3 Songwriting Partnership Lessons From Lennon and McCartney

Arguably the most prolific pop songwriting duo of the 20th century, John Lennon and Paul McCartney crafted some of the best known and most beloved tracks of all time as the major powerhouses behind the Beatles. Although each would go onto have successful solo careers — McCartney with Wings in the ‘70s and largely by himself thereafter and Lennon, along with wife Yoko Ono, helming politically charged outfits during his tragically short post-Beatles career — many insist they were never as good apart as they were together.

When boiled down to the basic status of “co-writers,” however, Lennon and McCartney aren’t so different from you and your writing partners. They dealt with many similar issues that, hopefully, won’t crop up too often in your own career, including copyright disputes, claims over who wrote what, and the public deifying one half over the other. It’s indisputable, however, that their combined power created a musical benchmark few other have risen to.

Although there are many, many lessons to learn from Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting partnership, here are three key takeaways that will get you and your present and future co-writers on the right track to crafting musical masterpieces.

Rebecca3 Songwriting Partnership Lessons From Lennon and McCartney
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5 Ways To Tell If Your Vocals Have Too Much Processing

When working with the endless options of vocal effects in today’s average digital audio workstation (DAW), it can be very tempting to go overboard. It’s like having a huge, free buffet in front of you — of course you’re going to want some of everything. But that doesn’t mean you need to put chocolate on pizza or eat four plates until you get sick. Several artists get away with large swaths of effects on their vocals. Look at Radiohead for example. Their seminal album Kid A opens with the song “Everything In Its Right Place,” in which singer Thom Yorke’s voice is reversed, looped, pitched up & down, and drenched in a variety of distorting effects. However, above all of those vocal FX lies Yorke’s clear human, emotive singing voice. So, when experimenting with effects like Radiohead, be on the lookout for these five signs that your vocals have too much processing.

Rebecca5 Ways To Tell If Your Vocals Have Too Much Processing
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5 Secrets To Making Your Sub-bass Notes Audible

Whether you’re making pop, hip-hop, or EDM, chances are your music is going to include sub-bass. For those who aren’t familiar, sub-bass are low-pitched notes below approximately 60 Hz, and often go below the lowest frequencies that humans can actually hear. In other words, you often can’t hear sub-bass; rather, you feel it. For example, if you’re seeing a concert and the DJ builds to a drop, then the whole room starts vibrating with low frequencies, that is sub-bass. As electronic drums and midi instruments continue to play a bigger and bigger role in popular music, the use of sub-bass is becoming standard. But since humans often can’t actually hear frequencies that low, producers have to come up with ways to bring out the pitch. So, we compiled five secrets to making your sub-bass audible.

Rebecca5 Secrets To Making Your Sub-bass Notes Audible
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Five Lyric-Writing Tips For New Songwriters

Great lyrics have the power to mold a shapeless piece of music into a profound statement, but a few poorly-written lines could potentially ruin an otherwise great song. Well aware of this fact, many would-be songsmiths opt to sit out of the songwriting process altogether out of fear of writing bad lyrics or of not having anything meaningful to say at all. But like every other aspect of songwriting, lyric-writing is a skill that’s developed over time, trial and error and lots of difficult work. We’ve assembled five helpful tips to help strengthen your lyric-writing game.

1. Start writing as much as you can

This tip seems obvious, but it has to be said. There’s a misconception out there that great songwriters do their work purely through inspirational means, but that’s just not true. When you first learned how to play your main instrument, you probably spent a considerable amount of time stumbling around practicing until you began to really figure things out and develop as a musician. Why would the lyric-writing process be any different?

Get in the habit of writing as frequently as possible, and don’t just stick to lyrics. Keep a journal, write short stories, jot down phrases or statements you find interesting throughout the day. If you’re in the habit of writing frequently, when those moments of inspiration decide to grace your presence, you’ll be ready.

2. Your feelings are icky. Get used to it.

Now for a less obvious tip. If you want to write any sort of honest, meaningful lyrics, get ready to confront some dark truths within yourself. Wow, that got deep quick, didn’t it? Lyrics are nothing more than your own thoughts and feelings reflected back at you. Many musicians don’t write lyrics because they’re secretly afraid of how they feel and what they think.

If you’re new to lyric-writing, you should expect, and even welcome, the bits of unpleasantness you’ll come across while scouring the depths of your mind. When you befriend the truths, feelings, memories, and thoughts that scare or mystify you, you can begin to transform them into meaningful narratives.

