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What makes a person a good songwriter?

The Villan 17 Feb 07 - 03:09 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 17 Feb 07 - 03:51 AM
Alec 17 Feb 07 - 04:07 AM
alanabit 17 Feb 07 - 04:07 AM
GUEST,ian 17 Feb 07 - 04:24 AM
Georgiansilver 17 Feb 07 - 04:28 AM
The Villan 17 Feb 07 - 04:58 AM
Bernard 17 Feb 07 - 05:16 AM
My guru always said 17 Feb 07 - 05:26 AM
alanabit 17 Feb 07 - 05:47 AM
My guru always said 17 Feb 07 - 05:54 AM
George Papavgeris 17 Feb 07 - 07:07 AM
Tim theTwangler 17 Feb 07 - 07:39 AM
number 6 17 Feb 07 - 08:14 AM
deadfrett 17 Feb 07 - 08:37 AM
The Shambles 17 Feb 07 - 09:29 AM
John Hardly 17 Feb 07 - 09:45 AM
Arkie 17 Feb 07 - 09:50 AM
Linda Kelly 17 Feb 07 - 10:49 AM
GUEST 17 Feb 07 - 11:08 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Feb 07 - 11:31 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Feb 07 - 11:32 AM
mg 17 Feb 07 - 12:34 PM
GUEST,Janet 17 Feb 07 - 12:50 PM
mg 17 Feb 07 - 05:25 PM
The Villan 17 Feb 07 - 05:28 PM
Tim theTwangler 17 Feb 07 - 09:53 PM
GUEST,rimshot 17 Feb 07 - 09:56 PM
English Jon 18 Feb 07 - 07:59 AM
Midchuck 18 Feb 07 - 08:43 AM
Hawker 18 Feb 07 - 09:01 AM
retrancer 18 Feb 07 - 09:08 AM
retrancer 18 Feb 07 - 09:10 AM
Elaine Green 18 Feb 07 - 09:35 AM
Elaine Green 18 Feb 07 - 09:35 AM
retrancer 18 Feb 07 - 09:39 AM
14fret 18 Feb 07 - 11:05 AM
The Villan 18 Feb 07 - 11:30 AM
Big Al Whittle 18 Feb 07 - 12:52 PM
the lemonade lady 18 Feb 07 - 01:13 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 Feb 07 - 01:25 PM
Bert 18 Feb 07 - 01:50 PM
George Papavgeris 18 Feb 07 - 01:54 PM
Georgiansilver 18 Feb 07 - 02:43 PM
Bert 18 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM
Hawker 18 Feb 07 - 03:27 PM
Scrump 18 Feb 07 - 03:33 PM
Grab 18 Feb 07 - 03:55 PM
Bernard 19 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM
Alec 19 Feb 07 - 12:32 PM
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Subject: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 03:09 AM

There are many people writing songs, but what makes a person a very good songwriter and why. Why do these people stand out from the crowd.

I guess this should be a thread about advice/Tips and Tricks/Pitfalls etc.

It should not be a thread about who is the best songwriter.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 03:51 AM

Apart from the obvious i.e. musical skills and a way with words, I think the key thing is " imagination".


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 04:07 AM

Consistently good Melodists are not usually consistently good Lyricists.
Consistently good Lyricists are not usually consistently good Melodists.
Though there are a great number of exceptions perhaps one of the things that make someone a very good songwriter is recognising that often it takes two?


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: alanabit
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 04:07 AM

I think the most important quality of a song is its resonance. By that I mean its quality of being able to strike a chord with a listener and make something happen for that person. To my mind, the quality, which marks out the best songwriters is the ability to "hear" the songs rather than to just make them up. We can all make up words and tunes till kingdom come, but our efforts may not move any other person. So although I agree with most of the previous remarks on other threads about the craft, I think that the very best have an instinct, which tells them what will connect with other people.
Now I look forward to a chance to pick up some wisdom from some of the many fine writers on Mudcat!


