Advanced Songcraft Tools for Professional Songwriters, Part I

Julia Pernicone
Julia Pernicone on Mar 14, 2016

Guest post by Billy Seidman - Founder, Song Arts Academy & Songwriting Faculty Member, NYU & The New School


What business are you really in if you’re a Songwriter?

It’s the first question you should ask yourself before sitting down to write a song, as knowing the answer immediately leads to writing better songs.

Why? Because there are two huge problems facing songwriters on the creative side:

1. It feels so good to write a song that we immediately think our song is good and not subject to standards or re-writes.

2. Songwriters aim too low in their concepts and execution of song ideas.

Regarding #1:

In the creation space we’re focused on just getting a “toehold” on our lyric & musical idea, on getting something going. The esteemed songwriter Leonard Cohen has said that typically, his first encounter with a song he’s starting is his weakest work (I’m paraphrasing here).

Unfortunately, this is where many songwriters stop writing because they don’t understand what business they’re in. We’re in the communications business and if you’ve not made 8 to 10 crucial song craft decisions in your songwriting--one being to invite the "audience” (your listeners) into your song so they can see their life in it--you’re not communicating.

A large percentage of hit songs become hits during the re-writing stage where everything about the song is vetted and held to standards.

Regarding #2:

David Bowie aimed so high in his song concepts, he easily qualifies as a founder of Glam Rock! How high are you aiming in applying “creative clarity” to your songs?

It turns out your song title and the idea/emotion driving it do the heavy lifting in songwriting. There are very simple and effective critiquing tools that can help you find the best ways to write your ideas early in the writing process so you completely understand what’s at stake for you to sing your song. And that’s what audiences really want to know! You’re singing this song because why? You’re feeling: hope, loss, regret, you want to party, you can’t contain how great it feels to fall in love, etc…

That’s how audiences listen to songs! Your urgency or need to write the song in the first place is catnip to an audience. So these song craft decision in the earliest phases matter big time.

Again, you're in the communications business. As a songwriter, if you don’t put yourself on the listener's side as you’re writing, it’s just guesswork you're performing, not communicating.

© 2016 Billy Seidman all rights reserved

Billy Seidman

Is the founder of Song Arts Academy, a NYC based songwriting school sponsored by ASCAP, BMI, & SESAC as a learning destination for their membership. For further info about Billy and the current slate of March & April Workshops and Forums he runs, or to join, visit:

Quote from SAA member:

"I've attended workshops with many of the greats in songwriting including Steve Seskin, Jason Blume, and Hall-of Famer Hugh Prestwood, but there is something about Billy's content and teaching style that seeped into my psyche automatically. I'm listening to songs differently and writing stronger lyrics after four weeks with Billy, which blows my mind considering I've been analyzing hit songs and lyrics regularly for years. I highly recommended his SAA Workshops." - Gil Polk

For workshops, private study, or song consultations, visit or contact Billy Seidman:

Part II
Part III
Part IV

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