In the preface of Tunesmith, author Jimmy Webb offers readers a glimpse into his purpose of writing a book that delves into the many channels of professional songwriting. Webb also notes the struggle of writing a book based upon songwriting particularly because inspiration, creativity and technique are personal outlets that differ from one musician to the next. Later on, Webb states that he has written this book “for those who still believe in the great power of songs and who may be attempting the delicate transition from amateur to professional…” 
Chapter One describes a part of Webb’s early career as a songwriter and dives into a historical approach to songwriting as readers are introduced to transforming poetry into lyrical imagery. “Which is to say that all great lyrics use the devices of poetry – metaphor, simile, imagery, alliteration and meter, among others…as a songwriter you are…the literary standards of true poets, novelist or other intellectuals.”  Webb also points out a common concern that many songwriters face as they try to write original music that could potentially be perceived as an imitation of a past (or current) song. He addresses this concern stating that, “if we carried such concerns to extremes we would never get a melody written but would become full-time researchers instead, perhaps letting your computers devise complicated and never-before-heard combinations. It is a mathematical fact that only twelve notes can be arranged in multiples of millions of unique sequences. Surely all the melodies have not been written.” 
Webb not only offers insight into chord progression and how to differentiate chord and lyric progressions, he also stresses the importance to “draw an imaginary protective circle around ourselves and step inside. The place where we write is important whether it is a physical room or a spacious loft in the heart and mind. “  He acknowledges later on that he is attempting to illustrate to the reader that every place and every waking and dreaming moment is potential musical inspiration and every idea should be considered.
Further into reading, the song idea and concept is introduced. This section could quite possibly be the most valuable section of the book for songwriters looking to fine-tune their craft. Webb states, “we must accomplish our aims and tell our entire story in a time frame of about three minutes (plus or minus). Every word, every note must count.”  He also suggests isolating the song idea by conveying the feelings in a letter. This journey through the song vision provides readers with a more concrete view on creating a strong hook. He also encourages the use of different writing techniques such as false rhyme, repetitive rhyme, blank verse, metaphors and similes that further enhance the song lyrics.
The following four chapters illustrate the fine mechanics of songwriting. Chapter five summarizes writing sessions one and two for the song, Problem Child. Webb spends ample time writing and re-writing the chorus until he believes that he has come up with a “good” chorus. He notes that not every person reading this book will make “so much fuss over one lyric but most successful songwriters are at least this persnickety and perhaps even more so.” 
Chapter six begins with an overview of basic music theory and uses diagrams to create a visual aid to enhance the learning process. This chapter covers minor, major, relative and diatonic scales (among others), half and whole steps, skips, variations, augmented and diminished chords. Webb spends most of the chapter addressing chord variations and chord structure. “Many contemporary composers, myself included, believe that oftentimes the germs of beautiful melody exist in chord structure itself; that the chord structure leads us in interesting directions melodically, paths that might not be discovered otherwise.”  He also encourages readers to “practice until you can invent and invert any major chord at will.” 
In Chapter 8, Webb creates the tune to accompany his lyrics for Problem Child. He creates the chord structure that he believes sets the mood and the tempo for the song and then analyzes the way that each syllable of the lyrics is sung. He goes into great detail to carefully outline the finalization of his song and also includes a list of 10 things to keep in mind when writing the melody to a song. Webb concludes the chapter with the final score of his song and mentions that he hopes his song has said what he set out to say. “If I have failed to accomplish my objective precisely, then I must hope that a second, perhaps subliminal goal will have been reached and cherish the thought that this inadvertent achievement may be of even more value. Such an occurrence would not be unique in the affairs of artists in general and songwriters in particular.” 
The final three chapters of Tunesmith move away from songwriting techniques and focus more so on Webb’s personal experiences in the business of music. Chapter nine addresses Webb’s thoughts on co-writing and collaboration with other songwriters and artists. “You trade positions. One person writes while the other is the editor and critic and then the roles are reversed. You have to be able to absorb the criticism and understand that in the end everything has to please everybody.”  He also describes collaboration with other artists as “a special gift. Some writers are simply two egotistical and self-centered to ever do it right. It involves a great deal of genuine selflessness and dedication…” 
Chapter 10 discusses Webb’s thoughts on breaking into the music business. Although this book was written before the availability of the Internet for self-promotion, I believe that Webb offers some interesting points on being a part of the business of music. From my perspective, Internet or not, it is still a challenge to make connections music wise and to cultivate business relationships and partnerships in this industry that go beyond technology.
Webb concludes Tunesmith with a chapter that addresses mechanical royalties, how a songwriter is paid and copyright law. He also touches on the hardships of being a songwriter and the emotional toll that songwriting can have on a person. “It is ridiculously easy to become bitter in this trade, so hard not to resent in at least some small capacity the success of others. The real problem is that envy and bitterness are such poor materials for a songwriter to work with.”  With that being said, Jimmy Webb also knows the positive influence that music and songwriting has in our society. “A great song…can put the world back into focus…and sometimes even bring someone back into a life who might have been thought gone forever. There is unimaginable power in a great song.” 
 Jimmy Webb, Tunesmith (New York, NY: Hyperion, 1998), XII.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 14.
 Ibid., 22.
 Ibid., 37.
 Ibid., 153.
 Ibid., 213.
 Ibid., 189.
 Ibid., 283.
 Ibid., 291.
 Ibid., 306.
 Ibid., 397.
 Ibid., 396.