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,ian
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 04:24 AM

song writing should have no barriers or taboo's.It is not all about the maths or right and wrong way to create.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 04:28 AM

I really enjoy songwriting although I would not claim to be a particularly good one. Tunes often come into my head...not sure why and I sometimes get inspired by those tunes to put particular words to them. Sometimes I have the words and a tune comes...maybe when I am driving my car...that seems to be the most inspirational place.
I too hope to learn a lot from this thread as I would like to be a good songwriter.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 04:58 AM

>>Consistently good Melodists are not usually consistently good Lyricists.
Consistently good Lyricists are not usually consistently good Melodists.
Though there are a great number of exceptions perhaps one of the things that make someone a very good songwriter is recognising that often it takes two? <<

Although not always applicable, I think that makes a lot of good sense Alec


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bernard
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 05:16 AM

When singing a song in public, you have an obligation to your audience. When singing for your own enjoyment, or with a few friends, you can indulge your inner needs. If you can entertain your audience and satisfy your inner needs, then you've cracked it!

The ability to edit the output ruthlessly is most important, I reckon. Successful songwriters have often discarded more songs than they have used, certainly in the early years.

If a song isn't 'up to standard', then bin it... or keep it to one side and use bits of it to write a better one!

Whilst I agree people should be free to write songs without restrictions, I am also free to decide whether I like the results or not!

Keeping a song concise and to the point (okay, we know there are many good traditional songs with 147+ verses...!) is usually a good guideline. If a song is longer than around 4˝ minutes, the audience will start to get bored unless the song is exceptionally good. It will also influence whether you get 'air time' on a radio programme...!

An example is a song a friend of mine wrote some years ago with eight two line verses, and choruses in between that were twice the length of the verses! We were recording it for an album, and I suggested to him that the song would possibly be improved by running two verses together and shortening the chorus to two lines - which was how it appeared on the album. It gave the song more 'punch'.

I'm not a songwriter, couldn't write a song if my life depended on it! That doesn't necessarily mean I don't know a good song when I hear it!!


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: My guru always said
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 05:26 AM

The ability to observe would be a key skill I'm sure, as many of the best songs I've heard are from real-life moments and experiences.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: alanabit
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 05:47 AM

Jerry Rasmussen, on one of the earlier song writing threads, wrote that it was very important to listen to other people's ideas and conversations. He has the knack of seeing small things as symbols of people's lives. His excellent song, "Old Blue Suit" is a case in point. He heard one day about how the family planned to bury a relative in his old suit. So Jerry used it as a symbol of a life of decency and accomplishment.
That would fit in with what you are saying mgas.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: My guru always said
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 05:54 AM

That's exactly the sort of skill I was thinking of alanabit!!!


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 07:07 AM

Beyond the skills and techniques, two things: Empathy and character. Empathy because it is no good being observant unless you can use the observation to put yourself in other people's shoes. And character to impart your viewpoint, to want to influence others; the songwriter's character should come through the song, so that when you hear the song you should get a feel for the person that wrote it. Stan Rogers, Jez Lowe, Eric Bogle, and - most of all - Robb Johnson are good examples of this.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 07:39 AM

Other people who want to listen?


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: number 6
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 08:14 AM

A person who is true to himself.

biLL


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: deadfrett
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 08:37 AM

Ahh, that would be a good song. Is the sky blue or purple or is it periwinkle? The best time for song ideas are in the first ten minutes after wakingup in morning. I'm still in touch with the subconcious and not yet connected to the daily phooey. Cheers to all.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Shambles
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 09:29 AM

The ablity to write good songs.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: John Hardly
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 09:45 AM

Art that is about art usually only finds audience in a like-minded (narrow) group. Art that is about life usually finds a broader audience and a longer shelf life.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Arkie
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 09:50 AM

In a conversation with a local songwriter he mentioned that he did not listen to other people's songs because he wrote his own.   I have not heard any of his songs but the songwriters I most enjoy do listen to other music and some of them have extensive repertoires of traditional music and good music of earlier times. I would say a good foundation is one of the essentials to good songwriting. Introspection is of minimal value and the ability to objectively evaluate what one has created is also valuable.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Linda Kelly
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 10:49 AM

Gin?


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 11:08 AM

I agree with Arkie's observation. Most of my favourite songwriters have a great love of music and sing a variety of songs. They usually have enormous respect for both the tradition and their own contemporaries, and I'm sure that by opening their minds this way their own songs have a much richer variety of subject, tune, lauguage etc.

It seems to me that if you 'shut out' other musical influences you'll never know whether you're just 'reinventing the wheel' by saying what's already been said a hundred times before, and probably better.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 11:31 AM

the ability to win radio 2 awards, positive interface with albino herbivores..... ?

