Recommended reading

It is imperative for aspiring songwriters to develop a professional library if they hope to succeed in music. Following are my personal recommendations to get you started. As your budget permits, continue to expand your information base. Force yourself to keep reading…stretching…learning and trying new techniques.

The Craft of Lyric Writing – Sheila Davis (Writer’s Digest Books)

This is the bible of every aspiring lyricist/songwriter. Sheila Davis is a gold-record lyricist and member of the faculty of The New York School. She uses both her students’ songs, as well as established hits to lead you through the dynamics of great lyric writing. The book is available in hardback and is a definite ‘must-read’ for every serious songwriter. It will become a resource book that you will refer to often as you polish your skills. Sheila Davis also has two other very good books from Writer’s Digest on lyric writing.

Successful Lyric Writing – Sheila Davis (Writer’s Digest Books)

This is a workbook containing Sheila’s course in lyric writing – complete with assignments and exercises for you to do. If you work your way through this book, you will have taken Sheila Davis’ college level songwriting course and I guar-an-tee that it will stimulate your creativity and develop your skills as a writer. Be sure that you actually work this workbook and don’t just read it! Make time to do the exercises each week – just as if you were in a college course. Set a deadline for yourself to complete the book and keep the deadline!

The Songwriter’s Idea Book – Sheila Davis (Writer’s Digest Books)

Contains forty strategies to energize your imagination and help you to create unique songs. If you have ever struggled with writer’s block or feel as if your songwriting is in a rut, this book will lead you into new and exciting ways of approaching the writing process.

Six Steps to Songwriting Success – Jason Blume (Billboard Books)

Jason Blume is one of very few contemporary songwriters to ever have simultaneous hits on the Pop, R&B and Country charts with cuts by Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Collin Raye. Jason also happens to have teacher’s heart. He breaks down the complexities of songwriting into such user-friendly bites that even if you have NO music training or background, you will be able to learn and profit from this book. As my husband would say, “Jason puts the cookies down on the bottom shelf where the kids can get them!”

The Craft and Business of Songwriting – John Braheny (Writer’s Digest Books)

John Braheny is the co-founder/director of the Los Angeles Songwriter Showcase (LASS) where he served from 1971 until its merger with the National Academy of Songwriters (NAS) in 1996. He is a musician, performer, songwriter, recording artist, film composer, commercial jingle producer, educator, author and journalist. There is probably no area of the craft or business of songwriting that John Braheny is not equipped to teach – and teach thoroughly. And yet, because of his heart to mentor aspiring songwriters, his book is simple and understandable. Be SURE to add this book to your library. It will make you literate in the basics of both the artistic and the business sides of songwriting.

Writing Music for Hit Songs – Jai Josefs (Schirmer Books)

This book focuses primarily on the music aspect of the hit song. It takes the beginning songwriter from the basics of music to creating complete songs in a variety of genres. It provides practical lessons in melody, rhythm and chord progression for both the beginning musician who has little background in music, as well as the experienced writer.

Music Publishing: a Songwriter’s Guide – Randy Poe (Writers Digest Books)

Music publishing can often appear to be a mystifying and complicated subject for the eager, right-brained aspiring songwriter whose mind is consumed with words and melodies and who is often uninterested in all the ‘business stuff.’ Randy Poe de-mystifies music publishing in his user-friendly and easy-to-grasp book created especially for the songwriter. It will make you literate and knowledgeable as a professional in the music business. You can’t afford to enter the world of music without the information that Randy Poe makes so accessible in this book.

All You Need to Know About the Music Business – Donald Passman (Simon and Schuster)

Donald Passman is a top entertainment attorney with the gift of translating legaleze into the language of the common person. This book would be a great follow-up to Randy Poe’s book (above) and is a necessary reference book as you learn the music business.

This Business of Songwriting – Jason Blume (Billboard Books)

This new book from Jason Blume is a practical guide to doing business as a songwriter. This book contains lots of inside information that usually is only learned after years of experience in the industry. It’s a hefty read but well worth every page.

The Musician’s Business and Legal Guide: a Presentation of the Beverly Hills Bar Association

I discussed the merits of this book for every DIY publisher and indie songwriter are discussed in chapter 5. It will give you far more than the price you pay for it. A must-have! It can be purchased through the Beverly Hills Bar Association at or call (310) 601-BHBA.

Your First Cut: a Step-by-Step Guide to Getting There – Jerry Vandiver and Gracie Hollombe
This “hands-on” left-brain book for write-brain people is rich with details, it’s as if the authors are by your side every step of the way. A roadmap for having your song recorded by a major label artist.  “Your First Cut – a Step-by-Step Guide To Getting There” by Jerry Vandiver and Gracie Hollombe is available online at

Thesaurus – Whatever kind of thesaurus you buy, make sure it is a BIG one!    Don’t go cheap on this purchase. It is as important to the songwriter as a stethoscope is to a doctor. My favorites are:

Bartlett’s Roget’s Thesaurus – (Little, Brown & Co.)

Contains more than 350,000 terms and phrases with more than 6000 cross references. You will become a ‘word-junky’ when you seriously get into this book.

The Synonym Finder – J.I. Rodale (Rodale Press)

This book has more than one million synonyms. It is available in either hardback or paperback. It is a great reference book, but it’s heavy. If you travel a lot like I do, you will find that this book adds about five pounds to your suitcase or carry-on.

Rhyming Dictionary – Every bit as important as a thesaurus. I recommend two :

The Songwriters’ Rhyming Dictionary – Jane Shaw Whitfield (Melvin Powers Wilshire Book Company)

This is by far the best rhyming dictionary I have ever found. A mentor of mine turned me on to it several years ago and I have been eternally grateful ever since! This book is not available in most bookstores, and it comes only in paperback. The binding is not very durable, so I have had a copy bound in hardback because I use it so much. You can order your copy by calling the publisher at (818) 765-8529.

The New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary – Sue Young (Avon Books)

This book is available through your local bookseller and can be ordered from the retailer or through if it is not   on the shelf .

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