Songwriting Tips, News & More

Songwriting Tip: The Money Angle

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Apr 05, 2013 @11:30 AM

Songwriting—The Money Angle

MoneyStack

A pro songwriter points the way toward profitable projects

By Eric Alexandrakis

Songwriting—it has such a nice ring to it. You know what would sound even better? Making money from it. How in the world does one even begin to start that process? Following up on my article in our last Songwriters’ Issue (March 2012), here are some more ideas and talking points for the songwriter with serious ambitions.

There are hundreds of success stories about one-hit wonders and flavors-of-the-month, and they all have one thing in common: Somebody was in the right place at the right time. But to get ready to make the most of that right moment requires patience, organization, and, of course, talent! Meanwhile there is one avenue to making money from your music that has become much more accessible than it used to be—licensing. We’ll focus on that. But first, let’s talk about another kind of focus—yours.

Where is your focus?

Will you be a professional songwriter, writing for a job, or are you going to write what you want, and damn people’s opinions/agendas? If it’s the latter, keep your day job—forever.

Make a decision and stick to it. What are you going to shoot for? Have you considered writing for television, or for advertising, or movies? While it’s not realistic to absolutely want to decide this early on, somehow you already know whether you gravitate towards The Beatles, or John Williams, or both.

No matter what music genre and media outlet you have in mind, songwriting comes down to one thing, and that’s a hook and a theme. If you try to go pro with the widest appeal, Pop music owns that market. There are so many Pop writers and writer wannabes. How does one stand out?

Pop—what Pop?

These days Pop music encompasses everything from Hip-Hop to Country, to Rock, etc. One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced artists/writers make very early on is that when they’re asked what their genre is, they say something like “Well it’s a little Pop, with a little Country, and some Metal, and Progressive Rock, etc.” Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that you have no idea what the heck you’re doing. No focus!

If you suddenly decide that you’re going to write Pop songs, and your favorite band is Metallica or some stoner band, you’ll never get it. If you didn’t gravitate towards Pop early on, chances are you never will. If you really want to study the great Pop writers, I highly recommend learning the entire Beatles and Monkees catalogues. Pop songs in the ‘60s were so simple, yet really hooky, and many are great examples of the lyrical and musical simplicity needed to grab hold of the average radio zombie listener. How does the listener relate to the lyrics? Is the hook stuck in their head for the rest of the week? A writer can’t go wrong with universal themes, but deliver them in a clever way. This sets one apart.

Show and tell

Once you’ve gotten your focus together and produced some decent tunes, make some decent demos. Presentation is everything. If your music is rendered professionally, you’ll be perceived as professional right off.

While it’s not vital to do so, many committed pro songwriters find that to get where they want to be, they have to move to where the business is. Try Nashville, Los Angeles, etc. When you get there, seek out publishing houses, jingle houses, and the like. Make a professional presentation. Assume everyone will say “no”, but keep pushing and writing. If you want to be a jingle writer, make up jingles for various products already on the market.

For songwriting I suggested to focus on one style, but in the case of jingles, no matter what music style, it is also true that the focus is the hook and its clever delivery. That’s the universal factor in jingles. So try making everything from a 1940s vibe to modern ad music.

Network and collaborate. Go to every networking event you can. Make note of the major names, seek them out at functions. Network with other aspiring writers as well, and collaborate with them. You never know, one of them could be the next John Lennon, and if they get a hit, it could rub off on you. Just make sure you know how much of the song you retain before you leave that night.

Be quick. When someone asks you for something, get it to them quickly and perfectly. No half-assed work, as that first request could end up being your last.

Life’s a learning lab

Study everything. Understand that there is always something to learn, and that you must be open to anything. I have friends who are some of the top players in the universe, have been in the top bands, and still strive to learn new things. I also know some guys who are 40 years old, still talk about a garage band they were in at age 20, haven’t done anything since, and think they play as well as Alan White of Yes. That type of mentality/ego has no future. You can never peak at your skills, you can only evolve. The moment you think you’ve done it all is the moment you should quit.

Have you heard of Jingle Punks? Check out some of the shows they provide music for. If you’re determined to try as many avenues as possible, watch the shows they work with, study the music they use, and make loads and loads of tracks just like the ones they broadcast. Seek out the music supervisors/editors, and try to get noticed somehow.

Learn the business inside out. Make sure you learn how licensing deals, songwriting deals and fees all work. There are plenty of resources available, and it is essential that you understand it all. It’s not enough to write a great tune, you have to learn how not to get screwed when you sell it.

The three Ps

These are somewhat general and idealistic concepts, but they will get you there:

~ Pray. Religious or not, you’ll need all the help you can get. It’s free, and couldn’t hurt even if it does or doesn’t work.

~ Perfect your craft. I’ve seen so many artists who do not have the capacity to understand how crappy they are!

~ Persevere. Those who have great skill and are determined always rise. Some kind of niche and opportunity will present itself as long as you do not quit.

Put these concepts into practice, and you’ll be on the road to success in a very difficult business. But if nothing else, they may help you to realize that you really did want to become an architect, like Mother suggested.

