The Addiction Formula (the most important songwriting book you read this year)

Nov 12, 2021

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10 overly complicated steps to writing a convoluted song.

1 - Start out with one element, let's say harmony.

2 - Add a melody that goes with the chords.

3 - Spend hours, trying to find lyrics that fit both your melody and harmony.

4 - Write parts for other instruments that fit everything you have so far.

5 - Write the next section of the song in the exact same fashion.

6 - Try to find musicians that go well with the songs and record them.

7 - Attempt to make all your different ideas in your song fit together through production.

8 - Put your song on SoundCloud.

9 - Be disappointed when no one listens to it.

10 - Die alone and without anyone ever hearing your song - and your cats don't count!

This book is what I'm going to talk about today. This is a little bit different than my other videos, but this book has just completely shifted my mindset on writing and producing songs.

It's called "The Addiction Formula" by Friedemann Findeisen. If I've pronounced that wrong, please, correct me. That's the best way I can pronounce it. I have the audio book of this. I started out listening to it, loved it, and quickly realized I need to get the hard copy  because there's some diagrams and graphs in it.

So today, I'm going to tell you about what I've learned from this book. Kind of review the book. I guess it's kind of my first book review. I've never done a book review before, and tell you why I think you should read it in its completion. It's easy, easy read. Yeah. So that's what we're going to do today.

My name is Zion and I am the founder of the Triple Threat Artist online producer course, which is an amazing course in community with some incredible musicians that are learning to become triple threats.

They are singer songwriters that are trying to also add that production to their title - singer songwriter producer. So that they're a Triple Threat. The advantage of this is that if they have an idea in their head, they can quickly get it into airwaves by making it, recording it, producing it. And even if they use another producer, they can command a lot of respect in the production and convey what they're trying to do in their songs before they work with a producer. So we love helping other students like this.

Myself and my friend, Josh Doyle, who is an amazing producer - together we lead this little class. It's a great online small boutique community. If you'd like to join us, you are more than welcome. The link is below. Come check us out. We also have a couple of free tools that you are welcome to use. Just click the links below.

One is a template - It's a PDF basically - of a guide. We call it the Red Zone Production Timeline, and it shows you just the steps you need to really think about in planning your producing of a song.

The other one is something I created called Gizmo, which uses AirTable to track all the metadata for your songs so that you don't lose stuff. And you can build reports really easily and it's free so you can download it below. All right. So let's get into this.

I am going to try to explain this book as best. I know how in one pass, I'm not going to do any edits on this video. I just want to convey what I know. I'm going to talk to you like a friend here. Oftentimes when I'm doing videos, I splice things together because I can't talk in one take very well, but I want to try to just explain this to you. Just like we're in Oprah's book club, right?

So Friedman, this guy that wrote this book, he has a YouTube channel called Holistic Songwriter. You've probably seen videos of it and you didn't even know. He wrote a book. Check out the book seriously - buy the paperback and support this guy. It Is an incredible book. Get the audio book too. I love audio books. He's got a really cool German accent.

So he basically proposes that in the last 10 - 20 years, the songs that really make it to be number one hits, the hit songs of today. He's not talking about like classical music. He Is talking about like top 40 hits all use a formula that he calls the addiction formula. Even if the writers and producers didn't know they're using the formula, the formula works. And that's what rises those songs up to the top. And very few people know about this.

So what is this formula? Well, he believes that it's all about telling a story without the lyrics, telling the story. He calls it lyric-less storytelling, basically. And it's conveying story and feeling through the production, the arrangement, the elements of the song, the voices, the frequencies used, the mix. It's all conveying a story to you that is moving in such a way that grabs you and pulls you in. And it's addictive to listen to it's addictive to keep listening to, and that you don't turn it off.

He breaks it into two areas. He calls it instead of tension and release. He breaks it into tension and gratification.

So gratification, just like if you were a heroin addict and gratification is when you get that shot, right? That needle, I've never been a heroin addict. Don't don't write me any emails about this. But, it's, the gratification is getting that drug, that dose of that dopamine hit of whatever's going on and you're getting gratified, but the tension keeps you wanting more. It keeps you coming back for more.

So he believes that songs actually use energy in the forms of gratification and tension at different - he calls them hype levels, hype levels, just as a level of energy in the song, everything from a Celine Dion song to a Rage Against the Machine song, to something way more obvious like an Ed Sheeran song or something like that, they all are using these levels of hype. So I'm going to use my iPad here for a second.

So hype levels are basically stages of a song that rise and fall and usually build toward courses. So hype levels are just basically these stages. Okay. And he calls them hype and the tension is what gets you there.

So the tension is the push and pull that comes off these platforms, if you think of platforms as hype levels. So you might start low, like in a verse, and then you're building toward a chorus through the pre-chorus and finally hitting the chorus. And then you can come back down to usually a second verse, and then you're building up again, usually going into a bridge, which goes lower then it comes back up and then it ends. That's a really terrible illustration. But I think you get the idea.

So his whole thing is that if you pay attention to the hype levels and you're actually telling a story and you can't tell what the story is just by looking at a hype level graph, it's just, this is just a way of conveying how the energy performs throughout your song. And if somebody can track your song using this, that means you probably did a good job and how you arranged the total song.

Now, what happens is most songwriters, we start off with an intro that has certain, usually a low level energy go into a verse, which has a certain energy, and then maybe a pre-chorus and then go into a chorus, which is our first gratification. Okay. And then we're going to drop back into a second verse. And most people come back to about the same level as that first verse.

He proposes, that's a bad idea, and that we actually need to come to a little bit higher than the second verse. And this is telling a story because things have changed if this were a Hollywood movie, and this was a story written in Hollywood, this person has changed by the time they get to the first chorus, they're coming back to a new world and they're starting anew.

