Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.

Lemony Snicket

 

 

 

 

We lose ourselves in books, but we find ourselves there too.

Anonymous

Essentials

If your songwriting bookshelf is only four items wide, you could do far worse than make these your Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 

Clement Wood: The Complete Rhyming Dictionary

(Dell, 1991)

A rhyming dictionary is an essential tool for any songwriter. A good one can help pull you out of any lyrical holes and keep your vocabulary fresh, and Clement Wood’s is the gold standard. Its entries are listed in single line columns making it easy to scan down the list for the perfect word. The dictionary itself is also prefaced with The Poet’s Craft Book, a useful and old-school introduction to the craft of form, rhythm and rhyme.

 

William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White: The Elements of Style

(Longman, 1999)

For over fifty years Strunk and White’s Elements of Style has been raising standards in style and written expression the world over. Get your copy and let its wisdom help give your writing the impact, clarity and panache it deserves. Better yet, get your copy and bury yourself within its pages at least twice a year for the rest of your life.

 

Paul Zollo: Songwriters On Songwriting

(DaCapo, 2003)

This is an important and unique book. More than ten years in the making and in its fourth edition, this hefty tome compiles the thoughts of sixty-three songwriters. Zollo uncovers the influences, working methods and experiences of the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Carlos Santana, Lou Reed, Lenny Kravitz. Unlike the latest season of Big Brother, there’s not a Z-list celebrity in sight. Best of all Zollo has a Jedi-like skill of helping his interviewees open up and his transcription style makes you feel like you’re there in the room with them. Recommended for the coffee table and the writing studio: his interviews are as entertaining as they are illuminating.

 

Jason Blume: Six Steps to Songwriting Success

(Billboard, 2008)

Don’t let the kitschy title deceive you: songwriting success is not as easy as 1-2-3-4-5-6, but Jason Blume’s book can help you get there. Blume, a hero on the Nashville scene, has written for Britney and The Backstreet Boys, and here he manages to condense a cornucopia of useful songwriting ideas into six distinct chapters. There’s virtually none of the academic theorizing, the narcissistic rambling or the nice-in-principle-but-it-doesn’t-help-me-fill-the-blank-page ideas that populate many similar so-called introductions to songwriting. It’s the sort of book that tells you not only what you’re trying to achieve, but also how you can do it. If you have only one guide to songwriting craft on your bookshelf, this is the one we recommend.