How to Write a Song: Some Practical Advice

Accomplishing a creative challenge like writing 14 songs in 28 days doesn’t happen out of nothing.  I’ve needed some advice and some inspiration over the last few weeks of February Album Writing Month.  Here are three resources that taught me a lot about how to write a song, chosen from a variety of media to fit into your busy schedule.

Song Exploder: Weezer – Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori

Featuring a variety of artists from Lorde to Jonathan Coulton, Song Exploder is one of the most honest and enlightening windows to the world of music production that still manages to be entertaining and artistic.  I can recommend the entire podcast to aspiring songwriters, but perhaps the most helpful episode is the one in which Weezer’s front man, Rivers Cuomo, breaks down the process by which he wrote “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori.”  After having been in the business for decades, Cuomo’s created the kind of process that works for the detail-oriented and goal-driven artist, especially if you’re not afraid of spreadsheets.

Worth Repeating: A Documentary on Songwriting

Film student Cassidy Hodges released this documentary in 2010.  It’s a surprisingly lyrical and honest look at the process of how to write a song, from the perspective of people in the Nashville songwriting community.  There are more comprehensive and authoritative documentaries, sure, but I’ve included this one because it motivated me to write in a way that no other video has.  Besides, it’s a neat half hour long; watch it on your lunch break.  You’ll be glad you did.

Popular Lyric Writing, Pat Pattison

Most of the musicians I’ve worked with have been more than willing to create accompaniment or melodies, and that’s not surprising.  It’s a subjective process, and like me, most people don’t know where to start.  This book is your “yellow brick road” to writing lyrics in popular styles.

Berkelee Professor of Music Pat Pattison lays out a step-by-step process that addresses everything from destination writing to types of rhyming pairs.  This process gives you the kind of simple actionable goals that make songwriting seem achievable, and that has made all the difference.  You can read the ebook on Hoopla Digital, but to support the artist directly, you can pick up a copy of his book on Amazon today.

There are only a few days left of February Album Writing Month.  How did it go this year?  Let me know what motivated you through this challenge in the comments below, or on Twitter with the Click to Tweet button here:

Hey @SparkOtter! Here’s what got me through #fawm: Click to Tweet

Bonus: How to Make it in the Music Business

The resources I’ve chosen focus on the craft of writing a song, since that’s the focus of February Album Writing Month.  I can, however, recommend an introduction to songwriting for a living, and it’s about as long as your morning commute.  NPR’s Planet Money brought their trademark economic journalism to an interview with producer Illmind for episode 794, a current and devastatingly honest look at the music business in our decade.

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