Friday, August 24, 2012

How it's done



Irving Berlin's "nine inviolable rules for writing a successful popular song" (c/o David Suisman, originally published in American Magazine in 1920):

1. The melody must musically be within the range of the average voice of the average public singer. . . . 
2. The title, which must be simple and easily remembered, must be "planted" effectively in the song. It must be emphasized, accented again and again, throughout the verse and chorus. . . . 
3. The ideas and the wording must be [appropriate for] either a male or a female singer . . . so that both sexes will want to buy and sing it. . . . 
4. The song should contain heart interest [pathos], even if it is a comic song . . . . 
5. The song must be original . . . . Success is not achieved . . . . by trying to imitate the general idea of the great song hit of the moment. . . . 
6. Your lyric must have to do with ideas, emotions, or objects known to everyone  . . . . 
7. The lyric must be euphonious--written in easily singable words and phrases, in which there are many open vowels . . . . 
8. Your song must be perfectly simple . . . . 
9. The song writer must look upon his work as a business . . . .

And there you have it.

3 comments:

cinderkeys said...

I do almost all of these. I break rule #2 occasionally and on purpose. I enjoy non-obvious-title songs written by other people too. Sometimes it's fun to try to figure out why the title is the title. It can add depth to the interpretation of the lyrics as well.

bruce oliver said...

Great post. I was checking continuously this blog

Andrew Durkin... said...

Hey Susan -- I think I have broken and adhered to all of these rules at one time or another!