Songwriting Tips, News & More

Top 10 Christmas Songs of All Time

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 @11:46 AM

Top 10 Christmas Songs of All Time

 

By Jessica Brandon

 

Are you enjoying the holiday season so far? Here are the list of the top 10 Best Christmas songs of all time:

Bing Crosby

1. White Christmas - Bing Crosby

Written by Irving Berlin. This ultimate festive song that remains one of the world's biggest selling singles of all time. Bing first sang this classic in the movie “Holiday Inn”. This song has been covered by countless of music artists worldwide.

 

2. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) - Mel Torme

This annual Christmas crowd pleaser has been recorded over and over but Nat King Cole's 1946 original recording of Mel Torme's tune is still the ultimate version of this old favourite with his hot chocolate voice. You just want to wrap up warm, hold your loved ones in your arms and sip eggnog and gobble chestnuts. The tune is already the most-recorded holiday tune of the 21st century.

 

3. Do They Know It's Christmas Time - Band Aid

Phil Collins, Sting, George Michael, Boy George, Bono, the all-star list goes on and on. This charity classic has become a festive anthem and yet still serves up poignant lyrics about a world many of us know little about, and people we should champion and consider every year at this time.

 

4. Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley

The King crooned this Billy Hayes tune up a storm for his Christmas With Elvis EP in 1958 and it has been a chilly reminder of lonely yules ever since. The track has been recorded by 150 different artists but Elvis gives it an achingly cool twist.

 

5. All I Want Is Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

It was released by Columbia Records onNovember 1, 1994as the lead single from her fourth studio album, Merry Christmas. The song was written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, both of whom were also the producers. This song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart

 

 6. Winter Wonderland - Doris Day

This holiday classic has been recorded by over 1,000 different artists but only Doris Day takes you off to the imaginary lanes and meadows in this festive favourite, where young lovers build snowmen, fall in love and warm their frozen bits by the fire.

 

7. Last Christmas - Wham!

George Michael's smooth tones and those Christmas bells offer us another festive heartbreaker as the British pop star recalls a romance gone bad.

 

8. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow - Dean Martin

There's something about Dean Martin that just says Christmas to me - whether it's those lovely sweaters he used to wear, his love for a festive brew or the fact he's the eternal merry maker, I'm not sure but this jolly tune about keeping your loved one loved up as the storm bears down is a lovely romantic pop ditty.

 

9. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Various Artists

Another Christmas favourite that joins the one thousand club - for the amount of times it has been performed by different artists, this dreamy ballad conjures up all that is good and right about Christmas time. Tony Bennett, Toni Braxton and The Carpenters have all recorded terrific versions of this winter warmer but the late Rosemary Clooney nailed it.

 

10.  Peace On Earth - Bing Crosby + David Bowie

This makes the list just because it was such an odd but wonderful pairing - spacemanBowieand old timer Bing, the voice of Christmas. The odd couple teamed up to record this hit in the late 1970s for a TV Crosby Christmas Special and Bowie swears to this day he has no recollection of the performance.

 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Best Christmas Songs of All Time, Bing Crosby, White Christmas, The Christmas Song, Mel Torme, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

Songwriter Joan Baez still loves the stage after 50 years

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Dec 12, 2011 @06:03 PM

 

Written by Bill Nutt

(Scource: NJ Press Media)

Joan Baez, Singer-Songwriter

This past January, Joan Baez turned 70. And like a number of her fellow septuagenarians (such as Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Paul Simon), she still tours and performs.

No one is more surprised by that fact than Baez herself.

“Sometimes, I’m up on the stage, and I think that it’s crazy that I’m still doing this,” she says.

With a laugh, she adds, “And it’s crazy that you’re still coming to see me.”

Crazy or not, Baez continues to make music and continues to promote political and social activism. Her current tour brings her to the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Wednesday (Nov. 16).

The combination of social causes and music has been part of Baez’s public image since she started performing in coffeehouses in Cambridge, MA in the late 1950s. Only 17 years, she had already developed a social consciousness, in part because of her parents.

Her musical career began almost by accident, according to Baez. Her first instrument was the ukulele, followed by the guitar.

“I didn’t take (music) seriously,” she says. “My idea of the future was the following Wednesday. Planning was not my strong point.”

