start where you are

December 2, 2015

Where are you right now? I mean both literally and emotionally. Stop and notice what is on your mind right now. You can take your frame of mind at this moment and put it into a song.

How are you feeling? Are you bored, tired, frustrated, content, distracted, ecstatic, lonely, excited, surprised? Whatever you’re currently feeling or thinking about (bills, co-workers, love life, aches and pains, zits) is enough to begin writing a song about.

You know the expression ‘write what you know’? Well no one knows your feelings better than you. And I bet some of your thoughts and feelings can be turned into a song that will be relatable by others who share some of those same feelings.

Next time you’re stuck for a song topic, start where you are.

Lake Street Dive: Songwriting Masterclass at NEC

November 4, 2015

I had to share this video that combines songwriting and Lake Street Dive. If you haven’t heard LSD, check their many many live videos on YouTube.

Songs performed and discussed:
“You Go Down Smooth” (Olson) begins at 5:20
“Look What a Mistake” (Price) begins at 20:30
“Seventeen” (Kearney) begins at 46:20
“I Don’t Care About You” (Calabrese) begins at 1:06:05
“Let Me Roll It” (McCartney) begins at 1:51:35

After meeting while students at NEC in the early 2000s, Lake Street Dive has catapulted to stardom. NPR notes that they blend “jazz, folk, and pop in dangerously charming fashion.” In this workshop, the band—vocalist Rachael Price ’07, trumpet/guitar player Mike Olson ’05, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney ’08 Tufts/NEC, and drummer Mike Calabrese ’07—returned to NEC to share its wit and songwriting expertise with students.

easy rhythm infographic

June 30, 2015

rhythms

New Perspective

June 30, 2015

What happens when this guy puts an iPhone inside his guitar?

Play an instrument, improve your brain

November 2, 2014

Willie Nelson's guitar

Scientists watched brain activity using FMRI and PET scanners. Multiple areas of the brain light up when the subject is listening to music. Even more so for a musician playing music. While playing, musicans’ brains are “simultaneously processing different information in intricate, interrelated and astonishingly fast sequences” according to neuro-scientists.

To watch the whole 4 minute Ted video, click here.

your theme song

October 7, 2014

Last week I happened on to an interesting niche of songwriting. I saw a fb post wherein a casual friend mentioned she needs a theme song for her life. This was part of a longer post, but something in me clicked when I read the bit about a theme song.

I immediately offered to write her theme song, if she was serious. I know her well enough to guess what she was after: something uplifting, empowering, maybe like a rock anthem or a mantra set to music (a chant?), but with a good beat that makes you want to move. It turns out I was pretty close. She was into it. I didn’t charge anything, I just kinda wanted to see if I could do it.

Somehow it all just flowed easily and a week later I had a complete song, based on my knowledge of my friend, my intuition and some ideas she gave me.

I was surprised how fast it came together and very happy with it musically and lyrically. And, fortunately, my friend loves it! That’s a win/win. Because I don’t refer to her by name in the song, I have been able to use it, singing it a live shows and it’s going over well. I always tell the story, giving her credit for the idea and for providing me with some pithy lyrics (which became the heart of the chorus).

The last time I sang it, someone came up afterward and asked if I would writer her theme song. She said I should market this and she called it branding.

Have you ever heard of anyone doing this? Let me know if you’ve done it or know someone who does.

The only similar thing I’ve ever done is a song I co-wrote one time, years ago. A reader of this blog contacted me. He had written a poem for his fiance that he read during their wedding ceremony and he wanted to hire me to put it to music for their 10th anniversary. That long distance collaboration worked out well, too.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress and after I get permission, I’ll post some of the music.

good management

September 30, 2014

turtles

What musician couldn’t use a good manager, a trustworthy manager? Here’s a true story about the Turtles (by the Turtles) that shows what can happen to a band…

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.

don’t fall in love with your songs too soon

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.


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