The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting




The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Songwriting will be the one-stop resource for all aspiring songwriters to learn: how much musical training you need (if you have none), how to put together the basics of a song in various popular genres (country & western, hip hop, Latin, adult contemporary, pop), as well as for different industries, such as television and film, and where to get the great ideas for what makes a hit and how recurring hit makers got their Midas touch. You'll also learn where and how to find collaborators, choose a publisher, and find an agent, how the Internet is impacting the world of songwriting (i.e., MP3 and Napster), and the best way to set up a recording studio in your own home and choose the best equipment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780028641447
Publisher: Alpha Books
Publication date: 04/19/2001
Series: Complete Idiot's Guide Series
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.08(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Two-time Oscar-winning songwriter Joel Hirschhorn began his musical career as an RCA recording artist. As a key member of the Brill Building pop era, he wrote, with Al Kasha, a series of million-selling rock singles. Some of the artists who have recorded and performed his songs include Elvis Presley, Maureen McGovern, Aretha Franklin, The Chambers Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Mama Cass, Roy Orbison, Sheena Easton, blues legend Taj Mahal, Julian Lennon, and Charlie Rich.

Hirschhorn's Hollywood years opened with songs from such films as The Cheyenne Social Club (featuring a collector's item duet pairing Henry Fonda and James Stewart) and Jack Lemmon's The April Fools. He later won Academy Awards for "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure and "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno. His score for Pete's Dragon and his song "Candle on the Water" received Oscar nominations. "I'd Like to Be You for a Day," his title tune from the Jodie Foster film Freaky Friday, was nominated for a Golden Globe. He received Tony nominations for two Broadway musicals: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Copperfield, starring Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Hirschhorn's career includes work as a scorer and orchestrator for prime-time specials starring Billy Preston, Frankie Valli, and Marilyn McCoo. His songs have been spotlighted in such motion pictures as Eyes Wide Shut, The Ice Storm, and Slums of Beverly Hills and television shows such as South Park and The Simpsons. He also scored several seasons of Knots Landing.

The most recent of Hirschhorn's six books is the best-selling Titanic Adventure. He is presently a concert and theater critic for Variety.

Table of Contents


1. Music Training: Is It a Must?

Looking at the Hit-Makers. Don't Delay Your Dreams. Put Your Musical Knowledge to Work. Preserving and Submitting Your Songs.

2. A Century of Songwriting.

Hey Mr. Ziegfeld, Here I Am! “Give My Regards to Broadway”. Crosby, Sinatra, and the Pop Singers. The Role of Rock. Michael Jackson and the MTV Explosion. A Rock Genre Mini Guide.

3. The Idea Is King.

Banish Writer's Block. Inspiring Characters. Universal Themes. Mining the Media. Simple Starting Points. The Four-Minute. Screenplay. Priming the Idea Pump. Travel the Highway to Hits.

4. What Comes First, Words or Music?

Working Styles. Preparing to Create Songs for Artists. Major Songwriters Weigh In. The Rhythm in Your Mind. Feel Your Way to Creativity.

5. Finding and Keeping Collaborators. A Roller Coaster Worth Riding. Work Habits. How to Find Your Partner. Cold, Hard Business. Inspiration from Across the Sea.

6. Title Power!

Titles That Tell the Story. Titles That Set the Tone. Title Triggers. Words That Work. First-Line Fever.


7. The Visual Songwriter.

A Unique Visual Personality. The Visual Lifestyle. The Other Four Senses. Writing with the Five Senses.

8. Cooking Up Your Hit Ingredients.

Rhyming Time. Wayward Rhymes. In Search of Colorful Rhyme Words. Other Hit Ingredients. Act Out Your Lyrics.

9. Repetition and Hooks.

Styles of Musical Repetition. Hooking the Audience. Creating and Testing Your Hooks. Instrumental Icing: Figures and Riffs.

10. The Secrets of Hit Melody Writing.

What Makes a Tune Singable? Reliable Rhythms. Prosody.

11. Rewriting.

Bad Reasons to Avoid Rewriting. Starting the Process. Staying with It.


12. Crossing Into Country.

Nashville News.Musical Elements of Country. Recommended Listening.

13. R&B and Rap.

Birth of the Blues. Minstrel to Motown. The Many Faces of R&B. Rap and Hip-Hop. Rhythm and Rap.

14. Commercials and Children's Music.

Composing Commercials. Ready to Write. What's the Deal? The Market for Children's Songs. Respecting the Minds of Children.

15. Movie Scoring and Songwriting.

Scorers as Songwriters. The Fat Spy-No Jurassic Park. In the Scoring Game. Spotting the Picture. Practical Scoring Tips. Get Into It.

16. Live and Animated Musicals.

Not Eliza Doolittle, but a Dragon. Keeping Up with Current Styles. Dialogue vs. Music. The Song's the Thing. The Performers and the Song. Every Job Is Your Job. I Just Want This Small Change. Monetary Rewards from a Musical.

17. Musicals for the Stage.

Creating an Illusion of Reality. Important Musical Categories. Get It on the Stage. Hits from Shows. Special Material.


18. The Power of a Hit Demo. Choosing Your Musical Approach

Finding the Singer and Musicians. Figuring Costs. Making the Demo. Demos at Home. Demo Presentation.

19. Becoming a Great Song Salesman.

Casting Your Songs. Selling to a Publisher Sign with a Publisher or Freelance?

20. The Singer/Songwriter.

What Makes a Good Agent? Managers. A Lawyer You Can Trust. Do You Have What It Takes? Feed the Media Monster. Signing with a Label. Come to the Cabaret.

21. Home Studio.

Embracing the Technology. Equipment Recommendations. Making Music. Engineering a Session.

22. Producing Your Own Hit Songs.

How Do You Learn to Produce? A Producer's Job. Planning a Recording Date. In the Studio. Musical Approaches. Experiment. Top Producers.


23. Royalties and Guilds.

The Big Three: ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. ASCAP. BMI. SESAC. Copyright Basics. The Songwriter's Guild of America.

24. What's Happening in Songwriting?

The Good New Days. Steve Schalchlin's Internet Miracle. Napster. Working the Internet. The Importance of History. Looking Ahead. Reading the Grammy Tea Leaves. Common Denominators.


Appendix A. Glossary. Appendix B. Resources. Appendix C. Contests and Competitions.


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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every page in this marvelous book exudes the passion Joel Hirschhorn has for songwriting and the compassion he has for those of us attempting to be songwriters. You can let Joel show you how to get hits - or you can strike out on your own (and really be a 'Complete Idiot').
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed 'The Complete Idiot's Guide To Songwriting' because it showed that writing is a craft, not some mysterious, impossible goal. I picked up valuable tips on every page. When I finished the book, there were many parts and went back and re-read. Mr. Hirschhorn writes as though he is talking directly to you.As an oscar winning song writer, his is advice I will take.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I noticed that the new 'Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting' was recommended by Marvin Hamlisch, Jerry Herman, Carole Bayer Sager, Maureen McGovern, and Paul Williams. These artists have written and composed some of my all-time favorite songs, and I figured that if they thought highly of the book, it was worth examining. Need I say how delighted I was when I went through each chapter--from writing rock hits to theatre music this book covers it all. Every question a songwriter could have in their mind was answered in the book. I also admired the natural writing style. I was mightily impressed by this book, and have bought a second copy as a gift. Highly recommended to everyone.