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Jessica Brandon

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USA Songwriting Competition Winner Lucy Kalantari Wins a Grammy

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 @08:23 PM

USA Songwriting Competition Winner Lucy Kalantari Wins a Grammy


LucyKalantari-GrammyWin-2019

USA Songwriting Competition Honorable Mention winner (2017 Competition) and finalist (2018 Competition) Lucy Kalantari of New York, NY won a Grammy Award earlier tonight for Best Children’s Album. Her album All The Sounds by Lucy Kalantari & The Jazz Cats included her 5 year old son Darius Kalantari, who played the cello on the album.

Before she made an acceptance speech, she handed the Grammy trophy to her 5 year old son, she told him "Don't drop it". She went on to say "Thank you to the Recording Academy, thank you to the voters. I have been making music all my life. I have to honor all the sounds in my heart and in my head. This is beautiful. This is such an honor to be on the ballot with all these nominees".

She went on to say “This album was written and recorded by a Latina woman. It was produced by a woman.” She also gave a shout out to her mom in Dominican Republic and appeared overwhelmed by her win.

She beat out other nominees in her category such as Tim Kubart (Grammy award winner in 2016), Falu, The Pop Ups and Frank & Deane.

Lucy Kalantari is an award winning children’s artist based in Brooklyn, New York, making jazz age inspired music for families. Since the Fall 2017 Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats has been featured on Sprout House, the musically-infused programming block on Universal Kids. Her songs are on steady rotation on SiriusXM Kids Place Live and other family radio programs around the country.

ABOUT USA SONGWRITING COMPETITION
USA Songwriting Competition has a long history of having winners getting recording and publishing contracts, have their songs placed on the charts as well as having their songs placed on film and television, and winning Grammy Awards.

Meghan Trainor (USA Songwriting Competition finalist) won Best New Artist in the 2016 Grammy Awards, making her the only winner in the top categories (Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, etc) of the Grammy Awards. Meghan Trainor hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, and debuting #1 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts. She has a total of 9 songs that have hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts as an artist.

Christopher Tinn (USA Songwriting Competition First Prize winner, Instrumental category in 2014, Finalist in 2010) won two Grammy Awards for his classical crossover album Calling All Dawns in 2011.

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer (USA Songwriting Competition 2011 First Prize winner, Children’s music category) have earned two Grammy Awards for their recordings “cELLAbration: a Tribute to Ella Jenkins” in 2004 and for “Bon Appétit!” in 2005. Their CDs “Postcards” and “Banjo Talkin’” were both Grammy Awards nominated in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. They have received a total of 12 Grammy nominations so far.

2013 winner American Authors were signed to Island Records, and hit #1 on the Billboard Charts and went Double Platinum.

The 2017 top winner Pricilla Renea had her song “Love So Soft” recorded by Kelly Clarkson, it hit #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. Her songs have recorded by other big name artists such as Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, Demi Lovato, Rihanna, Madonna, Selena Gomez and Chris Brown. Several of her songs have hit the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

USA Songwriting Competition is sponsored by: D’Addario Strings, Godin Guitars, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, New Music Weekly, Loggins Promotion, Airplay Access, Audio-Technica, FL Software, Sonoma Wireworks, Berklee College of Music, DiscMakers, CDBaby, StoryBlocks, School of Rock, Final Mix Software and more.


In its landmark 24th year, the USA Songwriting Competition is currently accepting entries. To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition online, Click Here>>

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, Lucy Kalantari, Meghan Trainor, Christopher Tinn, Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, American Authors, Pricilla Renea

6 Benefits of Collaboration in Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 04, 2019 @07:00 AM

6 Benefits of Collaboration in Songwriting

by Pam Sheyne

melissaaxelandywhitebyjamesejacoby

If you glance at the songwriter credits on any music charts these days, you’ll notice that most hit songs are written by more than one writer. In fact, the 1 or 2 people it used to take to write a song, is on the wane, it now takes a village. Six out of seven of the past seven years top winners were multi-way collaborations.

Collaboration has become the new workplace in many creative industries and it’s the combination of talent, skill-set, chemistry and how connected you are, that all add up to the recipe of success.

I myself, have been a collaborator for over 25 years and what I wanted to share with those of you who have never ventured out to write with others, is that the benefits of collaboration far outweigh the negatives. It might take a while to find “your people” and the right partners, but just like a marriage, when you find the one or few you have chemistry with, it will be much more fun than writing songs on your own.

So, what are some of the benefits of collaboration? Here are 6 for starters:

  • Working with people who compliment your skillset, lightens the load and increases productivity.   Few people are masters at everything, so know what you are good at and master that to the best of your ability.  Find collaborators that mirror your skills and bring something else to the table. If you’re not a whizz at Pro-tools you may want to leave that to someone who is experienced and faster at it.  In the long run, it will save you many hours in the studio and mean you can concentrate on writing more songs.

