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Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting

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Webb brings his insider's knowledge, experience, and star power to the ultimate guide for aspiring songwriters. With a combination of anecdotes, meditation, and advice, he breaks down the creative process from beginning to end--from coping with writer's block, to song construction, chords, and even self-promotion. Webb also gives readers a glimpse into the professional mus Webb brings his insider's knowledge, experience, and star power to the ultimate guide for aspiring songwriters. With a combination of anecdotes, meditation, and advice, he breaks down the creative process from beginning to end--from coping with writer's block, to song construction, chords, and even self-promotion. Webb also gives readers a glimpse into the professional music world.


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Webb brings his insider's knowledge, experience, and star power to the ultimate guide for aspiring songwriters. With a combination of anecdotes, meditation, and advice, he breaks down the creative process from beginning to end--from coping with writer's block, to song construction, chords, and even self-promotion. Webb also gives readers a glimpse into the professional mus Webb brings his insider's knowledge, experience, and star power to the ultimate guide for aspiring songwriters. With a combination of anecdotes, meditation, and advice, he breaks down the creative process from beginning to end--from coping with writer's block, to song construction, chords, and even self-promotion. Webb also gives readers a glimpse into the professional music world.

30 review for Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    This was an excruciating read. Self-importance, some sexism, and his songs while hits here and there aren't that good when compared to the greats. The lyrics he suggests (mostly his own) as brilliant are cheesy. And writing songs as he suggests (note I did not get past the middle of he book) would be boring and formulaic. Despite being written in 1998, the only artist I recall that wrote after the 70s was Nirvana. And evidently there are only two female songwriters, Mitchell and King. There are n This was an excruciating read. Self-importance, some sexism, and his songs while hits here and there aren't that good when compared to the greats. The lyrics he suggests (mostly his own) as brilliant are cheesy. And writing songs as he suggests (note I did not get past the middle of he book) would be boring and formulaic. Despite being written in 1998, the only artist I recall that wrote after the 70s was Nirvana. And evidently there are only two female songwriters, Mitchell and King. There are now better books on songwriting especially if you love rock as roll and breaking the "rules". According to this book recent artists like Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson would be breaking his rhyming rules, thus stinking up the joint. Also unnecessary, blaming rap for the downfall of songwriting. If all you've heard are a few hits, perhaps, but rap is brilliantly done if you care to look.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tony Espy

    I finally managed to finish this book on my second, or maybe even third attempt. It's not an easy read. Who'd ever think a book on songwriting could be 400+ pages long? Jimmy Webb has written a brilliant book, that encompasses history, theory, instruction/guidelines, current affairs, and more, all in relation to this craft of writing songs. I wouldn't recommend this book for everyone. 56 pages dedicated to form ( eg. A/B/A/A/B/B ) alone almost got me to put this book down for good yet again! Yet, I finally managed to finish this book on my second, or maybe even third attempt. It's not an easy read. Who'd ever think a book on songwriting could be 400+ pages long? Jimmy Webb has written a brilliant book, that encompasses history, theory, instruction/guidelines, current affairs, and more, all in relation to this craft of writing songs. I wouldn't recommend this book for everyone. 56 pages dedicated to form ( eg. A/B/A/A/B/B ) alone almost got me to put this book down for good yet again! Yet, a few chapters later and Jimmy's explained triads, inversions, sus chords, ..., and I'm picking up my guitar and applying some of what I just read. So, there's certainly inspiration to be found within the pages of this book. Also be prepared to be peppered with a million songs, artists, and songwriters that you've never heard of before. Thank God Spotify exists! This book was published in 1998, and it's interesting to read Jimmy describing both the sense of optimism with regards to sales, and the pessimism with regards to the quality of the music then being written/produced. The Internet is discussed every so often, but as this was really the dawn of the World Wide Web, there's no foreboding of the negative impact it was to have on future music sales. Finally, one of the most touching finishes to the book was a page dedicated to all the songwriters that had passed away during the time he'd written the book: Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Jeff Buckley, Jerry Garcia, John Denver, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra and many more. At times you get the feeling the Jimmy is dismissive of certain types of music, but this final list pays respect to songwriters of all genres and different generations. Thanks for a great read Jimmy, and the inspiration to go write more songs!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    This book is full of self-centered advice, an ignorance of common-practice classical music and theory (though Webb still references it often enough), and an apparent contempt for most music written after 1970. After writing an incredibly mediocre song through the first ten chapters, the book ends with 100 or so rambling pages about the nature of the music business and the state of music today. That's not to say there isn't anything to be gained from the knowledge Webb shares - he's certainly had This book is full of self-centered advice, an ignorance of common-practice classical music and theory (though Webb still references it often enough), and an apparent contempt for most music written after 1970. After writing an incredibly mediocre song through the first ten chapters, the book ends with 100 or so rambling pages about the nature of the music business and the state of music today. That's not to say there isn't anything to be gained from the knowledge Webb shares - he's certainly had his successes and written some great songs - but the good bits are so buried in long-winded personal stories and cheeseball songwriting that the book isn't really worth reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate Stone