He gets all into story, writing and film and how it actually relates to songwriting. It's really, really interesting, by the way. I kind of knew some of this, but he really puts it into a way that's fascinating. And it has to do a lot with the hero's journey, which is a formula that a lot of play writers and screenwriters use when they're writing movies and TV shows. Then you go to another chorus and then the, or a pre-chorus.

And then that second chorus is typically bigger. So this first chorus was about there. The second chorus is bigger, has a new element. Something's different about it. You're on top of the world. And then there's something that oftentimes in movies, as you go into the third act of a movie, there is something - definitely changes. Now, if … this is a pattern, so if you repeated this pattern here, you wouldn't want to repeat it again. It's just, there's something about human psychology that if you repeat something, if you repeat it again, the third time, it immediately becomes predictable and boring.

So a bridge or a breakdown, or a wrap or something in your song introduces a completely different hype level. Who knows where it is. It doesn't really matter some level here. And for the sake of this drawing, I'm going to just do like this here. And this is your bridge. It's usually something very different. Something's happened. Something has changed. There's a new… There's … if it were a story, there's a new situation. The hero has encountered, or maybe he suffered a defeat and he's got to slowly build back out of it. And that's where you slowly are building back into another pre-chorus. And then finally, a triumphant chorus at the end. And you're using these tensions to build yourself into this. And your ending, finishing strong, and then, POOF, you can either end low or high or whatever you want to do to end it.

But this third act is oftentimes different. It ends the same. There's still familiarity in that chorus, but it's different. And if this were a three act play, you're going to have, I'll change colors here. You're going to have three acts 1, 2, 3. Anyway, most songs use this formula because it really works, but he doesn't propose you have to use this formula. He just says, understand this formula really well so that you can write your own energy curve so that you understand, and that you're writing with intention.

So what is energy? That's the next question in all this energy, and this song is the way it's, you can't really measure it in units - because it could be volume. It could be the amount of frequencies that you're using. It could be the complexity of the rhythm, the amount of subdivisions. It could be the guitar riff. It could be an effect. It could be a filter.

So those are a lot of production things, but it could be parts. It could be the song writing. So understanding how each element in a song affects the energy is kind of the key.

So there's a whole chapter chapter, two of his book really breaks down, really breaks down the elements and how each element, like the arrangement of the song affects the energy. And if you're trying to build energy, do these things in your arrangement. If you're trying to lessen the energy or go to a lower hype level, do these things in the arrangement.

Then he gets into vocals. And if you're trying to, like, for instance, if you belt, that's going to be a very, you know, that's going to really add to your hype level of that part of your piece. If you're using falsetto, that's going to give a different kind of energy level and he breaks it down into this energy - you know, doing this is going to change your energy level more than this, more than this, more than this, it's really, really fascinating.

He does that for guitars since bass drums, vocals, arrangement, lyrics. Lyrics, have a lot to do with it. But I'll give you a great example. So let's say back to this illustration here, I'll change colors again. Let's say I'm in this area right here, where I'm in the second verse. And I'm trying to build up to this big chorus, the second big chorus. Well, there's a number of different ways you can do that.

Let's just start with drums. If I am, maybe the second verse is I pulled the kick out. And so I just am using the snare. If I start adding the kick back in on maybe the full notes in the pre-chorus here, and then the full beat comes back in here, I've added a lot more subdivisions in that kick drum, and now I've elevated the hype level for that second chorus, just using a kick drum.

It's pretty fascinating. So you often hear snare drums, di di di di di di di di di di dididididididididi. You know, that's just building tension by changing the subdivisions of that snare drum to pull you into that chorus. So oftentimes we think of tension as building up, but there's also tension building down.

Another really interesting thing in this book is he talks about, he talks about what they call implied tension. Implied tension is when let's say you're in the second verse in this area over here, and you're about to go into this. Pre-Chorus you're about to go in here. You can actually drop out instruments by, I don't know, just dropping out instruments. And what that does is because those instruments were implied. You've set those up. It implies that something big is about to happen. And so, even though you're subtracting elements, you're actually about to go bigger and that's called implied tension.

He explains it better in the book. So this is sort of the whole addiction formula. It's all about helping people, giving people a little bit of gratification and how you write the song, how you, and not just the writing, the production too. Writing and predict production are so dovetailed nowadays, like in fact, some of the best writers are now are producers because they understand the music production and how to get how to tell the story in production, which easily lends itself to writing the song as well, not easily, but he can.

So this whole book is all about this formula, this addiction formula - gratification and tension. And I strongly suggest dwelling on this, like really dwelling on this and doing some exercises. I'm going to be doing a Clubhouse soon where we're going to just talk about this, but I would love for you guys to join … I'm going to give you a couple of weeks before we do this, but I want to give people time to read this book so that we can have a discussion about it.

And I'm going to actually reach out to the author. I don't know if we can get ahold of him, but it would be amazing if we could get ahold of him and have him come into the group itself and do a clubhouse with him. Check out his YouTube channel again, it's called Holistic Songwriter ( Get the book off of Amazon again, it's called the Addiction Formula.

All right.

And if you haven't signed up for our Clubhouse, we have a triple threat artists clubhouse on clubhouse that you can sign up for. And I'll put the link below. So it's easy to do. But we're going to be doing more and more Clubhouse talks because it's a way in which we can all communicate, come together and just hang out together.

I'd love to hear from you. If you want to reply to this email or the YouTube video, put your comments below. I'd love to hear from you. And yeah, I'd love to hear how this changes your writing too.

I'm Zion. I'm signing off.

See ya.



Buy The Addiction Formula from Amazon here:

Follow the author's YouTube video channel here:

Join the Triple Threat Club on Clubhouse here:

Download Gizmo:

Download the Red Zone Production Timeline:




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