how it draws listeners in and keeps them involved. You’ll also find out how you can use some of those same songwriting techniques in songs of your own.
Recorded by Lee Brice
Writers: Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary
You can read the lyric here. The Shortcut numbers below refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).
GENRE/STYLE: Contemporary Country. Both lyric and melody have a current style that’s very Country-radio-friendly.
Until recently you would only have heard a thoughtful, acoustic-based folk song like this on college radio stations or eclectic NPR shows. Certainly not among Billboard’s Top 10 Pop hits. But there it is, right there with Katy Perry, One Direction, and Pitbull. Wha? If you haven’t heard this song on the radio then you’ve probably heard it on a national TV commercial or featured in series like “Elementary” or “The Vampire Diaries.”
Take a look at the official video on YouTube and then let’s dive deeper into this song to see what makes it work so well and how you can use some of these techniques in your own songs.
Read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers below refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film & TV”).
GENRE/STYLE: Folk / Singer-Songwriter (What is a genre?)
The lyric, melody, and structure of this song are all reminiscent of the folk genre, with a nod to both authentic English ballads and the folk songs of the 1960s. If you still love to sing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” then this song is for you! There’s even a subtle group sing-along on the chorus, almost as if everyone is gathered round the ol’ campfire.
But even though the retro underpinnings are clearly there, the melody has interesting twists that give it a modern edge. If you’ve got a few old fashioned folk songs tucked away (and I know some of you do) consider giving them a facelift with these tricks. Continue reading →
This beautiful hit ballad has a compelling title and a simple but very effective melody trick you’ll definitely want to try in a song of your own.
While record labels tend to shy away from ballads when it comes to releasing and marketing the big lead single from an album, in this case the label released “If I Were a Boy” as a co-lead single right along with the smash R&B/Pop Dance track “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” Both songs climbed to the Top 5 on the Pop charts and have continued to be listener favorites.
So, how does a slow, thoughtful ballad compete with one of those monster uptempo dance tracks? Watch the song video then read on to find out.
Writers: Toby Gad / Britney Carlson (BC Jean)
Recorded by Beyoncé Shortcut numbers refer to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”
GENRE/STYLEWhat is a genre?
This is a power ballad in the Pop/R&B style. Power ballads generally start out with an intimate, personal sound and build to a big, anthemic ending. The tempo can range from slow to medium but should never feel rushed. The BPM (Beats per Minute) is usually – though not always – 100 or below. Continue reading →
Sometimes a single, unlikely word can spark a hit. Lorde describes seeing the word “Royals” written on the uniform of a Kansas City Royals baseball player. It triggered a response – not to the baseball team, but to the word itself. ”Royals” is a word that’s loaded with associations – wealth, luxury, power, and privilege. It evokes stories of legendary kings and queens, as well as today’s celebrities. And it stirs up interest in just about everyone, which makes it a perfect word on which to build a song. Let’s take a look at Lorde’s mega-hit and find out how to create a hit song from a single word. Here’s the official video on YouTube.
“Royals” recorded by Lorde Writers: Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde), Joel Little You can read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers below refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).
GENRE/STYLE: Singer-Songwriter (What is a genre?)
This song has sold triple Platinum and made it to #1 on Pop charts around the world. It doesn’t sound like most Pop hits, though. Definitely not Katy Perry or Kelly Clarkson. Instead it blends a singer-songwriter style lyric and melody with a groove and tempo that owe a lot to Hip Hop, giving the song a cool Urban edge.
When blending genres like this, be sure you’re familiar with both of the styles you’re working in. Your song and/or production need to draw on authentic elements from each source rather than being an accidental mish-mash that may or may not really capture a genre. Listen to your favorite artists in each style as you write. Draw on those elements that appeal to you, or study an artist who is already blending those styles. Continue reading →