Jimmy Webb, Master Songwriter:
on generating songwriting ideas, and using a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus.

Read what advice Jimmy Webb the lyricist and composer of "MACARTHUR PARK" and many other monumental hits, has to impart about songwriting ideas, [and even using a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus] from his five-star reviewed book: "TUNESMITH".

JIMMY WEBB ON "CATCHING" SONGWRITING IDEAS:

"Almost without exception, every great songwriter whom I know personally or that I've heard of or read about, uses a specific technique: Some free-associate on legal pads for hours and then pare lists of cross-referenced words or phrases down to related components that can by used in lyric lines.

"Many write draft after draft - as many as twenty- of a whole lyric in composition notebooks, lining out their less fortunate efforts as they go. Some sit at a piano or hold a guitar and 'chain-of-consciousness-sing' any old thing that comes into their heads at the outset - getting a 'sound' first and working out the intricacies of meaning later.

"Another well-known writer stands in front of huge speakers and 'word-jams' to tracks that are already finished.

"Some write lyrics, some only music. Some write both and among these, many write the words first. Others write a catchy tune and add words that fit. Many move the lyrics and melody along simultaneously in careful steps.

"All these techniques are valid. It is almost a certainty that before a writer achieves full-fledged professional status, they will have developed a unique method of working their tail off. ON USING A RHYMING DICTIONARY AND A THESAURUS:

"But there is one thing that these gentlemen and ladies have in common - whatever their style. Virtually all of them keep a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus close by. No shame here. In fact it is not a very lucid act to attempt the writing of verse in any form without these unless one happens to be a Mensa, And even then...

"I find that other reference materials can be invaluable: BARTLETT'S FAMILIAR QUOTATIONS for either avoiding or searching for cliches [sometimes a cliche can be a valuable component of a lyric if recognized for what it is]; specific research material when writing about an unfamiliar subject: but mostly the work of other writers of song, prose and poetry.

"Writers must read. One corollary being that composers must listen. [...]

"How can one write an original song if one hasn't heard and 'read' at least a few of the most famous and best examples that have ever been written?"

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It's interesting that one can find entire books and websites which are devoted to just ONE of the songwriting ideas which he listed above.

It's also a relief to find out that it's NOT "cheating" to get words that rhyme out of a rhyming dictionary or to rely on a thesaurus.

And there's a LOT of more useful songwriting ideas like the above in Jimmy Webb's book!


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