Songwriting magic and craft
- 6.5 hours on-demand video
- 30 articles
- 25 downloadable resources
- Full lifetime access
- Access on mobile and TV
- Certificate of Completion
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- From award-winning Scottish songwriter Jim Byrne you will learn how to access your creativity, write better lyrics, create more compelling melodies and find inspiring chord progressions.
- Learn the techniques I discovered that helped me find 'my own voice' as a songwriter (from my 40 years experience writing over 400 songs). You will learn to write the songs that only you can write.
- Learn how hit songs are written. Discover the system used by todays most successful songwriter; based on the science of attention.
- Learn song structure, rhythm and song arrangement. Producer Mark Freegard tells you how he helps songwriters arrange their songs when working in a professional studio. Mark has worked in the UK's top studios (including George Martin's Air Studio) with bands such as Del Amitri, The Breeders, The Manic Street Preachers, Siouxie Sioux, Eddi Reader and Maria McKee.
- Learn the techniques used by professional songwriters - interviewed exclusively for this course. For example, Ivor Novello winner Boo Hewerdine, Carol Laula, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Michael Rooney (Primevals), Martha L Healy.
- Use my list of mobile and tablet Apps to record and organise your song ideas and to find new ideas. And my list of recommended Podcasts to keep on learning.
- Learn how my own songs have enabled me to travel the world, win awards, get played on the radio, write with Pop stars, Jazz singers and indie rock artists, have a number 1 (UK Americana) and release critically acclaimed albums. Learning to write songs has changed my life - it can change yours.
- Learn songwriting from a tutor who really believes in you and your potential to write great songs. As the songwriter Chiara Berardelli says, 'songwriting is a form of magic, but, the songwriter is the source of that magic'.
- Each month one songwriter will get one to one feedback from me to help improve one of your songs.
- An instrument (e.g. guitar or piano) and a desire to learn how to write great songs. No music theory required.
Songwriting Magic will educate and inspire you. It will give you the skills to write better songs, songs unique to you. The time has come to write the songs you will always be proud of.
Songwriting is a form of magic; as songwriter Chiara Berardelli says, 'the magic does not come from some mysterious outside force, the magic comes from you'.
Learn the techniques used by professional songwriters, interviewed exclusively for this course. Including, Ivor Novello winner Boo Hewerdine, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits - reputedly Kurt Cobain's favourite band), Michael Rooney (Primevals), Martha L Healy, Lizzie Reid, Chiara Berardelli, Carol Laula and more.
You will learn to create song structure, melody, chords progressions, lyrics and song arrangement.
You will learn how hit songs are written. Discover the system used by todays most successful songwriter; based on the science of attention.
You will learn the techniques I discovered that helped me find 'my own voice' as a songwriter (from my 40 years experience writing over 400 songs). Learn to write the songs that only you can write.
You will continue to learn by listening to my recommended list of Podcasts and mobile and tablet Apps.
Learn how writings songs enabled me to travel the world, win awards, get played on the radio, write with Pop stars, Jazz singers and indie rock artists, have a number 1 (UK Americana, Reverb Nation) and release critically acclaimed albums. Learning to write songs has changed my life - it can change yours.
- This course is for you if you have never written a song or if you write songs but want to take your songwriting to a new level. I.e. beginners and intermediate level.
- Whether your goal is a career in music or you just love to write songs, you will learn a great deal from this course. I will pass on the skills I have learned form my 40 years of writing songs: over 400 songs. I have won awards, wrote with pops stars, Jazz artists, indie rock bands, toured, had a No. 1 (UK Americana), released critically acclaimed albums.
Note: captions are provided for all speech on this course. Use them.
Songwriting Magic will educate and inspire you. It will give you the skills to write better songs, songs that are uniquely yours, great songs you will be proud of.
Songwriting is a form of magic; however, as the songwriter Chiara Berardelli says, 'the magic does not come from some mysterous outside force, the magic comes from you'.
You will learn about the creative process, so you can make it work when you need it, you will learn how to create great chord progressions, learn to write memorable melodies and catchy hooks. And unlike many songwriting couses, you will also learn how to arrange your songs. And you will discover the secrets to writing hit songs.
