Tips For Writers & Artists

Balancing Phrases

Unbalanced sections of a song create a sense of forward movement, while balanced sections stop the motion. Like a juggler, you rely on moving and stopping to create special effects in your act.

When a section has an even number of phrases, the last phrase, the balancing position, is a perfect place for important ideas because it is a place where the lyric structure stops moving. It shines a spotlight on whatever you put there. As a writer you must decide which ideas are most important, and then put them where they are the most likely to be noticed. The balancing position is always a good place.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Build Up the Reference Shelf

Songwriters: If you do not have a dictionary handy, stop here and go out and buy one. It’s the tool of your trade!

Got one? Good. Now start looking up words and word divisions.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press


by Kim Copeland

There is busy and there is occupied. It is pretty easy to occupy yourself with whatever is in front of you, or demands your attention in such a way as to seem important enough to distract you from your real goals. But busy is when you are spending your time on things that propel you towards those goals.

Life throws detours at us. Some of them are energizing blessings and some are energy vampires. Learning to distinguish between the two is paramount to your productivity.

Whether it is spent productively or squandered, time really does evaporate at the same pace. (It just feels more frantic when you can’t see forward progress.)

I encourage you to step off of the treadmill long enough to evaluate your progress. Are you still heading towards your goals or have you drifted off track.

We are all busier these days. Try to make sure that a healthy portion of your busyness is rewarding to your creative soul.

Common Meter

The practice of alternating four-stress and three-stress phrases, has a name, common meter. It is the most familiar rhythmic pattern in English. Here is an example:

Mary had a little lamb

Its fleece was white as snow

And everywhere that Mary went

The lamb was sure to go

Common meter is still alive and well today on every Billboard chart. Common meter is indeed the most common meter, especially for lyrics, since it so perfectly outlines the different subdivisions of the 8-bar phrase.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Common-Meter Effects

The structure of alternating four-stress and three-stress phrases has a name, common meter. We can describe the effects of common meter in terms of five concepts: balance, pace, flow, closure, and type of closure.

Balance. It is balanced–there are an even number of phrases, each phrase has a counterpart, and the order of the phrases is repeated. Nothing is left “hanging.”

Pace. It moves in a constant duple pattern of stress/unstress, neither accelerated nor decelerated.

Flow. The structure is through-written: that is, there is no place of resolution before the end of the last phrase. The structure keeps pushing you forward.

Closure. It is closed, or resolved. Your expectations are satisfied by the way the fourth phrase ends. You feel no need to continue on to another phrase. If there were a need to continue on, the structure would be open.

Type of Closure. The resolution is expected. It is how you would have predicted (when you reached the end of phrase three) that the entire structure would end.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Controlling Phrase Length

Your goal as a songwriter is not to make songs faster, but to control the speed of your songs. The length of your phrases is one of your most potent speed controllers. Speeding up and slowing down are relative ideas. Longer phrases must be longer than something. Shorter phrases must be shorter than something. You must establish a pace before you can speed up or slow down. The contrast is what gives you control.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Copyright Infringement

Many composers and songwriters are under the impression that they can copy up to four bars, or some other length of music, before they are in danger of violating the copyright laws. This is a misconception. The copyright law says that you must have copied music that contains a “substantial similarity” to the copyrighted work before you are guilty of copyright infringement. The law also says that for there to be infringement, the owner of the copyright must show “proof of access.” In other words, if you are being accused of copying a substantial portion of a copyrighted work, the owner of the copyright must prove that somehow you had access to hearing the work in question.

–from the Complete Guide to Film Scoring, by Richard Davis,
Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Copyright Protection

Should you bother to register your work? Is there any benefit to you in doing the paperwork and paying the fee? Aren’t you protected as soon as you create the work? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

As soon as you begin to put a musical idea on tape or on paper, it is considered to be fixed, so it’s protected by copyright law. However, strange things happen in a world of laws,
attorneys, and courtrooms. If you created a work in the privacy of your home, the burden of proof as to when that work was created is on you. You would be kicking yourself if you lost a lawsuit you should have won because you did not want to pay a twenty-dollar fee and take ten minutes filling out the copyright registration form.

–from the Complete Guide to Film Scoring, by Richard Davis,
Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Co-writing Works To Expand Your Abilities

Stuck? Can’t figure out what to do next? Try collaborating with other musicians out there. The Internet is a wonderful place to meet new and exciting people. Obviously, one of the greatest benefits of collaborating is that you’ll learn how to accommodate other people’s styles with your own. Since you know how to accommodate their styles with your own, that also means that you can learn from their style much easier since you’re trying to integrate it with yours.

Collaboration is an excellent learning tool.

