Songwriting Glossary

A&R (ARTISTS AND REPERTORY)
The record company department that deals with new artists, songs and records.
AC
Adult contemporary music.
AABA
A song pattern consisting of two verses, a bridge, and a verse, where the verses are the same musically.
Administrator
Responsible for supervising finances and copyright matters for a song or catalog. An administrator's primary role is to protect song copyrights, collect royalties, issue licenses and insure that songwriters are paid accordingly. All major publishers and most independents handle administration for the catalogs they own and control internally. Smaller publishers and many individual songwriters who don't want to sell their copyrights sign deals with companies that focus exclusively on providing administration services without taking an ownership interest.
ADVANCE
The payment in advance of royalties to be earned in the future.. Money paid or loaned by a publisher to a writer, normally under contract, in anticipation of that songwriter's song(s) earning future royalties; the songwriter is only required to pay back the advance from songwriting royalties. Advances are recoupable from future earnings.
Alliteration
repetition of initial consonant sounds
Anadiplosis
Repeating the last word or phrase of one line at the beginning of the next one
Anaphora
Repetition of the same words at the beginning of successive lines.
Anticipation
same tone as st it anticipates
Antimetabole
A figure of speech in which the same phrase or idea is repeated in transposed order, giving the second phrase a different or deeper meaning
Antistrophe
Similar to antimetabole, but more limited in scope. Antistrophe occurs when words are repeated in reverse order, meaning essentially the same thing each time
Antithesis
The use of opposites in successive phrases, to highlight the distinction or difference
AOR
Album-Oriented Rock.
Apostrophe
Addressing inanimate objects or persons not in the vicinity (frequently persons who are deceased).
ASCAP
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. One of the three PROs in the United States.
ASSIGNMENT OF COPYRIGHT
The transfer of ownership of a copyright from one party to another.
Assonance
The repetition of vowel sounds within non-rhyming words.
Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA)
An act passed by Congress that made it legal for consumers to copy records at home for private, non-commercial without fear of committing copyright infringement. This act also imposed a tax on digital audio recorders and digital audiotapes, a portion of which would be paid as royalties to the record industry.
AUDIO VISUAL INDEX (AVI)
A computer-based database which contains title and production information for cue sheets.
augmentation
lengthens the note values
AUTHOR
Can represent composer, lyricist, record producer, artist, writer or other creator.
AUTOMATIC RENEWAL
Works that were copyrighted between 1964 and 1977 are granted an automatic renewal term, without the writer having to file a renewal registration form.
Bar
A piece of music or a song is broken down into sections called bars. If you've ever looked at sheet music, the bars are defined by dark vertical lines (hence the term bars) and between each bar is a set number of notes. Bars help to define how long chords or notes are played
Black Box Royalties
Unclaimed royalties for which a publisher or writer is named but cannot be traced by a collection society. Writers who are owed royalties but cannot be found are often referred to as lost writers. Many US songwriters who sell their music internationally, but are not signed to a publishing company with representation abroad, often become lost writers and lose their mechanical royalties. See above for more about foreign mechanical royalties.
Blanket License
A type of license issued by a performing rights society allowing a music user to play or perform all compositions controlled by all publishers represented by that society. The user will generally pay a yearly fee that allows them to use all licensed songs without limit. Blanket licenses are typically issued to nightclubs, TV networks and radio stations. Music publishers sometimes enter into blanket licenses with specific outlets with respect to their catalogs. For example, a publisher might give a television production company a blanket license to utilize any song in their catalog (or a limited list of songs) for a previously agreed upon rate. This would be in lieu of securing an individual sync license for each use.
BMI
Broadcast Music, Inc. One of the three PROs in the United States.
BOOKING AGENT
The person responsible for setting up and scheduling an entertainer's performances.
BOOTLEGGING
Unauthorized recording and selling of a song.
Bridge
Section in a song that goes away from the normal chord structure and melodic line that adds variety to a song. linking passage at all between one section and another. It's a looser and less specific use of the term than before, but has the advantage of being readily understood as an identifier for a separate and intervening section of song which is neither 'verse' nor 'chorus'.
Business Manager
A representative who helps the musician with financial planning, investment decisions, tax matters, monitoring of income from contracts, estate planning and other financial matters.
