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Jessica Brandon

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Songwriting Tip: Don’t Ever Say “I’m Just a Lyricist”

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 @03:16 PM

Don’t Ever Say “I’m Just a Lyricist”

By Molly-Ann Leikin, Music Business Mastery Consultant

Molly-Ann Leikin, hit songwriter 

Too many very, very talented lyricists introduce themselves to me, and to everybody else on the planet, by saying “I’m just a lyricist.”

No you aren’t,” I tell them. “I want you to value your work and yourself and proudly tell people ‘I write lyrics!’”

It’s difficult at best to write half a song. For much of my early career, I was intimidated by the talented, world-class film composers who were my writing partners. Back then, I was content to write words only. But I never told anybody “I only write lyrics.” Instead, I said, “I’m a lyricist,” and made it sound as triumphant an undertaking as finding a York Peppermint Patty that was 100% protein and good for my teeth.

Try saying it. “I’m a lyricist!”

It’s all a matter of self-esteem, isn’t it? Doing something well and knowing your craft and practicing that craft even when nobody else but you appreciates your contribution, can be a thankless undertaking. But if you have a gift with words, you have a responsibility to use it, and to keep on doing what you’re doing, no matter who attempts to belittle you.

If one of your lyrics is suddenly orphaned, save it, you can use it later. It may feel doomed, but save it anyway. Things in the arts have a delicious way of turning around down the road.

Meanwhile, practice saying “I’m a lyricist! 

Do it again.

I’m a lyricist!”

Announce that fact in front of a big mirror ten times a day. And then call your voice mail, booming , “I write lyrics!”

Finding your music can be daunting, but I’ve been very lucky in matching good wordsmiths with equally talented composers. Everybody knows my clients are good, dedicated to their craft and no matter where they live or what they do for a living, their lives are about their words. So I feel honored to help them, and you, to find your music. Our consultations can change everything.

Sometimes, even when we find what we think is a great melody, the business stuff can mess up the song, and we’re left with our words – but without a single note, back at square one. (That’s why I always do the deal, and get everything signed, BEFORE I pick up a pencil, no matter who’s waiting on the other side of the desk.)

If one of your lyrics is suddenly orphaned, save it, you can use it later. It may feel doomed, but save it anyway. Things in the arts have a delicious way of turning around down the road.

Three times a year, which is about normal, my collaborations “collapse”, but the worst/best recent story happened a few years ago when I was co-writing with a new artist who got new boobs and started believing her press releases, then trashed some lyrics I’d written for her. I thought I’d done a particularly good job, but she yanked her melody and that was that. So there I was with an orphan lyric, and for three years, whenever an occasion arose for which I felt it was suited, I presented that set of words. But nobody – I mean NOBODY – wanted that lyric. And I was spending whole days with the duvet pulled over my head.

That’s a terrible place for a creative person to be, because it means we’re giving our power to someone else to determine our value. But we know who we are, don’t we? We know our gifts, right? We know our contribution. Nobody else has the right to deflate us, no matter what record or publishing company he or she runs.

Four years later, my rejected lyric, “I Hear Your Heart,” was suddenly being sung all day, every day, throughout Europe. It was performed in Athens in the finals of Eurovision by a group called Cosmos, who “got” what I was saying. So who was right about it? Me or that D-cup dilettante who dissed my writing all those years ago?

If it can happen for me, it can happen for you.

I promise: if you do your work, learn your craft, keep at it, at it, at it, you can turn your career around, too.

It all starts by saying “I am a lyricist” as loudly and proudly as you’ve ever said anything before.

© 2013 Molly-Ann Leikin

 

Molly-Ann Leikin is an Emmy nominee. The author of “How To Write A Hit Song” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, she has written themes and songs for over five dozen TV shows and movies, including “Violet” that won an Oscar.

After lyric, song and instrumental marketing consultations with Molly, six of her clients have won Grammys, nine more have Grammy nominations, and so far, 6238 of Molly’s protégées have placed their work in TV shows, movies, on CD’s in commercials, and their songs/tracks have been downloaded all over the web. It all starts with a consultation. www.songmd.com

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 


Honoring Songwriting In Film: 2013 Oscars for Best Original Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 @02:25 PM

Honoring Songwriting In Film: 2013 Oscars for Best Original Song

by Jessica Brandon

Academy Awards (Oscar) for Best Original Song in a movie

These are the nominees for the Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Orginal Song. Notable past winning songs include: "Arthur's Theme", "Evergreen", "You Light Up My Life", "Flashdance... What A Feeling" and "Lose Yourself". 

