Film and TV Songwriting Playlist

Since writing my book on songwriting for the Film & TV market, I’ve been studying the kinds of songs that do well in commercials, TV shows, and movies. Recently I began putting many of them into a Spotify playlist and I’d love to share it with you. I’m adding to it all the time.

All of these songs have been used in prime time TV dramas, national TV commercials, or films. I tend to favor the kinds of songs that can be recorded in a home studio or relatively inexpensively in a pro studio. There are even a couple of recognizable hit songs here, but in each case the song was introduced to the public via television or film.

You can click here to go to the complete playlist on Spotify. Or just go to your Spotify app and search for Film and TV Songwriting.

Listening to this playlist will give you a good idea of some of the kinds of songs that work well as underscore in TV dramas and commercials, adding energy, emotion and atmosphere. Of course, many more types of songs are used, including Rock, Hip Hop, Blues, and Country. This is just a place to get started. If you’d like to learn more about film and TV songwriting, here’s a post that will give you some tips.

Hold Back the River – James Bay

James Bay“Hold Back the River” became a huge international hit soon after its release in late 2014. Universal themes of nostalgia, regret, and lost innocence are conveyed in conversational yet evocative language. The chorus melody is memorable and has a folksy authenticity that adds to the singer’s credibility.

There are many simple songwriting techniques here that you can use in songs of your own: a family of related images, words that have emotional associations, varied phrase lengths in the melody, and an easy trick for catching the listener’s attention with your chorus. Let’s take a look at how these work together to create a hit song.

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:

• Use images to intensify emotion.

• Create contrast between sections with phrase lengths.

• Add an octave to lift the energy.

Read the lyrics here: Hold Back the River – James Bay

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.)

Watch on YouTube.

Recorded by James Bay
Writers: James Bay & Iain Archer

GENRE/STYLE  (What is a genre?)
I’m going with Folk/Rock on this one. The lyric palette features images of nature and rural life. The melody is fairly straight ahead, closer to the Indie Folk style of “Gone Gone Gone” by Phillip Phillips than to the quirky, unpredictable melodies of Alt Pop or Alt Rock, where it is sometimes classified. The track relies on acoustic guitar-style melody lines and strumming (although played on electric guitar), there’s not a whiff of synthesizer or electro anywhere around. The drums are live (and great). Folk/Rock has made a very successful comeback after being out of fashion for the last few decades.

SONG STRUCTURE
This structure looks complicated but sounds cohesive and natural when you listen to the track. The verse melody functions as both an instrumental and vocal hook. The bridge reappears at the end of the song as a tag, after which we hear the hook one more time. Every melody is used and reused. There are, in fact, only three different melodies: 1) verse and hook, 2) chorus, and 3) bridge. Continue reading

Songwriting: Faster & Better

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could keep your songwriting moving forward all the time, if you could start new songs and finish old ones, if not at lightning speed at least at a comfortable pace? You’d have more songs to pitch and maybe songwriting would be more exciting and fun to do. You bet it would.

We all want to be more creative, have more songs in our catalog, and feel satisfied that we’re getting things accomplished. It’s just that reality doesn’t always work out that way. More often than not…

  • We don’t have any good ideas for new songs.
  • We’re not sure what kinds of songs we should be writing and for what market.
  • We get stuck working on one song that’s in trouble.
  • We’re scared our songs aren’t good enough so we don’t finish them.

We all know that the quality has to be there, but I bet you could write more songs and keep the quality at the level you want or even improve it. Here’s a whole bunch of ideas for writing FASTER and BETTER. Continue reading

July/August 2015 Songwriting Newsletter is out!

Songwriting TipsMy July/August newsletter is fresh off the cyber-press. I’ve got a songwriting tip for you that’s practically a whole eBook. I got so excited about it that I just couldn’t stop writing.

Song Tip: “Write a Song in Four Drafts” – In this article I’ll walk you through a songwriting process that will take you from initial melody or lyric idea to completed song. You’ll be doing it in four drafts, each one laid out for you step by step. In each draft, you’ll blend your inspiration with rewriting techniques that add plenty of listener appeal. It’s  not the only way to write a song, but it sure works. Plus, you can apply these ideas to any songwriting process in any genre.

James BayStudy the Hits“Hold Back the River” recorded by James Bay. This gorgeous Folk/Rock hit uses some simple songwriting techniques to work its magic. Imagery in the title and octaves in the melody create a powerful blend of emotion and energy. You can apply these ideas in many of your own songs. I’ll show you how.

If you didn’t get your newsletter, sign up in the EMAIL FORM at the upper right. You’ll receive a Confirmation email. Click on the link in the email to confirm your subscription, then look for a “Thank You” email with the latest newsletter included. Your email is always private.

Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Ed SheeranEd Sheeran is definitely paying his respects to Van Morrison here. The vocal style, the blue-eyed soul groove and melody, and the personal, honest lyrics all recall hit singles like Van’s “Into the Mystic.” But there are contemporary elements, too – an emphasis on current melody phrasing patterns and tight lyric focus that appeals to today’s listeners.

This song is a co-write with Amy Wadge, a songwriter Sheeran has worked with before. In fact, he wrote an entire EP of songs with her called Songs I Wrote With Amy.  It’s a great example of a first-rate songwriter who certainly doesn’t need a co-writer. There are many reasons to collaborate: speed, new ideas and techniques, another writer’s perspective, and more.

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:
– Keep your lyric focused on your theme
– Use your melody to make a  basic chord progression

 sound fresh
– Create a simple but effective instrumental arrangement

Read the lyrics here: Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.).

Watch on YouTube

Recorded by Ed Sheeran
Writers: Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge

GENRE/STYLE (What is a genre?)

The song’s blend of Blue-Eyed Soul and contemporary singer-songwriter propelled this song to the top of the Mainstream Top 40 charts in the U.S. and global hit status. It has the kind of positive, love-themed lyric and easy melody that suggests it’s likely to be a standard on Adult Contemporary (AC) radio for years to come. Continue reading