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Jessica Brandon

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Finally taking control of your songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 01, 2016 @01:48 PM

Imagine… Finally taking control of your songwriting!

by Mark Cawley

ControlSongwriting
Here’s the idea. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Great inventors never wait for the world to discover them, they discover things the world needs or at least, the world’s interested in.   
The business model of songwriting has changed and continues to evolve. Where can you fit in? Chances are this hasn’t been part of your creative journey, maybe it hasn’t had to be but what if it were?
What if you match your song with another art form? Rather than waiting on that publishing deal or for your song to be found you get pro-active?


Before you groan too loudly I’m not talking about writing for the advertising world although it’s not a bad idea. What if your song is a match for a project or a product or even a campaign but the powers that be don’t know it? You can be the matchmaker.


For instance …
I have a songwriter I’ve coached that wrote a very cool song about coffee. She didn’t write it for Starbucks but why not reach out to them or any number of caffeine related products and see if your song can be a part of someone’s bigger vision? She has been putting it out there and getting a great response. Nothing to lose. Hasn’t landed yet but…it might and by being the writer, owning the publishing, she gets on someone’s radar and can even be more flexible than a standard publisher might in getting a usage.


Another friend and client in Australia sent me a song called “Stephen Hawking Wants You To”. I urged her to look for any projects involving Stephen Hawking. This was before last year’s movie about him. She reached a UK film company who had just done a project about him but now has a dialogue to send lot’s of her songs for possible film use.


Another for instance.
Kye Fleming and I wrote a song about a year ago called “What Would Lennon Do”. We weren’t asked to write it, didn’t think it had commercial hit written all over it, just wrote it to express ourselves. Rather than let it sit we started thinking…big. Who might want this to be a part of their message? It’s a song of peace so we reached out to the UN. Sounds far fetched? You’d be amazed at the people who are open to a good idea. It reached all the way to the secretary of the UN. They are still deciding how best to connect it . We kept thinking. We also reached out to Amnesty International and they are in the process of creating a charity single with their artist board.

So many artists are being found though mediums other than records. Someone has to have the big idea, make the connection. Why not the songwriter?


My point is your song might be someone’s solution. Thing big, think waaaay outside the box and pitch your own song. Waiting on the world to hear you or waiting on that publisher to do the work for you is getting harder than ever. Not only that but most of the best and most successful songwriters I know have always pitched their own ideas. They might have a great publisher but they didn’t always  wait for them to come up with the best idea. They became their best promoter.
By creating a vision you’re taking control of your songs, you’re taking control of your career and, the buzz you may get from  connecting your vision to someone else’s can be bigger than you ever imagined.
Control equals freedom and freedom feels great!

About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 15 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is a contributing author to the USA Songwriting Competition a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.

  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, music artist, song demo, demo recording, Record Producer

Songwriting Tip: Dealing With Song Critiques

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 @07:00 AM

Songwriting Tip: Dealing With Song Critiques

by Harriet Schock

In my opinion, bad song critiquing has gotten more writers in trouble than bad songwriting. A bad song is simply a bad song. But bad song critiquing can hurt a good song. It's frequently done by publishers, A&R people, music supervisors, song pluggers...in short, business people. It's even done routinely by songwriters who don't write as well as you can, who've never had a cut. I don't understand that practice, but it's out there. Even professional songwriters will critique in a dangerous way, crippling the requesting writer in an attempt to help him, by pointing out weaknesses at the exclusion of the strengths of the song. I will frequently inherit the victim of some sort of brutal or idiotic critique. I will invariably hear from a new student, "So-and-so said such-and-such about this song and I don't know what to do about it."

I frequently get asked to critique songs and it is a frustrating process. It was so frustrating, in fact, that when I started teaching years ago, I came up a step-by-step method of starting from scratch that streamlines the process and helps create better songwriters.

Someone recently sent me a song to critique. He lives in Nashville and he has excellent taste in songs. He knew the difference between good and great and he wanted to be great. In my head I kept hearing the lyric from "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," which says "You can't fix an egg when it ain't quite good and you can't fix a man when he's wrong..."

Well, I wouldn't say you can't fix a song when it's wrong, but I will say you can fix a song only up to a point. I'm constantly being asked, however, to "fix" songs that should have simply been started differently, developed differently and crafted better. Here's the analogy that springs to mind and I shared it with the songwriter from Nashville: You are at sea level. You’re building a house. Your house will be built at sea level. But when it's done, you go to the builder and say "I'd like that house to be at 1000-ft. elevation." His answer is, "No, but I can take you to another town which is 1000 feet above sea level and build that house there."

All the years that I was asked to critique songs brought me two things: heartbreak and a realization. Heartbreak came when I had to tell the person there was a serious problem with a song he had demoed for a thousand dollars. The realization was that if you give the person a way to write songs in the first place, he will not have to "fix" every song he writes. The sad truth is that he will not be able to "fix" many of them. He took too many wrong turns and ended up with a song that is simply not his best effort.

Imagine you're in a shopping mall. You're trying to get to Bloomingdale's but you don't have a map that says "you are here." So you take one corridor and then another and you may end up in the food court, or at Macy's but you will not end up at Bloomingdale's every time. Maybe every once in a while you'll happen upon it. But your song took a wrong turn at the title, then you took a wrong turn at the first picture or plot point you used to tell the story, then you decided on an ending for THAT story, which wasn't the story you should have told in the first place. Melodically, you settled for a melody that came easily but that doesn't move anyone and "fixing" a melody is even harder than "fixing" a lyric. You can make it stronger by changing some steps to some leaps or going to some less predictable chords. You can even change the rhythmic groove it sits on. But why do all that? Why not just get the best song in the first place?

Now don't get me wrong. Some songs are a perfect face with a big wart on the end of the nose. Everyone can see the wart except the writer and it's easy to say "remove the wart" and the song is great. At other times, there's an unexpressed great idea jumping from the page to any experienced songwriter and simply giving the author that suggestion is all that's needed to take the song to the next level. Tweaking is a way of life for songwriters and I'm certainly not saying it's ill-advised or impossible. What I'm referring to is trying to make a song that's a 5 into a song that's is a 10.