 

Eric Alexandrakis ([email protected]) is a highly successful songwriter, producer, and recording musician. He was a pioneer in digital copyright protection, producing the first-ever digitally watermarked CD while in graduate school, and has had several top-40 hits on the Adult Contemporary charts. Learn more at www.ericalexandrakis.com.

This article is printed with permission from Recording magazine. For more information on recording magazine, go to: http://www.recordingmagazine.com

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, producer, money, profitable projects, Eric Alexandrakis

Songwriting Tip: Write Not Just Any Song, But A HIT Song!

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Apr 04, 2013 @01:56 PM

Write Not Just Any Song, But A HIT Song!

Q & A With Songwriter Robin Frederick

Robin Frederick, songwriter

Interview by Lorenz Rychner

 

Robin Frederick is a former Director of A&R for Rhino Records, executive producer of more than 60 albums, and an in-demand lecturer on the music industry. She has written and produced hundreds of songs for television, records, theater, and audio products. In her two books, Shortcuts to HIT Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, both of which we reviewed in this magazine, we found a treasure trove of good advice of the kind that can only come from someone who knows whereof they speak. Ms. Frederick has that kind of track record.

In this issue of Recording we focus on the recording songwriter, and we asked Ms. Frederick to address the kinds of questions that we trust will be on many readers’ minds.—LzR

Q: I want to make some money—how do I know what songs to write to make that happen?

A: Like any business, you need to give the music industry something they can sell in today’s market. The best way to do that is to study current hit songs. If you have a genre in mind when you write, it will help a lot when you’re ready to approach the industry. To find a genre you’re comfortable with, check out the music charts online and in music industry magazines. Look for hit songs you like. (Don’t study the ones you don’t like!) If you’re not familiar with these songs, listen to them on iTunes or a stream-on-demand music site. Ask yourself what it is about the song that appeals to you. How does it make you feel? Is there a lyric or melody technique you could try in a song of your own?

Q: How can I “emulate” a song without stealing from it?

A: Studying hit songs is the quickest way to pick up new songwriting techniques. You’re not looking to write a new song based on the hit—it’s a way to learn and practice songwriting craft. Songwriting is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle. You’ve got to get a feel for it, find your balance, before you can really ride on your own. Emulating a hit song is a little like putting on training wheels. It will help keep you on track and heading in the right direction as you develop new skills.

To practice songwriting with a hit song as a guide, find an existing hit with a well-defined structure—easy to identify verse and chorus sections—and a good hook. The hook is usually the first or last line of the chorus. It should be memorable and sum up the overall feeling of the song. Learn to sing the hit song’s melody. Once you can do that, write a lyric line of your own that you can comfortably sing to the hook melody of the hit. (Again, the hook is probably the first or last line of the chorus. If you’re not sure which one, then just pick one to work with.) Wherever the hook appears in the original, repeat it in your “training” version.

To  get a feel for how your lyrics sound when sung to a contemporary hit, fill out your chorus. Write more lines that support your new hook, its meaning, its emotion. Be sure they fit comfortably into the hit song melody. You don’t have to stick to every note and syllable, just get close.

Now, write a lyric for the verse. It should lead to your chorus, supporting it with more information about what the singer is feeling or experiencing. Notice whether the hit song uses images to paint a picture. Try using images in your lyric. If the hit song features conversational phrases, then you do the same.

That’s really all you need to do for this exercise. Now you’ve got a feel for the way a hit song is structured, how the lyric expresses the theme, and how it feels to sing your lyrics to a contemporary hit melody. You’re starting to “ride the bicycle.” Just remember, the hit song is copyrighted. You can’t use any part of the melody or lyric in a song of your own. The best idea is to use this as an exercise. Study successful songs and you’ll be successful!

Q: I have trouble writing melodies to go with my lyrics. Any suggestions?

A: You can use the natural melody of speech to help you find the melody that lives in your lyric. Just speak your lyric out loud with a lot of emotion. The more emotion you put into it, the more melody you’ll hear! That’s because we use the melody of speech – the pace, rhythm, volume, and pitch—to express our feelings. Try it for yourself: Say the phrase “Oh, no” in a high, fast-paced tone. Now, say it again in a low, descending voice. The first expresses anxiety, the second sadness or resignation. The words didn’t change, just the melody of speech.

What’s the emotion you want to express in your lyric? Speak the lyrics with that emotion in mind and see where the melody takes you. Then preserve the pace, the pauses, and the overall up and down movement of the pitches. Try exaggerating them to create a basic melody. It’s a good idea to record this raw melody idea so you can come back to it later. You can add chords and a rhythm track to hear how your melody would sound in a song. Feel free to play with it, change notes, add a pause, start on different beats. If you get too far away from your original idea, just go back to your recording.

Q: My friends like my songs but people in the music industry tell me they’re not commercial, my lyrics are too hard to follow and I don’t write big choruses...

A: If you’re looking to pitch your songs to the mainstream, commercial radio market—either for yourself as an artist or for someone else to sing—then you really do need to keep your listener in mind at all times. Give them enough information to make them feel that they’re right there with you experiencing what you’re experiencing. For instance, if you’re using a lot of poetic imagery, you might want to alternate that with some straightforward, conversational lines to make sure the listener doesn’t get lost. Your friends know you, they know what happened to you and how you feel, but radio listeners are complete strangers. To evoke a response from them, you might need to strike a balance.