Who do you think should win this year? Watch the videos for yourself, here are the nominees for the 2013, Best Original Song:

"Skyfall" from James Bond movie "Skyfall" Written by Adele and Paul Epworth


“Suddenly” from the movie musicial "Les Misérables", Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil; Performed by Hugh Jackman



“Pi’s Lullaby” from the movie "Life of Pi", Music by Mychael Danna; Lyrics by Bombay Jayashri


“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from the movie "Ted", Music by Walter Murphy; Lyrics by Seth MacFarlane; Performed by Nora Jones

 

 

“Before My Time” from the movie "Chasing Ice", Music and Lyrics by J. Ralph; Performed by Scarlett Johanson and Joshua Bell

 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: Oscars, Best Original Song, Academy Awards, Skyfall, Adele, Paul Epworth, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, Alain Boublil, Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayashri, Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane

Songwriting Tip: Turn Your iPad Into a Recording Studio

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 @11:30 AM

Turn Your iPad Into a Recording Studio 

By Jessica Brandon

iRig Keys iPad

It wasn't too long ago that musicians said making music on your laptop will not be as great as your desktop computer. How things have changed these days, recording music on your laptop is a common thing to do.

Now that iPad has taken the world by storm, can you turn your iPad to a recording studio? I have researched what would it take to turn your iPad into a portable recording studio? How should you set it up?

Here are the best DAW (Studio Recording) Apps for iPad & Recording Set-ups: 

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Apps. No, Pro Tools have not made any apps for the iPad yet. However, there are some promising apps:
1. Auria (WaveMachine Labs) - This is the first app that supports the industry standard of 24 bit//96kHz. 

2. StudioTrack (Sonoma Wire Works) - Multitrack Recording for iPad. Record up to eight tracks on a multitouch mixer with meters, faders and knobs. Control multiple parameters simultaneously, like an analog console. Rearrangable channels help you keep your tracks organized.

3. MultiTrack DAW (Harmonicdog) - It provides up to 24 stereo tracks of better than CD quality audio, and the ability to playback all of those tracks, while recording 2 tracks simultaneously on iPod or iPhone, and up to 8 tracks simultaneously on iPad.

4. GarageBand (Apple) - This is now made for the iPad.  GarageBand lets you play a collection of highly expressive Touch and Smart Instruments that sound just like their real counterparts — but let you do things you never could on a real instrument. You can record, mix, and share your songs, too.

5. Portastudio (Tascam) - This brings 30 years of easy-to-use home recording to your iPad. Based on the PORTA ONE recorder that revolutionized recording in 1984, the Portastudio app records up to four tracks with a cool retro/vintage vibe. Record one track at a time using the built-in mic or a headset microphone connection, monitoring on authentic VU meters. A cassette transport with position counter tracks your position while you mix with level, pan and EQ controls. When you're ready to mix, the built-in mixdown function saves your song as a CD-quality WAV file. Your mix appears in iTunes when you're finished, ready to share with friends and bandmates.

 

Audio Interface. Just like a laptop or desktop, you would need an interface:
1. Focusrite iTrack Solo - provides the great solution for recording your instruments and vocals using an iPad and is a certified ‘Made for iPad' device.

2. IK Multimedia iRig Pre - this is an universal microphone interface for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad! iRig PRE Microphone Interface iPhone/iPod touch/iPad is the ultimate solution for connecting any type of microphone from regular stage microphones to expensive studio models to any iPhone, iPod touch or iPad providing access to the widest range of recording applications.

3. TASCAM iXZ - a portable interface for recording with your Apple iOS device. It provides the inputs you need to record nearly any acoustic or electric instrument to any of the thousands of recording apps on the app store, including Apple's own Garage Band or TASCAM's Portastudio.

4. Alesis iO Mix - you can mix and record up to four channels of audio into your iPad. The Alesis iO Mix is the first device that turns your iPad into a powerful portable studio, allowing you to record multiple mics or instruments directly into GarageBand or any other compatible Core Audio app. 

5. Alesis iO Dock - the first device that enables anyone with an iPad to create, produce, and perform music with virtually any pro audio gear or instruments. The iO Dock is a universal docking station specifically designed for the iPad, and it gives musicians, recording engineers, and music producers the connectivity they need to create and perform with iPad. Connect all your pro audio gear to virtually any app in the App Store with the iO Dock.

 

Midi Interface:
iRig MIDI (IK Multimedia) - a pocket-sized MIDI interface lets you hook up your favorite keyboard, pad controller, DJ interface, etc. to your iOS device. The iRigMIDI lets you run any of the amazing CoreMIDI-compliant iOS apps. 

iConnectMIDI (iConnectivity) - Own a MIDI-equipped keyboard controller, guitar, drum kit, or any piece of gear? You can now tap into the unlimited power of the App world!

