Join the family & learn how to write better songs, in any style

We’re here to help you write better songs, and help you progress in your songwriting journey.

Every Tuesday, we talk to a songwriter from any style and from any ability level to explore techniques that will actually help you write better, more memorable and more successful songs. Since November 2013, we’ve talked to many songwriters, from beginners to professionals and everything in between and had a blast each and every show. Join us and get those songs moving!

Fresh Content

Show date:  Apr. 23, 2017

Neel, Vanessa, Bruce and Phil

This week, Bruce, Neel and Phil discussed their roles as Co-Organizers of the Songwriter’s Cafe Meetup group in Toronto. We also featured songs from some of our guests who we discovered at the meetup.

We talked about:

  • why it’s important to host meetups regularly
  • tips for running a successful meetup
  • building a community of songwriters in your hometown
  • costs, logistics and benefits to running your group through meetup.com

Listen to the whole show

Show date:  Apr. 17, 2017

Neel, Sarah, Charlotte, Vanessa, Phil, and Patrick,

Young pop sensations the Command Sisters (Charlotte and Sarah) joined us to talk about writing as a sibling duo and working with producers. Patrick Ballantyne filled in for Bruce.

We also talked about:

  • how to write a 2-chord song
  • the musical Book of Mormon
  • whether to repeat lyrics in each chorus
  • the challenge of writing direct lyrics vs. abstract lyrics
  • when editing, do you change the lyrics or the melody?

Download the lyrics for the songs, Back To You and Low Profile.

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Show date: 

electric guitar, headphones, and notebook on the floor with the caption 7 ways to bring variety to your songs

When writing a collection of songs, whether for a album release or in general, we sometimes end up playing it safe and resorting to tried and true motifs and ideas for every song.

For myself, when I become a fan of an artist or band, I like to hear a variety of songs. Sometimes the differences are obvious, like a ballad vs. a rockin’ out song. And sometimes, the variety comes in more subtle ways – ways that only looking closer reveals. Your audience will know something feels different and unique, but only the more discerning listeners will know the how and the why.

More than likely, you’re already doing some of these “7 ways” – they are by no means truly unique ideas, as my examples of popular songs will show. Some of them may not work for you, and this list is by no means exhaustive. Hopefully, looking at these will spur on some more ideas. So let’s get into it.

One: Play with the structure

The typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus structure is a go-to for many songwriters. But you don’t have to look any further than the Beatles for excellent examples of structural inventiveness. In I Feel Fine, for example, the title occurs at the end of each verse. Then there’s a “B” section that almost sounds like a bridge, until it repeats later, and then maybe you can call it the chorus. Who knows? And more importantly, who cares? It’s all catchy, the title is clear, and the changes are frequent, regular, and interesting. They did something similar with A Hard Day’s Night, and we argued about it on an episode of Song Talk Radio.

When you play around with structure, the parts of the songs sometimes defy conventional nomenclature. Call it a bridge or a chorus, it doesn’t matter; it’s merely semantics. Sometimes it’s more effective to use terms like “A section”, “B section”, and “tag.”

Sometimes the narrative you establish can inspire an unconventional structure. For my song, Depend on Me, I established a narrative with three distinct parts: the easy going afternoon drive, a car accident, and the aftermath. This structure inspired me to begin the song with a simple verse chorus, verse chorus, then a bridge (for the accident) and a completely new section for the aftermath. Read more »

Show date:  Apr. 07, 2017

Joel, Phil, Carmen, Emily, and Bruce

Emily Mac is a singer-songwriter and a regular at our Songwriter’s Roundtable Meetup. She joined us with piano player Joel to perform and talk about two of her songs, Back to the Rhythm and When It’s Gone. Special guest host Carmen Toth filled in for Neel. We talked about:

  • how learning to play an instrument helps to ground your accapella writing
  • why it’s good to be the stupidest person in the room (when collaborating)
  • how songwriting is like working a muscle
  • Stevie Nicks
  • Muscle Shoals
  • Carmen’s (best ever) explanation for millennial whoops in pop songs: “You have to write lyrics that a drunk person can sing”
  • opportunuties for changes through lyrics, arrangements, and musical centres
  • why you should hold back if you’re a strong singer

Listen to the whole show:

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