Songwriting Tips, News & More

State Of The Music Artist

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

State Of The Music Artist


 by Mark Cawley

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

“The Ugly”

If you’re an artist or writer and you’re still working a plan based on an outdated model, you have to adapt or die.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

“The Bad”

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

“The Good”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Songwriting News: Universal Music reaches deal with publishers

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

Universal Music reaches groundbreaking deal with publishers

 Universal Music Group

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Source: TheWrap.com]

 

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

  


 

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

Songwriting Tip: Composing For Film and TV

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

 

Songwriting Tip: Composing For Film & TV

By Brian Tarquin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

  

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

Songwriting and the Premise of Creativity

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

Songwriting and the Premise of Creativity

By Cris Zalles

 Cris Zalles, songwriter & producer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Youtube Reaches Songwriting Publishing Deals

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 @09:33 AM

YouTube

YouTube has reached songwriting and publishing deals with BMG Rights Management, Christian Copyright Solutions, ABKCO Music, Inc., Songs Music Publishing, Words & Music, Copyright Administration, Music Services, Reservoir Media Management, and Songs of Virtual.

The deals mean that artists such as Adele, Cee Lo Green, Foo Fighters, The Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke amongst others, will be able to share in more of the revenue that the YouTube community yields.

Using a Content ID system music publishers can now identify the works of songwriters whether the compositions appear in an original sound recording or in a cover version, using information provided to Youtube by the publishers.

In a blog post, the streaming site said: "We’re committed to making sure [artists] works can reach the widest audience, and that the singers and songwriters will continue to be appropriately compensated for these works that we all love so much."

These new deals, along with the licenses from the publishers who have opted in to last year’s deal with the NMPA / Harry Fox Agency, will allow YouTube to monetize nearly all of the user generated videos with music on YouTube.

[Source: Youtube]

 

 

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

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Youtube, BMG

Songwriting Tip: Creating Songs That Stand Out

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Jun 04, 2012 @11:40 AM

CREATING SONGS THAT STAND OUT by Danny Arena & Sara Light

Danny Arena, songwriter
One of the most obvious but easily overlooked songwriting devices is the use of contrast. Most successful songs incorporate this technique and once you are familiar with the various ways in which you can achieve contrast, you can begin to incorporate it into your own writing. Contrast is making each section of your song stand out and sound different from the other sections in your song. There are several ways you can do this both musically and lyrically. 

I. CREATING MUSIC THAT STANDS OUT.

Musically, contrast can be achieved several ways: 

a. MELODICALLY. Try to make the melody higher in the chorus than the verse. It’s a good practice to try to write your chorus in your highest comfortable range, giving you room to make the verse lower. 

b. RHYTHMICALLY. If the predominant rhythm for the verse melody is quarter notes, try making the chorus rhythm eighth notes. Even if you’re solely a lyricist, you can build rhythmic contrast into your lyrics. A good example of a song that incorporates rhythmic contrast between two sections is the old standard, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” 

c. HARMONICALLY. Try and change the chord progression between sections. An easy way to achieve this is simply by consciously choosing a different chord to start each section. For example, if your verse begins on a G chord, try starting your chorus on a C chord. 

II. CREATING LYRICS THAT STAND OUT

Lyrically, contrast can be achieved several ways:

a. RHYME PATTERN. Change the pattern or placement of the rhymes between verse and chorus. Let’s say, for example, your verse has an A-B-A-B rhyme pattern:

The sky above is blue A
The ground below is green B
When I look at you A
It’s the prettiest sight I’ve ever seen B 

You might try using an A-A-B-B pattern in the chorus. Remember, however, that whatever pattern you set up in the verse should remain consistent for all the verses. The same goes for your chorus. 

b. RHYME SOUNDS. Vary the primary vowel sounds of the rhymes throughout your song. For example, if you use a long “e” rhyme sound in your first two lines (be/see), use a different rhyme sound in your next two lines (light/night). 

c. RHYTHM. Change the rhythm of the words between sections. If your verses have long lines with lots of syllables, you might try using short lines without a lot of syllables in your chorus. This will automatically create contrast when the lyrics are set to music.

d. PRONOUN EMPHASIS. If you are primarily talking about “I” and “me” in the verses, try emphasizing “you” in the chorus. 