 

Music Keyboard:
1. iRig Keys (IK Multimedia) - portable keyboard control, the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 37-key USB/MIDI controller is ready to perform. It's got all the goods to play your apps and virtual instruments expressively, like velocity-sensitive keys, pitch bend and mod wheels, and an input for an optional expression pedal or sustain pedal. (see picture above)

2. SynthStation49 (Akai) - 49-key Controller Keyboard with Built-in iPad Dock for use with Akai Synth Station App (sold separately)

 

For Guitar:
1. AmpliTube iRig (IK Multimedia) - Mobile Guitar Amp and Effects Rig System
2. GuitarJack Model 2 (Sonoma Wire Works)- The GuitarJack Model 2 iOS interface connects a wide range of instruments, microphones, and other audio hardware to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

3. iRig STOMP (IK Multimedia) - first stompbox guitar interface for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

 

DJ/Mixer Controllers:
1. Professional MPC Fly (Akai) - Complete Groove Production Hardware Control Surface and Software System for iPad 2 with 16 Velocity-sensitive Pads - CoreMIDI Compliant

2. iRig Mix (IK Multimedia) - Portable DJ Mixer for iPhone, iPod, and iPad

 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please visit: www.songwriting.net

 

 

Tags: Songwriting, iPad, Auria, StudioTrack, MultiTrack DAW, GarageBand, Portastudio, Tascam, Recording Studio

Songwriting Tip: Inviting the Listener In

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Feb 07, 2013 @10:00 AM

INVITING THE LISTENER IN

by Ralph Murphy

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter
 In looking at songs there is a huge leap from "good" to "great".  When a listener first hears a song, that  leap is made possible by the writer of the work doing the "inviting in" using humor, irony and detail. Ease of singing,"accessibility",  remaining linear when you tell your story, having melody to cling to, making sure there is no confusion over what the title is and telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end are all part of the songwriters "tool kit".
 If the songwriter doesn't have the creative savvy to create an expectation by making a statement, asking a question or having enough detail to make the listener keep listening all the way to the resolution of that statement/question, then the listener is gone. Once the listener is  gone, they're gone for good.

As what lures the listener to the piece of work is melody, and what keeps them there is lyric....oh, I know, I have friends who,say, "I love this song(song X) and I don't know the words to it" well, if you play the song for them, they DO know the lyric subliminally. And that's what kept them there. No matter if that lyric is only "call and response" ie: Na Nahs, they know it. That first listen is so important. Everyone speaks of "first impressions" in meetings or dating or employment opportunities, well, first listens when you are a songwriter peddling your wares is just as important. AND you, as the writer are totally in control of the way the way the listener receives the information you want them to hear. 

That "first impression" doesn't change if your song is being heard for the first time by a judge in a song contest or the producer of the hottest act in the world. We all face the same demons. It doesn't matter if it's the first time you play a new song to someone you need to impress or the one millionth new song first time. It's all up to the song and that song will be as good as the writers craft allows his/her vision to be shaped.      

If you as a writer have done your job and the listener "gets it" and wants to "invite it in", that song will be a living thing that will outlive you by 70 years. If you haven't, write on! Maybe the next one.......


Ralph Murphy is a producer and songwriter. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle's"Talking in Your Sleep" and "Half the Way". Murphy has served as President of The Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy and has been a NARAS National Trustee. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, the widely acclaimed Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting articles used as part of curriculum at colleges, universities, and by songwriter organizations, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. To buy his book, please go to: http://murphyslawsofsongwriting.com

For more information on 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, producer, Ralph Murphy, Crystal Gayle, humor, irony, detail

Top 10 DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) For Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Feb 01, 2013 @10:10 AM

Top 10 DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) 

By Jessica Brandon

Which DAW is better than all the others? These the Top 10 most popular DAW. Digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic system designed solely or primarily for recording, editing and playing back digital audio. DAWs were originally tape-less.

 

PreSonus Studio One 2

PreSonus Studio One
PreSonus Studio One music creation and production software gives you more than simply a powerful DAW. It is made to work seamlessly with your interfaces and controllers — especially PreSonus hardware. You get unlimited tracks within a very easy-to-use single-window interface, with drag-and-drop convenience. In addition to its 64-bit processing capability, Studio One offers great mastering tools and a collection of plug-ins for a start-to-finish "in the box" recording solution!
http://www.presonus.com/products/SoftwareDetail.aspx?SoftwareId=11

Propellerhead Reason
Reason is a computer program for creating and editing music developed by Swedish software developers Propellerhead Software. It emulates a rack of hardware synthesizers, samplers, signal processors, sequencers, and mixers, all of which can be freely interconnected in an arbitrary manner. Reason can be used either as a complete virtual music studio or as a collection of virtual instruments to be used with other sequencing software in a fashion that mimics "live" performance.
http://www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/