I used to have a mentor who said he could tell the minute someone walked into the room if he had talent. I used to be suspicious of that comment. But now I know what he meant. Even though this is a bit different from what he said, I can tell immediately, at an open mike, if the writer has the goods. I don't need to wait until the third song, or the third measure, for that matter, although I usually do. Sure, there may be a hole in the second verse you could drive an SUV through, but that song is still sitting on solid ground and can be rebuilt.

Sometimes a writer will confess to me that his songs are not made of the same stuff as the great songs--the ones you listen to and say "I wish I'd written that." There's a kind of depth to a great song that a good song just doesn't have. If you aspire to write great songs that will live on after you have no more teeth to gnash over your bridge (no pun intended), then stop asking people to "fix" your songs. Simply become a better songwriter by either studying the work of great songwriters or finding a mentor or book. Then you won't have to put up with all the inane critiquing on the part of "industry guests" who are not songwriters and should restrict their comments to "I can use it" or "I can't use it." Even car dealerships don't let the salesmen work under the hood.  



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

 

For more information on the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

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Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, lyric writing, Songwriting Tips, Harriet Schock, songwriting critique, lyrical concept, lyrical hook, song critique

6 Questions for Songwriters to Ask Before Demoing a Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 @07:00 AM

6 Questions for Songwriters to Ask Before Demoing a Song
by Cliff Goldmacher

DemoRecording

So you've written a song that you're excited about and feel like it's got a real chance of getting cut or placed in a film or on TV. That's great news. Now the trick is to be sure you're asking the right kinds of questions of yourself and others before you spend good money creating a quality recording. I've put together a list of the six big questions you should ask before demoing a song.

1. Are you prepared to do this professionally?

This sounds like an unnecessary question, I know, but especially early on, songwriters have a tendency to try to cut corners or take a more DIY approach to demos with often amateurish-sounding results. Why would you want to compromise a great song with a mediocre demo just to save a few dollars? The best way I've heard this put is the quote, "Cheap can be expensive." Either you have to have spent the necessary time yourself to become an expert engineer, instrumentalist, and singer in your own studio, or you should seriously consider using a professional studio, musicians, and vocalist.

2. Is your song finished?

I know this sounds like another seemingly unnecessary question, but I can't tell you the number of times songwriters have shown up at my studio to demo a song with unfinished lyrics or unresolved melodies. I get it. It's exciting when you've written a song and you want to get it out in the world as soon as possible. You figure that you can tweak your lyric or melody in the studio but, in my opinion, the studio is the absolute wrong place to try finishing a song. There's nothing more stressful than trying to create when you're paying a dollar a minute or more. Do yourself a favor and make certain your song's melody, lyric, and structure are completely done before you schedule your demo.

 
3. Is your lyric sheet 100 percent accurate?

Often, in the time between finishing your lyric sheet and getting your song ready to demo, the lyric undergoes a few more minor – or sometimes major – tweaks. Taking the time to make certain that every word on your lyric sheet is what you want the demo singer to sing is well worth your while. At the very least, you'll waste valuable studio time having the singer modify the lyric sheet, but if you're not paying close attention during the session, the demo singer might end up singing your old lyric and you'll be in the unfortunate position of having to re-hire them to come back and sing the proper lyric. Fortunately, it's a problem that's easily avoided by double- and triple-checking your final lyric sheet.


4. Do you have a definitive rough recording of your song?

For me, a "definitive rough recording" means you've made a simple, low-fidelity recording into your laptop or smartphone which conveys the proper lyric, melody, and chords of your song. This is generally done with a single instrument and sung by one one of the songwriters in the room after the song is completed. As I've said before, there's no Grammy award for best rough recording, so don't agonize over this. The reason it's useful is it can be sent to the demo singer in advance of the session and referred to when the session musicians arrive. It's always better to have a recording than to assume you'll just be able to play and sing for the musicians or singer in the studio. It's amazing what you forget when you're put on the spot. Stick to your rough recording.


5. Do you have a compelling reason for doing a full-band recording?

The temptation to want to dress up your songs is a very real and potentially expensive one. While I'm well aware that nothing sounds quite as good as a fully produced recording of your song, it's more important to ask yourself whether the pitch opportunities you're considering really require it. There are only a few good reasons to do a full-band recording that justify the expense, such as a film/TV pitch where the scene requires it or an artist demo where you're showcasing not just the song, but the artist's sound. Otherwise, I'd strongly suggest that you consider a high-quality single instrument (guitar or piano) and vocal. This is more than enough to convey your melody and lyric in a professional setting. Also, remember that you can always add additional instruments and production if a later situation warrants.

6. Do you have a full explanation from the studio of all the costs?

When you're choosing a studio and booking your session, don't forget to have a frank discussion with the studio owner regarding any and all potential costs. Sometimes a studio's hourly rate isn't the only cost you'll incur. It's enough to ask exactly what your costs will be. Often, conversations about money can be uncomfortable, but if you're treating your songwriting as a business, then it's essential. It's always better to have a full understanding of your costs going into a session so that you can avoid a potentially awkward conversation later. Even studios that have an hourly rate should be able to give you – within an hour or so – a fairly accurate estimate. Discussing the money up front and getting it out of the way is a great recipe for enjoying your session without being distracted by non-musical things.

The decision to demo one of your songs should never be taken lightly. You're attempting to put in permanent form a representation of your song that you'll use and pitch for many years to come. The demo process itself can be great fun, especially if you've taken the time to properly prepare and do the necessary homework. As I was told once, "It's better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent." I couldn't agree more.
 
If you’ve ever wondered about the exact chain of events that takes place from the time a song is written and demoed until it winds up on a Top 10 Billboard charting album, purchase Educated Songwriter’s “A Day in the Life of a Demo” webinar for $14.99.

Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, and author with over 20 years in the music business. Click here to get a free copy of Cliff’s e-book, The Songwriter’s Handbook

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, Honing Your Craft

Five Songwriting Habits You Should Drop Today

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 09, 2016 @07:00 AM

Five Songwriting Habits You Should Drop Today
by Jessica Brandon
GuitarFret
If you are spending hours working on writing songs and not getting the results you want, you may have a “songwriting habit” or two that needs dropped.

Here are five habits to ditch that will help you grow your songwriting —not to mention reduce the amount of time you spend on you getting your songs cut by music artists.

