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Songwriting Theory Explained

Eli's back with another awesome music theory based series! In this collection Eli reveals the mechanics and creativeness behind modern songwriting. Learn popular chord sequences and cadences as well as analyze the chord progressions of some of the most famous songs ever written.

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Chord Patterns


Standard Chord Library 4m:32s

Get a review of all the chord qualities that will be used as the building blocks for various chord progressions.


Strong Chord Progressions 7m:32s

Learn how root movement and shared common tones can make a chord progression strong by suggesting a strong tonal center.


Strong & Weak Progressions 5m:32s

See how weak chord progressions, where no tonal center is suggested, can be combined with strong chord progressions to provide contrast and excitement to a song.


Adding Color to Progressions 10m:13s

Explore some ways of adding variety to simple progressions by using pedal tones, inversion, and harmonic displacement.


Passing Chords & Bass Movement 6m:36s

See how using diatonic or chromatic bass movement, either ascending or descending, can generate some nice contour and shape to your overall chord progression.


Cadences & Precadences 8m:26s

Explore some different harmonic patterns that are used as alternates to standard cadences.


Chord Progression Toolbox Pt. 1 7m:42s

Develop a repertoire of standard "go to" chord progressions that are useful as jumping off points for your own compositions.


Chord Progression Toolbox Pt. 2 7m:07s

Develop a repertoire of standard "go to" chord progressions that are useful as jumping off points for your own compositions.


Analysis 9m:33s

Discover how simple repeated chord patterns have been used as the foundation for some of history's most loved pop tunes.



Melody/Harmony Relationships 8m:40s

Discover the unique qualities different chord or scale tones have over different types of underlying chords.


Melodic Rhythm & Meter 8m:41s

See how the placement of melodic phrases in relation to the beats in the bar and the chord changes affects the overall sense of melodic structure and order.


Tips for Writing Melodies 10m:10s

Discover some tried and proven principles to consider when writing your own melodies.

Song Structure


The Pre Chorus & Bridge 7m:52s

See how a pre chorus and a bridge can be used to add variety and intensity to your song's structure.


Form & Structure 7m:18s

Learn about some of the many common song forms such as the ways of linking together the different song sections.


Hooks 5m:09s

Explore some of the ways to integrate hooks into your songwriting and song production.


Intros & Endings 8m:24s

Discover some harmonic possibilities for introductions and endings to your songs.

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing


Stimulate Your Creativity 7m:40s

See how to experiment with some different exercises to stimulate new ideas and push you in directions you might not otherwise have gone in.


Collaborate! 10m:00s

Explore some of the ways the creative process can be enhanced through collaboration with other musicians and signers.


Light a Candle & Write a Song 9m:43s

Another example of how collaboration can lead to a wealth of creative ideas and directions not necessarily originally intended.


Cut Me to the Bone 14m:41s

Watch as a song is born, complete with lyrics, a vocal and an instrumental hook, and some rawkin' guitar!

Eli Krantzberg

1. When did you start dabbling in music?

I started playing drums in high school at age fourteen. Like most kids my age around then, I was into progressive rock. Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Yes. They rocked my world. A few short years later though, my musical life changed. While studying music in college I discovered Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, and John Coltrane. Milt Jackson spoke to me in such a profound way that it left me no choice but to take up vibraphone.

These great players, along with  drummers like Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones changed not only the way I thought about drumming, but also music - and by extension, life - as a whole. I realized life was meant to be a creative endeavor. The idea of improvising based on a loose set of guidelines and rules permeated into my psyche even when I wasn't holding a pair of drumsticks or mallets. But if I am going to be perfectly truthful, I have to hold Henry Miller and Woody Allen equally responsible for shaping the way I view and experience the world around me. 

2. What training have you had?

I am currently an Apple certified Logic Pro. Young and cocky, and armed with only a partial University degree, I dropped out of school and  began playing steady commercial hotel engagements and jazz gigs when I could. This went on for many years until I decided it was time to complete my degree - which I ultimately did with a major in Political Science and a minor in music. 

It was at this point that I formed my current band Nightshift. We are going in to our twenty third year now - playing commercial one nighters like weddings, corporate events, etc. Don't turn your nose up at it though - it has allowed me a wonderful quality of life. It gave me the freedom to go back to school and complete a post graduate degree in Communications Studies - all the while supporting myself by playing weddings.

3. When did you get into recording?

It was in this graduate program - in the early nineties - that I found myself drawn to the fledgling emerging universe of hard disc recording and midi sequencing. Based on nothing more than the recommendation of one of my band mates who had an old Atari, I jumped in head first and bought a Mac LC ll, along with a version 1.1 of what was then Notator Logic. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But, in hindsight, it was a decision of epic importance in my life - shaping my future as much as the music of Milt Jackson and Charlie Parker did fifteen years prior. 

I opened up my own commercial home studio in 1998 and began doing a variety of projects, working on radio jingles, artist CD projects, and whatever came my way. A couple of years later a colleague called me up - desperate. He was working at a post production house and one of the editors had just quit. They were doing audio post for a weekly TV series and needed a Pro Tools editor - and fast! And so, once again, I jumped in head first into what would ultimately open up my world even more - the world of Pro Tools. 

4. People you have worked with/for?

Focusing on Logic, I built up a small but loyal client base and my phone kept ringing for Logic tech support and instruction. Film composers and studio owners all over the city were calling me. Even the music stores were giving out my phone number at this point! This kind of stuff becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The more of it you do, the more calls you get to keep doing it. At least that's the way it should be!

As my Logic chops kept growing, I was hired by an old buddy of mine, Len Sasso, who was then an associate editor at Electronic Musician magazine, and began writing some columns for them. I had a blast doing them - and really learned to focus and express my thoughts in a concise and clear manner. This lead to a collaboration with LA based composer Terry Michael Huud on the 2006 film called Civic Duty - which was certainly one of the highlights of my professional life as a composer. 

5. Why are you so good at training people?

I wake up every day excited to boot up, and create. Whether it's instructional videos, creating music, working with a studio client, performing with my band, or teaching at the schools - my days are filled with what I love doing. Enriched by the stimulation and creative freedom this modern music making software brings to my life. I bring that excitement and passion to each and every training product I create. My years of experience both using and teaching these programs has taught me the best way to make the user comfortable with these complex programs.

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