FL Studio
FL Studio (formerly known as FruityLoops) is a digital audio workstation developed by the Belgian company Image-Line. FL Studio features a graphical user interface based on a pattern-based music sequencer. The program is available in four different editions for Microsoft Windows, including FL Studio Express, Fruity Edition, Producer Edition, and the Signature Bundle. Image-Line offers lifetime free updates to the program, meaning customers receive all future updates of the software for free.[3] Image-Line also develops FL Studio Mobile for the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad.
http://www.image-line.com/documents/flstudio.html

Acoustica Mixcraft
Mixcraft is a multitrack recording application for Windows. The software functions as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), MIDI sequencer, virtual instrument host, non-linear video arranger, and as a music loop remix program. This is also commonly known as "Garageband for the PC".
http://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft/index.htm

Apple Logic
Logic Pro is a hybrid 32 / 64 bit digital audio workstation and MIDI sequencer software application for the Mac OS X platform. Originally created by German software developer Emagic, Logic Pro became an Apple product when Apple bought Emagic in 2002. Logic Pro is part of Apple's Logic Studio bundle of professional music applications. This is the "professional version" of Garageband" for the Mac.
http://www.apple.com/logicpro

Sony Acid Pro
ACID Pro 7 is a full multitrack recording software with mixing, MIDI sequencing, and legendary ACID looping. It represents an incredible value for the PC-based studio. To start the creative process, you get over 3,000 loops and 1,000 MIDI files right out of the box - and that's in addition to a potent effects rack powered by iZotope and great-sounding virtual instruments, including Native Instruments' Guitar Combos software and Submersible Music's KitCore. What's more, control over MIDI data is better than it's ever been, as ACID Pro 7 sports real-time MIDI automation, quantization, and deep editing functionality. Plus, ACID Pro 7 boasts a new time-stretching feature.
http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/acidpro

Steinberg Cubase
Cubase is a music software product developed by German musical software and equipment company Steinberg for music recording, arranging and editing as part of a Digital Audio Workstation. It is one of the oldest DAWs to still enjoy widespread use. Cubase 7 was released on December 5, 2012. New features include MixConsole, an improved workflow including full-screen capability, and redesigned channel strips and channel centrals. It also includes a new Chord Track and a Chord Assistant.
http://www.steinberg.net/en/products/cubase/start.html

Avid Pro Tools
Pro Tools is the "Gold Standard" digital audio workstation platform for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X operating systems, developed and manufactured by Avid Technology. It is widely used by professionals throughout the audio industries for recording and editing in music production, film scoring, film and television post production, musical notation and MIDI sequencing. Pro Tools can run as standalone software, or operate using a range of external A/D converters and internal PCI or PCIe audio cards with onboard DSP. In 1999 Pro Tools made history: "Livin' la Vida Loca" was the first U.S. number one single to be recorded without using then-conventional recording studio equipment; instead the track was created in an entirely computerised environment using the Pro Tools software package. Since then countless of #1 hit songs were created with this software.
http://www.avid.com/US/products/Pro-Tools-Software

Cakewalk Sonar
Cakewalk SONAR is a digital audio workstation made by Cakewalk for recording, editing, mixing, mastering and outputting audio. It has recently been acquired by Roland.
http://www.cakewalk.com/products/SONAR/

Ableton Live
Ableton Live is a loop-based software music sequencer and DAW for OS X and Windows. The latest major release of Live, Version 8, was released in April 2009. In contrast to many other software sequencers, Live is designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing and mastering. It is also used for beatmixing of tracks by DJs, as it offers a suite of controls for beatmatching, crossfading, and other effects used by turntablists, and was one of the first music applications to automatically beat match songs.
https://www.ableton.com

 

For more information on 18th USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: Pro Tools, Best DAW, Digital Audio Workstation, Sonar, Cubase, Acid Pro, Logic Pro, Mixcraft, FL Studio, Propellerhead, Reason, PreSonus, Studio One

Passing of A Songwriting Author: John Brahney

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @10:30 AM

PASSING OF A SONGWRITING AUTHOR

John Brahney with hit songwriter Diane Warren

(John Brahney with hit songwriter Diane Warren)

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- John Braheny, the man known as the "Songwriters Best Friend," and the author of the best-selling book The Craft and Business of Songwriting died January 19, 2013 after a long bout with prostate cancer, in Los Angeles. He was 74. 

