Songwriting Tips, News & More

6 Questions for Songwriters to Ask Before Demoing a Song

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

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

DemoRecording

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

1. Are you prepared to do this professionally?

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

2. Is your song finished?

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

 
3. Is your lyric sheet 100 percent accurate?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Five Songwriting Habits You Should Drop Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Successful Hit Song Structures - Questions & Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These structures are sometimes expressed as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Reprinted by permission from BMI]

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

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

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


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

 
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Record Producer & The Music Artist

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

Record Producer & The Music Artist
by Jamie Hill

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

Being clear on who you are as an artist

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

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

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

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

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

Huh.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Hotel California (#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

Heartache Tonight {#1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Already Gone (#32 on the Billboard Hot 100)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

songwriter-split-sheet

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[Article used by permission by Justin Jacobson]

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

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

Songwriting Tip: 4 Dos and Don’ts When Writing Songs

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 @12:20 PM

4 Dos and Don’ts When Writing Songs

by Cliff Goldmacher

Songwriting, writing songs
Go with your inspiration, but don’t neglect these other elements that will make your song the best it can be..


“Which do you write first, the music or the words?” This is the classic question that all songwriters get asked. In my experience, there’s no easy - or correct - answer to this one. Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes it’s the lyrics, and, often, it’s some mystical, organic combination of the two. More importantly, there is no one way to write a song. Some of the best - and worst - songs ever written were created using the same techniques. To that end, I’m going to cover four different ways to approach writing a song and some of the “dos” and “don’ts” you’ll want to keep in mind as you go through each one.

1. Writing based on a title idea/lyrical hook

Coming up with a really catchy title or lyrical hook is an art in and of itself. If you’ve got one, congratulations. Now that you’ve got it, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Do remember to make sure that everything in your lyric points to and supports your lyrical hook. Having a catchy hook only works if you build a foundation around it so that when the hook arrives, there’s a sense of drama and release.

Don’t forget to give the song real emotional content. It’s possible to be so focused on the hook and setting it up that you forget to be sincere. While the average listener might not be able to tell you why, the song won’t move them in the way that a song with genuine emotional content would.

2. Writing based on a general idea/lyrical concept

Sometimes you’ve been through an experience or have an idea for a song that feels important enough to write about. That’s as good a place as any to start.

Do capture the feeling and emotion of your concept. You obviously felt strongly enough to want to write about this idea, so immerse yourself in it and really tell the story.

Don’t be too vague. Because you haven’t started with an actual lyrical hook, you’ll need to remember to bring your overall concept to a very sharp point by summarizing it with a phrase or hook line. This hook is something you’ll hopefully come to as you’re developing your lyric around your idea. A story without a summarizing point or hook risks being too unfocused to keep your listeners’ attention.

3. Writing from a melodic idea

If you’re a melodic writer, then you’ve got a different set of challenges. Beautiful, catchy melodies are a rare commodity and should be treated with the appropriate respect.

Do honor your melody and build your song around it. Remember, people will learn your melody long before they learn your lyric, so having a good one is not to be taken lightly.

Don’t let the melody box you into awkward words or watered-down phrases. While a beautiful melody is one part of a song, it’s not the only part. Cramming in words or compromising on your lyrical integrity isn’t an acceptable approach when writing from a melody. Remember, it’s the give and take of a catchy melody and a natural, conversational lyric that makes for a great song.

4. Writing from a chord progression/groove

When you pick up your guitar or sit down at the piano, often it’s a chord progression or groove that comes first. Great!

Do dig in and develop the groove and feel. This can really set the mood of a song and inspire all kinds of interesting melodic and lyrical ideas. Also, a good groove is the very first thing the average listener will notice when they hear your song.

Don’t rely on a chord progression or groove at the expense of your melody and lyric. This is no time to get lazy. A chord progression and groove in and of itself is only - in most genres - an arrangement idea, which doesn’t really constitute a song. Without a strong melody and lyric, it’s entirely possible to have a great sounding track, and, unfortunately, a mediocre song.