1. Churning and burning.  Yes, you want to have your songs cut by major music artists, and  perhaps even yourself as a singer-songwriter act, but if you are only focused on writing new songs without paying attention to existing your existing songs, you are wasting a lot of time and energy and leaving a whole lot of  lessons learnt on the table. If you have a system in place for writing songs but it is not working – if your songs are going nowhere and you are dissatisfied with your songwriting career or singer-songwriter career, maybe you may want to think “outside the box”.

2. Getting leads on Major Artists Seeking New Songs without having appropriate songs. Getting a bunch of new leads can give your ego a huge boost, but only if you have great songs that your leads want. If you have leads with no immediate songs to provide for them, or are randomly following up, you are not only wasting time, money and effort, but you could be leaving a bad impression.

3. Chasing A&R. I’ve seen it time and time again. You get a hot lead to an A&R at some record label or music publisher and you keep chasing after him while neglecting to have great songs in place that will continually attract your ideal music publisher to you. Stop chasing, start attracting.

4. Doing the same thing. If you aren’t getting the results you want—if you aren’t living your dream life—maybe it’s time to look at doing things differently. Too many songwriters look at what their competitor songwriters are doing and think they should be doing the same thing. But that doesn’t make sense if you aren’t where you want to be.

Maybe it’s time to do the opposite of what everyone in the music industry is doing and start doing what works.

5. Going it alone. Look, I get it. Working alone can be great. You can do things your way. You don’t have to listen to what anyone else thinks. You feel really good when you succeed because it’s all you.

However, we are so fortunate to have so many resources available that can help with virtually any situation, why would you go it alone? Plus having someone to collaborate with you and give you feedback and help guide you means you will get there easier and faster. Say if you are great in writing music but suck in writing lyrics, find a lyricist who can help you with the lyrics. Rememebr that Elton John was unable to write a hit song without his lyricist Bernie Taupin.

Also, all the winning songs of the USA Songwriting Competition for the past three years were all multi-way collaborations. If you take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, you will see that most of the songs on the Top 10 are all multi-way collaborations. Last year's Grammy song of the year "Stay With Me" was written by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne receiving co-writer credits due to the song's similarity to Petty's single "I Won't Back Down" after a legal settlement.

By IMMEDIATELY dumping things that aren’t working, you’ll have the opportunity and time to apply strategies to your songwriting that do work. Who knows? Maybe you will be the next person to tell me that your big breakthrough came as a result of getting rid of something that wasn’t giving you the results you wanted.

  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, A&R, song demo, songwriter split sheet, Co-Writing Songs, Habits, bad habits, Split Sheet

Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @07:00 AM

Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers
by Jason Blume
HitSongStructures

When I took my first songwriting workshop I had no idea that verses, choruses, and bridges were the primary building blocks used in popular songs. Nor did I know that the vast majority of the songs I listened to on the radio combined these components into one of four song forms, or a variation of one of these forms.

Initially, when I learned about song structures, I feared that confining my music to one of a handful of prescribed forms would limit—or even destroy—my creative expression. But I learned that effective songwriting is an art of communication; that a primary goal was to connect with—and evoke emotion in—my listeners. The structures I used to express my songs did not alter their message. To the contrary, presenting my songs in formats with which my listeners were familiar, allowed my audience to receive the melodies and lyrics I shared. My listeners might not be able to define or identify a verse, a chorus, or a bridge, but they had spent a lifetime listening to music that was constructed using these components, so including them added a sense of familiarity.

Popular music is constantly evolving, and this article explores whether the use of song structures has changed, and whether there are any trends to take note of. Before proceeding, I’ll briefly define the functions of each of the “building blocks.”
Verses

Verse lyrics tell the story, include action and details, and lead the listeners to the chorus and the title. Each verse typically has different lyrics, and while there are no “rules” about how long a verse should be, the most common lengths are eight, twelve, or sixteen musical bars.

Hot Tip: To write a second verse, ask yourself, “What else happened? Or, “Then what happened?”
Choruses

Chorus lyrics are usually a simple summation of the concept—a place to summarize the song’s essence in a catchy, easy-to-remember way. Choruses are intended to be the most memorable part of the song, both lyrically and melodically—the part people walk away singing. Choruses tend to be eight, twelve, or sixteen musical bars.

In song forms that include a chorus, the title will almost always be in the chorus. The rare exceptions to this are typically songs written by artists who write for themselves. For example, Coldplay’s GRAMMY-winning Song of the Year, “Viva La Vida” never includes the title in the chorus—or anywhere else in the song.

The chorus lyric does not typically bring in detail or advance the story. Why? Because the chorus will likely be repeated two or three times, and if it is full of detail and story, it probably won’t make sense to repeat it.

Typically, every chorus within a given song will have the same melody and the same lyrics. But there are certainly exceptions. The two choruses in Patsy Cline’s classic “I Fall to Pieces” (Harlan Howard/Hank Cochran) include different lyrics, and in Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” the final line of each chorus lyric is different from the others.
Bridges

The word most often invoked when describing the function of bridges is “departure,” and indeed, the most effective bridges depart both melodically and lyrically from the other sections of the song. Ideally, in this section a new lyric angle, new perspective, and/or new information is introduced. Bridges (often referred to as the “Middle 8” outside the U.S.) are typically four or eight musical bars. They can be instrumental (such as in Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball”), but that’s not typical.

Whether to include a bridge or not is a creative decision based on factors such as whether the writer wants to advance the story, if there is a new melodic element they want to introduce, and the length of the song.
Pre-Choruses

A pre-chorus is a component of a song that occurs immediately before the chorus. Sometimes called a lift, a climb, a channel, a set-up, or a “B” section, its function is to connect and propel listeners from the verse to the chorus—both melodically and lyrically. This sub-section of the verse is most often comprised of four or eight musical bars.

Songs that include a pre-chorus in the first verse almost always have one in every subsequent verse. In songs that have two verses prior to their chorus, the pre-chorus typically only appears in the verse immediately before the chorus.

In many instances (such as The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”) every pre-chorus has the same melody and the same lyric. But in the pre-chorus of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” the melody of each pre-chorus remains the same, but the lyric changes each time. Both of these approaches are regularly found in successful songs in various genres.
Post-Choruses

Post-choruses (sometimes called “B” choruses) are sections that follow a chorus, providing an additional hook. Most often comprised of four or eight musical bars, the post-chorus might follow every chorus within a given song, or it might be only in the song’s final chorus. In addition to contributing an extra melodic hook, in many instances, this section serves as a place to hammer home the title.