You don’t have to make use of every type of contrast in each song, but try to incorporate at least one type of musical contrast and one type of lyrical contrast. The trick is to keep the song interesting and contrast is a time proven technique for achieving this.

Hope to see you on the charts!

-Danny & Sara

Danny Arena & Sara Light are hit songwriters, Tony Nominated Composers and professional songwriters living in Nashville, TN. They are also the co-founders of www.SongU.com which provides multi-level songwriting courses developed and taught by award-winning songwriters, song feedback and mentoring, one-on-one song coaching, co-writing, unscreened pitching opportunities and more. For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Songwriting, songwrite, Danny Arena, Sara Light

Robin Gibb, Songwriter Remembered

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, May 25, 2012 @01:38 PM

Robin Gibb, Songwriter Remembered

Robin Gibb, songwriter

Robin Gibb, a member of the group the Bee Gees, died Sunday at the age of 61. The musician was best known for his contributions, along with his brothers, to disco in the 1970s. The genre, both loved and hated, was in part defined by Gibb and the Bee Gees.

No one dominated disco more than the Bee Gees, whose soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” cemented their place in history and changed the defining sound of the era.

The Bee Gees had nine singles reach number one on the Hot 100 chart, which, according to Billboard magazine, puts them in third place for the most number ones in history, after the Beatles and the Supremes.

The Bee Gees has tremendous songwriting success, sold in excess of 200 million records worldwide.At one point in 1978, the Gibb brothers were responsible for writing and/or performing nine of the songs in the Billboard Hot 100. In all, the Gibbs placed 13 singles onto the Hot 100 in 1978, with 12 making the Top 40.

At least 2,500 artists have recorded their songs. Their most popular composition is "How Deep Is Your Love", with 400 versions by other artists in existence. Among the artists who have covered their songs are Ardijah, Michael Bolton, Boyzone, Eric Clapton, Billy Corgan, Destiny's Child, Faith No More, Feist, The Flaming Lips, Al Green, Jinusean, Elton John, Tom Jones, Janis Joplin, Lulu, Elvis Presley, Nina Simone, Percy Sledge, Robert Smith, Take That, and John Frusciante (who has covered "How Deep Is Your Love" duringRed Hot Chili Peppers concerts). The band's music has also been sampled by dozens of hip hop artists.

Songs written by the Gibbs, but largely better known through versions by other artists, include:

  • "Ain't Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You" by Teri DeSario

  • "Buried Treasure" by Kenny Rogers (backing vocals The Gatlin Brothers)

  • "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross

  • "Come on Over" by Olivia Newton-John

  • "Emotion" by Samantha Sang

  • "Gilbert Green" by Gerry Marsden

  • "Grease" by Frankie Valli

  • "Guilty" and "Woman in Love" by Barbra Streisand

  • "Heartbreaker" & "All the Love in the World" by Dionne Warwick

  • "Hold On to My Love" by Jimmy Ruffin

  • "I Will Be There" by Tina Turner

  • "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman

  • "Immortality" by Celine Dion

  • "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

  • "Morning of My Life" by Abi and Esther Ofarim

  • "Only One Woman" by The Marbles

  • "Rest Your Love on Me" by Conway Twitty

  • "Sacred Trust" by One True Voice

  • "Warm Ride" by Graham Bonnet

Robin Gibb also had a solo career, was initially successful with a Number 2 UK hit, "Saved by the Bell", which sold over one million copies. However, Gibb's first solo album, Robin's Reign, was less successful and he soon found that being a solo artist was unsatisfying. Maurice played bass guitar on the song "Mother and Jack", but was subsequently removed from the project by producer Robert Stigwood. Despite having almost completed a second solo album, Sing Slowly Sisters, Gibb reunited with his brothers, who then revived the Bee Gees. The group came back on a high note, reaching No. 3 on the US charts with the song "Lonely Days" in 1970. In 1971, the Bee Gees had their first US No.1 hit, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart". 