But it is not just about songwriting craft - this course has also been designed to inspire, motivate and buid your confidence. So you learn from the succesfull songwriters I have interviewed, exclusively for the course. Get songwriting tips and insight from Ivor Novello winner Boo Hewerdine and many more including Chiara Berardelli (singer songwriter), Carol Laula (folk rock), MichaelRooney (psychedelic rock), Lizzie Reid (Nu-folk and Indie Rock), Martha L Healy (Americana), Carla J Easton (Electro Pop), Findlay Napier (Folk), and Duglas T Stewart (Classic Pop).
This instroductory video also outlines the massive amount of content, the downloads and the bonus content you get when you sign up. Including:
How to get inspired - anytime.
How I write a song, from start to finish.
How to write great chord progressions.
The 6 'magic' chords in every key.
Musical tension & resolution.
Standard song forms and why they work.
Principles of great melodies
How to write better lyrics.
Rhyme for songwriters.
Why do you want to write songs?
Get started creativity exercises
My 10 step songwriting guide
The three main elements of songs
How to write great hooks
Why verse chorus song structure works
Six common chords that aways sound good together
The most common chord progressions
My object writing example
Stream of consciousness songwriting
Research based songwriting
Songwriting from your life
Songwriters rhyme guide
The course also includes lots of:
Tools & tips
Opportunities for reflection
"Tell your own story, and you will be interesting." Louise Bourgeois
About my own background and experience as a songwriter. Drawn from over 40 years of writing songs.
Or start from a title
In the last assignment I asked you to start a news song by 'growing it' from a short chord progression. However, not everyone likes to start with music. So, in this assignment I'm going to outline how you can get started by finding a good title.
How to find a great title for your next song
If you type the phrase, ‘how do I get started on a song’ into Google - it's almost guaranteed that the first piece of advice you will come across is, 'Start with a winning title'. or 'Pick a great title'.
Aye - sure that's a great idea - but it's also facile and almost meaningless. A bit like saying if you want to write a song that is pure genius - start by being a pure genius.
But having said that - getting a good title is a good way to start you on the path to a new song - so assuming that was possible let's think about how we could go about it.
Here's my suggested path to find a song title:
1. With your first step is: don't try to find a title. Instead start with a broader topic or theme which you can then explore. That give you a better chance of coming title, e.g.
Let's say we choose the topic of Love. Why not?
2. Troll your own your experience and your imagination - and just write everything down that comes into your mind - everything related to love.
Feelings, images, environment, personal experience, rom-com films. Review your personal reflection and write down a list of possible ideas for titles.
3. Put your topic into a keyword generator - which is something usually used by website developers trying to improve the searchability of their website by generating the keywords people use in searches. You will find a keyword tool by typing ‘free keywords tool’ into Google.
4. Now research the topic online. e.g. Wikipedia.
Look for good book titles
As part of your online research use all of the keywords and phrases you have come up with and search the fiction section on Amazon.
Check the names of books that come up. There just might be a great hook for title for your hit song in among them.
Book titles are a particularly good source of song titles. It’s important to note that a book title can't be copyrighted. And a book that is a best seller - has probably already got a great, memorably title.
Write down all of the possible titles from your internet and amazon search and add them to you list. With any luck there will now be a few good contenders there.
5. Sleep on it. And review and you lists the next day. While you sleep your subconscious mind will thinking about you titles and your topic. There's a god chance that by the end of that day you will have a great title for your next song.
Now that you have your title, think up some questions and answer them
What does this title mean to you?
How does it make you feel?
Does it have multiple meanings?
What story could develop from this title?
What happens next?
Here's your task:
Do the exercise above and come up with a song title related to the topic love. Within the next seven days either have the first draft of a song or a set of lyrics that can be worked up into a song.
Give me feedback about how you got on by posting to the The Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/songwritingmagic/). The Facebook group is a good place to tell other songwriters about you experience, to share ideas and to learn from other songwriters.
Here's something that will surprise you. I say in my article that, if your aim is to write hits songs, ironically, those might be the easiest to write. Read the article to get the details of my arguments.