Excellent examples of post-choruses include Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
How Songs Have Typically Been Constructed

The most popular song forms since the era of the Beatles have been:

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus
(Example: Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”)

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus—Bridge—Chorus
(Example: Luke Bryan’s “Strip it Down”)

Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus—Verse—Chorus
(Example: Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”)

Verse—Verse—Bridge—Verse
(Example: Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You”)

These structures are sometimes expressed as:

A—B—A—B
A—B—A—B—C—B
A—B—A—B—A—B
A—A—B—A

Popular variations have included starting with a chorus (B—A—B—A—B or B—A—B—A—B—C—B); having two verses prior to the first chorus; and having a “double” chorus.

In songs that use the A—A—B—A form, a common variation repeats the bridge after the third verse, followed by an additional verse (A—A—B—A—B—A). In these instances the second bridge is almost always the same as the first—melodically and lyrically. The last verse sometimes repeats the lyrics of the first verse, but not in all cases.

In some songs, the pre-chorus is repeated between the second and third choruses, serving the function of a bridge. Sam Hunt’s country hit “House Party” is a good example of this.

The A—A—B—A song form (with slight variations) was used in songs such as Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You” (written by Linda Creed and Michael Masser), Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” This song form seemed to be in a disproportionately large number of songs that became “standards.” But the popularity of this structure began waning in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It can be heard in 2015 Country Song of the Year GRAMMY-nominated song “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack and written by Hayes Carll.)
EDM (Electronic Dance Music) Structures

In pop, country, R&B, adult contemporary, and most other popular styles, the high point of the song is the chorus. But in EDM, the high point is “the drop” or “the dance break.” This section is typically instrumental, or mostly instrumental, with only the title or the hook line being sung.

The chorus—which has lyrics—comes before the drop, usually in the spot where other genres would have a pre-chorus. In EDM, the chorus’s function is to build into the dance break, which is the peak of the song.

While an EDM song might have 2 verses and choruses, in many instances, there is only one verse and chorus. It would be extremely rare for a song in this genre to have a bridge.
Current Trends

David Penn, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hit Songs Deconstructed, is an expert regarding the latest trends in pop songs. His website www.hitsongsdeconstructed.com provides intensive analyses of virtually every aspect of the songs that comprise Billboard’s top-10 Hot 100 songs.

When asked what trends he is currently observing in the structures of hits, Penn stated, “One of the most pronounced trend shifts that we’ve observed during the last few quarters is that songs are getting to the chorus/payoff much faster. For example, the percentage of songs that feature the chorus BEFORE the verse reached its highest level in years, skyrocketing from just 25% of songs in the first quarter of 2015, up to 42% of songs in Q2, and remained close to the same in Q3.”

A prime example of a recent hit that started with a chorus is Justin Bieber’s #1, “What Do You Mean” (written by Bieber, Jason Boyd, and Mason Levy). The song uses a B-A-B-A-B form (chorus – verse – chorus – verse – chorus), with each verse including a pre-chorus.

“During the first three quarters of 2015, a total of 21 disparate forms were utilized when crafting the 43 songs that appeared in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. The ABABCB form continues to be the most popular, and the BABABCB form follows as the second most popular.” (David Penn, Hit Songs Deconstructed)

Penn continued, “It’s interesting to note that the popularity of the ABABCB form rose to hits HIGHEST level in years in Q1 (60% of songs), followed by dropping to its second LOWEST level in years in Q2, where it accounted for just 26% of songs, and remained almost the same in Q3. This was due in part to the number of forms in the top 10 doubling from 8 to 16 from Q1 to Q3.

The popularity of intros, pre-choruses, and instrumental breaks rose to their highest level in over a year in Q3. Bridges, however, fell to their lowest, being replaced by other sections such as an instrumental break or a changed up pre-chorus to provide a pronounced departure relative to other sections in a song. These are just a few of the many trend shifts that we’ve been observing at Hit Songs Deconstructed.

Aside from the ABABCB and BABABCB forms, most of the other forms in Billboard’s top-10 Hot 100 Songs during the first three quarters of 2015 were found in just one or a couple of songs each quarter. So, the trend is to draw from a wider variety of song forms than have been used in the past.”
Trends in Country Music Song Structures

A review of the 2015 Country Song of the Year GRAMMY nominees revealed that each of the five nominated songs used a different song structure.

    “Chances Are” (recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Hayes Carll) is V-V-B-V
    “Diamond Rings and Old Bar Stools” (recorded by Tim McGraw, written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton) is V-C-V-C-C
    “Girl Crush,” which was also GRAMMY-nominated for overall Song of the Year, (recorded by Little Big Town, written by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, and Hillary Lindsey) is V-C-V-C, ending with a reprise of the beginning of the first verse
    “Hold My Hand” (recorded by Brandy Clark, written by Clark and Mark Stephen Jones) is V-V-C-B-C
    “Traveller” (recorded and written by Chris Stapleton) is V-C-V-C-B-C

A look at Billboard’s top-10 Hot Country Songs of 2015 showed that writers of hit country songs are exploring a variety of song structures.

    “Take Your Time” (recorded by Sam Hunt, written by Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osbourne) is V-C-V-C-B-C, with the final chorus featuring a change in the lyric, and what might be considered a post-chorus.
    “Girl Crush” (listed above)
    “House Party” (recorded by Sam Hunt, written by Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell, and Jerry Flowers) is V-C-V-C-C, including a pre-chorus and a post-chorus. A repeat of the pre-chorus following the second chorus serves the function of a bridge.
    “Kick the Dust Up” (recorded by Luke Bryan, written by Dallas Davidson, Chris DeStefano, and Ashley Gorley) is V-C-V-C-B-C, including a pre-chorus and a post-chorus.
    “Crash and Burn” (recorded by Thomas Rhett, written by Jesse Frasure and Chris Stapeton) is V-C-V-C-C with what could be described as a post-chorus after the second chorus.
    “Sangria” (recorded by Blake Shelton, written by J.T. Harding, Josh Osborne, and Trevor Rosen) is V-C-V-C-B-C-B.
    “Homegrown” (recorded by the Zac Brown Band, written by Zac Brown, Niko Moon, and Wyatt Durrette) is V-C-V-C-C-B-C, with a post chorus after the second chorus.
    “Buy Me a Boat” (recorded by Chris Janson, written by Chris Janson and Chris DuBois) is V-C-V-C-B-C.
    “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (recorded by Keith Urban, written by Shane McAnally, Ross Copperman, Josh Osbourne) is V-C-V-C-B-C-C, with a post-chorus following the final chorus.
    Like a Wrecking Ball (recorded by Eric Church, written by Eric Church and Casey Beathard) is V-C-V-C-B-C, with pre-choruses. The bridge is instrumental.