Nonetheless, Baez’s undeniably powerful soprano voice soon became familiar to aficionados of folk music, and her first three albums went gold. She championed other performers, including a young Bob Dylan. Gradually, she went from recording traditional folk songs to more politically tinged material.

In the 50 years since her debut album, Baez has occasionally had significant commercial success, notably her cover of the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and the self-penned title track from her 1975 album “Diamonds and Rust.” But arguably her greatest strength has been covering material by singer-songwriters from Dylan to Mary-Chapin Carpenter and making it her own.

For example, her 2008 album “Day After Tomorrow” was produced by Steve Earle, who contributed three songs. She also covers songs by Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett.

“It sounds corny, but the song really finds me,” says Baez. “With the song ‘Day After Tomorrow’ (written by Waits), I really thought, ‘Oh, he wrote it for me.’ ”


With so much material from which to choose, planning her setlist is a challenge.

“It’s dicey business doing a concert,” she says. “If it’s a new song, it has to be one that catches the people’s attention right away.”

However, Baez also understands that some older songs can take on a deeper resonance. For example, inspired by Occupy Wall Street and related movements, she has resurrected her version of the Rolling Stones’ “Salt of the Earth” on her current tour.

“I think that Occupy Wall Street is one of the biggest surprises,” she says. “I don’t know if this would have happened without (uprisings) in Egypt and Tunisia, that showed how much power people can have.”

Still, Baez does not see herself as a starry-eyed optimist.

“I was always a realist,” she says. “Most things that are unpleasant don’t surprise. And I’m not discouraged, because I know newspapers and TV don’t always cover the good things that are happening.”

For her own part, Baez sees no reason to slow down either as an activist or as a performer.

“It’s true that I’ve lost some of my upper register,” she says. “But it’s made up by the fact that my voice contains 50 years of living.”

 

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Joan Baez, folk music

Songwriting Tip: How to Write a Song Using Other Songs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Nov 03, 2011 @04:53 PM

By Kari Kiddle, Yahoo! Contributor Network

(Source: Yahoo! Contributor Network)

Songwriting
I know what you're thinking: I can't write a song if my pen depended on it. (A little joke). But you can! I started writing a few years ago, and now I can't stop. It takes practice, thought, and most of all patience. By reading this, you'll learn how to write a song in 5 easy steps.

1.) Start by brainstorming what type of music you want to write. What's your favorite band? I find it easier to write music that I like to listen to.

2.) Next, grab a pen and paper. I like to pull my inspiration from songs that I've fallen in love with. Like a phrase that your favorite artist used? Find a way to re-write it. For example, in Sara Bareilles' "Love Song", she talks about going against what's decided for her. I used her angry inspiration to write my song Take You Down.

3.) If you can play an instrument fairly well, I suggest using chords from songs that you love to start. Go to a site like ultimate-guitar.com that provides tabs as well as chords.

4.) The hardest part is deciding whether to start with the music, or the melody. It varies for me. Sometimes I'll be playing around on my keyboard and start humming/babbling along to the chords. This eventually turns into a song. Other times I'm in the shower or car and a melody just randomly comes to my head.

For beginners, I suggest the first one. If you can't play an instrument, look online for backtracks that you could hum along to. You're not going to be able to freestyle words right away, so don't be afraid to sound like a three year old.

5.) Finally, it's time to put them all together. Take your clever words, melodies, and chords and sing/play your heart away.


Kari Kiddle is a singer-songwriter. Through the process of writing songs, playing gigs, and self-promotion, she has learned a lot of things that she would like to share with the world.

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

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting Tip, Write Song Using Other People's Songs

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

Every Place Is Home: A Magical Songwriting Co-write

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Oct 06, 2011 @01:22 PM

Every Place Is Home: A Magical Co-write by Melissa Axel

Songwriters Melissa Axel and Andy White, photo by James Jacoby

After my last blog article about the power of co-writing, I was asked to share an experience of how one successful co-write came together. This is the story of "Every Place Is Home," a song from my new album LOVE . HUMANITY . METAMORPHOSIS …

A few years ago, my husband James Jacoby and I were awarded scholarships to participate in a songwriting workshop held in the United Kingdom by the WOMAD Foundation. Short for "World of Music, Arts and Dance," WOMAD was co-founded by Peter Gabriel in 1980 to create awareness of the potential of a multicultural society through festivals and educational projects. It was at one of these programs that we met Irish singer-songwriter Andy White, who was leading the songwriting workshop. A year later we attended again, and there Andy, James, and I co-wrote the song "Every Place Is Home" in a flurry of inspiration.

