As part of my research for writing this blog, writing my column for the Muse’s Muse and Twittering about songwriting tips, I tend to spend a lot of time online looking at other songwriting websites and blogs.
What I’ve noticed is that people mean well, but sometimes they are giving incorrect information or selling something as a “how to” write something, when it is clearly just “my way”. It’s hard for a beginner songwriter especially to know what is true and what is simply someone’s opinion.
For instance, I read a blog just recently that stated that in a chorus, you must have two distinct phrases and then they should repeat. The blogger also stated that you should also have the hook in the chorus. Well, the truth is that this is not always the case! You could simply go through a list of your favourite songs and find that most don’t follow these so-called “rules”. Now this person is probably just trying to be helpful, but it would have been better for him to say: “this is one way you might write a chorus”. And that would be helpful! And where did I find this tip for writing “better” songs? On Digg.com. That means that people are reading these blogs and deciding that they are important enough to digg them and pass them on to others.
Please do not take ANYONE’s tips (not even mine!) as gospel. They should simply be thought of as one approach to your songwriting. You should always be suspicious of someone who tells you “THIS is how you write a song.” The internet is full of information, but you have to decide for yourself if the information is valid or simply someone’s idea of the truth.
Research. Some will make statements that simply aren’t true, or use incorrect terminology or musical references. There are legitimate sources for information on musical terms and music theory, for instance. Find out what they are and double check when you’re not sure of something.
More is better. If you see the same tip in more than one place, it’s probably because it’s a good tip.
Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right to you, ignore it. If it seems ridiculous, it probably is.
Everybody thinks they can tell you how to write a song. Listen to their work if they have any online before you decide if they are worth paying attention to. Check their references. When they claim that they can guarantee you’ll write a hit, email and ask them to list their hits! You can go to websites like BMI and ASCAP and check their names. Have they even REGISTERED a song, let alone written a hit?
And last, but certainly not least, do not give money to someone before you have thoroughly researched their legitimacy. I had a guy who sent me a letter from Nashville EVERY YEAR for 10 years, telling me how he was going to get my song (which he would incorrectly name every time!) to top artists in Nashville for the measly sum of several hundred dollars. I laughed and dumped it in the recycling box every year. I’m nobody. Why would he want my song so badly? Because he didn’t! He wanted my MONEY so badly :-).