    I've read a number of music theory, production, and songwriting books that I just couldn't put down. It's a topic of significant personal interest and this was a title that has really high average reviews. How could I go wrong? In practice, this is was a book I kept finding reasons to avoid coming back to. At less than a third of the way through it's time to admit that it just isn't for me. It's not that it's badly written, as the author's written style is moderately engaging. It isn't that the a I've read a number of music theory, production, and songwriting books that I just couldn't put down. It's a topic of significant personal interest and this was a title that has really high average reviews. How could I go wrong? In practice, this is was a book I kept finding reasons to avoid coming back to. At less than a third of the way through it's time to admit that it just isn't for me. It's not that it's badly written, as the author's written style is moderately engaging. It isn't that the author doesn't know what he's talking about, because he's clearly an accomplished professional with an impressive resume. It came down to the forceful presentation of personal opinion as if it were objective fact, a tendency to rely heavily on his own material to draw examples from that I didn't find especially inspiring, and some serious pacing issues. Did we really need a visual aid with descriptions of what the axes represent to get across the idea that emotional intensity grows throughout a 2-verse song? I certainly didn't. Did I need another graph a page or two later illustrating how this exact same thing applies to a 5-verse song? This is the point where I just couldn't find the will to continue. I should have known when the author ranted about the evils of "false" rhymes and how nobody who uses them will ever amount to anything that he and I would find little common ground. So, if you're a huge fan of the author's songs and have a high tolerance for self-importance, this might be the perfect work for you. Maybe there's even a ton of redeeming content later in the book that I'm going to miss out on, but I will sleep well without ever needing to find out.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kit Warren

    Very informative but laborious read. Some very solid and useful advice ranging from the practical to spiritual if you're willing to wade through a huge amount of information for the parts pertinent to you. It's worth noting that, since the music industry has changed so dramatically since it was written, there are 100 or so pages that discuss the music industry that are now historically informative rather than relevant. Obviously not a real complaint about the book, just something to be aware of. Very informative but laborious read. Some very solid and useful advice ranging from the practical to spiritual if you're willing to wade through a huge amount of information for the parts pertinent to you. It's worth noting that, since the music industry has changed so dramatically since it was written, there are 100 or so pages that discuss the music industry that are now historically informative rather than relevant. Obviously not a real complaint about the book, just something to be aware of. An excellent book for the songwriter and musician for the most part.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    This is one of those books that will be on my shelves forever as a definitive volume on the subject it sets out to cover. I aspire to write songs and I've written a few but I'll admit I've been slow if not stale for a few years but this (and I was inspired to read it by the Sodajerker podcast which really deserves a shout-out for inspiring me as much) really got me in the mood to put a lot more time into the process again. There are a couple of chapters on music theory which I'll have to read a This is one of those books that will be on my shelves forever as a definitive volume on the subject it sets out to cover. I aspire to write songs and I've written a few but I'll admit I've been slow if not stale for a few years but this (and I was inspired to read it by the Sodajerker podcast which really deserves a shout-out for inspiring me as much) really got me in the mood to put a lot more time into the process again. There are a couple of chapters on music theory which I'll have to read a couple more times to even understand let alone take on board, and the last few chapters are more about actually *being* a songwriter and I'm sure they'll have more value in future too… but his ideas about lyric-writing and substitution in basic chord structure and just his ideas about being a creative person are utterly indispensable if, like most creative people, you frequently find yourself consumed by self-doubt. He doesn't just blow smoke up your ass, he's honest… but *god* does he make you wanna do better…