Each day of the workshop, the songwriters gathered in a small 14th century castle tower to share their original songs and team up to create new ones. Co-writing began with a lyric brainstorming session, a process we've affectionately nicknamed "songstorming." Andy placed huge sheets of paper on a big group of tables, and in the center of each sheet was an art image. Ten songwriters walked around the tables examining the artwork and doodling bits of lyrics near any image that sparked an idea, later copying down favorite phrases into the notebooks Andy had given us. The first image of a single chair by a table in an empty room immediately caught my eye.

Words came first, but almost immediately a melody started to form along with them: "if I play for one, I play for all / from this truth I cannot stray" and then, "fill this empty space with what my soul creates / let this mind just fall away." As James and I walked around the tables, each piece of art drew out more lyric ideas: "sweeping landscape, surreal sunscape, urban faire and country rain" and "in the shadow of our big dreams, we built a love that will sustain." We had driven through Iceland for several days before arriving in the UK, so the more scenic images on the table reminded us of the trip, as well as the English countryside on our train ride from London to Bath.

After the "songstorming" session, James and I compared notes in a practice room. We had both written about our journey: traveling the world, connecting through music and creativity, always feeling at home with each other and the friends we met along the way. We quickly worked out a chorus together: "we don't need to find one way to go / all we need is love, open sea and road / we don't need a place to call our own / when every place is home." By this point, I knew that this would not be one of my typical piano songs.

Even though I've never played guitar, in my head I was hearing a steady picking rhythm. Andy opened our door to check on us, 12-string guitar in tow, and we quickly brought him into the fold. I told him we needed a guitar pattern that would evoke the feeling of riding along on a train. Imagine my euphoria when he immediately played what I was hearing in my head! Forty minutes later, the three of us had fine-tuned the melody, written a bridge (or as they say across the pond, the "middle eight" bars), and were rehearsing away, ready to make a demo recording.

Sometimes a song just comes magically, without warning or even very much effort. Who knows how or why certain words, ideas, and notes come to us to put life's experiences together in a poetic and relatable way that will hopefully touch people for years to come. Yes, we spent a little time honing the lyrics and melody a bit, making adjustments to the chord progression as we went. But in this case, we can truly say that the muse spoke, and we all just happened to be in the right place at the right time to help capture her magic.

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, USA Songwriting Competition, WOMAD, Peter Gabriel, Melissa Axel, co-write, Andy White

Songwriting Tip: How To Write A Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Sep 23, 2011 @09:49 AM

How To Write A Song by Toby Gad

The songwriter behind hits by Fergie, Beyoncé, Colbie Caillat, and more, opens up his box of secrets...

 Toby Gad, professional songwriter

I’ve written songs for quite a while now, over two decades, and I still get a kick out of it. I used to write eighty to a hundred songs a year but it seems like success has only made me work harder—last year I wrote and recorded a hundred and eighty songs, and this year probably just as many.

I already wrote songs when I was seven years old, very basic but useful songs that I would chant on the bicycle on my way back from school in the brutal German winter, songs that would warm my freezing hands, songs about pretty much anything that came to mind. Over the years my songs got better, but even today before most writing sessions I have moments when I think, “I really don’t know how to write a song.”

Chemistry

I have long ago given up trying to write a song by myself. I tried a few times, but mostly got insecure about it halfway through the writing process and tossed it before long. For me it’s really the chemistry with an artist that provides the fertile ground for a seed to sprout. I also find that different collaborators inspire in different ways. Last year I wrote songs with over a hundred different collaborators, some of them superstars and some of then complete unknowns. Some of them were established writers or artists I had worked with before, and some of them were upcoming artists that seemed to have something intriguing about their talent that made me want to write a song with them.