  • Working with people who are more experienced than you, helps you fine tune your skills and elevates you and your craft.  You can’t get to the top of the ladder without climbing all of the steps and putting the work in, (well, for most people that is the case).  Make the effort to go out to songwriter gigs, and open mic’s in your area.  Search for songwriting camps, music events and extend your network beyond your city or country. You will meet successful songwriters and business professionals at these events who might be able and willing to help connect you with the right people. Becoming a part of a music community is key to meeting and finding new collaborators, offer your help and get involved.

  • Extend your network and you will find “your people” and the ones you have the best chemistry with.  When I first started out, I wrote with anyone would write with me. I eventually traveled to other countries to write with other songwriters and built a network of co-writers and friends around the world that I love working with. Songwriting is such a unique and social craft and you will find it’s much more fun working with your friends and people you enjoy hanging with. Side note: you will learn something from every co-writer you work with, even if it’s not to go back and write with them again!

  • Enhances your professional and personal development.  Us creative types can be sensitive people but if you challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, you will grow into a better writer and develop your “people skills”. Collaboration means you will have to learn to be a politician and your ability to debate, will help you figure out which ideas to fight for and which ones to let go of. Ultimately you are all working for the same goal at the end of the day, aiming high to write the best possible song.

  • More people marketing the song and finding a home for it can only enhance your strike rate.  Ideally, you want to work with people who are connected, the ones who are published, managed and have close connections with artists and record companies. Getting your song out to the right people is key so once you finish your song, you need someone to find a home for it. The more collaborators who are connected, the better the chance of finding opportunities for your songs. It isn’t over when the song is written, now the fun begins. Your songs are like your children, you want to give them the best chance in life so take care in deciding which home they go to.

  • Different minds bring different perspectives and a mix of styles.  The best part about collaborating is mixing perspectives, styles and cultures. You might never have tried such an idea on your own or written from this perspective. I love it when a co-writer challenges me to see something from another angle. Some collaborations are not easy, in fact sometimes it can be a difficult birth, but in the end when the song is done and you and your new friends are punching the air with excitement, the buzz is knowing the journey was worth every minute.



Pam Sheyne is a multi-platinum selling songwriter, vocal producer, singer and mentor.  Her song writing career has achieved success on a global scale and includes international hit records and song placements in numerous films and TV shows around the world.  With 50+ million record sales, 100+ platinum sales, she is also a prestigious Ivor Novello Award winning songwriter and a 7 times BMI Radio Play Award recipient.  Pam, and her business partner Richard Harris, started SongWriterCamps, (www.songwritercamps) and offer camps, workshops and one to one mentoring sessions for aspiring songwriters and artists.

Pam is also a founding member and executive committee member of SONA (Songwriters of North America) a grass roots advocacy group based in LA that actively fights for songwriter rights in the digital age. In 2018 SONA was instrumental in helping the Music Modernisation Act pass as a law.

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, Pam Sheyne, chemistry, lyric writing, fantasy sports, music writing

The Real Stuff Is The Good Stuff – How to Write A Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Feb 01, 2019 @07:07 AM

[Expert Songwriting Advice] The Real Stuff Is The Good Stuff – How to Write A Song

by Mark Cawley

rsz_markcawley-songwriter

 

There is no one way to write a song. You may write melody first or mix it up but for our purposes, lets start with writing your lyric.

Whats a good place to start once you have a title or an idea of what youre going to write about? Prose. Think about the title, say it out loud ... a bunch. What does it bring to mind? Got something? Take a few minutes and write the idea in prose. Dont rhyme, dont worry about being clever, just write a couple of lines describing what youre going to write about. Lennon and McCartney could have written, “” Penny Laneis about the images of everyday people on the street in my town and what they mean to me.

Prose serves a couple of purposes. As you write your lyric, check your prose to see if youre still writing about one thing. Is everything supporting your idea? As you try to write, prose may reveal there's really nothing there. This has happened to me more than once, and Im usually grateful I was saved from spending all day on a non-starter of an idea.

The next step is a biggie and usually a big mistake. You begin to write.I mean write in a bad way. You dont want to sound like just anybody, so you try to sound like a “writer.” I always think of the famous Saturday Night Live skit with Jon Lovitz as the Master Thespian. Just search YouTube for a few moments and youll get the idea. You dont want to feel the sweat in your lyric.

Instead of jumping right in, try closing your eyes, think about your idea, and then write what you see. Dont rhyme, dont worry about cadence or how cool it looks on the page, just write. If youre writing a song about meeting the love of your life talk about the time of day, name the place you met, what was the weather like? Color of her hair? Even the smallest detail can make the difference between a generic lyric and one that comes to life. If its a car whats the make? These details make up the real stuff. Write the real stuff because its the good stuff. You can make it pretty later.

Remember the editor? Still dead. What do I mean? If you begin to self-edit in the moment its toxic. Ive mentored songwriters who have found themselves stuck simply because they were focusing on a line or an idea way too early. Before they had enough on the page to even begin to think about the editing process. Write first, edit later. Much later.

Hopefully youre filling up that page now but once in a while, take a look at the prose you wrote earlier. Does everything in your lyric still support your prose? Does your third verse introduce a cat into the story of two people falling in lust? Hard choices, but the cat probably has to go. Again, most lyrics are about one thing. Prose can help you remember what that thing actually is.

