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Recording Music: The State of the DAW: 2012

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Sep 21, 2012 @02:01 PM

Recording Music: The State of the DAW: 2012

Today’s music-recording tools do things that were only dreams not long ago

By Mike Metlay

 DAW, Digital Audio Workstations

As music recording technology changes, so do our expectations of what a digital audio workstation should do. DAWs of 2012 bear only a vague resemblance to the MIDI sequencer programs (with audio tacked on in separate applications if it was there at all) of the 1990s, and no resemblance at all to the multi-thousand-dollar hardware-based monstrosities with custom keyboards and monitors that we meant when we said “DAW” in the 1980s.

 

In 2012, we now have DAWs that do things that were impossible even a few years ago, run on devices that didn’t exist a few years ago, and communicate with the music-making world in ways that would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago... in fact, the whole concept of a DAW needing to communicate with the outside world is something that’s relatively new!

Let’s take a moment to consider how your music-recording experience can be enhanced and your creativity boosted by innovations found among the DAWs of 2012.

 

The Cloud

We may as well start with the most obvious change of all: the proliferation of cloud-based DAW features. Just a few years ago, most recording musicians didn’t really even know what the “cloud” was supposed to be, and those that did weren’t always eager to trust it with their precious music. After all, why would you put your tracks up in some amorphous “cloud” of internet-based storage out there somewhere that you didn’t have control over, when it was perfectly simple to keep them on your hard disk?

 

As it turns out, cloud-based music storage and sharing has all kinds of advantages. Once you get past the simple idea of storing your music in the cloud and address how music stored in the cloud can be accessed and shared, the walls of your studio get knocked down and you find yourself working amidst a larger community of musicians that were much more difficult to get to before... assuming you even knew they existed at all.

 

SoundCloud

While some might argue that cloud-based music sharing doesn’t yet have its killer app, I would argue strongly in favor of SoundCloud (soundcloud.com). Coming out of nowhere (well, actually from Stockholm by way of Berlin) only five years ago into a music world that was completely dominated by MySpace, SoundCloud quickly rose to prominence as a music-sharing vehicle for over 10 million registered users as of this year.

 

Our older readers are probably scratching their heads at this point and trying to remember whatever happened to MySpace, which was the music-hosting site to beat not too long ago. It’s still out there, but SoundCloud eclipsed it for one very simple reason: SoundCloud made it not only possible but easy for music hosted on the site to be accessed without having to actually go to the site.

 

Musicians could use soundcloud.com for music auditioning and sharing, social networking, chat, forums, and so on, but it was also very easy to put a widget on a website or blog or run an app on a mobile device (ooooh, mobile devices... hold that thought, we’ll get back to them in a minute) and play the music without having to send the listener to a new destination. Suddenly, Joe RecordingMusician could have folks listening to tracks while browsing joerecordingmusician.com rather than having to jump over to myspace.com/joerecordingmusician and navigate MySpace’s not-always-clear web interface to find tracks. Click a button, listen to music.... hard to beat that.

 

SoundCloud has put this basic concept into an API—not the audio firm but an Application Programming Interface, basically a “tool kit” that lets programmers integrate SoundCloud into their programs. Thanks to the SoundCloud API, a lot of DAWs and music programs now have a simple “click here to publish your track on SoundCloud” button. That, in turn, makes SoundCloud even more popular, encouraging more musicians to use it, and so on. In the DAWs of 2012, getting your finished track onto the Internet isn’t a separate process you do later with different programs... it’s a single click.

 

Data in, data out

But instant music publishing isn’t the only benefit of the cloud—with the right API, tracks in the cloud can be downloaded into a DAW with equal ease. And not just completed songs, either... pieces of songs, audio loops, stems, unmixed session files, all can be shared between users whose DAWs speak a common language. We have to give a tip of the hat to Digidesign, who made this possible years ago with the Digidelivery system used by top-flight studios sharing Pro Tools session data, but where Digidelivery was proprietary, a bit fiddly to set up and use, and expensive, modern cloud-based sharing is often eclectic, simple, and cheap if not free.

 

A good example of where this process is going is PreSonus Studio One (presonus.com), which we reviewed in June 2012. The latest version of Studio One not only allows publishing to SoundCloud, but also features PreSonus Exchange, a free online forum where users can share Studio One content—audio tracks, sound sets, tutorial and other projects, effects and instrument patches, and more—and it all appears instantly in the DAW’s content browser. And as of this August, Studio One will also let you publish direct to Nimbit (nimbit.com), a one-stop shop for marketing and selling music and merch, including developing fan followings, getting tracks onto iTunes and Spotify, hitting up social media with information about your work... even a virtual tip jar for “superfans” who really want to promote you with extra funds. That’s right, populating your web store and starting to make money from your music, from right inside your DAW.

 

DAWs in the cloud

But why stop there? If the cloud is the place to go to share data and move your music around, why not also create your music in the cloud? That’s the premise behind a new breed of DAW out there: the cloud-based collaboration studio. The idea here is that when you work in such a DAW, you’re online and connected to the world at all times. Your tracks are shared with everyone who’s working with you, and you can collaborate and build tracks with musicians a world away in near real time.

 

There are a variety of ways such a DAW can operate. One of them, Soundation Studio (soundation.com), is completely web-based. It runs in your browser and requires little or no special software on your computer. You can get started for free with a small but useful library of online sounds, loops, clips, and MIDI instruments, and by paying a monthly or yearly subscription fee, you can have up to 5 GB of online storage and access to larger libraries of sounds.