Big choruses are important because they grab and hold the listener’s attention. For radio airplay that’s a must-have. However, there is a market that doesn’t require big choruses: songs for film & TV. This fast-growing market often prefers a simple, strong refrain line to underscore the emotion in a scene, rather than a full-blown chorus which could distract the viewer.

Q: What’s the winning formula for a hit song?

A: There really isn’t a formula. But there are song craft techniques that have proven to connect with listeners, and these are essential if you want to reach a broad audience—song structure, melodic contrast, lyric imagery, are a few. That said, the first thing you (and every songwriter) should do is express what you feel with honesty. Do that first, then go back to see if you can broaden the appeal by adding more song craft to support your theme and give it more universal appeal. Adele is a great example of a hit songwriter who blends personal songwriting with craft in a way that’s compelling for listeners.

A successful song applies song craft in a creative way, so the song sounds fresh. For instance, I love what’s happening with melodic contrast and momentum in many current hit songs. These are two techniques that listeners really love, so you should be looking at them. But it’s how you use these within your song that will make it both original and commercial. Song craft is a challenge to your creativity; it’s not there to stifle it.

Q: I don’t know what to write about.

A: There are some themes that are universal. Most people have been in relationships, enjoyed times of celebration, and most have experienced loss. These emotions are universal, not the specifics of what actually happened. Try writing a song that evokes a feeling. How did you feel when a relationship broke up? What did you feel physically? What kinds of images paint a picture of those feelings?

You can also look outside yourself for song ideas. Watch a movie or TV drama. Choose a scene and write a song that expresses the feelings, the situation, or attitude of one of the characters.

Try a different angle on a familiar theme. There are lots of songs about how bad it feels to break up with someone. How about a song about the plus side? If you’re a shy person, try writing a song from the point of view of a confident, outgoing party animal!

Q: I have trouble with my hooks, they’re just not catchy enough.

A: A good rule of thumb: Keep your hook short to make it more memorable. You could use a simple, conversational phrase, just a few words. In my book I cite three that were successful hits: “You had a bad day” (“Bad Day” by Daniel Powter, Billboard #1 for 5 weeks in 2005); “Truth is I never got over you” (“Truth Is” recorded by Fantasia, #1 for 14 weeks on Billboard Adult R&B Airplay chart), “You’re gonna miss this” (“You’re Gonna Miss This” recorded by Trace Adkins, #1 on Hot Country Songs).

Once you have a short phrase, imagine what your listener will want to know when they hear that hook, what questions will they be wondering about? What kind of a bad day and why? Gonna miss what? This tells you what the rest of the lyrics should be about—filling in the rest of the story that the hook hints at. Think of your hook as a mini-version of your song.

Q: I have trouble making my verses and choruses different enough, they all sound the same.

A: For a radio hit, your chorus has to grab attention, to shout from the rooftop “Here I am!” No more explaining, no more background information—this is the heart and soul of your song. To make sure listeners notice the chorus, use one of the most effective song craft techniques—contrast. Contrast gets attention!

If your verse is fast-paced and wordy, consider smoothing out the pace of your chorus. Hold out the notes a little longer, give the melody a more fluid feel. If your verse is in a low note range, try putting the chorus in a higher note range. A sudden jump upwards of even a few notes will catch attention and raise the emotional intensity of the song.

In fact, you’ve probably noticed that hit song choruses are often in a higher note range than the verse. That’s because when we get emotional, our voices tend to rise. By putting the chorus in a higher note range, you make use of a natural response. Listeners automatically hear more emotion in a chorus that’s in a higher note range.

Q: I can’t seem to come up with a good melody that doesn’t already sound like a lot of existing songs.

A: You’re not alone; this happens to all songwriters! A melody that sounds like a lot of others, one that’s generic or clichéd, is often just the first melody you came up with. But successful songwriters don’t stop there. They treat it as raw material, a place to start, not the final melody of the song. In fact, you can rewrite a melody, just like you rewrite a lyric.

First, take a look at the individual lines of your melody. Are they all starting on the same beat? Try varying the start times of your phrases. Starting a line on the 3rd beat of the bar or an upbeat is a great way to add a fresh sound. (The “and” in “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and” is an upbeat.)

Are all your lines a similar length? If so, here’s a quick fix that really works and will give you melody a contemporary edge: Add a couple of notes and words to the end of one line and run it into the next, creating a single long line. Or you can start a line earlier, eliminating the pause at the end of the line before. Varying the line lengths will add interest to your melody. Eliminating pauses will add momentum.

Rewriting is both fun and creative. Enjoy yourself and try new things. Remember, if you don’t like the direction your song is going, there’s an “Undo” button. Just push it and get back to where you started. Then try something else. There are endless possibilities!

For more about Robin Frederick, visit her website at www.robinfrederick.com. Her books are published by TAXI Music Books at www.songwritingbooks.com.

