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!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Tone Deafness


First of all happy New Year!

Monty my dilemma is that I do not sing, but I write poetry which is turned into songs. When I try to turn the poetry into songs I do not know what I am doing. How can I get the melody for this when I do not sing?

Please help!

- Anthony

Hi Anthony,

I wrote about adding melody to existing words in my last column. If you play an instrument, that column may help you. However, some of my advice there does also require doing a bit of singing.

When you say you do not sing, I'm not sure what you really mean. You might mean that even though you can hear a tune in your head, you don't control your voice very well or are embarrassed by the sound of yourself singing. If this is the case, don't sweat it - songwriters don't have to be great singers. The advice in my last column should help. And if you'd like to improve your skills (it never hurts to do that!) maybe you can join a choir or take private lessons. I took private lessons myself for a while to improve my singing voice and it helped a lot!

The other thing you might mean is that you can't really even hear a melody in your head. Some people believe they are "tone deaf" and are unable to hear and reproduce different pitches. Such people claim that they "can't carry a tune in a bucket." True tone deafness is very rare. If you are really tone deaf it means you can't tell the difference between one pitch and another. Music would sound like meaningless noise to you. So if you can enjoy music, then you probably aren't tone deaf. There's hope for you yet. You can improve your singing with practice! See the paragraph above!

Of course you can always follow the last bit of advice in my answer to Ryan above, and find a writing partner who sings like a bird to add melodies to your poems!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Adding Words to Melody


great page, im 17, i have played guitar for 2 years but ive played a lot. Im getting pretty good, but i cant seem to put any words with a good melody, just wanted to let you know somones lookin at your page, and ill get back to you on how everything goes. Ive already got an idea or two. Thanks---Ryan

Hi Ryan,

If I read your comments right, you have a melody and you need words. To me this is always difficult. I usually have no trouble writing a melody if I have the words first. I can even come up with words and melody together at the same time pretty easily. But if I come up with a melody that has no words, finding the right words takes some effort. I have a lot of melodies lying around myself that I haven't put words to yet.

I think this is because, at least for me, when the melody is set already, it can be very confining. The words then have to have a certain number of syllables in order to fit, and yet they still need to make some kind of sense. So it's like working a puzzle. The melody gives you the form and the mood, and you have to find words that fit both.

But take heart - it isn't impossible.
Here's a general method you can try...

Record the music you've written - nothing fancy. Just use a tape recorder and play or sing your melody the best you can. Now you can listen to it without having to focus on performing it at the same time. Get comfortable, close your eyes, listen over and over, and let your mind wander. Daydream. What do you see in your head? What images does the music inspire? What situation are you thinking about? Once thoughts begin to come to you, write them down. Don't try to make the words fit the rhythm of the music yet - just write, as if you were writing in a diary. Get the ideas and images down on paper.

Gather words. Now that you have some idea what your song is going to be about, go back and circle the key words - the words that are most important to the song's mood, story, or theme. Do any of them fit at key places in the melody? These important words need to go where the melody will bring them out - the end of a phrase, or the high point in a line. They need to fit naturally with the melody so that when you sing the words, the emphasis comes on the right syllables.

Pick a word you want to use and sing the whole melody using just that word. Where does it sound the best?

If your words don't fit, or if you think they would be hard to rhyme (assuming you want them to rhyme, which isn't necessarily so) then try to come up with other words that are related to the same idea. Brainstorm a whole list of words. Use a thesaurus to help with this. (In a thesaurus, you look up the word you've got and you'll find a list of other words that mean the same thing.)

Work the puzzle. Once you figure out where your most important words will go, then start filling in the rest of each line. Approach it like a puzzle. Keep trying different ideas until all the pieces fit. You may want to record the song again, with the words you already have filled in. Just sing "dum de dum de dum" during the parts you don't have yet. That way you can easily listen back while your brain works on filling in the rest of those words.

Keep at it. This method may sound tedious and mechanical - sort of uninspired. But if you wait for inspiration to strike, you can easily wait forever. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Following this method may seem like a lot of work at first but at some point you are likely to suddenly see the light and find that the words are filling themselves in more and more easily.

It also gets easier and feels more natural the more you do it. Practice makes perfect.

