Songwriting Tips, News & More

USA Songwriting Competition Partners with Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, May 19, 2015 @06:46 PM

GINGER BAKER and DAVID CROSBY COMING TO ROCK AND ROLL FANTASY CAMP

 David Crosby, hit songwriterGinger Baker, legendary drummer from Cream

Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp returns to Los Angeles, Nov. 5-8, 2015

Campers to perform at WHISKY A GO GO

  

ATTN ALL SINGER-SONGWRITERS AND MUSICIANS:

THIS FANTASY CAMP IS FOR YOU!

Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp is proud and excited to announce our November 2015 camp featuring two world-renowned artists that shaped and influenced the world of rock and roll as we know it: GINGER BAKER of CREAM and DAVID CROSBY of CROSBY STILLS AND NASH! 

I'm looking forward to seeing you all in November folks! Don't forget; it's not how you play, but what you say!” says Ginger. 

How close have you come to your Rock and Roll Fantasy? Maybe you stood in line to get a record album signed or maybe you were close enough to the stage to reach out and just touch an artist’s fingers as he or she ran by.

But your REAL Rock and Roll Fantasy is jamming onstage, learning songwriting tips, etc with true legends in the world of rock music, isn’t it? Or sitting in the same room with a rock pioneer and asking the questions you’ve always wanted answered. Actually spending time with genuine rock stars that have inspired countless musicians for decades.

Our Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in Los Angeles November 5-8, 2015, offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to jam and learn from with these two legendary artists.   This is face-to-face and standing on stage with music pioneers that have been part of some of rocks’ most incredible lineups and iconic concert events in history.

Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp offers a non-competitive environment that is open to all levels of musician and music enthusiasts” says producer David Fishof.

Legendary singer-songwriter and social justice activist David Crosby is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, inducted as a member of both the widely innovative folk-rock band The Byrds — with whom he first rose to stardom — and the Woodstock era-defining group Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Crosby played at some of rock’s most culturally significant concerts, including the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and the Altamont Free Concert. He is also one of rock’s most prolific collaborators, recording and playing with Bob Dylan, members of the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and others.

An immense talent and a true rock and roll survivor, Crosby has lived through more music history than most people even know.

Cream, Blind Faith, Airforce, Masters of Reality are just some of the influential bands put together by superstar percussionist, Ginger Baker. 

During his musical beginnings on the London Jazz scene of the late 1950s, Peter ‘Ginger’ Baker forged a name for himself for his unconventional drum setup and flamboyant style. In 1966, after seeing Eric Clapton play in London, he formed the power trio Cream with Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce. The rest is rock and roll history!

The recent documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” paints a colorful picture of Ginger Baker, but this 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee known as “Rock’s first superstar drummer” is definitely excited to be part of November’s camp.

Alongside these musical pioneers, will be our rock star counselors hailing from some of the greatest rock bands of all time… Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Bruce Kulick (KISS), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Whitesnake), Ty Dennis (Krieger-Manzarek Band), Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot) plus many more…

This amazing opportunity to spend time with two of rock’s most prolific and successful artists puts you amongst the best there has ever been!  Whether you’re a seasoned musician, a beginner, or have long held on to the dream of being in a rock band, Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp will bring your rock and roll dreams to reality…no experience necessary….

 

ABOUT ROCK AND ROLL FANTASY CAMP

For our campers, this is a life changing experience. Some of the campers play well and even gave up careers as musicians to become CEOs and lawyers. Some campers can’t play at all. What they all have in common is passion for rock music. At Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp they all get to pursue their passion – and meet, and play with the artists who became the soundtrack of their lives. It has been a fantastic experience for all of us who have been able to witness it for the past nineteen years.

David Fishof is the founder and creator of the famed Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp where rock dreams become reality. The idea came to him after years of producing rock tours throughout the word. He's been honored to work with veteran rockers, Roger Daltrey, Ringo Starr, Levon Helm, Joe Walsh, Roger Hodgson, Todd Rundgren, Jack Bruce, Dr. John, Joe Perry, and so many more. He feels fortunate to have seen their talent first hand. David's desire to share this experience with you, gave him the inspiration to produce the one-of- a-kind, Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.

Past rock star camp headliners have included Jeff Beck, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Roger Daltrey (The Who), Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Gene Simmons (KISS), Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule), Dave Davies (The Kinks), Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones), Slash, Bret Michaels (Poison), Cheap Trick, Dr. John, George Thorogood, Jack Bruce (Cream), Joe Satriani, Joe Walsh, Meatloaf, Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Duff McKagan , (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Michael Anthony (Van Halen), among others.  Go to www.rockcamp.com or call 888-762-BAND to sign up or for more information.

Tags: hit songwriter, Rock n roll fantasy camp, David Crosby, Ginger Baker

Songwriting Tip: Your Best Bet for a #1 Song (Revised)

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 @01:48 PM

Your Best Bet for a #1 Song

by Ralph Murphy

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter

For a small business owner such as a songwriter/publisher, knowing the market is vital. Budgeting for success means looking at income (when it decides to come in!) and making informed decisions about how to spend it most effectively. Up near the top of the list of expenditures (almost right next to eating) are demo costs. The financial outlay for demonstration recordings has risen to $750 - $1,000 per song. So, if you write 30 songs a year and only have $10,000 in your demo budget, you're going to have to make some hard choices.