This article is printed with permission from Recording magazine. For more information on recording magazine, go to: http://www.recordingmagazine.com

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, hit song, Melodies, Lyrics, songwrite, Robin Frederick, A&R, Rhino Records, hook, syllable

Songwriting Tip: Striking the Right Chord

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Apr 02, 2013 @09:00 AM

STRIKING THE RIGHT CHORD

 Danny Arena, songwriter

By Danny Arena

One kind of "creative rut" that songwriters can easily fall into is when the chorus section of all their songs starts to sound the same. Some songwriters get into the habit of using the same chord to begin the chorus of every song they write. In one of my SongU.com courses, we look at some of the many chords you can use to start your chorus as well as some of the successful songs that have used them in the past.

 

The I (ONE) CHORD

Contrary to popular belief, there's nothing wrong with starting the chorus to your song (or bridge in an AABA song) on the "I" chord. Be careful though, to make sure your chorus contrasts from the verse - either rhythmically or melodically. For example, both the chorus and verse to hit song "She Believes In Me" (songwriter - Gibb) begin on the I chord, but the melody soars high in the chorus in contrast to the melody in the verse. Similarly both the verse and bridge to song "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (songwriter - Howard/Arlen) start on the I chord, but the 8th note rhythm of the bridge makes it stand out in contrast to the half note feel of the verse. The Bruno Mars hit, “Just The Way You Are” takes the opposite approach and the rhythm in the chorus contains longer notes than the verse even though both sections start on the I chord.

 

THE iim (TWO MINOR) CHORD

The iim chord is similar in structure to the IV chord, but, like the iiim and vim chord, it is a minor chord with a different sound quality than the IV chord. It is not used very frequently to begin a chorus, but is used more often as a starting chord of a bridge section in an AABA song as in the old standard "I'm In The Mood For Love" (songwriter - Fields/McHugh).

 

THE iiim (THREE MINOR) CHORD

Another chord which is similar in structure to the I chord is the iiim chord. It is not used as frequently to start a chorus as the vim chord but has a similar sound quality. The Beth Neilson Chapman adult contemporary hit, "All I Have" (songwriter - Chapman/Kaz) has a chorus which starts on the iiim chord, and the bridge of the Elvis Presley AABA classic, "Can't Help Falling In Love" (songwriter - Weiss/Peretti/Creatore) starts on a iiim.

 

THE IV (FOUR MAJOR) CHORD

Another common chord choice for starting the bridge or chorus of a song is the IV chord. Probably the reason it is such a popular choice among songwriters is because of it can be set-up easily. By ending a verse on the I chord, you automatically have set up the chorus to begin on the IV chord. This is because of the natural "pull" the I chord has toward the IV chord (technically speaking, the I chord acts as the dominant of the IV chord). Some of the many songs which use the IV chord to start the chorus (or bridge), include the Kenny Rogers classic: "Lucille" (songwriter - Bowling), the Christina Aguilera ballad, “Beautiful” and the Train hit, “Hey Soul Sister”.

 

THE V (FIVE MAJOR) CHORD

A common chord used to begin a chorus in a song is the V chord. The V chord is a naturally unstable chord and the I chord is a naturally stable chord. So when you end the verse on the I chord and start the chorus on the V chord, you create a contrast. The chorus in the Reba McEntire classic, "Rumor Has It" (songwriter - Burch/Dant/Shell) starts on the V chord.


THE viim (SIX MINOR) CHORD

The vim chord is a chord which is fairly close in structure to the I chord. In fact, two of the three notes that make up these two chords are the same. The one note difference between these two chords results in the vim chord having a more "somber" quality as opposed to the "brightness" of the I chord. Starting the bridge on the vim chord can result in a change of mood in a song as in, "Through The Eyes Of Love" (songwriter - Hamlisch/Sager) or "What I Did For Love" (songwriter - Hamlisch). The Grammy winning song, "Wind Beneath My Wings" (songwriter - Henley/Silbar) begins its soaring chorus on a vim chord as does the chorus in the Taylor Swift hit, “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

So that gives you six different approaches you can try the next time you're looking for a different sound for that chorus you're writing. Maybe one of them will spark something in you that will help you create a standout chorus.

Hope to see you on the charts.

 

About Danny Arena
Danny Arena is a Tony Award nominated composer and professional songwriter. He holds degrees from Rutgers University in both computer science and music composition, and serves as an Associate Professor at Volunteer State Community College in Nashville, and an adjunct member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University. In addition, he has been invited to teach songwriting workshops throughout the U.S. and abroad, and performs his original songs regularly in Nashville at venues like the Bluebird Café. As a staff songwriter for Curb Magnatone Music Publishing, he composed several songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Tony Award for Best Original Score. He is also the co-founder, CEO, and one of the main site developers of www.SongU.com, which provides over 100 multi-level courses developed by award-winning songwriters in addition to online coaching, co-writing, industry connections, and pitching opportunities.

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, Bluebird Cafe, tip, Danny Arena, Tony Award, Chord

Legendary Music Producer Phil Ramone Dies

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Sat, Mar 30, 2013 @04:43 PM

 

Legendary Music Producer Phil Ramone Dies

(edited by Jessica Brandon)

 

Phil Ramone, legendary producer

Phil Ramone has worked with virtually every top music star including Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Paul Simon, often as a producer, occasionally as a songwriter. He recorded Marilyn Monroe’s infamous performance of “Happy Birthday” to JFK. He’s the co-founder of A&R Recording, Inc. He had a key role in the release of the first ever album, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.

