March 7, 2014
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.
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.
August 6, 2013
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.
May 20, 2013
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
May 8, 2013
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.
February 27, 2013
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
January 14, 2013
I found a great interview with singer/songwriter Erin McKeown on American Songwriter. She talks about her songwriting process, her co-write with Rachel Maddow, her songwriting heroes, her new release, Manifestra and her anti-holiday album.
See the full article here.
November 29, 2012
Get a taste of Berklee’s legendary guitar instruction in their free downloadable Guitar Handbook. This extensive PDF contains lessons taken from Berklee’s 12-week online guitar courses, and covers introductory topics such as scales, triads, strumming techniques, and more.
Download it here.