C&W
Country and western.
Canadian Mechanical Rights Reproduction Agency (CMRRA)
The foremost mechanical licensing, collections, and distribution agency for Canadian music publishers. The CMRRA is Harry Fox's Canadian counterpart. Visit the CMRRA's official website for more information.
CATALOG
References the collection of songs owned by a songwriter or a publisher.
Changing tones
two note embellishing figure using the upper neighbor and lower neighbor tones of an ST
Charts
Music for musicians playing the pieces that the songwriters wrote. Usually a series of chords with certain rhythms and note lengths depicted.
Chorus
the core of a song which usually carries the main theme. Has to be sing-able and very often repeats similar key lines throughout the song. In the modern formula, the chorus becomes the main course, the central core of the song, and the primary focus of the composer's creativity and inventiveness. In the modern formula, the chorus becomes the main course, the central core of the song, and the primary focus of the composer's creativity and inventiveness. The structure of the modern chorus might sometimes be out of the ordinary.
COLLABORATION
Two or more writers who work together on the same project.
Compulsory License
An exception to copyright law that grants permission to anyone wishing to use your work, whether or not you want to grant the license. Compulsory licenses must be be issued for use in cable television rebroadcast, on Public Broadcasting System (PBS), in jukeboxes, for digital performance of records and as phonorecords and digital recordings. The latter are referred to as compulsory mechanical licenses. See below for more about compulsory mechanical licenses.
Compulsory Mechanical License
An exception to the copyright holder's exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution that allows anyone to record and distribute any commercially-released, non-dramatic song as long as the mechanical license rates established by copyright law are paid to the copyright owner of the song.
COMPULSORY MECHANICAL LICENSE
A license allowing anyone to record a song that has been commercially recorded as long as they pay the royalties set by a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel.
conjunction
new material (1 or 2 notes) that connects two motives or two phrases together
consonance
repetition of consonat sound with in and at the end of words
Controlled Composition
A song that is written, co-written or owned by the artist on whose album it appears. See below for more about controlled composition clauses and how they affect artist contracts.
CONTROLLED COMPOSITION
A composition written by the recording artist under an exclusive recording agreement.
Controlled Composition Clause
A clause in some artist contracts that limits how much record labels will pay for songs written, co-written, or owned (and therefore controlled) by the artist on whose album it appears. The record company will generally the publisher of the controlled composition a reduced rate, which tends to vary from 50 - 75 percent of the statutory rate. For example, if Lady Gaga writes a song that is recorded and released on her next album, her record label will typically pay her publisher only 50 - 75 percent of the statutory rate she would normally be owed as a songwriter. However, this is usually limited to physical sales. Almost all digital downloads are paid at the full mechanical rate, irrespective of whether a writer is controlled or not. See below for more about statutory rates.
CO-PUBLISH
The publishing rights to a song are owned by two or more parties.
Copyright
A bundle of exclusive rights granted by law to the creator of an original literary, artistic, or other intellectual work - including songs and sound recordings. For a discussion of the exclusive rights enjoyed by the copyright owner of a song or sound recording, see the article, What Exactly is a Music Copyright?.
COPYRIGHT
the exclusive right [granted by law for a limited period, until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author of the work] to make, dispose of, and otherwise control copies of literary, musical, dramatic, pictorial and other copyrightable works; these exclusive rights or bundle of rights are set forth in the 1976 Copyright Law, Section 106.
Cover Version
A re-recorded version of a song by one or many subsequent artists after the initial recorded version has been released.
Co-write
Session in which two songwriters work together to write a song.
CROSSOVER
A song that is popular in more than one musical category.
CUE SHEET
a listing of the music used in a television program or motion picture by title, composer, publisher, timing and type of usage [e.g., background, feature, theme] usually prepared by the producer, or music supervisor of the program or film.
Cut
means a commercially released recording of your song, either an album cut or better still, a single.
Demo
Short for demonstration. It is a finished studio or home-recorded track that you use to pitch the song. Demos can be as simple as a singer with piano or guitar, but they must absolutely sound professional and polished with a great vocal and instrumental.
