6 Songwriting Books Every Songwriter Should Own

Whether you're a beginner or professional songwriter, there's no better way to improve your skills then to learn from those with more experience than you. 

Here are six amazing books by some of the top songwriters in the business. Each book offers a different perspective and approach to songwriting that is unique and interesting. There are tools in each book that will make anyone a much more equipped songwriter. 

1. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

Pat Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches lyric writing and poetry. One of his most successful students is John Mayer, so that gives you an idea of the kind of potential behind his methods. 

This book is pretty widely known as the the ultimate book on lyric writing. 
He begins the book with a very useful method, "Object Writing," which helps you incorporate as many of your five senses as you can: touch, taste, smell, etc. The exercises last for 10 minutes and help you access the subconscious parts of your mind, where the majority of creativity happens. This will strengthen your ability to pull the listener into the world of your song and increase it's emotional connection.

The rest of the book dives deeply into the more disciplined aspects of writing like building a worksheet, using a thesaurus and rhyming dictionary, verse development, song forms, rhyme structures and meter and much more. 

It's one of those books that you can come back to over and over again as you need to brush up on various skills.

Definitely a must have for any songwriter. 

2. Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting: 126 Proven Techniques for Writing Songs That Sell by Robin A. Frederick

Robin A. Frederick has written and produced more than 500 songs for television, records, theater, and audio products. She is a former Director of A&R for Rhino Records and executive producer of over 60 albums. 

This book is full of shortcuts to give you practical ideas and exercises to jump in right away and give your songs the "hit-making" characteristics of commercial music.
There are many strategies for creating powerful, unforgettable lyrics and a bunch of ways to make your melody interesting, catchy and memorable. The book also aims to help you lay the groundwork by teaching song structure and chord choices that will give your songs even more hit potential. There are also a ton of "Do It Now" exercises to get you started right away!

One great idea this book highlights is creating a "ghost" song, where you take a well-known song you love and craft the structure of your new song on it. Then you replace the melody and lyrics, which helps give you a strong foundation to build from. 

The book is a quick read and will rapidly send you on your way to writing hit songs!

3. Songwriters On Songwriting by Paul Zollo

Paul Zollo is a singer-songwriter and the editor of SongTalk. He has written for magazines such as Sing Out!, Acoustic Guitar, Musician, and more.

This book is great collection of interviews with some of the greatest songwriters of all time. They each give their unique perspective on their songwriting process, various albums and the mindset behind recording those collections of songs, and opinions on what makes a great song great.

It features interviews with Alanis Morisette, Lenny Kravitz, Steely Dan, Merle Haggard, and many more. 

What better way to learn songwriting then from the masters themselves?

4. Six Steps to Songwriting Success: The Comprehensive Guide to Writing and Marketing Hit Songs by Jason Blume

Jason Blume is a staff writer for Zomba Music. He has written songs for the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, as well as John Berry’s Top 5 country single, “Change my Mind” and Steve Azar’s country hit “I Never Stopped Lovin’ You.” He also developed and teaches the BMI Nashville Songwriters Workshop. 

This book offers a practical six step process to understand and implement the elements consistently found in hit songs. The author has a ton of real world experience and can boast having songs on Country, Pop, and R&B charts simultaneously.

One of his methods includes the three-step lyric writing technique used by the pros. He includes checklists for every aspect of the songwriting and recording process and gives tools for self-evaluation. There are also many exercises in the book that you can implement into your songwriting. 

His writing style is warm and very funny making the book entertaining as well as insightful. 

5. Song Maps: A New System to Write Your Best Lyrics by Simon Hawkins

Simon Hawkins was a staff songwriter at Universal Music Publishing in Nashville, who has been nominated won many songwriting awards including Grammys, Doves and hymn-writing awards.

This book takes a more systematic approach to songwriting. The author gives seven "maps" to serve as templates and takes each song map and provides a vast array of songs from multiple genres, each of which he explains in greater detail. He offers exercises at the end of each map for further understanding and implementation. 

It is designed to give simple, logical, well-defined solutions to the various issues you face whether you are a beginner or novice songwriter. This book also boasts to contain the "songwriter's secret weapon."

The techniques are helpful in co-writing situations as well, as Hawkins learned many of the skills in his three hour writing sessions in Nashville, TN. Often times a co-write can be intimidating and this book helps give confidence to inexperienced co-writers.

6. Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting by Jimmy Webb

Jimmy Webb has been writing songs for over twenty-five years. He is the only artist to receive Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration and is a member of the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters' Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame. According to BMI, his song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is the third most-performed song in the last fifty years, with "Up, Up and Away" on the same list in the Top Thirty.

This book is written specifically for songwriters making the transition from amateur to professional. It covers topics such as basic chord theory and rhyme schemes to pitching finished songs. He includes relevant stories from over twenty years of experience in the ever shifting music industry. There are also insights about writing music for stage and film.

He suggests exercises for developing song ideas which aid anyone struggling with writer's block but admits that sometimes the work must be done in absence of a spark of inspiration. Webb details behind-the-scenes occurrences of his career and artistic process, including jumping hurdles like instances of spouses who try to take songwriting credits on their partner's albums.

Jeffrey Scott Joslin II is a songwriter, producer and composer living in Los Angeles, CA.

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