anatomy of songs

July 28, 2014

I found this entertaining song genre graphic at Wrong Hands

Please check out their website for more like this.

anatomy-of-songs

in praise of silly

April 24, 2014

Wiggles

It’s all well and good to write a serious introspective song that moves people at a soul level. It’s also commendable to write a righteous protest song that people can rally around. But what about a silly, even meaningless song? Can you release the ‘serious songwriter’ burden once in a while and write a funny song? Call it a kids song (for kids of all ages). Whatever you call it, if you make people laugh, that’s another way to reach them with your music.

So take a break from the deep thoughts and let a silly song spill out. Songwriter is supposed to be fun. If nothing else, it’s a palate cleanser, clearing your mind for your next serious song.

March 7, 2014

pedestal with heart

A great songwriting teacher once said ‘don’t fall in love with your songs too soon.’ In the early stages of writing a song, stay open – open to fixing a line, improving a melody or re-engineering a rhyme.

It’s not baked yet, so give yourself the freedom to play with it, experiment, improvise. Give it time to percolate. Sleep on it. Find the weakest part of the song and improve just that bit.

Eventually, the song will be completed and that’s the perfect time to fall in love with it. If we fall in love too early, it becomes precious and we miss out on the better song we could have written.

We fall in love with our creations, true. And our songs are our babies. Just don’t be too quick to put them up on a pedestal.

Is the album is dying? This guy says it’s dead.

November 16, 2013

Everywhere I read about the music industry (blogs, tweets, magazines and newspapers) pundits have been saying the album is dying. This guy says it’s dead.

In a few straight-forward statements, Bob Lefsetz lays it out. In a Variety article, he uses sales data from the recent releases by Katy Perry, Elton John, Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, Lorde and others to make the point that people don’t care about concept albums anymore. And if your album is just a collection of unrelated songs, they care even less. People want a hit song. If you give them one, they’ll ask for another one, not a throwaway cut from the same album.

No one had more hype than Miley Cyrus, but “Bangerz” didn’t even sell 45,000 copies in its fourth week of release. She can go on “SNL,” tweet her life away, but it’s not moving the needle. Lorde is selling as much as Miley without the benefit of scorched earth, proving quality music is as good as hype. But Lorde isn’t burning up the chart either.

We’ve turned into a nation of grazers. And the artist’s job is to constantly be at the smorgasbord. Not to deliver one big meal that is picked at and thrown away, but to constantly provide tantalizing bites to the public.

Read Bob Lefsetz’s Variety article here.

Out of ideas?

September 27, 2013

Running out of song ideas? Time to go beyond love songs and heartbreak songs.

Look around and write a song about what’s up in your world. It might be something happening in your immediate world, i.e. your new puppy, crazy boss, job search, a funny thing your toddler said, etc. Or consider things in the news, like Syria, Iran, the Fukushima leak, the Nats, the Navy Yard shootings, the Hillary for President movement, the Tea Party, or texting while driving.

If you have strong opinions about any of these, that would make a good subject for your next song. If some of these complex world events are just confusing, write about that.

Try this: Close your eyes (don’t do this while driving). Spin around a time or two. Write a song about the first thing you see when you open your eyes. Maybe it’s an empty coffee cup, an iPhone, a person, the horizon, whatever. It could turn out to be a silly song or you may be able to make the object a metaphor for something more serious.

Bass line exercise

August 6, 2013

esperanza475

Let’s get back to basics (no pun intended). In this exercise, you’ll write a new song from scratch, limiting yourself to only two elements.

Forget a full band arrangement. Heck, forget chords. Write a song consisting of only a melody and a bass line. [For you bassists, resist playing chords or double stops. That would defeat the purpose of the exercise.]

So focus on these two musical elements: melody and a bass line. A chord consists of at least three notes, so technically, your song won’t have any chords. Even so, a listener’s ear might ‘fill in’ chords, that is, might feel a chord is implied at any point in the song.

In the process of focusing on these two elements, you might learn just how important a bass line is. You bass players can thank me later.

Do you really listen to full albums?

May 20, 2013

poodle DJ with headphones and 4 turntables

I used to love listening to complete albums – a set of songs meant to be listened to together and in a specific order. I hadn’t thought about that for a while until I saw this NPR blog post which asks,

When was the last time you really listened to an album all the way through, from start to finish without interruption?

And my answer, I’m ashamed to say, is a long, long time ago. Not only would I listen to an album all the way through way back then, but I would listen again and again, not only to those that I fell in love with at first listen, but also to those that didn’t grab me right away. And many of those non-grabbers grew on me with multiple listenings.

Now, I listen to single songs, jumping from iTunes to YouTube, in between answering emails and doing a million other non-musical things. If I can give my full attention for an extended period of time to a movie or a concert, why not an album?

What about you? Do you ever listen to a full album, start to finish?

See the full NPR post: http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2013/05/20/185534315/do-you-really-listen-to-full-albums?sc=tw&cc=twmp

Step away from the instrument

May 8, 2013

piano-01

Do you limit yourself every time you write a song? I certainly do, in more ways than one. But here’s one limit that’s easy to overcome. It’s your instrument.

It’s easy to see how a beginner guitar- or piano-playing songwriter will be limited by his/her skills on the instrument. But even the most proficient virtuoso pianist or hot guitar picker has habits. Your fingers just want to go someplace familiar (they have a mind of their own). Some people call this ‘finger memory.’

When you are writing a song and your brain is busy with lyrics, rhymes and melody, it’s often your fingers that end up writing the chords by default.

So step away from the instrument. When you put away your instrument and write, you are not limited to the chord progressions your fingers go to on auto-pilot. This way, when a melody (and possibly some lyrics) are written and you’re ready to think about chords, you can tailor the chords to the melody and not the other way around.

Nothing wrong with writing chords first and then melody, as long as the chords are intentional and not something that happened while the creative side of the brain was busy with other things.

Demand for jingle writers

March 19, 2013

Musicians cash in by composing ad jingles

From the LA Times: Demand for ad jingles turns L.A. songwriters into music factories

An increasing number of ad agencies are seeking original compositions for their commercials, helping boost the fortunes of Los Angeles musicians and composers. Commercial-music licensing is a booming business, as advertisers, filmmakers, TV producers and others use pop songs to gloss their products. But licensing pop songs can be quite costly. So an increasing number of ad agencies are looking for original compositions for their commercials.

That has meant songwriting jobs for Los Angeles musicians and composers who are writing jingles while waiting for fate to turn them into rock stars.

“It used to be that you got called a sellout. But times have changed,” said Casey Gibson, a musician who has been paid to write jingles for Purina dog food and Columbia Sportswear commercials. “I’m actually proud of the fact that I’m able to make a living being a creative person.”

Read the entire article with photos here.

The Joy of Repetition

February 27, 2013

Berklee College

Here’s a songwriting lesson disguised as an interview on audio production. Doug Orey, Online Student Advisor at Berklee Music, interviews Stephen Webber, musician, composer, DJ, record producer, studio designer, and professor at the Berklee College of Music on the topic of Music Production Analysis.

Among many other gems in this 40 minute video are some examples of songs and artists that use repetition creatively. As part of his riff on repetition, check out the discussion at 14:35 on the ‘trust’ hormone that is produced in very intimate human relations and when singing.

Click here to watch the interview: http://bcove.me/2nd44lhq


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