How to Write a Hit Song and Sell Itby Robert Bruce
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DURING MY TWELVE YEARS IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS, I have reviewed some twenty thousand songs written by non-professionals. I have not kept track of the lyrics I have reviewed but these undoubtedly also ran into the thousands. In all this material there was approximately one out of a thousand numbers that was actually publishable. Of these publishable numbers, only one or two were potential hits. A great number of these pieces indicated a certain amount of natural talent but also a complete lack of technique. The songwriter usually had a good basic idea and that was all, for he did not know how to follow through.
In other creative fields such as painting, architecture, or play-writing, it is assumed that the creator must have some initial technical training before he is able to achieve success. However, for some unknown reason, it is generally taken for granted that one needs nothing more than "inspiration" to write an outstanding popular song. Now, inspiration is a good thing to have; in fact,
it is a highly essential factor. My only complaint is that the word is used a little too loosely in connection with songwriting. Actually, inspiration is nothing more than a creative urge. It may be the source of a highly original and extremely commercial melodic or lyric idea. But it cannot be relied upon to dictate the rather stringent structural requirements that form the basis of any commercial song. Inspiration combined with technique will produce results.
This is the only formula by which successful songs are written.
In writing this book I have attempted to stress the technical phases of songwriting, presenting the tools and explaining their use. If I have accomplished this successfully, I have achieved all that can be expected by this or any other book concerned with the art of songwriting. Once the technique is mastered, the final result depends entirely upon the songwriter's natural talent and inspiration.
I have also attempted, in the following pages, to explain the theory and practice of song analysis. This, in many ways, is just as important as knowledge of the physical construction of a song. For if the songwriter is able to analyze his own songs and those of other songwriters, he will be able to detect the weak and strong points of these numbers. Furthermore, he will be able to form an honest preliminary judgment of his own work and to strengthen or improve any weak spots.
The book covers the field of popular musical composition and of lyric writing. I have assumed that the composer has, at least a reading knowledge of music, for this is all that is required. In fact, a thorough training in harmony and counterpoint is more apt to be harmful than helpful, for it tends to make the songwriter lean too heavily upon his accompaniment when he is writing his melody line. Some of the most successful songwriters have only a cursory knowledge of music and the majority of them are only mediocre performers.
Songwriting is an interesting and profitable career but it is also an enjoyable hobby. In addition to any monetary benefits derived in this field, there is also-the satisfaction in creating and completing an original work. The writer devoutly hopes that in demonstrating the proper technique of songwriting, this book will materially add to this satisfaction.
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