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Horton

    Absolutely, completely, ridiculously, inarguably the greatest book about songwriting ever written. Webb's one of those "behind the scenes" master songwriters of the twentieth century whose name most people have never heard but whose songs everyone has heard - "Wichita Lineman," "Didn't we," "By the time I get to phoenix," "The moon's a harsh mistress," and classic groaner "MacArthur Park" only scratch the surface. This isn't some sort of "how to write better songs" workbook for aspiring songwrit Absolutely, completely, ridiculously, inarguably the greatest book about songwriting ever written. Webb's one of those "behind the scenes" master songwriters of the twentieth century whose name most people have never heard but whose songs everyone has heard - "Wichita Lineman," "Didn't we," "By the time I get to phoenix," "The moon's a harsh mistress," and classic groaner "MacArthur Park" only scratch the surface. This isn't some sort of "how to write better songs" workbook for aspiring songwriters, but rather a scholarly and informed exploration of the true craft of songwriting. At the same time, it's readable and humorous enough that non-musicians will get a kick out of the anecdotes and dissections of songwriters from Gershwin and Porter to Cobain and Corgan.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    So far so good, a literate look into the mind and practices of a world class professional songwriter. From coarse to sublime. I put it aside when he started writing musical notation (which I am quite rusty at) to illustrate his points. I intend to get back to it - review and finish. There are so many other books on songwriting. And it seems to me that reading about it is not doing it. You want to write songs - write! David Francey wins awards and doesn't even play an instrument. He just writes wo So far so good, a literate look into the mind and practices of a world class professional songwriter. From coarse to sublime. I put it aside when he started writing musical notation (which I am quite rusty at) to illustrate his points. I intend to get back to it - review and finish. There are so many other books on songwriting. And it seems to me that reading about it is not doing it. You want to write songs - write! David Francey wins awards and doesn't even play an instrument. He just writes words and does melody with his voice. Excuse .... I rant.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    Excellent meditation on the art and science (yes, there are actual rules) of songwriting, by one of the greatest practicioners of the craft. Webb's best contribution is his simplification of complex music theory for use in the popular song, and his ideas, while not new, are amusingly presented and convincingly articulate. An excellent book for the beginner and advanced composer alike. I rated it just short of five stars because it is a bit verbose and could have been streamlined somewhat. Excellent meditation on the art and science (yes, there are actual rules) of songwriting, by one of the greatest practicioners of the craft. Webb's best contribution is his simplification of complex music theory for use in the popular song, and his ideas, while not new, are amusingly presented and convincingly articulate. An excellent book for the beginner and advanced composer alike. I rated it just short of five stars because it is a bit verbose and could have been streamlined somewhat.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A facinating view of what goes on inside the songwriter's head along with observations on the nuts and bolts of the music industry. Jimmy Webb wrote some of the big hits of the 70's while not having a hit record of his own. He is engaging as a book writer as well. Note: I skipped the material on writing tunes, I mostly wanted to read about the music business. A facinating view of what goes on inside the songwriter's head along with observations on the nuts and bolts of the music industry. Jimmy Webb wrote some of the big hits of the 70's while not having a hit record of his own. He is engaging as a book writer as well. Note: I skipped the material on writing tunes, I mostly wanted to read about the music business.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Hutchison

    A fabulous insight into one of the best songwriters. Anyone who is interested in behind-the-scenes music would enjoy reading this.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Connor

