- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; Second edition (Jan. 8 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781582975771
- ISBN-13: 978-1582975771
- ASIN: 1582975779
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 463 g
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Writing Better Lyrics Paperback – Jan 8 2010
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About the Author
Pat Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches lyric writing and poetry. His books include Writing Better Lyrics, The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, and The Essential Guide to Rhyming. In addition, Pat has developed three online lyric writing courses for Berklee’s online school, and has written articles for a variety of industry publications. His internationally successful students include multiple Grammy winners John Mayer and Gillian Welch. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
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The author is an instructor at the Berklee College of Music. You can tell by the way the book reads and how it's laid out that the author is an instructor. Each chapter is like a lesson being presented by the teacher. In that sense, this analytical approach can be very dry and would most likely be more engaging in a live presentation than it is when reading it.
The chapters are concise and well thought out and gives me a LOT to think about, but I find the writing itself tires me out. It's hard to explain what I mean by this - the book is not overly wordy, the words are not too "big/scholarly", and the author does not talk down to the reader. However, I've read through only a third of this book so far, in an amount of time that I would normally finish two complete books! I sometimes force myself to continue reading (rather than wanting to) because I'm convinced the author is right in the points he's making and I find the lessons valuable.
The author is knowledgeable and provides good examples of lyrics to demonstrate the points being made. He gives many "assignments", like course homework, and I admit that I haven't been doing my homework! I'm sure there are many rewards (such as improved skills) from doing the work but it requires a lot more free time than I have.
One final thought I'm having as I read this book is that the title "Writing Better Lyrics" is very appropriate. So many books sell themselves by advertising "How to write a HIT song" or songs that "sells". This book is about lyric writing as a craft/art, how to develop the awareness of it and the necessary skills to make your songs more effective. In many ways, the author aims to avoid the cliches and trends. He definitely gets me thinking about ways I can improve myself and my lyric writing. However, he sets the bar quite high, I think, which is way above the vast majority of music we hear on the radio each day. To put this into perspective, the songs of many great writers, even Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan at their most popular, were and are rarely as popular (sales-wise) as their "inferior" contemporaries. In fact, the lyrics of most hit songs would not pass the scrutinizing/analysing measures in this book. While a weak lyric will prevent the song from ever being a great song, it may not prevent it from becoming a hit. Too often, a catchy tune and a great recording mask a weak lyric. That doesn't justify bad lyric writing or make the book's ideas wrong, but it points out a discrepancy between the ideal (which professional songwriter's have to strive for) and the common (which many singer/songwriters produce), and the inherent danger of isolating lyric writing from songwriting. Just a thought - you can't judge the book by this last comment.
This book delivers the goods and I highly recommend it.
Really hard to read. I don't understand why they would print a book with text so small. Dumb. Must to save money.
Pat doesn't spend a lot of time on teaching you how to "brainstorm" (3 of 19 chapters) but what he does of it is solid suggestions that you can follow step by step.
Then he gets into the nuts and bolts of writing, using made-up and real songs and a combination of both, to show you step by step (and verse by verse) how to build (and not to build) a song.
Nowhere along the way does he assume you know the basics, nor does he talk down to you to explain them.
He clearly explains how each verse should build on the previous vers, where the "power points" of a song are, and how to make more of them.
Then he shows you how point of view of a song can make it great or terrible and when to break the general "rules".
Even when he gets into meter (which as a non-songwriter I've always thought of in terms of poems) he explains how because of the nursery songs we grew up with we expect certain things and when to put them into a song and when not to.
Then he puts all this together as a teaching tool.
As if this wasn't enough, he shows how he built a song through 10 revisions and why those were the revisions he chose.
I'm getting his other two books!!
Although Pattison generally summarizes his discourse (my fave: the brief discussion on generating family [false] rhymes), he offers brain tingling assignments that lets you work through his observations at your own pace.
Again, this book doesn't try to be comprehensive in scope, but what it offers makes it an invaluable addition to the writers library.
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