Archive for August, 2009


August 31, 2009


To teach yourself to be a better songwriter, listen to all kinds of music. And I don’t mean putting music on in the background. I’m talking about active listening or study.

Try something out of your comfort zone, something you might not even especially enjoy or a genre you don’t know anything about. For many of us, that would include classical. Let me recommend a new CD called The Mozart Album. You can get an exclusive first listen free (the entire CD) at NPR.

If you’re already familiar with classical music, try punk, metal, polka, bluegrass, folk, jazz, reggae or whatever seems most outside your normal listening parameters. I’m not suggesting you’ll learn to like it, only that you will learn about composition.

When you listen, try to figure out why the song works (or not). And break it down. For example, you might ask ‘how did the writer make the emotion build and peak in the chorus, and how did he/she transition to a less intense passage after the chorus?’ Ask questions like, why did the writer choose that type of lyric or that intro and see if you can answer them.

Spending too much time entering data online

August 28, 2009

Derek Sivers latest blog post is like a dream come true. Well, it hasn’t come to fruition yet, but he lays out a plan for a more efficient, effective paradigm for musicians’ online presence. Let’s hope his old company, Host Baby, follows through with his plan.

His main contention is that indie musicians should not have to enter the same data over and over again into multiple web sites (their own site, MySpace, Facebook, etc). For one thing, it’s way too time intensive. I’m talking about uploading photos and mp3 files, entering upcoming venues and dates, etc.

Instead, he asserts that we should enter the data once in our own .com homepage website. Ultimately we have no control over MySpace and the others; including whether or not they even stay in business.

The exciting part of his vision is that the company that hosts your band’s web site should take care of copying all your updates from your web site to the various other online places you want to be (MySpace, Facebook, iTunes, etc.) The next step would be to make it so that any site (with your permission) can automatically pull the information.

Read more here.

Embracing change

August 21, 2009

Change in itself is neither good nor bad. In any given situation, don’t assume a change means a change for the worse. It could just as easily be a change for the better.

We’ve all seen articles on the music industry’s recent rapid changes and I’m not planning on adding my two cents here. Instead, I want to talk about change as it relates to songwriting.

How many times have you written a song and felt the pride of accomplishment, only to realize you could improve it by making one more little tweak, one more rewrite?

How many times have you asked for a critique only to be reluctant to make any of the recommended changes? Are you afraid of change or just too comfortable to change?

Change can be scary to children, going to a new school, for example. But change in itself is not good or bad. In any given situation, don’t assume a change means a change for the worse. It could just as easily be a change for the better.

Rather than automatically resisting change, try being consciously aware that you always have a choice: you can resist change reflexively or you can keep an open mind and decide on a case by case basis whether a given change is a good one or not.

In my own writing I can usually improve a song if I give it a little more attention (even when it seems already complete). Sometimes I change a single note, other times I write a whole new bridge or a better chord progression.

Being neutral to change (neither mindlessly resisting nor accepting it) will serve you well in songwriting.

3 secrets of songwriting success

August 20, 2009

michael shorr

Here’s a gold mine of insights into learning how to become a better songwriter from Michael Shorr, from a conference call. Listen to this 60 minute mp3 as he tells how he learned to become a songwriter, before going to Berklee, and then goes on to talk about 3 secrets to songwriting success in detail.

If you don’t have 60 minutes, just listen to the first 5 minutes and see if you don’t learn something good.

Guerilla Music Marketing

August 19, 2009

Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook

Here’s a tip for anyone trying to market their music on a budget. It’s the Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook. I own an early edition and I refer back to it almost daily. It contains more than 201 self-promotion ideas for songwriters, musicians and bands on a budget.

what is music publishing?

August 18, 2009

sheet music

I wrote a song. How can I make money from it? Good question.

See this GrindEFX blog post for a well-written answer.

David Wilcox teaches on YouTube

August 14, 2009

David Wilcox

In a previous post, we reported that David Wilcox had made available the guitar info (tuning, capo position, etc) for every song on every one of his albums. This is a text listing in pdf format.

Now I see he has a David Wilcox YouTube channel. Learn how to play his songs. He shows you the tunings he uses, the capo positions, the chords, the licks, everything! Fun.

50 uses for a brick

August 12, 2009


Even songwriters get stuck in a creative rut once in awhile – fingers moving to the same chords, singing the same melodies, writing the same songs.

It helps me to remember that I am capable of thinking in strange, unique, playful and inventive ways. We all are capable of it, as long as we’re aren’t stuck in a rut.

To get out of a rut and to prevent getting into it in the first place, I recommend a variety of brain stimulation techniques (or games). If your favorite brain stimulation game is crossword puzzles, fine, unless that becomes a rut in itself.

So mix it up, switch it out. Find a completely different type of brain stimulator. Try this brainstorming technique:

Write down 50 uses for a brick. Don’t study it, don’t research it on the web, just write whatever comes into your mind for the next 10 minutes. Can you find 50? Notice I didn’t say they have to be 50 traditional uses or even logical uses for a brick. I also didn’t specify what kind of brick. You could think of a Lego brick, for instance, or colored bricks from the old Tetris game.

You might want to begin each songwriting session with a new brain stimulus, to help you transition into a creative space.


August 11, 2009

“Motivation is created by showing up. Not the other way around.” – Christine Kane

How often do you sit down to write when you’re not feeling particularly inspired? Do you prefer to wait for the right ‘moment’ to start writing? If so, you probably don’t write very often. Here’s a way around that common dilemma from Christine Kane.

She talks about what she calls the Day-4 Syndrome – you get wildly motivated (by a book, a workshop, a coaching session, whatever) and four days later you’ve lost it. In her post, she provides helpful new ways to think about motivation, with lots of specific examples.

Christine also provides a downloaded audio version of her post for those who would rather listen than read.

For baseball and music fans alike

August 7, 2009