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Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting Paperback – 10 Oct 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (10 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786884886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786884889
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Synopsis

The prolific songwriter offers novices advice on creating melodies, harmonies, and lyrics, as well as tips for marketing compositions and dealing with the music industry.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Joe on 5 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback
As a teacher of songwriting to Popular Music degree students, I use this book as required reading for the course. Webb's take on the art and craft of writing is at times opinionated, but his understanding of the imperatives of the form is second to none. Highlights include his extended and frequent analogy of 'building' the song like a house with solid foundations (form), different 'rooms' (sections/verses) and an impermeable roof (melody); he also builds an entire song from nothing more than a title right through to a finished product. The book is not flawless by any means; at times (such as when he discusses melodic form) he is clearly speaking to the absolute beginner; at others (such as when he attempts to cover the whole of music theory in around 25 pages!) he makes assumptions about the reader. In my experience only around 20% of wannabe songwriters actually read music notation; still fewer have a strong grasp of diatonic harmony.
That said, there are many gems of information and inspiration in this book from a true master of the craft. Skip the middle bit about music theory, and you'll find much in here to hone your songwriting to the highest level.
For those who are really serious writers, the other excellent book about songwriting worth having is Sheila Davis' 'Successful Lyric Writing' - it's another one that we use as a key text for our songwriting modules.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mark A. Lennox on 10 April 2000
Format: Hardcover
I had not heard much about Jimmy Webb before buying this book, but now I wan to know more about him, about songwriting, about music theory and construction, I bought this book with the idea that I would learn a little of what it was to be a songwriter (which I have been trying to be for either too long or too short a time depending on your point of view) and how to write songs and melodies easily and freely. Jimmy Webb goes through every aspect of the songwriting experience, even as far as to write a song in the book - 'Problem Child'. You get to see HIS methods, but more importantly the tools he uses to overcome problems. These tools are applicable to all songs and can be used by all songwriters to improve their art. I missed getting to see Jimmy when he played in Dublin recently, I won't miss him again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Oct. 1998
Format: Hardcover
As a conservatory-trained songwriter/computer and also a mathematician and computer programmer, I put a lot of thought and analysis into my own melodies and arrangements, but I have never seen pop music analyzed to this degree in a book.
And there are few who would be more qualified than Jimmy Webb. I have rejoiced, cried, laughed and shivered to his songs for years. He wrote for Richard Harris (MacArthur Park, Didn't We?, etc.) as well as for Glenn Campbell (Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get To Phoenix) and many others you have no doubt heard.
Along with all the analytical insights, you also get an intense look at the life of one songwriter.
I am in awe!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Dec. 1998
Format: Hardcover
Jim Webb is one of our true American treasures in the world of pop music. How lucky we are as songwriters to get the opportunity to get inside his heart and mind as he moves through the process of writing a song. Particularly interesting is Webb's take on lyrics......why he would or wouldn't use certain rhymes, for example. He addresses every part of the process, from formulating ideas to coming up with the best hook to the form of the song and on to writing the lyrics, melody and chord progression. He talks about some of the best written songs in pop music, disecting them and using them as examples. There is such an amazing amount of useful information in this book, it requires multiple readings to fully grasp it all. All in all, reading this book is like going to school and studying with the very finest master there is in the field of songwriting!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 27 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book goes through the process of choosing an idea / title for a song, then brainstorming potential lyrics, constructing first draft lyrics, determining an appropriate melody whilst adjusting the lyrics and writing the harmony.

The thinking behind each decision during this process is explained in a conversational tone with good humour and honesty. This is what makes this book uniquely valuable.

A more structured presentation would have made this more of a text book format and easier to navigate.

The final sections give some ideas about what market to sell your songs to (theatre, cabaret, pop etc) and in which American locations (NYC, LA or Nashville). Other books do this bit better, but Jimmy provides some inside information not available elsewhere as well as some interesting anecdotes from his past.

I've docked one star for the lack of a structured presentation and for the 'marketing songs' section being too lightweight to be really useful.

The songwriting chapters are very detailed and facinating.

The song he writes for the book may not be world class, but as a demonstration of how a song is written (by someone who has written many hits and successful songs over a long period of time, unlike most of the other song writing books available) this book is essential reading for writers of all levels of ability.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Jan. 1999
Format: Hardcover
A key part of my teaching is to know books about writing. I can't say enough good about this book. It's one of the best books about writing as a career or just as a practice that I've ever read, and it's right on the mark about what aspiring (song)writers should learn and do. It's beautifully and literately written, and Jimmy has indeed done his homework. I have a brother (Jerry) and a son (Henry) in popular music, both successful, and I think they'd agree with everything he says.
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