The Truth About Dogs and Chickens

Let's say you've written this song about a Chicken. You love it! Your mom loves it! The special person in your life loves it! However . . Radio is only playing Dog songs. Fortunately, you've also written four Dog songs, which everybody loves. Your dilemma? You only have enough money to produce a three-song demo, but you have five songs (four Dog songs and one Chicken song). What do you do? Now, unfortunately, I have suitcases full of demoed Chicken songs, so I know what the songwriter side of me says; however, I noticed early on in life that food is a good thing and that eating makes me happy. So, while grumbling and complaining about how radio should be playing more Chicken songs, I demo three of my four Dog songs so I can continue to support my nasty food habit! In the frustrating war between art and commerce, commerce wins.

Let's be honest. Though it shouldn't, radio drives the "commercial" aspect of the songwriting process. (Did I already mention that I like to eat?) It affects just about every decision we make creatively. In the year of 2013, country radio did something seismic in nature, which impacted songwriters and publishers dramatically. As an experiment to maintain listenership, Country radio decided to slow the progress of records going up and down the charts in hopes of breeding the kind of familiarity that keeps listeners coming back for more - commercials, that is.

As a result, I became curious and decided to try an experiment of my own. I started by researching the Billboard Country chart for 2013 and found that a total of 11 songs reached #1. Taking a closer look, I began to wonder: what type of song is reaching the top in this brave new world of radio? A world in which, though yet another ripple effect of deregulation, big radio chains have been allowed to buy up and homogenize most of the "mom and pop" country stations resulting in:

#1 BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY SONGS/COUNTRY AIRPLAY SONGS

BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY SONGS
There were 11 that went to number 1 on this chart which uses a combination on sales and radio airplay to determine number 1

TEMPO
When you look at tempo you find that only 3 of them were above 100 BPMs (beats per minute) and the fastest was only 106 BPM. Of the 8 that were under 100 BPMs, They spent 39 weeks at #1. So, you can deduce that they were all aimed at radio.

Billboard Country Airplay Songs (Only airplay used)
By contrast, there were 30 #1s. Only 5 of them were above 100BPMs. Only 1 at 120 BPMs at dance speed. Of the 25 that were under 100 BPMs, they spent a total of 46 weeks at #1, the lion’s share.

GENDER
BILLBOARD HOT CONTRY SONGS
Women were only featured as artists on 3 records and there was only one female solo artist to go to #1.....and that was of course Taylor Swift.
Songwriters were 28 male and 4 female.

BILLBOARD COUNTRY AIRPLAY SONG
There was not one solo female artist to have a number one record the the Billboard Country Airplay Charts and the writers were disproportionate as well, with 8 females writing on a #1 and 55 males writing on a #1 (Rodney Clawson had 5, Ashley Gorley had 4 and Chris Tompkins had 4 as well)

ARTIST INVOLVEMENT
BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY SONGS
The artists contributed to 50% of these records about 5 of the 11 Billboard Country Airplay Songs. 11 of the number one had the artist writing on it, about 1/3.

INTROS
BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY SONGS
Intros......For 8 of the 11 There was an average 11 second intro. 3 records had zero start....not particularly radio friendly.

BILLBOARD COUNTRY AIRPLAY SONGS
There were no zero starts! The average was 15.9 seconds...The longest was "Boys Round Here" with 31 seconds. The shortest was "Drunk Last Night" with 6 seconds.

PRONOUNS
BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY
First use of the pronoun "You". All used the pronoun ""You" and the average was 19.5 seconds

BILLBOARD COUNTRY AIRPLAY
4 recorded songs that reached #1 didn’t use the pronoun ""You"
“Round Here” by Florida/Georgia Line,
Caroline- Parmalee
Zac Brown Goodbye In Her Eyes
Little Bit Of Eeverything
And Keith Urban
So, 26 did use the pronoun ""You" and used it within 34 seconds..including the intro!

FIRST USE OF TITLE
BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY
First use of title occurred by, on average, 53 seconds including the intro

BILLBOARD COUNTRY AIRPLAY
All got to first use of the title within an average of 60 seconds, including intro.

ENDINGS
BILLBOARD HOT COUNTRY
All were dead ended

BILLBOARD COUNTRY AIRPLAY
There were only two fades

BEST BETS!
So, best bets for writing a country #1 in either chart?
1. Keep it under 100 BPMs.
2. If possible hang out with the artist.
Have an intro
Use the pronoun “you” to invite the listener in
And...get me to the title in 60 seconds or less!!

 

WHAT WAS A POP #1 HIT ON BILLBOARD MAGAZINE IN 2013?

There were 11 # 1 records in 2013.

--BEATS PER MINUTE (BPM):
Last year, only 5, less than 50% were over 100 B.P.M.
The previous year, 2012, 2/3 were over 100 B.P.M. which showed a bias toward Dance/EDM, as the record reflects the heart rate of the consumer. And...the heart rate is increasing. Three records were 140BPM's or more showing a gradual increase in the last decade in consumers’ heart rate.

So, this year the listener, as opposed to the dancer is accommodated. 6 #1s were under 100 BPMs and Miley Cyrus with her infamous song "Wrecking Ball" was actually "at rest", or around 60 BPM! .......coming to a radio near you!