 

Another approach is taken by Ohm Force with the new Ohm Studio (still in beta as of press time at ohmstudio.com). The public beta of Ohm Studio is free, and when it ends in October of this year there will be a monthly charge to use the service. Ohm Studio exists as an application on your Mac or PC, a fully fledged DAW that uses your plug-ins and virtual instruments. But it also shares audio and MIDI files with any collaborators you may have on the project you’re recording, has built-in social media like chat and forums, and endeavors to make music creation with sound sharing over the internet completely seamless and natural.

 

These are only two examples of a new type of DAW that we’ll see more of in the coming years, even as existing DAWs get better at integrating the internet into what they do. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date, double-check your firewall, and get ready to have your computer do music as part of a larger world.

 

Mobile Devices

We mentioned SoundCloud being available as a feature in mobile apps; that’s only one of many ways smartphones and mobile computing devices are becoming more music-savvy. We’ve gone from a few music-listening apps and primitive sequencing platforms to a pretty remarkable range of real musicmaking tools, up to and including a new iOS app called Auria (see the review on page 16) that is a full-on DAW by anyone’s standards. The lion’s share of these music creation programs exist as apps within iOS and run on the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad; we’ve been regularly featuring them in our iOS Music Tools reviews for nearly two years now, and more cool apps are being released every week.

Music recording started very simply on iOS—the first recorders were simple mono, stereo, and 4-track platforms, with basic feature sets. TASCAM (tascam.com) made an iOS version of its original 4-track Portastudio tape recorder available, and what you used to have on a Portastudio was about all you got on the app. But as Apple’s newer iOS releases added CoreAudio and CoreMIDI support and app makers got more sophisticated in their offerings, the market has exploded with some truly amazing offerings.

 

Multitrack recording on iOS

Sonoma Wire Works (sonomawireworks.com) started off with the FourTrack and StudioTrack recorders, simple and easy-to-use 4- and 8-track recorders with built-in mixing, effects inserts, and perhaps most crucially, the introduction of a standard for sharing audio between iOS apps called AudioCopy/AudioPaste. This standard has been adopted by dozens of firms and is rapidly becoming the means of choice for moving recordings, loops, and finished songs from app to app.

Other firms have their own takes on audio recording, like Audiofile Engineering (audiofile-engineering.com) whose FiRe Studio app offers editable regions with waveform displays, track markers, and track sharing via SoundCloud or Dropbox (dropbox.com), a generic cloud-based storage system that is gaining popularity in many areas besides music for its ease of use and relatively generous storage amounts (2 GB free, with more added for referrals).

 

Studios in your pocket

And then there’s the other approach to music creation on mobile devices—the all-in-one composing studio that has its own instruments, like NanoStudio from Blip Interactive (blipinteractive.co.uk) and Figure from Propellerhead Software (propellerheads.se). These compact and fun apps often are designed to run on the iPhone and iPod touch and provide a lot of power in a very small space.

And then there are apps that combine virtual instruments with audio recording; the killer app in that regard is still Apple’s own GarageBand for iOS (apple.com), but there are some very cool alternatives out there now—check out our review of Tabletop by Retronyms (retronyms.com) on page 44 of this issue.

 

And then there’s Android

Because the Android operating system doesn’t have a centralized standard for handling audio and MIDI data, music-creation apps for Android got off to a slow start. But the number is growing, and tends to be predominantly in the “collection of virtual instruments” mode, with programs like Caustic by Single Cell Software (singlecellsoftware.com) and ReLoop by NIKO20 (nikotwenty.com) leading the charge. Jaytronix (www.jaytronix.com) makes a 4-tracker called J4T, one of the few pure audio-multitracking apps for Android we’ve found.

 

Naturally, all or nearly all of these apps have the ability to share music via SoundCloud, Dropbox, or other means; since Android OS tends to run on smartphones that can push data over a 3G or 4G phone connection from anywhere, it’s natural and seamless to import and export audio with them. Of particular note is PocketBand (pocketband.net), which uses a social platform and collaboration model for music creators to share their work.

 

The easy portability and low cost of mobile devices combines with their internet integration to make them a natural platform for DAW work, one that we could barely have imagined even a few years ago... and the tracks that are being created on them are sounding good enough to impress a whole lot of listeners.

 

Pitch and Timing Control

Leaving the outside world and the inside of your jacket pocket, I’d like to step into the world of music itself, and talk about how modern DAWs have broken down one last barrier we never thought would go away: the concept that where intonation and timing are concerned, audio as it’s been recorded is what you’re stuck with.

 

DAWs can do it

Sure, Auto-Tune (antarestech.com) and Melodyne (celemony.com) have been around for years, and have gradually gotten better, but they’ve always been external tools that integrate with your DAW to do pitch and time manipulation, rather than a seamless part of the DAW workflow. But with modern DAW developments, not only have we begun to see tools for these operations appearing inside the DAWs themselves as part of the feature set, but they’ve gotten so good at what they do that we are starting to take them for granted.

 

MOTU (motu.com) may have been the first company to write its own intonation control software for use inside a DAW with Digital Performer, but many of the major DAWs have followed suit. Cubase 6.5 (steinberg.net) has added an integrated and easier-to-use time manipulation/warp control system (and SoundCloud support!), SONAR X1 (cakewalk.com) has a new version of AudioSnap that improves audio quality while boasting an improved user interface, Pro Tools (avid.com) has Elastic Pitch and Elastic Time, PreSonus has avoided the issue of writing its own pitch correction software by integrating Melodyne into Studio One 2.0... the list goes on.

 

Just because you can... should you?

And the quality of these processes is staggering. We’re not yet at the point where pitch changing can perfectly manipulate formants and turn a male vocal into a female or vice versa, but many other pitch manipulations that were previously thought to be impossible are now routinely performed, to the point where some engineers worry about whether it will be necessary for a studio musician to actually be able to play his or her instruments any more.

