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The Songcrafter's Coloring Book

Bill Pere By Bill Pere

© 2004-2014, Bill Pere. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission (Please do not reprint without asking permission!)

This column presents articles on the craft and business of songwriting, reflecting 35 years of working with industry pros. The primary focus is on making your songs communicate as want them to, with the degree of impact you wish to achieve. We will also discuss topics in music production and business. Feel free to suggest topics you would like to see covered.

A short bio


  • Blurred Lines Are Not So Burry - You've no doubt heard  that a jury decided that "Blurred Lines" by Alan Thicke and Pharrell Williams was an infringement on the song "Got to Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye, and awarded  7.3 million dollars in damages.   There's a lot more to know about this ruling.  And it affects you.
  • Are You a Singer-Songwriter or a Songer-Singwriter? - There are many roles required to take a song from conception to being a finished product that is out there in the world (see Songcrafters' Coloring Book, Chapter 3, "Role Call")  But while performing many roles, there is ultimately ONE primary role that is your strength, your passion, and your true self-identity.   Knowing what this is, what you are and what you are not, is the foundation for a career free from disappointment that comes from unmet expectations.

  • What to Look For in a Studio Vocalist - If you are a songwriter looking to hire a studio vocalist to record your song, that is one of the most important decisions you will make in the entire process. It is surprising how many aspiring songwriters don't know what to be looking for when they choose a vocalist. It is much more than a voice and a price tag.
  • Rhyming Is More Than Just Per-Verse - Tight song construction is like building a house--you need to provide reinforcement in each of the three dimensions -- height, width , and depth,  to achieve something solid and long lasting.   In a song,  we usually think of rhymes as being points at the ends of lines that help us remember and anticipate lyrics.  But it's much more than that....
  • Little Boxes and the Flow of Information in a Song - Keeping a listener engaged in a song requires a flow of information that unfolds at a fast rate with a logical flow, just as in a conversation or spoken presentation. This article presents some techniques you can use to help you organize and evaluate the flow of information in your songs, to help you craft them for maximum impact.
  • The Geometry of Songwriting: Four Dimensions and the Importance of Time - A great song has 4 dimensions in both the music and the lyrics.  Most songs do it in the music, but rarely in the  lyric.  Why is this, and what is missing?   This article tells you what you need to know and shows you what you need to do to maximize the impact and potential of your songs across a 4-dimensional spectrum.
  • Untangling the Maze of Music Conferences - Each year we hear of dozens of music events of many types, all across the country.  There are endless pitches for Conferences, Festivals, Expos and gatherings of all types.  How do you know which ones are worth your time and expense to attend?  How can you tell if attending a particular event will help you move closer to your goals?  This article will provide some insight.
  • Writing a Bridge Should Not Take a Toll - What is the role of a bridge in a song? When does a song need or not need a bridge? What makes a bridge musically and lyrically effective?   This article will help answer these frequently asked questions.
  • Creation to Congratulation: The Road to a Grammy - How does an Indie artist get from an idea to having a song on a Grammy-winning Album?  Here is the whole story of how Bill Pere and Les Julian created a song which, 17 years later, was part of the "Best Children's Album" at the 54th Grammy Awards.
  • Adding Sparkle to Your Song: Why Does He Have to Live in Detroit? - You work hard to make your lyrics clear, and rich with images.  They convey a message or story that is universal and heard in many other songs.  Yet somehow, they still don’t measure up to other songs that are considered great.  What's missing?  Great lyrics not only are clear and relevant, they also tickle the ear, the way bubbles in champagne tickle the palate.  In this article by Grammy-Nominee Bill Pere, you'll learn the secrets of Sonic Activity.  This article also includes a Level 3 Analysis of a classic hit song.
  • Plaster, Mortar, and Cement - A key element for making lyrics communicate effectively is the use of concrete references. Why are they important?  They make your lyric focused, clear and real, instead of vague and subject to misinterpretation.  And most importantly, seven out of every ten people in a general population prefer to give and receive information using concrete references.  So it's important to make sure you know what is and is not a concrete reference.
  • How to Lead People to Your Music in a Digital Age - Getting music online is the easy part. Once it's there, how do you get people to find it? With the maturity of digital delivery and a proliferation of websites that allow easy uploading and legal downloading of music, the old models of making and marketing CDs are gone. The shift from an album-based economy to a track-based economy spawns many new considerations for the Indie artist when the time comes to go into the studio and record. This article gives you some tips.
  • Playing the Field - Ever notice how many songs address the same subject, but some have focus and impact, while others seem diffuse and wandering? The answer may lie in the use (or non-use) of the important element of Semantic Field. This article will show you what you need to consider when trying to bring focus and impact to your lyrics.
  • Role Call: You Are Bartholemew Cubbins - In the traditional music business model, you, the songwriter or artist would be under contract to a large record company and publisher, who would then call all the shots.  In today’s world of Independent artists, YOU are the one who puts others under contract to you.  The key is to know: (a) what types of roles/tasks need to be done, (b) which ones you can do yourself, (c) which ones you need to engage others for, (d) how to find the right person(s) to do the tasks you want to contract out.
  • Taking the Labor Out of Collaboration From Creation to Realization - Look at the credits for a song and you most likely see more than one name. Having multiple writers, artists, producers, and engineers is not unusual in navigating the path from creation to realization..The music business, like any entertainment industry, is a business based on people interacting to shape and market the products of a creative process. Some collaborative partnerships are very fruitful and rewarding, and some are emotionally draining with no tangible result. This article lays out all the factors involved in seeking out effective collaborators, and what roles need top be filled in creating songs and giving them a life.
