Insider Secrets To Great Songwriting

Diane Warren i i

Diane Warren was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. Erik Asla hide caption

itoggle caption Erik Asla
Diane Warren

Diane Warren was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.

Erik Asla

For over 25 years, Diane Warren has written top ten hits for some of the greatest voices in the recording industry.

Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time," and Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" are all her songs. And she won a Grammy Award for Best Song for the Celine Dion hit, "Because You Loved Me."

Warren doesn't start her songwriting process from a fixed spot. "I like to start with an idea, but then again, I might be sitting at the keyboard, and just playing a bunch of chords that sound cool together, and something just inspires an idea from that," she tells NPR's Neal Conan.

Though she can be inspired by either a lyric or a melody, "the lyrics are what take the most time." The music comes quickly, but she's careful with the lyrics, "to really make sure the idea is really developed and really compelling and great." She estimates she spends about a week on a song.

Jack Perricone, chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music, advises would-be hitmakers that writing for the masses is different from writing for a more intimate crowd. Whereas songwriters can pen more complex, deep lyrics for a small crowds, "if you're writing for the masses, often what really enhances them is the beat." As long as the beat makes the body of the listener "feel good," he says, then the lyrics need not be terribly sophisticated, "or even very good."

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