Artist developmentSongwriting

Learn from songwriting legends (pt 1): Carole King

In a noisy world, full of oversaturated markets of all kinds, it gets harder and harder to cut through as a songwriter/musician, especially with multiple subcultures with regard to the variety of genres, subgenres and almost endless amounts of distribution channels. The market is basically split up into multiple tiny micro-markets, forcing you to find the right niche. However, the possibilities that come with digital marketing and sales forces, as well as the global platforms we have easy access to these days, also make it easier for indie artists to break into the market in the first place! That is good news, right?

What will ultimately define your success though, are the songs you write! Good songwriting stand a chance, bad songwriting falls through! At the end of the day it is as simple as that!

Or isn´t it?

Well, there are some other aspects that might compensate a lack of “genius as a songwriter”, such as persistence to keep going, the will to constantly improve and practice and  good networking skills to name just a few! However, becoming the best songwriter you could possibly be, should always remain your number one goal!

So, let´s look at two of the most successful songwriters in modern music since the second half of the 20thcentury! Namely Carole King and John Prine! What can we learn from them and why does their magic songwriting formula still apply today?

Let´s start by looking into the career of legendary songwriter Carole King, who is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the United States according to Wikipedia! Whohoo!

She has contributed more than 118 hits to the Billboard Hot 100,with cuts by big industry players such as Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, The Byrds, the Everly Brothers (always a favorite band of mine), the Drifters and even the Beatles! Quite impressive, huh? The list goes on and on, not to mention her own album “Tapestry” which was a major success in 1971.

But what made Carole such a successful songwriter in the first place?

If we take a look at her songs, there are some prominent things that come to mind instantly:

Hooks hooks hooks

Carole King has a valuable talent with regard to melody writing! Her songs are usually catchy, easy to remember and to sing along, but not cheesy at all. They are classics, that stand the test of time! Her hooks usually make use of repetitive, reinforcing elements (almost like some sort of call and response system)! Remember the Gilmore Girls theme song? Think of it! “Where you lead, I will follow, ANY ANY where…that you tell me to…” The melody repeats with slight variety, and even the words repeat!

Another example would be “You´ve got a friend“: “…just call my name, and I´ll be there (YES I WILL), You´ve got a friend…”

Also: “You make me feel, you make me feel, yes you make me feel like a natural woman!”

You get the idea!

These songs really make sure you get the message! You believe the message! The lines basically scream: I MEAN IT!

Groove

Aside from lyrical and melodic repetitions and call/response techniques, Carole also has a lucky hand at playing with grooves. Her melodies don´t just drift away like footprints in the sand, but rather have some lively pulses to them. Like heartbeats!

Again, think: Where you lead (break), I will follow (break) any-anywhere (short break) that you tell me to (break) if you need (short break) you need me to be with you, I will follow (breathe) where you lead….There is a lot of groove in here and the breaks allow for the listener to stay alert, but also to let the messages sink in! Very smart! I really recommend looking into more of her songs and analyzing the way she plays with repetition, groove and lyrics!

Positivity

To write hit songs, you have to consider the circumstances in which people consume music! If you can dance to music together or listen to music in a group and have fun, this music is more likely to spread around fast, than music you listen to by yourself, for comfort or mending a broken heart! So being aware of the kind of song you set out to write is crucial if your goal is to increase sales numbers!

Also, Carole didn´t focus on a specific genre only. Her songs range from country-ish tunes to Pop to Rock and Soul. She is not to be fitted into a box, which makes her versatile and enhances chances to enter into various songwriting markets.

There you go! Learning from the best of the best!

In my next blogpost, I will look into John Prine´s secrets! Stay tuned and check back next Sunday (May 3rd) for some insights!

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