With Robin's death, Barry Gibb became the last surviving and oldest Gibb brother.

 

 (Edited by Jessica Brandon)

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

 

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Robin Gibb, Bee Gees

Pictures & Videos of Songwriters Showcase @ Bluebird Cafe

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 07, 2012 @03:17 PM

Here are some pictures of our recent showcase at Bluebird Cafe. Thank you all for coming to our showcase: performers, fans and Liz Miller (our Nashville host). 

 

Bluebird Cafe Showcase Showcase Group Picture, USA Songwriting Competition

From Left to right: Phillip Trees,Will Hopkins, Bill DiLuigi, Robert Davis, Tom Schreck and Dale Allen. Kneeling are: Jenn Bostic, Molly Hunt and Host Liz Miller.

 

Robert Davis, songwriter

Robert Davis performing

 

Molly Hunt, singer-songwriter. American Idol Top 60 contestant, USA Songwriting Competition First Prize Winner (Country)

Molly Hunt, singer-songwriter. She made it to the Top 60 of the 2012 American Idol. She won First Prize (Country) at the 16th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. 

 

Dale Allen, songwriter

Dale Allen performing.

 

Tom Schreck, songwriter

Tom Schreck performing. 

 

 Video: Dale Allen Performing at USA Songwriting Competition showcase at Bluebird Cafe

 

Coming Soon: watch out for our videos. They are being edited at the moment. 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Jenn Bostic, Tom Schreck, Molly Hunt, Will Hopkins, Liz Miller, Bill DiLuigi, Phillip Trees, Robert Davis, Dale Allen

Songwriters: Make Your Demos Really Pop!

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, May 03, 2012 @11:45 AM

Songwriters: Make Your Demos Really Pop!

 Singers Guide to Powerful Performances

Okay. You’ve written good songs and now it is time to record demos of them. You know that a demo doesn’t need to be perfect, but it has to be good enough to sell your songs to a publisher or be placed in film or TV by a music supervisor. The success of a song reaching the ears of the many will ride on a number of factors, including having a demo that really sells your song, a demo whose vocal is wisely calculated. Here’s how to get it there...

 

The Song That Doesn’t Sell

 

If your demo’s vocal isn’t stylistically believable, the song won’t sell itself. Good songwriting will be obscured, and possibly passed over, when a music supervisor or publisher listens to a song that has off-pitch, weak vocals or vocals that are stylistically incompatible with the music. For example, say you’ve written an R&B song and hope it will be sung by Christina Aguilera. But when you record the demo, your vocal sounds like an old-style cabaret singer with overly precise word articulation and a loose, wide vibrato. Result: The style of your song will be eclipsed and most likely passed over.

 

Who Will Sing Your Song?

 

When a publisher listens to a demo, if s/he can’t envision a certain artist singing it, chances are slim that s/he’ll pick it up and submit it to an artist for consideration. With that in mind, as you write a song or revise it after it has been written, evaluate the style of your song and match it to one or several possible artists you believe could sing it. This brings us to some important steps that many skip entirely or skimp on in their haste to demo and submit their songs.

 

Do Your Research

 

Before you write a song that you hope to have sung and recorded by specific artists, spend time listening to a cross-section of their currently released material to find out: Are there any particular keys or types of melodies they favor? How much or how little vocal range do they tend to use? Do they use mostly single syllable or multi-syllabic words? Are there any characteristic ways they use their voice, such as certain vowel sounds for their peak or climatic notes? Is their vocal bluesy, belting or whispery? Do they use much sustain? Do you hear a certain recurring manner of rhythmic phrasing or a use of embellishments?

