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#554378 - 10/31/07 06:12 PM Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation  
Joined: Oct 2007
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billrocker Offline
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Hi group.

I've posted here before but to refresh my name is Bill Renfrew and I'm an independent Nashville Music Publisher (Write THIS Music, BMI) as well as a songwriter, and I'm doing free song evaluations for a period of time. I'm looking for killer lyricists that will take some music writers that work with us into a whole new dimension.

In doing about 30 or 40 evaluations in 2 or 3 weeks I've noticed some common themes in songs that are problematic that come up a lot. I thought I'd share some of these with this group. These comments are strictly my opinion, of course. I've posted these on my website in total, but I thought I'd post a few here in case anyone's interested. If you'd like to see all of them, they're in "The Bonus Box", a new feature which will rotate monthly or so.

This is a new website by the way...to those who've asked, the other top 10 lists and the afiliates list are ALMOST done.

For now the Bonus Box holds "The top 10 most frequently occurring problems found in songs that we evaluate" at Write THIS Music.


Hopefully this will help songwriters who are thinking about submitting their songs to record companies, publishers, etc.

Here's an excerpt:

What Are some of the Most Frequently Occurring Problem Issues in Songs Submitted for Evaluations?

Over the past month or so I've evaluated an unusually large number of songs and I noticed that the same handful of of issues are coming up over and over again. They are all issues that songwriters should find to be fairly straightforward and simple to address...I didn't say 'easy'...they are issues that are simple to understand conceptually, but like any other skill, only practice can facilitate improvement. Don Schlitz ("The Gambler") said "I have to write bad before I can write good." (At least I have the first part down!) I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of these common problem areas so songwriters can think about them as they review their creations, hopefully before they submit their songs to be evaluated or considered for publication.


Here is an excerpt from a critique I wrote for someone recently, but I've probably written basically the same thing to 25 songwriters in the last 2 or 3 weeks. I changed the title of the actual song to a fictitious one for obvious reasons. It goes something like this:

Your song, "Rainy Days in Nashville" is pretty cool. I liked the direction you were going...it was novel and interesting. However, it quickly became apparent that your song really wasn't really about "Rainy Days in Nashville", but about falling in love unexpectedly. Just because you fell in love unexpectedly on a rainy day in Nashville, that doesn't mean there should be a song written about "Rainy Days In Nashville", even though the sound and rhythm of "Rainy Days in Nashville" is pleasant to the ear, and perhaps more enticing to use as a title than "I Fell in Love Unexpectedly". If you really did fall in love unexpectedly, and you write all the actual feelings you had surrounding that, with your special twist that will naturally occur because only you see the world like you do, it will mostly likely be a better even though it's not as sexy of a title. Why? Because you will have written sincerely about what you really truly do know something about. (More on writing uniquely, not reporting factually, and writing what you know in the sections "Transform the Typical" and "Don't Write What You Don't Know"). With the title being what it is you need to have your lyric filled with lines about "Rainy Days in Nashville"...lines that address the why, what, how, when, where, whatever, of "Rainy Days in Nashville". The question is what was it about "Rainy Days in Nashville" that made this song worth writing? What did you gain from experiencing "Rainy Days in Nashville"? What can we as listeners gain from "Rainy Days in Nashville" What's good about it? What's bad about it? What's entertaining about it? All these questions are ones that are fair game for a song called "Rainy Days in Nashville".


This closely relates to #1, but you need to look at it from both angles. Every line of your song should point to the title. In fact, you should be able to put the title of your song at the end of most of your lines and have it make sense, much like the game people play at Chinese restaurants where they open their fortunes and read them aloud, adding "in bed" at the end for a few laughs. You should pretty much be able to do that with each line in your song. Obviously it wont work on every line, but its a quick and dirty of making sure your song is focusing on what the song is about. Read each line of your latest and greatest song...the one you can hear Faith Hill singing on her next record...and add [your title] to the end of each line. How many out of the total did this work with?