I really can't think.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 11:32 AM

Songwriting is drawing from a well of experiences, and music that's moved us.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: mg
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 12:34 PM

The songs I like best, which doesn't mean they are good, are ones that are very specific as to place and time..and give a person's name..my name is Peter Amberly..PEI..1880...I think that is how they become universal. Also, the ones I like best, and probably the only ones I would want to sing, have a very strict rhythm and the words match up exactly to the notes and there is not a jumble of syllables per note. Also, the words tend to be short..one or two syllables and rhyme exactly. The tune is very important and I do believe that in most cases each song deserves its own tune..there are plenty of notes to go around and a person who can write good lyrics can just team up with someone to put a tune to it. mg


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Janet
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 12:50 PM

Maidenhead Folk Club is shortly to run its famous song writing competition, so no doubt all over the south-east would-be writers are sweating blood to come up with something passable. I have entered several times and I cannot tell you just how much work goes into it. I agree with Bernard on the necessity for thorough re-writing - over and over again until one is at least hopeful it will not be a total embarrassment. Truth to tell, I think those who can, do, and the rest of us should appreciate just how clever they are.

I always say it's like a breech birth: comes out backwards and with great difficulty!


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: mg
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 05:25 PM

I will take another stab here...probably some sort of not getting a swelled head and going on about their craft and how they have to spend hours and hours. If it is not worth the time, don't do it. Watch TV instead or play rugby or something. We don't put huge amounts of effort into writing postcards do we? Yet we get the message across. I think the best songs probably sound somewhat natural and spoken as a person would speak them because that is how they flowed from the person's brain and the more twiddling that is done and revising (why?) the less natural it has to be....go with the first draft and once it is out there in public don't confuse everyone with new versions which I have rarely found to be an improvement over the old ones...if your meter is choppy take it to a copy editor of some sort who can keep the same meaning and most of the phrasing but make it fall better onto the notes. mg


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 05:28 PM

I don't put any effort in writing postcards MG or singing or writing songs,so can't comment.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Tim theTwangler
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 09:53 PM

But I have heard him sing
LOL


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,rimshot
Date: 17 Feb 07 - 09:56 PM

D'ja hear the one about how the singer-songwriter sings the scale?


Do, Re, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: English Jon
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 07:59 AM

Lol...

Being Gay and / or Jewish seems to help a lot- Then again, I did spend WAY too long working in music theatre.

My father who is a poet rather than songwriter always says "you have to be prepared to murder your babies"

Ie, revise to the point of destroying/completely changing the original if necessary.

Honestly, though, I wish I knew - I'm a dreadful songwriter (hence only ever doing trad stuff that was obsolete when grandad was a boy)

Cheers,
J


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Midchuck
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 08:43 AM

An unhappy love life is a great help. Some of the best songs I know, that were written by people I know personally, were written right after the songwriters were dumped, or while the dumping was in progress.

Or maybe that's rationalization on my part - the idea that the reason I write very few good songs is that I've been in a very satisfactory monogamous relationship for 40+ years.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Hawker
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 09:01 AM

I dont honestly think that there is a definitive answer, for me I love songs that appeal tune-wise to my ear... and meaningful words. The sad, emotive and passionate songs written from an obvious stimulus are often more powerful I have found, as they were meant.
I have written a few songs that people actually liked! With me I never toil over a song, songs just happen, often whilst driving the car alone, sometimes the words happen first and sometimes the music. Often they are as a result of story or event that meant something to me.
I dont think you should keep changing and changing a song, But a song needs to be sung-in till it feels comfortable. And if I aint comfortable with it, i wont share it! Its like playing a tune to people you that wouldn't want to hear yourself!
But hey, I haven't written that many songs and what do I know?
I'm just glad that there are such talented people out there who give me a chance to enjoy their creations by execising my vocal chords!
Keep writing out there!
Cheers, Lucy


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 09:08 AM

I would not confuse being able to give an emotive performance and establishing a good connection with the audience with good songwriting. That is good performance no matter who wrote the song. I mean if Marianne Faithful or Mick sing "As Tears Go By", its still a heavy duty song as long as its done well - doesent matter who wrote it.

Maybe the elements of songwriting and the skill requirements vary with genre and form - a ballad for example needs to tell a story, put the person in a location - a love song is going to need similie and metaphor. A song about a feeling of sadness, joy or an event, needs some specifics that are generalizable to a wider set of circumstances (audience).

