Songwriting magic and craft
4.6 (26 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
2,605 students enrolled

Songwriting magic and craft

Learn songwriting craft and magic from award winning Scottish songwriter Jim Byrne. Learn to write great songs!
4.6 (26 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
2,605 students enrolled
Created by Jim Byrne
Last updated 7/2020
English [Auto]
Current price: $139.99 Original price: $199.99 Discount: 30% off
5 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 6.5 hours on-demand video
  • 32 articles
  • 38 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • 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.

Who this course is for:
  • 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.
Course content
Expand all 97 lectures 07:28:40
+ Welcome: you are on your way to becoming a great songwriter
13 lectures 51:17

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.

  • Writing  hooks.

  • Standard song forms and why they work.

  • Principles of great melodies

  • How to write better lyrics.

  • Rhyme for songwriters.

  • Song arrangement.

Downloads include

  • 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:

  • Exercises

  • Quizzes

  • Tools & tips 

  • Opportunities for reflection

  • And discussion

"Tell your own story, and you will be interesting." Louise Bourgeois

Preview 03:01

About my own background and experience as a songwriter. Drawn from over 40 years of writing songs.

Preview 06:23

Introduce yourself to your fellow songwriters. :-)

Introduce Yourself

You are a songwriter, and what do songwriters do? They write songs. So I want you get started on one right now. :-)

Assignment: Start a new song right now!

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 ( The Facebook group is a good place to tell other songwriters about you experience, to share ideas and to learn from other songwriters.

Assignment: Start a new song from a title
It will help me to tailor my lessons to your exact needs if I know how far you are along on your 'songwriting journey'.
Are you a beginner or already writing songs?
3 questions
I Believe in you!

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.

Bonus: How to write a hit song
Don't wait, start now
Bonus: One2One song feedback session - how it will work
Bonus: 50 Songwriting Tips & Songwriters Glossary
A summary of section one and what's next
Bonus: audio versions of all video tutorials

There are 13 bonus downloads on this page:

  • 10 Step Songwriting Guide

  • 50 Songwriting Tips

  • How to stay motivated and inspired.

  • Songwriting makes you happy.

Even More Course Bonuses: Tips, Songwriting Guide
+ How to become a songwriter; the magic of songwriting is yours for the taking
8 lectures 25:18
Introduction to section two

My thoughts on how you become a songwriter.

Preview 03:24

Songwriters should always try to really ‘hear’ a song; i.e. figure out ‘how it works’. Learning about the choices other songwriters make, makes you a better songwriter. Ask yourself, how was this song created,  how is it arranged and why is it arranged in this way.

The three main elements of a song
Listen to your favourite album from your favourite songwriter and write down your answers to the following questions:
Become an active listener
8 questions
Your response to the active listening exercise.
Reflection exercise: 'active listener' feedback.
1 question
The Creativity Loop: Creativity, inspiration and your brain
In this exercise I want you to reflect on both the ideas outlined in the lecture about 'creativity and your brain' and the suggested creativity exercises.
Reflection exercise: creativity research & getting into your creative mind space
3 questions
You are smarter than you think
Ten ‘Get Started’ Creativity Exercises
Learn from Charles Bukowski
A summary of section two and what you can expect in the next section
+ Inspirational advice from professional songwriters & artists
10 lectures 35:24

Songwriting advice from Ivor Novello winning songwriter Boo Hewerdine

Boo Hewerdine - Ivor Novello winning prolific songwriter

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.

Chiara Berardelli - Singer-Songwriter: Does Songwriting Make You Happy?

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.

Advice from instrumentalist Tom Rafferty

Americana songwriter and performer Martha Healy's advice for songwriters.

Martha Healy - Americana Artist

Michael Rooney is the singer snd main songwriter og The Primevals; a Glasgow Psychedelic rock group formed in 1983. Influenced by the MC5, The Stooges, Captain Beefheart, The Cramps, and 1960s US garage rock.

Michael Rooney - Garage Rock Songwriter

Advice for songwriters: from electropop songwriter and performer Carla J Easton.

Carla J Easton - Electropop Artist
Duglas T Stewart of BMX Bandits - Advice and the Magic of Collaboration
Stay true to yourself
A summary of section three and what's next
In this section you have watched interviews with professional songwriters. I asked each songwriter to pass on to new songwriters the lessons they have learned from their own expirence. In this assignment I want you to jot down the ideas that struck you most.
What did you learn from these interviews?
3 questions
+ Create your chord progessions and learn song forms
19 lectures 01:12:26
What's in this section of the course
Moving beyond the three chord trick - and why it’s not just about chords
Six magic chords 1.
Six Magic Chords 2: How to work out the chords in each key
You are powerful beyond measure
Nashville Number System: if you can count to five you are sorted

The following quiz is designed to test your knowledge of the Nashviell System. All questions assume the key of C.

Nashville System Quiz
4 questions
Great Chord Progressions: Magic Or Science?

There are a million ways to get started on a song here's one; don't try to write a song. Just play your instrument and let your natural creativity do the writing for you. All you do is play and listen.

Let's get started on a new song; an experiment.
How to build and release musical tension in your songs
Don't avoid taking risks
A million chord ideas
The purpose of this exercise is to give you an opportunity to use what you have learned.
Create your own chord progression for these lyrics
1 question
Write a song with these words or inspired by these words

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.

Demo of the song by the Bearpit Brothers for those lyrics
Bonus: The 4 most common chords in seven different keys

Mobile & tablet apps that will help you to find great chord progressions.