I couldn’t say that superstars are more inspiring than some unknown artists, but I certainly put more pressure on myself in A-list sessions, since the labels and managements have high expectations, and stars can spare only a little of their valuable time. I’m not sure if the pressure makes the songs better. Some good songs just happen, and I couldn’t say why on this particular day this song came about. As random as all this now sounds, I do know a few things that I have learned over the years that I can share.

Let’s start with the most basic and yet most profound:

A song is a feeling

A good song makes you feel something, often so intensely that you keep thinking about it for days, so intensely that it makes you cry, or laugh, or it can make you want to dance, or it helps you vent your anger... A bad song is a song that doesn’t make you feel anything. Often it is that simple. If you have a hit, then it is usually a song that makes a lot of people feel a lot. That’s why many listeners want to hear such a song over and over and—you hope—they also want to buy it. So it helps to trust your feelings when you write a song.

When I first meet an artist or writer, we feel each other out, talk about life, and often that leads to interesting subjects to write about. On my first session with Colbie Caillat she said, ten minutes into our conversation, that she loves singing and making records, but really what means the most to her right now is the love she gets from her boyfriend. I loved that thought and we wrote our first song “What means the most.” The song wrote itself in two hours, and every word in the lyric reflects how she feels about him. On our second writing day she was still the hopeless romantic and said she could even imagine saying “I do” to him one day. So we wrote “I Do,” which became the hit single of her current album.

These songs have a genuine urgency and authenticity to me. They feel honest and spontaneous and they really make me feel something every time I listen to them. That is my personal reward for making music.

Lyrics matter

To me the lyric has become increasingly important. I used to run around with a dictaphone and record melodies all day long. Lately I just jot down words and lyrics. The music often comes naturally, later in the writing process. Sometimes I still jam in a session and let music and lyric flow together, from scratch, but that’s more the exception now.

Maybe it’s just me, and I don’t even consider myself a lyricist, but I do listen mainly to the words in a song, and if a lyric feels out of place then even the best beat and melody can’t save it... but a great lyric with a mediocre melody can still make a great song. By “great” I don’t mean academically legitimate. To me, “great” means believable, conversational, from the heart, conclusive, unique, urgent, creative, honest, and with a purpose.

Listen

I get my best inspiration by really listening to my artists and writers. The good ideas are often between the lines, and some of my questions can feel like I’m the shrink, but by getting into the mind of the artists I make sure the song is authentic and the artist will identify with it later on.

Even when I don’t write, one ear is always listening for words that could provide good starting points for a future writing session. I collect such fragments on long lists that I browse through before writing sessions. This way I have a Plan B in case the conversation with the artist doesn’t lead to anything song-worthy.

Songwriting is a ball game

We bounce ideas back and forth, kick them around, smack them on the ground, throw them high up in the air, and during the process we assemble the elements that feel good to everyone involved. If one player doesn’t feel like playing one game then we start another game. Some games are so much fun that no-one wants to stop playing. Those are the songs that write themselves.

By bouncing ideas back and forth the good ones come together, bad ones naturally get weeded out, one sentence leads to another, and suddenly there is an unexpected great line that may never have surfaced in a different context. That’s why I’m not a fan of “closet writers” who get a track and then write everything in their own headspace. Some writers function well that way, and it drives me crazy to sit in a room with someone who doesn’t share their thoughts. I like to be part of every lyric and I want to share my melodies and ideas as they come to light and evolve. I feel only then can I be great in my capacity as an “incubator”.

Make it memorable

Back in the days of the musicals, the writers had to make songs so memorable that the audience would walk out of the theatre and still sing the songs, after hearing them only once. The movie musical Mary Poppins has a good example of “memorable”... maybe annoyingly so, but so much fun that even the most serious audience member walks out singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. I adore how shamelessly creative this word is... creative license!

Let go

If something doesn’t feel right while you’re writing it, then maybe it’s time to try something else. In some sessions we write for three hours and suddenly one of us doesn’t feel good about the concept anymore. Then it is really important not to be afraid to toss everything and start over. Usually that leads to a better idea.

Last year I also had a few sessions that ended with no song. That can be very frustrating, especially if it is with an important artist. But I find it better not to record anything if it doesn’t feel right. Otherwise I record something I don’t like, only to find myself having to arrange that bad song, mix it, play it to my curious publishers and managers and the artist’s record label, and spread a meaningless idea that I’m not proud of.

