[27-Apr-2018 08:33:04 UTC] PHP Warning: PHP Startup: Unable to load dynamic library '/usr/local/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090626/pdo.so' - /usr/local/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090626/pdo.so: undefined symbol: zval_property_ctor in Unknown on line 0 [27-Apr-2018 08:33:04 UTC] PHP Warning: PHP Startup: pdo_sqlite: Unable to initialize module Module compiled with module API=20090626 PHP compiled with module API=20131226 These options need to match in Unknown on line 0 [27-Apr-2018 08:33:04 UTC] PHP Warning: PHP Startup: pdo_mysql: Unable to initialize module Module compiled with module API=20090626 PHP compiled with module API=20131226 These options need to match in Unknown on line 0 [27-Apr-2018 08:33:04 UTC] PHP Warning: PHP Startup: Unable to load dynamic library '/usr/local/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090626/sqlite.so' - /usr/local/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090626/sqlite.so: undefined symbol: zval_property_ctor in Unknown on line 0 [27-Apr-2018 08:33:04 UTC] PHP Fatal error: Class 'SpawConfig' not found in /home/musesmus/public_html/spaw/plugins/spawfm/config/config.php on line 4 Enrolling in Songwriting University: Radio Listening 101

The Muse's Muse  
Muses MailMuses Newsmuse chatsongwriting resource home
Regular Columnists

Enrolling in Songwriting University: Radio Listening 101
By Mary Dawson - 05/28/2007 - 11:25 PM EDT

Over ten years ago a major music print publication estimated that at that time there were somewhere between 25-30 million aspiring songwriters in the United States alone -- that is, songwriters who have completed writing at least one song in their lifetimes.

Sometimes I think I have met most of these people……literally everywhere I go, I find someone with a "day gig" who is an aspiring songwriter in his/her "secret life." Many of these people are very intelligent and very motivated about their writing, but most have become quite frustrated thinking that because they do not live in or near a major music city, they cannot ever succeed as a songwriter!

In the last two articles of this series, we have been addressing the fact that writing commercial or hit songs is really a much different skill than getting A's in music courses at a university. Writing hit songs is more about emotional communication than it is about technical music training. To learn the craft of hit songwriting, therefore, it has been almost automatically assumed that you must relocate to a major music capitol (such as LA, New York or Nashville) and try to apprentice yourself to someone in the Music Industry who seems to know more than you do. Then -- if the theory of osmosis holds true -- you may be able to just "pick up" the skill as you associate with others who at least appear to be successful.

It has been my experience that this suggestion is simply not realistic -- or even necessary -- for most people. If an aspiring songwriter is motivated and eager to learn the craft, he/she can enroll in a literal Songwriting University from wherever he/she may happen to live. In our last article, I suggested as a first step to locate your local songwriters' association. Such groups are springing up all over the country and provide accessible and invaluable resources for people to begin pursuing a career or a very rewarding hobby in songwriting.

But beyond the songwriter's association there is yet another resource that is extremely accessible and chock-full of songwriting instruction. And better yet…..it is completely free of charge! What am I talking about? The radio! In every city and hamlet across the country, commercial radio is broadcasting commercial songs -- 24 hours a day! Almost every great songwriter I have ever met has testified unequivocally that they have learned most of what they know about writing hits from listening to the radio.

But there is a catch here! You can't just listen like a listener -- you have to learn to listen like a songwriter. Instead of simply "vegging out" and enjoying the songs that you hear, try to listen critically and attentively to the basic elements of the song. Ask yourself some questions like:

  • What is the basic emotion that is being communicated in this song? Is it being communicated effectively? Why or why not?
  • Why is this song getting airplay on the radio?
  • What is it about this song that is causing people to by the record?
  • Are the lyrics fresh and well-rhymed?
  • Is the melody memorable?
  • What is actually happening in the development of this song?
    1) Does it have a chorus?
    2) How do the verses "set up" the chorus?
    3) Are the harmonies interesting? Why?
    4) Is the rhythm catchy and appropriate for the song?

You get the idea! Don't just listen to songs….THINK while you are listening. Then, I would suggest going a step further. Take the latest huge hit song….one that is currently on the top of the charts. After you have listened to it critically, asking questions like those above, then actually sit down and write out the lyrics -- line by line. Watch where the rhymes are falling and how the lyric is developing. Next, do the same thing with the music. Go to your instrument and see if you can pick out the basic melody line and some of the chords used in the song. Pay attention to what is happening in the music…the range of the melody, the chord progressions used, the sequences etc. You will learn volumes of valuable, practical information that will help you in writing your next song.

I recommend having every button on your car radio set to a different genre of radio music. One button on Classical, another on Country, another on Jazz etc. Keep channel surfing and listening critically to hits in each genre. "But what if I don't LIKE Country Music?" you may object. "Why should I force myself to listen to something I don't care for? And besides, isn't all this critical listening going to simply ruin my love of music?"

My answer to the first question is simply this: If a song is selling thousands and thousands of copies…and if your goal is to write hits…there will always be something you can learn by listening to what people are buying -- whether it is your personal taste in music or not! And as far as critical listening is concerned, I am confident that the more aware you are of what is happening in the songs you love, the more you will enjoy and appreciate them.

It all goes back to having a teachable attitude -- one that is hungry to learn. Some writers ONLY want to experience the emotional/inspirational part of writing a song. But if you are truly a songwriter at heart, you will be eager to learn the craft aspect as well. Personally, I never cease to be amazed at how inexhaustible the subject of songwriting is and how there is always something new to learn by listening to the radio.

Beethoven often said of George Frideric Handel, " I can still learn from him!"

Enough said!

[ Current Articles | Archives ]

Help For Newcomers
Help for Newcomers
Helpful Resources
Helpful Resources
Regular Columnists
Music Reviews
Services Offered
About the  Muse's Muse
About Muse's Muse
Subscribe to The Muse's News, free monthly newsletter for songwriters
with exclusive articles, copyright & publishing advice, music, website & book reviews, contest & market information, a chance to win prizes & more!

Join today!

Created & Maintained
by Jodi Krangle


© 1995 - 2016, The Muse's Muse Songwriting Resource. All rights reserved.

Read The Muse's Muse Privacy Statement