    His writing: smugly wordy; his ideas: those of an artsy simpleton.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is between 3 and 4 stars for me. I've read it more than once because it contains so much helpful information, so I erred higher. The information on the craft is pretty useful, but not written in the most concise, comprehensive, or organized way, and the chord/harmony part was overly focused on the piano and techniques that are specific to it. As a guitar player, though familiar with how a piano works, my preferred book on the craft is How to Write Songs on Guitar by Rikky Rooksby (who also h This is between 3 and 4 stars for me. I've read it more than once because it contains so much helpful information, so I erred higher. The information on the craft is pretty useful, but not written in the most concise, comprehensive, or organized way, and the chord/harmony part was overly focused on the piano and techniques that are specific to it. As a guitar player, though familiar with how a piano works, my preferred book on the craft is How to Write Songs on Guitar by Rikky Rooksby (who also has a similar one about keyboards, and I'm inclined to say it's better/more comprehensive than Tunesmith). I did like that Webb took you through the process of writing an entire example song from the spark to the gathering of ideas to the lyrics and chords and melody and finished product. He also wrote it in a way that was suitable for a beginner to get a good overview, but also inspire new directions and ideas for someone who's already been writing for a while like myself. The business-related portion towards the end was obviously grossly outdated, which I can't blame the author for, but it does reduce its utility. However, some of the stories about what had happened to him and other songwriters in the business were interesting even if only for historical knowledge. Overall the entire book also suffered from, in my opinion, too much ego and lack of focus. There was quite a bit of boasting about awards, hit songs, and famous friends in the guise of stories and determining credibility. He often either directly or implicitly criticized other songwriters and genres, especially newer ones (at the time). Sometimes, egotistical or not, he seemed to go off on random tangents and personal stories that I couldn't figure out what they had to do with the subject at hand. Personally I felt like this was mostly not useful or interesting, and the book would have been better and at least 25% shorter without them. However, some people might prefer this type of conversational, storytelling, lighthearted tone to keep their interest in an educational book like this. But I'm boring and I prefer drier, more academically written prose.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    There aren't very many good books about songwriting. I'm fairly confident that this is the best one. Its breezy, easy-going style is wrapped around dense payloads of information on everything from song forms to chord voicing to working with producers and accountants in the record, movie, and TV businesses. Webb (known for songs like "MacArthur Park" and "Wichita Lineman") has the skills and experience for the material, and the insight and empathy to understand how difficult the subject is. In hi There aren't very many good books about songwriting. I'm fairly confident that this is the best one. Its breezy, easy-going style is wrapped around dense payloads of information on everything from song forms to chord voicing to working with producers and accountants in the record, movie, and TV businesses. Webb (known for songs like "MacArthur Park" and "Wichita Lineman") has the skills and experience for the material, and the insight and empathy to understand how difficult the subject is. In his introduction he says: "At the heart of the struggle has been the fact that logic, instinct and experience indicate that much of the material presented here is useless for the following reasons: 1. Inspiration comes from the guts. 2. Technique is a personal and very private conceit. 3. Creativity as a concept is perhaps not well understood by the people who practice it most successfully." Webb is a remarkably articulate and precise writer, with a backpack full of Los Angeles anecdotes and wry wisdom. He's also an excellent teacher, presenting small chunks of musical material and inviting the reader to play, experiment, and discover. Like many creative disciplines, songwriting demands a lot of structured, purposeful goofing around. Webb spends a big chunk of the book walking us through an example song as he improvises various melodies, lyrics, and structures. His commentary throughout walks the line between acknowledging the creative mind as full of mysteries, and pointing out that some methods and approaches just seem to work better than others, at least for some people, some of the time. The author is also forthright about the distant chances and constant changes in the music business. He has followed the work from Motown to LA to Nashville, and although the book came out in 1998 his perspective still feels fresh - although I do wonder what he thinks about our new musical landscape, dominated by apps and streaming services. Songwriting is by definition a lonely sort of pursuit, and it's a great comfort to discover someone like Jimmy Webb, an elder statesman of the art who has generously decided to share some of his own experiences with an eye toward helping amateurs and others understand how to make the most of what time and energy they have available.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julian