A former violin prodigy and expert engineer, he worked with Dylan, Sinatra, McCartney, Bennett, Charles, Streisand, Simon, Joel and Bacharach and spent more than 50 years in the business.

Phil Ramone, the instinctive music producer whose mixing mastery for Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Paul Simon and Billy Joel helped fashion some of the most sumptuous and top-selling albums of his era, has died. He was 72. 

Ramone was married to Karen Ichiuji-Ramone (a.k.a. Karen Kamon, who had a top 100 hit in 1983 "Manhunt", featured in the hit movie and stage musical "Flashdance"), with whom he had three sons.

The 14-time Grammy winner and 33-time nominee once dubbed “The Pope of Pop” was hospitalized in late Feb. with an aortic aneurysm in New York and died Saturday morning at New York Presbyterian Hospital, according to Ramone's son Matt.

A native of South Africa who at age 10 performed as a violinist for Queen Elizabeth II, Ramone spent years working as a songwriter, engineer and acoustics expert in New York before charting a path that would make him a trusted studio partner in the eyes (and ears) of the industry’s biggest stars.

Among the albums on which he worked were Streisand’s 1967 live A Happening in Central Park; Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram (1971), sandwiched between the Beatles and Wings eras; Dylan’s aching Blood on the Tracks (1975); Simon’s pop classic Still Crazy After All These Years (1975); Joel’s critical and commercial breakthrough The Stranger (1977); Sinatra’s last-gasp Duets (1993), a model of technical wizardry; and Charles’ final album, the mega-selling Genius Loves Company (2004).

Ramone served as a songwriter in New York’s famed Brill Building music factory and worked early on with Quincy Jones, Tom Dowd, Creed Taylor, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller and Burt Bacharach & Hal David, among others. In 1959, he launched the A&R Recording studios on Seventh Avenue in New York, where Blood on the Tracks and so many other classics were recorded.

“Players are like prodigies, thoroughbreds," he added. "You have to handle them with care.”
Born on Jan. 5, 1941, Ramone at age 3 began studying the piano and violin, and he attended the Juilliard School in New York as a teenager. Although he was an accomplished performer and composer, he was attracted to the technical side of music and became a wizard working with the dials.


Ramone was nominated for 33 Grammy awards, winning 14 awards and a technical Grammy for a lifetime of innovative contributions to the recording industry:
1965 – Best Engineered Recording (non classical), for Getz/Gilberto
1970 – Best Musical Show Album for producing Promises, Promises
1976 – Album of the Year for producing Still Crazy After All These Years
1979 – Record of the Year for producing "Just the Way You Are"
1980 – Album of the Year for producing 52nd Street
1981 – Producer of the Year (non classical)
1984 – Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special, for Flashdance
1995 – Best Musical Show Album for producing Passion
2003 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, for producing "Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings The Blues"
2005 – Album of the Year and Best Surround Sound Album for producing Genius Loves Company
2006 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing The Art of Romance
2007 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing Duets: An American Classic
2012 – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for producing Duets II

 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Songwriting, producer, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Phil Ramone, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart

Songwriters Showcase Pictures & Videos at SXSW

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 @03:19 PM

USA Songwriting Competition presented a showcase at during world renowned "SXSW" in Austin, TX:

Danny Fastfingers, Austin, TX

 Danny Fast Fingers

 

Scott Fant, Austin, TX
 Scott Fant

 

Rachael Sage, USA Songwriting Competition winner
 Rachael Sage (Honorable Mention Winner)

Andrea England, USA Songwriting Competition
 Andrea England (Finalist, 12th Annual USA Songwriting Competition)

Berteal
 Berteal (Finalist, 17th Annual USA Songwriting Competition)

Michael Wesley Stinson, USA Songwriting Competition
 Michael Wesley Stinson

 

Watch videos:

 Michael Wesley Stinson

 Rachael Sage

Watch more videos here >> 

*Hosted by Mike Abb

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Songwriters Showcase, songwrite, sxsw

Songwriting Tip: When the Well Runs Dry

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Thu, Mar 07, 2013 @09:00 AM

When the Well Runs Dry

 Mark Cawley, songwriter

By Mark Cawley

I don’t believe in writers’ block so much. I do think you’re gonna have dry spells; periods of being uninspired from time to time. If it goes on long enough, self doubt can creep in until you wonder how you ever wrote a song in the first place. So how do you do your best to keep the well full?

You prepare. One definition of prepare is to “make ready beforehand for some purpose”. Nothing beats that moment of divine inspiration…but if you’re writing songs for a career you know you can’t conjure up these things every time. Sometimes it helps to have done some homework and stockpiled ideas for those days when you need something to get you going.

Keeping a list of ideas/titles has always been my favorite. I can’t tell you how many times these lines that I heard, read, or found have worked their way into a song on a day when I had nothing. I’m not the first to come up with things you can do to be creative when you’re not actually writing; there are some tried and true ways to use your time wisely: writing down bits of conversation, walking down the aisles of a bookstore and jotting down titles that catch your eye, watching movies and television with your paper and pen close by. You can highlight lines in newspapers, magazines, and books until all these things make their way onto a list of ideas for the future. Being intentional in your search for ideas can really pay off in the long run.