 

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other songwriters around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Chaka Khan and The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting Competition and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. His first book , “Song Journey”, based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting, will be released in April 2019. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. http://www.idocoach.com/

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, lyric writing, music writing, lyric, Lennon and McCartney, cadence, edit, Mark Cawley

How to Become a Topline Songwriter

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jan 16, 2019 @04:31 PM

[Songwriting Advice] How to Become a Topline Songwriter

 by Karen Randle

lacey-williams-374971

What is Toplining?

Toplining is writing a vocal part over an already written music bed. This is popular in the EDM, Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop/Rap world.  It is a different sense of songwriting in the part that you’re writing a crucial section of the song, but it is not songwriting in that you’re creating a new totally song from scratch. If someone hires you to do toplining, they’ve already created the "beats" or music and you will be expected to write the rest - the melody and lyrics.

 

What skills do you need as a Topline Songwriter?

If you’re a topliner, your main musical gifts are your ability to

  1. write catchy melodies;
  2. add good lyrics, and then
  3. sing well.

 

Legal Case Involving Toplining

In 2011, there was a famous legal case involving DJ Avicii vs Leona Lewis, as they settled a dispute in which the Swedish DJ had attempted to get a high court injunction to block the release of Lewis's new single, Collide, alleging that the instrumental track for the single was copied from Avicii's forthcoming single, Fade Into Darkness.

So how did Leona Lewis end up recording an almost identical track to Avicii's without realising their releases were going to collide? It's because of the common practice – especially among DJ/producers and dance labels such as Avicii's label Ministry of Sound – of sending out a track to a multitude of topline writers, asking them to come up with melody and lyrics (the topline) for the track. The writers then have to record said topline, so the DJ can have his pick of the bunch and select the one he/she likes best. In this case, one of the topline demos containing Avicii's backing track that was not picked found its way to Lewis, who recorded it, prompting the dispute.

 

Why do people hire topliners?

Producers are often really talented at creating beats and synth tracks. They can do this part but aren’t confident in their vocal melody or lyric writing skills. That would be where a topliner comes in. Sometimes instrument players want to hire topliners instead of writing the whole thing themselves. There are many possibilities!

How common is toplining?

Many writers do it for EDM, Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop/Rap producers, commercials, bands, and other situations where people don’t want to write the vocal part. The other 10% is songwriting – writing the full song for clients from the ground up. If you want to get paid work as a songwriter you’ll definitely want to try toplining as an option.

How do I get started as a topliner?

First, you’ll want to hone your craft. Don’t take a paid gig until you know exactly how to do it. Get some free music beds or background music online and practice writing to it.  See how many ideas you can create. Use one track to create several songs. Set up your social media and let people know you’re available for toplining services.

How do I get paid for toplining?

This can be tricky, since you are writing part of the song but not all of it. You can work this several ways.

 

    Option 1: No up-front pay, but larger royalty split

        I actually don’t recommend this one often. Unless you are sure the song will sell and generate revenue (if the client already has proven sales and a large following), you’re unlikely to make a ton of money off of royalties. Still, if you want the work and the client doesn’t have money but is willing to split 50/50 with you, it might be an option

    Option 2: Work For Hire (no royalties, all up-front pay)

        This is most common for many topline writers. Many writers do this because they are not sure what will happen to the song after they are done with it, and the writer need the money up front (musicians don’t often live lavishly, in case you’re wondering). However, the obvious downside to this is that if the song ever does become huge, the topline writer will make nothing off of sales. So it’s important to decide if this is a risk you’re willing to take.

    Option 3: A combination of the above

        Let’s say you are offered a lower rate than you would normally accept, or the client doesn’t have enough to pay. This is a good time to negotiate royalties with them if you’re willing to do this. Create an amount of up-front pay combined with royalties that will make both of you happy.

Toplining isn’t for everyone, but it is not taking the place of traditional songwriting. But it’s a reflection of today’s new technological possibilities. Done well, it can result in catchy songs that are fulfilling to write.

 

To enter the 24th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, focus, Topline Writer, toplining

Eight Ways to Get Inspiration on Writing Songs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Sep 21, 2018 @01:49 PM

Eight Ways to Get Inspiration on Writing Songs

by Jean Jennings

 JeradFinck2

Do you often wonder how some people always seem energetic, upbeat and motivated when it is time to get the job done? Not only this, in fact, for some people it does not matter how big or small the project is because then also they meet deadlines without even complaining or giving excuses about why the task is not complete so far. Therefore, if you want to be a part of ‘Nothing Can Stop You from Getting the Job Done’ group, then below are the eight tips you must know to stay encouraged, motivated and inspired to complete your tasks:

 

Write Goals

Writing your goals on the piece of a paper is the best piece of advice I would give you to get motivated and stay encouraged. When you write out your goals in spite of storing the information in your head, then you can see the list of things you need to accomplish. Also, you get to know what needs to be done which gives you the motivation to complete your task at the earliest.

 

Music

Have you ever been in the dumps while playing your favorite upbeat song and have you ever seen changing your entire mood from being sad to being positive and upbeat? If not, then try listening to your favorite track when you are sad because multiple people who exercise to music usually, stay motivated and inspired as music helps them keep going.

