Ralph Murphy’s Law

Songwriting veteran, Ralph Murphy, recently gave a few eager songwriters some writing tips at his recent talk during ASCAP’s Expo in Hollywood. Here they are:

  • The importance of writing for women: “Women physically buy 50% of all records made — and make men buy the other 50%,” joked Murphy.
  • Seeking feedback from unbiased listeners: “Your friends and family are your worst critics because they love everything you do. Forget you even have a family.”
  • The power of pronouns: “You” is a trigger word that really pulls in the audience and makes the song relatable to them.” Murphy cited Zac Brown Band’s “Keep Me In Mind,” for example. “The first line is: ‘How come all the pretty girls like you are taken baby?'” Murphy highlighted the strategic use of ‘you’ and ‘pretty.’ “It isn’t rocket science you know!”
  • Ease of singing: “All the first songs you grew up loving as a child were easy to sing.”
  • Don’t leave things unexplained: “If you start out a song with ‘Driving through Oklahoma,’ you better address why you are in Oklahoma. Don’t say you have a loaded gun in the car and then never tell the listener what you do with it.”
  • Rhyme scheme as a tool: “Don’t change your chord till you change your thought. Avoid contrived rhymes.”
  • Expectations: Establish the premise of the song early on and fulfill the listener’s expectations. Make the song believable and write for the singer. Don’t write a song about children, for example if the artist you are pitching it to doesn’t have kids. It won’t be believable when they sing it.”
  • Before heading out to do a signing of his “Murphy’s Law of Songwriting” book, Murphy bestowed his “best bets for going forward” upon the crowd, divulging the recipes that would give his students the best chance of selling a hit:
  • Pop song: 100 bpm or more featuring a woman as the artist; an 8 second intro; use the pronoun ‘you’ within 20 seconds of the start of the song; hit the bridge middle 8 between 2 minutes and 2 minutes 30 seconds; average 7 repetitions of the title; create some expectations and fill that expectation in the title.
  • Country: 100bpm or less for a male artist; 14-second intro; uses the pronoun ‘you’ within the first 20 seconds of the intro; has a bridge middle 8 between 2 minutes and 2 minutes 30 seconds; has 7 repetitions of title; creates an expectation, fulfills it in 60 seconds.

Certainly some things to think about, even if you don’t believe in “rules”!

IJ

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