(First in a series of blogs answering Frequently Asked Questions about songwriting, music production, arranging, and the business of music.)
When I teach songwriting, inevitably I am asked what books I recommend to learn more about songwriting. I own a number of useful books on the subject, a couple of which I’ve read more than once. Below is a brief list from my library on the craft of writing. I’ll post a separate blog in the days to come about books on the business of music.
If you have a book to recommend, I hope you’ll post it in the comments.
The Craft of Christian Songwriting (by Robert Sterling)
What? You thought I wouldn’t put my own book on the list? Wrong. This is fun read aimed at the beginning songwriter. It focuses on matters of craft, like the title says: Song structure, rhyme scheme, hooks, poetic devices, and such. It also addresses the creative process, how to build a demo, and the all-important subject of re-writing. It even has a chapter on collaboration and a chapter on critical analysis (with links to listening demos here at my website).
The Craft of Lyric Writing (by Sheila Davis)
This is the lyricist’s Bible. Aimed at the higher-level lyricist, the book digs deeply into every subject it covers. Davis references a thousand well-known songs as examples. Be prepared to read this book slowly, and then re-read it. It takes time to absorb all the author has to offer.
How to Write a Hit Song (by Molly-Ann Leiken)
This is a smallish book with a lot of helpful tips and ideas. It doesn’t go into great depth, but focuses on what makes a song a hit.
Songwriters on Songwriting (by Paul Zollo)
This is a collection of 31 interviews, featuring advice and inspiration from the likes of Carole King, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, and Jimmy Webb. It takes a peek behind the creative curtain of some of the best pop songwriters of the past sixty years. Each interview is only 10-15 pages, so it’s a fun book to read in short bursts.
Songwriting and the Creative Process (by Steve Gillette)
Focusing mostly on the basic craft of writing, this book also includes a steady stream of anecdotal essays from various other writers. It’s designed to make it easy to pick the chapter that deals with whatever subject or craft problem you might be facing at any given time.
Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting (by Jimmy Webb)
Jimmy Webb is one of America’s greatest living songwriters. The book is worth its price for the anecdotes alone. It also demonstrates that Webb’s phenomenal success was no accident. He really knows his stuff, going into great depth, both on lyrics and music. I recommend you read the chapters on melody and chords while seated at the piano.
Soon to come: Are there any good books on the music business?
(If you have a question about songwriting or the music business for my FAQ series, send it to me via the email contact form here at the website, and I’ll do my best to answer it.)