Songwriting Tips, News & More

Robin Gibb, Songwriter Remembered

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, May 25, 2012 @01:38 PM

Robin Gibb, Songwriter Remembered

Robin Gibb, songwriter

Robin Gibb, a member of the group the Bee Gees, died Sunday at the age of 61. The musician was best known for his contributions, along with his brothers, to disco in the 1970s. The genre, both loved and hated, was in part defined by Gibb and the Bee Gees.

No one dominated disco more than the Bee Gees, whose soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” cemented their place in history and changed the defining sound of the era.

The Bee Gees had nine singles reach number one on the Hot 100 chart, which, according to Billboard magazine, puts them in third place for the most number ones in history, after the Beatles and the Supremes.

The Bee Gees has tremendous songwriting success, sold in excess of 200 million records worldwide.At one point in 1978, the Gibb brothers were responsible for writing and/or performing nine of the songs in the Billboard Hot 100. In all, the Gibbs placed 13 singles onto the Hot 100 in 1978, with 12 making the Top 40.

At least 2,500 artists have recorded their songs. Their most popular composition is "How Deep Is Your Love", with 400 versions by other artists in existence. Among the artists who have covered their songs are Ardijah, Michael Bolton, Boyzone, Eric Clapton, Billy Corgan, Destiny's Child, Faith No More, Feist, The Flaming Lips, Al Green, Jinusean, Elton John, Tom Jones, Janis Joplin, Lulu, Elvis Presley, Nina Simone, Percy Sledge, Robert Smith, Take That, and John Frusciante (who has covered "How Deep Is Your Love" duringRed Hot Chili Peppers concerts). The band's music has also been sampled by dozens of hip hop artists.

Songs written by the Gibbs, but largely better known through versions by other artists, include:

  • "Ain't Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You" by Teri DeSario

  • "Buried Treasure" by Kenny Rogers (backing vocals The Gatlin Brothers)

  • "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross

  • "Come on Over" by Olivia Newton-John

  • "Emotion" by Samantha Sang

  • "Gilbert Green" by Gerry Marsden

  • "Grease" by Frankie Valli

  • "Guilty" and "Woman in Love" by Barbra Streisand

  • "Heartbreaker" & "All the Love in the World" by Dionne Warwick

  • "Hold On to My Love" by Jimmy Ruffin

  • "I Will Be There" by Tina Turner

  • "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman

  • "Immortality" by Celine Dion

  • "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

  • "Morning of My Life" by Abi and Esther Ofarim

  • "Only One Woman" by The Marbles

  • "Rest Your Love on Me" by Conway Twitty

  • "Sacred Trust" by One True Voice

  • "Warm Ride" by Graham Bonnet

Robin Gibb also had a solo career, was initially successful with a Number 2 UK hit, "Saved by the Bell", which sold over one million copies. However, Gibb's first solo album, Robin's Reign, was less successful and he soon found that being a solo artist was unsatisfying. Maurice played bass guitar on the song "Mother and Jack", but was subsequently removed from the project by producer Robert Stigwood. Despite having almost completed a second solo album, Sing Slowly Sisters, Gibb reunited with his brothers, who then revived the Bee Gees. The group came back on a high note, reaching No. 3 on the US charts with the song "Lonely Days" in 1970. In 1971, the Bee Gees had their first US No.1 hit, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart". 

With Robin's death, Barry Gibb became the last surviving and oldest Gibb brother.

 

 (Edited by Jessica Brandon)

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Robin Gibb, Bee Gees

Songwriting Fact: Donna Summer Wrote 8 of her Top 10 Hits

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 17, 2012 @03:30 PM

Songwriting Fact: Donna Summer Wrote 8 of her Top 10 Hits

Donna Summer, singer-songwriter

Donna Summer, whose music dominated the 1970s disco era, died of cancer on Thursday at age 63, leaving a legacy of hit singles like "Bad Girls", "Love to Love You Baby," "Last Dance" and "Hot Stuff."

Summer, who won five Grammys and sold more than 130 million records worldwide, died in Florida. She began her career in Germany where she performed in productions of the shows "Hair" and "Porgy and Bess" and worked as a studio session singer. However, Donna Summer has been given credit as a powerful vocalist, has not been given much credit as a songwriter. She has co-written eight of her top 10 hit songs, co-writing a total of 12 Billboard Hot 100 Hit Singles. These are the songs that she co-wrote her hit songs as follows:

With Eddie Hokenson, Bruce Sudano, Joe "Bean" Esposito:
"Bad Girls", which hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1979 and became a classic dance hit.

With Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotte:
"Love To Love You", which hit #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1975

With Michael Omartian:
"She Works Hard for the Money", which hit #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980

With Giorgio Moroder:
"The Wanderer", which hit #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980

With Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte:
"Heaven Knows", which hit #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1979

With Giorgio Moroder:
"On the Radio", which hit #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1980

With Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte:
"I Feel Love", which hit #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1977

With the legendary songwriting and production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman:
This Time I Know It's for Real" #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1989

With Michael Omartian:
"Unconditional Love" (featuring Musical Youth), which hit #43 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

With Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte:
Spring Affair, which hit #58 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

With Bruce Sudano, Michael Omartian
"Love Has a Mind of Its Own" (with Matthew Ward), which hit #70 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

With Michael Omartian, Bruce Sudano
"Supernatural Love", which hit #75 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976

 

 (Edited by Jessica Brandon)

For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, Songwriting, hit song, Billboard, Donna Summer

Legendary CBGB's looks for new location, plans NY music festival

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 10, 2012 @12:38 PM

 

CBGB, a legendary club in New York, stands for Country, BlueGrass, and Blues.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's legendary punk-rock music venue CBGB's may be on its way back: in a new location with new music. 

New club investors are currently pursuing a permanent downtown Manhattan venue for the club that shuttered its doors in 2006, according to a club spokesman, who emphasized the managers of new venue will not be trying to emulate the past.

"They are hoping to open a new venue focused on new music," the spokesman said. "They are not trying to recreate the past but hope to open a space in the spirit of CBGB."

In addition, the first CBGB music festival will take place over four days from July 5-8 and showcase 300 indie bands at dozens of venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as film screenings and panel discussions.

The club that existed on the border of Manhattan's East Village: its full name is CBGB & OMFUG, or Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers: became the epicenter of the punk-rock scene in the 1970s launching bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie. The club has been a 'must play' venue for indie bands until it closed in 2006. 

The closing down of the club after a rental dispute signaled the end of an era and the gentrification of The Bowery area that now houses luxury apartment buildings with modern glass facades. The club's founder, Hilly Kristal, died in 2007, and since then CBGB's was dismantled and only existed to sell club merchandise.

The club's estate, with Kristal's daughter Lisa Kristal Burgman as its co-executor, recently sold the rights to the club's assets to a new group of investors who are currently pursuing the new venue and have planned the annual festival, according to the club spokesman.

"It's a relief to know that it's not going to die," Burgman told the New York Times, who first reported the story and said there was six investors behind the new venture. "It's going to be reborn."

After Kristal's death the club became weighed down in legal disputes over the assets, and Burgman emerged from a legal battle as the co-executor of the estate.

A spokesman for the club did not comment on what the assets sold for. The group of investors purchased the rights to the club's global intellectual property and physical assets.

Kristal founded the club in 1973. Despite its name, the club became a breeding ground for punk and new wave music such as The Jam, The Cramps and Nico, among others.

 

(Edited by Jessica Brandon)

 

For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, Songwriting, CBGB, Country, BlueGrass, Blues, Ramones, Misfits, Television, Patti Smith, Blondie

Pictures & Videos of Songwriters Showcase @ Bluebird Cafe

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 07, 2012 @03:17 PM

Here are some pictures of our recent showcase at Bluebird Cafe. Thank you all for coming to our showcase: performers, fans and Liz Miller (our Nashville host). 

 

Bluebird Cafe Showcase Showcase Group Picture, USA Songwriting Competition

From Left to right: Phillip Trees,Will Hopkins, Bill DiLuigi, Robert Davis, Tom Schreck and Dale Allen. Kneeling are: Jenn Bostic, Molly Hunt and Host Liz Miller.

 

Robert Davis, songwriter

Robert Davis performing

 

Molly Hunt, singer-songwriter. American Idol Top 60 contestant, USA Songwriting Competition First Prize Winner (Country)

Molly Hunt, singer-songwriter. She made it to the Top 60 of the 2012 American Idol. She won First Prize (Country) at the 16th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. 

 

Dale Allen, songwriter

Dale Allen performing.

 

Tom Schreck, songwriter

Tom Schreck performing. 

 

 Video: Dale Allen Performing at USA Songwriting Competition showcase at Bluebird Cafe

 

Coming Soon: watch out for our videos. They are being edited at the moment. 

For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Jenn Bostic, Tom Schreck, Molly Hunt, Will Hopkins, Liz Miller, Bill DiLuigi, Phillip Trees, Robert Davis, Dale Allen

Songwriters: Make Your Demos Really Pop!

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 03, 2012 @11:45 AM

Songwriters: Make Your Demos Really Pop!

