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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Oct 2019 > THE PRINCIPLES OF SONGWRITING


In the pages of MusicTech, we tend to focus mainly on the technology, gear and the intricacies of music production. What we spend relatively less time talking about is the fundamental core of everything we do, regardless of genre; and that’s the compositional process itself. Over the next few pages, we explore approaches to making songs and tracks with practical guidance and experienced industry insight. We also take a look at the modern world of professional songwriting and the growing interest in songwriting training

In the modern world of music, it’s almost seen as a badge of honour to have an eclectic taste in myriad genres; from dance to rock to dubstep to ambient, the old days of aligning oneself to a tribe in thrall to genre are, in the main, long gone. Despite the technical differences between each (often wildly different) style of music, the central question persists: how does an artist come up with creative, musical ideas, conceive a structure and build songs that work to affect the human mind?

This process has many names – and with certain genres, the lines between composition and production are blurred. So for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to refer to this entire stage as songwriting.

In this feature, we’re going to explore how understanding the musical structures of songs and tracks can arm you as a composer, help you combat creative dead ends and potentially open your mind to the idea of developing a career as a go-to songwriter of the kind who works with successful, world-straddling pop stars and bands.


01 The simplest way to approach the creation of a top line melody is to think about the stacked notes contained in your chords. These three (or more) notes make up the triads. If you record a track of your basic chord structure and then record the notes in ascending order in a separate MIDI track, then you have a very simple, repetitive melody.

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About MusicTech

The art of writing songs is something that is all too often ascribed to some mythical gift that manifests itself within people at a certain age, with little thought given to the long periods of trial and error, dedication to the craft and persistence to forge a career in the industry that mark out many successful songwriters. In this issue, we have a thorough exploration of the topic, featuring a dissection of the building blocks of every hit song, as well as industry insight from a range of experts who illuminate the professional songwriting world of 2019. We discuss maintaining a career balancing writing with being an artist in your own right with Ed Harcourt and learn from Bernard Butler, Paul Statham and others about their approaches to educating the next generation of hit-makers. Elsewhere in the issue, we continue our journey through the world of synthesis. This time, we focus on wavetable and vector synthesis as well as a foray into the birth of drum machines and their intrinsic relationship with the synth world. We also put several of our go-to budget small-diaphragm condensers to the test in our very first microphone shootout. In our review section this month, we get rhythmic with IK Multimedia’s UNO Drum and wallow in the sonic delights of the Dreadbox Nyx V2 among many other new pieces of kit. Of course, we also have a range of tutorials and tips, too. I hope you enjoy the issue.