 

Read Inspirational Literature

The most excellent way to begin your day with an upbeat way is to wake up a couple of minutes earlier than your normal routine and read one or two paragraphs of inspirational literature such as Bible, Bhagwat Geeta, devotionals, inspirational poems, and many more. Therefore, read the inspirational writing to stay motivated.

 

Hang Out with Positive People

If you are around negative people, then you have to fight to maintain your motivation as negative people are draining most time. Therefore, if you want to increase your motivation, then you hang out with people who are high strung, confident and always inspire you to keep going.

 

Set Goals which Challenge You to Rise

Make sure you set goals which challenge you to grow. If you continue setting goals which are easy to achieve, then you will lose your motivation because in this case, you are left with nothing for which you can survive.

 

Take Breaks

If you keep on working for long periods of time and do not even take breaks, then generally, you get drained and lose interest in your current task. Therefore, take breaks to rejuvenate your mind and your body. Also, if you possess a rejuvenating mind and body, then you will have the energy you need to complete the jobs to be done in the longer run

 

Break Down Bigger Tasks into Smaller Tasks

If you have enormous tasks in hand to continue with, then you must break them down into smaller steps to prevent getting overwhelmed and discouraged. Practicing this strategy will amaze you at how easy it is to complete an enormous task only in a couple of hours.

 

Read Inspirational Quotes

The simplest and fastest way to get inspired is to read inspirational quotes. As sometimes all you need to hear to get inspired is, ‘If the other person can do it, then I can also do it.’ Therefore, implement this story to keep you motivated all the time to get the job done.

  

Jean Jennings is the content creator of "Soundwhich" which is an online music portal, and with a vast collection of royalty free music free of charge provides a comfortable, affordable, flexible and creative pace to its users to customize soundtrack for YouTube videos, ads, TV programs, and games.

 

To enter the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, focus, Set Goals

5 Ways for Singer-Songwriters to Improve Their Chances of Success

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jul 31, 2018 @05:15 PM

5 Ways for Singer-Songwriters to Improve Their Chances of Success

by Larry Butler

 5WaysforSinger-SongwritersForSuccess

We’re all familiar with the standard rules given to those who think they want the fame, glory and money that comes from being a successful singer/songwriter – work hard, practice, smile, be nice to people, etc.  In the forty years or so that music industry veteran Larry Butler has worked with some of the most successful artists in the business, he says he’s found a number of pieces of advice that you’re probably not going to find in those well-worn lists. Here are five taken from his new book The Singer-Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Success.  None of them involve smiling.

 

Make sure that MUSIC is the ONLY thing you want to do in your life to the exclusion of everything else.

The most successful music and performance stars I’ve worked with over the years were focused. And they weren’t just focused in the normal sense of working on something and then taking a break; nope, they were SUPER FOCUSED. No time off. Nothing else mattered. Not family, not friends, not loving relationships, nothing. If you weren’t somehow related to helping them succeed, you were in the way and did not matter.

A cautionary note: Do not have a back-up plan. If you have “something to fall back on,” you will end up doing that instead. Make sure that this is all there is in life for you to do––singing, songwriting, performing, and entertaining. And only do those things. Everything and everybody else is in second place.

 

 

Do not listen to your family, friends or fans. They’re way too close to you to be objective about you, your music or your show.

Your family, friends and fans, for all their genuine belief in you and your talent, probably don’t know much about music or how to entertain an audience. Even if some of them have been in bands or on stage in their lives, they’re all way too close to you emotionally to make an accurate assessment of your music and your show. You’re not nearly as wonderful as they say you are. How would they know?

You’re going to need evaluation and instruction from an unrelated, professional live performance coach on the fine art of taking your well-honed singer-songwriter performance skills and moving them up into the rarefied air of ENTERTAINMENT. Just the ability to write songs and accompany yourself on piano or guitar as you sing them is not, in and of itself, all that entertaining. And even if it were, there are a couple hundred other singer-songwriters in Silver Lake/Echo Park alone who are already doing just that. If you were to learn how to actually entertain an audience of complete strangers, then you would be able to separate yourself from that pack.

 

 

Avoid marriage or any serious relationships. Break-up with the live-in boy/girlfriend. If you have kids, love them and keep them safe. If you don’t, don’t.

Everyone who’s ever been a performer knows that as soon as a significant other enters the picture, the career is put on hold. It’s scriptural––you cannot serve two masters. There can only be one driving force in your life––the pursuit of a career in music.

It’s okay to have a casual or friendly relationship––as long as it relieves tension instead of adding to your mounting list of fires to put out. You’re looking for HELP in furthering your career, not HINDRANCE. So you have to weigh the value of the relationship to the actual benefit. Relationships take time––do you have that kind of time?

Then there are kids. If you already have some, you have to stick with them and be a good parent. It is the only real responsibility you have in life. Do the right thing. But, if you don’t have kids and think you have to have some, join a band. Since all musicians act as if they’re 12 years old anyway, you can play out your parental role with them.