Derivative Work
A work based on a pre-existing work. This can be a translation, dramatization, fictionalization, art reproduction, abridged or condensed version, or any other transformation or adaption of a work. Under U.S. Copyright Law, the only person who can grant the rights for a derivative work to be created is the holder of the copyright for the original work. For example, Kanye Wests's Stronger, which samples Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, is considered to be a derivative work because it is based on a pre-existing song.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
A federal anti-piracy law that makes it illegal to create and/or use technology that allows people to bypass measures intended to restrict access to copyrighted material. The DMCA also criminalizes the distribution of copyright-protected material, and targets music, film, and software piracy in particular.
Diminution
shortens the note values
DIY (Do it Yourself)
in today's independent marketplace, many songwriters and artists manage either all or certain aspects of their careers.
Dynamics
refers to variations in the vocal delivery such as full voice versus head voice.
Elision
is the joining together of 2 phrases usually by having the last note of the 1st phrase become the first note of the next phrase
End Rhyme
occurs when words at the end of lines rhyme
Epanadiplosis
Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning and end of a phrase
Epanalepsis
Repetition at the end of a line with the beginning word of that line
Epinome
The repetition of a refrain.
exact
same quality intervals
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS
The right of a copyright owner to exclusively authorize recording, performance, or other uses of his work.
EXCLUSIVE SONGWRITER AGREEMENT
A contract between a publisher and a songwriter in which the songwriter, for a percentage of any royalty income, assigns all songs written during the term of the contract to the Publisher.
Exploit
For purposes of music publishing, to seek sources of revenue for a song. See the article, Music Publishing How Your Songwriting Generates Income, for a discussion of music publishing rights and music royalty income.
extension
adds new material to motive/sequence usually at the end (sometimes in mid or start)
Feel Track
is the style you hear for the demo. If you're not a very good singer or player, a feel track can help musicians better understand your vision for the song.
Feminine rhyme
the latter two syllables of first word rhyme with latter two syllables of second word (ceiling appealing)
Fills
These are little bits of music that are often played by a lead instrument to fill in a space on a recording or performance. When you ask a guitar player to play some fills, he/she will usually weave some notes in and around the melody or vocal, just to add a little flavour.
First Use
An element of copyright law that grants the publisher or copyright owner control over the work's first use. Though the custom is to charge the statutory rate, the publisher or copyright owner can decide who gets to record a copyrighted work for the first time and how much to charge them. See below for more about statutory rates.
Fixed in a Tangible Medium of Expression
A term coined by the Copyright Act meaning that an original literary, artistic or intellectual work has a valid copyright as soon as it is written down or recorded in a manner sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced or communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.
Fly
comes from today's technology. Say you like the singer's performance of line two in the first chorus. The engineer can fly that same portion into another chorus.
Foreign Mechanicals
Royalties paid to a publisher for the sale of copyrighted songs in foreign territories. Unlike US mechanical royalties, foreign mechanicals do not have a fixed penny rate, but usually are paid as a percentage of the wholesale price (generally between 6 and 12%, depending on the territory.) Foreign mechanicals are collected by local societies such as GEMA in Germany and SACEM in France. If a US songwriter does not collect their foreign mechanicals within a set period of time (generally 6 - 18 months, depending on the territory) than the society will usually distribute those royalties to local publishers as black box income.
Form
The structure of a song; used to portray how the song will be played to an instrumentalist.
Harry Fox Agency
A company that represents music publishers in the negotiation of mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses and foreign licenses, and the collection of music royalty income.
HIT
A song or record that achieves a ranking in the top 40.
Hook
refers to the repeated phrase that the listener remembers. A riff is an instrumental hook.
HOOK
the catchy part of a song that makes people want to hear/sing it repeatedly; the hook can be lyrical or musical, is almost always the title of the song, and is usually repeated frequently throughout.
Hyperbole
A figure using exaggeration
Imperfect rhyme
words that sound like they rhyme but don't.
Independent Publishers
Music publishing companies that are independent from major recorded music businesses. Examples of independent publishers include Bug Music, Downtown Music Publishing, and Imagem.
