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#959266 - 05/11/12 03:10 PM Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis  
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 224
Aaron Corley Offline
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Aaron Corley  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2011
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West Valley City, UT
I finished reading The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis last week and its had my mind going ever since. Published by Writers Digest Books in 1984, Davis decided to write the book after teaching several courses in popular lyric writing. The result is an informative and entertaining tour of some of the most memorable and best written songs of the twentieth century.

Using a conversational style, Davis goes beyond the secrets to writing Top 10 songs and delves into what truly makes a lyric timeless. To accomplish this, she uses many examples written by Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and other Broadway composers whose classic songs have made the transition from the stage to the popular music scene. In addition, she explores well-known popular songs current at the time of publication that exemplify these same concepts. Being a fan of Broadway and '80's music, I found that I recognized most of the songs used. Others not as familiar with these genres may want to have Wikipedia or Youtube handy while reading.

The book is divided into several sections, making it easy to just read those sections that interest the reader, but most of the chapters are also fairly short, allowing for quick digestion of the key concepts. Chapters cover such topics as the difference between poetry and song lyrics, the various kinds of rhyme, basic songs forms and co-writing pitfalls without being too technical or condescending.

I recommend this book for both the novice and the experience song writer as the subject matter is not only essential to writing great lyrics, but a good refresher of the principles that make a great song.

In all, I found The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis to be very interesting and well-worth the time I spent reading it. It has caused me to think more objectively about my own lyrics and those of my collaborators. She has set the bar fairly high, going beyond the requirements for a flash-in-the-pan chart-topper to a song that will outlive its creator(s) as a standard for future generations.


Thank you for reading this review. I hope that you have found this hopeful. I also hope this will be the first of many. If you liked this review, please do one or more of the following:

1 - Add your own thoughts about The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis and how it has or has not helped your own writing. If this book is valuable to lyricists in general, let's get the word out. If it should be avoided, let's let others know that, too.

2 - Critique this review. Let me know if it was helpful to you. Give me ideas for improving my next one.

Looking for a good book about lyric writing? Visit http://www.jpfolks.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=959266

Check out my music at http://www.soundclick.com/aaroncorley
#959354 - 05/12/12 11:15 AM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Aaron Corley]  
Joined: Feb 2005
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Dave Rice Offline
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Dave Rice  Offline
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Hi Aaron:

I thought your review was done quite well. It's too late for me to buy a book on lyric or songwriting... I've developed entirely too many bad habits. It has inspired me to consider writing my own book: "How to fail miserably in the music biz!" (LOL!)

Thanks for making the "readership" at JPF aware of Ms. Davis book. I wish her, and you, much success.


#959480 - 05/13/12 10:34 AM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Aaron Corley]  
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R. Shayne Vaughan Offline
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R. Shayne Vaughan  Offline
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This is the book that caused me to start seriously pursuing a career in songwriting.

“I usually start with a title or maybe a little rhyme or phrase.” - Harlan Howard

Co-writing = Compromise!

#959482 - 05/13/12 10:43 AM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: R. Shayne Vaughan]  
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Wyman Lloyd Offline
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Yep, I read it some years ago. One of the best IMO. I still have it somewhere. Every new lyric writer should read it

#959491 - 05/13/12 11:37 AM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Wyman Lloyd]  
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DonnaMarilyn Offline
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DonnaMarilyn  Offline
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That's quite a decent review, Aaron. smile It's a good book indeed. I bought it a few years ago, along with Davis's "The Songwriters Idea Book". She may be the first teacher (in the area of songwriting) to have looked at the craft of writing lyrics in such a linear fashion.

Another excellent one of hers you might like to look at (if you haven't already) and review is "Successful Lyric Writing". Published in 1988, three years after "The Craft", its a step-by-step course & workbook, covering theory, principles, and song forms.

"Successful Lyric Writing" is all nitty-gritty, hands-on, and very easy to work with. At the moment, I'm doing a series of online classes (and assignments) based on the book. They're real eye-openers.


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Life is too important to take seriously.


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#959514 - 05/13/12 02:34 PM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: DonnaMarilyn]  
Joined: Jan 2006
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Lisa Gundling Offline
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Lisa Gundling  Offline
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Hi Aaron,

Excellent book review! I have heard of the book, but haven't been inspired to read it -- until now!


#959651 - 05/14/12 03:00 PM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Aaron Corley]  
Joined: May 2001
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Nigel Quin Offline
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Birmingham, UK
I read Sheila Davis' The Songwriter’s Idea Book which refers heavily to the Craft book. It was pretty inspirational for me, I wrote my first proper song on the back of it. Well, not literally on the back of it otherwise I would have been defacing a fine tome but you know what I mean. If you are interested in songwriting in general and lyrics in particular both books are well worth a read and to try out some of the exercises.

#960272 - 05/18/12 01:27 PM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Aaron Corley]  
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 224
Aaron Corley Offline
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Aaron Corley  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 224
West Valley City, UT
Thanks for your feedback, everyone. I was impressed with The Craft of Lyric Writing enough that I think it should be required reading for JPF membership. grin

I also appreciate that some of you referred to others of Sheila Davis' books. I plan to read both as soon as I can get them from the library. There are so many good books about songwriting out there, I think it would be really easy to create a list here for others to refer to and recommend to each other.

That said, if anyone else has an opinion of this book, please feel free to share it.

Looking for a good book about lyric writing? Visit http://www.jpfolks.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=959266

Check out my music at http://www.soundclick.com/aaroncorley
#960392 - 05/19/12 09:52 AM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Aaron Corley]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,206
Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content

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Indianapolis, IN USA
Thanks Aaron,

Many of the top music industry books were written by JPF Mentors. Sheila was one of the first to tackle the topic so well. I believe she has sort of passed her torch to Danny and Sara of SongU.com as they are good friends and Danny and Sara are wonderful keepers of the flame first lit by Sheila!

Great book, thanks again for the review. We'll look forward to future reviews. Perhaps on our new website we can post them as a blog or featured articles when you have some more finished!


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

#960498 - 05/19/12 08:15 PM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Dec 2008
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Kolstad Offline
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Kolstad  Offline
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I own and have read all of Davis' books on songwriting, and especially enjoyed her chapter on getting from the personal to the universal in this book.

On your review style, I enjoyed reding where you were coming from and how that resonated with the book. I would have wished for more substantial resumes of a couple of the chapters, though, and perhaps some ideas on where you think this book excels compared to other songwriting books.

But great initiative doing some reviews! Enjoyed it.

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#964383 - 06/15/12 02:43 PM Re: Book Review: The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis [Re: Aaron Corley]  
Joined: Feb 2001
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Ande Rasmussen Offline
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Ande Rasmussen  Offline
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Martindale, TX, USA
Sheila is one wonderful writer and her books are essential reading for all songwriters. Most of her key points are in Ande's Lyric Writing Tips

The Craft of Lyric Writing is very good.

My 2 favorite books by her are:

The Songwriters Idea Book:
40 Str...tive Songs, and Keep Your Creative Flow

Successful Lyric Writing

Ande Rasmus sen
Ande R a s m u s s e n@aol.com
Ande R a s m u s s e n.com

Texas Grammy Gov 06-08

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