Hands-On Review:Songwriting



Recommended Reading: Songwriting


88 Songwriting Wrongs and How To Right Them By Pat and Pete Luboff (Writer's Digest Books, 1992) $18.99


When someone tells you how to write a song, the correct and appropriate reaction is to poke that person in the eye. In 88 Songwriting Wrongs, though, the Luboffs offer the kind of knowledge that songwriters would otherwise need years to learn on their own. A few "wrongs" - like "Don't be intentionally obscure" - are indeed subjective calls, but the majority contain advice traceable to the output of top songwriters. Written in a casual, conversational tone (the perceived vernacular of musicians), the book starts with rhyme schemes and song forms and moves on to demo tips, pitching a package and finally "Coping With Success." May you all need to read that far. -Rich Maloof


Composers On Music - Eight Centuries Of Writings By Josiah Fisk (Northeastern University Press, 1997) $24.95


Composers On Music, an update of the 1956 original edition, is an anthology of thoughts put to paper by the world's greatest composers. The chronological arrangement begins centuries ago, progressing from Monteverdi to Bach to Ives to Hindemuth. These classical masters - only Gershwin slips his foot in the door of their hallowed halls - offer their thoughts on orchestration, music criticism, aesthetic theory, and one another. Our only beef is that these excerpts are too short to explore any composer's overarching vision (and too long for soundbites). Guess that's the nature of anthologies. Head to any university's music library if you want to see more than the tip of the iceberg. -Rich Maloof


Songwriters On Songwriting By Paul Zollo (Da Capo Press, 1997) $20.00


If you want to read what the most revered songwriters in pop have to say about their life's work, you've hit pay dirt. Paul Zollo's book collects interviews with the biggest guns of the past 30-odd years, including (big breath,) Todd Rundgren, Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young, Burt Bacharach, Laura Nyro, R.E.M., Frank Zappa, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and many others. Though the interviews often drift off topic, Zollo probes these creative minds with scientific fascination. Aspiring songwriters may still sense a gap - you're not going to learn how to write a song by reading a book - but there's far more interest here than in the pap tucked into newsstand magazines. As Zappa says in an interview from 1987, "There's no glamour to doing the laborious job of developing a personal theory of harmony or a personal feel for how you want rhythm to function in your work." -Rich Maloof