2007-03-30 · in Books · 245 words

A guide to songwriting by Jimmy Webb, who wrote "Wichita Lineman", "Up, Up and Away", "MacArthur Park" and dozens of other successful songs, and has produced, arranged and written for many other artists.

The book starts off as you'd expect -- how to come up with ideas for songs, writing rough lyrics, arranging chords and melodies to fit, and improving a song once you've got a rough version of it. It concludes with a lengthy section about getting along in the music business, which is rather neatly interleaved with Webb's musical autobiography.

I thought the section on developing chord progressions was particularly interesting; it's something Webb's very good at, and he explains the process he uses (essentially, finding notes to pivot around) in such a way that I could immediately see how to apply it to my own music. On the other hand, he freely admits that he doesn't have much of an idea how he comes up with melodies, so that section's rather unexciting.

This is Webb's own writing without too much polish by his editor; it's messy, informal, opinionated, wide-ranging and entertaining, with contributions from many of Webb's friends and colleagues in the business. I'd recommend it if you're at all interested in songwriting.

There's a CD that he released around the same time called "Ten Easy Pieces", containing his own arrangements of some of his more popular songs; it's well worth a listen.