Just some thoughts - I have read some sites about song requirements and rigid structure and formulas, It makes sense but I do not take it too literally - one of mine, broken rainbows,(www.geocities.com/retrancer) has no chorus at all, no bridge, and no break. still it is one of my more popular tunes. The rhymes are precise generally, and the wording and metaphor simple and direct.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 09:10 AM

oops - but about the person being a songwriter - compassion, empathy, insight, vocabulary, creativity - some musical skills but no virtuosos needed.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Elaine Green
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 09:35 AM

Learning the rules well enough to be able to throw them out the window if the spirit sends you that way. Take Lennon-McCartney, for example. Heavy traditional (no, not in the folk sense!) song structure. Verses, choruses, bridges (almost always), breaks, blah, blah.

But when it didn't suit the song sweeping into them, they were perfectly willing to dispense with any and all rules. BUT, they always came back to them as the basis.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Elaine Green
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 09:35 AM

Oh, yeah, and the all important element of being inspired and energetic in the first place!


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 09:39 AM

I agree although I should probably learn the rules abit better myself before ignoring them. I went ahead and posted the lyrics to "Broken Rainbows"


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: 14fret
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 11:05 AM

Re; 'Villian', Feb' 17th. So why did you?
If you've nothing to bring to the table, don't show up!


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 11:30 AM

14Fret :-)


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 12:52 PM

its all a bit silly really.

some peoples idea of a good songwriter, ain't others. much in the way that some peoples idea of a good person won't accord with another persons.

I always like very individual voices like george Formby and Randy Newman. You don't really hear other people doing their material as well as they do (did - in thecase of George).

Other peple think that say Gershwin and Porter are the apotheosis of songwriting, because different artists are attracted to giving different 'readings'.

I'm a bit reminded of the the words of the srtist Charles Strickland in the novel the moon and sixpence - he says something to the effect:-

When a man falls in the water he has to swim, it doesn't matter whether he swims well or badly - but that is what he knows he must do.

I think all artstic endeavour is a bit like that. You do what you can. You probably take advantage of whatever the local condition supply you with, and you do your best.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 01:13 PM

Someone who can convey thought into words. I feel someone has had to really experience what it is they are writing about to be convincing.

Sal


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 01:25 PM

well that can't be right - look at all those songs about the deep south by Stephen Foster. Songs about the ist world war by Eric Bogle.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 01:50 PM

Bernard, I usually try not to exceed three minutes for any song, then if I do run over a bit it's not too bad.

mg, personally I find that too many perfect rhymes can sometimes make a song seem too contrived, especially if the song is very emotional.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 01:54 PM

Agreed, Bert - but too few rhymes can equally make it seem sloppy in some cases. But that is all about technique.

weelittledrummer, again I agree; perhaps it is possible to "experience" events second hand - if you have the empathy, which is why I think the latter is important.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 02:43 PM

Not so much empathy necessarily as knowledge and intuition perhaps.
Inspiration, knowledge, ability to rhyme and time, an overall sense of cause and effect.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM

A sense of humour helps too.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Hawker
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 03:27 PM

and where possible not too many verses!
Cheers, Lucy


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 03:33 PM

Consistently good Melodists are not usually consistently good Lyricists.
Consistently good Lyricists are not usually consistently good Melodists.
Though there are a great number of exceptions perhaps one of the things that make someone a very good songwriter is recognising that often it takes two?


Good point. Although there are of course some gifted individuals who are able to do both, i.e. come up with good lyrics and melodies, I know at least one lyricist who has no musical knowledge at all, and is tone deaf, but he can write fabulous lyrics. Luckily, he writes in partnership with a talented composer who can write stunning melodies. Between them, they've written some of the best songs I've ever heard.

Needless to say, this pair have never had any great success :-(

To be a successful songwriter is something else entirely, just as being a successful singer or musician is possible without being a good singer or musician.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Grab
Date: 18 Feb 07 - 03:55 PM

To quote Brian Bedford: "The best songwriters are the ones who like to play with language." They need the words at their fingertips so that they can choose the perfect one, and they need to hear the way the words rub together to choose the perfect sentence or phrasing, or twist a phrase in an unexpected direction. Brian Bedford is a truly great songwriter for that...

Graham.


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bernard
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM

Sometimes a 'contrived' rhyme makes a song memorable. Can't just remember any right now...

Hee hee! ;o)


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Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 12:32 PM

"There came a man from Budapest,there never was a ruder pest"
Lerner & Lowe.


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