Along with partner Len Chandler, Braheny was the co-founder and director of the Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase (LASS), a national non-profit organization that provided exposure and encouragement to an impressive list of later-to-be-successful new writers and writer-artists from 1971-1996 including Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, Janis Ian, Warren Zevon, Karla Bonoff, Stephen Bishop, Wendy Waldman, and pop music's most successful contemporary songwriter, Diane Warren, for whom Braheny and Chandler critiqued over 150 songs when she was only 15.

In recent years, Braheny has taught songwriting and music business seminars across North America and classes at UCLA, Musicians Institute, LA Recording School (Hollywood) and the Songwriting School of Los Angeles. As a journalist, he published over 600 in depth interviews for a variety of magazines including the magazine he co-founded and edited for LASS, The Songwriters Musepaper. John conducted audio conversations with 55 hit songwriters for United Airlines in-flight Entertainment Network from 1998 – 2005, and was the on-air co-host of Samm Brown's For the Record broadcast on KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles.  

Born in Iowa, Braheny first broke into the music business as a touring and recording artist and released a solo album in 1970 titled Some Kind of Change. His songs were recorded by others including"December Dream" cut by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys.

Braheny served three terms on the Board of Governors of the L.A. Chapter of the Recording Academy. He was past president of the California Copyright Conference (CCC), and served on the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Songwriters (NAS), the Songwriters Guild of America, and on the boards of advisors for many songwriters organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

John is survived by his wife, JoAnn, a brother Kevin, a sister Mary, a son, Michael Toth, a grandson, Evan, and thousands of grateful songwriters.  

Plans for a memorial celebration are pending. Visit the Facebook page "Friends of John Braheny."

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, John Brahney, legend, author, The Craft and Business of Songwriting

Songwriting Tip: How Do I Sell My Songs?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @10:01 AM

How Do I Sell My Songs?

How Do I Sell My Songs?

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Music Industry Mastery Coach

Songwriters always ask me, “how do I sell my songs? Can you show me how to sell my songs? Please help me sell my songs.”

As songwriters, we don’t sell our songs. Anybody who tries to buy your music is a thief.

Nobody buys lyrics, either. That, too, is a scam.

As songwriters, we earn royalties when our songs/tracks are recorded and released on CD’s, performed for profit on the air – radio, TV, online, and licensed for use in TV shows, movies, commercials, and downloaded all over the web.

When CD’s of our work are released for sale, the songwriter usually gets half of the royalty income, called a mechanical royalty, which at the moment, is 9.2 cents per track per copy sold. When this money is collected, our publishers send us royalty checks each quarter.

A large chunk of the money earned by songwriters comes from performances for profit on the radio, TV and online. Here’s how that works: there are three performing rights societies in the US - ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. (Most countries outside the USA have their own societies). To collect performance royalties, you have to join one of the societies. They keep track of when and where our songs are broadcast, from a 5000 watt station in Beserk, MI, to a 100,000 watt station in Manhattan, and send royalty checks directly to us based on the number of paid performances logged in their random samplings. As songwriters, we also receive checks for foreign performances in most countries around the world. A few still refuse to pay, but we’re working on that. Domestic royalties are distributed quarterly. Foreign are distributed semi-annually.

Since we rarely know where are songs are performed on the air, and when, it’s always a delicious surprise going to the mailbox and finding a royalty statement, plus a nice, fat check, showing our songs have been sung and performed on the radio, in movies, TV, and downloaded in countries whose names we can’t even spell.

But we don’t sell our songs. Ever. Ever. Ever.

For more information about how to market your songs so they start creating income streams for you, I’ll be glad to set up a personal consultation, either by phone or email. Thank you for understanding that for legal reasons, any material sent to me without my consulting fee, must, regrettably, be deleted immediately.

© 2013 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, hit songwriter

Molly-Ann Leikin is an Emmy nominee. The author of “How To Write A Hit Song” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, she has written themes and songs for over five dozen TV shows and movies, including “Violet” that won an Oscar.

After marketing consultations with Molly, five of her clients have won Grammys, seven more have Grammy nominations, and so far, over 6200 of Molly’s lyricist and composer protégées have placed their work in TV shows, movies, on CD’s in commercials, and their songs/tracks have been downloaded all over the web. It all starts with a consultation. www.songmd.com

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: song writer, song write, Songwriting, songwrite, Molly-Ann Leikin, Grammy, Sell Songs, Selling songs, hit

Songwriting Tip: Writing Music to Words (Part 2)

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 @09:56 AM

Writing Music to Words  (Part 2)

 

 Harriet Schock, songwriter

Last year, I wrote an article for the USA Songwriting Competition called “Writing Words to Music.” This year I’d like to explore the other side of that coin. Since I write both words and music, and mostly write alone,  when I collaborate, I prefer to have the finished lyric or finished melody to work with. If someone gives me a finished lyric, I read it first…in rhythm. The rhythm of the words will dictate much of what I do as a composer. I’ve seen some composers try to make a lyric fit a melody idea they have. This is often like putting a square peg in a round hole. You have to be completely free to start from scratch.