A critical part of my argument is the idea that you need to 'live in the world of the charts' - or more specifically live in the world of the specific chart you want to have a hit on. At this point in history - if you don't have the right bpm, the right tone, the right beat, the right rhythm, the right strong structure, the right vocal phrasing style - you ain't gonna get hits. What do people like right now? What songs are artists looking for right now? What is at the top of the charts right now? Are you writing songs like that? No? Yes?
Do you want an indie rock hit? A country hit? Electronic? Pop? Singer songwriter? Be the person who knows what's number 1 (and the rest) and what artists are coming up, what artists are fading away - what is happening in your genre? And don't worry that that means you won't sound like yourself, the Beatles and the Stones were trying to copy American Rock 'n' Roll and Blues - but they sounded nothing like the artists they tried to copy.
Want hits? Even if your genre is inspired by music from decades ago - be today, don't be yesterday.
In this video Chiara Berardelli talks about how songwriting makes her happy.
Chiara Berardelli is an Italian Scottish singer-songwriter living in Glasgow, Scotland. She grew up playing classical piano but spent most of her time playing along to any songs that made it over the airwaves to the Highlands of Scotland.
Chiara left her job as a doctor to follow her passion and studied music and songwriting in London and Bath. A lover of words, chords and honesty she writes confessional pop songs about life and how it affects her.
In 2010 she recorded her debut album 'Don't Be So Lovely' with Mark Freegard (Eddi Reader, Del Amitri) at Kyoti studio, Glasgow and self-released a further EP, 'My Big Mouth' in 2014. Her new album, Seamonster, released on March 2nd 2018, is her most personal project to date, inspired by the loss of her dream of becoming a mother. The songs depict a journey, from the crashing realisation that something so longed for is permanently out of reach in the title track to the tentative beginnings of finding joy again in the song Somewhere New.
Deep Space Hibernation, the lead single from the album, was Radio Scotland's Janice Forsyth's single of the week on the Afternoon Show and has also won an International Songwriting Award.
Chiara has collaborated with writer and director Rachel McJury to produce an intimate performance of the album's ten songs woven into a recounting of her experience of being childless not by choice and her quest to be ok with that. Seamonster, the Story appeared at The Barbican in April 2019 as part of Fertility Fest and will be journeying to Edinburgh's Free Fringe Festival in August.
Tom Rafferty is the guitarist in The Primevals and in The Beat Poets. Inspired by Dick Dale, Link Wray, Ry Cooder, Marc Ribot, The Raybeats and Underwater by The Frogmen.
Tom is famed for his guitar-based instrumental music. He is also a great songwriter, often collaborating with lyricists including The Primevals founder and front-man Michael Rooney.
In the last exercise I asked you to write a song from a set of lyrics. Here's the demo I recorded on my iPhone when the Bearpit Brothers played through it. That's as far as we got with that song - we didn't record it or work on it any further.
In this video, I introduced a technique that can lead to an inexhaustible source of new song ideas. I first heard a version of this idea from my favourite songwriting tutor Ed Bell. Ed is the author of the book, ‘The Art Of Songwriting’.
1. Type your favourite artists' name into iTunes or Spotify or whatever service you use. Take note of their most popular tune.
2. Listen to the song.
3. Search for the lyrics online, or if they aren't available, transcribe them from the song. Read and digest the song lyrics.
4. Summarise the story (or topic) of the song in a single line.
5. Change one word of your summary in a way that alters its meaning.
You have anew song idea. Now write a song based on it. :-)
For example, I'm a fan of The Secret Sisters. If I type their name into iTunes it tells me that their most popular song is called, 'Tomorrow Will Be Kinder'.
I Googled for the lyrics. Here is the first verse:
Tomorrow Will Be Kinder by The Secret Sisters
Black clouds are behind me, I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder
It is clear to me that the story of the song is summed up in the title itself; 'Tomorrow Will Be Kinder'. In summary - the narrator has endured, sorrow, trouble and a heavy heart - but believes tomorrow will be a kinder world to live in.
In this case, I don't need to write a summary - it's already in the title.
By changing one word there are a few ways I could alter the meaning:
Tomorrow will be cruel.