 

We’d like to believe there’s always going to be a place for real musicianship and that no computer can ever fudge a great performance from garbage... but when you hear a strummed chordal guitar part in C Major get turned into C Minor with a few clicks of a mouse, you start to wonder if anything is truly out of reach. And when you have a great performance that’s marred by a few bad notes or one area that’s slightly off-time, it’s comforting to know that those little mistakes no longer mean trashing the entire take.

 

Onward to 2013

There are lots of other areas we could touch on if we had more space, like the creation of the first really new plug-in formats in some years (AAX for Pro Tools and the new Rack Extensions third-party plug-ins for Propellerhead Reason). But for now, we’ll close with the understanding that as long as technology’s changing, we’ll find new ways to use it to make music, and the landscape’s unlikely to get boring any time soon.

 

[Article Reprinted by Permission]

 

Mike Metlay would like to thank Beto Hale, Darwin Grosse, and Giles Reaves for useful discussions on these topics.

 

This article appeared in the September 2012 issue of Recording magazine [www.recordingmag.com]

 

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

Tags: Songwriting, Music Recording Tools, DAW

5 Beatles Secrets about Songwriting I wish I'd discovered decades sooner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 @11:35 AM

Five Beatles Songwriting Tricks

by Matt Blick

The Beatles, songwriting geniuses

The Beatles are known as the most successful music group in music history, selling over a billion records worldwide. The songwriting partnership between Lennon and McCartney is legendary. The Beatles collectively were also songwriting Ninjas, but they employed many tricks that anyone can add to their songwriting tool box. Here are 5 less obvious examples:

1. Mutate Your Chorus

As well as starting songs with the chorus, some of The Beatles’ greatest hits open with a chorus hybrid that previews the title and hooks.

The intro to Help has the same chord progression as the chorus but moves twice as fast and features the title 4 times (to the chorus’s 3).

Use this trick and by the time you reach your chorus the listener will be hooked by the reassuring feeling that they’ve heard your song somewhere before.

Also used on: She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love.

2. Bluesify Your Melody

We expect to hear blue notes like the b3, b5 and b7th in rockers like Back In The USSR but the Beatles often added these notes into more melodic material too.

In Blackbird the final phrase uses the b7 on inTO the LIGHT and the b3 on dark BLACK night.

Tricky to pull off if you’re not a confident singer — you might want to insert the blue note into your chord until you’ve learnt to pitch it correctly. Using it will add a soulful edge to your melodies.

Also used on: Ticket To Ride, From Me To You.

3. Delay The Root Chord

Starting a song on the tonic chord is a rut the Beatles managed to avoid a surprising number of times.

Eleanor Rigby starts on C major (the bVI of Em) before heading to the home chord. It’s one of the many things that gives the track such an immediate sense of tension. Using this trick will give your progressions more forward momentum.

Also used on: All My Loving, Hello Goodbye.

4. Utilise The Outside Chord

Many of us employ ‘out of key’ chords (whether we realise it or not!). But out of 186 Beatles compositions only 22 remain in key!

In Strawberry Fields Forever, Lennon pulls the rug from under the Bb major tonality by replacing the F major chord with an F minor .

Bb Let me take you down ‘cos I’m going Fm to…

It’s like the stomach drop you experience on the crest of a rollercoaster. Later he creates a disorientating momentary high by replacing the Gm with a G major.

Eb Nothing to get G hung about

Outside chords will surprise your listeners and freshen your melodies.

Also used on: I Am The Walrus, Fool On The Hill.

5. Restate Your Lyrics

The Beatles didn’t make their lyrics memorable just by repeating sections wholesale. They also repeated and adapted words, phrases and sentence structures.

Take A Day In The Life. 4 verses, a middle 8 and only one repeated line.
And yet it’s memorable (in part) because of lyrical links like these -

I read the news/saw a film today, oh boy
and though the news was rather sad/holes were rather small
found my way downstairs/coat/way upstairs
I just had to laugh/look

Using this subtle trick will make your lyrics sticky and give a sense of unity to a track.

 

Beatles Related Quotes:

"I don't work at being ordinary" ~ Paul McCartney
"Try to realize it's all within yourself no one else can make you change, and to see you're only very small and life flows on within you and without you" ~ George Harrison

 

(edited by Jessica Brandon)

Matt Blick is an Eclectic Electric Songwriter and Singer. He writes interesting articles relating towards songwriting and being an independent music artist. He can be reached at www.mattblick.com as his personal site and Beatles Songwriting Academy (www.beatlessongwriting.com)For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, The Beatles

Animating The Songwriting: Making Music That Moves

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Sep 05, 2012 @11:13 AM

Animating The Song: Making Music That Moves

by Melissa Axel

Songwriting

People often say music is "the soundtrack of our lives," but it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that its chief role is to animate them. The nature of life is movement. The word animate means "bring to life" … "the appearance of movement" … "give inspiration, encouragement, or renewed vigor." For a host of reasons, only some of which we can begin to explain, music moves us.

But why? What is it about melody and lyrics set against a grid of time that makes us cry, dance, sing, even scream along? There's some kind of magic in capturing our thoughts and emotions in words and music—something that casts a spell over us when it's done in a way that reaches all the way into the soul, grabs hold of the things that mean the most to us, and never lets go. It may not always be easy to determine exactly what that magic is, but we can explore using a wide variety of means to make our songs more vibrant and meaningful to the listener.

Here are 5 ways to help fully bring a song to life:

* Make your point. One point, and one point only. It's common to crowd a song with more than one key concept, message, or idea. Often, more than one strong element can take away the powerful draw of another (for example: love story vs. achieving your potential). Eliminate competing metaphors or side stories, choose the most compelling focal point of the song, and write every lyric in support of making that point.

