Songwriting Tips, News & More

Jessica Brandon

Recent Posts

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

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