Creating Unexpected Closure

To classify a resolution as “unexpected,” there must be no expectation for a specific resolution. The most common unexpected closure for a rhythmic system is a system that
closes, then repeats a phrase (usually the last).

When a system creates a place that surprises you–that gets a lot of attention–use it well. It is a good place to put important ideas.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Dissonance Can Be A Good Thing

Once we begin a song, our minds begin to formulate where to go next and most of the time we get exited. Throughout the excitement, we can make good mistakes. We hit the wrong key, and all of a sudden, our mind is opened to a new avenue. Mistakes can be good things, because it is an unexpected thing. The best music sounds familiar enough to know where it is going, but unpredictable enough to avoid musical clichs.

Knowledge of music theory, while not necessarily a prerequisite for songwriting, can be a powerful tool in your arsenal. Knowledge of the rules of music can be a great thing, if you also know that it’s okay to break them. If you stay theoretically sound, you may have a generic sound. Dissonance can be a powerful tool.

Diversify to Get More Gigs

Musicians who can diversify their repertoire and adapt their offerings to this splintering market are the ones who will secure the most gigs. Make sure you have a variety of demo tapes prepared for the variety of gig opportunities that can arise. Perhaps you’re a jazz band able to play classical-sounding music as well. Or maybe you’re a reggae band that can also spice up your set with some salsa and calypso. Think about what styles you can offer and then put together a demo tape designed for each.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Dividing Words

A basic rule for dividing words: While there are exceptions, you will find that syllables with short vowels usually attach the next consonant to the short vowel (man-u-script, not ma-nu-script), while syllables with long vowels divide between the long vowel and the consonant (ta-ble, not tab-le; re-lief, not rel-ief).

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Don’t Overburden A Song With Too Many Ideas

Many of the best songs that out there have only a few ideas. Give your ideas time and space to grow. If you only take a couple of ideas, you will find that they can evolve with each other, never having to fight for space. As the song goes on, these ideas can mature, and even meld with each other to bring about new ideas. Please don’t flood your songs with too many ideas. Keep it simple. Build from there.

Don’t “Trash Talk” Others

Don’t ‘trash talk’ the abilities of musicians not at your level. The reason why refraining from this can help your songwriting is because when you stop comparing yourself to the outside world, you can learn from them. Maybe the guitarist isn’t the most technically sound, but maybe he can fingerpick like you wouldn’t believe. Learn from his strengths
so they can be yours too. Examine his style and abilities and see if there isn’t something you can’t learn from him.

Everything Works Better With Baby Steps

So you wrote a song or two and now you want to release a CD. Well, take small steps. Don’t try to jump up that flight of stairs two at a time as you’re more likely to trip up than you are to get to the top quick. If you want a CD done in three weeks, are you writing those last songs because you love to write music, or because you’re freaked and stressed because you have seven songs to complete in three days?

Don’t rush it, but always keep a forward momentum. If you’re to expand and grow, you’ll need time to think and consider what you’ve done and where you’ve come from.

Finding The Right Manager

Trustworthiness is an incredibly important attribute to look for in a manager. Think about it, you’ve worked for so many years learning how to play your instrument and write your songs, and your band has been rehearsing and promoting its shows for years. Now you’re going to turn over a great deal of responsibility to a person not in the band.

Trust must be earned over time, but if a manager doesn’t at least show an initial caring,
enthusiasm, and commitment for your dreams and passions, you may not have the right guy. Is your manager just interested in making a quick buck off of you? You really need to follow your gut instinct from day one.

The Four Lyric Elements

Any time you write a verse (or any part of a lyric, for that matter) you will have to deal with these four lyric elements:

1. How many phrases will I have?

2. How long will each phrase be?

3. What rhythms will I use in each phrase?

4. How should I arrange the rhymes?

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Get Decent Publicity Photos

You can get a lot of publicity out of a good photograph. The eight- by ten-inch black and white glossy is the standard. Have some five- by seven-inch color shots available, too. This will maximize your exposure possibilities. The eight-by-tens should have your band logo/name at the bottom along with current contact information. Soloists should have both headshots and full-body shots. It’s also a good idea to have a number of five-by-seven-inch “action” shots of you performing at a high-profile event, receiving an award, or any other scene that’s worthy of notice. Use a professional photographer if at all possible. If the budget won’t allow for a pro, check local art schools for students who want to earn a few extra dollars.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Getting Studio Gigs

If you are looking for studio session work as a player or vocalist, versatility is the key. You want your tape to reflect your abilities in as many styles as possible with your own unique stamp on each. Excerpt thirty-second fade ins/outs for each style and have two (a fast and a slow) excerpt for each in order to give the listener a well-rounded hearing of your abilities. Label the tape by song and style accordingly.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

How Can I Build A Fan Base?