I love writing to Arthur Hamilton’s lyrics (he wrote words and music to “Cry Me A River” among other hits). That’s because he writes short lines that are much easier to write a good melody to than longer lines with more beats. I had a student the other day who was having trouble coming up with a good melody for her song but when we analyzed the lyric, both the verse and chorus were in iambic pentameter. It could have been Shakespeare! This would make the verse sound a bit like the chorus and give the overall song a sameness. So, if you’re choosing a lyric to set to music, look out for that. It’s a road to heartache.

So you have a lyric and you put it in front of you and your instrument. You’ve read it out loud and gotten a bit of the rhythm. Now what? I don’t sit down without my recorder. I just use a small digital recorder and I don’t go to the piano without it. I start singing the words and playing chords. And I record everything. Sometimes I have a drum track going before I start, usually not. But I try to get a rhythmic feel before I start. I record whatever comes into my mind, with special attention to the chord changes as well as the melody. Then I turn it off and walk away. In a few hours or a few minutes, I’ll go back and sing another melody into the recorder. Sometimes I don’t try another one until the next day. But I NEVER listen back until I have about ten different melodic approaches. Once you listen back, the melodies start to sound really good and then you can’t think of other things. It’s like a movie director who falls in love with his temp track because he’s heard it so many times. Don’t listen back, as tempting as it may seem.

After you’ve gone through this, then you can listen.  Try to get your first impressions of each melody the first time you listen through the melodies. After two listens, they’ll start to sound good because they’ve broken the unfamiliarity barrier. You need your first impression. Does the melody sound inevitable yet not predictable? Does it make the hair on your neck stand up? Is it memorable without being derivative? Of course, it has to fit the mood and intention of the lyric, but I’m assuming all of them do that.

Now you get to play it for the lyricist. Usually he or she is just thrilled to have a great melody to the words. Sometimes, though, there’s a dummy melody in his head he wrote it to and when your melody veers from that rhythmic approach or emphasis on certain words, etc., he can be surprised and will have to hear it a few time before he warms up to it. I have heard that Bernie Taupin, also a composer himself,  was often a bit shocked when he heard Elton’s melodies to his lyric because it was frequently so different and unexpected. I’m sure he found a way to make peace with that over the lucrative and record-breaking years.

Remember, the greatest lyric in the world will simply never be heard without a good melody. It’s the wave length on which the words travel and without it, they’re not going anywhere.

 

© 2013 Harriet Schock

Harriet Schock wrote the words and music to the Grammy-nominated #1 hit for Helen Reddy, "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady" plus many songs for other artists, TV shows and films. She co-wrote the theme for “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks,” currently showing in 30 countries. She and her band were featured in Henry Jaglom’s film “Irene In Time” performing 4 of Harriet’s songs. She also scored two other Jaglom films and is starring in the current movie “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Harriet is in the process of writing the songs for “Last of the Bad Girls,” a musical with book by Diane Ladd. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on herbook (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com.

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, Helen Reddy, Harriet Schock, Writing Music, Writing Words, iambic pentameter, Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady

Songwriting Tip: Polishing the Silver Bowl

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 @02:56 PM

Polishing the Silver Bowl

By Pat Pattison

SilverBowl 

I found a silver punch bowl in my cellar. I vaguely remembered it being a gift (from one of my weddings). It was completely covered with tarnish (an interesting symbol), and, since I was Feng Shui-ing, the required move was to toss it. As I was about to, I was interrupted by the little Midwestern voice inside my head: “IT’S SILVER!! You can’t throw it away!”

I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring that Midwestern voice, or at least sidestepping it. I tried, but as I was about to slip the bowl into the trash bag, it got louder, sounding a lot like my mom: “Nooooo! It’s SIIILVER!” “OK,” I bargained, “if I have any silver polish under the kitchen sink (where all that stuff languishes), I’ll shine up the bowl to see if it’s worth keeping.” Why would I have silver polish? I figured it was an easy escape from The Voice.

Who knew? To my surprise, I did have a jar of silver polish under the sink, (apparently another remnant from one of my weddings). Alas, let the cleaning begin.

I covered the bowl with the grey goop and, as per instruction, allowed it to dry. Wiping it off (with a clean cloth—another surprise under the sink), I discovered that, once the tarnish was rubbed away, the bowl was pretty snazzy. “I’m gonna keep this,” I said, as The Voice basked in the warm glow of its little victory.