    I have a hard time believing someone called this "perhaps the finest book about songwriting of our time". To be fair, I got what I wanted out of this book: to watch Jimmy Webb go through his own process for writing a song; and those parts of the book are pretty good. But there were way too many times I put down this book saying, "Jimmy Webb is a hack". Part of the problem is that he tries to do too much, poorly. I wonder if the book was rewritten several times with different intents. Also, clearl I have a hard time believing someone called this "perhaps the finest book about songwriting of our time". To be fair, I got what I wanted out of this book: to watch Jimmy Webb go through his own process for writing a song; and those parts of the book are pretty good. But there were way too many times I put down this book saying, "Jimmy Webb is a hack". Part of the problem is that he tries to do too much, poorly. I wonder if the book was rewritten several times with different intents. Also, clearly no one bothered to fact check this book. "Silence is wisdom when speaking is folly" is a saying that came to mind frequently, in both factual and biographical sections of this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Wolpin

    Enjoyed this! This songwriter/author really can write interesting prose. Although parts of this are a little dated, there is a lot of material here. I especially liked the part on music theory, explained so clearly that even one with just a little prior knowledge can learn all the basics. The anecdotes relate a world of which beginning songwriters can only dream, as much of that world is no longer around. Still, this work educates and inspires.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    Eh. Some of it was interesting, much of it wasn't. It was surprisingly well-written, but I think fundamentally it's the disparity between his and my musical & lyrical taste that made it a bit of a snoozer. Much of what he cites as "good"--in terms of both music and lyrics--is really cheesy in my opinion. Eh. Some of it was interesting, much of it wasn't. It was surprisingly well-written, but I think fundamentally it's the disparity between his and my musical & lyrical taste that made it a bit of a snoozer. Much of what he cites as "good"--in terms of both music and lyrics--is really cheesy in my opinion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bett Correa-Bollhoefer

    I could write an essay about this book. This is not a book on how to write music. This is a portrait of a person whose industry is going through digital transformation. He is right dab in the middle of it. It’s fascinating to see him try to understand what’s going on. I’d love an updated version!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Brick

    Sometimes irritating, always interesting. Tips and tricks from the guy who left the cake out in the rain then went up, up and away in a balloon before giving Glen Campbell a singing career.

  20. 4 out of 5

    NickES345

    Besides the usual historical/biographical information one expects from a famous songwriter, this book spends most of its pages on what its title suggests - how to write tunes - ideas, rhymes, form, harmony, etc. I would recommend it only for the *serious* songwriter, for whom it contains a wealth of information and examples. Its message would probably be lost on musicians who emphasize head-banging, dance routines, costumes, emo-ting, and posing. Webb writes about another era, when melody, harmo Besides the usual historical/biographical information one expects from a famous songwriter, this book spends most of its pages on what its title suggests - how to write tunes - ideas, rhymes, form, harmony, etc. I would recommend it only for the *serious* songwriter, for whom it contains a wealth of information and examples. Its message would probably be lost on musicians who emphasize head-banging, dance routines, costumes, emo-ting, and posing. Webb writes about another era, when melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics were woven into unforgettable works, their separate parts often being developed by more than one person. Imagine for example, a tune whose lyrics are created by a lyricist, whose music is created by a professional composer, and which is sung by a professional singer - and then compare that to a 'singer-songwriter' who often (but their are notable exceptions) isn't a professional lyricist, isn't a professional singer, and isn't a professional instrumentalist. The discussions in Tunesmith are detailed and therefore very useful for analysis. One of the take-aways for me came when Jimmy discussed chord substitution and reharmonization - specifically, on page 195 he mentions that "a chord can always be substituted for another if it contains at least one tone that is shared with that other." Before reading that statement, I had always thought that substitute chords had to share 2 or 3 or more tones with one another. Talk about opening up a world of possibilities for chord substitutions! To summarize: if you are songwriter who wants to understand the song-writing process and the mechanics of why certain melodies/harmonies work better than others, then this is a great book for you - but be prepared to think/work. If you are satisfied with fitting some licks over a 3-chord song, then I think you would be disappointed with the content of this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    James Traxler