GENDER:
--Women artists showed prominently in Pop as 5 records had solo (3) or had women Artists featured (2) out of the 11 number ones.

WRITERS:
However of the writers of the 2013 #1s, were again disproportionately male.
Male writers were represented 32 times on #1 songs. 5 women writers contributed to # 1 pop songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts.

~Artist/writers were present on 10 of the 11 number ones.

~When we look at intros, we find, as has been the case in Pop, the intros seem to be disposable.
7 of the 11 #1s had zero start and of the remaining 4 that had intros, they averaged 9 seconds. That’s very minimal, which means that they really weren’t designed for radio.

FIRST USE OF THE PRONOUN "YOU"
4 of the number ones were about "issues" or "stuff"
"Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (also the #1 Hit of the entire year of 2013), was about....Guess What?
"Harlem Shake" was a instrumental dance track (140 BPM)
"Can't Hold Us" again, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, although they invite you in....literally, with "Good to see you, Come on in..." The Track really is not about the listener.
And of course there was a hit "The Monster" by Eminem, featuring Rihanna
The rest of the records (7) invited the listener in by using the pronoun "you" on average, around the 23 second mark.

Also, the first use of title occurred in 6 of the 11 before the 1 minute mark, which is within the listener’s expectation.

FADE
There was only one record that faded in 2013 and that was "Blurred Lines". The others "deadended". That means that they were designed specifically to be "singles".

THE 2 MINUTE WALL
5 of the #1s got to either a bridge or a call and response or something significantly different before the 2.30 second mark.

Song length really was fairly limited to 3-4 minute area. The shortest was “Royals” by Lorde at 3.08 minutes and longest was "Blurred Lines" at 4.20 minutes, the rest fell in between the 3-4 minute region.

6 number ones used the 4th form. That structure seems to be structure "du jour". That structure took up 37 weeks. Of number one time, and the songs are more songs than just dance tracks like “Harlem Shake".

If you look at songs like “Royals”, ‘When I was Your Man”, “Wrecking Ball” and “Roar”, they are more identifiable with story songs than dance tracks.

Third form showed that it was alive and well as it posted "Locked out of Heaven" and "Thrift Shop". Third form really resonates with audiences and really works well with radio.

The only second form was "The Monster" by Eminem, featuring Rihanna.

WHAT TO LOOK AT
So if you are dealing in the hit pop "sticky song" market, you are looking at writing that song with the artist or adding their name to it afterward.
If it is a dance project, it’s going to be 140 BPMs or more (Happy 160)
If it is a regular number one, it’s under 100 BPMs to accommodate the listener.
The songs all reached the first use of the title within 60 seconds.

The bulk of them, all of the songs used the pronoun “you” on average 23 seconds from the start of the song. ….And, it’s probably going to be written in 4th form. Again, fulfilling listener’s expectations.

Your best shot

So, you have Dog songs and you have Chicken songs. Where do you spend your demo dollar?

Your best shot for getting a #1 record is to write:

mid- to up-tempo
romantic/humorous or sad/heartfelt theme
4/4 time
contemporary pop/country style
story or conversation
1st person or 2nd person
3rd form
linear melody with a story to a soaring chorus
13 second intro
So much for Chicken songs!

I would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Phil Goldberg and Chad Green indulging my "need to know" in helping research the above information. Most importantly, thank you, Mark Ford, for massaging and editing my lunatic fringe ramblings into a coherent form.

 (Revised and written by Ralph Murphy)

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter and expert, has been successful for five decades. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle's "Talking in Your Sleep" and "Half the Way". Consistently charting songs in an ever-changing musical environment makes him a member of that very small group of professionals who make a living ding what they love to do. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. Achieving "hit writer" status has always been a formidable goal for any songwriter. Never more so however than in the 21st century. Catching the ear of the monumentally distracted, fragmented listener has never been more difficult. Getting their attention, inviting them in to your song and keeping them there for long enough for your song to become "their song" requires more than being just a "good" songwriter.

*His new book Murphy's Laws of Songwriting "The Book" arms the songwriter for success by demystifying the process and opening the door to serious professional songwriting. Hall of fame songwriter Paul Williams said in his review of the book "If there was a hit songwriters secret handshake "Da Murphy" would probably have included it." To get the book, enter 3 or more songs at the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition and receive this exclusive book » 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit songwriter, songwrite, Ralph Murphy, Crystal Gayle, Sell Songs

Songwriting Tip: Obscurity vs Clarity

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 @11:03 AM

Obscurity vs Clarity

By Harriet Schock

Harriet Schock, Hit songwriter

I believe that there’s an invisible line that goes from the mouth of the singer to the ears and heart of the listener and if that line is broken by a lyric that makes no sense, the listener’s attention leaves.

Of course, there are many examples of songs that make no sense and have been hits, but when you cite these as examples, I would ask: 1) Was the melody and harmony so killer that people loved it in spite of the lack of clarity? 2) Was it sung by someone so famous that anything they put out will become a hit? 3) Was the audience chemically altered so that each song and bite was better than the one before, no matter what they were hearing or eating?