Here's another actual critique that I've written in some form many times:

Your song is one that reveals a lot of the emotional pain that comes from betrayal. You've done a great job of illustrating the source of the pain. We've all been there and we can all relate and that's that's a very good thing to do in a song....to touch us all with a familiar, emotion evoking sentiment. But you can't just lay something negative out there and leave it. Unfortunately it would be tough to get a song like this cut by a major artist because it's very negative and offers no positive yield. Any song that's about being hurt, pain, loss, sadness, etc. will be much easier on the ears if it has some kind of new awareness that has been discovered by you, some new awakening, some message of hope, some vision for the future, something that you took from this experience other than bitterness, anger, resentment and hatred. Personally, I like to try and have a little philosophy in my songs, particularly if the concept is a one of pain or loss...maybe just one line that speaks to something in life the listener can take with him/her to offer a new perspective if they're dealing with the same kind of loss or pain. Listen to Alan Jackson's song "The Day the World Stopped Turning". He didnt just tell the story of 911 again and tell us how much it sucked for him. He knew we already knew that it sucked for him and we didn't need to be burdened by him self-indulgently laying it on us in a song. Instead he illustrated all the steps any one of US, the LISTENER, might have taken in coping with the horrific events of 911...and they were positive. They weren't vengeful, angry or full of resentment. In doing so he gave us some inner peace...not about 911, but rather peace about the way we reacted to 911...peace about how we tried to cope. He told us whatever we did to cope was ok...because it really sucked. He said all that without saying any of that.


Your lines should be special. Again I refer to Alan Jackson's song "The Day the World Stopped Turning". He didnt just ask, "Did you go home and read the bible?" He asked, "Did you dust off that old bible?"...a statement that has value added sentiment. He's suggesting that it may have been a while since we turned to the bible as a source of comfort . For the listener this can further evolve personally. One listener might think "maybe I'll start reading it more often"; another listener might think "why do I always wait until something terrible happens to pick up the bible"; another listener might not think anything at all and just like the way it sounds...those words do sound nice when they're sung. For all listeners an image in the mind is formed of what that this action would look like. Colors emerge, maybe a picture of a drawer where the listeners bible is kept. This is all pretty amazing if you think about it because all he said was "did you dust off that old bible", yet he said a lot more than that without saying any more than that. This makes the listener feel smart. It makes the listener feel like the song was written for him/her. It gives the listener something to take with them or to ponder. Another example from the same song is his question "did you turn on old Lucy re-runs" (or however it's phrased exactly). Instead of saying, "did you turn on something that didnt have violence", he said something that offers so much more. Whats the picture that comes to your mind when you think of an old I Love Lucy rerun? To me its Lucy stuffing chocolates in her mouth when shes working on the assembly line at the candy factory. Could there be any image thats a further polar opposite to the image of airplanes crashing into buildings? Its warm and fuzzy. Its hilarious. Its soft, sweet, safe, and so incredibly familiar. And as if thats not enough, its also a vivid reminder of a time long ago…a time when people didnt fly planes into buildings...on purpose that is...to try and kill totally innocent people. His words make us happy in our sadness. Its not about him...its about us. Its edifying. It makes us (the listener) feel like we are not insane or backward in wishing things could be a little more like they used to be. Again, he says all that without saying any of that. Say it differently. Say it how YOU see it, but for US and not for YOU. What makes it interesting to you? Tell us. Don't try to write a song that will be on the radio. Write a song that speaks to your vision of life. That's much more valuable in the grand scheme of things. It also will have a better chance of being on the radio than if you try to write a song that will be on the radio.

For the other 5, please visit www.writethismusic.com

Hit the BONUS BOX in bottom right hand corner!



#554561 - 11/01/07 03:51 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: billrocker]  
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Heidi Thompson Offline
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Hello Bill,
For any "killer" lyricists out there who wish to make themselves known for consideration to work with your musicians, how should this occur?


"And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Paul McCartney
#554567 - 11/01/07 04:27 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: Heidi Thompson]  
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mattbanx Offline
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Northern Minnesota
Much of what comes out of music seems to dwell in the negative.
Especially genres like metal and punk.
But it has always been that sense of rebellion, or satire in the mellower songs that have drawn me in.
Music being that great vehicle for something to relate to.
Unfortunately with in all of the entertainment community, a deep topic like 9/11 can't be stated without leaving out a good share of the audience.
Sixties anthems were generaly liberal and anti-establisment.
But there is'nt that "come on, let's get along" and equal things to get pissed off about.
The entertainment medium has turned very divisive.
Many acts lining up for special interest and conventions increasingly.

#554571 - 11/01/07 04:42 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: mattbanx]  
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niteshift Offline
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Hey Bill, If you're looking for killer lyricists, a few spring to mind. Ande Rasmussen, whom I refer to as a "lyricist on steroids", ( sorry Ande !), couchgrouch, Tampa Stan, and the late great Dawg, ( whose estate is managed by Bobbie Gallop )are all fine lyricists whose work should keep you going for years. They're all here on the boards if you do a quick search.
There's many more, sorry if I didn't mention someone who should be, but I hang out mainly on the mp3 board.

cheers, niteshift

#554583 - 11/01/07 06:28 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: Heidi Thompson]  
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billrocker Offline
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Hi Heidi.