Once I’d made the decision to keep it, I looked at the bowl more carefully, noticing the spots I’d missed. I applied more grey goop on the offending areas, waited, then rubbed it off—a bit harder this time. Ah, nice and shiny, both outside and in.

Um, except for the silver leafing all around the rim and on the four curved, leafed legs, still tarnished, with excess polish sticking in all those little crevasses. I tried rubbing with the cloth, but there was no way to get into all those places. I thought, “I’ll use my toothbrush. I can always rinse it off afterwards…”

More polish, and now the scrubbing took longer, not to mention the occasional spray from the toothbrush bristles, requiring goggles. (Silver polish stings the eyes.) The work was more localized and focused, taking longer to cover smaller areas. But finally, after rinsing with warm water, the rim and the legs were sparkling. “Good work,” I cooed to myself.

Oops. For the first time I noticed the thin etched lines swirling both on the interior and the exterior of the bowl. They were still tarnished, not an eyesore, but still not shining like they could. My impulse was to ignore them, but now The Voice reared up again. “Finish what you started. Quit being lazy.” Urrgh!

Q-tips. Again, the work was much more localized and painstaking. Following those swirls wasn’t easy, but after some close attention, a little bad language and a sore wrist, the silver bowl was finished. It glistened. Everything Midwestern in me shone with the glow of a job well done. I filled my gleaming silver bowl with apples and set it in the center of the coffee-table. Voilá!

The moral of this little tale?

It’s not like, when I found the bowl, I immediately saw that the leafing or the etchings were tarnished and needed work. I had plenty to do before I was able to notice those smaller details.

Move from bigger to smaller. Don’t sweat the small stuff until the big stuff is cleaned up.

Intent is the biggest: What’s your song about? Try to say it in one phrase.

Prosody is huge: Is this idea stable or unstable? All your decisions about structure will depend on how you answer this question.

Very, very big: The three questions every song must answer:

1. Who is talking?

2. To whom?

3. Why?

These three questions establish the Point of View of your song: 3rd Person Narrative (he, she, they), 1st Person Narrative (I, we, he, she, they), 2nd Person Narrative (you, he, she, it, they), or Direct Address (I, you). They also ask why you’re saying what you’re saying. What’s the point of the song?

Verse development is big: how can you develop your verse ideas so your chorus (or refrain, in an AABA form) gains more meaning, more emotional weight, each time we hear it.

Song form is middle-sized: Verse/Chorus or Verse/Refrain?

Deciding on things like rhyme scheme, line lengths, number of lines, is small.

Changing a line or a word is really small. Don’t spend too much time up front searching for the perfect word when you’re still working on the bigger decisions. Everything could change.

Don’t sweat the small stuff until the big stuff is cleaned up.

Gather tools. Obsessively. You’ll need them for all the different jobs you have to do. Keep them under your kitchen sink.

Happy polishing.

Pat Pattison, songwriting professor

Pat Pattison is a Professor at Berklee College of Music, where he teaches Lyric Writing and Poetry. In addition to his four books, Songwriting Without Boundaries, Writing Better Lyrics, The Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, and The Essential Guide to Rhyming, Pat has developed three online lyric writing courses, one on poetry, and one on creative writing available through Berkleemusic.com. He has written over 50 articles for various magazines and blogs and has also filmed a free 6-week online songwriting course for coursera.org, available March 1st, 2012.  



Pat continues to present songwriting clinics across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Several of his students have won Grammys, including John Mayer and Gillian Welch.

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Chorus, Songwriting, Prosody, Berklee, Polishing songs, Narrative, Verse, compose

Songwriting Advice: Write Songs with Your Bandmates!

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 @02:59 PM

Expert Advice: Write Songs with Your Bandmates!

 write songs

By Robbie Gennet

 

Many of the greatest songs have been written when two or more artists collaborate. How does such a collaboration happen? What occurs at a fruitful songwriting session? And what can happen afterward? There’s more to it than meets the eye and ear. For all the ins and outs about collaboration––particularly among bandmates––check out what multi-instrumentalist songwriter, performer, journalist and educator Robbie Gennet has to tell you.   

 

First, discuss money. This is the one topic that most often disrupts the creative process (besides girl-/boyfriends) and it is often the hardest to discuss. However, if you can come to an agreement that suits everybody in the band, you’ve set a foundation for creatively moving forward. Difficulties often come when there is a principal songwriter in the band, leaving any non-songwriting members wondering what they’ll earn if any of the songs become hits. Which leads to tip number two:

 

Discuss publishing. How do you split up the pie before it exists? We all know of band members who played or sang on Top 10 hits but don’t see any of the publishing income. So be aware that money discussions go hand in hand with the publishing conversation. There are many scenarios that bands implement, sometimes for better or worse. Much depends on who is writing the songs and how much they agree to split with their bandmates. There is no “normal” to describe a publishing agreement. But if you happen to have a great songwriter in the band, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Every band is one single away from infamy these days.

