Thursday, January 12, 2006

SONGWRITING - All you Need To Know

Here are some very useful sites/links for Songwriters/Songwriting covering all aspects from start-up thru to copyright.

BBC's Sold on Song's guide to songwriting and the music business

Song writing Guides Main Page
- Songwriting Guides
- Writing a Song
- Performing
- Working With Other Writers
- In the Studio
- Publishers
- Record Companies
- Management
- Staying on Track

Songs A-Z
Artists A-Z

Interesting Sites



A songwriter is someone who writes the lyrics to songs, the musical composition or melody to songs, or both. That is to say, a songwriter is a lyricist, a composer, or both. The word 'songwriter' is however more commonly used to describe one who writes popular songs than to describe a writer of art songs.

History and Background of Songwriters:

Songwriters may perform the songs they write themselves, or may write for somebody else to perform. People who sing their own songs are nowadays typically called singer-songwriters, although the tradition of doing this dates back hundreds of years. It is often speculated that pre-historic man must have made up and sung songs. More recently, the troubadours of the middle ages sang their own work, as did the German Minnesingers.

Most art songwriting is written for somebody other than the composer to perform, although it is known that Schubert often sang his own songs at private parties, and there have been a number of composers who were also singers and wrote for themselves, Carl Loewe being one example.
Many modern rock and roll bands have one or two songwriters, usually members of the band. In many cases, the lead singer is one of the songwriters.

There have been quite a few popular songwriting teams such as the Tamla Motown team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland and the teams of Townshend and Entwistle, Lennon and McCartney, Lerner and Loewe, George and Ira Gershwin, Jagger and Richards and Rodgers and Hart.

Many songwriters also serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers. Legally, songs are considered intellectual property, and song copyrights can be bought, sold, or otherwise exchanged. Songwriting and publishing royalties can be a substantial source of income, particularly if a song becomes a hit record.

Parameters a songwriter has to keep in mind when writing a new song

Song Genre and instrumentation:

One of the basic things a songwriter has to decide is the genre of the song that he is writing. This will decide the instruments that will be used while composing the melody of the song and also the style in which these instruments will be played. For example, if it's a rock song, it will have to feature an electric guitar, a bass guitar and drums and percussion as the main instruments. If it's a pop song, it could have all the rock instruments but also pianos, synthesizers, saxophones etc. A rock song in contrast, would never have its music played by pianos and banjos.

Vocal range and key:

When a songwriter writes a song for a specific singer, he has to keep in mind the vocal range and the key of the singer. This is because all singers have a certain vocal range and would be unable to sing a song which was outside of that range. In addition, every singer usually has a key in which his voice sounds the best or he finds the key the easiest and most comfortable to sing in. Therefore, if a song was written in this key it would be much easier for him to perform it. A singer may find it physically impossible to sing a song whose melody was outside his vocal range. And he might find a song very difficult to sing whose key was not one in which his voice is the strongest.

Length of the song:

Most songs destined for radio play have to be kept to a time limit of between 3 to 4 minutes. Any song longer than that may not be played by a radio station at all. One of the reasons for this is that if a listener did not like the song a radio station was playing and the song did not end quickly, the listener can easily change the station. By keeping down the song lengths to around 3 to 3.5 minutes, a radio station minimizes the chance of this happening.

Useful technique for writing music for musical instruments or singers:

In the past, classical musicians writing music for large ensembles, used to write the music for many different instruments using only one instrument as a compositional tool: the piano. However, today it is common practice to write the music for a certain musical instrument by playing music on that instrument itself. While in the process of composing a melody, the musical strengths and weaknesses of instruments are best revealed and understood, especially as they relate to the song being composed, by simply playing the music using that very instrument.

For example, a certain chord (three or more notes played concurrently) may be really easy to play on the keyboard but extremely difficult to play on the guitar. Or a certain melody line, that sounds really great on the guitar, might lose its spark when played on a keyboard. As an additional example, a certain vocal melody written on a musical instrument but ultimately meant to be sung by a singer, may not sound at all when it is finally sung, like when it was composed on the musical instrument. Therefore, the song may fail completely to work.

To solve these problems and to take out the guess work, songwriters usually write the music for specific musical instruments (including the human voice), using that very instrument. For example, a guitar part is written using a guitar, a keyboard part is written using a keyboard and a human voice part is written by singing the human part (thus treating the human voice as if it was just another musical instrument).

This highlights the fact that a good songwriter is either a highly skilled individual who can play multiple instruments, especially those which are to be used in the composition, or he is a good collaborater who can work on composing the song with other musicians who have the talent and skill to be able to play those other instruments.

Wealthy songwriters may simply hire skilled musicians to help them compose a new song. For example, a pop singer may hire a virtuoso guitarist to play a guitar solo on one of his songs. Or a gifted vocalist may be asked by an artist to sing on his upcoming album. Such colloborations are extremely common in the music business.

See also
List of songwriters
Songwriters Hall of Fame

External links
Songwriters Guild of America
Music industry Reference Center for Songwriters This site provides plain english explanations of terms and concepts related to the needs of songwriters.
Hodgson Law Group legal advice for the recording artist We provide plain english advice of the terms and concepts related to the needs of songwriters and publishing agreements.
Searching song copyright holder information on US Copyright office website
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