The big question I ask myself is this: Can songwriting ever become boring? After several thousand songs, will I run out of song ideas one day, or just write bad songs after all the good ones have been written? But so far every writing day still feels like a safari. I get better at spotting the leopards, I’m less afraid of rhinos, and I still find new surprises all the time.

 

This article is reprinted by permission by Recording magazine. Toby Gad’s writing credits include Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy,” Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Colbie Caillat’s “I Do,” Nicole Scherzinger’s “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” The Veronicas’ “Untouched,” Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” and Selena Gomez’ “Year Without Rain”, to name a few. Photos courtesy Toby Gad. For more information on Recording Magazine, go to: http://www.recordingmag.com

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Toby Gad, Fergie, Beyonce, Colbie Cailat

Songwriting/Collaboration: The Power of Co-writing

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Aug 08, 2011 @05:21 PM

Creative Collaboration: The Power of Co-writing by Melissa Axel

 

Melissa Axel (Artist Relations, USA Songwriting Competition) & Andy White, photo by James E. Jacoby

Everybody knows the three keys to a successful business are "location, location, location!" For successful songwriters, there is another mantra: "co-write, co-write, co-write!"

Still, many of us have grown accustomed to making music alone in our creative caves and may be nervous about teaming up with other writers. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of creative collaboration, whether it takes place in the same room or online with a co-writer many miles away …

Different minds bring fresh perspectives. Unless you've been deliberately writing about a variety of subjects, it's likely (and natural) that your songs tend to focus on the same handful of topics you know best or care about most. Pairing with someone else brings a second lifetime of experiences to the writing table, challenging you to try on new shoes and see what another person's ideas might look like told through your eyes.

Variation opens up new melodic and harmonic possibilities. If you tend to favor the same keys and chord progressions, writing with someone whose first instrument is different from yours can lead you down fresh musical paths. Guitarists could try writing with a pianist, violinist, cellist, mandolin player, etc. (and vice versa). Also, look for people who share some of your influences and lyrical interests but are into other musical styles or approaches to songwriting as well. Always wanted to explore African grooves or incorporate bluegrass elements into a pop song? Find an artist/writer comfortable in territory that's new to you, and give it a try!

Two heads really are better than one. It's easy to beat our heads against the wall or even put a song aside for years when we get stuck on a section of lyrics or melody that just doesn't feel "right." Or perhaps you have some choruses that need verses or a song that's missing a bridge. Trusted writing partners not only bounce ideas off of each other but also can become a great for completing unfinished songs and making sure each word and note is the strongest possible choice.

So where do you find people to co-write with? They might be performing artists in your local music community, writers you know from songwriting websites and social network groups, composers who usually write instrumental music, or producers who create tracks for artists who only sing or rap. Be open to meeting songwriting partners if you travel to perform or attend songwriting conferences, too. It's easy to write across the miles with online audio/video chat programs or even by sending MP3s and lyrics back and forth via email.

If you're ready to broaden your songwriting horizons, take your time and get to know potential co-writers and their writing styles. As your songwriting becomes more plentiful, diverse, and enriching, you'll be glad you reached out and found creative collaborators who are a really great fit.

 

Melissa Axel is an Artist Relations representative of USA Songwriting Competition. At just eight years of age, she was writing songs about the bittersweet journey of life, love, struggle, and inspiration. The piano-driven singer/songwriter studied at Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music and went on to earn her master's degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Nova Southeastern University. Axel's new album love . humanity . metamorphosis will be released September 20, 2011. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Berklee, writing songs, Co-writer, writing lyrics, Creating in a Group, collaboration, co-writing

One Thing a Day for My Songwriting Journey By Doak Turner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 @03:26 PM

One Thing a Day for My Songwriting Journey

by Doak Turner

 

Doak Turner

If I told you that you could do 300+ things for your songwriting journey between today and this time next year – would you think that I am crazy or what?