Can you email me some of your work? 2 or 3 of your best ones?? That would be cool. Thanks for your response!



#554586 - 11/01/07 07:19 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: niteshift]  
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billrocker Offline
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Thanks Nightshift!

Much appreciated. It dawned on me that asking for 'lyrics' is like saying your looking for a car. First question is, "What kind?" As a publisher who's pitching to contemporary artists, great country stuff...not rodeo songs or what you'd 'think' Nashville is looking for, but songs about the common man...love songs of course, maybe songs about changing times or songs with conflict that arises because of old vs new standards or ways of life. Listen to songs that Martina McBride sings. There's a HUGE demand for songs for bands like Montgomery Gentry. Don't just listen to the radio hits and write a song like those (not that you would of course...I'm trying to talk to people with all levels of experience). Listen the the whole record and get a vibe for what they're singing about and find a void...something they haven't sung about, and write that.

For me and my stuff, I'd love to find a lyricist who thinks like Springsteen...that go to hell attitude merged with sensitivity and awareness...s rebel WITH a clue. Write about anything you want but I'd love to see it have a vibe of someone who somehow understands Springsteen as much as Brian Wilson. Piece of cake, right? (hee hee

I will seek out these writers who you have recommended. Thanks tons for your help.


#554979 - 11/02/07 02:59 PM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: billrocker]  
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John Hoffman Offline
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John Hoffman  Offline
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niteshift named you some good writers. I've always heard music can take a lyric to a new dimension but not the other way around. There are 3 lyric boards here. And writing at all levels of accomplishment. Have a look.

Knowing the 10 most common errors in lyric writing is academic. Avoiding them in actual writing is another thing. Some of us spend a great deal of time trying to point out these things much as you have in your excerpt.

Your evaluations of particular lyrics would likely be appreciated. The notion that you might do so on a site like this free of charge is heartwarming. Your participation is welcome.


Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword never had an editor.
#554980 - 11/02/07 03:00 PM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: John Hoffman]  
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John Hoffman Offline
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John Hoffman  Offline
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I should add a note of thanks for specifying what sort of lyrics you are looking for. That is the $64.00 question.


Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword never had an editor.
#557058 - 11/08/07 10:41 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: billrocker]  
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Hey Bill,

Certainly some interesting information here...and nice to know there are people looking for LYRICS (not just "radio ready demos").

At the risk of being presumptuous, might I add a name or two for your consideration...including my own? These are some of the relative "newbies" who hang out on the Lyrics Feedback 3 with me....

Derek Hines
Peter J

These people don't know I've mentioned them, but thought their work would be worth of consideration. Again, a tour around that board might be a valuable use of your time.

Thanks so much for the information and the opportunity.

Ciao for now,
Beth Williams smile



"Fill what's empty, empty what's full, and scratch where it itches."
#557508 - 11/09/07 02:59 PM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: Beth G. Williams]  
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D) Offline
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Hey, NiteShift...I Owes Ya for The Kind Words, Amigo! Many Thanks!

HiDee Mr Bill, & Thank YOU for the Great TIPS~! Every One of 'em Spot ON...{& yep, I'm occasionally Guilty of Every One of 'em..too!} ;-)>

I'm on a bit of a Roll this week at Lyrics Feedback Board 3, with "Santa's Doin' Drive-Bys..Tonight"..."LAUGH"..."Your Ministry Has Come To Light"..."The Prison of Your Scowl"...& "If Christmas Comes Any Earlier (What'll Happen to Halloween?)" bein' the Last-5-Penned.

Hope you'll check a few Out!

FINISHED Songs are hearable at <www.CDBaby.com/TampaStan>
Faves: "Deep-Down, We're Dogs".."Which Hill Do We Meet On (& Who'll Bring The Beer?)".."(When The Brushfire Hit) The Popcorn Farm"..."Touch You All Over"..."Where The Hell is Heaven?".."The Grass Is Always Greener (Outside Our One-Horse Town)".."Love in The Mountains" & "Yeah, God's Like That".

Needless to say, "I got More"...heh!

Thanks for Any & All the Time ya got to check me out!
Big Guy-Hugs, Bill & Nite',
(My email's kinda messed-up at-present..sorry.)