Get out there and work at it. Offer to play clubs for free that are reluctant to book you. If you win over the crowd (or bring a healthy crowd of your own) they’ll have you back. Do this in an ever-widening regional circle, returning on a regular basis, and you will eventually build a regional fan base.

Build and maintain a database of ground and e-mail addresses of your fans. Always look for opportunities to add names to your mailing list. Keep them up to date on your gigs and any other important news. Offer free tickets, t-shirts or other incentives.

Put together a “street team” of fans in areas where you play who can help promote your shows, and spread the word. Many young, die-hard fans will work like crazy just to be recognized, included on the guest list, and be considered something of an insider.

When producing CDs for sale, be sure to include a Universal Product Code (aka a “bar code”) and register your product with Soundscan (the service used to track record sales). This allows A&R research people at record companies to notice and track your sales from their offices.

Be creative. Go where your audience is. Does your music appeal to high school students? Play lunchtime shows at high schools. Or shopping malls.

Trade gigs with like-minded bands in your general region. Offer to have them open for you at clubs where you draw well. In return you open for them in their strong areas.

There isn’t any one road map or required way to build a following. There are techniques that work well, but you are free to come up with your own ideas, too.

How Do I Fix Pitch Problems On AVocal?

Fixing pitch problems has never been easier with the invention of digital autotuners like the ones made by Antares, a device so popular that it is regularly being used not only for pitch correction but for its own noticeable effect, just like a flanger or phaser. (If you do have access to this device, be careful to use it judiciously. To many ears, the overuse of it
— where you can actually hear it working — sounds cheesy and, well, trendy at best.)

If you don’t have access to an autotuner (they’re available as a computer plug-in or a standalone effects box) there are more traditional ways for an engineer to fix pitch problems. The first is to re-sing it! Seriously, one way to disguise a “pitchy” vocal is to use another take as a double. This works well if the lead vocal is consistently out of tune throughout the song. Another way is to use a little chorus effect, sometimes referred to as “smearing” or “harmonizing.” Ideally you’d have a device that accepts a mono input and spits out a stereo output. By setting one side of the harmonizer’s output a few cents under pitch, and the other side a few cents above pitch, you can then blend this sound in with your dry vocal and disguise occasional pitch problems.

The information above came from “Studio Buddy — The Home Recording Helper.” It’s a self-contained, easy to use database of recording tips designed specifically for people with home studios. If you find this article helpful, you should download the FREE program at:

How to Create Rhythm

To create a rhythm, simply repeat a pattern. The size of the pattern is not important. What is important is that the pattern is repeated enough to make you expect it again. The more even and regular the pattern is, the more quickly expectations lock in.

The simpler the repeated pattern, the quicker you get used to it. You get used to simple duples (two-beat feels) fast. Even after four beats, you begin to expect duples, and your PACE is set.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

How To Listen To Music Even Though You’re A Musician

In music, as we get better, it is harder for us to enjoy music. It is harder to listen to many
songs that are made today because we can sense things that most nonmusical people don’t know or think about (like why all the latest bands all sound alike). Most people don’t care. They’re just hearing music they love. As much fun as it is to break down other music, stop.

Stop talking about how terrible the industry is. Stop talking about how untalented a band is. Stop talking about how you could play everything that one band could play so easily. Stop stroking your ego. If people love that style of music then those musicians are doing something right. Analyze. See if you can find something that you can use for yourself.

Keep Writing, Keep Writing, Keep Writing!

Make a goal to make one new song every week, even if it is only 50 seconds long. It is the fact that you are working your brain out. Once you begin the song, you can latch onto ideas rather quickly. That is not the purpose of the exercise. The purpose is to get your brain to find new avenues by exploring different ideas. It’s about trying something new every time.

Sometimes just getting out of the house and doing something you haven’t done in a long time (or never done) can open up the doors to musical inspiration. Open up a photo album, read old letters, visit family, friends, go do an activity, do anything but music. Read poetry, watch ballet, go to see a movie, walk around in a museum, look at oil paintings and sculptures as these are all different forms of art. Music is an art form too. Sometimes other forms of art can be inspiring to the musician. Come back, after your mind has been freed, and try to write a song about it.

Never stop working at your abilities. If our main goal as a songwriter is to connect emotionally with our listeners, we should want to have as many tools as we possibly can to achieve that goal. The more abilities that we have, the more choices we can make musically. It’s important to have a wide arsenal of choices at your disposal, because if we keep doing the same ‘tried and true’ methods, their emotional effects will wear off as the
songwriting becomes caged into a predictable movement.