 

 

Avoid watching or following both real and fantasy sports.

Pointless. They take up way too much of your precious time. The same goes for binge watching Netflix/Amazon or just TV in general. Shut it off!

 

 

Get rid of your cat/dog/plants as well as all other high maintenance, non-musical responsibilities.

This instruction may actually be harder for some of you than losing family and unneeded friends––losing the pets and plants. But, let’s face facts: pets are just short of kids in regards to the time and money spent to keep up the maintenance. The food, the walks, the clean-ups, the vet bills and the accouterments are all drains on your time, your cash and the part of your brain that should be focused, once again, on your music.

If, indeed, you MUST have some downtime with an animal, offer to cat or dog sit for friends and neighbors while they’re away. At least you’ll be able to call on them for some awkward favor in the future. And don’t get me started on multiple pets or something ridiculous like horses. Who are you people?

Same thing with plants––they need daily care and, even then, they’re going to die. Plants are designed to thrive outdoors and on their own. Do not continue to live in the belief that somehow you’re going to have a garden in your apartment. Listen to reason for once, will you?

 

FINAL WORDS ON THE SUBJECT: I’m not going to attempt to list all of the high maintenance, non-musical responsibilities that you may come up with that could sway your attention away from your goal. Lose them all. Now. Today. And get on with living your life for yourself and your career. You do not have the time to waste. All of your clocks are ticking – musical, biological, and financial. So do it now! REMEMBER: It’s not about who has the most talent; it’s about who wants it more and is willing to work harder to get it!

[Reprint Permission by Music Connection Magazine]

LARRY BUTLER is a 40-year veteran of the music business. He currently consults as a live performance music coach based in Los Angeles. His new book, The Singer-Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Success, is available at Amazon in both digital and print configurations (amzn.to/2o4osB8). He also runs one of 365 insightful quotes from famous rock and pop stars every day on his Twitter feed -@larryfromohio. He can be reached through his website, diditmusic.com.

 

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

 

To enter the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, focus, Avoid relationships, fantasy sports, avoid high maintenance, avoid non-musical responsibilities, Larry Butler

[EXPERT Songwriting Advice] 3 Tips for Writing to a Song Title

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jul 25, 2018 @11:13 AM

[EXPERT Songwriting Advice] 3 Tips for Writing to a Song Title

by Jason Blume

 3 Tips for Writing to a Song Title

I was recently asked the age-old question, the one songwriters are so often asked. “Which comes first, the words or the music?” Without skipping a beat, I responded, “The title.”

I estimate that more than 95% of the lyrics for the more-than one thousand songs I’ve written began with a title. Even in instances when the melody or a backing music track came first, in almost every instance, the title was chosen before the rest of the lyric was written. This has been the approach my co-writers seemed to expect whether we were writing EDM, country music, pop, rock, or any other genre, and regardless of whether my collaborators were in Nashville, Asia, New York, Los Angeles, Scandinavia, or anywhere else I’ve written.

To be clear, there is no right or wrong way to write—or begin—a song. Successful songs have been started with an instrumental lick, a lyric phrase, a melody line, a drum pattern, a chord progression, a bass line, and numerous other ways. But when it is time to write the lyric, in my experience, a title is typically chosen before the remainder of the lines are written. This is because the title is at the heart of the lyric, and ideally, the lyric is crafted to lead to the title.

Here are some things to consider when writing to a title.

Is Your First Approach the Best?

Once a title is chosen, several decisions need to be made. What will that title mean in this song? What is the best way to deliver listeners to that title? What information should be included in the verses to successfully lead to the title?

There are no “correct” answers. These decisions are part of the creative process. Some writers instantly know how they want to approach their title; it might seem like the only way. But in most instances, various approaches could be effective.

Let’s look at three scenarios that lead to the title, “She’s the One.”

    The instant I laid eyes on her, I knew she was the one I had been waiting for; the one I was destined to love.

    I watched the sun light up her face as she lay sleeping beside me, and my heart knew “She’s the One” God made for me, the one I would give my life for. In the second verse or bridge the singer might gaze at his newborn daughter and, in a subsequent chorus, sing “She’s the One” God made for me, the one I would give my life for.

    With one tequila kiss I knew “She’s the One” who could tear my marriage apart.

For each of these examples there are a multitude of ways the lyric could be developed. There is the option of telling a story, or the alternative of finding interesting ways to express how the singer feels. (For tips about writing lyrics that tell a story check out my article “Show – Don’t Tell: Three Steps to Writing Better Lyrics.” Tips for writing “non-cinematic” lyrics can be found in “How to Write Non-Visual Lyrics That Engage Listeners.”

If you decide to tell a story, you will likely need a setting—a location where the action unfolds. For example, in the first scenario did the singer initially see the one he was destined to love:

    across the classroom, when he was in third grade?

    on a crowded subway, coming home from a bad day at work?

    in a supermarket checkout line, where he dropped his wallet?

    when her photo appeared on a dating app?

    while dancing at 2 a.m. at a downtown rave?

You might describe the sounds, sights, smells, the weather, and more. You are essentially creating a fictional world, and the options are endless. So why settle for the first idea that pops into your mind?