INDIE
An independent record label, producer, or music publisher.
inexact
same size, different quality
Infringement
The legal term for stealing, or otherwise profiting from someone else's copyrighted work. It is usually construed to mean an intentional act, but there have been cases of unintentional infringement such as the famous case involving the songs My Sweet Lord and He's So Fine.
Intellectual Property
Any product of someone's intellect that has commercial value. This includes any form of creative expression and knowledge (like symbols, names, and images), whether it is documented or undocumented. Intellectual property can be protected through copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets laws. For example, Nike's signature check mark logo is protected through trademark, and Coca-Cola's secret recipe for Coke is protected through trade secrets law. Visit the World Intellectual Property Organization's website for more information.
Internal Rhyme (Also called Middle Rhyme)
Rhyme that occurs within a line or within the body of closely grouped lines, rather than End Rhyme, which occurs at the end of lines.
interversion
presents the motives of a phrase in different order
IRC
International Reply Coupon
Lead or instrumental
Sometimes in a song there is a section where an instrument plays for a few bars before the vocal starts again...this is called a lead or an instrumental section.
LEAD SHEET
a reproduction on paper of a newly written song.
Lead Sheet
Used often for singer/songwriters to play and sing a song - Has the lyrics printed with the chords above
leap
from one st to the next st
LYRIC SHEET
A written copy of a song's lyrics.
Major Publishers
Music music publishing companies. Major music publishers, as opposed to independent publishers, tend to be affiliated with the major recorded music businesses. Examples of major music publishers include Warner/Chappell, EMI, Universal, and Sony/ATV. BMG Rights Management, a venture between the buy-out firm KKR and Bertelsmann, has acquired many independent publishers and though not affiliated with a major record company, is now considered to be a Major Publisher.
Masculine rhyme
final syllable of first word rhymes with final syllable of second word (scald recalled)
Master
The final mixed version of a recorded song that is intended to be released for commercial sale.
Mechanical License
Authorization from a music publisher or song writer to record and distribute a song on phonorecords.
MECHANICAL LICENSE
The license issued to a record company granting them the right to record and release a specific composition at an agreed-upon price.
Mechanical Royalties
are set rates for sales of the recording, from CDs to downloads.
MECHANICAL ROYALTIES
fees paid by a record company to the copyright owners for the right to manufacture and distribute CDs, records, tapes, and certain digital configurations containing a particular song. The current statutory rate is 9.1 cents per song, per unit manufactured and sold up to 5 minutes in duration. Add 1.75 cents per min for songs over 5 minutes in length. However, the rate is often negotiated to a reduced rate of the statutory mechanical rate.
Melodic contours
ascending, descending, arch, inverted arch, stationary.
Melody writer/Lyric writer
Songwriters often classify themselves as more of a Melody writer who writes good melodies, or a Lyric Writer who writes good lyrics - These opposing talents often lead to good co-writes, one writes melody and one writes lyrics.
Metaphor
A comparison between two unlike things, in which one is symbolic or representative of the other.
MIDI
Musical instrument digital interface.
MOR
Middle of the Road.
motive
The smallest unit of music that embodies enough of a shape and rhythm to be identifiable
Music Publishing
The commercial exploitation of songs through the issuance of mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses, performing rights licenses, print licenses as well as other licenses authorizing various uses of the songs. See the article, Music Publishing How Your Songwriting Generates Income, for a discussion of music publishing.
MUSIC ROW
An area of Nashville, Tennessee which consists primarily of recording studios, publishing houses, and others involved in the songwriting trade.
Musical Work
A melody and any accompanying lyrics; more commonly referred to as a musical composition or a song.
Musicians Union Scale
The contract wages paid to a studio musician for his instrumental work on a demo or a master recording session. If demo scale is paid initially, the recording cannot be used as a master unless an upgrade to master scale is paid to each musician who played on it
Nashville Chart
means that studio musicians follow a series of numbers and symbols rather than notes. As an example, if the key is C, C becomes one and F becomes four. If the key changes, the chart doesn't and the musicians know what chords to play once they have one, or the key.
Nashville numbers
a medium for writing charts that is specific to Nashville area. It uses Arabic numbers to portray chords and different symbols to portray different rhythms or inflections.