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3. Define what you love and loathe about lyrics in other people’s songs

Taking some time to think about what makes a song’s lyrics meaningful or embarrassing can help set you on a path toward writing great lyrics. Most people can recognize bad lyrics in a song, but few people really consider what exactly makes lyrics cheesy, vapid, laughable or just plain unmemorable.

If you fawn over Leonard Cohen’s lyrics but get nauseas when you hear Kid Rock’s, start to think about why. The exercise of pinpointing what makes lyrics good or bad can get you in the right headspace for writing your own.

4. Cut out the cliches

Cliches are not your friend when it comes to lyric-writing. Lyrics like, “I’m broken,” or anything that rhymes vein with pain should be avoided at all costs. Why? Because even if the songs you’re writing aren’t emotional, they should be meaningful to you. Cliches are like serving junk food for Thanksgiving Dinner. Your listeners deserve delicious ethically raised roast turkey and all the trimmings, not a greasy bag of chips.

5. Not everything has to rhyme

Newer songwriters sometimes go out of their way to make the lyrics they write rhyme, and this can be detrimental to a song’s lyrics. Forcing rhymes where they don’t need to be might cause a lyricist to choose weak phrases over stronger ones resulting in no real benefit to the song.

The lyrical phrasing in a song should always supersede things like rhyming, but there’s ways of singing and placing words in a certain way that mimic rhyming. Developing these skills takes time and lots of missteps and false starts, but you’ll improve and solidify your own style over time.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

DaveFive Lyric-Writing Tips For New Songwriters
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How to Avoid Burnout as a Musician

As I write this, I’m currently facing my own version of burnout. It’s Friday afternoon and it’s been an especially long week of fielding emails, putting out fires, managing mini-crises, and trying to find time to actually build my business and look to the future. Did I mention also working in three miles of walking my dog each day, yoga, trying to eat right, and really, really, wanting to catch up on Bates Motel if I could just find the time to sit down, relax, and get my mind to stop racing?

We live in a society that is all about the now, while working in an industry that romanticizes long hours, sleepless nights, and a work schedule that never quits. We are constantly told that we need to be on call 24/7, and that there is always someone else ready to take our spot, so we’d better answer that email, take that gig, make that call, and play that show – and we’d better do it all right now. Because if we dare hesitate, there is someone right around the corner who will gladly snatch the opportunity from us.

DaveHow to Avoid Burnout as a Musician
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The ReverbNation Guide To Basic Music Theory: Part 1

What is it about music theory that has the power to inspire boredom, hatred or even fear in musicians? Humans usually don’t care for what they don’t understand, so it makes sense that even the most seasoned musicians sometimes yawn or shudder at the thought of music theory, a topic that’s benefits are frequently undersold and basic concepts poorly explained. But learning just a few music theory concepts is a powerful tool that every musician can use for writing, performing and understanding music. Rather than being a dusty set of rules that you’ll never apply to anything in your daily life, music theory is brimming with living ideas that can completely change the way you hear and create music.

This is part one of a special ReverbNation basic music theory guide. By the end of this guide, you’ll have everything you need to understand intervals, scales, chords, the circle of 5ths and other important music theory ideas. But before I walk you through the basic principles found in music theory, I need to tell you why it’s such an important thing for musicians to become familiar with.

KevinThe ReverbNation Guide To Basic Music Theory: Part 1
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How to Get Your Vocal Effects Just Right

If there’s one thing that’s for certain about today’s musical climate, it’s that electronic production has an ever-present role in sound design and it’s here to stay.

Effects are a great way to add personality to vocals, as well as highlight the singer’s strengths (and sometimes mask their weaknesses). But there is such a thing as overdoing it, and it happens a lot with novice mixing engineers and producers who get too excited about effects without really understanding how or when to use them. So, we’ve put together a guide on how to get your vocal effects just right — regardless of the style of music you’re making.

DaveHow to Get Your Vocal Effects Just Right
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Can’t Miss Touring Tips From NYC Rockers Midnight Mob

So, you want to rock a tour, do ya?? Congratulations on your decision to become a highway pirate! It’s time to cruise the land with your bandmates, crew, your favorite sweat pants, your noble steed, and all your special quirks fully loaded to test each other’s patience and sadistic behavior. Here are top touring tips and suggestions from Midnight Mob on how to make a tour successful, fun, inexpensive, efficient and – most importantly – safe for all.

DaveCan’t Miss Touring Tips From NYC Rockers Midnight Mob
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