Today will be kinder.
I will be kinder
You will be kinder
Tomorrow won't be kinder
Tomorrow should be kinder
Love will be kinder
Choosing two of these ideas to expand upon - I can easily come up with some new ideas:
Tomorrow will be cruel
What story can you tell with this idea? Has this person lost a lover and now they must endure life without them? Is their heart full of hate for someone who has 'done them wrong'? Has the world become a crueller place to live in as every day passes?
Today will be Kinder
What story can you tell with this idea? Are you going to be kinder from now on? Has something momentous happened in your life and now you have 'seen the light'. Is the world becoming a kinder place? Have you reconnected with a friend or a lover?
Any one of these angles can be the start of your nest song.
It is now your song, don’t re-write the original
Do not try to rewrite the original song or go through the original lyrics and alter them to fit your new story. Take this new story or topic and use it as a jumping-off point for your own song.
With this one technique (thanks to Ed Bell) you will never be short of song ideas again.
If Elaine Lennon can't inspire you to work on your songwriting, no-one can.
I interviewed Elaine for the Songwriting Magic course. In this excerpt Elaine talks about writing the song, Fear (Breakup Song). She reveals both the message of the song and her writing process: dispensing tips, techniques and insights - in a way few can express so clearly.
Elaine's songwriting process isn't hindered by her busy family life, on the contrary it is crucial to adding that extra magic - that all great songs need.
Elaine Lennon is a breath of fresh air for songwriters: I'm confident that you will learn something valuable from this video.
Elaine's self-titled debut album is out now. Find out more at https://www.elainelennon.com/
Please give your response and comment about this video on the Songwriting Magic Facebook group. Is Elaine's experience the same as your own? What tips would you add?
Download Elaine's profile.
In this video Carol Laula talks about writing Gypsy - a song she wrote 30 years ago - which she has re-recorded it for her latest album, 'The Bones Of It'. It's a beautiful song inspired by her Romani Gypsy family background.
About Carol Laula
Scotland is famed the world over for its exports and one of its finest has to be singer-songwriter, Carol Laula. With a style which bobs around somewhere between the smooth, clear delicacy of Karen Carpenter and the tougher edges of Joan Armatrading, it's hardly surprising that she's risen from a young unknown to become a household name. She first captivated the media and her audience in 1990, when her independent single, 'Standing Proud', was chosen to represent Glasgow in its year of culture.
The same decade saw Carol team up with Stuart Adamson to produce a series of songs that will no doubt be seen as a legacy to the talent of the late Big Country singer / songwriter. Carol has also collaborated with Jane Weidlin of the Go-Gos, Ryan Hedgecock of Lone Justice and Australia's Cheryl Beattie.
In 1997, Carol took a study break - supposedly - but in between achieving her MA Honours Degree in Politics & English Literature at the University of Glasgow, she couldn't resist branching out into other aspects of the media and made her debut presenting shows for both BBC Radio and Scottish Television.
The noughties shaped up to be another busy decade her. As well as touring new areas such as Iceland, she has performed across the UK and Ireland with Eliza Gilkyson and appeared at Glastonbury - something of a highlight, when she not only shared the bill with Billy Bragg, but met her hero, Tony Benn.
With eight albums under her belt, the most recent The Bones of It (Vertical Records) released in February 2016, she still stirs critics to describe her as "One of Scotland's leading singer-songwriters" and "an undeniably passionate and whole-hearted singer".
Clare K. Duffin
e: Booking enquiry
Here is something I've learned lately - I thought I'd pass on - before it disappears from my head. It turns out that making 'home videos' of my songs to post them on Facebook is a teaching tool. Because when I watch them back I can see what works and what doesn't.
It's an obvious thing to say, but I'll say it anyway: playing a song live is completely different from recording it and there are a million different ways to play every song. Though, of course, what works for one will not work for another.
So how do we learn what works?
If you are playing lots of gigs, you will learn from the feedback you get from your audience. The more you play, the more you will learn and the more you will integrate that learning into your performance. Without you thinking about it you will develop a facility for reading your audience. Instead of playing your songs you learn to 'perform' them.