Support Your Title—But Avoid Sounding Contrived

At a recent webinar, I critiqued two songs that each had problems related to their titles. Song #1 had a unique, distinctive title, but no lines of lyric supported or led to that title. Without lyrics that guided listeners to the title, the very clever title felt tacked on. There was no logical reason for the singer to sing that title when the line appeared in the chorus.

Song #2 had the opposite problem. By being overly-clever the writer extracted any genuine emotion from the song. Almost every line incorporated a phrase or image associated with the title. While the writing was exceptionally clever, the resulting song felt contrived, and more like a novelty song than anything suited for today’s hit radio.

For example, if writing to the title “You Are My Heaven,” the lyric will benefit if it includes some images related to heaven, such as halos, clouds, angels, harps, Pearly Gate, streets of gold, heavenly choirs, St. Peter, and more. But over-using these words and phrases can make the lyric seem forced. However, by using this tool sparingly, we can effectively support our title and have it feel like the satisfying, natural conclusion of the lines leading up to it.

What if Your Title Does Not Come First?

Not every song starts with a lyric, and not every lyric starts with a title. Sometimes, lines of lyric pour out of us before we have determined our title, and that is a good thing. Jot these down and see how they might be incorporated in ways that contribute to our song.

Sometimes, a title reveals itself during the writing process. Other times, we might think we are writing to a specific title, but a more engaging one occurs to us as our song evolves. In all these cases, we can still take steps to ensure our lyric supports and leads to our title by revisiting our lyric and incorporating words and phrases that are related to the title. In some cases, our song might be better served if we save unrelated lines for another song.

In summation, like every aspect of songwriting, when approaching a title, our first inclination might provide the definitive approach. But we won’t know if we can beat our initial thought unless we try on others.

 

[Reprint Permission by BMI World Magazine]

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs has been recorded by Britney Spears, Backstreet boys and more. His songs are on Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. He has been a guest lecturer at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and at the Berklee College of Music. For information about his workshops, webinars, additional articles, and more, visit www.jasonblume.com

 

To enter the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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[Songwriting Advice] Good is not Good Enough

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jul 09, 2018 @05:35 PM

[Songwriting Advice] Good is not Good Enough

MasterWriter_Songwriter_Interface

by Barry DeVorzon, hit songwriter and President of MasterWriter

If you want to increase your odds of being a successful songwriter, you should read this…

If you want to be a player in the music business, it is really no different than wanting to be a player in the NBA or NFL.  All three are extremely difficult, competitive professions where good is rarely good enough.  Great is what is required and even with that, there are no guarantees.  Succeeding in the music business is no easy thing.  So many things have to come together and fall into place in order to create something that is great.  One of the most important elements is the song. The song is where it all begins and if the song doesn't have it, everything else is wasted effort. So try and be more objective about your songs and don’t settle for good. Learn to recognize the songs that have the potential to be great and those that don’t. Writing a song can’t always be fun, sometimes getting from good to great is hard work and requires craft, dedication, and patience. No truer words were ever been spoken than the saying, “great songs aren’t written, they are rewritten”

With this in mind, in my opinion, using MasterWriter will give you that all important edge and help you get from good to great. The comprehensive reference, tools, and organizational features, together with the ease of use, makes it a powerful songwriting tool.

Here are some of the features: 

1 – A rhyming dictionary that contains perfect rhymes, close rhymes, phrases that rhyme and a syllable filter that allows you to search by syllable. You don’t have to stop at the first rhyme that makes sense; you can collect as many as you wish by simply double clicking on the word. Clicking on Collected allows you to review this list of possibilities next to your lyrics. This goes for all of the dictionaries

2 – Word Families is a dictionary that will open up a new world of possibilities for unique and imaginative descriptive words and ideas.

3 - The Phrases dictionary will show you every phrase that contains your search word or you can search the entire list. This is an idea factory that is filled with hooks. Say goodbye to “writer’s block”.

4 – The best Thesaurus and Dictionary on the market

5 – Figures of Speech gives you instant access to metaphors, similies, idioms, oxymorons, onomatopoiea, allusions, alliterations and Intensifiers, a new one-of-kind dictionary of intense descriptive words. Also included are filters that allow you to be more specific in your searches. This is an amazing source of ideas and directions that will spark and greatly enhance your songwriting.

When you enter a search word, all of the dictionaries search simultaneously. Why struggle to find the right rhyme, word, or phrase when MasterWriter will show you all the possibilities in an instant?

6 – The World; a Pop culture Dictionary with over 11,000 Icons of American and world culture that links to information on each entry, plus a searchable Bible, Old and New Testaments.

7 – An easy to use audio page to capture your melodies.

8 – A built-in word processor plus organizational features that organizes the songwriter painlessly. Come back to that song, days, weeks, or months later and you will find your lyrics, melodies and work product organized and waiting for you under that song title.

If you offered professional athletes a program that would make them only 5% better, I’m betting they would buy it at any price. MasterWriter will make you a better songwriter and by a lot more than 5%. Why wouldn’t  you want that edge?