* Set the scene. Immerse the listener in the "universe" of the song. If something is happening in the song, listeners want the scoop on where and when. In a poetic way, let us know what the setting is like for the narrator or lead characters in the song. For example, if the song is about the moment two people met, where did it happen? In a tiny city apartment? On a hillside? What time of day? What was the light like then? Sunset? Dawn? Middle of the night?

* Give us the details. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but you can also paint quite a picture with words. Describe the key elements of whatever is happening or happened that inspired the song. Are there any objects that played a role in the situation? If there are people involved (as there often are), what were they wearing? Was there anything unusual about how they looked or acted during the "moment" of the song?

* Show us the inside. We're used to seeing, hearing, and talking about the outside of things—and people, but songs give us the rare opportunity to glimpse inside and explore the emotional dynamics below the surface of a situation. Use that opportunity to go deeper and eloquently bare the truth. What is the writer, narrator, or “lead character” of the song thinking or feeling that might not normally be shared with the listener?

* Allow us to feel. Rather than tell us how you feel with the typical clichés ("I love you, I miss you, I'm so lonely, I'm so angry"), share the truth as honestly and uniquely as you can … and let us experience catharsis through our own emotional reactions. It's a delicate balancing act—being authentic and preserving the "mystery." Challenge yourself to illustrate the things that move us all in creative new ways without spelling them out in the simplest, “tried and true” heartstring-pulling language.

These are just five of countless ways to bring a song to life. What other ways come to mind for you?

 

Melissa Axel is an Artist Relations representative of USA Songwriting Competition. At just eight years of age, she was writing songs about the bittersweet journey of life, love, struggle, and inspiration. The piano-driven singer/songwriter studied at Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music, went on to earn her master's degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Nova Southeastern University. Axel's album LOVE . HUMANITY . METAMORPHOSIS is reminiscent of Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, and Tori Amos. For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Bringing song to life, improving songwriting

Songwriting: Top songs by Hal David and Burt Bacharach

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Sep 04, 2012 @10:26 AM

Top songs by Hal David and Burt Bacharach

 

 Hal David, songwriter, lyricist

 Hal wrote first song for bandleader Sammy Kaye and then teamed up with Burt Bacharach to write the biggest hits in Pop history. He has won a Grammy award as well as a Academy Award. He also wrote the lyrics for the following film scores: "Wives and Lovers," "Casino Royale," "April Fools," "Lost Horizon," "After the Fox," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Oklahoma Crude," "What's New Pussycat?" "Two Gals and a Guy," "Promise Her Anything," "Alfie," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and "Moonraker". 

The notable songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach. David died Saturday at age 91:

— "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"; #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"This Guy's in Love with You" ; #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"; #1 on UK Charts

—"Do You Know the Way to San Jose"; #10 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"Don't Make Me Over"; #21 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"(They Long to Be) Close to You" ; #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"Walk On By"; #6 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"What the World Needs Now Is Love"; #7 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"I Say a Little Prayer"; #4 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"The Story of My Life"; #15 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"Magic Moments"; #4 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me"; #1 on UK Charts

—"One Less Bell to Answer"; #2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"Anyone Who Had a Heart"; #8 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"What's New Pussycat?"; #3 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"Alfie"; #15 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

—"The Look of Love"; #22 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts

 

His awards include:
1969 - Academy Award (Oscar)\Music (Song Original For the Picture-Butch Cassidy and the Sundace Kid)\Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
1969 - NARAS\Grammy\Best Original Score From an Original Cast Show Album\Promises, Promises
1969 - NARM\President's Award for Sustained Creative Achievement (with Burt Bacharach)
1969 - B'nai B'rith\Creative Achievement Award (with Burt Bacharach)
1972 - National Academy of Popular Music\Songwriters' Hall of Fame induction
1991 - Lincoln College\Doctor of Music Degree
1996 - National Academy of Popular Music\Johnny Mercer Award (with Burt Bacharach)
1997 - NARAS\Grammy Trustees Award\Burt Bacharach & Hal David
1997 - National Academy of Popular Music Songwriter's Hall of Fame induction
1997 - ASCAP\Founders Award

Hal David Quotes: "Now, how do I go about the business of writing lyrics? I wish I really knew. If I did it would make writing much easier for me. Because I have no formula, sometimes it flows smoothly and other times it is like rowing a boat upstream. Most often a lyric starts with a title. A line in a book I am reading may set me off. Other times some dialogue in a play or a movie becomes the catalyst. More often than not the idea just pops into my head-where it comes from I hardly ever know....In writing I search for believability, simplicity, and emotional impact..." 

"The form of songwriting is very restrictive because it's in a very small frame. But because of its restrictions you get a bonus you couldn't get in any other art form. Because it is in this little microcosm, if it works it should have a greater explosion, a greater impact. And I think that's why songs have a greater effect on the public than almost any other form of creative work."

"I'm a laborer. I never accept my first idea. I always look for a new approach. The most difficult part of the whole process for me is letting go; of saying 'that's the best I can do,' and go on to the next song."

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

Tags: Songwriting, Burt Bacharach, Hal David

4 Songwriting Tips For Scoring Film and TV Placements

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 @11:33 AM

4 Songwriting Tips For SCORING Film and TV Placements

By Jamie Ledger

Songwriting

Many of the traditional income streams for Songwriters and Independent artists have changed along with an evolving New Music Industry landscape.

Today, one of the most substantial and DESIRED income streams is in the licensing and placement of an Artist/Songwriters music in Film, Television, Advertising, and Video Games.

 

These opportunities bring front-end licensing payouts, which can be LARGE, as well as any back-end royalties.

The other glaringly significant benefit is that of the relationship established with the receiving company or publisher, not to mention the credibility of building a reputation through placements and credits in the real world.