I have taught songwriting since 1986 and occasionally I’ll have a student who announces he wants to write an obscure song. And granted sometimes songs in films can be a bit generic so that the story takes place on the screen, not in the lyric. But even there the lyrics need to make sense.  I find that thetwo most common reasons for someone’s wanting to write an obscure, ambiguous lyric are: 1) His craft is limited and he thinks he’s being clear when he’s not or 2) He’s not willing for the real story to come out for personal reasons.

There’s a vast difference between writing on two levels and being ambiguous. I believe songs should make sense when you first hear them. Then upon second and third listening, deeper meaning can be discovered. Ambiguity generally leaves the listener wondering what you actually meant.

All of this has been about the lyric. But needless to say, the melody and harmony (chords) are vitally important. They are the wavelengths that carry the lyric along that invisible line I mentioned earlier. Obscurity breaks the line, but a weak melody completely dissolves it.

As performers we can tell when we have a strong melody, compelling harmony and a lyric that moves the listener. That’s when the audience is very quiet and attentive. Sometimes they cry, and we like that too.

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

For more information on the 19th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit songwriter, songwrite, Harriet Schock, Songwriters Tip, singer songwriter, top 40

Songwriting Tip: Easy Way to Write a New Song Lyric

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @09:30 AM

Easy Way to Write a New Song Lyric (Even if You’ve Got Writer’s Block)

“How, as a human being, does one face infinity? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums, through encyclopedias and dictionaries…” –Umberto Eco

The fastest and easiest way to write a new song lyric is to begin making a list.

You're no stranger to list-making. Lists help you remember what to buy at the grocery store. They track things you need to do today. Bucket lists store famous places you want to see, people you want to meet, life experiences you want to have before you die.

In short: lists help us make sense of a chaotic world. They help us plan, prepare, and organize our lives. But even aside from all their practical uses, lists can also be entertaining and beautiful in their own right.

“Apples and quinces,

Lemons and oranges,

Plump unpeck'd cherries,

Melons and raspberries,

Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches,

Swart-headed mulberries,

Wild free-born cranberries,

Crab-apples, dewberries,

Pine-apples, blackberries,

Apricots, strawberries;

All ripe together

In summer weather…”

–”Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti

Lists Can Be Emotional

An old friend of mine likes to sit and list out things that make her happy and things that she's grateful for. She says making these lists lifts her mood and focuses her attention on positive things.

Every time she does that, whether she realizes it or not, she's writing her own personal version of “My Favorite Things“. The lyric of that Rodgers & Hammerstein classic is really just a long list of pleasing images, helped along by some delicious-sounding rhymes.

And the structure couldn't be any simpler: it's a list song! Just a list, plus a few lines of commentary toward the end. In modern terms, that lyric could be somebody's Pinterest board set to music.

Five Famous List Songs

In case you need more inspiration…

Reasons to Quit“–by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. In the verses of this lyric, the singer lists out reasons why he should stop smoking and drinking, struggling to convince himself to kick the habit.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover“–by Paul Simon. A bit of false advertising here: the chorus lyric lists ways to leave your lover–but only five. Where are the lost forty-five ways, Paul? Oh well, we get the idea.

I've Been Everywhere“–by Geoff Mack. This song packs 91 towns into two minutes and 45 seconds. The song's four verses are just tongue-twisting lists of cities for the singer to test her memory (and lung capacity) against. I've been performing this one for years, and this song sends a thrill through the audience every time. Probably because the audience is placing bets on whether you'll turn blue and pass out at the end of a verse…

Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)“–Cole Porter wrote many list songs in his day that have since gone on to become classics, but “Let's Do It” was his first. Each verse is a list of people, animals, and even objects that “Do It”: one verse lists birds; another lists sea creatures; another lists insects. So really each verse is a sub-list.

Hate it Here“–by Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. The singer lists out ways he's been keeping himself busy ever since his love left. Little chores, little things to stay busy–mowing, sweeping, laundry, checking the phone and the mail over and over again… this song's a great example of how a simple list can tell a story.

More List Songs

  • “21 Things I Want in a Lover” by Alanis Morrissette
  • “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey
  • “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?”, a sea chantey

And this is just a tiny fraction of the list songs you can find out there in the musical wild.

Keep your eyes and ears sharp for lists–they turn up often in articles, novels, poems, lyrics, and in your own life. Any given list could be a song. Even something as seemingly mundane as a grocery list reveals something about the person making it.

Let's Do It (Let's Write a List Song)

Maybe one of the topics above got your gears turning–here they are recapped, plus a few extras:

  • Things you love (a kind of Pinterest board set to music)
  • Reasons to [do something you're reluctant to do]
  • Things you admire in a lover
  • Things you do to keep busy while avoiding [something unpleasant]
  • Things that remind you of [a person or place that's important to you]

You can write from your own perspective or you could write as a character. Any one of these list song ideas could easily sprout hundreds and hundreds of variations. If you write a “My Favorite Things”-style list song from the perspective of Gengis Khan, by the way, please let me know.

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

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit songwriter, songwrite, nicholas tozier, writers block

Vince Gill Showcases Songwriting Strengths

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 @05:29 PM

By Michael McCall (Edited by Jessica Brandon)

Vince Gill, Singer-Songwriter

(Source: Associated Press) The title of Vince Gill’s new album focuses on his instrumental skills. But the music more intently highlights another talent: songwriting. On “Guitar Slinger,” Gill concentrates on lyrics about friends and issues, turning out stories that are sometimes entertaining and often touching.