The classification of whether a section constitutes a bridge, a pre-chorus, or a post-chorus is subjective, and in some instances, is not clear-cut. It is interesting to note that of the fourteen songs that comprise the 2015 Country Song of the Year nominees and Billboard’s top-10 Hot Country Songs of 2015, six had structures that were not found in any of the other songs, while five of them used the V-C-V-C-B-C (A-B-A-B-C-B) and three were V-C-V-C-C (A-B-A-B-B).

While popular songs still rely on the building blocks of verses, choruses, bridges, and pre-choruses, recent hits have included more variations in the way those elements were put together, and post-choruses have become increasingly popular.

Songwriters have been exploring new song forms and variations—and if the music charts and GRAMMY nominations are any indication, listeners have been embracing the new structures.

[Reprinted by permission from BMI]

Jason Blume is the author of This Business of Songwriting and 6 Steps to Songwriting Success (Billboard Books). His songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. One of only a few writers to ever have singles on the pop, country, and R&B charts, all at the same time—his songs have been recorded by artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse McCartney, and country stars including Collin Raye (6 cuts), the Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Azar, and John Berry (“Change My Mind,” a top 5 single that earned a BMI “Million-Aire” Award for garnering more than one million airplays). Jason’s song “Can’t Take Back the Bullet” is on Hey Violet’s new EP that debuted in the top-10 in twenty-two countries and reached #1 throughout Scandinavia and Asia. He’s had three top-10 singles in the past two years and a “Gold” record in Europe by Dutch star, BYentl, including a #1 on the Dutch R&B iTunes chart.

Jason’s songs have been included in films and TV shows including “Scrubs,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Assassination Games,” Disney’s “Kim Possible” “Dangerous Minds,” “Kickin’ it Old Skool,” “The Guiding Light,” “The Miss America Pageant,” and many more.  Jason is in his nineteenth year of teaching the BMI Nashville Songwriters workshops. A regular contributor to BMI’s MusicWorld magazine, he presented a master class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and teaches songwriting throughout the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, the U.K., Canada, Bermuda, and Jamaica.

After twelve years as a staff-writer for Zomba Music, Blume now runs Moondream Music Group. For additional information about Jason’s latest books, online classes, instructional audio CDs, and workshops visit www.jasonblume.com.


To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, song structure, demo recording, writing hit songs, Honing Your Craft

Record Producer & The Music Artist

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 @07:00 AM

Record Producer & The Music Artist
by Jamie Hill

Jamie Hill is an independent record producer: he talks about artist-producer communication
VU-Meter-iPhone

Being clear on who you are as an artist

When I’m considering working with a new artist, I generally suggest that we do one song together first to see whether the relationship works. So in this spirit, last month I had a singer-songwriter come by the house. There was something in this woman’s writing and voice that really resonated with me, and that I thought I could contribute something positive to.

She came over and played me a bunch of songs, and we picked one to start with. What I typically do next is to demo up some production ideas in the computer, to get the conversation started. But before that, it’s important for me to get a sense of what the artist is hearing in their head production-wise. Especially when an artist has started a song with just an acoustic guitar, it could go in any one of a dozen directions.

So I had her play me some inspiration tracks in Spotify. I had been hearing a Beth Orton sort of thing for her material; she played me Meiko and Lucy Rose. Which, if you think about it, are pretty compatible vision-wise with my Beth Orton idea: a tightly produced balance of acoustic instruments, electronic instruments, and drum programming.

So based on that, I got started on a production template. I did an acoustic drum kit and upright bass in the verses, and then brought in some drum machines and synth bass to make a dark scene change into the choruses. Then I had the artist over to start fleshing it out.

And she hated it. Hated it! She had a viscerally negative reaction, specifically to the drum machines and synthesizers. Which, of course, were directly cued from her inspiration tracks. So I probed on that point, asking whether it was the parts the electronic instruments were doing, or perhaps the sounds I’d chosen. But no, it was the very fact of their existence. “My sound is folky-jazzy,” she said by way of explanation.

Huh.

I have two thoughts here. The first one is that this artist did exactly the right thing, in that moment. If you’re an artist, and you’re working with a producer, you have to be your own best advocate. If something is happening that isn’t resonating with your vision of who you are, then it’s critically important that you speak up. Only through your fastidious curation will you end up with a record that’s the best possible representation of who you are.

My second thought is that this artist could probably have communicated way better with her inspiration tracks, which turned out to be highly misleading. It turned out that what she liked about those tracks was that the acoustic guitar was front and center, and that both singers were husky altos like her. Which is a very different story than the one I’d been ostensibly presented with, given that I specifically had asked to hear songs whose production and sound she found inspiring.

Collaboration is challenging, and fraught with the potential for misunderstanding. Therefore it’s extra important to be as clear as possible with your communication as you enter into a new creative relationship. Get your expectations and hopes clear with yourself before bringing them to someone else, communicate them unambiguously, and you’ll get started off on the right foot.


[by permission of Jamie Hill & Pyragraph.com]
Jamie Hill is an independent record producer, music engineer, and author. He works across a variety of genres, mostly in the independent and alternative music spaces, with bands such as ArnoCorps, Shannon Curtis, and many more. He has had chart success internationally with Swedish indie-pop favorite Jens Lekman, whose record An Argument With Myself debuted in the Billboard Heatseekers Top 10 in multiple countries. 