The flaw is, of course, many songwriters don't have the opportunity, or the desire, to play live. And right now, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, we can't, even if we wanted to.
Most of us have 'smart' phones that allow us to make videos of ourselves singing and playing the same song in many different ways. I've just realised this myself. We can be our own audience and critique our own performance.
So from now on, assuming time and motivation, I intend to take advantage of that facility to try to find the best way to present my own songs on my 'home videos'. I'll always be limited by my abilities, or lack of them, as a singer - but that's not an excuse for not presenting the song in the best way possible. By that I mean how it is arranged and performed.
This morning I played my song, The Yellow Clock in a few different ways. Here's one version. I would have replayed it without the tiny mistake in the solo and the out of tune note near the start - but I ran out of time. The good thing is, I can improve it next time. :-)
Onwards and upwards.
How I arranged the song, 'Do you remember Marseille?' https://youtu.be/Ufr6Wc946wI
In this week's video I talk about song arrangement. All of the basics are already covered on the Songwriting Magic course - which you can revisit at your leisure.
So, in this video I take a different approach; I discuss how I arranged the song, 'Do you remember Marseille?', i.e. the charity single I recorded and released yesterday.
I've tried to give you some insight into my thought processes during the recording and arranging process.
If you have questions or feedback please leave me comments below.
Song Start Tuesday 3. Try this 'free music' exercise. Disconnect from your conscious mind and let your subconscious direct your creativity.
Songwriting - certainly at the start of the process - is not a technical exercise; songs are not mathematics; not a puzzle that requires brain power to solve. Songs are not an Ikea cabinet you are trying to put together.
So get your brain out of the way; the song wants to be written - catch it rather than writing it. It's not a logical process - it's a creative process; and you already have all the tools you need.
"How does a person create a song? A lot of it is being open... to encounter and to... be in touch with the miraculous." Joni Mitchell
"..you are desperate.. to get down to the subconscious which (is where) I really think all the goodies come from." Quincy Jones - from the documentary Quincy
"My job is often only to finish a song idea that I’ve been lucky enough to receive.” Sananda Maitreya, aka Terence Trent D’Arby
"Every child is an artist. The challenge is to remain an artist after you grow up.” Pablo Picasso
I was listening to the latest episode of Song Exploder - a podcast created by Hrishikesh Hirway - which takes apart songs - to see how they work. For the last year, the Podcast has been guest hosted by Thao Nguyen.
Rishikesh was taking over the podcast again so was chatting to Tal about he experience hosting the podcast - and as part of that conversation, something caught my ear.
He wanted to change the intro music a little bit - just as a way to indicate the change of host - so he was talking through his process - and one thing he said was, that he wanted to ensure that the new music reflected your Thao Nguyen's energy. Specifically, the energy as expressed by her voice in her Podcast intro.
That idea of taking someone's energy as a starting point for music - I found it interesting. A day or so after that I was watching a documentary on the BBC iPlayer about composing film scores - and one of the talking heads was Moby - the electronic music artist. He pointed out that whether we are listening to the sound of a truck rattling past on the street outside or the sweet sound of a Bach cello concerto - our ear is being hit by the same thing - the energy of moving air. That air hits our eardrum (entire body in fact, as even people who are deaf, can 'hear' and enjoy music). One is just noise the other is music.
He pointed out that music - like many things in life - has no physical presence - we can't touch it and we can't see it. It only happens in our brains. Our brains interpret the air hitting our eardrums.
All of this got me thinking. As songwriters we essentially organising and presenting energy which manifests as a waveform.
So why not try to use that idea itself as a starting point for a song?
We are all different but we should all be striving to be unique and to write our 'own' songs. So my suggestion for this week is to identify your energy level and try to write some music that reflects that. Some of us are laid back (like myself) and some of us are 'all go', full of beans.
So first identify your energy fingerprint, then write music or a song - that reflects that fingerprint. For one thing - this really should help you to write music that is a reflection of you and not a copy or a pastiche of something else's work.
Please note there will be no Song Start Tuesday next week, I'm taking a break over the festive period. Enjoy yourselves and I'll see you when I get back.