One of the secrets for me has been to make sure I get these lines all in one place. Doesn’t matter if they seem disconnected, I found them at all different times so there’s no thread anyway. Keeping them handy has been the key. Being able to throw out lines to a co-writer or just pore over the list while I’m playing guitar/keys or looking for a drum groove has gotten me unstuck more times than I can count. Some of these never turn into anything but can spark something else, some of them become titles, and lots of them find their way into verses or bridges.

If you write music, switching instruments is another lifesaver. Write on something you’re not familiar with and you’re bound to eventually come up with something different and inspiring.

Lastly, just taking a break can help. Give it a rest for awhile and do whatever lets you replenish your mind and body. I’ve taken breaks that range from just taking a quick walk to going weeks without touching an instrument.

Refresh, replenish, and refill the well... before it runs dry!

 

About Mark Cawley

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

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, Mark Cawley, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross, Chaka Kahn, writers block, Spice Girls

Songwriting Tip: The Power of Simplicity

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Mar 06, 2013 @09:00 AM

THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY

by Danny Arena

Danny Arena, songwriter

 

As the boundaries of country music continue to expand, it’s easy to get so caught up in modulations and syncopated rhythms that we can forget the power that a strong, simple melody can have. In my songwriting classes I teach at SongU.com, I try to make a point of giving one assignment to write something simple musically.

 

SIMPLE ISN’T EASY

While a melody may be described as "simple" by someone, the writing of it is usually far from easy. It involves achieving a perfectly natural balance between repetition and change so that the song is easily singable, but not boring. In this column, we’ll look at two of the components that make up a strong, simple melody. We have a tendency to think our own melodies may become dull when a musical phrase is repeated two or three times. As a songwriter full of musical ideas, it’s easy to end up with a song that has too many melodic ideas. In truth, some of the most well-known melodies like, "Yesterday" (Lennon/McCartney) and "Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" (Leigh) rely heavily on repetition. If one of our main goals as a songwriter is to write something that's easily memorable, then by far the best technique available is the power of repetition.

 

USING VARIATION

The downside of repetition is that too much of it can bore the listener. I like to think of it this way. Suppose you were eating spaghetti with red sauce for dinner four nights in a row. Probably by the time the third or fourth night rolled around, you’d be tired of eating the same exact meal. Now, imagine that you change the meal slightly each night: the first night - spaghetti with red sauce; the second night - Chinese sesame noodles; the third night - lasagna; the fourth night - penne pasta with garlic and olive oil. By making a few changes, the same meal can still be satisfying. It’s like that with your music - a little variation goes a long way.

 

As an example of the power of repetition with change, let’s take a look a hit song my wife, Sara Light co-wrote with Arlos Smith called “Home To You”. The verse consists of a total of eight measures, but only two musical ideas, one of which is the following two-measure pattern that starts the song:

 Sara Light & Arlos Smith “Home To You”

What makes the melody particularly memorable is the fact that this musical idea or motif is immediately repeated two more times (see example below). By the time the second verse rolls around, the melody is very familiar.

 "Home To You" by Sara Light & Arlos Smith

From the song, "Home To You" written by Sara Light & Arlos Smith. © Mamalama Music (ASCAP)/Good Ol Delta Boy Music (SESAC). All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Although the initial musical idea (in example 1a) is repeated three times in a row, there are several subtle variations employed that help keep us tuned in to the music, allowing the repetition to work its magic without us becoming bored.

VARIATIONS KEEP THE LISTENER TUNED INTO THE SONG

Notice the first time the musical idea appears, the chord pattern is a G chord followed by D (with an F# bass). But when the musical idea is repeated, the chord pattern changes and an Em7 chord is substituted for the G, which is then followed by C chord. This small harmonic variation in chord structure the second time allows us to return to the initial chord pattern again (G, D/F#) for the third time with fresh ears. Also, notice that each time the two measure musical pattern repeats, the melody begins the same, but ends a little differently. This is a type of variation commonly known as melodic variation and it is often due to the changing of the chords in the musical motif as in the case here. Finally, notice that rhythm of the melody changes slightly each time the musical phrase is repeated but is close enough to the original musical idea that it still reinforces it.

 

So the next time you hear one of your favorite songs on the radio, try to listen for some of those subtle variations in the music. They may be small, but they can make a big difference.

 

Hope to see you on the charts.

-Danny

 

About Danny Arena
Danny Arena is a Tony Award nominated composer and professional songwriter. He holds degrees from Rutgers University in both computer science and music composition, and serves as an Associate Professor at Volunteer State Community College in Nashville, and an adjunct member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University. In addition, he has been invited to teach songwriting workshops throughout the U.S. and abroad, and performs his original songs regularly in Nashville at venues like the Bluebird Café. As a staff songwriter for Curb Magnatone Music Publishing, he composed several songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Tony Award for Best Original Score. He is also the co-founder, CEO, and one of the main site developers of www.SongU.com, which provides over 100 multi-level courses developed by award-winning songwriters in addition to online coaching, co-writing, industry connections, and pitching opportunities.