  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, music artist, song demo, demo recording, Record Producer

Singer-Songwriter Glenn Frey Dies At 67, Sending Shockwaves Throughout the Music World

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @03:01 PM

Singer-Songwriter Glenn Frey Dies At 67, Sending Shockwaves Throughout the music world

GlennFrey
The music world has lost a legend: Glenn Frey, 67, a co-founding member and guitarist of The Eagles, died on Monday in New York City of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, sending shockwaves through the music world.

The Eagles had been scheduled to be part of last month's Kennedy Center Honor ceremony (December 6th) along with singer-songwriter Carole King. However with Glenn Frey’s health problems last month, it forces Eagles to defer their Kennedy Center Honor until this year in 2016. Frey has had a recurrence of “previous intestinal issues last month, which will require major surgery and a lengthy recovery period." Those  issues date back to the 1980s, when Frey spoke about the damage he believed he had done to his body during the band’s heyday, when drugs and alcohol flowed freely. In 1986, he missed a reunion with his longtime bandmate Don Henley – the band had broken up for the first time in 1980 – at a benefit concert in California because of an intestinal disorder. An attempt to reform the Eagles in 1990 was put off, in part, because of surgery to remove a large part of Frey’s intestine. And in 1994, their “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour was interupted by Frey’s bout with diverticulitis. It resumed the following year.

With five number-one singles, six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and six number one albums, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. At the end of the 20th century, two of their albums, Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and Hotel California (Sold more than 32 million copies worldwide), were ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the United States according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Hotel California is ranked 37th in Rolling Stone '​s list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and the band was ranked number 75 on the magazine's 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Eagles are one of the world's best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 150 million records.

Frey is credited with co-writing many of The Eagles' best-known songs, including "Hotel California," "Heartache Tonight". "New Kid in Town", "Best of My Love" and "One Of These Nights", all hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts for the band. "Hotel California" has been a staple for all cover bands all over the world, the guitar solo is known as one of the best guitar solos of all time, by Guitar World magazine.

The group's first best-of collection, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, is among the best-selling albums of all time, having sold more than 26 million copies. It was the first album to be certified platinum (1 million sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America, which introduced that classification in 1976. They released four consecutive No. 1 albums between 1975 and 1979. ... They sold more albums in the '70s than any other American band. Moreover, though the band was inactive in the Eighties, their back catalog steadily sold 1.5 million copies a year."

The Eagles, founded in 1971 in Los Angeles, is one of the best-selling American rock bands of all time, notes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted The Eagles in 1998.


Glenn Frey has written (or co-written) a staggering 22 songs that have hit Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, including songs that are a staple of Classic Rock Radio stations all over the world:

Hotel California (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Heartache Tonight {#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

New Kid in Town (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Best of My Love (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

One of These Nights (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Lyin' Eyes (#2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

The Heat Is On (Solo hit, #2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

You Belong to the City (Solo hit, #2 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Take It to the Limit (#4 on the Billboard Hot 100)

The Long Run (#8 on the Billboard Hot 100)

I Can't Tell You Why (#8 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Life in the Fast Lane (#11 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Take It Easy (#12 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Smuggler's Blues (Solo hit, #12 on the Billboard Hot 100)

True Love (Solo hit, #13 on the Billboard Hot 100)

The One You Love (Solo hit, #15 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Sexy Girl (Solo hit, #20 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Seven Bridges Road (#21 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Peaceful Loving Feeling (#22 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Get Over It (#31 on the Billboard Hot 100)

I Found Somebody (Solo hit, #31 on the Billboard Hot 100)

Already Gone (#32 on the Billboard Hot 100)

  
  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, Hits, The Eagles, Co-Writing Songs, Glenn Frey, Hotel California

Are you making any of these mistakes in Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @07:00 AM

Are you making any of these mistakes in Co-Writing Songs? A “Split Sheet” Just Isn’t Enough
by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq., The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

SongwritersWritingSongs
When a band enters the recording studio they typically sign a "split sheet," a document which specifies each person's contributions and ownership percentage on a given track. This often isn't a sufficiently detailed agreement however, and artists should make an effort to take further legal precautions in order to avoid issues down the road.


For some unexplained reason, frequently when artists go into the recording studio to work on a track together, they typically sign a “split sheet” and think it suffices.  In reality, the traditional songwriter “split sheet” could merely be used as a stop-gap measure that is meant to ensure all parties are on the same page and understand what was contributed to the song by each party. Ultimately, songwriters should enter into a more elaborate and complete agreement to ensure the song can be properly used.

A “songwriter split sheet,” or “split sheet” for short, is a form that is signed by all the parties involved and lists each producer and songwriter. Each party’s contributions and ownership percentage of a particular musical composition are detailed. A typical “split sheet” should also include additional information about the parties, including each person’s physical mailing address, performance rights organization information (in the U.S., ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), publishing company information (if there is one), birthdate and Social Security and EIN number.

songwriter-split-sheet

This document may seem to be comprehensive enough to cover the parties involved as it lists each party’s specific contribution (i.e. lyrics, beats, melody, etc.) and the corresponding percentage that each party owns of the final piece; however, it does not specifically address numerous important issues that could make or break a tune and severely inhibit its commercial value.

Generally under U.S. Copyright Law, if no agreement exists between the contributors to a particular copyrighted work, the assumption is that all of the contributors are considered joint-authors and own an undivided equal share of the song. This permits each owner to issue third-party licenses without the approval or consulting of any other owner as long as they account for any profits they made to the remaining owners.  While this may be acceptable in situations where the actual work was equal among the contributors; it is not always the case, and could cause some serious issues if the composers do not understand this point.  For example, if members of a band create compositions, sign a split sheet and then break up; each individual from the group can record and release the same material, merely subject to an accounting and payment.  This is frequently thought of as a nightmare situation.  Therefore, the right to issue or enter into third-party licenses for the finished material should be agreed upon in a more formal contract. This is an important point that a typical “split sheet” does not address at all.

Additionally, a standard “split sheet” does not speak about many ancillary and important elements to a song’s commercial value.  This includes any right of publicity matters, such as utilizing a particular producer, artist or songwriters’ name in connection with the publicity and marketing of a finished work. Other important matters to address include the right to request a proper accounting from the other parties, the right to audit and inspect a particular co-owner’s business records and the right to recover (i.e., recoup) certain documented expenses (i.e. recording, engineering, mixing, mastering costs, etc.). The agreement should also address the right to proper attribution or credit on the finished work.