As a songwriter who lived outside of Nashville until moving in October 2002, I would follow a plan that really helped me stay focused and stay on my songwriting journey. I made trips to Nashville for (6) years before moving to town. I called it simply, "Do One Thing a Day for my songwriting." Those "things" have enabled me to develop a great network in Nashville of friends and industry professionals, to be prepared when I moved to Nashville with the craft and business of songwriting, to write better songs on my songwriting journey, and to really keep my songwriting goals focused over the years prior to moving to Nashville.

One thing a day includes making a phone call or e-mail to a songwriter to set up a co-write session, or an industry professional to ask a songwriting business question, or someone in the local songwriting workshop to discuss an upcoming event. Or, I might make plans for my next trip to Nashville, plans for an upcoming workshop meeting and guest speakers for the local events. I would also contact the media for those local songwriting events. Sometimes I would talk to a couple of out-of-town or out-of-state friends who are on the songwriting journey to share ideas, goals, challenges and successes. Sometimes a call would be needed to say hello to someone whom I haven't spoken to for a while, who always encouraged me in life, and to share what was going on in my life, even thought that friend was not a songwriter. They are (and still continue to be) great, positive friends who believe in me.

Other kinds of one thing a day include opening my hook-book to write a hook that I had just found reading a book, a conversation overheard during the day. My hook-book contains “Hooks” – thoughts and ideas for songs that I use when writing and co-writing songs. Or, I might find a hook from watching a movie or TV, from the preacher's sermon, a newspaper, or magazine. Sometimes, the hook "came to me from the sky," or wherever those hooks come from, and seem to find our songwriter's antenna, move into our head, and then down our arm onto the paper. I also open the hook book to review ideas I've written in it, to see if I could write another verse or chorus to something I had started previously, and maybe even complete a song in my hook book. Looking at music sites on line can be very helpful by finding ideas from artists and songwriters, learning and networking on-line with myspacemusic and other sites from organizations and songwriters. 

I might play the guitar or keyboard - even for a couple minutes a day - which is another excellent thing to do that may inspire an idea. I would learn another melody that can lead to a song, learn a new chord or strumming pattern, or work to improve a song that I've written. If I have more than a couple minutes, then I play the instrument and visualize myself playing my songs to an audience, a concert hall, one of our local venues, or playing live in the venue if that is my ultimate goal. Keeping the guitar on a stand instead of in the guitar case makes it much easier to play! So have them in as many rooms of your house as possible – you may pick one up for a couple minutes and strum a melody that you haven’t thought of yet – starting another song!

One thing a day also includes reading just a chapter - or even one or two pages - of a songwriting book a day to increase my songwriting skills. Hey, folks - we all know what our favorite room to read is - so go ahead and have a songwriting book in there at all times! If I read a little before going to bed, I often make it a songwriting or industry publication for my bedtime stories. I read the "how to" songwriting books, biographies about people in the songwriting or music industry, or any book or industry magazine that enables me to learn one thing per day. American Songwriter Magazine, Music Row and Performing Songwriter are a couple magazines to have around the house. It's is a great investment for my songwriting journey. I highly recommend every songwriter reading “The Craft and Business of Songwriting – Third Edition” by John Braheny. If you read just (2) pages a day – you will learn something new every day about songwriting! The book by Douglas Waterman “Song – the world’s best songwriters on creating the music that moves us” is another great book to have at your desk or nightstand – somewhere easy to pick up and read – maybe just ONE interview a day with a great songwriter will make a difference on your journey!

Some other things that I did while still in Charlotte, NC and you can too is to attend and get involved in the local songwriting community. I was the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) coordinator in Charlotte from 1996 - 2002. I was fortunate to have two great co-coordinators for the last year in Charlotte, as I had my condo on the market and was making plans to move to Nashville. I know from personal experience that it's great when songwriters ask what they can do to get involved with the local songwriter workshop.

I highly recommend networking in your local community by attending the music events and singer/songwriter nights. This is an excellent place to meet new co-writers and friends that have the same interests as you and inspire new songs.

One thing a day should include time to review your goals. I wrote my goals down and placed them where I could see them every day. I still do this. That way, I can pause for a minute, look and make sure I have done one thing that day for my songwriting journey. Visualize your goals happening with your songwriting. But, the most important thing for you to do each day is - Have Fun on Your Songwriting Journey!

