Top Recommendations to Songwriters

Top Recommendations to Songwriters

These are my top recommendations to songwriters below. I own and have used (or my friends have used) all of these and I/they were more than satisfied with them. These are no doubt the best products in their respective fields.

When David Foster accepted an award recently, he listed his top 10 pieces of advice for songwriters. One of them was that it’s important for songwriters to learn to play an instrument. For most of them it’s the piano or the guitar. Without that, you can become a songwriter but you’ll never be a “complete package”. You won’t be able to communicate with composers/collaborators efficiently. You don’t necessarily have to write music but it’s important to understand how it’s made.

But don’t worry. Learning an instrument doesn’t have to be torture. It’s not like it was 20 or 50 years ago. These days there are entertaining, low-cost home-study courses that make it much simpler and faster to achieve this goal.

✓ The Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar and Learn and Master Piano courses are the best I’ve encountered in this field. I strongly recommend that you give them a try!

✓ Masterwriter is a software program for songwriters and especially lyricists. It contains several essentially important built-in tools. Some of them you can find on the internet (like dictionaries, thesauruses) but it’s an exhausting process. And some of the important lyric writing tools in Masterwriter you simply cannot find anywhere else.

✓ Finale SongWriter is a piece of music notation software for songwriters who compose music and have at least a basic knowledge of music theory. It’s quite inexpensive and helps a lot in capturing, editing and printing music you’ve written. I’ve been using Finale Songwriter for a couple of years and to me it’s become indispensable.

Music Writing That Uses a Blueprint

Music Writing That Uses a Blueprint

Is your music writing missing something? Do you wonder why other people don’t like your songs as much as you do?

As a musician that has made a living helping others get their songs performed and recorded, I find that the end results are often less satisfying for the team of musicians, engineers and studio staff than for the artist.

It seems that 99% of the time, the artist is thrilled with the final product. The rest of the group, unfortunately, is not.

Everyone is pleased that the client is happy, of course, but they are also, painfully aware of problems and limitations with the songs themselves. What’s going on? I think I can point you to several common problems and then offer solutions.

First, I believe Technology has outrun talent in music writing today.

We’ve got computers with programs for music writing, recording, editing, sampling and correcting even the weakest of lyricists, musicians & singers.

But what if the SONG isn’t worth fixing? The result…? Songs that don’t work.. but sound great.

Secondly, I see that many aspiring songwriters do not have CLEAR GOALS for writing a song. They don’t lack confidence or ego, but they…
Lack of Musical Understanding.

Their music writing ends up like a buffet assortment of parts, grooves, words and licks… without a blueprint in sight.

It would be like me going to LOWE’s or HOME DEPOT, seeing all the cool stuff and deciding to build a house. I’ll take a few windows, those doors look nice, I need some toilets and pipes, maybe a few boards, grab some electrical cable from over there and I’m off to build a house. Good luck!

Lastly, we’re Afraid to be Simple. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen songwriters bring in tunes that were most effective with only them and their guitar. Nothing else was needed. But, they were convinced it needed all sorts of additional parts, and would not listen to experienced opinions.

Sadly, the customer is always “right”… so we made them sound like everybody else.

Let’s change gears for a minute to something totally different.

Birthdays.

Why do we sing the song,”Happy Birthday” to someone on their birthday?

To celebrate their birth. d-u-h-h—

Why do we always sing THAT song and why aren’t there lots of OTHER birthday songs to choose from?

u-u-u-u-u-u-h-h-h-h….

If you’ve been losing sleep over this, let me help you out.

1. It Works.
No electricity, marketing or musicianship needed.

2. Clear Goal.
No deep, hidden meanings. Obvious and to-the-point.

3. It’s Simple.
It was originally written (with different lyrics), for children. Easily sung & quickly memorized.

So with all the songs and songwriters in the world, the best we can come up with is…

A four-word sentence… HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU

Repeat it… HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU

Repeat it again with a variation… HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR FRED

Repeat it one more time. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU

What have you got….?

One of the most popular songs ever.

Now I’m not suggesting that writing a song should always copy this model.

Although, I can think of a hit song that uses this exact form . “You Are So Beautiful”, written by Billy Preston, recorded by Joe Cocker. Check it out. (And it is soooo beautiful!)