 

But how do you know if  YOUR music, a sure-fire SMASH destined for radio play and blockbuster success, is appropriate for Film and TV Placement?

 

Well today we are going to delve into some songwriting tips and optimization concepts to help you take what you have, or, use what you ALREADY know-to write new songs or rewrite existing ones which give yourself a better chance at scoring a sweet placement and handsome paycheck for your hard work.

 

Today, we’ll cover 4 Key Writing Tips For SCORING Film and TV Placements:

 

1) Pay Attention To What’s Working

Wow. This one couldn’t be more obvious. But it’s worth stating over and over again. See one of the GREAT things about the Music Industry is that ALL the information is freely available to listen to and study.

It is a good idea for you to REALLY understand what is being used out there, and WHY. It won’t take long until you have an intuitive grasp for which stuff might work for which opportunity. Once you get to this level, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of those who haphazardly submit any-ol-song to any-ol-opportunity, just HOPING that maybe something will hit.

 

Exercise:

Choose one-to-three prime-time DRAMA Television shows to study for several episodes, or even for a whole season. Place a pillow case, or maybe a bed-sheet if you have a BIG-SCREEN over the TV so you cannot see, but still can hear. Watch, or LISTEN, with a notepad and pencil. Try to describe both the MUSIC, and the scene that the music is placed in.

Try to be AS descriptive as you can, using as much vivid imagery and emotional detail as possible.

 

2) Label and Tag Your Songs Well

Whether one of your songs is selected from a Music Production Library, a hand-selected by a referring 3rd party, or shopped through a song-plugger service or music publisher; Be SMART and label your songs with the person who’ll be “flipping through the pile” in mind.

As Robin Frederick says – by suggesting a character, situation, or action in your title you can make your song a natural for film and tv placement.

Obviously, “Track 3″ is a no-go, but for example, Hot Summer Night, is a title that would give a music supervisor or director a good frame of reference of what the theme of the song is about very easily.

 

Exercise:

While watching/listening to your selected TV shows try to sum up the action, characters involved, or the situation. Also, try to name the emotions felt during a scene, in descriptive words.

 

3) Write Songs With Universal Lyrics

Everyone always harps on universal lyrics and many think that universal means VAGUE or CLICHE. It does not.

Universal lyrics mean that MOST people can relate to it in some way. It’s about expressing and describing the EMOTION underneath a specific afternoon you and your girlfriend spent at the fair on madison avenue while eating cotton candy and talking about your favorite books…

Universal lyrics = Explaining the feelings of a fantastic day and using non-specific imagery and emotion. Which everyone can relate to.

It’s simply a matter of getting to the heart of a specific experience or story that you are trying to tell, and telling it so that others can receive the emotional message you are trying to express.

 

Exercise:

Take a song that you’ve written that was both personal and overly specific. Identify the underlying “theme,” and drill down into the emotional message. Rewrite that song with more universal lyrics so that you are focused on translating a feeling or common experience by communicating the “universal aspects” which underlie the specific elements used in the song.

 

4) Express One Clear Emotion

Your music should convey an emotional statement or deliver a vibe that translates to a feeling, atmosphere, or mood.

Using major and minor chords can directly impact the mood of the song. Use this to support and enhance the message and emotion you are delivering so that it is cohesive.

If you are purposefully trying to “break the rules” i.e create an defiant contrast to cheerful lyrics by creating a dark or sullen musical atmosphere, or vice versa, then only do that once you know enough to consciously do it. Until then, try to make everything work together using all the elements of your craft to express ONE cohesive emotional message or communication.

 

Exercise:

For the next song you write, whether you create the chord progression OR the lyric first…

Consciously be aware of, and describe IN WORDS, how the music supports the emotional message of the song.

Remember, it’s ALL about communication.

 

Now go and try these out for yourself, and be sure to tell me what you found, didn’t find… Worked, didn’t work. Let me know if this was helpful or not!

Is there any other tips and ideas you’d like to add or expand on?

 

Jamie Ledger, a expert on Indie Artist Development, Songwriting, and Music Production. He can be reached at: http://www.jamieleger.com/

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


Tags: licensing, Songwriting Tips, Film placement, TV Placement, sync, video games

Songwriter Shawn Colvin makes her life an open book

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Aug 03, 2012 @10:19 AM

Edited by Jessica Brandon

Shawn Colvin, songwriter

Shawn Colvin recently published memoir, “Diamond in the Rough.”  Colvin, 56, has struggled at various times with depression, alcoholism, eating disorders and failed relationships.

At the same time, she’s had a career as a singer-songwriter that has netted her three Grammy awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year for “Sunny Came Home” from the 1996 album “A Few Small Repairs.”

That controversial song told about a woman burning down her home – making “a few small repairs” to a presumably unsatisfactory life.

“It’s scary to write a book that’s personally revealing, so to get some positive feedback is very rewarding,” she said in a recent telephone interview from Cape Cod, MA.

The book raises questions about how she’s been able to have the long career she’s had, given the problems she has struggled to surmount.

“I think you can ask anyone else with a chronic illness and find that, between treatment that’s successful and other coping mechanisms, you do carry on for the most part,” she said. “There are periods you’re not able to do your best, but it’s like battling any other chronic disease. It’s very uncomfortable at times.

“It’s really just a question of dealing with your illness and doing your job,” she said. “Yeah, I’m on stage and I suppose that has its pressures. But it’s what I’m familiar with and able to do, even when not feeling my best.”

Colvin, who was born in South Dakota but grew up elsewhere, learned guitar early and moved to Texas in the late 1970s, where she absorbed folk, rock, country and other musical elements.

She came to New York in the 1980s and made a mark in Greenwich Village folk-rock circles, singing backup on Suzanne Vega’s “Luka.”

