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by Robin Frederick (author of “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting”)

What makes you write a song?
– the desire to put your feelings into words?
– wanting to reach out to others to express a thought or message?
– the hope that eventually it will earn royalties?

The truth is, a song can do all this if you keep all three goals in mind as you write.

Write to express your own emotions. Stay connected with your initial reason for writing the song. What is it you want to say? What emotion do you want to convey? Even if your goal is to write a hit song, you MUST stay connected to your original emotional inspiration!

Write a summary of your song in a sentence or two and keep it to refer to. When you get into the actual writing of your song, it’s easy to get lose sight of your initial idea. If a strong lyric line suddenly occurs to you, ask yourself if it really belongs in the song you’re working on. Maybe it’s an idea for a different song. Don’t bend your theme out of shape to accommodate that one line. Write down or record your idea, then put it aside temporarily until you figure out where it belongs. Stay with your original inspiration and you’ll end up with a song that expresses your feelings and thoughts.

A good song is any song that expresses your emotions in a way that’s satisfying for you. But… if you want to reach out and express those feelings to listeners, you may need to blend more song craft into your writing. Song craft is a body of knowledge that has been developed by songwriters over decades, even hundreds of years. It’s based on how listeners react: What draws them in? What turns them off? For instance, listeners like a song that has a repeated chorus section. But if that chorus is just repeated over and over, they get bored. If there’s a verse that gives them more information in between the choruses, listeners remain interested and involved. That’s an example of song craft.

Craft doesn’t limit creativity!
If you want to write a song in the hope of getting it published, recorded by a well known artist, or used in film or TV (a major outlet for today’s songs), then you’ll want to do both of the things I’ve just described: Stay connected to your emotional theme and use song craft to communicate with listeners. Melody and lyric writing techniques can be adapted and built on in endless ways, so don’t think of craft as limiting your creativity! Approach it with a playful, experimental attitude.

Once you reach out to listeners with a strong emotional message, well-developed, evocative lyrics, and a memorable, fresh melody, you’ve got the kind of song the music industry needs. So, if your goal is to write a song that will earn royalties, aim for a blend of emotion and craft. Remember…

– If you write a song with emotion but no craft, listeners may not understand you.

– If you write a song with craft but no emotion, listeners may not care!

Based on “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” by Robin Frederick. Available at Amazon.com. Copyright 2009 Robin Frederick. All rights reserved.

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