The Best Songwriting Books, Websites, and Channels

I’m compiling here a list of my favourite books, websites, blogs, and other resources for those pursuing study, growth, upskilling, and knowledge in songwriting. This list might change over time, but represents a curated list of some of the most useful content that I have collected over the past 15 years, songwriting, and teaching songwriting. Enjoy! Let me know if there are others that you would recommend as well!

BOOKS

The “Must-Haves”

Writing Better Lyrics, Pat Pattison

Songwriting Without Boundaries, Pat Pattison

Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, Pat Pattison

Harmony, Jimmy Kachulis (the best place to start with chords and chord theory)

Great Songwriting Techniques, Jack Perricone (a totally comprehensive book encompassing lyric-writing, melody, chords, song form, and more. Really amazing).

The “Must-Have-Nexts”

The Craft of Songwriting, Scarlet Keys

Songwriters on Songwriting, Paul Zollo

Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film and TV, Robin Frederick

The Songwriter’s Idea Book, Sheila Davis

Books on Creativity and Creative Process (that have changed my life…)

Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon

Keep Going, Austin Kleon

Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

Art and Fear, Bayles and Orland

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

[Note: By buying any of these through the links here, you’ll be supporting my work and website, since I earn a small commission through these links. With that said, I never promote something I haven’t tried and loved myself!]

Websites

Top40Theory.com (top notch pop-music based music theory articles)

RobinFrederick.com (Robin does great analyses of contemporary songs, with prompts to engage the concepts in your own songwriting immediately).

YouTube Channels

How To Write Songs (of course…!)

Adam Neely (music theory and more)

Rick Beato (also very music theory and composition oriented)

Jack Lizzio (music theory with more of a songwriter/guitar-player angle)

Holistic Songwriting (geared towards commercial songwriting techniques)

Creating the Perfect Pre-Chorus – Part 1

The pre-chorus is NOT just the bit before the chorus – it is the bit before the chorus that creates TENSION! Building up and releasing this tension is one of the most effective ways of writing big, beautiful and impactful CHORUSES! In this video, Part 1 of a 3-part series, we examine how to use chord choices to build tension in your Pre-Chorus before releasing that tension in a satisfying and powerful way. We focus on how to avoid the ‘tonic’ and and leverage the ‘gold coin magic trick’- as well as diving into some famous examples from Beyoncé and Adele.

How to Use Chromatics to Write Killer Chord Progressions

Break out of predictable patterns and inject some colour into your craft with this chromatic approach to writing killer riffs and memorable melodies!

In Part 1 of the CHROMATIC MAGIC mini-series – we look at a simple yet effective way of breaking old patterns and introducing new sounds to your repertoire. Starting with some warm-up exercise that will challenge guitarists of all levels, we then look at some exciting ways to create improvised lines and memorable solos, before examining two iconic riffs and looking at the role that chromaticism can play in grabbing the listener’s ear and empowering you with many more songwriting options.

In Part 2, we continue the discussion on taking a chromatic approach to your songwriting, starting with some basic principles before moving on to advanced music theory. Our main focus throughout this video is to examine the movement between chords, how to connect chord sequences and utilise all 12 notes. We also explore chromatic chord options, break down tritone substitutions and play around with walking bass lines. Putting this all together will give you powerful and creative ways to construct your songs, allowing you to break free of predictable patterns and gain control over your stylistic choices.

And before you go! We have a LIVE (online) interactive Chord Workshop coming up in April 2022! You can find more info and tickets here:

Picking the Perfect Chords

As songwriters we often start with a chord progression, using it as a framework to add lyrics, melodies, textures and embellishments. But one question that continually pops up is ‘what chord do I choose next?’

In this video, my musical compadre Ben Romalis looks at the functions and relationships of chords in a diatonic system, to give you more control over the choices you make and more variety as the song develops. He breaks down a simple yet effective process for writing chord progressions that doesn’t feel random, doesn’t feel repetitive and gives you total control over the direction you’d like to take your composition. Finally, he looks at some great substitutions to spice up your song and support your lyrical message.

There is an upcoming 90-minute interactive workshop that explores this topic in more depth. CLICK HERE FOR INFO AND TICKETS.

Get a free PDF download that analyses the relationships and functions of chords within a diatonic system here:

6 Songs That Taught Us How to Write Songs

One of the best ways to learn how to write great songs is to learn from great songs and songwriters. In this video, songwriter Ben Romalis and I take 6 songs that each taught us a crucial principle or technique about writing great songs.

Drawing from a range of inspirations from Radiohead, Tom Waits, to Gillian Welch and John Mayer, Benny and I talk about the specific musical or lyrical technique that we learned from these 6 great songs.

Of course, these 6 songs are just a beginning! We picked these for this video because they showcase a range of different principles and techniques: we talk here about chromaticism in chord progressions, about borrowing chords outside the key, about balancing types of language in your verses, about narrative and non-conventional song forms, about verse development and great chorus writing, and how a great intro can set your song apart.

More will come out of this series, as we explore how to listen to music so that you can extract ideas, and put them to practice in your own songwriting.

Understanding Musical Genre for Songwriters

Professional songwriters often need or want to write in specific genres. This video explains 5 different ways to understand and emulate musical genre.

This video was made for a Songwriting class I teach at Collarts in Melbourne, Australia. A major project during the semester is to write a song to a specific brief provided by a music publisher, which asks for songs in a specific genre.

In order to write for this aspect of the commercial industry, it’s important to know how to listen to songs, and define the necessary characteristics of the genre so that you can emulate those characteristics, while still bringing in your own creativity to the project.

Genre is notoriously difficult to nail down, but in this video, I go through five concepts that are often at the heart of defining a genre.

The Most Beautiful Chords in Songwriting

Hi friends,

I’ve recently made a short series of quick videos that cover two of the most beautiful modes in songwriting: the Mixolydian mode, and Dorian mode, as well as how to use that knowledge to pick out the most beautiful chords, in a chord technique called Modal Borrowing. Here is the series this far. Enjoy!