Furthermore, the traditional “split sheet” does not mention any warranties or indemnifications by any of the parties to each other. Without these warranties, each party could be liable for any potential unauthorized sampling, lack of appropriate rights clearance or any other unauthorized or infringing uses in the finished work by each party. A “split sheet” also does not discuss the party’s right to approve any finished work or the right to approve any marketing or promotional campaigns and budgets for the track.  Finally, it does not address which state law to apply to a particular situation and does not specify where any disputes or claims would be adjudicated.

Clearly, the traditional sentiment and reliance on the outdated and minimal “split sheet” should be disregarded and all the contributors should enter into more formal and elaborate agreements. This is necessary to ensure all the important issues are addressed and that each party is properly protected and aware of their rights and interest in the finished work.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted when drafting any formal agreement.

 

[Article used by permission by Justin Jacobson]

Justin M. Jacobson has helped bring in numerous new high-profile clients, including Celebrity DJ/Producer Joshua “Zeke” Thomas and his Gorilla Records label; international live art competition, ArtBattles; G-Unit Records recording artist, Precious Paris; former NY Jet Donald Strickland; Warner-Chappell producer, J-Dens; celebrity jewelry designer, Laurel DeWitt; and BMI Latin award-winning producer, Carlos Escalona. He also spoke at Cardozo School of Law as part of “Beyond The Billboard: Advertising Law in the Fashion Industry” presented by their SELSA & IPLS Fashion Law Committees. He is a lawyer at The Jacobson Firm, P.C.:
http://www.thejacobsonfirmpc.com/
  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Recording, song demo, demo recording, songwriter split sheet, Co-Writing Songs, Split Sheet

Pictures and the Physical Plane

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @07:00 AM

PICTURES AND THE PHYSICAL PLANE

Antarctica-edit.jpg

by Harriet Schock

Whether it’s a song, a speech, a story or a novel, you have to use pictures. This is what we’re taught, this is what we observe, this is what we know to be true. When you hear a speech, you remember the examples the speaker gives to make his point. You remember the pictures. Everything’s a movie. Songs are just short movies.

But have you ever asked yourself why it’s so important to use pictures? Why can’t people communicate in abstract ideas? Why is the impression not as lasting and the message not as clear?

I think it’s because, as human beings, we are part matter and part non-matter. The material parts of us, the body and body-oriented mind, crave visual impressions, tactile sensation and other sensory input. We like to eat and look and smell and taste because we have bodies. But we also seek meaning because we are more than bodies. This cohabitation of physical and ethereal is who we are. So in art, we seek both the concrete and the abstract. Maybe the message is abstract, but we crave for it to be delivered in a concrete way, with the senses involved.

When I was studying John Donne’s poetry in college, one of the most fascinating concepts to me was the actual definition of Platonic love. It was misconstrued to mean love without sex. But I was taught its actual meaning was one of sex where the bodies were engaged but the souls were also. I think the best songs are those that pay due homage to the senses, but also deliver a message with meaning beyond the physical. In “The Song Remembers When,” by Hugh Prestwood, for instance, every verse describes a scene we can see, from the check-out counter when the song comes on, to driving through the Rockies, etc. But beyond and within the pictures, there are messages that contain irrefutable human truths. Among them are the following: 1) when we love with innocence and optimism, we never really forget that love, we can only suppress the memories, and 2) music will bring back a memory against all will to the contrary. Prestwood couches irony and regret in these symbolic terms: “But that’s just a lot of water underneath a bridge I burned...” It calls up the pictures, but they take on a deeper dimension through the twisted cliches being linked together in an original manner.

We’ve been talking about lyrics, but music is one of the elements in art which speaks directly to our true nature, which is not physical. Melody and harmony can communicate straight to the spirit. Maybe that’s why for certain audiences, who seek to deny the non-physical, volume and drums are extremely important. It’s hard to get music to appeal on a physical level without them. Yes, music goes in through the ears, but it affects us on a level which is simply not “of this world.”

This physical and spiritual dichotomy/co-existence shows up in many areas of the music field, not only in writing. In fact, it occurred to me the other day why we’re having so much trouble explaining to people what an intellectual property is and that stealing a song by downloading it is just as criminal as stealing a book from Barnes and Noble. They think if it’s a song and it’s on the radio or the Internet, it’s just air. It doesn’t have “physical properties” so it doesn’t really exist for these people. It’s a level of awareness that suggests “asleepness,” but many people are, for the most part, asleep. In their unawareness, they believe what they can touch and feel and see is all that exists. And yet they are moved by the more ethereal component of life. They will fall in love with a personality and swear it’s a body they love. They will take hours arguing against the existence of any spirituality insisting that all prescience is coincidence. They’re not necessarily from Missouri, but “show me” is their motto. And the proof had better be physical.

Is this person your target audience? If so, then you’d be well advised to involve the senses in your lyrics. When you have the choice to be sensual or not, be sensual. If you have any other message, “lay it between the lines,” as Peter Paul & Mary said in “I Dig Rock & Roll Music,” because these listeners don’t want to be bothered and will miss the deeper layers anyway. Even if your target audience is awake and aware, use pictures with them also. Lead your audience to the story you want to tell by using sensory images. They’re simply more lasting. They’re also very forgiving. There are artists who are pretty unfathomable, but they use enough pictures that they get away with murder in the area of communication.

In Texas during my mother’s era, there used to be an expression, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” This was not advice to surgeons. It was advice to women. Feed the man first. The same goes for songwriters. Feed your audience pictures. Listeners eat them up. But then give them something to digest, something for the heart that involves them, lifts them, inspires them, moves them as people, not just people with bodies.

After all, we have a very powerful weapon in our hands: a song. We might as well use it with some degree of responsibility.

 

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

  

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

   

  

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Harriet Schock, pictures

Secrets about Songwriters Block I wish I'd discovered decades sooner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 @07:00 AM

Secrets about Songwriters Block I wish I'd discovered decades sooner

by Gary Ewer

Songwriters Block

Creativity comes from divergent thinking, and the stresses of work and family life can cause it to disappear and leave you with the dreaded songwriter’s block.

Adapted and excerpted from Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-start Your Words and Music (Backbeat Books). Reprinted with permission.