As I stated at the top of this article, there isn’t one “right” way to write a song. I’d highly recommend trying every possible songwriting approach you can. Often, as songwriters, we find ourselves in a rut where we go back to the same approach over and over. While this may be comforting and even result in increased productivity, in the long run, it might not provide you with the most inspired or unique songs you’re capable of writing. Why not leave your comfort zone and try a couple of different ways of writing? You never know what you’ll get.

Good luck!


Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars. 

For more information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, lyric, Melody, writing songs, songwrite, chord progression, Cliff Goldmacher, title idea, melodic idea, lyrical concept, lyrical hook

Songwriting Tip: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 @02:44 PM

REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION

by Harriet Schock

songwriting
Edna St. Vincent Millay once said “Life is not one damned thing after another; it’s the same damned thing over and over.” In songwriting, it may seem as if the same damned thing over and over is not only permissible but called for these days. However when it gets to the point of torture, it might be best to change the melodic phrase. And maybe even the lyric—hey live dangerously.

Yes, there is a lot of persistent repetition in pop radio presently, but I think that it often sounds “trendy” rather than just current. It’s like fashions. Yes, you see them everywhere for a while—but they don’t stay in fashion. It may start at Neiman Marcus but by the time you see it at K Mart, it’s over. So if you’re writing songs you hope might be around for a while, I would suggest you avoid the same melodic and/or lyrical phrase repeated and repeated until 1) You FINALLY get the listeners’ ATTENTION or 2) You drive them so crazy, they change the station.

Some repetition is necessary, of course, such as a repeating chorus, or a melodic motif that you repeat the rhythm of and change the notes….even an interval that repeats. For instance, think of the bridge to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The first and third lines “Someday I’ll wish upon a star” and “Where trouble melts like lemon drops” are melodically identical. But the second and fourth lines, (“And wake up where the clouds are far” and “High above the chimney tops”) even though they have the same rhythm are on different notes from lines 1 and 3 as well as from each other. Need I say this is not a trendy song. It’s been a standard for decades. It will sound just as good decades from now.

Songs that are simply well written about things people care about will stay around for a while. If you like repetition, use it until YOU get tired of the phrase. Don’t keep repeating it because you think that’s a current way to write. Tomorrow it might not be.


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 three other Jaglom films and starred in “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway.“ Jaglom’s most recent film, “The M Word,” features Harriet’s song “Bein’ a Girl,” performed on camera at the end of the film. Karen Black wrote the play, “Missouri Waltz,” around five of Harriet’s songs, which ran for 6 weeks at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood as well as in Macon, Georgia. In 2007, Los Angeles Women In Music honored Harriet with their Career Achievement and Industry Contribution award. Harriet teaches songwriting privately, in classes and a popular online course by private email. For her performance schedule, list of credits and samples of her work or information on her book (Becoming Remarkable, for Songwriters and Those Who Love Songs), her songwriting classes and consultation, go to: www.harrietschock.com

 For information on the 20th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

 

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, Harriet Schock

The 5 Minute Songwriting Class

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, Feb 02, 2015 @08:37 AM

The 5 Minute Songwriting Class

By Michael Anderson

 Songwriting

          If you have been reading this series of articles you know that I have been referencing film and screenwriting as another paradigm for creative use of technique in your songwriting.

          I have lately found a source of inspiration that has been quite a revelation to me in that I found someone preaching the same guerilla techniques for film that I have been preaching for songwriting.

          His name is Robert Rodriquez, and you may know his work from films such as “El Mariachi” and “Sin City”.

          Anyway, he also has a book about his experience in making his first feature length film, “El Mariachi”. The book is called “Rebel Without A Crew”, and the narrative has similarities with my experience in the music business – a good read if you are into seeing how other people have pulled it off.

          Part of his book is the “10 Minute Film School” – I thought I might vamp on that concept for songwriters:

 

“The 5 Minute Songwriting Class”

 

          Part I: The first thing is you need a good idea – I have lectured on that over and over here. Creativity is about process – the old “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” routine – but without that 10% inspiration the other 90% of your work is a waste of time. In fact, you can hire the “perspiration” part if you have the money – somebody will take your money and do all the necessary work for you if you know how to delegate and focus in that way.