Keep Your Chops Hot!

Don’t procrastinate with your music. Like exercising, if you relax too long you will lose some of that hard earned ground that you worked so hard to gain. Try to practice every day, even if it is only a few minutes. Practice never makes perfect; it only makes you better. You can always improve your abilities. Even though we may think there are some “perfect players” out there, they usually know their own flaws and are trying to improve as well.

Let Yourself Be Influenced By Others To Kick-start Your Creativity

It is hard to compare Clint Black to Korn. That is not to say there isn’t something to be learned from different styles. The best way to be able to attack a song from every angle is to have as many techniques and styles as possible. Your talent will tell you which ones would work for your song. Learn country, rock, and alternative. Even try writing a polka. Learn as much as you can. There might be a place to use that knowledge somewhere in the future.

Maybe you’re brain fried but you feel like writing a song. Why not toss in a CD of someone who inspires you to write. Examine the style, the mixing, how the entire song is constructed, when each instrument blends in and out of the mix, etc. etc. You’ll find that many times you can get ideas from other artists. Allow yourself to be influenced by another artist.

Location, Location, Location

Location is a very important aspect to songwriting. When you’re next to a lake, you probably get the feeling of relaxation. When you’re at a concert, I doubt you will feel so relaxed. Where you are can impact your music. If you are lucky enough to have your own
private place in your home to play music, you most likely have it decorated with posters or something that puts you in the mood. If you don’t, try it!

If you create an atmosphere, it will most likely affect your music. When you are in a store you act differently than at home. Even your kitchen will invoke a different type of feeling than your living room. Try to get a room that can match your musical personality and write there. Test out different places.

Make a Great Web Page

All good pages begin with good organization. Start visualizing your Web page before you even turn on the computer. Think about what you want to put on your home page, what you want the reader to get out of it, how the information will relate, and how you want everything to look. Some Web experts recommend creating a storyboard (small sketches of each page in outline form) before you start writing.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Make a Winning Promo Kit

This is the first thing one sees. Avoid the typical brown manila envelope and go for some color. There are a lot more options available today than a short time ago. Check out a good
office supply catalog for suggestions (a good one is available from Quill Office Supply; 1-800-789-1331). Also send for Paper Direct’s catalog of very funky (and pricey) paper products. Call 1-800-A-PAPERS.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Making a Lyric Flow

Sometimes you will want seamless transformations from idea to idea. Sometimes you will want to stop and start over again. You can do this, even inside a lyric section, by making your rhymes stop or by making them push ahead. Rhyme is the best way to control a lyric’s flow. Nothing can match rhyme’s power in this area. Not phrase length. Not rhythm.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Make the Hook Your Hero

1. Put the hook at the beginning or end of its section, maybe both.

2. Keep your structure moving forward until you get to the hook.

3. Repeat the hook.

4. Use sound to spotlight your hook.

5. Use the hook’s rhythm in other strategic places.

Putting your hook in the right place at the right time with the right stuff doesn’t have to be an accident. You just need to learn to work the switches.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Marketing Your Songs

How many songs should you send to music publishers? Says John Redmond of Irving/Almo Music Publishers: “If it must be three songs, by all means. If it can be two songs, even better. If it’s one song, fantastic!” Be as objective as possible and send only your best work. Send your song “triple-back,” i.e., the same song three times in a row to facilitate efficient listening. Publishers also want to see a lyric sheet typed on 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper with title and author at the top, chorus indented and verses numbered. Include your name, address and telephone number at the bottom of the page under the copyright notice.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Market Yourself with a Specialty

Discover an area of music that feeds your soul and fills your wallet, and then master it.

This means matching your unique personality, values, and skills to a particular music career path. Don’t just position yourself as a bassist; become known as “a creative bassist specializing in funk, reggae, ska, and salsa.” Each genre and each instrument has its own media culture (magazines, radio shows, Web sites, newsgroups, etc.) you can explore to promote your music.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Mechanical Licensing

For many musicians, a considerable amount of ‘play time’ is spent learning other people’s songs, either for cover band gigs, wedding performances, or merely to study another artist’s work. Many times the desire to record the work of another occurs. Before you record it, however, you need to know what steps you need to take to ensure you’re protected, and the original songwriter gets his/her due. In short, you need a mechanical license to legally release your version of another artist’s song. Don’t record without it!