 

Know your band’s strengths. Do you have an amazing singer or great drummer? The standouts in your band can play a role in the kind of songs that you write. If you have a badass vocalist, write songs that showcases his/her voice. Got a great drummer? Unleash him and write off of his beats and grooves. Lest you think that’s gratuitous, bands like Rush, Tool and Dave Matthews Band all made it huge with unconventional drummers. Most importantly, figure out who your best songwriter is and put him to work. And if you are the main songwriter in a band, here’s a piece of advice:

 

Co-write. You may be a great solitary songwriter, and that’s fantastic for both you and the group. By all means, bring every great song you’ve got to your band. But if it’s all about your songs, the other members might feel that the band is really only about you. The easy way to assuage possible tensions is to co-write with each and every band member. Do group writing sessions. Base song ideas off of a drum groove, a bass riff, a keyboard hook, someone’s catch phrase, whatever. Whether or not you write a hit, you will build camaraderie and respect, which is so important in a band setting. You never know where that hit song is going to come from!

 

Co-listen. Jam with your bandmates and listen to one another. Don’t get in your bubble-world onstage and zone out. While you’re playing, look over at each bandmate and connect. Consciously engage and push the groove toward new places. Jamming together is the most organic form of co-writing and often times the random jams will yield some amazing parts to write songs with. Hone your craft and let the music speak for itself.

 

“If it’s all about your songs, the other members might feel that the band is really only about you.”

 

Decide on your sound. Every band has influences, some stronger than others.Alice in Chains influenced a whole bunch of bands in their wake, but without Black Sabbath,Alice in Chains might not have existed as such. What you “sound like” can come from a diverse range of sources, including certain instruments. Imagine the Doors without Ray Manzarek’s Vox organ andRhodes piano. No matter what your sound is, make sure you are not cloning someone else. It’s one thing to be influenced by a band or performer. It’s another thing to try to sound exactly like them. If you push yourself to grow, however, you’ll never stagnate long enough to be just one thing.

 

Take lessons. The best songwriters and musicians never stop learning, and many take lessons from a variety of teachers throughout their careers. In most bands, the singer either sells it or sinks it, so vocal lessons are a must. Having the “cool frontman look” is great, but blowing audiences away with your vocals is way better. Drummers are the foundation of the band and a mediocre drummer can undermine the music. Bassists, guitarists, keyboard players, all will benefit––and will be able to contribute more to your band’s collaborations––by keeping up their abilities and increasing their knowledge base. What each individual brings to the band collaboration makes a stronger collective whole. That goes for harmony vocals too.

 

Vocalize. Why practice the hell out of your instruments and leave the harmony vocals to chance? Big mistake. Figure out who your singers are in the band and put them to work. Song ideas may develop from that. If someone is not a singer but can manage some group choruses or shouts, put them in the mix but know their limits. Everyone in the band can be a better singer than they are today. Vocal lessons help tremendously, but a band should sing with one another on a regular basis. Having your vocal chops together for the live show will make your songs sound that much better live. Why underperform a great song in your repertoire? Or any song, for that matter?

 

Study songwriting. It’s one thing to know who your favorite bands or instrumentalists are, but who do you admire as a songwriter? What songs move you so much that you listen to them or play them hundreds of times? Examining songwriters will help immeasurably in your own songwriting progress. Lyrics are a craft unto themselves, as are melodies and chord progressions. Familiarizing yourself with an ever-widening variety of chords and changes will give depth to your songwriting. As you absorb new ideas, your songwriting will evolve. There’s plenty of info available from insightful people who excel at examining what makes a song really click. Find those people and soak up everything they can offer.

 

Set goals, be proactive. You have to dream big to get big; it takes hard work and planning to make something happen with your music. By setting both short- and long-term goals, a band can work with focus and organization to achieve the kind of results that matter: great songs and  recordings, great live shows and great pictures and videos too. Everyone in the band should have tasks and be accountable for some of the action. Everyone should be expected to bring something to the collaboration. No freeloaders without skin in the game, unless you want resentments to build by those handling most of the work. If you are in a band, you are running a professional business, so act like it! To be the best, you must do your best.

 (Article Reprinted By Permission by Music Connection Magazine)

Robbie Gennet is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, performer, journalist and educator living inLos Angeles,CA. His book/DVD, The Key of One, provides a notation-free approach to understanding music and a great foundation for your musical evolution. Find it at http://thekeyofone.com and at all major music retailers. 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: Songwriting, 4-track, publishing, Write Songs, Bandmates, collaborate, collaboration, Robbie Gennet