Songwriting advice: Things to avoid

I know it’s better to give constructive criticism than destructive i.e, telling someone what not to do isn’t very helpful especially in music where rules (more like actually guidelines) are different in every genre. That said I want to take some time to complain about cheap and easy songwriting things that bug me.

  1. The Crue Rule: If you’re gonna do something, do it better than Motley Crue did. This refers to my hatred of ‘home’ in lyrics. The same song gets written over and over and over again. Musicians on the road are the most uncreative assholes around, we get it, you miss home, it’s going to be good to go home, home equals nice. Slight credit to Dallas Greene for his shitty tour song at least implying home isn’t perfect either but it’s still a shitty tour song. Example of good use: Rise Against – The Good Left Undone. There’s a lyric right at the end of the song that goes “All because of you I believe in angels, not the kind with wings, not the kind with halos, the kind that bring you home, when home becomes a strange place.” Something about that lyric gets me every time, it even got me just now while typing it. The Crue Rule does not just apply to Home Sweet Home and tour songs, anything you’re doing in music or life in general think “Am I using this better than Motley Crue already has?” Because MC is at the absolute bottom of the artistic barrel.
  2. Bad Stacks. “Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts” a pun stacked on a cliche? Fuck you John Legend. I’d let one or the other go if it was with something good but really he could have just taken another 2 minutes and wrote a better line. Let’s revisit that shitty Dallas Greene song again “I’ve never been to Alaska. But I can tell you this. I’ve been to Lincoln Nebraska. And Hell you know it ain’t worth shit.” A whole verse just get in a dig at a small town? Fuck you again Dallas Greene. To avoid this problem simply thinking of the reason for the verse and write around that, if there is no reason for the verse sell your instrument. And by that I mean your body. And by that I mean turn to prostitution you unbrilliant hack. If you need an example of truly amazing verses that contain mostly filler, look at Hallelujah.
  3. Know where to put solos and breakdowns. Solos are mostly dead nowadays, you don’t hear them on the radio that’s for sure, but every band member out there has worked with somebody who lights up and says “guitar solo?” at every stage of the songwriting process. With the exception of Zakk Wylde most people know when a solo is musically appropriate but when is it needed? My personal tip, the way I use solos, is to indicate the passage of time in the lyrics. If something sounds weird back to back like a verse that says “I hate you” followed immediately by one saying “but now I’m over it” then it takes away the impact. Solos are like showing a character silently thinking in a movie, the audience will understand things are different before and after. That said I miss when outro solos were a thing and now I have November Rain stuck in my head. A breakdown typically just come after the second chorus because it would feel stale to go into a third verse that was the same as the first two. Unless you describe your music as [anything]core, then your whole song structure is probably breakdown into a breakdown followed by a breakdown of a breakdown.

So go unto the world my children. Write less shitty songs and remember to hate Dallas Greene.



Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Songwriting

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