    This is surely the bible for songwriters and aspirants thereof. It actually gets down into the nitty gritty of songwriting, taking you through actually doing it. Ok, there are parts that perhaps labour some points, and you may not agree with his love of perfect rhyme and even being so direct in the point or emotion of a song, but as he says, these are starting off points and you're quite welcome to veer away. There is so much in here that is useful to the songwriter: stating that the rhyming dictio This is surely the bible for songwriters and aspirants thereof. It actually gets down into the nitty gritty of songwriting, taking you through actually doing it. Ok, there are parts that perhaps labour some points, and you may not agree with his love of perfect rhyme and even being so direct in the point or emotion of a song, but as he says, these are starting off points and you're quite welcome to veer away. There is so much in here that is useful to the songwriter: stating that the rhyming dictionary, thesaurus and rhetorical devices are essentials would help some of us (me!), and the suggestions on how to go about chord substitutions and fiddling with melodies. Perhaps some of the book is personal preference, and the stuff towards the end around the music industry doesn't necessarily apply so much in this internet age, although his personal anecdotes are interesting. Also, some (me again!) will not be massively adept at sight-reading some of the music examples here, but it didn't stop me getting the ideas. I wouldn't say I'm a particular fan of Jimmy Webb's songs, although I'm sure I do like some, but that's neither here nor there to me - there is useful info herein, and I am so grateful for someone getting down into the details. It's inspirational. In reviews here in GoodReads, people have criticised the song that he develops through the course of the book, but I took that as just an example to illustrate techniques and points. It doesn't necessarily mean the song ends up being great, just as any songwriting doesn't guarantee a great song at the end. Everyone can take what they will from the book - and then go off and do their own thing, maybe using some of the techniques, maybe not. I also didn't see any real negative criticisms of rap or particular song styles in the book. He was pretty fair, in my opinion. So, in summary, perhaps this book isn't perfect, but to mind, it's easily a must-have for a songwriter and easily a 5-star rating.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Lakin

    Jimmy Webb is America's finest songwriter. Here, he provides his master class in the nearly impossible art of writing hit songs. I listened. Jimmy Webb is America's finest songwriter. Here, he provides his master class in the nearly impossible art of writing hit songs. I listened.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Hull

    A fascinating book -- if you're interested in songwriting, that is. Jimmy Webb has written so many famous, wonderful songs (including the greatest song ever to share its title with a Robert Heinlein novel) that for curiosity value alone this would be worth reading. It's got much more value than that, however. There's a lot of fascinating memoir in it and, particularly towards the end, a lot of practical (and at times pretty discouraging) stuff about the business end of the music industry. The boo A fascinating book -- if you're interested in songwriting, that is. Jimmy Webb has written so many famous, wonderful songs (including the greatest song ever to share its title with a Robert Heinlein novel) that for curiosity value alone this would be worth reading. It's got much more value than that, however. There's a lot of fascinating memoir in it and, particularly towards the end, a lot of practical (and at times pretty discouraging) stuff about the business end of the music industry. The book is almost 20 years old, so the business talk should be digested cautiously, although I see no reason why things should have changed so radically that none if it is relevant. He also does a heroic job of taking on the thankless task of trying to discuss the theory and practice of actual song creation and, though my musical training and background made me a bit impatient with some of his homegrown theories, I'm sure that there are many who will benefit tremendously from his approaches to melody, harmony, lyric writing and structure.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Hodgson

    He sure is cranky, but knowledgeable about the art and craft of songwriting.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charles Eliot

    Jimmy Webb is one of the greatest songwriters of the last 40 years, and he's a pretty good book author too. Tunesmith is really three books in one. It's a book about the technical craft of songwriting: rhyming, song structure, melody, chords, polishing. It's also a book about the business of being a songwriter: getting published; getting played; getting paid. And finally, it's an autobiography. Predictably, the strongest sections are on the craft of songwriting. The sections on the music busines Jimmy Webb is one of the greatest songwriters of the last 40 years, and he's a pretty good book author too. Tunesmith is really three books in one. It's a book about the technical craft of songwriting: rhyming, song structure, melody, chords, polishing. It's also a book about the business of being a songwriter: getting published; getting played; getting paid. And finally, it's an autobiography. Predictably, the strongest sections are on the craft of songwriting. The sections on the music business are dated (the book was published in 1999) but still interesting in a "my, how quickly the world changes" way. The autobiographical sections are mercifully brief. (I am saddened by the steady decay in the quality of book editing and proofing. On p274, Webb gives us "flaunt" where he clearly should have written "flout". Sigh.)

