Saturday, September 08, 2007

How To Write the Perfect Song

Here's a nice collection of songwriting wisdom from some pros as condensed by The Q Daily from Q Magazine. These pearls speak for themselves:

How to write the perfect song

Flick through the new issue of Q magazine and you’ll find interviews with some of music’s most revered songwriters, including Burt Bacharach, Michael Stipe, Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave. Here’s their wisdom condensed.

Melody comes first
Bjork: “When I write a song I start by singing the melodies live in my head. They go in circles. I guess I’m quite conservative and romantic about the power of melodies. I try not to record them on my Dictaphone when I first hear them. If I forget about all about it and it pops up later on, then I know it’s good enough. I let my subconscious do the editing for me.”

Treat it like a job
Nick Cave: “My writing environment is an office. It’s a daily routine. I’m in there about 9am and I finish about 4 or 5. Unless something’s going really well. I write in a pad, by hand, then I put it into the computer. I just sit there and write. Go back and forth on the piano and the guitar.”

Find the killer hook
Tim Rice-Oxley: “It’s always lyrical as well as musical. If you took All You Need Is Love and replaced it with something about shopping for vegetables, it wouldn’t be as good. You get those moments when a little genius phrase, musical or lyrical, comes out. Then you’ve broken the back of the song. And that can happen in five seconds. And the rest of the time that’s what you’re searching for.”

Burt Bacharach: “When I first met [songwriting partner] Hal David he looked like he could be an accountant, and he smoked all the time. We sat down in the room with a broken-down old piano. I got maybe more credit than I deserve, because it was a two-way thing. At the time, I wasn’t thinking what the lyrics meant. He’s an unbelievable talent.”

Steer clear of drugs
Pete Doherty: “I’d say drugs are an alternative to songwriting. It’s something else to do rather than play guitar. Sit down and have a pipe instead. It’s not conducive to concentrating and playing and singing. It’s not really a conscious thing – but I tend not to get a lot done when I’m battered.”

Not everything has to rhyme
Mchael Stipe: “I realised that for several records I’d automatically try to make everything rhyme. On our first EP [1982’s Chronic Town] none of the lyrics rhymed. Those songs worked. And I had this epiphany. Shit, I’ve been trying to rhyme things for a decade and I really don’t need to.”

Enjoy the buzz
Rufus Wainwright: “The most magnificent thing about the whole process of songwriting is the euphoria involved. Often you’ll be writing a song and you think at the time it’s going to be a Number 1 hit! It’s so far from that, but in the heat of it that’s what you feel. And that delusional belief pushes everything forward.”

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