Rightfully, this is a tricky topic with songwriters, because we’re so afraid of plagiarism. Even if you don’t end up in court, being accused of plagiarism, being a copycat, is a major insult. And I’m not advocating that plagiarism is acceptable — it’s not. But learning from the greats is still the most effective way to learn a craft. What you do is instead of copying bits of music — though that’s where everyone must start — you analyze songs and learn the system that makes the great songs great.
And this also extends to the art of record producing — great arrangers, engineers and producers are constantly analyzing what they hear in recordings. Instrumentation, mix, types of reverb used — all that information is available to those who know how to listen.
Once you start analyzing, you’ll discover that each piece of music/recording contains an amazing amount of information. It’s packed full of techiniques that you can employ into your own songwriting and production. Below let me identify what you can glean from a recording, so that you can start developing the skill of listening critically. Songwriting Analysis
Harmony/chords: What chords are used? Do they stay in the key? How are they voiced? How often do they change? Melody: How does it fit together with chords? Does it go up, down or remain static? If sung, how does it work with words? Structure: Does it follow the standard format, or does it deviate somewhere? Do the verses repeat the same melody, or is the singer improvising each verse? Does it use call and response or other standard structures? Lyrics: How does the song start?...