Collaborate To Add Energy & Strength To Your Songwriting

Excerpted from Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting by Robin Frederick. Available at

Every couple of weeks I check the top ten hit songs in various radio formats. One of the things I consistently find is that many of the top hit songs are collaborations. In the Country format, frequently all of the top ten songs are collaborations. Rock is dominated by artist / producer collaborations, the same goes for the Urban Contemporary format. Only the Hot AC and AC formats, with their focus on singer-songwriters, list more solo songwriters than collaborations.

Even if you have strengths as both a lyric and melody writer, you can gain an advantage by working with a collaborator. It's no coincidence that most hit songs are collaborations.

Where to find collaborators

School music departments: The easiest way to find a collaborator is to use the resources that are already available to you. If you're in school or if there's a college or university in your area, check out the music department. Post a "Song Collaborator Wanted" message on the bulletin board. Include the genre in which you're interested and a way to contact you.

Local music stores: Many music stores offer music lessons. They may have teachers and students who are interested in songwriting. Ask to speak to a teacher who gives guitar or piano lessons and tell him or her you are looking for a song collaborator.

Clubs and music venues: You can find potential collaborators at clubs in your area. Look for a performer or band whose style you like and introduce yourself. They'll probably tell you they write all their own material and don't need a collaborator, but don't let that stop you. Explain that you want to pitch the songs to publishers and mention that this could provide new contacts and a potential income source.

The Internet: You don't have to limit yourself to songwriters in your area; the Internet makes long distance collaboration easy. Do your research. Look for established web sites with forums where songwriters meet to share songs, get feedback, and find collaborators. Spend some time getting to know the regular contributors. Listen to their songs, especially their collaborations. When you find someone you think would make a good collaborator, go ahead and contact him or her.

How to collaborate

There's no "right way" to collaborate; there are as many ways to write a song together as there are songwriters. Talk to your collaborator to see what's comfortable for each of you. Do you want to work together in the same room, batting around ideas? Or will one of you provide a rough lyric then let the other work on it awhile and share the results?

Discuss how you'll work as soon as you get started. Commit to a general timeline and keep to it. Be sure to keep your appointments to meet whether in person, on the phone, or online.

If you write lyrics

Give your collaborator as much information as you can about what you hear in your head. If you hear a rhythm or melody along with your lyric, record a rough vocal version while clapping along to indicate the beat. Your collaborator may or may not use it but at least you'll communicate what you have in mind.

If you write melody

Be sure your melody has a clear, well-defined song structure so the lyricist doesn't have to guess where the chorus or verses begin! You can indicate the verse and chorus by recording a vocal label if needed but it should be obvious from just listening to the melody.

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