Columbia Records signed her and released “Steady On,” which won her fast attention as a singer-songwriter to watch for the title song, “Diamond in the Rough” and “Shotgun Down the Avalanche.” (All were written with John Leventhal.)

The title song, co-penned by longtime partner John Leventhal, has dark lyrics about the way “the best of ’em wind up sweepin’ dirt off the street,” but it also has the kind of slashing, high-spirited rock ’n’ roll guitar hooks more suitable for dancing than somber reflection.

“The title song, even if it’s about struggle, is pretty upbeat, a pretty fun song,” she said. “We came up with the title together first. But I didn’t know what really to say. But you just start chipping away; you get a line here and a line there, and it starts to lead you on.”

“Also, (songwriting) has a great deal to do with how it sings. I don’t just sit there with a piece of paper and hear music in my head and then write lyrics. You have to sing along and see what comes out. Sometimes you don’t plan it – words just come. It’s a strange process, but you know when it’s working.”

Colvin has a loyal following now, but acknowledges it isn’t what it was when “Sunny Came Home” rose into the Top 10 and “A Few Small Repairs” sold almost a million copies (according to www.allmusic.com). She was one of the headliners of the 1997 Lilith Fair, a tour featuring women singer-songwriters that itself became heralded as a concert-industry trendsetter.

But that high didn’t last. “I don’t want to diminish that time when I had a big song,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. It was a time when singer-songwriters, especially women, were very popular. For me it was the perfect storm of right place, right time, right person.

“I loved the song and I think it deserved the attention it got. But I don’t set out to have big hits. I’m happy with where I am and where I’ve always been. The fans with me are the fans who will always be with me. I just happened to have a great ride, a very interesting experience.”


Source: The Community Press & Recorder, Cincinnati

 

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

 

  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Grammy Awards, Shawn Colvin, Sunny Came Home

State Of The Music Artist

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 @01:17 PM

State Of The Music Artist


 by Mark Cawley

With my blogs and coaching I’m always hoping to inspire, share stories and always, always tell the truth at least as I know it.  The truth is a pretty valuable thing to hear in a business of dreams. So with a backward nod to Clint Eastwood here goes.

“The Ugly”

If you’re an artist or writer and you’re still working a plan based on an outdated model, you have to adapt or die. It’s the ugly truth. Somehow the artist in us wants to be above the businessman and let someone else deal with it. That time is long gone and time to embrace what IS working.  This is not breaking news to most people reading this but I still have lots of writers and artists coming into my coaching with unrealistic goals  like landing a major publishing deal with a big advance . There are a few exceptions but for the most part that hasn’t existed in Nashville or anywhere I know of for a long, long time. Same for a major label deal.

“The Bad”

There are so many really good writers and artists falling by the wayside because nurturing a “baby writer or artist” costs too much these days. It makes perfect sense though. If you’re a publisher or label and the pie has shrunk, you just don’t have the money to gamble with. If you give that big advance how are you going to make it back in an era of free fall music sales? This is why you’ve been reading about things like 360 deals for the past few years as well as seeing projects stay “in house” as much as possible. Reading Bob Lefsetz letter is a good way to stay up with the conversation. He’s read by most industry people as well as artists.

“The Good”

There’s help. Writers, artists, producers, industry pros  and publishers are making themselves available in unique ways these days though workshops, online seminars or, as in my case, coaching . There is some real crap out there, so do your homework, but if you dig you’ll find experts  who have actually done what you want to do and are willing to share.

I’ve  been reading a terrific book called Platform by Michael Hyatt recently and it’s perfect info for any songwriter or artist looking for ways to get noticed. Michael has been the head of Thomas Nelson Publishing here in Nashville dealing mainly in Christian books but has a music business background as well.

One of the things that struck me was a section about turning really good authors away because they weren’t willing to use social media. They want to write and be left alone. Let someone else promote. These writers in his world and in the music world are going unpublished. Michael wrote the book as sort of a “how to” to help them navigate the new model of self-promotion.

The point is there are resources to help you adapt to newer models. Facebook fan pages, blogging and tons of other ways to be heard and create and nurture a fan base. The Internet is your marketing person and you can do it… by yourself and …it works. It’s not near as romantic to think about tweeting and blogging to let people know what you’re creating but none of us wants our music to exist in a vacuum so… we promote and network. We ARE the business and that’s a great thing!

One last note..if you play live go out and do it, everywhere,everynight!!

 

Mark Cawleys’ songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK and around the world. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cut’s in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website “Song Journey” created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one on one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists in the US, UK and Australia with a new one on one co-active coaching service. Visit www.idocoach.com for details. 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, music artist, Mark Cawley

Songwriting News: Universal Music reaches deal with publishers

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 @10:55 AM

Universal Music reaches groundbreaking deal with publishers

 Universal Music Group

The National Music Publishers' Association has negotiated a far-reaching licensing deal with Universal Music Group on music videos, the group announced on Tuesday.

 

It is the first major-label deal to pay royalties to songwriters and music publishers for videos.

The pact also could end up providing additional royalties for songwriters and music publishers in emerging platforms like ringtones.

 

It comes as many musicians have grown more frustrated about the lack of financial compensation they receive for use of their work in new media services like Vevo and YouTube.

 

As a sign of how tense the relationship has become, last February in TheWrap, Matt Pincus, founder and CEO of Songs Music Publishing, slammed Vevo for earning $150 million in revenue without cutting independent publishers in on the money.

 

"Are record companies to blame for relying on shoddy language to withhold royalties, or is it Vevo's responsibility to insure that the songwriters that helped it pull in $150 million this year share in their success?" Pincus wrote. "Whatever the case, this issue of fairness must be addressed."

 

Vevo is a joint venture music video website operated by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media, making Universal's participation key.