National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)
The trade association representing American music publishers and their songwriting partners. The NMPA's mandate is to protect and advance the interests of music publishers and songwriters in matters relating to the domestic and global protection of music copyrights. Visit the NMPA's official website for more information.
Neighbor tones
use a neighbor tone pattern
Objective Correlative
The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective correlative; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.
Octave
a standard scale has 7 notes (not including all of the sharps and flats) before it reaches the same note higher up...think of Doe Re Mi Fa So La Ti Doe...both Doe 's are the same note, but the second one is an OCTAVE higher than the first.
ON HOLD
when an artist or producer decides to keep a song for consideration on a recording project and asks that the song not be actively pitched elsewhere, they ask to put it on hold.
On or Off Card
is a term for union or non-union rates. Demo rates are different from master rates.
Ornamentation
retains all the main notes of a motive or phrase but embellishes them
Overdub or Sweetening
comes after the basic song is recorded when the guitarist or pianist makes another pass to add an extra layer to the track.
Paradox
A phrase or line containing ideas which seem to be opposite but work together in some way. William Cowper explores paradox in several levels of his God Moves In A Mysterious Way, such as his contrast of mines (which conjure images of darkness) with God's bright designs, and Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face. In our upcoming Bold Before God's Throne Kristen and I write about the paradox of being bold yet humble, of being unworthy to stand before God yet having Christ's worthiness accredited to us
Parenthesis
Explaining or qualifying a phrase in the middle of the phrase. Lyricists literally use parenthesis' or dashes to demonstrate this in their lyrics. Kristen and I used this in the third verse of My Song In The Night
Passing tone
links 2 st a 3rd apart through stepwise motion.
Perfect rhyme
Rhymes involving sound that are exactly the same (ex love, dove)
Performance Royalties
Payments made to a songwriter or publisher for the public performance or broadcast of a musical work. Public performance refers to playing a song on the radio, on television, in bars and nightclubs, at concert venues, and other public places. Performance royalties are collected by performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
Performing Rights License
Authorization for the public performance of a song frequently granted by a performing rights society through a blanket license.
Performing Rights Organization (PRO)
Societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast. Public performances can include play in television, radio, clubs, restaurants, websites, or other broadcasting systems. PROs collect fees from these establishments which they then pay to their registered songwriters. The PROs in the United States are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. See below for more about each of these PROs
Performing Rights Society
The associations or companies that issue performing rights licenses, track public performances, collect performing license revenues and distribute those revenues to song writers and music publishers. The performing rights societies in the United States are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
permutation
changes the note order
Personal Manager
A representative who assists the musician in the development and management of his music and entertainment career.
Personification
When the poet treats an abstraction or inanimate object as if it were concrete or human
Phonorecord
Any material object onto which sounds, other than those on a soundtrack of an audio-visual work, can be recorded including an audiocassette, a CD, or a vinyl disc.
PIRACY
Unauthorized copying of a record or tape.
PITCH
To try to generate interest in one's song(s), usually by audition or by submitting a demo tape.
Polyptoton
Repetition of a word root in two different forms (suffix or prefix)
Pop-Chorus
Like the Modern Chorus of the previous era, the pop-chorus is the central focus of the song. Unlike its predecessor, however, it eschews the more complex sophistications of structure in favour of a straight return to the single distinctive repeated and repeatable strophic section of yore, at least eight bars in length, but containing an essential ability to repeat a hook with high frequency inside the standard three or four minutes of a pop-song. The successful pop-chorus expresses a song's core identity.
Pre-Chorus
The 'pre-chorus' is a particular style of bridge.Designed with specific intent of lifting the level of intensity up and into the climax of a final triumphant pop-chorus - an emotional effect achieved through the use of musical devices like harmony, tempo, melody, instrumentation, arrangement and production - sometimes something as simple and effective as a change of key. It's called a 'pre-chorus' because it precedes the chorus. It's called a 'climb' because it rises towards a higher level of emotion. It's called a 'build' because it increases the intensity. It's called a'rise' or a 'lift' for the same reasons.
Pre-chorus
a short section in a song from that is not the verse or the chorus, but leads up to the chorus. It is often 4-8 bars.
Pre-Chorus or Channel
typically consists of two or sometimes four lines that act as a melodic transition from the verse to the chorus.
