Bob Snider,
On Songwriting
(Gaspereau Press, 2005)

This short book by Canadian singer/songwriter Bob Snider is almost as much a philosophical treatise on songwriting as it is a practical guide. Snider's book indicates, however, that songwriting is a personal process anyway, one that does not really have a fixed set of rules.

Only a third of the book, 30 pages, is general songwriting advice, while the rest of the book's chapters contain the lyrics to 10 songs and Snider's explanation of how he wrote them. Some of the general advice seems self-evident, although it never hurts to be reminded of the basics.

For example, the book begins with, "The purpose of a song is to communicate feelings and ideas." Standard advice, but all of us have heard songs that fail because there is no real purpose behind them.

Snider admits, "I'm not much of a music student." His advice is all on lyrics, not song structure. Snider actually refers to "folksingers" instead of "singer/songwriters," indicating that he comes from a tradition where the message is more important than the melody.

There are some tips that seem quite useful, like, "Sing your song in progress over and over many, many times. ... Rough spots, spots you trip over ... will reveal themselves." Others, as when Snider says he uses his songs as a type of diary, are more in the line of personal reflection rather than tips.

The descriptions of how Snider wrote each of the 10 songs may resonate with readers if they write the same types of songs or use similar writing methods. Snider tells about the personal experiences he had that led to his compositions, and how they were processed into his lyrics.

This book is a bit brief to be extraordinarily useful, but any singer/songwriter who is learning their craft is likely to find some helpful information here.

by Dave Howell
27 January 2007

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