Miniaturization of Music-Making

Using much-improved digital home recording equipment and independent studios, it’s now possible to produce a quality album for as little as $2,000. That’s about a hundredth of what it could cost to record at high-overhead Sony or Time Warner. With a $1,299 iMac and a few hundred dollars worth of software, artists would be able to record, mix and master their albums and then make it available on their Web sites to fans throughout the
world. Miniaturization of music technology is enabling musicians to have, once again, complete control over the creative processes of production and promotion.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Music Is All About Textures

Music is about sonic textures as well as melody. Think of the texture of a nylon string guitar as opposed to the texture of a steel string. Think of the texture of a piano, and the texture of a synth. Some of the same melodies played with different textures can completely change a song. The human voice sounds thicker with a chorus and reverb
than a dry signal. Textures can bring out the best and worst in a song.

We pay great amounts of money to get the ‘best’ texture we possibly can. That is why people buy expensive musical equipment over cheap pawnshop items. Distortion has a huge variety of different tones and sounds. Not every distortion pedal sounds the same. Why? For texture. Don’t keep using the same sounds, experiment with as many sonic
textures as you can.

Network, Network, Network


Join clubs and associations with people who share your interests. There are songwriter organizations, producer associations, and others that provide opportunities for
connecting. Many organizations have regular meetings that non-members can attend.

Don’t always try to meet the head of the company. You’re more likely to strike a friendship with a peer who works in the company who may call when they hear of an opportunity.

Distribute and collect business cards. Hand them out whenever you have the opportunity. Most people keep the business cards they collect and will know where to find you when the time comes. Keep a record of those you give cards to so you can send them updates when they occur.


–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman,
Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Never Delete Your Songs.

Never delete your songs. Especially, never delete unfinished ideas that never quite evolved into a song. You never know when you could use that idea later down the line. The important thing that you are preserving is the idea, not the actual notes. Maybe a year from now, when you’re stuck on your newest song, you’ll go over an old riff that you never used and found that if you just changed a couple of things, it would fit perfectly in your new song.

Not only that, you may find that you can finish those songs later because your songwriting (or musicianship) skills have improved. Don’t delete old songs. Even if you think they suck.

Patterns in Songwriting

Once you start putting syllables into patterns, you are mixing a rhythmic element with phrase length and number of phrases. Music is, by nature, rhythmic. So you must arrange
syllables into rhythmic patterns, either to prepare them for music, or to match music that has already been written.

You will spend a lot of writing time trying to match patterns–patterns of notes, or patterns you have written in earlier phrases or sections of your lyric (for example, matching your second verse with your first verse).

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Perfect Rhymes

Rhyme is a powerhouse. It affects all parts of structure: balance, pace, flow, closure, and closure type. Rhyme is a connection between syllables, not words. When we say that
syllables rhyme, we are saying three things:

1. The syllables’ vowel sounds are the same

2. Their ending consonants (if any) are the same

3. Their beginnings are different.

When these three conditions are met, it is considered a perfect rhyme.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Promote Through a Search Engine

You want a headline that will attract the most viewers to your Web site. Many search engines use the title as one of their main ways of showing sites to users. The first paragraph of text after your title is also often used by search engines to rank listings, so be sure your first paragraph contains key words about the contents of your site. As a matter of practice, you should add proper titles to the rest of your pages as well.
Follow the same basic principles for all your pages.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Proper Rest Makes For Better Songs

Strange to think how proper sleep, exercise and food come into play, but it can. Just think of this: Food is your body’s fuel. Without fuel, your body wants to shut down. That is why people who aren’t healthy are tired more often. When you’re in shape, your metabolism will rise giving you an extra supply of energy that you can use to focus onto music or whatever.

Does that mean that if you’re out of shape and not eating right that you can’t make good music? Of course not. However, when you do choose to eat right and get in shape, it will help you keep your focus and energy for a longer period of time. I can’t stress enough how different one feels when they choose to get in shape.

Protecting Foreign Rights

Most major publishing companies will have a foreign department. The foreign department is responsible for notifying a company’s representatives throughout the world of new record releases, motion picture, home video and television uses so that songs can be registered with the local performance and mechanical rights societies. They will also
oversee the signings of new writers or recording artists, ownership percentages of songs controlled, and the acquisition of catalogs, as well as answering any inquiries received from
foreign territories concerning the compositions in the catalogue.

Publishing Rights

Every recording contract has clauses that refer to the parties that exercise control over the
amount of product and the quality of the product. While you always want as much creative freedom as possible, the record company often maintains a veto power when letting a band choose the producer, engineer, studio, etc.

In reality, all artists have to understand is that there are three basic rights that publishers deal with. When a song is written, the writer owns the entire copyright, all the
publishing rights and the writer’s share of those rights. Publishing usually refers to only 50% of the writer’s royalty, which is known as the publisher’s share.