Press Kit
also referred to as a media kit, it is a pre-packaged set of promotional material which a songwriter may send in to a venue or company to gain a spot or further their standing.
Print License
Authorization from a music publisher or song writer to reproduce and distribute a song in printed form.
Printed Music Royalties
Payments made to a publisher for the sale of printed sheet music, which can take the form of musical notation and/or lyrics. Printed music royalties are generally paid directly to the publisher, and can vary depending on the type of sheet music and whether it's a physical or digital print.
PRODUCER
the person who supervises the creation of an artist's album project, usually through selecting songs, instruments, and musicians, as well as mixing and producing a high-quality, broadcast-ready product. They work for the artist and the label at the same time.
Public Domain
Works that don't have intellectual property protection are in the public domain, and can be used by anyone and for any purpose without the need of permission or the payment of a fee to the original composer. A work can be in the public domain because of its copyright or patent protection has expired, because it is a government work, or for a number of other reasons. An example of a work in the public domain is Beethoven's 5th Symphony. See above for more about intellectual property.
PUBLICATION
Defined by the Copyright Act as the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental lease or lending. The offering to distribute phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. However, merely performing a new song in public doesn't publish it.
Publisher
A publishing company is responsible for finding commercial buyers for a work, contracting licenses, getting paid and giving the artist his share of the profits. From a songwriter's standpoint, publishing is a major way of gaining exposure and getting paid at the same time. The major routes of distribution include movies, television and commercials. In an age when album sales numbers are not what they once were, getting a song used commercially can be one of the most lucrative ways for the publisher and the songwriter to do business together. Regardless of size, publishers can accomplish many promotional tasks and draw in songwriters.
PUBLISHER
the person who works with songwriters. By written contract, the publisher acquires songs or a catalog of songs with the most commercial potential (in their opinion) and works to get those songs recorded and used as often as possible, resulting in exposure to the public, thereby, generating income (royalties). Music publishers pitch songs to labels, music supervisors and other music users, then license the right to use the song and collect fees for the use. The fees are split with the songwriter.
Publishing Administration
The collection and/or distribution of royalties generated by copyrighted songs. It also implies the right to issue licenses on behalf of the composer, file for copyrights on the songs, and index the songs with a PRO (see performing rights organization)
Publishing Catalog Sale
The sale of a large group of published songs. Usually a catalog sale involves a large publishing company buying up a smaller one, or a publishing company buying the catalog of a self-published songwriter.
QUERY
A letter of inquiry, usually to a music publisher or other industry representative, soliciting interest in one's song(s).
R&B
Rhythm and blues.
Rate Per Song
The mechanical royalty amount owed to the publisher per song for each copy of the song that is distributed and/or downloaded. The rate per song is often based on a statutory rate set by the Copyright Statute (which is currently 9.1 cents), but there are exceptions in which the rate per song is less than the full statutory rate. See below for more about statutory rates.
Recoupable
Monies paid to a songwriter or recording artist as an advance against future earnings. These advance monies are only recoverable from actual royalty earnings.
RECOUPABLE
typically, when recording artists sign a recording contract or record a song (or album), the record company pays them an advance that must be paid back out of their royalties. This is a recoupable expense and is called recoupment. Recoupable expenses usually include recording costs, promotional and marketing costs, tour costs, music video production costs, as well as other expenses.
Refrain
During the first half of the twentieth century the refrain was the chorus (see Part 2). In the arena of contemporary pop, however, the common attempt to translate useage direct from the previous era's notion of 'the chorus' over to the current model of 'the pop-chorus' causes problems. This trouble becomes especially apparent in strophic 'simple verse forms' such as that used, for example, by Bob Dylan in Blowin' In The Wind, in which each 16-bar verse contains the same closing 4-bar statement
Repeated tones
repeat the tone rhythmically
RESIDUALS
Payments for use of an artist's performance.
retrograde
presents the motive or phrase backwards
Reversion
A clause put into a publishing agreement that states the copyright ownership of the song will revert back to the songwriter if the publisher fails to get the song commercially recorded in a set period of time such as 1 years.
rhythmic Displacement
placement of a motive or phrase in a different metric or rhythmic area
rhythmic retention
retains the rhythm of the motive or phrase but changes the pitches
Royalties
Actual monies earned as a result of a song being recorded, performed, or distributed for sale in any medium. Royalties are also paid to artists and record producers for the sale of their CDs.