Bonus: Apps for finding chord ideas
Don't wait until everything is right
Bonus: How to make the magic chords
A summary of section 4 and what's next
+ Write your song lyrics.
14 lectures 55:12
Writing lyrics: 10 suggestions for getting started
How to write lyrics from stream of consciousness: How I write my song lyrics
How to write lyrics from research: Findlay Napier
How to write to write lyrics from life: Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits)
Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself
Watch the lectures outlining three approaches to writing lyrics; 'stream of consciousness', 'research' and 'lyrics from your own life experience'. Choose one of those approaches and write a set of lyrics for your next song.
Write a song using one of the above techniques (i..e. in the last 3 lectures).
3 questions

A short introduction to object writing; a technique outlined in Pat Pattison book, ‘How to write better lyrics’.

Object writing as a technique to write better lyrics
  • In this exercise you wil practice your lyric writing by re-writing the words of an existing song.

Assignment: Re-write an existing lyric
Don't waste your energy trying to change opinions
Now's your time to rhyme. Rhyme schemes for songwriters
The goal of this exercise it to become familiar with the different types of rhyme schemes so that you can use them in your own songs.
Rhyme schemes assignment
1 question
Bonus: Write a song with these lyrics. The Letter
Bonus: Ruby McCann talks about how to us poetic devices to write song lyrics.

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.

Bonus: An inexhaustible source of new song ideas.
A summary of section 5. it is time to write a great melody for your next song.
Bonus: Learn from storytellers to write better song lyrics
+ Bonus section: Lyricists talking about how they work.
5 lectures 33:16

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

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.

Elaine Lennon: Don't just conquer your fears, write and song about them

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".

Contact information:

Clare K. Duffin

Booking enquiries:
RLN Music
e: Booking enquiry

Scottish songwriter Carol Laula talks about writing Gypsy

Ruthie Kennedy is lyricist and singer for the fantastic Chiptune Pop Duo King Wine. King Wine use only one 'instrument', a Gameboy 'played' by Craig Wilson.

Ruthie Kennedy of Chiptune pop duo talks to me about writing lyrics.
Ivor Novello Winner Boo Hewerdine - Writing His Hit Song Patience of Angels
+ Write your melody - memorable and inspirational
9 lectures 01:16:07
Make your melody: the basic building blocks
The melody exercise; how did I get on?
3 Simple ways to create a melody for your song.

An introduction to the songwriting techniques of hit songwriter and producter Max Martin. Max Martin is the most successfull songwriter apart from Lennon & McCartney. In this lesson I outlined hte seven rules of Melodic Math; what they are and why they work.

Melodic Math Part One: Introduction

I look at the song 'I and I and you' to find out if it passes the Melodic Math test. In the process I describe a technique for consistently fitting words to a melody.

Melodic Math Part Two: Words & Melody - An Analysis Of One of My Own Songs

The song 'One More Time' was a world wide hit for Britney Spears. It was written and produced by Max Martin. In this lesson I look at how well it makes use of the seven rules of Melodic Math.

Melodic Math Part Three: A study of Britney Spears: Baby One More Time

In this download you will learn about different types of hook and get some ideas for creating your own. 

How to create great hooks
The "let's get started together" exercise is designed to demonstrate a number of points: 1. the random nature of creativity. 2. Your brain's capacity for organising and make sense of seemingly random activities. 3. A technique to bypass your 'thinking brain and access your subconscious.
Reflection activity: Write your feedback / thoughts on the songwriting activity
3 questions
Bonus: Keys, scales, Intervals & Harmony - introduction by Graham Mackintosh
Summary of section 6 and introduction to arrangement.
+ Bonus section: arrange your song and find your beat
8 lectures 37:15
Arrange your songs - an introduction: what is arrangement?
Songwriting trends for 2020
Assignment: Listen to the Sharon Van Etton Episode on Song Exploder Podcast
Time Signatures: an introduction from guitar tutor Graham Mackintosh
Songwriter Martha Healy talks about song arrangement
The best way to understand song arrangement is to learn from the best (across different genres); Otis Redding, Try a little tenderness; Ariana Grande’s & Max Martin, Into You; Bruno Mars, 24K Magic. When you have listened to please post your own thoughts to the forum.
Learn arrangement by listening to and deconstructing great songs
3 questions
Bonus Download: The Secret of Good to Great

Here are my four favourite podcasts on songwriting. This section of the course is all about song arrangement and these podcasts all dive deep into that topic. I guarantee you will be as hooked on them as I am. Happy listening!

Bonus: My favourite podcasts on songwriting
+ Bonus: Videos
11 lectures 01:02:21

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.

Bonus: How to become a better live performer of your own songs.

How I arranged the song, 'Do you remember Marseille?'

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.

Arranging the song, 'Do you remember Marseille?'. Insights and lessons.
Song Start Tuesday Episode 1: Introduction and starting chords

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

" 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

Songs Start Tuesday Episode 3: A creativity warm up exercise

Song Start Tuesday episode 4: There are a million songs in every chord.

Song Start Tuesday Episode 5: A million songs in every chord

Song Start Tuesday episode 5. Do you need to get started on words for your song? Just look around the room.

Songs Start Tuesday Episode 4: Look around the room

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.

Song Start Tuesday Episode 6: You can't touch music, but it can touch you.

In this video I talk about creating songs from riffs. Once you have a decent riff you can create a song quite quickly.

Song Start Tuesday: Start with a riff
Song Start Tuesday: Rhythm as a way to generate song ideas.
Bonus: Songwriting makes you happy :-)