Simplicity is appreciated everywhere, in business, in economics, in education and in life. The most bang for the least buck…it’s what we all want.

Simple, Easy,and Memorable Music Writing.. How difficult can it be?

Piece of cake, right?

Trinitee 5:7

Trinitee 5:7

With brighter days ahead, Trin-i-tee 5:7 releases T57, the platinum-selling group’s first CD in 4 years, and their debut project under the management of Mathew Knowles’ Music World Entertainment and his gospel division Spirit Rising Music. The project flaunts the style and musical edginess that first made Trin-i-tee 5:7 a hit in the late 90s. T57 finds Chanelle, Angel and Adrian providing twelve memorable tracks dealing with everyday situations wrapped in musical elements of R&B, soul, hip hop and gospel.

Chanelle says that fans of the new project will be pleased with the album due to the development of the group. “What you’re going to hear on this album is an evolution,” she says. “You’ll hear how we’ve grown. Not only do we sing about our relationship with God, but about actual life experiences as young women. This album is us. What you’ll find on T57 is the core of Trin-i-tee 5:7. This project is the DNA of Trin-i-tee 5:7.”

The three women take much of the songwriting credits on the project – a definite sign that T57 is the personal reflection of the group – and hit producer Walter Milsap (Yolanda Adams, Alicia Keys, Usher & Dave Hollister) delivers the 1st single “Listen,” and two other unforgettable songs “I Need You” and an uplifting anthem titled “Beautiful Girl.” Music World Entertainment’s production team led by Mathew Knowles – The Bama Boyz, Solange Knowles and DJ Static – rounds off the group’s highly anticipated and ground-breaking new CD, T57.

Trin-i-tee 5:7 continues to express no fear in tackling songs about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. Not afraid to hit the listener hard from beat one, “I Still Love You” is sung from the perspective of a brokenhearted woman who just can’t get over her man. Merging a spiritual message over a classic soul sound, the song is cleverly penned and will find many women nodding heads in agreement.

Another standout track comes from the pen of Solange Knowles. “Like U” is a catchy urban track about how an earthly relationship can’t compare to a spiritual one. The R&B-tinged song samples maestro Richard Smallwood’s classic “I Love The Lord” over a bed of slick beats.

“We’ve touched on topics that you don’t typically hear mentioned in songs – as in our song, Like U. There’s nothing wrong with having a relationship,” says Adrian. “As Christian women, we have them and we learn from them. This song is a reminder that we as women need to keep the big picture in mind; we can’t make permanent decisions based on temporary situations.”

Another scorcher is the urban, beat-banging “God’s Triangle.” The James Brown-influenced track will find the listener “stuck in the middle” of a fabulous song. “U Saved Me,” the mega-hit from noted producer and songwriter R. Kelly, is tastefully redone by the group as well.

A beautiful worship song, “I Will Lift,” is a solemn and moving cut. Written from the heart of Angel, the song gives us a glimpse into a discussion she had with the Lord. “When I wrote the song,” says Angel, “I was having a conversation with God telling Him what I thought about Him and how I feel about Him. When I wrote it, I was truly expressing my heart to my Heavenly Father.” The transparency of the song is quite touching.

After coming through the recent tempest in New Orleans, the trio thought it would be fitting to record Doug Miller’s popular church tune, “My Soul Is Anchored.” Following their trial, the song seems more than appropriate. With the addition of female voices, this soaring ballad is taken to unbelievable heights. Perhaps it’s the deeply personal nature of the lyrics that’s the cause of such a powerful performance. Two of the group’s members were personally affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“Our families lost their homes, everything. We lost all of our photo albums growing up and memories. But we were so glad that our families all survived,” says Angel. “Although I wasn’t there at the time, I did have to go through that experience with them. It was hard not being able to get there to be with them. Because of the hurricane, our family has definitely gotten closer and stronger.”