 

"The agreement announced today is an important first step in resolving industry-wide music video issues," David Israelite, NMPA president and CEO, said in a statement. "UMG deserves credit for being the first record label to partner with the entire songwriting and music publishing community through this model licensing deal."

 

Under this license deal, music publishers will grant the rights necessary for the synchronization of their musical works with music videos, and, in return, receive royalties from these videos based on a percentage of Universal's receipts.

 

The agreement also enables songwriters and music publishers to receive retroactive compensation for past use of their musical works in UMG's music videos. In addition to music videos, the agreement provides songwriters and music publishers compensation for additional UMG product offerings including ringtones, dual disc, multi-session audio and locked content products.

 

[Source: TheWrap.com]

 

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

  


 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Universal Music Group, publishers

Songwriting Tip: Composing For Film and TV

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 @12:54 PM

 

Songwriting Tip: Composing For Film & TV

By Brian Tarquin

Brian Tarquin, songwriter
There is more to composing than just buying a computer and a handful of plug-ins! After 20 years composing for television and films, with three Emmys and seven nominations, I’ve come to rely on instincts and input from producers and music editors around me. It’s a team effort, and the sooner you learn this lesson, the better.

1. Get the Vibe. Remember you are composing music for the show, which will be heard by its fans. Understand the viewers and what works between score and picture. In Ken Burns’ Civil War series, what worked was that beautiful solo violin melody, not blazing metal guitar. Proper background score is a key to a successful series.

2. Understand exactly what the producer or music supervisor wants.This can be a very tricky thing. It can change from day to day and from moment to moment. I found that it could become confusing if more than one person gives you directions. The best thing to do is ask for musical references from the main person giving the instructions. For example, if they are requesting a vibe like Led Zeppelin-meets-Metallica, then make sure you get your project’s creative team to specify what elements of each band they like and how they want them combined. Ask as many questions as possible to nailing the exact vibe they want.

3. Don’t rush it, take time and get it right. This really pertains to composing for new clients. Even if you are juggling many projects, as we all seem to do, give it the time it deserves. Clients can sense when you are rushing and not giving it the proper attention. Remember the kids in school who had six weeks to do their final paper, but waited until the night before to do it? By showing the client that you care about their project, it will almost ensure you a continued relationship for future projects.

4. Use real instruments when you can, don’t rely on plug-ins and sample CDs. As a guitarist and recording artist for many years, it is annoying to me that there are so many electronic composers today who take the shortcut and substitute talent for computer plug-ins and samples. Instead of getting a real drummer they use some drum “extraordinaire” plug-in and samples from CDs of horns and bass. It makes no sense––just hire real musicians to make it sound as authentic as possible. Back in the day, I remember laboring through sessions getting musicians to nail the right sound before the digital era and plug-ins; it actually was a great challenge to see if you could achieve the sound for the project and a real feeling of reward when you did.

5. Don’t reuse old cues. This is something we are all guilty of––yours truly as well! In all my experience I’ve found that trying to rework old cues to try to make them sound different for a new client is more time consuming than actually composing from scratch. And trying to pass off an old cue to a new client thinking it’s “close enough” is bad business, because nine out of 10 times the client will have so many changes that you will be doubling your work. I don’t know how many guys do this, but it’s a lot like trying to turn a polka song into an electronica tune and passing it off to the client. Believe me, they will know!

6. Watch the show and understand how the music is used. Believe it or not, there are composers out there who do not bother to watch the show they are composing for, which seems like a recipe for failure. Set your DVR to record a few episodes and see how the music is synced to picture and compose accordingly. Before I even start composing for a new show I always watch a number of episodes and then go back to the music director and ask what specifically worked for those shows in regards to the music. I also like to throw out ideas to the music director before I proceed, to see if I’m on track.

7. Make sure to send WAV samples (no MP3s) for approval. I’ve learned not to send MP3s to people, because no matter how many times you explain to them that it’s an MP3, they always get bothered about it sounding “too compressed and lacking bottom end.” Well, that’s because IT’S AN MP3 and you’re listening to it on COMPUTER SPEAKERS!!! Then of course they look at the file size and say, “Oh, okay then, never mind.” So there goes a half-hour of my life I won’t get back!

8. Never send a demo sample! Man, this is such a catch-22, you can’t believe! Clients always say, just send a demo so I can hear how it’s coming along. So you send a rough mix to them and the first thing they say is, “It Sounds Like A Demo!” Well DUH, it IS a demo! So if you are going to play something for anyone for the first time, it should be the final mix of the song. Back in the early days of being a recording artist I remember the record label would always tell me to just send demos or rough mixes of the songs “so we can get an idea of what you are working on.” These were the days before I had a nice recording studio; my setup was just a Tascam DA-88 and a cheap Carvin mixer. So off the rough mixes went and the label would come back with, “It sounds like a demo!” Well yeah, that’s because they are demos that you said were okay to send!

9. Keep in good communication with the producer or music supervisor. This is one of the most important things to do. Always check in with the client, especially if you have a long lead-time for the final deadline, because ideas can change. For example, that song they told you to emulate at the start of the project may have changed three times and the client might have have forgotten to tell you. Of all my advice to you, this is the most crucial! I’ve been involved in projects that started off as heavy metal, then midway became techno and then finally wound up as a punk song I had to compose from scratch. Yes, it’s a lot of work and chasing, but it’s all part of the gig.

10. Never say “That’s the best I can do!” Many of us have been at the end of our rope with certain clients, for one reason or another––you want to say “I’m done, you do it!” I certainly have been there with a few people, but the best thing to do is ask for an extension if the changes they request become too much. Step away from the project for a few days, if possible, then come back to it with fresh ears and appease the client.