 

Hit Songwriter/composer/artist Barry DeVorzon has long been a prominent name in the recording industry.  His work in motion pictures and television has resulted in a number of hit records and soundtracks:  “Bless the beasts and the Children”, recorded by the Carpenters,  Nadia's theme (theme from the Young and the Restless), theme from “S.W.A.T” by Rhythm Heritage,  “In the city” by the Eagles,  “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige, and the theme from “the Warriors”. He was nominated for an academy award for  “Bless the beasts and the Children” and won a Grammy for Nadia's theme.  His music for television has earned him six Emmys and numerous nominations.

There is a reason why some of the most successful songwriters in the business use MasterWriter. It is simply, the most powerful suite of writing tools ever assembled in one program. This unique and revolutionary software will open up a new world of possibilities for rhymes, descriptive words, and ideas. There is always a better way to express yourself and MasterWriter will show you all the possibilities in an instant. In a profession where every word counts, MasterWriter will take your writing to a new level. Information on Masterwriter, go to: https://www3.masterwriter.com/store/store/licensepromotionNew.do

 
To enter the USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, Honing Your Craft, MasterWriter, rhyming dictionary, Thesaurus, Barry DeVorzon, Barry De Vorzon, Carpenters, Marty Robbins, Johnny Burnette

[Songwriting Advice] How to hack the songwriting process

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jun 08, 2018 @06:30 PM

How to hack the songwriting process

by Ged Richardson
WhatItTakesToWriteAHitSong
Songwriting is as old as the hills, so writing songs should be straight forward enough right? Wrong! Penning a song that stands the test of time and resonates with an audience is one of the hardest things to do. You need to boil down the essence of a feeling, or a mood, or an emotion into a 3 or so minute song.

Fortunately our friends over at Zing Instruments have been studying songwriting for some time and have come up with some ‘hacks’ that help accelerate the songwriting process.

There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. Starting the process of writing a new song can take just as long as finishing it - give one or all of these a try and see if they work!

Write the beat and melody first and lyrics last
There’s nothing that wastes time quite like writing a set of great lyrics and then discovering that there’s no way you can fit that many syllables into one verse. If you know how many beats you have to fill, that’s half the job done for you.

Writing the melody before the actual words is also a great way to accelerate your songwriting. Since you’ll know how a particular lyric is going to sound, it’s easier to fit the meaning to the music. After all, can you imagine if the “happy birthday” song was set to extremely atonal jazz? The lyrics must fit the mood.

It’s also an easy way to make dissonance your friend. The Smiths were particularly adept at writing overwhelmingly cheerful sounding music that emphasised the melancholic tone of Morrissey's vocals. 

 
Switch from 4/4 time signatures
If you’re really stuck for ideas, doing nothing more than changing up the time signature for a few bars will help you draw attention to hook lines and connect different parts of your song structure together. The simplest way to do this is to simply kill every instrument, guitar pedal and the rest, except for the drums and have that switch to 6/8 timing for a brief moment, before reverting back to 4/4.

 
Use Chord Inversions
Everyone is used to hearing chords in their typical form, with the root note being the deepest and each tone going up in pitch. To instantly make any chord progression more interesting, simply invert it so that the root note is the highest, and the fifth is the deepest. This takes no extra work at all and can instantly help you to progress with writing a song as it gives you an easy way to switch up your bass line and add flavour to an otherwise dull song.

Modulation for faster variety
On the second or third verse of a song, it can be a little dull to stick with the same old progression. However, since writing a whole new sequence is going to take just as much time as the first one, switch to the relative minor or major scale of the one you were using before. To do this, take the 6th note of the major scale and use that as the root note for the relative minor. Now you can write the exact same sequence, but using the intervals of the new scale instead. This is handy for making a moodier reprise of an early part of your song.

Leave sections blank
This might not sound like you’re actually writing a song, but bear with us here. Instead of painstakingly writing out the entirety of a solo, leave a bar or two completely empty. If your guitarist (or whoever will be doing the solo) is competent at improvisation, this is a great way to give them a chance to show off their technical skills without getting too far away from the overall character of the song. If they don’t know how to improvise, make sure that they know the major and minor scales of the key at the very least and let them loose. Since it’s only a couple of bars, it won’t be difficult or particularly noticeable if done poorly.

This is also a great way to make each gig unique, which dedicated fans will love.


Outline the structure first
Instead of writing each part of the song in sequence, develop the overall direction first. If you know what each piece of the song has to accomplish, then it’s much quicker to write those parts in detail. This way, you don’t suddenly realise halfway through the writing process that the last bar of the chorus doesn’t actually work with the first bar of the next verse, and vice versa.

The theories of cadence and voice leading are particularly useful here, as you can simply jot down some of the basics to refer to whilst writing a song.


Learn to read and write music
Many guitarists, bassists and other non-classical instrument players are more used to reading tablature than staff notation. However, developing fluency with this method of writing music allows you to apply your musical knowledge much more easily as you can visually see the development of music. Tablature is great for quickly teaching other people how to play a song, but as a songwriter you need to know why it sounds that way.