#557705 - 11/10/07 08:01 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: ]  
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PeterJ Offline
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South OrangeCounty, California...
PeterJ here. My humble thanks to Beth G. for recommending me as a "Killer Lyricist" I just write from the heart. Generally toward the country genre, but I like to think that my words are that of the common man, not just the common cowboy.

I'd be honored if you could spare the time to give a listen to the original work I've recorded to my soundclick site. The recording quality isn't anything to write home about, but it will give you a sample of the type of work I'm turning out right now.
If you were to honor me with an evaluation/opinion, I would be grateful for the opportunity go grow from your wisdom.

If I don't hear from you, I'll accept that you have bigger/tastier fish to fry. In that case, I will wish you all the best in your endeavors.

If music be the food of love, why is it so hard to keep my family fed?

#558179 - 11/12/07 04:50 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: PeterJ]  
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PeterJ Offline
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PeterJ  Offline
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South OrangeCounty, California...
First,let me apologize for not returning the favor to Beth.
Beth is a insightful woman with much wisodom to give. Any consideration of her lyrics will be a benefit to your organization.

Secondly, and probably more important to the folks here on JPF. Do you assume personal responsibility for posting on these boards?
I have checked my "Posted" accounts and I continue to revisit these boards, and it appears you may have vanisied with nothing more than an web-address (the instructions from whish I intend to follow).
I beleive it would lend credence to your solicitiation if you wold provide the courtesy of revisiting this thread.

If music be the food of love, why is it so hard to keep my family fed?

#569242 - 12/20/07 07:34 PM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: PeterJ]  
Joined: May 2001
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Brunswick, Ga. USA

Ray E. Strode
#569671 - 12/22/07 02:41 PM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Emily Sanders Offline
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WOW>>>>This is great stuff, Bill. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I am going to print it out and read it before sending out my next round of songs!!!

Merry Christmas smile


#569815 - 12/23/07 09:22 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: Emily Sanders]  
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mattbanx Offline
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posted in wrong topic!

Last edited by mattbanx; 12/23/07 10:01 AM.
#576413 - 01/17/08 03:34 PM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: PeterJ]  
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billrocker Offline
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Posts: 301
Nashville TN
Hi Peter!!!! Took me a while to figure out how to find ways to get back to threads I've posted on. I'm still around, yet very busy. Trying to get my website improved as we speak.

Can you send me something? mp3 with lyric in .doc attachement. Remind me who you are when you send...I'm getting so many submissions I'm losing track of who's who.

Sorry so long in touching base with you. Not rude...just lame in being organized and figuring out how to get around in here...which button do you click to see new posts following posts you made in threads? I wish I could get email anytime someone adds something to a thread I've posted in...is there a way? It's hard to find time to keep track of all these different threads...maybe I'm doing something wrong.


#1093252 - 10/04/15 07:15 AM Re: Common Problems In Songs Submitted for Evaluation [Re: billrocker]  
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 103
Cheyenne Offline
Serious Contributor
Cheyenne  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 103
Florida U.S.A.
Dear Old Tampa Stan sadly not with us any more
He was someone I met in Europe along with his wife
many years back.

I was pretty green at that time on writing Great Songs
it took a few years to find a positive way of recording
whilst writing, I found that to be the way for myself
Having I'm told a Good Recording Voice has saved me
from taking the expensive way , Having played as front
singer for many of my own bands and in several Genres
of music. I like to get the backing tracks done first
and then comes the real hard work, re writing lyrics and
melody, It's amazing the different routes one can take
without changing the underlying chords

The secret there is to come up with a good set of
chords beforehand something I have always been
able to do via Piano and Guitar My son is light
years ahead of me as a
musician, and I leave him to play and record all the
instrument tracks, apart from vocals

Its a method of writing that suits me, but its not for
everyone I am still working on some songs that were
born up to six years ago, those songs have evolved over
time as my knowledge of the art of what is involved
in making memorable songs has got better.

Before I pitch anything, myself and my writing partner
go over every line and every musical phrase re writing
the ones that are the weakest One thing I always keep
in mind is - Does Every Line Point At The Title-
Repetition - Contrast - Showing not Telling-
Contemporary . And Non use of age old cliches ,
these are just a few of the tricks of the trade but
above all Does It Sing Well

Last edited by Cheyenne; 10/04/15 07:26 AM.

One of the most important principles of songwriting is to remember that a good song is a partnership of many different components, all working together to produce a satisfying musical experience.

In that respect, song components are either enhancing or compromising their combined effects.

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