Doak Turner is a songwriter in Nashville, TN. He has songs on independent CD projects, former 6-year local coordinator in the NSAI Charlotte workshop, produced several successful songwriting events, a writer for www.musicdish.com in the “Song Works¨ section of the site, and editor and publisher of The Nashville Muse. 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, hit songs, doak turner, one thing a day

Songwriting Tip: Creating in a Group, The Collaborating Game

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 @10:39 AM

Creating in a Group – The Collaborating Game

 Pat & Pete Luboff

Here’s a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. Get two or three, or more people in a room to play the collaboration game. The rules are simple:

 

1. NO NOES!

 

You can point to your nose and shake your head to emphasize this rule! This means anything goes! Ignore all your self-imposed limitations and barriers. Utterances such as “I can’t sing,” “That won’t work,” “I’m not good at lyrics,” “That’s stupid,” and all the variations on that theme are NOT ALLOWED. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to eliminate the negative if everyone agrees to this rule.

 

2. NO EVALUATIONS

 

If you judge your ideas before you express them or simultaneously with expressing them, you stop the flow of your ideas. When working in a group, each person has the responsibility to say WHATEVER IDEAS ARE TRIGGERED IN THE PROCESS. If you think to yourself, (trying to avoid Rule 1 by not saying it out loud) “That’s stupid,” and stop yourself from saying it, you have eliminated the stimulus that might have inspired the next person’s thought. Our rule of thumb is, if you really think it’s stupid, you are OBLIGATED to say it out loud. In the early stages of creating, all ideas are good ideas! The time for judging them comes much later in the process. Leave your judge outside the door for now.

 

3. STAY POSITIVE

 

No noes means all yeses! Every idea can be greeted with a “yes.” Every idea will inspire new ideas in other members of the group. Here are some positive phrases that can be used to build on ideas:

 

Yes, and…. Suppose…. Another idea….

Or…. Also…. How about….

What if…. And…. Let’s….

 

These phrases are indispensable tools for expressing respect for all the ideas that flow in a collaboration.

 

 

4. HAVE FUN!

 

Be silly. Make jokes. Say the wildest thing you can think of. Laugh! Aren’t we lucky to be writing songs?

 

Let’s play the collaboration game:

 

You can use any photo as the stimulus for the game. For example, use a photograph of two people kissing.

 

There’s one at http://www.masters-of-photography.com/D/doisneau/doisneau_kiss.html Double-click the photo and it will be large enough to fill one page, which you can print out. Each person in the room takes a turn saying a sentence or two about the story of the picture.

 

The idea is to say anything that comes to mind very quickly and then pass the picture to the next person. Keep going round and round until you really feel you’ve dug that kissing well as deep as you can! Here are a couple of examples:

- She just told him she’s pregnant.

- Their braces are stuck together and they’re going to an orthodontist to get unstuck.

- He doesn’t know her at all. He’s kissing her to distract her while he picks her pocket.

 

There is no end to the ideas that you can come up with. What did s/he he say just before this photo was taken? What are the fellow behind them and the woman next to them thinking? What’s going to happen next? These are the questions you will be asking about the people in your songs, so you are practicing the art of characterization.

 

This game of getting the creative flow going without boundaries can be played with any photograph or curious item. You will have to remind yourself to return to the fun, open attitude of this game whenever you feel yourself getting bogged down creatively.

 

Collaboration business tip: We think it’s best if everyone agrees up front that the song will be shared equally by all the writers who are participating in the collaboration. Mathematics can kill a collaboration. That’s why they call it division!

 

Write On!

 

Pat & Pete Luboff have recordings by Snoop Dogg ("Trust Me," the first single from the platinum-selling album "Top Dogg") Patti LaBelle (gold album and the title song for "Body Language: the Musical"), Bobby Womack (No. 2 on Billboard's Black Music chart), "Hometown, USA" from the John Travolta movie "Experts," on Michael Peterson's new CD, recently charting Miko Marks, and more.  They've been teaching songwriting workshops together since 1979. The Luboffs are the authors of the Writer's Digest new book "101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them" and "12 Steps to Building Better Songs," which they self-publish. For more information, visit http://www.writesongs.com

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Billboard Charts, Songwriting Tips, Billboard Books, Billboard Album Charts, Billboard #1 Hit, Billboard, Creating in a Group, The Collaborating Game, Pat, Pete Luboff

Networking in the Songwriting Business by Doak Turner

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 @01:02 PM

Networking in the Songwriting Business by Doak Turner 


Doak Turner
You are at songwriting round, open mic, showcase, CMA Week party, Jason Blume BMI workshop, NSAI Song camp, ASCAP Party, 3rd Sunday at 3 event or other networking event in Nashville. You attend the event to meet songwriters and other industry professionals, and want to be prepared and leave a great impression on the people that you meet. 