Some draw on his sense of humor: The title is a roadhouse rocker inspired by Gill’s catastrophic loss of musical equipment in Nashville’s 2010 flood. Others confront tragedy: “Bread and Water” is based on the death of Gill’s older brother, who struggled with daily existence after suffering a severe head injury. “Billy Paul” questions why a close friend took such a deadly turn, while “Buttermilk John” honors the late steel guitarist John Hughey, who worked with Gill for many years.

As usual, Gill’s guitar playing adds color to his songs, and he balances the difficult stories with those of love and faith: “Who Wouldn’t Fall In Love With You” is a beautiful love song to his wife Amy Grant, and “Threaten Me With Heaven” explores his religious beliefs.

Altogether, “Guitar Slinger” shows Gill utilizing a veteran’s craft to delve into truths essential to who he is. It shows how a superstar can age gracefully while continuing to sharpen his talents.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: “If I Die,” written with Ashley Monroe of the Pistol Annies, is an emotionally resonant prayer that balances sin and salvation in beautiful terms.

Vince Gill has recorded more than twenty studio albums, charted over forty singles on the U.S. Billboard charts as Hot Country Songs, and has sold more than 22 million albums. He has been honored by the Country Music Association with 18 CMA Awards, including two Entertainer of the Year awards and five Male Vocalist Awards. Gill has also earned 20 Grammy Awards, more than any other male Country music artist. In 2007, Gill was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to:

http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit songwriter, singer songwriter, Grammy Awards, Vince Gill, CMA Awards

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Apr 04, 2011 @01:51 PM

Hit Songwriter Ken Hirsch Talks About Songwriting, interviewed by Kiran Michaels

Ken Hirsch, Hit Songwriter


Ken Hirsch won First Prize in the Pop category of the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition as well as the Overall Second Prize with the song he wrote "Is That So Bad", co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell. He has also written the numerous hit songs such as “I've Never Been To Me” by Charlene and top 40 hit song “Two Less Lonely People In The World” by Air Supply. His songs have been recorded by legends in the music business. He talks to Kiran Michaels about how he writes songs and how he gets inspiration for it.  

1. You have written with the top names in the business today such as Hal David ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", "This Guy's in Love with You"), Gerry Goffin ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), Paul Williams ("Evergreen"), Howard Greenfield ("Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"), Ron Miller ("I've Never Been To Me" & "Touch Me in the Morning') and have written songs that have been recorded by the the biggest names: Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Air Supply, etc. Can you describe how you write a song? 

In my case, with most of the above co-writers, I created a complete melody first (which is always subject to change and molding)and then played it for them either live or on tape.  Most of these co-writers like to be inspired by a melody and rarely just write a freestanding lyric.  With Howie Greenfield, "Two Less Lonely People In The World" started as a title he had come up with from his personal book of titles and lyric fragments.  However, there have been just as many co-writes that happen simultaneously in the room which brings a whole other type of energy to the process.  On rare occasions I am given a partial/completed lyric or a lyric idea.  All three procedures are viable as long as the results work.  Every other blue moon I write both music and lyrics and thus avoid any creative conflicts and sharing of royalties!



2. Hal David, Gerry Goffin  and Howard Greenfield sounded like the people from the Brill Building. Did you ever write songs at the famed Brill building? 


No, when I was hitting the streets in 1970, it was kind of the end of the Brill building era  but a publisher I played my songs for in the building connected me with Doc Pomus ("Save The Last Dance For Me", "This Magic Moment"), one of the most famous of the Brill Building writers, who became my partner and mentor.  



3. How do you get ideas for creating a melody?

Other than seeing what bills need to be paid, usually an interesting set of intervals or chord progression can get the juices flowing.  

 

4. Who is your favorite songwriter, music wise? What did you learn from him/her?

In Pop it would have to be Burt Bacharach and Carol King.  Burt's sophistication combined with his innate soulfulness and Carol's ability to write hooks with a soulful energy are masterful.  They write melodies that are both accessible and unpredictable.  Then there's everyone else from Irving Berlin to Richard Rogers to Jule Styne to McCartney/Lennon to James Taylor to Ashford & Simpson, etc.



5. Who is your favorite songwriter, lyric wise?

I've been fortunate to write with some of the best so they all fall into that category.  I personally like lyrics that aren't too obscure, can be easily grasped or tell a great story.  Everyone from Sammy Cahn to Marty Panzer to so many of the country writers who really are wordsmiths of the first order.



6. How did you write your winning song? Did the melody come first or the lyrics or background music?

Our song "Is That So Bad" (co-written with Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts and Hillary Podell) actually started with a track that Peter was working on.  I added most of the melody and Rosie and Hillary, an artist we were working with, created the lyric.  It was loosely based on Hillary's own experience and then fleshed out by Rosie.  A fortunate confluence of events!  The final demo was produced by Smidi Smith and sung by Windy Wagner, so it's had quite a journey - so far! 



7. The top 3 winners this past year were all collaborations. Is collaboration in Songwriting important these days? 

It is and it isn't.  It depends on your strengths and ability to work with others.  But collaborations generally bring a lot of energy and ideas to the table that you necessarily wouldn't have come up with yourself.