  • May I Have Your Attention Please? -- Branding Your Songs - In today's very crowded music marketplace, you are competing at any given time with tens of thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of songs – and you're competing for two specific things:  Awareness, and Attention.   Awareness is getting a listener to notice that you (or your song) exist, and Attention is sparking enough interest in that listener so that they willingly hold you in their awareness (and ideally, make others aware of you as well). Awareness is usually achieved through promotion and marketing --  but once you've achieved Awareness, what does it take to turn it into Attention?
  • Yclept Writing and Swinging Bats: Build Up Those Songwriting Muscles - One of the greatest tools you can use to help build up your songwriting skills is yclept writing – funny name, but very powerful.   You see examples of yclept writing in many books of poetry, literature or wordplay, especially from author Dave Morice.  Learn about this great way to flex your songwriting muscles, and in the process, maybe create something unique and memorable.
  • COURTING APPEAL: Getting Fan #1001, or The Secret of Ullage - The little-known concept of "Ullage" can be a powerful tool for overcoming one of the biggest obstacles in expanding a fan base -- Complacency.  Once you've gotten 100,or 1000 fans, how do you get fan #101 or 1001?   In the Four Fader paradigm discussed in a previous article,  Faders # 3 and 4 deal with the parameter of appeal.  A "hit" is essentially a song with mass appeal.  That does not necessarily mean it’s a well-crafted song, or an effective song (Faders #1 and 2).  If you take away all the hit-making reasons that are not part of the song itself (artist popularity, advertising budget, industry connections,  great production, etc),  then you start to find a greater relationship between well written, effective songs, and mass appeal.  This article shows you how to use the concept of ullage to keep the Four Faders optimized for your success.
  • The Four Faders of Songwriting Success - A well written song may never gain mass appeal, and a song with mass appeal might not be a well written song.   The factors affecting a song's popularity and the degree of craft it exhibits are separate, like different channels on a mixing board.  This article shows how these factors interact, like faders on a mixing board, to yield an overall blend of craft, effectiveness, and appeal.
  • Sonic Activity: Making Your Songs Radio-Active - A song with a great story or message but "flat" sounding lyrics is like champagne without any fizz.  Sonic Activity is the aspect of a lyric that creates "ping-points" which are the little tingling phonetic bubbles that tickle your ear.   This article will help you master that important part of song crafting.
  • Twists on Lists - This article looks at the differences between list songs and story songs, and how you can make each format most effective. There are specific do's and dont's to be aware of when using either of these two primary song formats.
  • Interpreting Interpretation - What does it really mean to leave a song "open to interpretation"?  When is it desirable and when is it not?  Many artists misunderstand what is meant by leaving a song "open to interpretation".  Your job as a songwriter is not to have every listener come away with their own truth, but to have them come away with a personalized version of your truth.  This article helps you clearly understand what is involved in the complex interaction between you and a listener through a song.
  • Writing in the Key of W - A key ingredient for bringing listeners quickly into your song is the establishment of a sense of time, place, people, and situation. The 6 W's, and examples of how they are used by different writers, will help you to address these elements in your own songs.
  • Sale: The Seven C's - Guiding a song from its birth to maturity is like guiding a child through life or navigating a ship along a tricky course. This article looks at the key elements in the process of taking a song from initial idea to a well-crafted endpoint.
  • Expression vs Communication - The Heart of Songwriting - Perhaps the most fundamental part of songwriting is deciding between expression and communication. The choice is always yours, but it's important to know exactly what that choice means for your song. Misunderstandings about these concepts are often at the center of debates about "artistic integrity" and "creative freedom". This article will help you spend less time debating and more time creating.
  • Your Music Career is a Pentathlon: The Five Currencies of Success - In the music business there are five primary currencies.  "Currency" here does not mean money.  It is anything that you can trade in specific amounts to obtain certain things or objectives.  Having worked with more than 10,000 artists over more than three decades, it is clear that one of the main things impeding the forward progress of a career is not knowing what the five currencies are, when to use them, or even how much of each you have.    Many aspiring artists simply don't know what or where their five "bank accounts" are,  what their balance is, or when and how to draw on them.  This article will make it clear.
  • Nothing Fishy About Scales - In working with artists around the world, I get many questions about how to make the musical aspect of a song both interesting and accessible.   I was recently asked this question from a songwriter in London:  "How does knowing about scales help you in songwriting, and if you write in a specific scale, are you limited to using just the notes in that scale?"   His question is similar to many others I get on the same topic.   Considering how much time we are made to practice scales when learning an instrument or in vocal exercises, and how much we do not enjoy it, what's all the fuss about scales?  This article sorts out what you do or not need to know.
  • What Did We Know and When Did We Know It? - "What did he know and when did he know it?" This key question from the Watergate era brought down a President. It can also bring down – or elevate – a song. The presentation of a song by a writer to a listener is a social interaction – a conversation of sorts. Like any communication, if the songwriter cares about his/her message, the goal of the interaction is to forge a connection between singer and listener, so that both are on the same wavelength with common understanding. This article gives you some do's and dont's.


A short bio:
Bill Pere, multi-national winning songwriter, has been in the music business as a songwriter, artist, and producer for 35 years. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed book "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting" and was named one of the "Top 50 Innovators, Groundbreakers, and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry" by Music Connection Magazine.  Bill has songs on more than 26  CDs including a Grammy-winning album. Bill is President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association, Founder of Local United Network to Combat Hunger, and Director of the Creative Songwriting Academy. He was named Indie Artist of the Year at the 2003 national Independent Music Conference in Philadelphia, and is an Official Connecticut State Troubadour. Bill's songwriting articles have appeared in many industry publications, including "Songwriters Market" and have been called "groundbreaking" in their approach to the craft. Bill often presents at music conferences and workshops across the U.S. More info at ; ; ;; .

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