ROYALTY
Money earned from the use of one's song or the sale of records, CD's, etc.
SASE
Self-addressed stamped envelope.
Scalar patterns
links two or more structural tones
Scratch Track
may also be called a rough, as in your homemade version of the melody and lyrics.
segmentation
uses only a portion of the otive or phrase
Self-Published
A term generally used to describe songwriters who retain their publishing rights and work independently of large publishing companies.
sequence
repeats the motive at a different pitch level
Sequencing
Programming a digital keyboard or digital drum synthesizer to play pre-arranged parts simultaneously.
SESAC
Originally, the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers. SESAC is the smallest of the three PROs in the United States and membership is by invitation-only.
Sharp/Flat
You've probably heard the reference to singing flat...this means that you're singing just a little lower than the note should be. Singing sharp means it's a little too high. I won't go into the theory of sharps and flats, but it helps to be able to identify which is which!
SHOP
To pitch songs to a variety of music publishers and other industry representatives.
Simile
A kind of metaphor in which the comparison or connection is made using the word like or as.
SINGLE SONG AGREEMENT
A contract between a publisher and a songwriter where the songwriter assigns copyright to the publisher in exchange for a percentage of royalty income.
Slant Rhyme
(also called Imperfect Rhyme, Half Rhyme, Near Rhyme or Off Rhyme) Rhyme in which either the vowels or consonants of stressed syllables are identical, but not both (as opposed to the more traditional Perfect Rhyme, like about/ in doubt). Notice how Jennie Lee Riddle's Revelation Song employs slant rhyme for lines 1/2 and 3/4 in this verse
Song Plugger
Also known as a pitch person, an employee of a publishing company or an individual who attempts to get songs recorded by pitching them to artists, record producers, film and tv producers, and A&R persons at record labels.
Song Quota
The minimum number of songs contractually required to be written by a songwriter who is receiving a financial advance from a publisher. The standard number is 12 wholly written songs (or 24 collaborations) per contract year, but this may fluctuate according to the publisher, the amount of money advanced, and the songwriter's track record.
SONGSHARK
An unethical individual who exploits songwriters.
SONGWRITER
An individual who crafts songs through the creation of lyrics and music.
Songwriting Credits
A songwriter is a person who is credited with the creation of the music and lyrics of a musical piece of work. This is not always accomplished by one person or a collective group. A song that has different parties responsible for its makeup has lyricists and composers. The lyricist is the person who writes the lyrics and the composer is the one who creates the musical elements of the song.
Sound Recording
The recorded performance of a song onto a phonorecord.
SoundExchange
A performance rights organization that collects and distributes royalties from platforms like satellite radio (like Sirius XM), internet radio (like Pandora) and cable television stations (like Music Choice). SoundExchange is a non-profit PRO, and is the only American entity that collects and distribute royalties earned by artists through these platforms. SoundExchange works on behalf of record companies and artists whereas ASCAP, BMI and SESAC work on behalf of music publishers and songwriters. For example, when Pandora streams Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower SESAC accounts to Bob Dylan and his publisher for the performance of his song copyright and SoundExchange accounts to Jimi Hendrix and his record company for the performance of the specific master recording. Visit SoundExchange's official website for more information.
SPLIT PUBLISHING
When the publishing rights in a song are held by more than one publisher.
Staff Writer
The reality of the recording industry is that a song may not have been written by the artist who performs it. While some may be penned by another famous figure, many are created by staff writers. These are people who have signed a contract of exclusivity with a publisher and present songs on a daily basis to be potentially used by other artists. Most staff writers report to an office in one of the major areas of the country Los Angeles, Nashville or New York. In general, the more successful the writer, the more likely he is to become his own publisher.
Standard 32 bar Chorus
a general form used by songwriters that is broken up into four 8-bar sections. It usually has a theme played twice, a bridge, and then a recap (AABA).
STATUTORY DAMAGES
Money awarded to a copyright holder for infringement of copyrights.