8. Can you describe the collaboration with other writers and producers?

If everyone is pulling in the same direction it can be inspiring.  It helps if everyone can put their egos aside and concentrate on the work.  It's always a gamble, certain collaborators pull things out of you that you did not foresee.  It sometimes puts you into a different zone than what you're comfortable with but that can have positive results.  I've been writing a musical "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Robin Lerner ("This Kiss") and although we've never collaborated before we're both bringing different sensibilities to the project and it seems to be melding really well.  So the crapshoot this time is paying off!



9. What advice would you give to up-and-coming songwriters out there? 

It's all been said a million times but try to go with your gut and try not to compromise too much.  Having said that, try to be as objective as you can.  Don't fall in love with everything you write, many of the times it can be improved.  Don't be reluctant to give up on an idea if it's not working.  I try to separate myself from the writing and put myself in the place of the audience and imagine if I would enjoy listening to this song or if it moves me.  And it helps to have a very thick skin, never take the rejections personally - as hard as they may be to accept, there might be a fairy tale ending just around the corner.  And always keep the tape recorder running!

Ken will be performing his winning song along with a medley of his hit songs “I've Never Been To Me”, “Two Less Only People In The World”, etc at USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at Bluebird Cafe on May 5th

Tags: song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Ken Hirsch, hit songwriter, Billboard Top 40 Hit, Grammy, Gerry Goffin, Hal David, Carol King, Paul Williams, Howard Greenfield, Ron Miller, Brill Building

Top Songs of The Decade of USA Songwriting Competition

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Dec 22, 2010 @03:25 PM

As the decade is winding down, here are the top 10 songs of the USA Songwriting Competition of the past decade:

 

Ari Gold

1. "Where The Music Takes You" by Ari Gold, Joe Hogue 'JOJOHO' & Sean Petersen

This song went on to hit #10 on the Billboard charts. This song was the Overall Grand Prize winner of the 2007 USA Songwriting Competition. The song is also on the soundtrack of the 2010 Film "Bear City". 



2. "Only Fooling Myself" by Kate Voegele

This song went on to hit #26 on the Billboard charts. This song was the First Prize winner in the Pop category of the 2005 USA Songwriting Competition. Kate Voegele performed at USA Songwritiong Competition showcase at SXSW and was signed shortly thereafter. She was the youngest winner at that time (18 years old).



3. "Give Me Love" By Alannah Myles & Nancy Simmonds

This song won the Overall Grand Prize of the 2010 USA Songwriting Competition. Canadian Singer-songwriter Alannah Myles is known for her #1 Billboard hit song "Black Velvet". This songs signals Alannah's comeback. Her co-writer Nancy Simmonds has written songs recorded by Melissa Manchester, Ricky Van Shelton, Rosemary Butler and more. 



4. "Is that So Bad" by Ken Hirsch, Rosie Casey, Peter Roberts & Hillary Podell.

Ken Hirsch won first prize in the Pop category of the 2010 USA Songwriting Competition & Overall Second Prize is no stranger to the music scene, penning mega hit songs such as "I've Never Been To Me" by Charlene and written songs recorded by the greatest legends in music such as Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder and B.B. King. He has written with legendary songwriters such as Howard Greenfield and Ron Miller. 



5. "Message to the Future" by James Keelaghan

This song won James Keelaghan First Prize in the Folk Category of the 2003 USA Songwriting Competition.  This Juno award-winning Canadian folk singer-songwriter also won first prize in the 2002 USA Songwriting Competition. 



6. "Bridal Train" by Vikki Simpson (The Waifs)

Vikki Simpson won the Overall Grand Prize at the 2006 USA Songwriting Competition is the lead singer and songwriter of the Australian hit group "The Waifs". They went on to win an ARIA award and toured the world. They are currently signed to Compass Records



7. “Good Ole USA” by Darrell Scott

Darrell Scott won first Prize in Country category of the 2005 USA Songwriting Competition and it was later recorded by #1 recording artist Faith Hill and the title was changed to "We've Got Nothing But Love To Prove".



8. “Home” by Jordan Zevon

This song won Jordan Zevon, the son of legendary singer-songwriter Warren Zevon Overall Grand Prize in the 2008 USA Songwriting Competition. He aslo won first prize in the pop category in 2006 with “The Joke's On Me” which he performed at the “Late Night with David Lettermen” TV show.



9. 'Lighted Up' by Grabriel Mann

Grabriel Mann won Overall Grand Prize in the 2003 USA Songwriting Competition and he formed a band “The Rescues” and was signed to Universal Records in 2009 along with bandmates Adrianne Gonzalez (1999 Top Winner) and Kyler England (2009 First Prize Winner, Country category).



10. “Does Yo Mama Know” by Pepper Mashay & Corey White

Pepper Mashay hit top 10 on the Billboard charts with this song and she won first prize in the Dance category of the 2008 USA Songwriting Competition.