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

    His life is pretty interesting, and instructive if you are unfortunate enough to attempt to make money in "the music industry". But the real gem is the fairly lengthy, textbook-level primer for writing songs; he really digs deep into technical aspects of songwriting (rhyme schemes, song structures, chord inversions) and illustrates with many of his own (often sub-par) works. Interesting to read, but really a product of a bygone era of songcraft that just isn't applicable to most people today. (T His life is pretty interesting, and instructive if you are unfortunate enough to attempt to make money in "the music industry". But the real gem is the fairly lengthy, textbook-level primer for writing songs; he really digs deep into technical aspects of songwriting (rhyme schemes, song structures, chord inversions) and illustrates with many of his own (often sub-par) works. Interesting to read, but really a product of a bygone era of songcraft that just isn't applicable to most people today. (The other gem is the end of the book, when he reveals that he hasn't been able to write a song in years, which takes some guts if your autobiography is called "Tunesmith".)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    This book took me longer to finish than I had expected, largely because the music theory sections in the middle are very much like a textbook. The lyric writing and music industry insights are much more entertaining. Webb's writing style is very flowery, which gets a little tedious in a 400-page book, but it's still well worth the effort if you are an aspiring songwriter. One major deficiency (and not the author's fault): the book came out in the late 90s, which means the internet music revoluti This book took me longer to finish than I had expected, largely because the music theory sections in the middle are very much like a textbook. The lyric writing and music industry insights are much more entertaining. Webb's writing style is very flowery, which gets a little tedious in a 400-page book, but it's still well worth the effort if you are an aspiring songwriter. One major deficiency (and not the author's fault): the book came out in the late 90s, which means the internet music revolution was in its infancy. A new edition or at least a new forward/epilogue would be a good idea to make the book more timely.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

    there's good stuff in here: helpful tips and explanations on songs and songwriting. Unfortunately he meanders a lot, and often gets into such fine detail that it gets uninteresting. probably could have been 100 pages sorter. It's also a lot of autobiography that really is uninteresting (to me at least). I'd lose another 100 pages right there. Of course, I don't have as many hit songs as he does. Or any, really. The most helpful stuff I found was near the beginning, like through the first 4 chapt there's good stuff in here: helpful tips and explanations on songs and songwriting. Unfortunately he meanders a lot, and often gets into such fine detail that it gets uninteresting. probably could have been 100 pages sorter. It's also a lot of autobiography that really is uninteresting (to me at least). I'd lose another 100 pages right there. Of course, I don't have as many hit songs as he does. Or any, really. The most helpful stuff I found was near the beginning, like through the first 4 chapters, maybe 5 and 6. I skimmed the rest of the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Scott Miles

    This book demonstrates Webb's masterful command of the craft of songwriting, and conveys the process of learning the craft quite effectively. There is a pleasant balance of technical insights, industry exposition, and humor. This is the second time I have picked up "Tunesmith"-- I took what I felt to be useful from the 520-page book the first time, and I believe it helped me write some decent songs. This time around, I didn't skip, and I am glad I didn't. This book demonstrates Webb's masterful command of the craft of songwriting, and conveys the process of learning the craft quite effectively. There is a pleasant balance of technical insights, industry exposition, and humor. This is the second time I have picked up "Tunesmith"-- I took what I felt to be useful from the 520-page book the first time, and I believe it helped me write some decent songs. This time around, I didn't skip, and I am glad I didn't.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rex

    There's so much of Jimmy Webb's personality here - it tends to overshadow his advice. I do like that he is a stickler for putting effort into lyrics. Into making each word count; of making the hard choices to edit out the soft or weak line or rhyme. This is not a popular attitude among some of my indie songwriting friends who are all about "feel" and "leaving room for the listeners" and other rationalizations that set aside the hard choices (to my thinking). There's so much of Jimmy Webb's personality here - it tends to overshadow his advice. I do like that he is a stickler for putting effort into lyrics. Into making each word count; of making the hard choices to edit out the soft or weak line or rhyme. This is not a popular attitude among some of my indie songwriting friends who are all about "feel" and "leaving room for the listeners" and other rationalizations that set aside the hard choices (to my thinking).

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