          But if you are a struggling artist chances are you will end up doing most of the work yourself too because you can’t afford to hire somebody to be your “go fer”. That is OK, as Robert Rodriquez repeatedly points out, the only way to really be sure you are getting what you need is to do it yourself. That means learning all the little “processes” in the overall big picture process – learning your instrument, learning your tools for recording, learning your business procedure.

          But the initial spark is where it starts. Eddie DeGarmo told me that genius is defined by limitations – in other words, making what you have to work with work in your favor – do something on a low budget someone with all the resources in the world can’t do because they don’t have the focus for that. Find a creative way to solve a problem that no one could have come up with in any other way.

          To find that magic “idea” I recommend a few exercises that again, I am sure you have heard before.

 

          A: “Morning Pages” – direct from “The Artist Way” formula – you can do them in any way that works for you but the point is to get writing immediately in the morning while your brain is still connected to your creative subconscious and start flowing.

          Working without interruption starting first thing in the morning gets more creative work done than anything else I have ever found – a close second is late at night when it is quiet and you are tired – the same process – connecting to that part of your creative self that is a bit left of your reasonable, rational normal thought process.

 

          B: A similar process – the “Artist Date”  - again, straight from “The Artist Way”. Set aside time to goof off. Do nothing. Do what you want. Relax.

          I know, you don’t have time. Well, you can’t force creativity any more than you can make time go backwards – it is a flow and you need to find the rhythm of it – it is in another dimension, a parallel universe - and you need to find it  –  sync to it - it will not find you through your will. It may smack you upside the head at any moment, but you can’t control that. You have to be ready for it.

 

          Part II: Do it. Write it down and record it. Use what you have, when you have it. Don’t wait for the ideal guitar, perfect piano, latest software, newest recorder, machine, time, professional studio, whatever. Again, do it with what you have, when you have it. And do the very best you can do with what you have available. But also:

          A: Lower your expectations. Some people never do anything because they have such egotistic perfectionist tendencies that they can’t allow themselves to make a mistake. Get over that. Make mistakes. Fail. Learn. Do. Get better. Do it all again.

          B: Have a goal – what are you going to do with the demo? What are you going to do with the finished product? What do you need to do to get it to that point and how can you do that now?

 

          Part III: Mainly, enjoy the process of your work – enjoy the rush of the new idea. Enjoy the satisfaction of actually hearing a new part, a new line, a new creative way of doing something no one else has done – say the same thing in a fresh new way.

          Entertain yourself – make your melody, your lyric, your demo something you want to experience over and over again and show to people you trust who appreciate you.

          When you get there the other people will find you.

          Class dismissed. Go write a song.

 

You can contact Michael Anderson or purchase his “Little Black Book of Songwriting” at michaelanderson.com

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

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Lyrics, songwrite, Michael Anderson

Songwriting Tip: Drawing Maximum Attention To Your Hook

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Jan 08, 2015 @10:42 AM

by Ralph Murphy

Songwriting
As you go through your song's story and the verses, check your rhyme scheme. Whatever it is -- change it in your chorus.
For instance, change an A B A B rhyme scheme to A B C B.

The reason you do this is to subtly alert listeners that something important is coming. A change in rhyme scheme combined with the change in melody going into the chorus should have them ready for the hook.

A couple of effective ways to get the most out of your hook (90 percent of the time, your title is the final line or hook) are to:

1. Put an internal rhyme immediately preceding the hook line

For an example,

"I love you, you love me too,
But we can't make it"

or

"I hate your dog, he ate my frog,
And now I hate you."

"And now I hate you" and "But we can't make it" are the lines you intended to emphasize (i.e your hooks).

2. Don't rhyme your hook with anything

A great example of this can be found in Larry Henley's and Jeff Silbar's "Wind Beneath My Wings." In their chorus, except for a very subtle implied rhyme with the word "everything," which is tucked in the middle of the second line ("and everything I'd like to be"), the title stands alone. It's also, on examination, made very singable by the use of alliteration. The W's in "Wind Beneath My Wings" really make it soar. (I hope "soar" is spelled right!)

Write a hit!

Ralph Murphy, hit songwriter

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.

Murphy's Laws of Songwriting

*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, songwrite, Ralph Murphy