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

Tags: Ken Hirsch, Rosie Casey, Kate Voegele, Ari Gold, The Waifs, Jordan Zevon, Kyler England, hit songwriter, composing songs, music composition, Billboard Charts, Jonathan George, Darrell Scott, Billboard Album Charts, Composer, Alannah Myles, Billboard #1 Hit, Pepper Mashay, Corey White, Grabriel Mann, Vikki Simpson, Peter Roberts, Hillary Podell, Nancy Simmonds, James Keelaghan, I've Never Been To Me

Songwriting Tips: Four Steps To Writing A Hit Chorus

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 @06:40 PM

Four Easy Steps to Writing A Hit Chorus

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant


How To Write A Hit Chorus

Want to learn to be better in songwriting? No matter how sophisticated our technology, a melody is still a series of single notes. Nobody ever sings chords or tracks.  They sing individual notes.


While creating music, some of us might hear melodic and/or rhythmic ideas in our heads, then high-hurdle the sofa en route to the keyboard to play and record them right away. Others may not hear anything specific, but will feel that lightning urge to create and hope they'll find some magic hidden between the black and white keys. But no matter where we find our music, or where it finds us, a melody is still a series of single notes.
You can't hum a track.


When there are problems with a melody, ( and most of them can't be fixed in the studio), they can be solved very simply by going back to the individual notes. Never mind how good the drum fills or harmonies are, or how cool the sax sounds in the bridge. If you find you have melody problems, and your hooks aren't strong enough, go back to square one - note one, and let's see where the trouble is.


I think of choruses as nursery rhymes for adults - short, repetitive, irresistibly singalongable, easy to remember. This may sound silly or disparaging to those of you with Julliard degrees, or who've been in bands all your lives. But if you aren't getting where you thought you should have gotten by now in your careers, you could change all that for the better in ten minutes.


When my clients are having melody problems, I assign them the nursery rhyme game. That is simply choosing five different nursery rhymes - doesn't matter which ones - "Mary Had A Little Lamb", "Humpty Dumpty", "Jack and Jill", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Ring around a Rosie" - any five. All nursery rhymes have just one musical section, which I call the verse. This exercise will show you how to write a simple, repetitive chorus to each of those verses, and that is basic melody construction.


Step One : from the last note of the verse melody, go up a major third to the first note of the chorus. (eg: C to E). Notice I said note, not chord.


Step two : tap a rhythm on your knee or on your desk - a rhythm that is dramatically different from the rhythm of the verse melody. Try several different rhythms, - don't stop with the first thing that pops into your head. Record everything. You never know what'll come up and you may not remember some of the good stuff.


Step three : once you have a rhythm that you like that is unexpected, starting on the note a major third up from the last note of the verse, add individual notes to create a short chorus. Make sure you repeat your chorus's first line somewhere in the body of that section. Beginners will write lines one and three the same, two and four the same, but you can write your choruses however you like. Be sure you don't simplify the process too much, and write predictably. And be careful not to borrow someone else's melody.


Step four : test your chorus with your verse. Is it surprisingly different? Or is it too similar? Could you tweak it a little? Change even one note? Remove two? Vary a rhythm pattern? Record everything and put your files aside for a day or two. Then listen again. If your new "melody" makes it through the night, chances are it's right. And although it's "just a nursery rhyme", you'll have very deliberately constructed a note-by-note melody with a strong hook. When you're 100% happy with it, THEN add the chords and the track.


Change the process, change the result.
For more suggestions on easily strengthening your music and lyrics, please refer to my books, How To Write A Hit Song and How To Be A Hit Songwriter. Both are available in paperback.

© 2010 Molly-Ann Leikin www.songmd.com    
Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant with dozens of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination. The author of “How To Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, and the producer of “Molly-Ann Leikin’s Master Class in Songwriting”, Molly consults with talented writers and artists all over the world, with a view to helping them market their material. She also matches lyricists with composers. And she’s very good at it. Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy, and so far, 5068 others, with Molly’s help, have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s and in commercials. Molly also writes articles for USA Songwriting Competition e-mail newsletters. Her website is www.songmd.com, and you can reach her at songmd@songmd.com. If you live in the USA or Canada, you can call her toll-free at 800-851-6588. However, please check her website first so your conversation is as productive as possible.

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, hit songwriter, Lyrics, lyric writing, Molly-Ann Leikin, how to write a better song, hit song writer

Songwriting Tips: Seven Easy Steps to Write Hit Lyrics

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sun, Mar 28, 2010 @09:19 AM

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Songwriting Consultant


How To Write A Hit Song

I've written poems and I've written lyrics. I've learned if you can do one, you can usually do the other. As a poet, I've enjoyed the pure creative process, and the occasional publication of my work.

But I've never made a dime writing a poem. Ever.

On the other hand, I live very comfortably on my lyric royalties. And it beats working.

In my practice as a songwriting consultant in California, I hear almost every other new client tell me he or she can't write lyrics. To help them, I've developed a seven-step system, and it works.

If you're a poet who's tired of being broke, and would like to occasionally use your gifts to write more commercially, this article can help you make that transition. It can also help lyricists who are stuck, composers who claim they write music only, plus the entire world of left-brain computer types who ache to create something romantic—like a song.

When writing one, be aware that melodies are open to interpretation - so when you write a tune, what you feel or intend is still safe in your heart.You don't have to reveal yourself or stand completely naked in front of the world. But once you put words to a tune, your feelings are totally out in the open and everyone knows what's in your heart. Therefore, it can be very inhibiting to write lyrics, which is often why writers get stuck.

But here is the process I use with my clients to make lyric writing simple. I suggest you use all seven steps. Cutting corners is usually why a lyric doesn't work.