 Singers Guide to Powerful Performances

Okay. You’ve written good songs and now it is time to record demos of them. You know that a demo doesn’t need to be perfect, but it has to be good enough to sell your songs to a publisher or be placed in film or TV by a music supervisor. The success of a song reaching the ears of the many will ride on a number of factors, including having a demo that really sells your song, a demo whose vocal is wisely calculated. Here’s how to get it there...

 

The Song That Doesn’t Sell

 

If your demo’s vocal isn’t stylistically believable, the song won’t sell itself. Good songwriting will be obscured, and possibly passed over, when a music supervisor or publisher listens to a song that has off-pitch, weak vocals or vocals that are stylistically incompatible with the music. For example, say you’ve written an R&B song and hope it will be sung by Christina Aguilera. But when you record the demo, your vocal sounds like an old-style cabaret singer with overly precise word articulation and a loose, wide vibrato. Result: The style of your song will be eclipsed and most likely passed over.

 

Who Will Sing Your Song?

 

When a publisher listens to a demo, if s/he can’t envision a certain artist singing it, chances are slim that s/he’ll pick it up and submit it to an artist for consideration. With that in mind, as you write a song or revise it after it has been written, evaluate the style of your song and match it to one or several possible artists you believe could sing it. This brings us to some important steps that many skip entirely or skimp on in their haste to demo and submit their songs.

 

Do Your Research

 

Before you write a song that you hope to have sung and recorded by specific artists, spend time listening to a cross-section of their currently released material to find out: Are there any particular keys or types of melodies they favor? How much or how little vocal range do they tend to use? Do they use mostly single syllable or multi-syllabic words? Are there any characteristic ways they use their voice, such as certain vowel sounds for their peak or climatic notes? Is their vocal bluesy, belting or whispery? Do they use much sustain? Do you hear a certain recurring manner of rhythmic phrasing or a use of embellishments?

Identify all this before you write your song or revise it, so you’ll compose music and lyrics that are stylistically consistent. You will also discover if you have the vocal skill to sing on your demo or if you should have a talented singer record it.

 

Prep Your Vocals

 

If you plan to sing on your demo, doing this simple exercise before you record will help you to improve your sound. Sing the melody of your song without lyrics, phrase by phrase, using a simple vowel sound such as “Ah,”  “Ee” or “Eh.” Don’t connect the notes with an “h.” Instead, keep your vowel pronunciation consistent as you slowly and smoothly sing each phrase.

Doing this has several benefits. 1) By removing the lyrics, you’ll focus on the musical flow of the melody and this will bring to attention any possible musical edits you deem stylistically necessary. 2) Your voice is the vowel sounds (not the consonants of words). This exercise can help to improve your tone and pitch accuracy, because it requires you to work the sound of your voice only. 3) Singing the melody with a single vowel exercises your vocal muscles so you can sing more easily. Once you’ve done this (over and over) to your satisfaction, sing the song with lyrics and notice any improvements. At this point you can begin to stylize your voice to suit the intended artist or song placement.

 

Learn from Singers

 

If you’ve decided to sing on your demo, but your vocal style doesn’t complement the genre of the song, practice with recordings of singers who sing in that genre. Record yourself so you can compare your rendition to those other singers and make adjustments as needed.

 

Studio Recording Tips

 

There are two important studio factors that either enhance or diminish your recorded vocals. Take the time to get the right headphone mix. You should hear yourself well and not feel “crowded” by the volume of other instruments. If needed, try the “one ear off” technique; Leave the headphone off one ear to hear your voice acoustically in the room.

The type of mic chosen and the mic’s placement should match rather than alter your voice and it should capture your best sound. When using your home studio to record, the standard microphone input on your computer is usually inadequate to make good quality vocal recordings. Use a separate audio interface with a preamp or, for the more budget-conscious, use a USB studio condenser microphone.

 

Remain Objective

 

While it may be difficult to remain objective, the whole project will fail if you do not evaluate your recording with a professional detachment that can discern stylistic consistency, perform-ance believability and accuracy of pitch and rhythmic phrasing. If the first two in-gredients are there, the pitch and rhythm can be fixed by punches or corrected in the recording software.

 songwriting

Vocals Still Sound Bad?

 

If you have followed all these suggestions and the vocals still don’t sound as good as they need to, it is time to acknowledge that you may not be the right singer for this recording. Your skill is songwriting and you want the quality of your art to be evident to others, so find an appropriate singer to record your demo.

There are some talented singers out there who will jump at the chance to get studio experience, an endorsement or even possibly a demo recording of their own. You can find singers through contacting voice coaches in your area, online musician referral services or bulletin boards, by referral from recording studios, other musicians you may know and through Music Connection’s musician’s online social network: AMP (http://musicconnection.com/amp).

You can offer to pay a singer or possibly draw up an agreement allowing them to use the recording as a demo to showcase their voice as long as they don’t sell or record the song as their own. Your song should already be copyright protected prior to going into the studio.

[Reprinted with permission by Music Connection magazine]

Jeannie Deva is recognized as one of the nation’s top celebrity voice and performance coaches. As a recording studio vocal specialist, she has been endorsed by producers and engineers of Aerosmith, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. Her newest book publication is Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances. See http://JeannieDeva.com. 

For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, demo, Elton John, Studio Recording Tips, Jeannie Deva, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones

Songwriting Tip: How Does Your Song Stack Up?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 02, 2012 @11:40 AM

HOW DOES YOUR SONG STACK UP?

Danny Arena, Songwriter

Every now and then, I like to tape the entire country top 40 and analyze the songs in terms of song structure and various timing considerations. In this column, I wanted to share with you the results of my most recent survey.

1. Song Form. Everyone says write your song in a song form. Maybe you've wondered just how important that is to making the top 40? Well as usual, out of forty songs on this particular week when I analyzed them, every one was written in one of the well established song forms. 

Form Number of Songs in the Top 40
AAA none
AABA 9
Verse/Chorus 15
Verse/Chorus/Bridge 7
Verse/Lift/Chorus 7
Verse/Lift/Chorus/Bridge 2

As has been the case the past three years, the majority of songs in the top 40 used the simple verse/chorus structure (though some included instrumental sections). Second place was very close, with the AABA's getting the nod by a slim margin, followed closely by the V/C/B structure and the V/L/C structure. As you might expect, there were no AAA songs, although one or two a year usually make their way into the top 40.

II. Length Of Introduction. How long should an introduction to a song be? The introduction should be long enough to establish the feel and tempo of the song, and possibly introduce a motif. Anything longer, and your introduction is simply taking up valuable space in the song and probably hurting the song. 

Length of Introduction # of Songs in the Top 40
< 10 seconds 8
11 - 15 seconds 25
16 - 17 seconds 7
> 17 seconds none

Average length = 12 seconds

The fascinating statistic here is that twenty-five of the forty songs fell into the second category and no songs had introductions longer than seventeen seconds. 

III. Time To Get To The Chorus (including the introduction). Okay, so we've all heard the expression, "don't bore us, get to the chorus". Let's see how the songs in the top 40 compared on this very important timing issue.

Time To Get To The Chorus # of Songs in the Top 40
< 30 seconds 4
30 - 40 seconds 10
41 - 50 seconds 11 
51 - 60 seconds 10
61 - 75 seconds 5
> 75 seconds none

Average time = 45 seconds

There were only five songs in the top 40 that took longer than a minute to get to the chorus. Out of those five songs, three were written or co-written by the artist. Take a tip from the top 40 and get to the chorus in under a minute.

IV. Length Of Song (including the introduction). Finally, let's take a look at song length. 

Length of Song # of Songs in the Top 40
< 2:30 none
2:30 - 3:00 11
3:00 - 3:30 25 
3:30 - 4:00 4
> 4:00 none

Average time = 3:17 seconds

This category changed the most from last year. Last year, the average time for a song was right around the three minute mark. This year, the majority of songs were in the 3:00-3:30 category. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues.

V. What It All Means. So what do all these statistics mean? While I don't recommend putting your song under a microscope during the writing of it, it is interesting after your song is written to see whether or not it falls into the "pocket". If you notice that your song takes over a minute to get to the chorus, you may want to consider getting there quicker. If your song is in an obscure song form (like one you made up yourself), be aware that not many of those make it to the top 40. In the end, there are always exceptions to the rule and knowing the above information should not be a guiding factor in compromising the writing of a song. But it can help give you a healthy perspective after the writing of the song. Most of all, just keep writing the best songs you possibly can.

Hope to see you on the charts.

-Danny

About Danny Arena:
Danny Arena is a Tony Award nominated composer and professional songwriter. He holds degrees from Rutgers University in both computer science and music composition, and serves as an Associate Professor at Volunteer State Community College in Nashville, and an adjunct member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University. In addition, he has been invited to teach songwriting workshops throughout the U.S. and abroad, and performs his original songs regularly in Nashville at venues like the Bluebird Café. As a staff songwriter for Curb Magnatone Music Publishing, he composed several songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Tony Award for Best Original Score. He is also the co-founder, CEO, and one of the main site developers of www.SongU.com, which provides over 70 multi-level courses developed by award-winning songwriters in addition to online coaching, co-writing, industry connections, and pitching opportunities. For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting Tip, Danny Arena, Song Form, Song Intro, Song Length