Any reputable publisher should be able to handle all areas of publishing. However, there are different types of publishers based on their size and dominance in the market. First, there are the major players, who are usually affiliated with record labels, like Warner/Chappell, Universal Music, BMG and EMI. Then there are major affiliates, which are independent companies that work with a major player in certain areas or territories, like Famous Music and Quincy Jones Publishing. There are also independents, which are companies not affiliated with a major, though they may do some work with them.

Rhyme and Idea

Usually you start with an idea and develop a rhyme scheme to suit it. This seems like the most natural way. Other times you have to start with your rhyme scheme and develop an idea that fits it. This is not as unusual as it sounds. Almost every lyric you write will have at least two verses. By the time you have written verse 1, you have decided on a rhyme scheme. You will usually repeat the same rhyme sceme in the next verse, so you will need to work out an idea to fit the rhyme scheme you already have.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Rhyme Schemes and Lyrics

Rhyme is like the accelerator in a car–the closer the accelerator gets to the floor, the faster the car moves. The closer your rhymes are to each other, the faster your lyric moves. And, like the accelerator and the car floor, the further apart they are, the slower you move. Consider this set of words:

bring, search, sing, last, fast

The first three words set up a pace of alternating rhyme. While an “urch” word would have been expected, the insertion of “last” and “fast” accelerates the rhyme. An example of decelerating rhyme:

last, fast, bring, search, sing, birch

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Rhyme Schemes and Song Structure

An a a b b rhyme scheme divides the structure into two parts. The division suggests a parallel division of ideas: one idea for a a, the other for b b.

Love her or leave her to me (a)

Keep her or let her go free (a)

Don’t go two-timing her (b)

‘less you’re resignin’ her (b)

On the other hand, a b a b is through-written. It keeps the system and the idea moving.

Some girls like their flirtin’ (a)

They’re always on the roam (b)

Blind to who they’re hurtin’ (a)

Their eyes are never home (b)

When you want your ideas to flow, through-write the rhyme scheme; when you want ideas to “section off,” fragment it.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Rights Of The Copyright Owner

The owner of the copyright has the right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to distribute it through “phonorecords,” and to perform the work publicly. If you own the copyright to a
piece of music, you have the exclusive right to decide how to initially reproduce copies of it, where and when the initial performance takes place, and who performs it initially.

Notice how that word “initially” snuck into that last few phrases. If someone wants to use your music on his or her CD or perform it in public, and your music is copyrighted but not yet published, that person needs to get your permission. However, if the work is already published, if you have already recorded and released it on a CD, or if it has been released in the theaters as a film score, then your permission is not necessary so long as the performer pays you a minimum royalty.

–from the Complete Guide to Film Scoring, by Richard Davis,
Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Selling to All Music Markets

Ask not where music is sold, but where music is used. When most of us consider the best places to develop a music career, we often think of the stage and the store: The stage is where you perform your music, the store is where you sell it. These are where music has traditionally been sold. But what about the thousands of places where music is used?

Today, the music is not only in movies, shows, television, and jingles, but in computer video games, MIDI software, corporate and educational videos, background music services, audio books, even greeting cards! All of these uses are accompanied by a variety of licenses acquired and paid for by the user.

The best source for marketing your music through such outlets is limited only by your own imagination. Brainstorm, make a list and start networking!

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Sharpen Up Your Web Page

Use imaginative layouts and good-looking typography to give your Web pages a unique and identifiable look. Graphical content should be of some practical value. Avoid empty window dressing. To save time, many users set their browsers to ignore graphics; all they see is text. It’s essential that any important messages or links contained in graphics be duplicated in textual form. Test-drive your page in text-only mode to make sure it works.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Show Me The Money!

There is more to publishing than record sales. That’s pretty straightforward stuff. Publishing is usually set up and split up in so many different ways that it confuses people. The part that freaks everyone out the most is when publishers talk about 200% of 100% of a song. That’s really an old-fashioned and traditional way to explain copyrights, songwriter royalties and publishing, and it hardly ever makes sense to anybody.

Merchandise deals are deals made by your attorney outside of your recording contract, for your likeness to appear on T-shirts and other clothing and objects. If the label wants a percentage of the income from such a deal, you may have to negotiate how much they get.

Any discussion of income from music must include talk about royalties. First, there are mechanical royalties, which is the money paid, usually by a record company, for the right to use a song on a record. A mechanical royalty is subject to a maximum statutory rate set by law (around 8 cents per song). It’s customary, though, to discount the rate to around 75% of the maximum allowed, or about 6 cents per song.

Song Plots

Here’s a tip for all writers, but most especially for songwriters. In your plot (yes, songs have plots) an attitude or emotion is expressed. Not only is there an attitude or emotion expressed, it is given a situation. Lastly, your song’s plot must have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Songwriter’s Rights

When a songwriter writes an original song, several rights are included as part of the
copyright. They are the right to reproduce the song; the right to distribute copies of it, the right to perform the song in public; the right to make a derivative work based on the song,
and if it’s a multi-media creation, the right to display it publicly. Publishers will help a songwriter exploit all of those rights in as many areas and mediums as possible so that income can be made from the work.

If a songwriter signs a co-publishing deal, those rights will be shared equally with the publisher. If a songwriter wants to hold onto the rights, they might want to simply sign an
administration deal where the publisher merely takes care of business, including all of the paperwork, but usually does not share in all of the rights.

A publisher with good connections can help a songwriter hook-up with the right people and prevent them him/her getting lost in the shuffle.

Stuck for Inspiration?

Try this if you feel you’re stuck for melodic inspiration. Sit down at your keyboard or pick up your guitar and play a random sequence of notes. Don’t do this with a song in mind, but rather to see if by ‘accident’ you can find simple pattern that you can build off of. About 95% of the time, you’ll just hear musical mush that you can’t use. The other 4% it is good stuff and 1% of it is amazing. Accidents can be good things. Remember that if you don’t have an inspiration, sometimes just ‘playing around’ is a good answer.

Syllables and Dipthongs

In setting up lyric rhythm, you must understand the building blocks of all language–syllables. A syllable is usually made up of one vowel sound and one or more consonant sounds:

jo give set strength un peace

A syllable does not have to be a word, but all words have to be at least one syllable.The syllables above all have a vowel sound, some with a consonant before the vowel sound, some after, and some with consonants both before and after. Sometimes a syllable has only a vowel sound:

I a mel-o-dy

In one case, a syllable has two vowel sounds, slurred together and treated as a single vowel. We call it a dipthong.

bOIl pAIl OUt nOW

Since dipthongs contain two vowel sounds, composers often use two notes to set them to music. Syllables containing only one vowel sound typically are set to one note.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Target Demo Markets

Club gigs are more easily secured if the demo tape has some covers mixed in with a band’s original songs. By including covers you’re telling the booker or club owner that your
ultimate goal in playing that club is to communicate with the patrons and help them have a good time. As with all demo tapes, this one should be front-loaded with your best tune first. It should include three or four songs at the most. (A live performance recording with cheering audience also helps).

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Teach Others To Improve Your Own Musical Skills

Want to hone your skills? Try teaching others how to play or write music. Strangely you’ll
find that as you’re teaching them, they’re teaching you. You may find that you’ll have to demonstrate things that you took for granted as well as be surprised at things that you thought which were complicated really weren’t all that difficult. As many teachers would vouch for this, you learn about as much as you are teaching.

There Is No Set Way To Write Lyrics

There is no set way to write the lyrics to a song, but there are a few basics that you will need to know in order to reach your goal. In this article, you will learn about organizing your own personal thoughts and turning them into song lyrics. The first step is to write down who your audience is. You will need to keep this in mind while writing the lyrics so you can target them. After all, if you were writing a song for children you would certainly avoid adult material of any kind.

Write a rough draft of the first verse of your song. This verse should draw attention to your song and make your audience want to listen. Don’t worry about it being perfect at this point; you will refine all the verses and the chorus later. Now, of course, you will need to write the second verse. In this part you will need to continue to tell the story and explain what the action is. Don’t be too detailed; this is a three-minute song, not an opera. Next comes the third verse. Tell more about your story here, and add relevant information to your story. You really want to enhance the story line from verses one and two, because
the next verse will close the song.

Read over your lyrics and change your sentences into lines. After you have lines, you will need to go back and change the ending words so they will rhyme. Do this with the chorus too. Every lyric should be of relatively equal length so the song will glide along and not be choppy.

Use Different Formulas For YourSongs

Try not to use the same formulas for your songs. Just because you found a winning formula, that may only work for that particular song. Try different avenues. There are artists that you hear (even on the radio) that seem to have all of their songs to sound alike. Be creative.

If you twist it a little bit, then the song will have its unique identity that separates it from the traditional cliche of many hooks. People have heard different artists use the exact same
musical hooks and patterns, and if there is no unique twist then you will hear something like, “they copied (fill in the blank)’s song. Sounds just like it but with different words.” You will most likely want your song to have its own identity.

Use Multimedia for a Killer Demo

In multimedia, many rules that apply to demo production are no different than in the rest of the biz. You want it to be as professional as possible, packaged and presented nicely, and
marketed with just the right balance of pure talent, business, and schmooze.