 

For more information on 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, Nashville, Bluebird Cafe, songwrite, Danny Arena, Tony Award, Simplicity, Volunteer State Community College, Vanderbilt University

Songwriting Tip: Turn Your iPad Into a Recording Studio

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 @11:30 AM

Turn Your iPad Into a Recording Studio 

By Jessica Brandon

iRig Keys iPad

It wasn't too long ago that musicians said making music on your laptop will not be as great as your desktop computer. How things have changed these days, recording music on your laptop is a common thing to do.

Now that iPad has taken the world by storm, can you turn your iPad to a recording studio? I have researched what would it take to turn your iPad into a portable recording studio? How should you set it up?

Here are the best DAW (Studio Recording) Apps for iPad & Recording Set-ups: 

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Apps. No, Pro Tools have not made any apps for the iPad yet. However, there are some promising apps:
1. Auria (WaveMachine Labs) - This is the first app that supports the industry standard of 24 bit//96kHz. 

2. StudioTrack (Sonoma Wire Works) - Multitrack Recording for iPad. Record up to eight tracks on a multitouch mixer with meters, faders and knobs. Control multiple parameters simultaneously, like an analog console. Rearrangable channels help you keep your tracks organized.

3. MultiTrack DAW (Harmonicdog) - It provides up to 24 stereo tracks of better than CD quality audio, and the ability to playback all of those tracks, while recording 2 tracks simultaneously on iPod or iPhone, and up to 8 tracks simultaneously on iPad.

4. GarageBand (Apple) - This is now made for the iPad.  GarageBand lets you play a collection of highly expressive Touch and Smart Instruments that sound just like their real counterparts — but let you do things you never could on a real instrument. You can record, mix, and share your songs, too.

5. Portastudio (Tascam) - This brings 30 years of easy-to-use home recording to your iPad. Based on the PORTA ONE recorder that revolutionized recording in 1984, the Portastudio app records up to four tracks with a cool retro/vintage vibe. Record one track at a time using the built-in mic or a headset microphone connection, monitoring on authentic VU meters. A cassette transport with position counter tracks your position while you mix with level, pan and EQ controls. When you're ready to mix, the built-in mixdown function saves your song as a CD-quality WAV file. Your mix appears in iTunes when you're finished, ready to share with friends and bandmates.

 

Audio Interface. Just like a laptop or desktop, you would need an interface:
1. Focusrite iTrack Solo - provides the great solution for recording your instruments and vocals using an iPad and is a certified ‘Made for iPad' device.

2. IK Multimedia iRig Pre - this is an universal microphone interface for iPhone/iPod touch/iPad! iRig PRE Microphone Interface iPhone/iPod touch/iPad is the ultimate solution for connecting any type of microphone from regular stage microphones to expensive studio models to any iPhone, iPod touch or iPad providing access to the widest range of recording applications.

3. TASCAM iXZ - a portable interface for recording with your Apple iOS device. It provides the inputs you need to record nearly any acoustic or electric instrument to any of the thousands of recording apps on the app store, including Apple's own Garage Band or TASCAM's Portastudio.

4. Alesis iO Mix - you can mix and record up to four channels of audio into your iPad. The Alesis iO Mix is the first device that turns your iPad into a powerful portable studio, allowing you to record multiple mics or instruments directly into GarageBand or any other compatible Core Audio app. 

5. Alesis iO Dock - the first device that enables anyone with an iPad to create, produce, and perform music with virtually any pro audio gear or instruments. The iO Dock is a universal docking station specifically designed for the iPad, and it gives musicians, recording engineers, and music producers the connectivity they need to create and perform with iPad. Connect all your pro audio gear to virtually any app in the App Store with the iO Dock.

 

Midi Interface:
iRig MIDI (IK Multimedia) - a pocket-sized MIDI interface lets you hook up your favorite keyboard, pad controller, DJ interface, etc. to your iOS device. The iRigMIDI lets you run any of the amazing CoreMIDI-compliant iOS apps. 

iConnectMIDI (iConnectivity) - Own a MIDI-equipped keyboard controller, guitar, drum kit, or any piece of gear? You can now tap into the unlimited power of the App world!

 

Music Keyboard:
1. iRig Keys (IK Multimedia) - portable keyboard control, the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 37-key USB/MIDI controller is ready to perform. It's got all the goods to play your apps and virtual instruments expressively, like velocity-sensitive keys, pitch bend and mod wheels, and an input for an optional expression pedal or sustain pedal. (see picture above)

2. SynthStation49 (Akai) - 49-key Controller Keyboard with Built-in iPad Dock for use with Akai Synth Station App (sold separately)

 

For Guitar:
1. AmpliTube iRig (IK Multimedia) - Mobile Guitar Amp and Effects Rig System
2. GuitarJack Model 2 (Sonoma Wire Works)- The GuitarJack Model 2 iOS interface connects a wide range of instruments, microphones, and other audio hardware to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

3. iRig STOMP (IK Multimedia) - first stompbox guitar interface for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

 

DJ/Mixer Controllers:
1. Professional MPC Fly (Akai) - Complete Groove Production Hardware Control Surface and Software System for iPad 2 with 16 Velocity-sensitive Pads - CoreMIDI Compliant

2. iRig Mix (IK Multimedia) - Portable DJ Mixer for iPhone, iPod, and iPad

 

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, please visit: www.songwriting.net

 

 

Tags: Songwriting, iPad, Auria, StudioTrack, MultiTrack DAW, GarageBand, Portastudio, Tascam, Recording Studio

Passing of A Songwriting Author: John Brahney

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @10:30 AM

PASSING OF A SONGWRITING AUTHOR

John Brahney with hit songwriter Diane Warren

(John Brahney with hit songwriter Diane Warren)

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- John Braheny, the man known as the "Songwriters Best Friend," and the author of the best-selling book The Craft and Business of Songwriting died January 19, 2013 after a long bout with prostate cancer, in Los Angeles. He was 74. 