 

 [This Article is reprinted with permission from June 2012 issue of Music Connection magazine]

The multi-Emmy-winning composer-guitarist Brian Tarquin has established himself as a top TV composer-recording artist and owner of Jungle Room Studios. Some of his accomplishments include writing the theme music for MTV’s Road Rules, as well as producing music for many other TV shows such as CSI, ABC’s Making The Band, Extra, Alias as well as the Keanu Reeves film, The Watcher, and many more. Visit Tarquin’s music catalog at http://bohemianproductions.net/musicsearch.html. To see his recording facility, Jungle Room Studios, visit http://youtu.be/P9QEUO1K0pw.

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

  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Writing Music, Composing For TV and Film, music supervisor

Songwriting and the Premise of Creativity

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 @05:04 PM

Songwriting and the Premise of Creativity

By Cris Zalles

 Cris Zalles, songwriter & producer

Some time ago I thought it would be interesting to learn more about what "creativity" really is. Where does it come from? How can I access it more often? What I didn't know is that this curiosity would lead me to radically improve my songwriting and as a consequence, my professional life. So, after reading some books on the matter and spending enough time analyzing the process, I got to some interesting conclusions.

Much like most songwriters I know, my writing was mainly dependent on the ideas (musical and lyrical) that I could come up with during the "session". Even if I had a good title or an idea to start from, my songs where born mostly from whatever came to mind during that time. Even in Nashville, a place I truly love and where I've learned from the best, I've seen the same "creative" approach. Not always, but it's a safe generalization.

So what if we change the premise of creativity? Do we really create anything? I though (wrong or right) that perhaps outside of feelings and emotions, everything in our reality has already been created. Even if it has not been discovered yet. So then, what we call "creativity" in reality must simply be our ability to CONNECT already existing ideas, concepts, things, elements, etc. in ways that are original, insightful and meaningful. If the final result triggers an emotional response on ourselves and others, then you have truly "created".

Then, if the game is about connecting ideas within the realm of possibilities, logically, what I need to do in order to get better results is to have plenty of good content available to choose from when I sit down to write. This way I don't depend so much on the unreliable visiting hours of our good friend Miss Inspiration. In other words, I realized that the way most of us write songs is like trying to open a restaurant with whatever we have in the refrigerator at the time. Absurd, right? well, that's just how most songwriters do it. I say, GO GROCERY SHOPPING FIRST!

Sound engineers prep and then mix. Architects plan, prepare and then build. Lawyers, same thing. Even painters and other artists sketch and prepare, but for some unknown reason, songwriters like to start building before knowing what they want. Strange isn't it?. Yeah, "finding your path" as you go can sound very romantic but it's not very practical. Do ships sail out to sea without a destination or a nautical chart?

So, just like in most other professions, now I divide the process into two stages. Prep (musical and lyrical ideas) and the connecting stage. Both are essential to good songwriting.

The process that has worked for me is that I don't go for a musical instrument until I've defined what my objectives are and I know what I want to write about (lyrically). Then I ask the question, "what is everything I know (or not) about this subject"? I spend lots of time looking for great things to say about it. I find common and uncommon answers to the question as well as interesting or unexpected angles to make sure that what ever goes into the song is worthy of it's great potential. Not a line or a breath should be wasted.

Once I have lots of good stuff to say, I try to edit, separate and organize the best and most interesting bits of information into their most likely structural destination. This is easy since I know that a verse, a chorus and a bridge (if needed) have very different objectives within a song. I also look for possible rhymes to reverse engineer some payoff lines but still working within a basic "sketching" mode. It takes discipline but when you're ready, you'll know it. Your "creative" sparks will be uncontainable. Then and only then, I approach the instrument.

So let the writing begin…. Very soon I'm in the flow. With all the ideas jumping out of the prep page and fighting for attention, getting into it is now much easier. The ride is sort of an unconscious process where I get lost and do my thing in the infinite world of possibilities. Connecting ideas to music and searching for the natural rhythm and melody to the words I want to use. A magical ride where I lose all sense of time and self awareness while managing to stay true to my goals. I'm sure you can relate.

One last thing. Because to me music feels naturally flexible, and words (because of their syllables) feel more rigid, defining a melody before knowing what to say lyrically leaves you with "rigid against rigid". How many times have you had a melody that suggests a four syllable word, knowing that the perfect word to use has only two? That's when songwriting becomes this difficult musical crossword puzzle exercise that forces you to compromise. I don't like it! 

Waiting to write the melody until you know what to say and how to say it allows the music to embrace the words like warm liquid chocolate over fresh strawberries and this alternative "creative" process I've described here allows it to happen naturally.

Yes, it may take a little longer but I guarantee you that in the end, the quality of your songs will improve dramatically.

So, now I can say "good luck" or "good work". It's up to you.

 

Originally form Chile, Cris Zalles has lived in the US for 30 years, and over 20 of them working in the Music Industry. He has earned professional credits as a Songwriter, Producer, Artist, Vocalist, Arranger and Sound Engineer. A Warner/Chappell Music Publishing staff writer since 1996, Cris has over 80 songs released around the world, mostly in the latin Industry. They include artists such as: Ricky Martin, Chayanne, David Bisbal, Luis Fonsi, Nito Mestre, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Christian Castro, Marcos Llunas, Florent Pagni, Disney, and many others. His song "Cuidarte EL Alma", by Chayanne won the ASCAP Pop/Latin ballad of the year award in 2005. The song became a Billboard #1 hit and the most played in Latin Radio that year. Cris currently runs his own recording studio out of Miami where he writes, produces and teaches songwriting. In the last few years he served 3 terms as Governor on the Florida Chapter Board of the Recording Academy and has been a voting member since 2001. http://www.zallesmusic.com

 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Cris Zalles