For the highest impact possible, listen to the many demos available from music production companies offering buy-out libraries or licensed music. The presentation on these music
library demos often follows a format using a wide variety of quick cuts with various cross-fades.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

Using Unstressed Syllables

When words work simply as grammatical road signs to show relationships between words (grammatical function), they are unstressed. The grammatical function is very important. Look at the opening lines of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe

They seem to make sense. Of course they don’t, because sounds such as “brillig” and “slithy” aren’t connected to any ideas. So why do the lines seem to say something? The answer is in the unstressed syllables. They tweak our ears, tell us to get ready for certain kinds of words.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Using Verse to Balance Phrases

Contrasting one section with another is a great use of balancing. When you already have a balanced section, you can write another section to match it except at the end, where you
unbalance it, usually by adding another phrase.

This unbalancing strategy is useful when you have two verses that lead into a chorus. Make the first verse completely balanced, then unbalance the second verse by adding an extra phrase. This unbalancing will make it move forward into the chorus.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

The Value of Formal Study

You study the techniques of lyric writing for the same reason you take piano lessons: Even though by trial and error you could probably catch on yourself, it will save you time when
someone shows you fingerings that have been proven to work. You get better faster, and enjoy the true creative possibilities of your instrument sooner.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure,
by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Wedding Gigs Demand Versatility

Weddings probably demand the most versatility of all performance-oriented gigs. People often want you to play quiet background music before the procession, ceremonial music during the procession, and upbeat music for the party after the ceremony. Your tape should have quiet music for background and ceremony on one side, and more upbeat tunes for the reception on the other side. Of course, those responsible for obtaining the music for the wedding event are thrilled to be able to find the talent in one place. The band is happy to have a full day’s playing (and paying) schedule.

–from The Self-Promoting Musician, by Peter Spellman, Copyright
2001 Berklee Press

What The Song Needs

Think about what the song needs as opposed to what you want. The ‘both of you’ might have varying opinions. When you make the music bigger than you are, then you’ll understand what this means. Great songs tend to have a mind of their own.

When you think in terms of the best interests in the song, you may have to rid yourself some very good ideas that you wanted to do. All of us have come up with very creative ideas that really didn’t work with the song we were composing. Don’t mess up your song by trying to fit it in. If you can fit it in and it feels right to put it there, great. If it doesn’t, then you have an idea for your next song ready to go.

Make a reason for why every part of your song exists. Find parts in your lead passage that really hook you. Now delete all the other parts. Now build off of the hook. Get it? Computers cannot find hooks, but your ear can. If you can’t feel anything interesting from a part, get rid of it.

Work-for-Hire Contracts

The usual condition under which a film composer signs a contract and delivers the score is that she is completing a “work made for hire,” or simply, “work for hire.” This legal term describes a work that is created as a commission. Once the work is completed and delivered, it belongs to the producer who paid for it. The composer still receives the “writer’s share” of the royalties, but cannot control the reuse of the music.

It is one of those unpleasant things, like taxes or telephone solicitations at dinner time, that’s just a part of life. Therefore, students and composers just starting their careers
should accept this arrangement as necessary.

–from the Complete Guide to Film Scoring, by Richard Davis,
Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

Writing a Deceptive Resolution

A deceptive resolution sets you up to expect a particular ending, but it doesn’t come. Instead, the structure ends with something else you have already seen in the system (otherwise the system would not close at all). So, there are two conditions for a closure to be deceptive.

1. The system must raise expectations that it will be resolved in a certain way

2. The phrase that is actually used to resolve the system must already be in the structure.

This system implies a three-stress resolution, making the four-stress resolution deceptive.

–from Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, by Pat Pattison, Copyright 2001 Berklee Press

You Can’t Please Everyone…

As a songwriter, we need to all understand that there is no “bad” or “good” music. There are only songs people can and can’t relate to. So don’t feel bad if your music doesn’t reach out to everyone. There isn’t any one style of music that can. The trick is that you need to find people who already enjoy the style of music you write. From there, you can more accurately judge how well your music communicates. When writing music, try not to appeal to every single type of listener. Write the music in the style you love to make, and write it for those people.

You Have To Begin Somewhere

As in most endeavors, the songwriter has to begin somewhere. And the best place to begin
is someplace where you feel comfortable. Do something (relatively) easy and then set out to branch out and grow. Also, a songwriter has to have a motive. Why am I writing this song? Do I have something to say? Something to share? Money to make?

Write down the subject of the song, the idea or the message you want to convey, and the story the song will tell. The subject of the song might be falling in love; the message might be that there is someone for everyone; the story might tell of a man and a woman that meet and fall madly in love with each other. This is a good time to write down the words to the chorus of the song. The chorus is a bridge or connection from one verse to the
next. It must make sense to sing the words of the chorus in between the verses. From the chorus, you will also need to make-up a catchy title for your song.