Chanelle was present during the hurricane and felt the devastation firsthand. “It’s a unique situation to be in when you’ve been stripped of all your worldly possessions; at that point, you realize what really matters,” she recounts. “When I was young, I would play with my brothers and we would tease each other, but when I didn’t hear from them for three days, my whole world stopped. Here I am, just left my fancy apartment in L.A. by the sea a few days earlier, and then only a few days later, I’m lying on a stranger’s floor,” she states. “Just that fast, everything was gone. I’m grateful to God for bringing me through. And I’m so grateful for the support of my two friends.”

Outside of the group’s relationship with God, it’s been the friendship these three women share that has been the true strength of Trin-i-tee 5:7. Original members Angel and Chanelle met in New Orleans while in high school. After the departure of a group member, they tapped Adrian, who had been their makeup artist, as the replacement. With the changes and the tests behind them, now they’re ready to take the industry by storm.

Trin-i-tee 5:7 is the best-selling female trio in gospel. Having released their first project in 1998, they’ve already sold more than 2 million units with their first three projects – their eponymous debut, Spiritual Love and The Kiss. But the group isn’t awestruck by their material successes. Their goal is to inspire and spread God’s love, and T57 is an exemplary musical testimony.

“We’re trying to reach people around the world for Christ,” says Adrian. “No matter where we live on the planet, we deal with the same issues; everybody goes through something. When you

Musical Rests

Musical Rests

OK… we know when to make sound and when to be silent. Do we write these notes on regular notebook paper or blank typing paper???

No. Musical notation is written on:

The staff always begin with a clef sign. The most common is the Treble clef. (Don’t worry too much about this now. We will look at this more closely as we study note names.)

Now, we know that…

MUSIC RHYTHM IS MADE UP OF SOUNDS OR NOTES, AND RESTS.

THESE NOTES AND RESTS ARE PLACED ON A STAFF.

BUT… There is one more element of musical notation that must be discussed before we begin to learn to read music, write music, and then play! (great) music.

TEMPO

To organize sounds and silences,

you must play them IN TIME… or with a steady TEMPO.

Simply put, music rhythm must be ORGANIZED IN TIME.

This is why you hear someone “count off” a band when they begin. Usually, the drummer yells, “1 … 2… 3… 4…” to tell the rest of the band – ” HERE IS THE TEMPO, LET’S PLAY!”

Much of the music you hear maintains a steady tempo. So, every rhythm must be played IN TEMPO.

A steady beat or tempo is your friend. I repeat, a steady beat or tempo is your friend. A steady beat is… OK, OK, you got it.

RULE #1: MUSIC RHYTHMS MUST BE PLAYED IN TEMPO.

It is not enough to just play a quarter note, half note, or any type of note when you see it. You must play it in relation to a Tempo.

In musical notation, we have a Counting Police.

This Counting Police is none other than

It’s his job to enforce counting rules for each measure.

I can hear him now…

“Hey, there’s supposed to be 8 eighth notes in that bar, not 9.”

He never sleeps or slumbers. His job is never finished. He is the unsung hero of every composition. He defends the faith of Rhythm Section Players everywhere…respecting no note or rest more than others, treating all rhythms with tolerance and …

I’m a percussionist, what can I say….

The Time Signature is very important for EVERYBODY who wants to learn to read music or play it. You must understand it.

It has 2 parts…2 numbers that are there for a reason. Commit this to memory, ASAP.

Counting Lesson #1 gave an example of 16 quarter notes without a Time Signature. It is so much easier to read those 16 notes when they are divided into 4 groups of 4. The counting police just keeps reminding us that only 4 quarter notes per measure will be allowed when the time signature says 4/4.

Please note that in musical notation the BAR LINES do not indicate stopping, breathing or pausing. They are only a visual aid for counting.

Have you gotten all this theory in your brain? CONGRATULATIONS! This is what I call LEFT BRAIN STUFF. These are the ABC’s of music notation. The stuff needed to learn to read music and notate it. It is not the music itself… only the tools for capturing it on paper.

My experience has been that even college graduates with degrees in music can have faulty understanding of the tools of music notation. My advice… Be honest with yourself. If you’re uncertain, there’s no time like the present to clean it up.

If you are just beginning to learn to read music, that’s great! You won’t have to unlearn any bad habits.

But just remember:

Music Rhythm is your starting place!

When you feel like you have mastered the material here, you are well on your way!