Start by introducing yourself and ask about the other person. Maybe tell them you enjoyed their songs, or ask how long they have been in Nashville, or other small talk. Take an interest in the other person, and DO NOT tell them what a great songwriter that YOU are, or hand them your CD and ask them to listen to your songs! This is a relationship town, and you need to show an interest in other people, take the time to get to know them, and the time will be right to play your songs for that person. Do NOT meet a hit songwriter at The Bluebird Café or other venue, introduce yourself and hand them your CD. This is a relationship town – just tell them you enjoyed their songs and you look forward to seeing them around town – as you will, at the YMCA, grocery store, another songwriting event or someone’s party in the future. You want them to like you, not avoid you because you hand them a CD and ask them to write with you – which is another Not To Do Thing! Hey – a great book that will help you with those topics is “The Do’s & Don’ts of Music Row” by Liz Hengber. Read that book!

Now, it is time to exchange business cards, and you want to be prepared and do not want to fumble through a pocket full of everyone else's cards you have collected that particular day, trying to find one of your cards that does not have scribbled notes on it. One networking tip is to have Your Business Cards in your Left pocket, and Everyone Else's Cards in your Right pocket. Always have a pen in your pocket and take notes from your conversation, after you have said your, “see you around town¨ or “I will call you next week and set a co-writing appointment¨, or whatever happens during your conversation. 

Speaking of business cards, your card should include your name, phone number, PO Box or address, website AND e-mail address, and be easy to read. Be sure to include your e-mail address on every business card. If you just have your website address, you are asking people to spend the time (most won't take this extra time) to go to your website, find the contact section and then send you an e-mail. Do not have fancy music logos such as music notes on your business card, unless maybe it is your company logo. You should have your personal music business card, not your day job company business card, if you work outside of the music business. 

I mention PO Box and offer this tip for everyone in Nashville. Go to the Acklen Post office in Hillsboro Village (behind the Sunset Grill) and obtain your personal PO Box. About 99% of Music Row receives their mail at this location, and this can prove to be a great networking location. I have made several contacts, a co-write or two appointment after running into people that I met previously, and several acquaintances from standing in line, or just saying hello at this post office location. 

Another unique networking tip for your business card is when you see someone looking for a piece of paper or something to write on at an event, offer your card and a pen that you should always have in your pocket at these events. Tell that person to use the BACK of your business card to write notes. I do this all the time, and got a call one day from a pro songwriter telling me that he had six of my cards in his wallet from the previous evening's event. I asked him if he thought it was a coincidence, “I don't think so”! 

The key to networking is being prepared before you get to the event. Always have a positive attitude at the event, ask positive questions instead of dwelling on how tough it is, how it is not fair, or you do not understand why your songs are not on the radio. I may ask a question like, “What is happening good for your songwriting world¨ or “What is happening good in your life these days¨? This will get the other person off on a good note and they may want to spend a couple extra minutes talking to you. 

I like to arrive early at an event and get a plate of munchies or the food they are serving at the showcases. This prevents you from trying to talk to everyone, shake hands and do the business card exchange while holding a plate in one hand and a drink in the other hand. 

Always strive to have fun at the events, meet new people, learn something new and just enjoy the experiences on this journey of songwriting! Best wishes for your music journey and I will see you networking in Nashville! 
Click me
Doak Turner is a songwriter in Nashville, TN and he has hosted the USA Songwriting Competition's showcase at the Bluebird Cafe in the past. He has songs on independent CD projects, former 6-year local coordinator in the NSAI Charlotte workshop, produced several successful songwriting events. For information on USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net
 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Nashville, USA Songwriting Competition, NSAI, doak turner, Networking, Songwriting Business