Along with partner Len Chandler, Braheny was the co-founder and director of the Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase (LASS), a national non-profit organization that provided exposure and encouragement to an impressive list of later-to-be-successful new writers and writer-artists from 1971-1996 including Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, Janis Ian, Warren Zevon, Karla Bonoff, Stephen Bishop, Wendy Waldman, and pop music's most successful contemporary songwriter, Diane Warren, for whom Braheny and Chandler critiqued over 150 songs when she was only 15.

In recent years, Braheny has taught songwriting and music business seminars across North America and classes at UCLA, Musicians Institute, LA Recording School (Hollywood) and the Songwriting School of Los Angeles. As a journalist, he published over 600 in depth interviews for a variety of magazines including the magazine he co-founded and edited for LASS, The Songwriters Musepaper. John conducted audio conversations with 55 hit songwriters for United Airlines in-flight Entertainment Network from 1998 – 2005, and was the on-air co-host of Samm Brown's For the Record broadcast on KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles.  

Born in Iowa, Braheny first broke into the music business as a touring and recording artist and released a solo album in 1970 titled Some Kind of Change. His songs were recorded by others including"December Dream" cut by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys.

Braheny served three terms on the Board of Governors of the L.A. Chapter of the Recording Academy. He was past president of the California Copyright Conference (CCC), and served on the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Songwriters (NAS), the Songwriters Guild of America, and on the boards of advisors for many songwriters organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

John is survived by his wife, JoAnn, a brother Kevin, a sister Mary, a son, Michael Toth, a grandson, Evan, and thousands of grateful songwriters.  

Plans for a memorial celebration are pending. Visit the Facebook page "Friends of John Braheny."

 

Tags: songwriter, song writer, Song writing, Songwriting, John Brahney, legend, author, The Craft and Business of Songwriting

Songwriting Tip: How Do I Sell My Songs?

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @10:01 AM

How Do I Sell My Songs?

How Do I Sell My Songs?

by Molly-Ann Leikin, Music Industry Mastery Coach

Songwriters always ask me, “how do I sell my songs? Can you show me how to sell my songs? Please help me sell my songs.”

As songwriters, we don’t sell our songs. Anybody who tries to buy your music is a thief.

Nobody buys lyrics, either. That, too, is a scam.

As songwriters, we earn royalties when our songs/tracks are recorded and released on CD’s, performed for profit on the air – radio, TV, online, and licensed for use in TV shows, movies, commercials, and downloaded all over the web.

When CD’s of our work are released for sale, the songwriter usually gets half of the royalty income, called a mechanical royalty, which at the moment, is 9.2 cents per track per copy sold. When this money is collected, our publishers send us royalty checks each quarter.

A large chunk of the money earned by songwriters comes from performances for profit on the radio, TV and online. Here’s how that works: there are three performing rights societies in the US - ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. (Most countries outside the USA have their own societies). To collect performance royalties, you have to join one of the societies. They keep track of when and where our songs are broadcast, from a 5000 watt station in Beserk, MI, to a 100,000 watt station in Manhattan, and send royalty checks directly to us based on the number of paid performances logged in their random samplings. As songwriters, we also receive checks for foreign performances in most countries around the world. A few still refuse to pay, but we’re working on that. Domestic royalties are distributed quarterly. Foreign are distributed semi-annually.

Since we rarely know where are songs are performed on the air, and when, it’s always a delicious surprise going to the mailbox and finding a royalty statement, plus a nice, fat check, showing our songs have been sung and performed on the radio, in movies, TV, and downloaded in countries whose names we can’t even spell.

But we don’t sell our songs. Ever. Ever. Ever.

For more information about how to market your songs so they start creating income streams for you, I’ll be glad to set up a personal consultation, either by phone or email. Thank you for understanding that for legal reasons, any material sent to me without my consulting fee, must, regrettably, be deleted immediately.

© 2013 Molly-Ann Leikin

Molly-Ann Leikin, hit songwriter

Molly-Ann Leikin is an Emmy nominee. The author of “How To Write A Hit Song” and “How To Be A Hit Songwriter”, she has written themes and songs for over five dozen TV shows and movies, including “Violet” that won an Oscar.

After marketing consultations with Molly, five of her clients have won Grammys, seven more have Grammy nominations, and so far, over 6200 of Molly’s lyricist and composer protégées have placed their work in TV shows, movies, on CD’s in commercials, and their songs/tracks have been downloaded all over the web. It all starts with a consultation. www.songmd.com

For more information on the 18th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

Tags: song writer, song write, Songwriting, songwrite, Molly-Ann Leikin, Grammy, Sell Songs, Selling songs, hit