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When I was a freshman in college, my Swedish girlfriend, Maggie, gave me a book called What Next? by Vladimir Lenin. Maggie passionately wanted to enlighten this poor, ignorant American about the evils of capitalism, but I’m afraid I was a major disappointment to her, because the only “Lenin” I cared about was John Lennon, and my only passion, aside from girls, was music. The Soviet Union has since crumbled, and Lenin is for the history books. But Lennon remains, and so does my interest in songwriting. With that in mind, I’d like to dedicate my new e-book—What Next?—to Maggie. I hope that wherever she is, she’s well and thriving, and still making music.

Some songwriters are lucky. Their ideas quickly grow from verse to chorus and—bing-bang-boom—they’re done. The whole process goes by so fast that it’s like magic. But their example, as wonderful as it is, is deceptive. When you look deeper, especially at a song that stands the test of time, you notice that things are going on below the surface, in between the lines, that bind the whole song together and give it lasting emotional impact. It’s a failure to appreciate these subtle undercurrents that keeps most of us from achieving our full potential as songwriters and explains all those “failure to launch” songs that start out as a great idea, but refuse to grow any further.

“What Next?”What to Do After Idea 1 is a cure for these ills. It tracks the thinking of John Lennon and Paul McCartney as they, too, faced the “What next?” question. But, as will quickly become apparent, they had a thousand ways to nimbly skip across this divide and keep on going. This certainly seems like magic, but when you focus narrowly on the critical juncture between Idea 1 and Idea 2, you begin to see how they did it—not only John and Paul, but all the great songwriters.

Do the exercises offered in “What Next?”, and the next time you face the abyss between Idea 1 and Idea 2, the sound you hear will not be the sputtering of your musical gas tank. It will be the sound of a hundred ideas percolating within your imagination. All you’ll have to do is choose the best of them and keep on going.

“What Next?” forms a bridge between the March/April column, “I Have a Dream,” and the May/June column, “Certified Organic Songwriting.” This is the year when we capitalize on past insights and learn how to grow a song, so don’t get left behind. Just e-mail [email protected] and write “Measure for Measure e-book request – ‘What Next?’” in the Subject line. You may also request any other e-book titles you may have missed, including “Interval Color in Hit Songs,” “Making Rainbows,” and “How to Sing Sol-Fa.”

I may have failed Maggie, but I won’t fail my readers. If you have questions about the content of the e-books or anything in “Measure for Measure,” please feel free to e-mail [email protected].

For a free copy of David’s latest e-book, write us at


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Shovels & Rope, “Johnny 99” b/w “Bad As Me”