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Any good songwriting books out there


robfosters

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I have hit a bit of a wall when it comes to new ideas.

 

Are there any good books out there that I could read that perhaps could broaden my horizons and/or generally give the songwriting part of my brain a good kick up the arse.

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Jimmy Webb's book is great. Some folks hate it... but for me, it hit me square between the eyes. It's not a traditional instruction book. More like sitting and having a beer with him while he goes off. Sometimes on unrelated tangents, but I got a ton out of it. Thanks for reminding me. I've to re-read it.

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They're NOT books on songwriting, by any stretch, but... I've heard more than a few folks say that when they're out of ideas they sit down with Moby Dick, the novel -- which I will very sheepishly admit I've never read. Never read Joyce's Ullyses, either, which I've seen cited as a fountainhead of creative provocation, as well. (I did read Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, though. But that's not even close. I pick up Ulysses and think... wow... wow... I should have paid more attention to the Child's Book of Greek and Roman Mythology... ;) )

 

 

Anyhow, I've never actually even picked up a book on songwriting, per se, I don't think. Although I did get a book on inspiration and writing a while back... but it spent so much time talking about discipline and preparation that I got bored and put it down... :D

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I have the Jimmy Webb book too. I think it's called Tunesmith. Great discussion on lyric writing and music theory. He comes off as a bit pissed off at times! He weaves in stories about the songs he wrote as well.

 

I also have "Songwriters on Songwriting" by Paul Zollo. He interviews about 30 or so songwriters and gets them talking about their songwriting processes and how they go about it. Very interesting and shows you that everyone has a different way of doing it. Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Dylan, Lindsey Buckingham and many others are in there.

 

Neall

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The Zollo book sounds pretty cool, kind of like the old Paris Review author interviews on writing. I think I'd like that. And, actually, I'll bet Jimmy Webb has some pretty great stories (and, no doubt, some pretty good reasons to be ticked).

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(and, no doubt, some pretty good reasons to be ticked).

 

 

He found out his publisher had been collecting money on "Up Up and Away" in an exclusivity deal with an airline for something like 15 years. They never used the song in a commercial, so he never heard it, but continued to pay for the exclusive rights to the song, without Webb knowing (or collecting). He eventually got the money, but without 15 years of accumulated interest.

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I found the Webb book interesting, though he's a bit too dogmatic at times: songs MUST rhyme exactly, lines MUST have the same number of syllables, etc.

 

I did plow my way through Moby Dick. Nice fish, but the book could have been about half the length without losing anything. I couldn't get through Ulysses either, though.

 

When I find myself at a wall for ideas, I usually go back to my influences. I'll learn or re-learn a couple of their songs. Maybe I'll go to their influences and their influences before them. I don't want to say I steal ideas, but basically I steal ideas. The trick is I'm so bad at stealing they sound original, and they are original really, by the time the ideas filter through my thick skull and fingers.

 

A little music theory never hurts either. It's fun to try out some chord substitutions and different types of progressions.

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They're NOT books on songwriting, by any stretch,
but
... I've heard more than a few folks say that when they're out of ideas they sit down with
Moby Dick
, the novel -- which I will very sheepishly admit I've never read. Never read
Joyce's
Ulysses
, either, which I've seen cited as a fountainhead of creative provocation, as well.

 

I guess I'm one of those few folks....:wave: That being said, sitting down with Moby Dick or Ulysses is probably going to cost more in procrastination time than it will pay off in new ideas.

 

I'll recommend the Rikki Rooksby book as well. He publishes lots of books, but they are just variations on the same idea (Music Theory for Rock Musicians - On Piano/Music Theory for Rock Musicians - On Guitar/Music Theory for Rock Musicians - on Composition/Music Theory for Rock Musicians - on Riffs). Still, it's a pretty good book.

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Anyhow, I've never actually even picked up a book on songwriting, per se, I don't think. Although I did get a book on inspiration and writing a while back... but it spent so much time talking about discipline and preparation that I got bored and put it down...
:D

 

I think I may have the book you're talking about. Although I may be wrong.

 

The book I'm thinking of is called Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison, who is or was a Berklee professor, and I believe many of the exercises in it were developed for a classroom setting--a lot of his suggestions to get a "group" together to do the exercises; who in the real world has that kind of time? And the pages and pages of pre-writing, and the weeks of preparation you have to do--seems to me, it would be time much better spent actually writing songs. I don't feel that I need to follow it's exercises to the letter, however, I find the book to be one of the best I read for generating ideas, and improving your craft. I recommend picking it up just for that.

 

I think reading a lot of literature is a good idea too. (Haven't read Ulysses yet, but now I'm curious.) For me, I've yet to see any obvious results, but I feel like I'm laying the groundwork, and expanding my pool of ideas for the long term. Same with listening to all different types of music--I recently started listening to some Beethoven concertos, and that stuff is really good! (well, of course it is; it's Beethoven...) Maybe I'll get something out of it someday.

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I think I may have the book you're talking about. Although I may be wrong.


The book I'm thinking of is called Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison, who is or was a Berklee professor, and I believe many of the exercises in it were developed for a classroom setting--a lot of his suggestions to get a "group" together to do the exercises; who in the real world has that kind of time? And the pages and pages of pre-writing, and the weeks of preparation you have to do--seems to me, it would be time much better spent
actually writing songs
. I don't feel that I need to follow it's exercises to the letter, however, I find the book to be one of the best I read for generating ideas, and improving your craft. I recommend picking it up just for that.


I think reading a lot of literature is a good idea too. For me, I've yet to see any obvious results, but I feel like I'm laying the groundwork, and expanding my pool of ideas for the long term. Same with listening to all different types of music--I recently started listening to some Beethoven concertos, and that stuff is really good! (well,
of course
it is; it's
Beethoven
...) Maybe I'll get something out of it someday.

 

 

Yeah... I think that's probably the book. But even if it's not, your response to it was similar enough to mine... it seemed like it was filled with good advice but... I dunno. Actually, maybe just all that good advice sitting there mostly unread scared me back into productivity. Maybe I should go root around in the garage and throw the book out onto my coffee table.

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Great thread -- thanks for the recs. I just reserved the Jimmy Webb and Songwriters Idea Book at my local library via the internet (love this feature).

 

I second the Zollo book. It's a great gift, by the way...

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