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Free Songwriting Tips that Point You to Simplicity
By Paul Babelay - 01/25/2010 - 03:47 PM EST

Many free songwriting tips may seem too simplistic, or "easy."

You may be looking for the tips that tell you how to modulate 3 times before you hit the bridge, or transition from 6/8 to 3/4 for just two bars, or how to write lyrics that can be sung in counterpoint melodies, get the point.

There is a place for more in depth particulars of lyric writing, song structure, and use of chord progressions, etc. etc. But one thing that is very difficult for most of us to embrace is the SIMPLE!

Now don't tune me out before I am finished!

The truth is that simplicity in songwriting is not simple! It can be difficult, but when it's's perfect! Below are some free songwriting tips that will hopefully help you with keeping it simple.


Learn what MAKES A SONG "WORK", even with everything unplugged.
If your message gets across with ONLY YOU and a guitar... you've got a song. Don't be fooled by a sequencer and great samples. You may be doing what is known as "polishing a turd". Yeah, that's right. Sorry, not to be crude....but this is a known-phenomenon. It is what keeps recording studios in business... and they know this. They're not about to give you a song critique that may discourage you and send you (and your money), elsewhere.

Therefore, you must develop the ability to critique your music writing.

It doesn't matter if you're a Bob Dylan wannabe, a traditional Bluegrass picker, New-age artist, Nashville singer/songwriter or the next Timbaland, your songs need to be well- written. Get honest. Does your song work without the band working really hard to dress up each section? What do your band members really think of your music writing... can they be honest?

A) Maybe it's you...Perhaps your songs are suffering from you playing them. If you are an instrumentalist, are you using songs as a vehicle for showing off your chops? That's known as overplaying.   Or perhaps the Opposite is true: you don't have enough technique to play what you write. Don't make the mistake of thinking YOU have to play it!

B) Do you tell your story well? Are your lyrics clear and meaningful?

C) Are you using the best FORM for delivering them? Do you understand how lyrics can be carried along by the music from section to section? Dont' be afraid to spot the "holes" in your songs... the places that don't quite carry us through. Be objective enough to know when your material needs editing, re-writing and possibly trashing.


Your songs need to have a purpose. Keep coming back to it. Every new idea should connect us to that topic or purpose.

* Who is this story about? * Why should we care? * Are you giving us enough information to really join in your parade? * What is the CONVICTION of this song? * Where is it clearly stated... in the 1st verse, the Chorus... where is it? * Does all the rest of your story take me there, convince me and help me feel what your vibe is all about? There's an old saying, "You can't give what you don't have".

If you don't know what you're trying to say, we won't either.


Simple always wins.  I know, there are countless bands that have become very successful writing complex music. I grew up trying to play along with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and my Master's degree in music from North Texas was full of Frank Zappa transcriptions. But I would classify that music as "off the beaten path" from the general population... for better or worse.

I'm specifically addressing popular or commercial music writing. When the concert is over, the TV is off and you wake up hearing something in your head... It is the song.

It isn't the improvisations, extended drum solos, or Grammy acceptance is the song... Usually, it's just the Hook. So, if all we have to do is write 4-word hooks, and say them over and over... why isn't everybody making a fortune writing HIT songs? Because simplicity is difficult.

Accessible music writing is not as easy as it sounds. Just like these free songwriting tips....simple? Right... We almost have to unlearn things. All the "shoulds" and "coulds" and "woulds" of music writing have to be examined carefully and used sparingly. But, as you grow in honesty as a songwriter, you will find your songs becoming beautifully crafted.

Keep at it, and just remember to keep it simple!

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