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Book Review: Righting Wrongs In Writing Songs by Danny Cope

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Righting Wrongs In Writing Songs (Distributed by Alfred Music Publishing) is a book that focuses on the song writing process. Its aim is to give both aspiring as well as veterans of songwriting a powerful new approach to the craft. It looks at many of the common obstacles in the song writing process as well as providing techniques to overcome them.

Righting Wrongs In Writing Songs takes each chapter an looks at the root of a specific problem — in fact, each chapter is listed as a problem, and through exercises, helps you get through the issue at hand. Righting Wrongs is 352 pages and is divided into 13 problems.

Problem One, “We Don’t Know What We’re Trying to Achieve,” begins with looking at what songwriting is and how each person has their own strengths and weakness’ with regard to the various aspects of a song. This chapter is about learning what works for you and what doesn’t — about finding out how to make the most of each.

Problem Two, “We Don’t Know Why We Are Writing,” is a very common problem. You can ask many different people what constitutes a good song, and you would get as many answers. Here you want to determine why you are writing before you start. This gives you the ability to both know where you are going as well as how to determine how successful you have been when you get there.

Problem Three, “We Don’t Present Our Songs as Effectively as Possible,” takes a look at song form — or the presentation of the song. This will have significant impact on how our song is received. Here you look at how songs are built with sections and the different consecutive sections with which your songs can be constructed.

Problem Four, “We’re Not Sure What Our Melody Is All About,” begins by asking you to define what exactly is a melody? Then you will explore what is so important about the melody and the components that can make it interesting — tones, singable, rhythmic, and memorable.

Problem Five, “Notes Fall Out of Our Heads without Us Thinking about Them,” next looks at scales and how they affect the music. These are the raw building blocks of tonality and are used as the palette for melodic and harmonic tones. This is a bit of a tough chapter as it requires some detailed analysis the melody and how it works in the framework of the song.

Problem Six, “Rhythms Fall Out of Our Heads without Us Thinking about Them,” examines how rhythmic variation can make all the difference in the world to a song. This chapter will take a look at how through the use of meter, note duration, and the use of stress points, you can make a song much more interesting.

Problem Seven, “We’re Not Sure What We’re Trying to Say,” is about writing lyrics. These are the words that you use in your songs and the way they fit together. There are many different ways to go about developing the structure of a lyric, and the ones presented here are simply suggestions of ways that they can be presented.

Problem Eight, “We Take Too Long to Say Too Little,” looks at the fact that it not only matters what you says within your lyric, but how you say it as well. This chapter looks at how to deliver your lyrics effectively and succinctly as possible. Here you will see how to use synonyms, connotations, quotations, figures of speech, metaphors, similes, and much more to make your points.

Problem Nine, “We Don’t Take Meter and Rhyme Seriously Enough,” deals with the fact that language itself is musical through the use of syllables, feet, meter, and intonation. You have a lot of room to work with. In this chapter you will look at the finer points of the words you use and the musical manner in which you can use them to communicate.

Problem 10, “We Don’t Think about How to Grow a Lyric,” describes how there are many ways in which to develop an idea. It can start from a very calculated nucleus that provides various angles of attack, or it can simply start with a couple of rhyming words that spark an idea. There are a lot of ways that a lyric can grow, you just need to be open to take the lead from what jumps out and deal with those ideas in a productive way.

Problem 11, “We Don’t Think about How We Grow Our Melodic Ideas,” shows how a few small ideas can grow into something bigger. When playing through chord progressions our brains will sometimes automatically dig words out to match the stress patterns it the melodic line, but just because this can take place without thinking about it, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about it.

Problem 12, “We Write Chords without Understanding Them,” concerns how chords can sometimes lead to the creation of a new song. Now, what if you could intentionally go after chord sequences? Now, instead of magically happening, you became the spark for it happening. You could be much more intentional and save hours or days waiting for the inspiration to strike.

Problem 13, “We Don’t Think about How We Use Chords,” discusses how a chord progression will rarely sound that interesting on its own. Here you will learn how to decide what chords work and through the use of repletion and variation

Righting Wrongs In Writing Songs takes what, for many, can be a complex and daunting experience, and presents it at its core essence. By walking you through the sequences as problems, the author is better equipped to address specific issues as opposed to just trying to show you how to craft a song.

The other thing that I really like is that each problem/chapter, builds in a logical sequence starting with an examination of what you are doing and trying to achieve, through the building of songs based on structural components, melody, scales, rhythms, lyrics, and then putting it all together.

This book is able to cover all of the major aspects of songwriting while keeping everything entertaining and enlightening. Keep in mind there is a lot of information contained within and you will find yourself rereading parts and pondering other parts, but that is also what makes it such a good read. It really doesn’t matter what level of a song writer that you are — beginner through advanced —  I think that there is plenty of information for everyone to gain from the insights that this book provides, and so I very highly recommend it.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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