Identify all this before you write your song or revise it, so you’ll compose music and lyrics that are stylistically consistent. You will also discover if you have the vocal skill to sing on your demo or if you should have a talented singer record it.

 

Prep Your Vocals

 

If you plan to sing on your demo, doing this simple exercise before you record will help you to improve your sound. Sing the melody of your song without lyrics, phrase by phrase, using a simple vowel sound such as “Ah,”  “Ee” or “Eh.” Don’t connect the notes with an “h.” Instead, keep your vowel pronunciation consistent as you slowly and smoothly sing each phrase.

Doing this has several benefits. 1) By removing the lyrics, you’ll focus on the musical flow of the melody and this will bring to attention any possible musical edits you deem stylistically necessary. 2) Your voice is the vowel sounds (not the consonants of words). This exercise can help to improve your tone and pitch accuracy, because it requires you to work the sound of your voice only. 3) Singing the melody with a single vowel exercises your vocal muscles so you can sing more easily. Once you’ve done this (over and over) to your satisfaction, sing the song with lyrics and notice any improvements. At this point you can begin to stylize your voice to suit the intended artist or song placement.

 

Learn from Singers

 

If you’ve decided to sing on your demo, but your vocal style doesn’t complement the genre of the song, practice with recordings of singers who sing in that genre. Record yourself so you can compare your rendition to those other singers and make adjustments as needed.

 

Studio Recording Tips

 

There are two important studio factors that either enhance or diminish your recorded vocals. Take the time to get the right headphone mix. You should hear yourself well and not feel “crowded” by the volume of other instruments. If needed, try the “one ear off” technique; Leave the headphone off one ear to hear your voice acoustically in the room.

The type of mic chosen and the mic’s placement should match rather than alter your voice and it should capture your best sound. When using your home studio to record, the standard microphone input on your computer is usually inadequate to make good quality vocal recordings. Use a separate audio interface with a preamp or, for the more budget-conscious, use a USB studio condenser microphone.

 

Remain Objective

 

While it may be difficult to remain objective, the whole project will fail if you do not evaluate your recording with a professional detachment that can discern stylistic consistency, perform-ance believability and accuracy of pitch and rhythmic phrasing. If the first two in-gredients are there, the pitch and rhythm can be fixed by punches or corrected in the recording software.

 songwriting

Vocals Still Sound Bad?

 

If you have followed all these suggestions and the vocals still don’t sound as good as they need to, it is time to acknowledge that you may not be the right singer for this recording. Your skill is songwriting and you want the quality of your art to be evident to others, so find an appropriate singer to record your demo.

There are some talented singers out there who will jump at the chance to get studio experience, an endorsement or even possibly a demo recording of their own. You can find singers through contacting voice coaches in your area, online musician referral services or bulletin boards, by referral from recording studios, other musicians you may know and through Music Connection’s musician’s online social network: AMP (http://musicconnection.com/amp).

You can offer to pay a singer or possibly draw up an agreement allowing them to use the recording as a demo to showcase their voice as long as they don’t sell or record the song as their own. Your song should already be copyright protected prior to going into the studio.

[Reprinted with permission by Music Connection magazine]

Jeannie Deva is recognized as one of the nation’s top celebrity voice and performance coaches. As a recording studio vocal specialist, she has been endorsed by producers and engineers of Aerosmith, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. Her newest book publication is Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances. See http://JeannieDeva.com. 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, demo, Elton John, Studio Recording Tips, Jeannie Deva, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones

Songwriting Tip: How Does Your Song Stack Up?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, May 02, 2012 @11:40 AM

HOW DOES YOUR SONG STACK UP?