When did you know you were a songwriter? You may have come to it as an adult, but more than likely the seeds were sown when you were a young teenager, maybe even younger. Perhaps it was while learning those first few chords on your new guitar. Or maybe you started conjuring up musical ideas while trying to stave off boredom, practicing for your piano lessons.

Whenever it was, at some point you came to a realization that the ability to create music was within you. And you realized something else: writing music gave you a pleasure that simply playing it could not. You experienced a deep sense of satisfaction and pride every time you completed a song.

As this young musician, you suddenly found a new and exciting way to express yourself, and it was satisfying. Your developing musical mind allowed you to realize that certain sounds, chords and melodic shapes held meaning for you. As your songwriting abilities matured and improved, you found courage to express your musical abilities to others. You started feeling confident to allow others to listen to your songs at high school variety shows, local cafés, and songwriters circles. And this exposed you to the work of other songwriters, which led to changes and a further maturing of your writing style. You found yourself able to take chances, and to express yourself in new and innovative ways.

 

Divergent thinking

In psychology, the ability to think creatively is a product of “divergent thinking.” That’s a term that refers to one’s knack for exploring several possible ideas or answers in the processing of information. As we know, thinking creatively often means thinking, saying, doing, and writing things that are unexpected. Certainly to be a songwriter requires it.

Research shows that creative thinking can be significantly damaged by many aspects of what it means to live in today’s busy world: physical and mental exhaustion, the lack of structure in daily scheduling, and excessive drug and/or alcohol use.

The inability to compose songs should not be automatically interpreted as songwriter’s block. Being distracted by family duties, having an oppressive work or school schedule, or worrying about aspects of one’s health are all issues that can keep musicians from being creative.

When we cannot compose because of those types of problems, the dilemma should not be seen as a kind of songwriter’s block, but rather as the direct result of a mental distraction. One could say that once all distractions are resolved, writer’s block is what remains if you cannot write.

It’s normal for anyone involved in the creative arts to have moments during the writing process when they feel stuck, unable to create new ideas. When these moments keep them struggling for a few hours, even a day or two, we would simply say that it’s a normal struggle that happens anytime someone tries to be creative. Most people know this, but when it happens it can be immediately worrisome.

To use an analogy, a day without rain does not mean drought. If, however, that day or two becomes several, or stretches into weeks or months, it is most certainly a drought, and – as with songwriter’s block – it is an issue of severity. Here is a list of feelings and experiences that people with writer’s block suffer, many or all of which you are probably encountering right now:

  • You feel almost totally uninspired.
  • You can’t seem to generate musical ideas that could lead to a finished song.
  • Negative comments from others about your music have caused you to fear writing.
  • Positive comments from others about your music make you worry that you’ll let your audience and supporters down.
  • Rather than stimulating your creative mind and generating excitement, the success of other songwriters saps your confidence.
  • Your own songs sound boring to you.
  • Your last few songs all sound the same.

As you can see, writer’s block is a sapping of a songwriter’s creative abilities and inspiration, made worse by an overwhelming sense of fear.

 

You’re not alone

The term “writer’s block” is, of course, not exclusive to the world of musical composition. All those who create for a living – novelists, columnists, choreographers, playwrights, even visual artists – are painfully familiar with the dreaded term. Almost anyone who must create a work of art, who must generate something original from their brain, knows the sinking feeling of staring at a blank piece of paper with their mind going similarly blank.

If you’re like most songwriters, there will be times when giving the bathroom a good scrub feels more appealing than sitting down to write. So when creative ideas evaporate, and your musical imagination has all but disappeared, what’s going on?

For authors, writer’s block is a well-studied, highly scrutinized phenomenon in the fields of medical research and psychology; in short, very much written about by people with lots of letters after their names. Not so much in the music world, however.

Though research in the specific field of songwriter’s block is a bit thin, research on the concept of creativity is, thankfully, more abundant. Understanding writer’s block, whether talking about an author attempting to finish a novel or a composer trying to finish a song, requires an understanding of the concept of creativity.

Researchers know that the ability to think creatively is part of being human, and has little to do with background or personality. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of what it means to be creative comes from Teresa Amabile, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and a researcher in the field of creativity, who depicts it with three intersecting circles representing three different elements: expertise (knowledge), motivation, and creative-thinking skills.

As a songwriter, the “expertise” part of that formula is easy to grasp: it is the understanding of the basic mechanics of how music works. Motivation is the enthusiasm you feel for songwriting as a personal activity. But it’s that third component, the “creative-thinking skills,” that is the trickiest one to delineate.

Keep in mind that Amabile is writing with her business school hat on, addressing managers of businesses and organizations, not songwriters. Nonetheless, her definition, “Creative-thinking skills determine how flexibly and imaginatively people approach problems,” makes one thing clear: creative-thinking skills will not be something that can be easily quantified. And if we cannot quantify them, that makes an accurate understanding of what it means to be creative a bit sticky as well.

Home-remedies – these “here’s-what-I-tried” kind of solutions, might not satisfy you. Perhaps you need better solutions, ones supported by research, and ones that can, if possible, represent a more permanent cure. If you really want songwriting to return you to that feeling of joy you once experienced, a solution needs to accomplish two things:

1) cure the block you’re experiencing today; and

2) teach you strategies that will make the more debilitating forms of writer’s block a thing of the past – permanently. It’s no good curing songwriter’s block if you sense that it could return again at any time.

A quick and permanent solution should be the aim and desire of every songwriter.

 

Pro tip

Discouraged, and can’t seem to get back in a good place, psychologically? Research has shown that the simple act of remembering the good times can have a positive effect on your mood, and may be all you need to return you to a positive frame of mind. Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D, suggests something unique for doing this: when you’re feeling great, write a letter to your discouraged self as if you’re a supportive friend helping someone through a tough time.

Tell yourself that you know what it’s like to feel discouraged with your songwriting. And most importantly, remind yourself that the current songwriting drought has been solvable before, and will be solvable again. Then seal the letter and put it away. When the time comes that you feel the grip of songwriter’s block, take the letter out and read it. It will feel like a vote of confidence and encouragement that will quite possibly get you back on the right track.

 

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

 

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

   

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Songwriting, writers block, songwriters block