Statutory Rate
The fixed royalty rate determined by an act of congress. This rate is adjusted every few years to compensate for inflation. Statutory rate is the generally accepted standard for the music business, however it is sometimes negotiated to a lower rate when an artist writes all of his or her own songs (this is called a Controlled Composition Rate or control comp for short).
Streaming MP3's
An audio format that allows someone to listen to music via the internet by streaming the content, or getting the data as consecutive bits of information. It doesn't allow the recording to be downloaded to the listener's computer.
Structural tones
The most important notes of a melody, form melodic outline. Strong beats of a measure, notes that have longer time values, accented notes, beginning note of a phrase, ending note, highest or lowest note
Sub-publisher
A Sub-Publisher is a company that is assigned the right to administer songs outside of a publisher's territory. For example, an American publisher would engage the services of a sub-publisher in Germany to handle its affairs in that country.
Sync Fee
Monies paid for the use of a song or a piece of music in a film or TV show. The monetary amount is negotiated according to the importance of the song's role in the particular scene in which it is used. Other factors may influence the sync fee negotiations such as whether the song has been a hit or is a new work, and whether the song was written by a well known artist or an unknown artist.
Sync Licensing Fees
Payments made to a songwriter or music publisher for permission to use a song in sync with visual images on a screen. More specifically, sync refers to the use of a song in television, movies, and commercials. Sync royalties are generally a one-time sum paid directly to the publisher. For example, when the CW uses The xx's Crystalised or Sebastien Tellier's La Ritournelle in Gossip Girl, the publishers representing those songs are paid directly for the use of the music. In addition to the sync license fee, songwriters and publishers also benefit from Performance Royalties when the program is aired in certain instances. See below for more information on Performance Royalties.
Synchronizarion License
Authorization granted by a music publisher, or song writer to use a song with visual images (as in a motion picture or television program).
Synecdoche
When a part of something stands for the whole, as when saying, Hey, Green Eyes, to a green-eyed person. In Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed, Isaac Watts uses the scars from Christ's head to stand for all that his person suffered
Talent Agent
A representative who arranges live performances and other employment opportunities for a musician. Also referred to as a booking agent.
Tautology
Repeating the thought behind a phrase, using different words
The Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP)
A trade organization whose members include independent music publishers and other members of the entertainment community. The AIMP's mandate is to educate music publishers and other entities about current industry trends and platforms. Visit the AIMP's official website for more information.
Thinning
The opposite of ornamentation, involving the deletion of certain notes of a motive but leaving the length the same
Time Signature
This defines how many beats there are to a bar, and the value of each one. 3/4 time is recognizable as a waltz-type feel (ONE, two, three, ONE, two, three). The most common time is 4/4...in fact, it's even CALLED Common Time!
Truncation
shortens the motive or phrase
U.S. Copyright Office
The official government body that maintains records of copyright registration in the United States. Your work is technically copyrighted once it's in tangible form, but registering it with the U.S. copyright office is an additional way to protect your copyright. In order to file an infringement action (to recover damages or stop someone from using your copyright without your permission), your work needs to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Visit the UCO's official website for more information
Unsolicited Songs
Tapes or CDs sent to a publisher or record label without prior consent to do so. You can call or write and ask permission first to learn about a publisher's or record label's policy on accepting material. Many will not listen at all if they don't know who you are.
Verse
The verse has largely been restored to its C19th strophic folk-form incarnation of stanzas, and generally with the same traditional narrative story-telling function.
Virtual CDs (or NetCDs)
Music that can be directly downloaded as a CD without the need for purchasing the actual hard copy of the recording, the jewel case and the graphics.
Vocal
the voice! There are lead vocals which is basically the singer singing the melody, and there are background vocals, singing harmony, etc.
Work for Hire
is a release signed by anyone involved in producing a demo to specify terms of use. You need this if you want to pitch your song to film/TV.
WORK MADE FOR HIRE
This is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his employment, and the employer is considered the author of the work.
Writers' rounds
three to four people playing original songs, usually around three songs each. Lasts a half hour to an hour.

2 Responses to Songwriting Glossary

  1. Isabella says:

    What is a vamp?

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