Saturday, January 16, 2016

Starting a Song On a Given Topic

Hi. I’m Bella. I’m 7 years old and I’m trying to write a song about butterflies to sing for my class since we are learning about butterflies, and I don’t know how to start. Any advice? 

Hi Bella,

I happen to be working with some students right now who are also writing songs about butterflies! It can be frustrating when you know your topic, but you have no idea where to start. Here are three good ways to start writing:

Start With a Title If You Can

Writing a song is much easier when you already know the title. A good song title will:

- Tell you what the song is about
- Sound really cool when you repeat it out loud
- Suggest an attitude or emotion

Sometimes a good title jumps out at you from the world. When you're reading about butterflies or looking at butterflies or talking about butterflies, you might hear some words and think: "Song title!"

So keep your ears open. But don't count on finding your title by accident. Also do some brainstorming.

Start with the simplest title you can think of - something you know you won't use. Write it down. While you're writing, let your brain think of another one. Keep writing them down. Don't worry about how good or bad they are - just fill a whole page with possible titles. Then look back over your list. Chances are you'll see one or two you like!

Here is my own brainstorming, so you can see what it looks like. I'll write down the first few butterfly titles that come to mind. Trust me, they won't be great…

Butterfly Party
Bella the Butterfly
I Wish I Were a Butterfly
1000 Purple Butterflies
Flutter, Little Butterfly

You add your own ideas to the list!

Once you find a title you like, you can use it as the main part of your chorus, which is the main part of your song. Your title can also tell you what to put in the rest of your song.

For example if my title was "Flutter, Little Butterfly" then I would ask myself, "Why should the butterfly flutter?" Answers: To get to a flower, to have fun in the sun, to show off its pretty wings - these ideas would fill up the verses of my song.

See how having a title helps you write the whole song? That's why professional songwriters love to start off with a great title, when they can. But it isn't always easy to think of one, even for professionals!

So if you're having trouble finding a title, don't feel bad. Try starting with an idea instead…

Start With an Idea

In a way, you already know what your song is about: butterflies. But it's almost impossible to start writing about such a big topic. A song is short, and it's personal, so it needs to be about one small idea.

A good song idea will make it clear who is singing, what they are singing about, and why. Brainstorm by asking yourself some questions. What about butterflies is interesting to you? What kind of story can you tell about a butterfly? What does a butterfly want? What advice would you give a butterfly? Ask your own questions and answer them.

My students each wrote down three ideas that might make good butterfly songs. Here are some of them:

- A song about what nectar is like to a butterfly

- A song about a caterpillar wanting to grow up

- A butterfly in captivity is sad and sings about wanting to be free

Each of these ideas is very small compared to "A song about butterflies." And it’s weird, but when you’re working with a smaller idea, you’ll find it’s actually easier to fill a page with details.

Think about that captive butterfly. She might feel crowded by other butterflies. She can see flowers and trees outside and she feels the breeze and her wings just want to flutter. She thinks she is trapped forever. But maybe she will be released at a wedding. If I kept going I’d easily write down more than enough details to fill a song.

Your main idea is also linked to your title. Once you have one, it’s much easier to come up with the other. But, if you’re still having trouble knowing what to write about, a little improvisation might get you there…

Start With Words or Music or Both

I walk around my house sometimes just singing random made-up stuff out loud. This is a form of "improvising." And… I mostly sound like a goofball when I improvise (you can ask my family), but sometimes I sing some cool little thing that I end up turning into a song.

You might think it’s lucky to discover a song that way, and it is. But you can make that luck happen on purpose. You can even put that luck to work on a topic you want to write about, like butterflies! You just have to ask your brain to do some random singing about your topic.

You probably know when the best time is for you to improvise. For me it's when I'm alone doing something I don't have to think about. I improvise while taking a shower, riding in the car, going for a walk, taking out the trash, or doing the dishes.

So next time you have a good chance to improvise, give your brain an assignment, like this: "Brain, I need an idea for a song about butterflies." Try not to think about it after that. Just make some noise and let some singing happen. You don’t have to sing words - “La la la” or “Dooby dooby doo” will work just fine. Pretty soon you'll probably be singing about butterflies. Maybe you'll even sing something you like!

I usually trick my brain by giving it an assignment just before I get into the shower. If I improvise something good, I'll keep repeating it until I get a chance to sing it into my voice memo app. That way I won't forget what I came up with.

Once you've improvised some ideas, ask yourself: Did I sing a song title? Do I know what this song is about? If you have a title or idea, then you're off to a great start!

If not, write down any words you sang in the middle of a page, then brainstorm around them until you find a good title or idea.

Maybe you just improvised a melody, one that makes you think of butterflies. Great! Sing that melody using nonsense words until you know it by heart, then see if you can replace the nonsense with some butterfly-related words that fit. For example, “La De La De La De Daa” might become, “I’m a pretty butterfly.”

Bella, I hope this helps you write a wonderful butterfly song. Have fun!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

6 Inspiring Tips for Creative People

I don't often point my readers elsewhere, but I would be neglectful if I didn't share this with you! 

In this blog post at, Chris Bolton shares six great tips for ramping up your creativity. I find all six to be helpful and true in my own experience - AND several of these are tips I haven't written about here! 

So, your reading assignment for today: 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nat & Alex Wolff Answer Your Songwriting Questions

Here it is, the post you've all been waiting for!

I collected more than 160 questions from readers for Nat & Alex! To respect their time and keep the focus on songwriting, I narrowed that down to 20. In some cases I combined or re-worded questions to try to cover as much ground as possible. When I could I identified who asked what, so you can see if your question got in there.

Also I have to say that while preparing for this interview I enjoyed getting to know Nat & Alex's new CD Black Sheep. I highly recommend it. In a word: inventive! Always fresh and surprising in a very good way. That's more than one word. Moving on...

Thanks so much to Nat & Alex for taking time out of their busy touring schedule to "talk" with us here on TFYS!!

And of course, thanks to everyone who sent in their questions!

Now without further ado...

Part I: Inspiration

Many readers want to know if your songs are real or imagined. For example, "Hardcore Wrestlers" is clearly written from an imagined point of view! But what about the more introspective songs on Black Sheep? How close do your songs ever get to describing your own true feelings and experiences?  
Alex: Nat & I agree "Hardcore Wrestlers" was true to us when we were little. As young adults "Black Sheep" is more about ourselves now, it was different then.

A lot of readers asked about specific songs - whether they are true to life or imagined, and what made you write them. Please pick two or three to tell us about...
Alex: "Disappointed" is an honest song about how people my age feel about their insecurities.  
Nat: "Illuminated" Feelings that are real don't necessarily come from one particular situation. Let the people who listen take what they want from it. 

Melissa asks:
Who has inspired you the most as songwriters/composers and why?
And I add:
Besides The Beatles, since I think their influence is pretty clear!
Alex: Our inspiration for "Black Sheep" is The Replacements and Simon & Garfunkel. The Replacements for their sound and rock, and Simon & Garnfunkel for their harmony and fusion.  
Nat: Both have awesome lyrics however we like modern bands like MGMT and Arcade Fire.

Your lyrics tend to include really great phrases, like "I am only beautiful on Monday Afternoons" or "Colorful Raindrops everywhere." Do interesting word combinations get you started writing, or do those come out of working on an idea for awhile?
Alex: "Lullaby" came from "Do you ever think of me when balloons fall." It comes from a phrase or something going on in our lives.  
Nat: I'm always thinking of song titles and different phrases to use in lyrics. Anytime I get an idea I write in down on my Iphone notes. 

The Rock Fairy asks:
What was the craziest inspiration for a song you've ever gotten? 
Nat: When I was 10, I wrote "Banana Smoothie" because I wanted to make a concept album about Hawaii...I never got past that first track.

GUI asks:
What was the most inspirational place you've been to write a song?
Alex: New York, buildings that catch your eye when you are walking around. Africa, Italy and France, romantic countries. Or, any place you get really bored. 
Nat: I think Alex got that covered

Kathy asks:
Do you ever start with a beat or rhythm?
Alex: Usually that doesn't happen.  
Nat: Sometimes getting a good beat or rhythm is inspiring. 

Vivian_n asks:
Do you sit down to write at a regular time, or only when inspiration strikes?
Alex: Only when inspiration strikes 
Nat: Sometimes its good to have a plan to write but usually the best songs seem to come at random times. 

Part II: The Writing Process

Many fans are curious about how the two of you interact. Is there competition between you when you write? Have you written any songs together? Do you help one another out? Do you ever argue over how a song should go?
Alex: We started writing together recently. We used to argue but now we are comfortable with each other, makes it easier. We help one another which is often best. 
Nat: We only fight when Alex steals my jeans. 

Vivian_n asks:
What are the steps or process you follow to write a song?
Alex: No steps, just be as real as possible.
Nat: It's different every time.

Several people asked about music versus lyrics... Which comes first for you? Do you find one or the other more challenging? Do you have any particular strategies for matching melody and lyrics together?
Alex: It's up in the air, spontaneous. Usually with a basic set of lyrics. Sometimes we write poems and they turn into songs. 
Nat: Other times we have melodies that we spend time finding the right words for. 

Tiahara Bennett asks:
Does writer's block ever come your way?
If so, what do you do to get over it?
Alex: Sometimes writers block comes when I've written a bunch of songs in a row. When I talk about music constantly, it blocks my inspiration.
Nat: I agree, Alex.

Makenna and Harold and Vivian_n ask:
How long does it take you to write a song?
Alex: Depends on the song 
Nat: Sometimes it can take 15 minutes, sometimes I will spend months on lyrics. 

Angela Robbins' 3rd grade class asks:
Are you writing a song now? If so, what is it called?
Alex: We are always writing a song 
Nat: Alex and I are working on a song together... we are not sure about the title yet. 

Makenna asks:
How old were you when you started writing songs?
Alex: Nat started writing when he was 5 and I was about 6 or 7. 
Nat: It's quite obvious which Wolff is the genius. 

Sanitra Henderson asks:
Have you ever written a song that was so personal you kept it to yourself?
Alex: I kept "Disappointed" to myself for a while. I still can't play it in front of certain people. 
Nat: It's rewarding to have people enjoy the music that was once so personal. 

Part III: Revisions

One of the things I'm always telling the kids I teach is that songs don't just pop out of your head in finished form. (At least not often!) So I want to thank you for letting your fans see some of your revision process at work. 

Tiahara Bennett asks: I've noticed that you guys change lyrics to some of your songs. Why do you do that?
Alex: Lyrics always have lots of revisions. We are meticulous when it comes to that.  
Nat: In "I Won't Love You Any Less" I rewrote the verses many times. I first had a verse that went "If I try to hold your hand, if I try to make you bend if you start calling me obsessed" and it was just an off the cuff line. It made the song about something else so I changed it to be more clear and hopefully more poetic. I changed it to "If I try to hold your hand while you slip and slide towards another man, cause of you I get no rest." 

GUI asks:
Do you ask someone's opinion about the lyrics before finishing them, and if so who?
Alex: We ask each other. 

Do your melodies generally evolve too, as you work on a song? What kinds of changes do you make to your melodies and why?
Alex: We usually don't change the melodies. 
Nat: I do think the melodies evolve and build on each other from verse to chorus. 

What songwriting advice would you give to your younger selves if you could?
Alex: Try to be as real as you can. All you have to do is be true to you and nothing else matters! 
Nat: Write and write as much as possible.

Bonus Round
Nat, you knew somebody would ask this. Are you ready to reveal it? Will you ever reveal it? Will you reveal it for Ashley?

Ashley asks:
What does RCMJNBNOE mean? (From "Proof Of My Love")
Nat: Sorry I can't disclose that information...its top secret, CIA stuff. 

One of my own fans, Anna asks:
Are you going to write any songs with Monty Harper?
Nat & Alex: Sure, sounds great!
Me: I just might have to hold you to that! ;-)

Giovanna asks:
Do you ever stop and think that there are people across the world who love you and love your music and know and sing all the songs you've ever done? How does it make you feel?
Alex: It makes me feel wonderful. We love our fans around the world.  
Nat: Its exciting to have anything you make or create and care about... appreciated by others. 

That's it! Thanks again to Nat and Alex and all my question askers. I will leave you with a video from Black Sheep!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thanks, Everyone!

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions for Nat & Alex! I collected more than 160 questions!!

Now I'm sorting through them, and I'll post the interview as soon as it's ready.

In the meanwhile, enjoy their new CD, Black Sheep - it really is awesome!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ask Nat & Alex (Formerly of the Naked Brothers Band)!

Dear Readers,

I've been given an incredible opportunity to interview Nat & Alex Wolff about their songwriting, and I'm going to let you in on it!!

Nat & Alex Wolff
If you aren't sure who I'm talking about, think "The Naked Brothers Band" from Nickelodeon. Their first two CDs were with the band, but now they've gone solo (or should I say duo?), and they have a new CD out called Black Sheep.

Many of you have asked for advice on becoming famous with your music. Well, here is your chance to ask two talented young songwriters who have actually been there, done that! Nat is about to turn 17 and Alex recently turned 14. They made their first hit record around the ages of 13 and 10!

Do you have a question for Nat & Alex? Send it in and I might include it in the interview!

I'm looking for questions that are pretty specific, and I'm most interested in questions about writing songs, of course! I'll include your best questions in the interview!

Send questions to with "Nat & Alex" in the subject. Or post them here in the comments. Ask as many as you want.

You have just a few days to respond. I'll be sending my questions to Nat & Alex on December 20, and I'll post their answers here as soon as I get them!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting Meaningful

Hi there, Monty! My name's Maggie, and I'm 14. Being so young, I have no idea where my head will be by the time that I graduate high school, but at the moment, the only thing that I can really see myself doing in the long term is writing music and playing in a band, whether we become wildly famous or I'm stuck living on bread, cheese, and water for the span of my adult life. I... I really love music. I live for it.
However, I don't have a lot of life experiences in my inventory on which to base meaningful and well-written songs. There are certain issues that I feel quite strongly about, but I feel they're inappropriate for songwriting, that I may come across as trying to (immaturely) be 'the next big controversy'.
I want to write songs with lyrics that help people, that inspire people. If I help even one person with my lyrics, it will have been worth it; I just don't know how to do it yet. If you can think of any tips at all for me, could I ask you to post them on your blog?
Thanks, and I really appreciate you even taking the time to read this comment. :) 

Hi Maggie,

Thanks for writing. I shortened your question a bit for my readers; I hope you don't mind.

In a moment I will refer you to an older post called "What to Write About." I give some excellent suggestions there (if I do say so myself) about how to generate ideas. These will work for anyone, old or young, and I won't repeat them here, so please do go read them, but first...

There is an extra dimension to your question beyond just what to write about. You really want your songs to help and inspire people. It's fantastic that you want to use your music to make the world a better place! And it sounds like you have the passion to make it happen. Also I must say, Maggie, that you show unusual maturity to recognize that due to your age, tackling controversial subjects might come across the wrong way, and that you still have a lot of life to live before you may feel you have any deep insights to share. I agree. Just keep writing. As you gain skill and confidence, you'll know when it's the right time to tackle some of those issues you feel strongly about.

In the meantime, don't sell yourself short! Like any dedicated young person, you have a lot to offer. (For some really cool inspiration, check out the book It's Our World, Too!: Stories of Young People Who Are Making a Difference by Phillip Hoose.) Your youth may mean that you are inexperienced, even naive, but it probably also means you are creative and have a fresh way of looking at things. You certainly have the potential to reach your peers with inspirational and meaningful lyrics.

OK, enough pep talk. Here are two specific ways to write a meaningful song:

1. Write a great feel-good song. Think about how energized you feel when you play your favorite happy song! ("Good Day Sunshine" may be a good example, or "Good Vibrations," or "Walking on Sunshine.") Next time you feel great, try to write a song that will help someone else capture that same great feeling. Start with some brainstorming. Why do you feel so good? How does your body feel? What thoughts are going through your head? Try to come up with a unique playful phrase to capture how you feel in that moment. 

Writing "in the moment" does not require life experience; you just need to be observant and aware and expressive about how you feel right now, and why you feel that way. And a great feel-good song really can touch people, lift their moods, and help them get through troubled times.

2. Write about your problems, but don't try to provide answers. What's your biggest trouble in life right now? Is it something you could write about? Of course it is! Just like with the feel-good song, write your trouble song "in the moment." What's the predicament, how does it make you feel, and why? If you aren't comfortable putting your problems out there for the world to hear, write in third person, as if the song is about somebody else. Or disguise the situation by changing the details, while staying true to its emotional core.

And don't worry if you have no solution to offer. That's OK. In fact your song may resonate better with your audience if it doesn't try to provide a solution. Listeners like the freedom to come to their own conclusions. 

Can a song about your troubles help other people? Absolutely! Think how you feel when you recognize the sad situation in a song. ("It's like she's inside my head!") It's very comforting to know that whatever your troubles are, you aren't the only one feeling that way. If you write a great trouble song, your audience will recognize themselves in it and not feel so all alone. (Check out the Beach Boys Pet Sounds CD for some awesome examples.)

Finally, two bits of advice for living your life in a way that will keep you on track for deep meaningful songwriting as you mature:

1. Get the very best education you can. It doesn't matter what you study; a good education will expose you to new ideas, aide you in your search for meaning and wisdom to put into your lyrics, and help you become a clear communicator and a deep thinker. Not to mention giving you something to "fall back on" if you ever get tired of subsisting on bread, cheese, and water. :)

2. Don't ever go suffering for your art. There are a lot of people who will tell you that you have to suffer before you can create great art. There's a certain logic to this idea: "misery gives you new experiences that are the raw material you need to write meaningful lyrics." Sometimes great art can come from great suffering. But the key here is: it doesn't have to! Great art can also come from perfectly well-adjusted happy people. We all suffer quite enough in life as it is. That's just part of the human condition. Extra needless suffering won't improve your songwriting. In particular, as a musician you'll likely run into people who abuse drugs and alcohol. Yes these can be great tools for increasing suffering, but they will not make anyone a better songwriter. Nuff said.

Oh, and don't forget to check out: "What to Write About" for more ideas. 

And just write. The bottom line is: any song worth recording will help someone get through their day!

I hope this helps!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Has It Really Been So Long?

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted to this blog! Some folks have asked me if I'm still here. I am. I have been answering people's questions directly, when I can, so I do have a few good "articles in the rough" waiting to be posted.

I've also been doing a lot more songwriting with kids in schools lately, so I'm planning to revive this blog as a tool for teachers and students interested in learning more. I just wanted to let you know that I haven't abandoned the site, and there is more to come soon.

In the meantime, you can check out the songs my students wrote last year at Skyline Elementary and at Richmond Elementary here in Stillwater:


Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Can You Tell if Your Melody is Original?

On Nov 28, 2008, at 2:02 AM, Anonymous wrote:

errm Hay....Im frm N.Z on the other side of the world and was wondering...

How can you find out if A melody is already been used but you've totally just made it up on the spot??? I'm just beginning to write my own song and I was unsure if the melody was already in use...

Is it helpful if I listen to all types of music to see if it has been used or... use it any way.. 

Hi New Zealand,

This is a fantastic question.

You don't just want to "use it anyway." If a melody is already part of an existing song, then it belongs to the owner of that song, and is covered by copyright. So if you use their melody for your song, they could in theory sue you for lots of money. Actually, you aren't likely to get sued unless the song you write (with the stolen melody) becomes a big hit.

So, for legal reasons, you should try to make sure your melody is your own, but once you've done your best, don't worry too much about it.

There's another reason to make sure your melody is your own, from a songwriting standpoint, and that is purely a point of pride. Personally, I don't want to re-write somebody else's song. I want my songs to be my own. The whole point of artistic expression is to create something new. 

There are some times though, when using an existing melody is OK and even can be a good thing. For example if you are a beginning songwriter, putting new words to an existing melody can be a fun exercise for learning about song structure. 

Sometimes teachers will write a "piggyback" song, to help teach some facts. That is, they will put new words to a well-known melody, and that makes it easy to tell other teachers how to use the song. For example I could say to other teachers, hey if you need a song about insects, try this, to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" - 

Count their legs and you get six
And they know some nifty tricks
They can fly or walk or crawl
Some can even climb a wall
In their exoskeletons
Insects are a lot of fun

OK, not the greatest lyric ever but you get the idea. You can sing it without written music because it fits a familiar melody. It's also important to note that "Twinkle Twinkle" is in the public domain, that is, it's so old that the copyright on it has expired. You can find lists of songs in the public domain by searching online.

Another type of song written to a familiar melody is the parody. Weird Al Yankovic is the undisputed king of parody. He takes familiar popular songs and changes all the words, so Michael Jackson's "Beat it" becomes "Eat it," just to give one example. In a parody, the original song is being made fun of in some way, so it's important to use the melody of the original song in order to make that connection. The copyright law allows for this, however I hear that Weird Al always asks permission anyway.

So, unless you are doing a songwriting exercise, writing a piggyback song for educational purposes, or writing a parody of an existing song, you want to try to make your melody original - one that never has been heard before.

This can be a challenge. Our brains are filled with all the melodies we've heard since birth. Those melodies are waiting in the wings to jump to mind whenever needed. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the melody you're singing is one you've just made up, or one that was already stored in there somewhere.

Even two of the Beatles (my favorite band to use as an example) lost law suits for stealing melodies - John Lennon with "Come Together," and George Harrison with "My Sweet Lord." They didn't do it on purpose - they just didn't realize how closely their melodies matched pre-existing songs. When you are that famous, nobody will let you get away with writing a song that sounds like another song!

On the other hand, if you look at it mathematically, it's easy to write a new melody. There are enough different notes and rhythms to choose from that the number of possible melodies is astronomically huge. We haven't even come close to using them all up. There are plenty of melodies to go around for anyone who wants to write original songs.

OK, so how CAN you know whether you made up a new melody, or whether you're humming a tune that's already been used?

That's actually a tough one. As I already pointed out, even some of the greatest songwriters ever have stumbled over it.

What I do first is I ask everyone around me to "name that tune." If I hum a melody for my wife, she is likely to recognize it, if it's one I already know - after all she knows many of the same songs I do. If she doesn't identify the melody, then I try it on my mom. She knows a lot of older songs. If it's really bothering me that the melody sounds familiar I'll ask a few more people, especially people I know who know a lot of songs. 

The more people you ask, if they all say they've never heard it, the more likely it is that you made it up yourself. Because we all carry so many melodies around in our memories, you only need to ask maybe five or six people before you can have a pretty good assurance that the melody is your own. 

When can you stop worrying about it? Of course you can't ever be 100% guaranteed, but once you've made a good solid effort, you've got to move on, otherwise you'd never get a song written. If the melody sounds so familiar to you that you don't trust it, then put the song aside for a while. Come back to it a few months later. Maybe you'll be able to identify the melody then, or maybe it won't sound familiar any more. In the end you have to go with your own gut feeling.

If somebody you sing your melody to says, "Yeah, that sounds like such and such song," then what do you do? This is a good thing, because now you'll find out why it sounds so familiar. Look up that song, listen to it, and see if your melody is the same. If it really is close, then you should consider changing your melody a little here and there to make it different.

I also want to say that I don't go around testing out all my melodies on all my friends. I only test the ones I feel suspicious of. Those are the ones that either just sound familiar, or seem to have popped into my head out of thin air. 

If I work hard inventing a melody to go with certain words I've written, and I revise it as I go, making it really fit the emotional ups and downs my song and the rhythm of my lyrics, then I can be pretty confident that I have invented an original melody. It's back to what I said about the math. There are so many melodies available, that if you work hard at creating one, it's very very very unlikely you'll arrive at the same melody that somebody else did.

But if a melody just pops into your head, you are right to worry. It might be your own, but it's also likely that you heard it somewhere. It's worth investigating to find out! 

Coming back to my favorite source for examples, Paul McCartney was afraid when he wrote "Yesterday" that he had stolen the melody, because he woke up with it in his head. He tried it out on all his friends and bandmates, but nobody had heard it before. As it turns out, it was original, and today it's one of the most famous melodies in the world. So you don't want to give up on a melody right away, just because it may seem familiar.

Finally, I will leave you with a resource that is definitely worth checking out. There is a website called where you can sing a melody into your computer's microphone, and it will tell you the name of the song! Of course it can only do this if you sing clearly, and if has that song in their database. So I use this website as if it were just one of my friends that I check melodies with. Even if it can't find a melody there, I still ask several other people. It isn't a perfect answer to the problem, but it helps, and it's a lot of fun to play with!

I hope this helps!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On The Sunny Side of the Street

Hiya Monty!

Well, you see, I have written quite a few songs but they all seem to be very sad and my music teacher keeps telling me that I need to write about happy things. However, I find it very difficult to find happy inspiration. Please could you give me some 'happy' ideas to write about.


Hiya Natasha,

First of all, sorry it took me so long to write back - I haven't had a chance to do any blogging stuff over the summer.

I'm not sure if I agree with your music teacher, without knowing more about you.

Your teacher might just be worried for you. If your songs are all sad, does it mean you're always sad? Could it mean you're depressed? Depression can be a serious problem, so she would be justified to worry about it.

If you are clinically depressed, forcing yourself to write happier songs won't help. But help is available. If you think you might be depressed, take an online screening test. (Here is a typical one.) If it suggests you may need help, talk to a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult about what you should do.

My personal favorite most helpful book about depression (and I'm no expert) is Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman. The book is written for adults, with information for parents. The exercises work for kids.

Most likely though, your songwriting is just something that helps you process your normal sad moments. Everyone feels sad sometimes, and we all have different ways of dealing with it. Maybe you tend to write when you're feeling down, and you just don't feel the need to write when you're happy.

Now if you write songs for your own satisfaction, there's nothing wrong with writing a bunch of sad ones. But if you hope to make a career out of songwriting, your music teacher may be right - your songs will need to appeal to a wider audience than just yourself.

True there are plenty of bands out there that do dark, down, negative stuff, and they have plenty of fans. But most hit songs are hits because they make people feel good. The one thing I hear over and over about the early Beatle's music is that it made people feel happy, and that fact is the key to why they were so insanely popular.

And even if you don't care about writing popular music, it can't hurt to push yourself to write something different whenever you're stuck in any kind of a rut. Attempting a new type of song is always a great way to learn and grow as a writer, and as a person.

So, here are some thoughts that will hopefully help you get started at writing a happy song. I'll try to include lots of different approaches, so maybe at least one will work for you...

Write When You're Happy
Like I said, maybe you only feel motivated to write when you're sad. So pay attention to your moods, and next time you feel deliriously happy about something, sing! Put that happy energy into some music. You don't have to stop what you're doing and write, just use the moment to grab some inspiration. Jot down a word or two or record a bit of melody. You can always come back to it later to see if you can turn it into a song.

Keep a Journal
It is always good writing advice to write in a journal as often as you can. Keep track of your moods. Write about what made you happy today. Keep your songwriter's ear open for a phrase that might make a good song title.

Look Back
In your journal, write about a happy memory from when you were a little kid, or a happy dream you had once. Write down all the details, then see if you can capture that moment in a song.

Listen to lots of happy or joyful music. Ask your friends and family what music makes them happy and listen to their recommendations. Put some happy music in your head, mix it around, and see what comes out when you sit down to write. "I'm Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves must be about the happiest song I can think of.

Make a list of things that make you happy. A lot of upbeat songs you hear on the radio are about romantic love, but you can write about anything. Donovan once write a happy song about his favorite shirt!

Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (Be Ironic)
That's the title to a very funny song from the Monty Python movie, The Life of Brian. The characters are facing death, but they start singing this happy bouncy tune. If you're having trouble finding something positive to say, you can write a happy song using irony. Irony happens when attitudes seem the opposite of what you would expect. Pick a topic that really brings you down, but for humorous effect, write about it from the opposite perspective, as if it should make people happy.

Get Silly
If you can't come up with a sincere topic for a happy song, try getting ridiculous. Just write a nonsense song with noises instead of actual words. (Think "Crazy Frog" for example.) Or, come up with some absurd images, like a tree that grows lollipops, or a flying guitar - both of which have been made into actual happy songs, by the way. You can brainstorm by choosing words at random from a book. Put adjectives in one column, nouns in another, and verbs in another, etc. Then put together random combinations using one word from each column. Look for an image that makes you giggle, or a combination of sounds that go well together. Have fun with it.

Get Angry
There's a whole world of emotion other than sad or happy. If you are stuck in a rut with sad songs, and happy isn't doing it for you, writing an angry song might get you moving. To me, sad says "Why does it have to be this way?" While angry says, "I'm ready to do something about it!" So try taking a sad song you've already written as a point of inspiration. Ask yourself what the situation is that makes the singer sad, and what could she do about it? Write some ideas in your journal. Then write a song about taking action. Instead of "I'm down" your song can say, "I'm not gonna let you keep me down."

Get Hopeful
Hope is another emotion that can spring from sadness. Again, start with one of your sad songs, and ask yourself what hope there could be in the situation. See if you can focus on one ray of hope and spin it into a new song of its own.

I hope I've helped!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Creating Arrangements for Your Band

My name is Diggory (age 10) I am starting a band called the CrAzY ApEs. We have all the instruments and equitment but we don't have anything to play with the songs.

p.s. Please help

Hi Diggory,

They sure make it look easy on TV, don't they?

It sounds like you have songs you want to sing, but you don't know what to play on the instruments to go with the songs while you're singing. In other words, you need to know how to create an arrangement.

I'm going to ask you the tough questions first, and tell you what you need to do to become good at arranging in the long run. Then I have a couple of ideas that might help you start making music with your band right away, so keep on reading.

How well do you know your instruments? Have you taken lessons? Are you able to play some songs? Can you keep a beat? Do you know a lot of chords, and how to follow a chord chart?

The first thing you need to do if you haven't already is learn your instruments! The second thing is, keep learning! It takes time. So have some patience.

A drummer who knows how to keep a beat and knows lots of patterns and fills for different styles of music can hear a song, pick a pattern to go with it, and he'll pretty much know what to play.

A guitarist who can keep rhythm and knows different chords can read a chord chart. All she needs is the names of the chords - A E A E G etc. - and she'll know what to play. With some trial and error, she can probably even figure out for herself what chords will sound good with a particular melody.

A keyboard or piano player who can read music will be able to play an arrangement out of a book. A keyboardist who can improvise will be able to play an arrangement from just a chord chart, or figure it out "by ear."

So it isn't necessary for your band members to be able to read or write music on a page, but they do need to know how to play their instruments. They need a very strong foundation of basic skills and music theory.

When you sign up for lessons, let your teacher know that you want to be able to put together arrangements for your own songs. Some music teachers will focus on teaching you how to read music that's written out. That's a great skill to have, and you should learn it. But it takes an extra set of skills to make up your own arrangements. Make sure your teacher is willing to work with you on improvisation and music theory.

Once your musicians each have a basic feel for rhythm and everyone knows how to change chords, you'll be ready to start coming up with your own arrangements.

Start by writing out a chord chart for the song. When everyone is looking at the same chord chart you can all count along and change chords at the same time. There is no right or wrong way to do this, as long as all the band members know how to read your charts.

I usually write out the chord names and beats in rows of boxes. Each box represents one measure of music. I make a chart like this for each of my songs and refer to it often while I'm recording.

On the right is the chart for my song "A Pet Like That" so you can see what it looks like. You can listen along in my podcast of the same name (podcast links are to the left).

So, everybody has a chart? Now count off the tempo - 1, 2, 3, 4 - and let each player play what they think might work. Your fist attempt will probably sound like a mess. Just keep trying. Between takes, discuss which ideas are working and which are not. Try something different each time and pretty soon it will start to sound like a song.

In addition to taking lessons, just listening to your favorite bands will help. And I mean REALLY listening. Learn to hear each instrument separately in a recording. Pay close attention to what your instrument is playing. Learn to play those parts yourself. Learn as many songs as you can. If you pay attention, you'll start to get a feel for arranging and for knowing what you might play to accompany your own songs.

Diggory, I know you are dying to make music with your band right now, and you don't want to take 10 years of lessons first. I don't think you should skip the lessons, but you can get started having fun with your band at the same time. Don't try to sing a song right at first. Just see if you can all play along together and get a groove going. Let the drummer start a beat, then strum the guitar along with that, and just play. Don't worry if it doesn't sound like anything; just have fun.

See if you can find an adult musician willing to work you through a rehearsal. I'll bet if you ask around, someone will be curious enough about the "CrAzY ApEs" to come help you out for an hour or two. Ask your teachers and parents if they know anyone they could recommend. Let your adult guide show each of you what to play. Make sure that you honor their time with a serious rehearsal. Do what they ask you to, and keep the goofing around to a minimum. If you are able to make progress, your guide will probably be willing to help you out again.

It takes a lot of hard work to make music in a band. It's also a lot of fun when it comes together and starts sounding good! Keep practicing!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Use an Existing Melody to Write a New Melody

Hello Monty,
I DO perform at my local church and very often at least once a month we have Gospel Concerts. I have so many different beats.. and I am finding it so hard to get a melody to it! How do I go about that? I have tried all sorts of different melodies from other songs. It could just be me but can you suggest anything?
Many Thanks,

Hi Elsie,

It's not just you - coming up with a melody can be a challenge. Many people feel they can't do it. I remember as a kid, trying to invent a melody, but everything I hummed turned out to be an existing song. Once I broke through that barrier and actually sang my own melody, it became easier and easier to do. Now melodies flow out of me like water. However, it's still often a challenge to find a good melody to match a particular set of words. When I write words first, I almost never settle on a melody right away - I'll try many different ideas until one finally sticks.

It sounds like you have written some words and you want to find a melody to go with them. You've tried all sorts of melodies from other songs, but none of them fit. I'll give you something new to try in a minute. But first, a word or two about using existing melodies.

Using an existing melody from another song is sometimes appropriate. If you make a joke out of the original song, that's called a "parody." Weird Al Yankovic is the master of parody. He took Michael Jackson's song "Beat It" and changed it to "Eat It," making it all about food. More recently he changed the Kink's classic "Lola" to "Yoda!" These songs are funny because the new lyrics resemble the old lyrics, while totally changing the meaning of the song.

But I don't think you're trying to write a parody. Another case where new words get put to an existing melody is what educators call "piggy back" songs. New words can "piggy back" onto a familiar tune in order to help teach a lesson. These songs are easy to share, because all you have to do is say, "Sung to the tune of...", and anybody reading the words will also know how to sing it. Barney (the big purple dinosaur) did this a lot. "I love you, you love me..." is sung to the tune of "This Old Man," for example.

However, melodies are protected by copyright, which means somebody owns them! John Lennon and George Harrison were each famously sued for songs they wrote with melodies that resembled other songs. Copyright law allows for some exceptions, called "fair use." Both parodies and piggy back songs (if they are educational) CAN fall under fair use, although the law is somewhat tricky.

Some melodies are so old that their copyright has expired. Those melodies are in the public domain, which means you can use them. So, make sure that if you do use another song's melody, it's in the public domain. Here is a website that will help you identify which songs are in the public domain:

But, if you are writing an original song, what you really probably want is an original melody to go with it - one you can call your own!

I'm going to give you a crazy suggestion that I think will help you write a melody. I say it's crazy because it seems sort of the opposite of what you've been trying. I've written a song or two this way, and it's a fun exercise.

1. Find a song you really like. You're going to use it as a model. Better yet, have a friend choose a good song for you that you haven't heard. If you are unfamiliar with the melody, that will be an advantage.

2. Copy out the lyrics word for word on paper or on a computer. Make each line of words cover the same number of beats in the song, either four or eight beats per line. (Or three or six... depending on the time signature of the song.)

3. Now put a new piece of paper next to that (or a new window on the computer) and start writing your own song. Chose a totally different topic from your model song, so that you won't be using similar words and ideas.

4. As you write, copy certain things exactly from your model song. This is important! Give your song the same number of lines. In each line use the same number of syllables. Copy the same pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Copy the rhyme scheme.

Example: "Like a bridge over troubled water" --> change it to "I'm in love with a purple monkey"; that's fine. But don't change it to "I'm in love with a purple antelope" because the number of syllables is wrong (10 instead of 9). And don't change it to "I'm in love with a tangerine tree" because although it has 9 syllables, the stresses are wrong ("-ine/Tree" is unstressed/stressed, where "water" is stressed/unstressed). Make sense?

5. If you find yourself uninspired, then write nonsense. Just focus on the patterns of the syllables and use any words that fit. It's only an exercise after all, and it's really about the melody. You can always fix the words later if you want. But do this quickly now.

6. If you're using a song you know, put your paper away for a couple of weeks, and don't listen to the model song during that time. This way you can come back to the words with a fresh pair of ears.

7. Get your paper out, try to forget the song you copied, and write a new melody for your words. Use a piano, guitar, or just your voice. Sing the words all on one pitch if you have to at first. Try different combinations of long notes and short notes - which words sound better when you hold them out? Have the pitch go up at the end of a line; then try it going down. Just keep singing it until a great melody clicks into place.

I'm guessing that with your new set of words you'll find it much easier to write an original melody. Why? Because these words follow an established pattern that another songwriter has already used to write a melody. If that writer had success with this pattern, so can you.

Once you've enjoyed some success at writing melodies to existing word patterns, go back to the words you wrote that you were having trouble with. By then you'll have some new skills for smoothing out the words and arranging them into a pattern that can support a great melody.

Give it a try, have fun, and good luck!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Music Lessons Can Help

Hi. My name is Amanda and I'm 19 years old. I like to sing and write songs, but the problem is that I can't seem to get my ideas on paper. I tried so many times to write a song and it never turns out right. Then when I try to play my guitar or keyboard, I can't hear the difference between one note and another note and I can't seem to get the rhythm. Can you help me? Thanks!!! -Amanda

Hi Amanda,

If you enjoy listening to music, then you aren't tone deaf, which means
you just need some musical training. I would suggest that you take
voice, guitar, or piano lessons. Once you have the basic musical skills
down, songwriting will seem a lot easier.

Thanks for your help! I will try getting into music classes when i get the money. I gotta get a job to pay for it, or I'll never be able to afford it. About how much do lessons cost?

I really hate to guess how much lessons might cost you. It would depend so much on where you live and who you hire. Also on whether you get individual lessons or sign on for a class.

There is a website,, where you can type in your area code and get a list of music teachers near you. Also if you Google "piano lessons", "guitar lessons", or "voice lessons" you'll find many resources online - some of them are free. These might be good places to start until you can afford to hire a teacher.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tips For Young Songwriters FAQ

Howdy! Welcome to Tips For Young Songwriters!

This blog is more than the mere ravings of a mad songwriter. I rave in response to readers' questions. And without a question from YOU, this blog just won't live up to its full potential. So send me your question!

But first, please look over the most frequently asked questions listed below. If your question has already been answered, then we both just saved ourselves some time! I do try to answer everyone who writes, but new and interesting questions get answered first.

So, to get right down to it...

If your question is about one of the articles I've already written, then post it as a comment. Just click the link at the bottom of the article that says "comment" and go from there. (You don't have to be a member to post your comment.)

Otherwise, you can email your question to me with this link: Send Me a Question!

Now, here is the FAQ list...

Part I - Questions about TFYS
(OK, so these are made up questions, but it's stuff you might want to know.)

Q. Who should ask questions here?
A. Anybody who wants to. Even though this is "Tips for Young Songwriters," the answers can get pretty sophisticated. I figure anyone who's been writing songs for less than 100 years is a young songwriter. But since I work with elementary students on songwriting, I try to make my answers understandable on that level.

Q. How long will it take to get an answer?
A. Who knows? Sometimes I answer right away. Sometimes it takes months, to tell you the truth. It depends on how busy I am at the moment, and whether or not I know right away how to answer your question. It also depends on whether your question has been answered already. (See above.) If I'm too slow for you, you are welcome to pester me with another email.

Part II - Questions about Songwriting

Q. Can you give me some good advice? How do I write a song?
A. Yes, I have been asked these questions many times, in various forms. My answer is - please, read this whole blog. Or get a book on songwriting from the library. Try to write a song or two. Then ask me a specific question.

Q. How can I become famous?
A. Is that REALLY what you want? You have to devote your every waking moment to it. I can't help you much, either. As you can see, I'm not really famous myself. But for some advice on this topic, see this post: Becoming Famous

Q. My songs aren't very good. What can I do about it?
A. Many people tell me their songs aren't very good. This is only to be expected, since you are a beginning songwriter! Start by changing what you tell yourself and others: instead of "My songs aren't good," say "I'm still learning." Say it out loud. Right now. There you go. Now check out these encouraging posts: Learn by Doing, You Can Write a Song. Then read the rest of this blog and practice, practice, practice your writing!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Digs

It's been over a year since I posted a new "Tips for Young Songwriters" column to my website, although I have been answering questions by email and through my MontyNews newsletter.

So I'm finally getting organized and moving "Tips" over here to Blogger where I can easily keep it updated and invite more discussion. Old articles will appear rapidly, and I will date them with the original date they were written.

Please feel free to leave a comment or submit a question! Happy songwriting!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Elements of a Melody

Hey Monty,

When ever I come up with a melody, it somehow always sound to.. like childish. Pop and R&B are hot on the market now these days... and I'm aiming for that. Could you please give me some advice???


Hi Phoenica,

Sorry to take so long getting back to you. Actually something I learned at the recent CMN conference reminded me of your question and helped me think how to answer it.

There are basically two elements to a melody: its rhythm and its intervals. If either the rhythm or the intervals (or both) in your melody are too simplistic, the song may come off sounding "childish."

Let's look at intervals first. An interval is how far up or down the pitch moves between two notes. What I learned at the conference was that small children learn to sing certain intervals first. My guess is that songs for very small children use mostly intervals that small children can handle, so melodies using mostly those intervals may sound childish because we are used to hearing them in songs for small children. Another way of looking at it: since our brains learn those intervals first, one could argue that they are the simplest intervals, and songs based on those intervals may sound simplistic.

OK, so what are those intervals and how do you avoid over-using them?

What I learned at the conference was that the interval from ME to SOL is the first one small children can sing. Then they add LA. On a piano keyboard you can hear these intervals by playing E then G then A. Play G G E A G E - does that sound familiar? "A tisket a tasket" or "Nanny nanny boo boo" or "It's raining it's pouring, the old man is snoring." All these follow the same pattern, and it sounds pretty childish.

Expanding on this idea, the major chords are made of simple intervals - thirds and fourths, so perhaps a melody that stays within the major I, III, and IV chords is in danger of sounding childish or simplistic as well. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't panic. I barely know what I'm talking about myself. This is all music theory. I recommend that you take any chance you get to learn as much music theory as you can, and your writing will become more sophisticated for it.

But as a quick fix, just to get your creativity going, try this. Write a melody using only the black keys on the piano. That will get you playing with some intervals that are more sophisticated, or at least different from those you might be used to.

Look this up on the Internet: pentatonic blues scales. Once you learn a few of those you'll start to incorporate some really cool jazzy intervals into your writing.

Now on to rhythm.

Again, a simplistic rhythm could make your song sound childish. The simplest rhythm would be a line of quarter notes, or a steady beat. "Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin?" Add in a couple of half notes and you get the Barney song (also known as "This Old Man" to us old-timers): "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family." The rhythm is: quarter quarter half, quarter quarter half, quarter quarter quarter quarter quarter quarter quarter. Yawn.

Again, this is more music theory. But you don't have to know what a quarter note is in order to hear that the rhythm to the Barney song is very simplistic. So how do you spice it up? How do you keep your rhythm interesting and sophisticated? Make it swing, use syncopation, use rests. Vary it up a bit.

First take a look at your lyrics. If the words of the song form a long regular rhythm, then try re-writing it so that you break it up a bit. For example:

"I baked a juicy peach and apple pie, and then I had to shoe away a fly."

It would be really hard to write an interesting or catchy melody for words that follow such a long regular rhythm. Give it a try.

Now try this:

"Hey, fly! Get offa my pie!"

Similar idea but I boiled it down to a few key words. This line has a natural rhythm to it too, but it's a bit more varied and interesting. Try writing a melody for it. Which do you like better?

One more:

"Juicy juicy apple pie. Get away, fly! Get away, fly!"

My point is that if your lyric is stuck in a rut, do a little brainstorming and you'll be able to find a bunch of different ways to vary up the rhythm and make it more interesting, and therefore more sophisticated and less childish.

Finally, some general advice: Listen, listen, listen. Now that I've drawn your attention to intervals and rhythms, go listen to some pop and R&B or whatever you want to write, and pay attention to the way the pitches and rhythms move around. Try to pick up on some new ideas that you can add to your own writing.

Have fun, and I hope this helps!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Becoming Famous

Dear Monty,

I saw your article and I just wanted to know if there is an age limit to be in the music business. I love music and I write songs. I have a good singing voice but I'm only 12 years old. Is that a problem? And how do you get famous anyway?



Hi Melanie,

No, there's no age limit to being in the music business. Even little kids have "made it big." (Shirley Temple and the Olsen Twins are a couple of examples who come
immediately to mind.)

However, it's very hard for anyone of ANY age to find fame. It takes enormous talent and hard work, plus a good chunk of luck.

You've got to start out by getting very very good at what you do which takes practice, practice, practice.

Even if you become a fantastic singer/songwriter, it still takes a lot of hard work, promotion, and a good bit of luck to become famous.

The best advice I can give you is to work hard at your music as long as you love doing it.

I believe most professional musicians, myself included, are happy to make a living at what they love to do without worrying too much about becoming famous. For me it's really about the songs and the kids I sing them for!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Learn by Doing


I’m not exactly a kid anymore I’m almost 15 but I have always loved music and I am a singer, well I am for my music class and I am in my school choir. I would love to be able to write my own songs and I have but they never sound good and I have only recently started. I work on my songs and try to progress them on but I was just wondering if you had any good tips that you could give me.


Hi, Jenny,

As a beginner you naturally have a lot to learn. I would advise you to check out a couple of books about songwriting from the library to arm yourself with plenty of basic knowledge about song structure, melody, rhyme, meter, imagery, etc.

But songwriting is like any skill. You can't learn to do it just by reading about it. You learn a lot more by doing. If you get really stuck on a song, put it aside and start a new one. You won't learn anything sitting around being stuck. If you write a song and you don't like it, that's OK. You don't necessarily have to fix it. Just try to do better with the next song. You will learn more by writing ten bad songs than you would learn struggling and struggling to write one great song.

So, read some books, then write some songs. Then look back at the songs you've written. Ask yourself what you like or don't like about them. Then read those books again. This time a lot of stuff will make more sense, because you have more experience at writing.

Most of all, don't worry if your songs don't seem as great as the ones you sing in choir or hear on the radio. The people who wrote those songs wrote a lot of duds while they were learning, too. Everyone does. That's just what you have to go through before you can get really good at it. It's the way the world works. Keep writing and you'll keep getting better at it!

I hope this helps!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Matching Words to Rhythm

Hi Monty,

Over a year ago I read your document on how to write a song and I always loved music and I wanted to write my own lyrics and I didn't know how to and where to start until I read your notes. I wrote many songs but the only problem I have now is when I am in the studio it is not lining up with the music. Am I doing something wrong? They are good lyrics but putting it on wax is not a match. Do you have any recommendations? I appreciate any help you can offer.

Thanks, Chino Bazbeg

Hi Chino,

I'm glad my column helped you get started!

Without hearing your music, it is hard to guess what the problem is. You say the words are not lining up with the music. This doesn't happen by accident. In songwriting, often the words come first. In that case the music must be written specifically to match with the words. Often the music comes first, in which case the words are written specifically to match with the music. (Sometimes they come together, words and music at once, but for me that only happens in short bursts, then I have to fill out the rest either music first or words first.)

When you match music and words together you have to be aware of the musical qualities of the words. How many syllables are there? Where are the stresses? These things will match the number, lengths, and accents of the notes.

A good place to start is with the downbeat. If you count along with the music the downbeats are where the numbers fall. For instance in rock, most songs are in 4/4 time, or four beats to the measure, so you would count along 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Those are the downbeats.

Now match some words like this: "1, 2, 3, 4 - I don't know how." That's one word to each downbeat (quarter notes).

If the words each had two syllables instead, you would also be singing on the upbeat, or the "and" which comes between the beats. "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 - I'm a lazy hairy cow." (Eighth notes.)

If you have your words written out, you can circle each syllable that lands on a downbeat. So in the silly example above, you would circle "I'm" "laz" and "hair."

You might try using triplets - three syllables to each beat, like this: "1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 - Are you the kind of a cow who can sing?" Circling the downbeats gives you "are" "kind" "cow" and "sing."

Notice that the downbeats happen on the same syllables that you naturally stress when you talk. If I changed that last example to "Are you a singing sort of hairy cow?" and then tried to match the words to the "1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4" triplet pattern, it just wouldn't sound right. Try it.

But, if we took that last line and matched it to a different rhythm, it might work. This time we need to mix rhythms, starting with a triplet, then proceed using the upbeats like this - "1 and a 2 and 3 and 4 and 1." Circle "are" "sing" "sort" and "cow."

Write out the words to some of your favorite songs and circle the downbeats and you will start to get a feel for how words and music fit together. Then try it with your own words. When you have the downbeats circled, then as you sing they provide a visual cue as to where the beats belong in the words. Take it slowly at first. The more you work with it the more natural it will seem.

Don't be afraid to change the words as you are setting them to music. I often find that I've used too many words. To make them fit more naturally with the music I often drop words that aren't really needed. For instance: "I know a place where cows can sing" might become "There's a place where cows can sing" or even "In the place cows sing" or "In the land of singing cows."

In other words, keep playing with it until you get each phrase to fit well.

Best of luck!

Saturday, February 28, 2004



thank you your website has helped me a little with my songwritting along with other half decent websites. Well i've wrote some of a song but its not quite finished and theres still some changes i need to make. I doubt its like any of your songs! Please stop with all the fido the dog stuff on your getting stuck page! you dont really write about fido the dog do you i mean come on. How can anyone brainstorm about that!
- Ianonebird

Hi lanonebird,

Thanks for your comments! Concerning Fido, I can brainstorm on anything - that's the point to brainstorming. You can take any word or idea as a start and let your brain expand on it until you have enough material to use. It doesn't really matter whether you stick closely to the original idea or not, especially near the beginning of the writing process. I admit Fido the Dog is a silly example, but maybe I will write a song about him some day, just to prove it can be done!

Friday, February 27, 2004

Best of Luck


I didnt use any of your ideas but ure information as helped me a lot im now on the process of writin a song called "shes so fine" i just thought of it in my head cuz my cuz was on about songwritin so i decided to give it ago thanx uve helped me alot from liverpool09

Hi liverpool09,

It's sure great to hear from someone I've helped! Best of luck with your song!