Most poets and beginning songwriters make the mistake of writing acres of lines of iambic pentameter and then set out to look for someone who can turn that dreary rhythm into an exciting melody. Almost nobody can, no matter what the words are saying. So don't write your lyrics first. ]Get the tune, then write the words. So let's assume, for this exercise, that you have a melody but no idea of what to say in your lyric. Don't worry if you don't have a tune. I'll give you one.

STEP 1. Sing or play the tune of a nursery rhyme. Any of them will do: Baa Baa Black Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, Ring Around the Rosie - it doesn't matter which you choose. Use this melody for practice. As you listen to it, scribble down some non-rhyming prose. Ignore the exact notes, but listen to the feelings. Let your words be a stream-of-conscious exercise to warm up your imagination. Don't use rhymes or logic. Try to be visual, silly, playful and have fun with it.
Here's an example of some lines I scribbled down after listening to "Itsy Bitsy Spider":

A former tooth farmer from Fluffy, South Apricot, dug through Exxon's banana shoe hairbrush section for kangaroo lingerie, after the De La Hoya/Pope Potato wrist rake from Western Tire Cough Drops slid unnoticed into burping toenails.

STEP 2. Now please write a silly, visual non-rhyming lyric to your tune. Match each note with one syllable. Fill your non-rhyming lyric with ridiculous pictures. Again, don't be logical, don't make it make sense. Every line can be about something different. The first might concern shoe repair, the second, airport parking. In this draft, try to keep all the rhymes OUT. Here's an example of a nonsense lyric I wrote, to the tune of "Jack and Jill".
Lizards frying Jaguars
All hum Hawaiin shoe trees
Disneyland will hiccup in
The mayor's purple phone soup.

STEP 3. Now write an uncensored list of silly titles that will fit with the stresses of the first line of your nursery rhyme. No matter how many notes in that line, keep your title to seven syllables or less. Shoot for twenty or thirty possible titles. Don't write anything you've heard before. Let your imagination roll. Don't say, "Oh, that's dumb." Write it all down. You might find one of these nonsense titles could actually turn into a real one later. "I Love You" is fine, but Jewel's "Swallow The Moon" gets you in the gut. A good title will write the whole song for you. A mediocre one will leave you stranded in line two.
Here are some nonsense titles I wrote to the tune of
"Jack and Jill":

Santa knit a Hershey Bar
Orange dancing astronauts
Drinking bricks can make you skate

STEP 4. Write a few real titles with the same number of syllables as your silly ones. Here are some I wrote to
"Jack and Jill":
Sundays with the London Times
Do you ever think of me
Moonlight over Lake O'Hare

STEP 5. Choose one of your real titles. Write the story it tells in prose. Just a couple of sentences will do fine. Writing the story as a letter might be easier for you. If any lines come out rhyming, change them so they don't. That way, you'll be able to express yourself with complete freedom, and without the constraints of rhyme or meter.
When you finish this step, you'll know the beginning, middle and end of your story before you start to write the lyric. Most songs have two verses, a chorus and a bridge, so allow space for them in your story. By writing it first, you'll be able to see if you have enough information to fill a whole song, so you won't get stuck half-way through with nowhere to go. You can always cut out words and lines later.

STEP 6. Using the information from your story, write a non-rhyming lyric to the nursery rhyme melody you've chosen. Should rhymes mysteriously appear, delete them.

STEP 7. Now write the "real" lyric, with the story and the rhymes.


I suggest you do all seven steps. Not four, not two. Seven. My clients who don't are still claiming they can't write lyrics. But many of my songwriters who do are climbing the charts.
The more lyrics you write, the easier it gets. So please do this exercise five times, each with a different nursery rhyme. Once you learn how to map out a lyric, and write it to a melody, you're 90% there.
© 2010 Molly-Ann Leikin
www.songmd.com
Molly-Ann Leikin (rhymes with bacon) is a songwriting consultant with dozens of gold and platinum records plus an Emmy nomination.  The author of “How To Write A Hit Song, Fifth Edition” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, and the producer of “Molly-Ann Leikin’s Master Class in Songwriting”, Molly consults with talented writers and artists all over the world, with a view to helping them market their material.  She also matches lyricists with composers.  And she’s very good at it.  Three of her clients have Grammy nominations, another won an Emmy, and so far, 5067 others, with Molly’s help, have placed their work in movies, on TV, CD’s and in commercials.

Her website is www.songmd.com.  You can reach her at songmd@songmd.com.  If you live in the USA or Canada, you can call her toll-free at 800-851-6588.  For more information on the USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit song, hit songwriter, Lyrics, Molly-Ann Leikin, emmy, platinum records, how to write a better song, hit song writer

USA Songwriting Competition Winner On Tonight Show "Conan O'Brien"

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 @11:37 AM

Kate Voegele not only hit the big time by landing #10 on the Billboard 200 Album charts but also appeared earlier this week on Tonight Show "Conan O'Brien" on July 20, 2009. Kate got her start right here by winning the 2005 USA Songwriting Competition and she is still the youngest first prize winner at 18 years old at that time. 

 

 

 

Tags: Kate Voegele, hit song, hit songwriter, songwriting competition, song writing showcase, USA Songwriting Competition, Billboard Charts, One Tree Hill, Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien