Writing Songs Nashville Style


For those who want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or any other “normal” vocation, all you have to do is select where you want to go to school, go there and graduate and find a job in your chosen field. For those who want to be professional songwriters, it isn’t quite that easy.

Even if there were a school where you could get a masters degree in songwriting, there isn’t once accepted way to write songs so a course plan would be extremely difficult to assemble. Songwriters basically learn how to write songs from other songwriters, borrowing from each one until it all comes together and they can write their own songs successfully.

It is for this reason I decided to write this series of articles, to give you the real scoop on how to be successful as a professional songwriter. You can go to all the websites you want to and read all the books you can find, but there is nothing like living in Nashville where you can meet and write with other songwriters.

I had done the former for a long time when I got to Nashville and began pitching my songs to Nashville Music Publishers. From the time I got to Nashville it took me 3 years before I understood how to write a song good enough to be published by a real Nashville Music Publisher.

In this first article I will outline the important parts of a hit song and break them down individually in later articles. The first thing you need is a good idea for a song. Many new songwriters will write their first songs about their own experiences, things like the girl that broke his heart or looking forward to Friday so he can get off work and play all weekend.

Remember this, a professional songwriter is one who makes money writing songs. To make money writing songs you must write songs that recording artists will want to record on their CDs. When artists look for those songs, they look for songs that will make the general public, those that buy CDs, pull out their wallets and purses and spend money on the music they like. People buy CDs because they heard a song they can relate to. Something in the song touched them emotionally and motivated them to go out and buy the music. That’s what it boils down to. They won’t buy a CD of songs about the songwriter’s experiences. No, they will buy music that relates to their life. SO the point is, when you are trying to find good ideas for songs, think about what average people all over America go through every day in their lives.

Once you have an idea, you need a good title. The best titles almost write themselves. The best titles are those that get your attention and are easy to remember. Examples of great titles are “Bye Bye Miss American Pie”, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Hello, I Love You Won’t You Tell Me Your Name” and “Reeling In the Years”. Obviously, many great songs have been written with simple titles like “Hello”, “Amie”, “Cherish” and “Margaritaville”, but always strive for the great title.

When you begin to write your lyrics, the most important thing to remember is make sure every line addresses the main topic of the song. Simply put, if you are writing a song about apples, make every word in the song be about apples. Don’t write “I love apples very much” in verse 1 and in verse 2 start extolling on your affections for oranges. You have 3-4 minutes to tell the whole story, don’t get sidetracked.

Both the music and the lyrics of any song must communicate to the listener in a meaningful and artistic way getting the idea of your song across to them easily. If they have to struggle to understand the meaning, you will lose them and your effort has been wasted.

As a rule, in Pop or Rock music, the music is the most important aspect, but the lyrics still must communicate the meaning of the song. When writing Country songs on the other hand, the lyrics are king. Country songs tell a story and that’s why these songs are loved. Average Americans identify with them and take them to heart. In my view, if you can write a hit Country song, you can write any type of song.

If you know how to come up with a good idea for a song, can create a great title, and know how to create lyrics that will move listeners emotionally, you have the basics of good songwriting. In upcoming articles I will cover other songwriting areas like hooks, rhyme schemes, melody, song structure, chord progressions and demos. See you then.

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