Resources for beginning lyricists
December 5, 2010 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Resources for beginning songwriters and lyricists (that would make kickass Xmas presents?)

I have a good friend who has just started getting into writing songs for his (very informal, totally recreational) band. He's a published fiction writer, so the basic wordcraft skills are definitely there already, but it's a new form for him and there seems to be a fairly steep learning curve. For Xmas, I'm planning on getting him a good rhyming dictionary (Thanks AskMe!) but I'm wondering if there are other resources that might be useful as well. I should add that my friend is the drummer in his band, so my impression is that he's not really writing melodies-- or if he is, he's coming in with a vague idea of how the melody might go, and the rest of the band is taking his ideas and retooling them substantially. What he's doing is definitely word-work, for the most part.

(Please note, in case it isn't already apparent, that I have absolutely no idea how the songwriting process really works.)

(Note also: This question is being asked anonymously because my friend reads Metafilter and totally knows my handle.)
posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Jimmy Webb's book Tunesmith would be a good place to start. It pretty much tells you everything you need to know about conventional song structure. Then you get to have fun breaking all those rules!
posted by Crane Shot at 9:26 PM on December 5, 2010

If he has the writing ability, he has the songwriting ability, I'd say.
As a songwriter myself, I would say the hardest part about writing songs is the subject matter. Without getting too off topic, the major problems I've had have been A.) not having anything to write about, B.) the writing being too personal, or C.) lack of confidence in the quality of the writing.

So, if he has that writing ability, maybe you could provide some help with the music part, which is harder and easier than one would expect (at the same time!):

Maybe if you were to buy a songbook of certain chord progressions, or a book on music theory, that would help with the music. I feel that once you have the background--the music--set down, it's so much easier to write the lyrics and adapt melodies as needed.

Also, I at one point got a CD about writing in different styles, and had one on rock'n'roll. I'm certain you could easily find some music CD's that teach the basics of certain styles.

Finally, one thing I've found most useful is posters. I have a guitar scales poster and a guitar chord posters, each with several of each, and these are ESSENTIAL to writing any song that would sound good.

Good luck in your quest to find a good Christmas present, though I know he'll appreciate any of it. Note: I didn't include links because I didn't want to confine you to a certain book or a certain CD; I want you to find the perfect one for him, not the perfect one for me.
posted by MHPlost at 10:01 PM on December 5, 2010

This was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.
posted by emd3737 at 4:30 AM on December 6, 2010

Garage Band
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:09 AM on December 6, 2010

I used to lovePerforming Songwriter Magazine but it stopped being a magazine last year. Still, he'd probably appreciate the link, and there is some interesting merchandise there.
posted by Miko at 6:10 AM on December 6, 2010

* Also, you can purchase back issues.
posted by Miko at 6:11 AM on December 6, 2010

I have the previous edition of this book and have found it to be pretty useful. Despite the title there's a lot of good info that's not specific to guitar.
posted by doctord at 8:51 AM on December 6, 2010

Looks like he also has a lyrics only book. But I haven't used that one.
posted by doctord at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2010

Years ago, one of my friends recommended Pat Pattison's books for help with writing song lyrics (Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music). There are three books -- it looks like Writing Better Lyrics just got updated for a second edition release earlier this year, so that might be a good option for a resource focused on word-work.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2010

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