Staff notation helps with this, as you can easily see how the notes relate to each other tonally. It’s also much quicker to write once you’re fluent, and will contain absolutely everything you need to know about a piece of music when done properly. This eliminates a lot of the guesswork that can crop up after you’ve written a piece of music and forgotten some of the more subtle details about how it sounded in your head.

In Summary
Armed with these tricks, your songwriting skills will change practically overnight. It doesn’t matter if you apply all of them at once (although that isn’t entirely practical) or try them out a few at a time. Your own process is going to be a factor in this, so perhaps some of them won’t be entirely applicable. Don’t fret about this, just do the ones that feel ‘right’ to you.
 
 
Ged Richardson is founder and editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments, a music blog dedicated to helping teach 1 million people how to play music and connect with their creative side (to find their 'Zing'). https://zinginstruments.com/

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, hooks, Re-writing, chord progression, structure, Modulation, Chord Inversions, time signatures, beats, Melody

[Songwriting Advice] Choosing the Chords That Work With Your Melody

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 02, 2018 @08:18 AM

[Songwriting Advice] Choosing the Chords That Work With Your Melody
by Gary Ewer

Choosing the Chords That Work.jpg

You’ll notice that when you’ve got a melody, the notes of that melody imply the chords you’re likely to use. That’s not to say that you’ve got no choice in the matter, of course. For every chord you might use, there is a list of chords that could serve as substitutes. Just as an example, here’s two versions of the opening of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” each version using different chords:

VERSION 1: I  I6  |IV  I6  |V  I  |V  V7  I|| (C  C/E  |F  C/E  |G  C  |G  G7  C||)

VERSION 2: vi  iii  |V/V  V4-2/V  V6  |  IV6  I6-4  |  ii6  V  I  ||
(Am  Em  |D  D7/C  G/B  |F/A  C/G  |Dm/F  G  C  ||)


When songwriters get stuck at the chord progression stage — where they just don’t know what chords they’re supposed to be using — the main cause of the distress is a simple one: forgetting to listen to the melody!

The notes of your melody are going to be the main guide. After considering the notes, you then need to know a bit of chord theory. Not much, actually, just these following points:

  1.     Good pop chord progressions make great use of the circle of fifths. If you’re not sure how that works, give this article a read: “The Circle of Fifths Progression: Making It Relevant for Songwriters.” All that’s meant by this is that for most progressions, you’ll find many spots where the distance between the roots of adjacent chords is a 5th, like this progression: C  F  Dm  G  C. From C down to F is a 5th; from Dm down to G is a 5th; and from G down to C is a 5th. This is a vital part of good chord structure.
  2.     Good pop chord progressions target the tonic chord. The tonic chord is the one representing the key of your song. If your chorus is in C major (like the bit of “Twinkle Twinkle” I used at the beginning of this article), C is the tonic chord. Chord progressions should (usually) seek out that chord. They’ll often start on the tonic, wander away, but immediately try to find it again. In the progression C  F  Dm  G  C, you can hear the progression trying to find that tonic C chord again, certainly by the time you’ve reached Dm.
  3.     Good pop chord progressions tend to make most of the chords change on strong beats. To find the strong beats, simply tap your foot to the music. Your musical brain will automatically sort it out. Your foot will go down on a strong beat, and up on a weak beat. Start adding chords on strong beats.
  4.     Good pop chord progressions honour the function of the chords. Chord function can be a tricky concept, but for pop music, it tends to be rather simple, and you can get away with considering three basic functions: the tonic function, the pre-dominant function and the dominant function. The tonic function is typically represented by the tonic (I) and sometimes the vi-chord, the pre-dominant function by the IV or ii-chord, and the dominant function by the V-chord. Each function has a list of substitutes that can be used. To learn more about this, read “Creating Good Progressions: It’s All About Chord Function.”


You’ll find that occasionally putting a chord on a weak beat works well. In VERSION 1 above, the final bar has a chord on beat 1 (a strong beat), beat 2 (a weak beat) and then the final chord on beat 3 (another strong beat).
Don’t Forget to Listen!

There’s a lot of experimenting that goes into creating a chord progression for your melody. Here’s a summary of points to remember:

  1.    Listening carefully to the melody is the most important part about adding chords. Discover the notes your melody uses. Look at each strong beat, and then look at the weak beat that follows.
  2.     The chords you choose should use the strong beat note and most (not necessarily all) of the weak beat notes.
  3.     As you work out your progression, keep in mind the need for many adjacent chords to use roots that are a 5th from each other, and use the tonic as a musical target.
  4.     Find songs that you like and play or sing through the melody slowly without chords. Then play the chords and sing the melody. Notice how the progression targets the tonic, and make note of where the chords change. Most of the time, you’ll notice those changes happening on strong beats.

    Read more in Gary Ewer’s book, Beating Songwriter’s Block. Visit beatingsongwritersblock.halleonardbooks.com and enter the discount code AP2 at checkout to receive 20% off the list price and free domestic shipping (least expensive method)!

Information on the 23rd Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net/enter


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, collaborations, Co-Writing Songs, hooks, Re-writing, Gary Ewer, chord progression