Danny Arena, Songwriter

Every now and then, I like to tape the entire country top 40 and analyze the songs in terms of song structure and various timing considerations. In this column, I wanted to share with you the results of my most recent survey.

1. Song Form. Everyone says write your song in a song form. Maybe you've wondered just how important that is to making the top 40? Well as usual, out of forty songs on this particular week when I analyzed them, every one was written in one of the well established song forms. 

Form Number of Songs in the Top 40
AAA none
AABA 9
Verse/Chorus 15
Verse/Chorus/Bridge 7
Verse/Lift/Chorus 7
Verse/Lift/Chorus/Bridge 2

As has been the case the past three years, the majority of songs in the top 40 used the simple verse/chorus structure (though some included instrumental sections). Second place was very close, with the AABA's getting the nod by a slim margin, followed closely by the V/C/B structure and the V/L/C structure. As you might expect, there were no AAA songs, although one or two a year usually make their way into the top 40.

II. Length Of Introduction. How long should an introduction to a song be? The introduction should be long enough to establish the feel and tempo of the song, and possibly introduce a motif. Anything longer, and your introduction is simply taking up valuable space in the song and probably hurting the song. 

Length of Introduction # of Songs in the Top 40
< 10 seconds 8
11 - 15 seconds 25
16 - 17 seconds 7
> 17 seconds none

Average length = 12 seconds

The fascinating statistic here is that twenty-five of the forty songs fell into the second category and no songs had introductions longer than seventeen seconds. 

III. Time To Get To The Chorus (including the introduction). Okay, so we've all heard the expression, "don't bore us, get to the chorus". Let's see how the songs in the top 40 compared on this very important timing issue.

Time To Get To The Chorus # of Songs in the Top 40
< 30 seconds 4
30 - 40 seconds 10
41 - 50 seconds 11 
51 - 60 seconds 10
61 - 75 seconds 5
> 75 seconds none

Average time = 45 seconds

There were only five songs in the top 40 that took longer than a minute to get to the chorus. Out of those five songs, three were written or co-written by the artist. Take a tip from the top 40 and get to the chorus in under a minute.

IV. Length Of Song (including the introduction). Finally, let's take a look at song length. 

Length of Song # of Songs in the Top 40
< 2:30 none
2:30 - 3:00 11
3:00 - 3:30 25 
3:30 - 4:00 4
> 4:00 none

Average time = 3:17 seconds

This category changed the most from last year. Last year, the average time for a song was right around the three minute mark. This year, the majority of songs were in the 3:00-3:30 category. It will be interesting to see whether this trend continues.

V. What It All Means. So what do all these statistics mean? While I don't recommend putting your song under a microscope during the writing of it, it is interesting after your song is written to see whether or not it falls into the "pocket". If you notice that your song takes over a minute to get to the chorus, you may want to consider getting there quicker. If your song is in an obscure song form (like one you made up yourself), be aware that not many of those make it to the top 40. In the end, there are always exceptions to the rule and knowing the above information should not be a guiding factor in compromising the writing of a song. But it can help give you a healthy perspective after the writing of the song. Most of all, just keep writing the best songs you possibly can.

Hope to see you on the charts.

-Danny

About Danny Arena:
Danny Arena is a Tony Award nominated composer and professional songwriter. He holds degrees from Rutgers University in both computer science and music composition, and serves as an Associate Professor at Volunteer State Community College in Nashville, and an adjunct member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University. In addition, he has been invited to teach songwriting workshops throughout the U.S. and abroad, and performs his original songs regularly in Nashville at venues like the Bluebird Café. As a staff songwriter for Curb Magnatone Music Publishing, he composed several songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Tony Award for Best Original Score. He is also the co-founder, CEO, and one of the main site developers of www.SongU.com, which provides over 70 multi-level courses developed by award-winning songwriters in addition to online coaching, co-writing, industry connections, and pitching opportunities. For more information on the 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting Tip, Danny Arena, Song Form, Song Intro, Song Length