Or - find a partner. One final thought - you could always find a writing partner. If you look at all the top radio songs in a given week, you may notice that most of them are written by a team of two people or more. Sometimes two heads really are better than one. Some partners both write words and melody. Often one partner is a lyricist, who writes only words, and the other is a composer, who writes the melodies. If you find the task of putting words to your music to be too much of a hassle, there's no shame in finding a wordy partner who enjoys that sort of a challenge.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

What to Write About

In this month's column I have several letters from readers to respond to. I'll start with two readers having similar troubles...


Im just a teen and i have a band i love to write songs..... just none of them are that good.....i dont know what to write about band is pop and punk so i dont know what to write about!



- Sara

i am only 11
i want to write a song because if I want to start a band, I want a good song. Every time I sing a song it is all nonsense. I could say i like green eggs then say have you ever read a book in my lyrics. Could you please give me good tips on writing a good song.

- Miriam

Hi Sara and Miriam,

First of all, as a beginning songwriter, you are allowed to write songs that are "not that good" as you say. Songwriting is something you get better at as you go along, but you have to write the bad ones before you get to the good ones. That's the way the world works. So don't let it discourage you. If you feel you haven't written a great song yet - just keep working at it and sooner or later you will!

Now, if there is one piece of writing advice I've heard a million times it is this: write what you know! As a young person you probably don't know much. This is not an insult. What I mean is just that you don't have much life experience. The longer you live the more you learn and the more you will feel that you have something to say with your writing. (I myself have been writing for many years and am just beginning to feel that I have worthwhile things to tell the world.)

But lack of experience should not hold you back, because on the flip side of the coin you probably know more than you think you do. (Even if your parents say it's the other way around!) Read on for a suggestion that will help you discover what stuff you know.

A second consideration, especially if you want your band to accumulate fans, is to write about universal feelings and experiences - things everyone can relate to. A song is by nature a personal statement, but if a song is too personal, people won't relate. The best songs present a universal message in a personal way.

So, for example, suppose I loved anchovies (those nasty little salty fish that some folks put on their pizza). If I wrote about how great anchovies are, very few people would relate to the song. However, if I wrote about how my love for anchovies makes me feel like a weirdo, a lot of people would relate. Almost everyone has some kind of quirk that makes them feel like a weirdo at times.

If all you listen to is top 40 radio, you might get the impression that songs have to be about being in love or getting dumped. But people write songs about all sorts of things. The Beach Boys started off writing about surfing and cars - those were their hobbies. What are yours? The Beatles wrote a song based on a circus poster ("For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" on the Sgt. Pepper CD). Maybe you can turn some piece of artwork that you like into a song. The group They Might Be Giants wrote a hit song about a night light! ("Birdhouse in Your Soul" on the Flood CD). What object in your room might inspire a song? I recently saw the movie School of Rock - great movie! The kids in that movie write a song about what makes them angry. What makes you angry, sad, happy?
Here are some assignments:

1) Listen to your favorite CD and write down the topic of each song. Then go back and make a guess at what real event in the songwriter's life might have inspired each song (it doesn't matter whether your guesses are right or not). Write down your guesses. Finally, for each song ask yourself if there is a similar event, object, or person in your life who could inspire a song.

For Example: This is a song about loosing a close friend; Maybe the writer had a friend that died; My good friend moved away last year - I could write about that.

2) Figure out what you know. Start with a blank page and write "I know what it's like to..." at the top. Now make a list of items that could finish that sentence. Some examples: make a friend, lose a friend, stub my toe, fight with my sister, swim in a lake, fly in an airplane, stand on my head, step on a frog - whatever!! It doesn't matter if your items seem trivial or silly. Write as many as you can. Fill the page. Don't think about it very much - write as fast as you can. See if you can fill the page in two minutes. When you just can't come up with any more, take a break. Then go back and look at each item and ask yourself how you might expand it into a song. You'll probably have enough material to keep you writing for weeks!!

3) This is the same as number 2, but with a different start. Write at the top of your paper: "Things that make me angry!" Or you can try "sad" or "happy" or any other emotion in place of "angry."

Try these exercises - they are guaranteed to find you something to write a song about or your money back!!