Coal Train

Coal Train

Denham and McCombs were founding members of the country-rock band Coaltrain, and the group was looking to record its first CD. Denham is the groups lead vocalist and fiddle player while McCombs mans the bass and handles some of the harmony chores.

Wheeling is a great music town with a great history in country music, Denham says. It was home to the Wheeling Jamboree starting in the early 30s and some of country musics biggest acts got their start there.

But when you’re in the country music game, Nashville is the place to be so we made the decision we would have to go to Nashville to give Coaltrain a chance, he continues. And thats what we did.

The members of Coaltrain packed up and headed south following in the footsteps of such legends as Grandpa Jones, Hawkshaw Hawkins,Wilma Lee Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan along with contemporary acts like Brad Paisley and Tim OBrien all of whom enjoyed early success playing in and around the Wheeling area.

Some acts are still discovered locally, but we just felt that Nashville was a more logical choice for us, Denham recalls. And we’ve been fortunate to have some success here in Music City.

It’s a modest conclusion. Denham and his gang recorded their eponymous debut album in 2006, and then kicked around town for awhile playing local gigs before getting a big break late in 2007. Ironically, Coaltrain was slotted as the opening act for Neal McCoy back home at Wheeling’s Wesbanco Arena.

We had done well in Wheeling before we left, Denham explains, but I think moving to Nashville and recording the album allowed us to get some airplay back home in Wheeling. And that opened some doors to help us land the opening slot for Neal.

Within three months, Coaltrain was back in Wheeling this time with another friend in tow, Denham’s connections working on the Big & Rich tour in 2007 in between Coaltrain gigs had led to a friendship with the duo’s opening act Cowboy Troy. When Big & Rich decided to scale back on touring in 2008, Denham invited the country rapper on the road for another gig in Wheeling, and a partnership was born.

We played a sold out show with him, and got a great reaction from the crowd, Denham remembers. And I think he was excited to see what we could do so we learned the rest of his set and went on the road together.

We were the opening act at most shows, and then after a break, we would back him up on his own set.

The remainder of 2008 saw Coaltrain touring the country with Cowboy Troy in support of his sophomore album ,Black In The Saddle. This included opening slots for Pat Green, T. Graham Brown, Jamey Johnson and James Otto on some dates, and led to the band making solid connections with other country acts including Dan Evans, a new country star best known so far for his appearance on the reality television show The Biggest Loser.

It (touring with Cowboy Troy) opened some doors for us, Denham says, and for that we’re grateful. But I think it also showed us that we were definitely a viable act on our own. We’ve been able to book return dates to a lot of the clubs we played last year appearing on our own.

And, as Denham explains, it’s led to a close partnership with Evans.

We’re working together to book dates on the side with Dan, and we’ll be touring with him as the opening act and backing him up on his own set, Denham says. We really like what he does and respect where he is coming from as an artist, and we are excited about doing this tour with Dan.

Coaltrain has come a long way from those days playing the working-class bars in and around Wheeling. They’ve played arenas and some of the top clubs and casinos in the United States after appearing in more than 35 states last year alone.

I look back at all we’ve done and I honestly know it was the right choice to come here (Nashville), Denham says. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we had stayed in Wheeling, and it’s been an amazing ride.

Coaltrain has seen many changes along the way including the loss of three of the original members that moved to Nashville from Wheeling, but that amazing ride will continue in 2009 as Denham and McCombs soldier on along with guitarist Jeremy Holt and drummer Rudy Miller. In addition to touring as Evans supporting act, the band will be headlining their own dates in 2009, supporting their sophomore album,“How I Roll”.

Obviously, we’d love to breakthrough with a hit and get some airplay, and we love Nashville and the opportunities we’ve had here, but we’re also a pretty stubborn bunch, he laughs, and we aren’t afraid to stay out on the road and do what it takes to push this album on our own.

If Coaltrain’s history is any indicator, you can bet that’s exactly what they’ll do.

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!

Lindsay Lawler

Lindsay Lawler

Lindsay Lawler is no stranger to the music scene as she has been performing all over the country from a young age. Lawler was born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas. She began singing in the church and at various country venues throughout the South. While attending the University of Oklahoma, she fronted a rock and roll band that recorded and toured the Southwest. After graduation Lawler packed up and moved out West to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being on stage. Quickly she joined the band Ciattic that she fronted for packed houses all along the Sunset Strip. Lawler never ceased to amaze audiences with her powerful vocals and stellar stage presence at the likes of the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go, Viper Room and The Roxy.

In addition, her band recorded a full-length album and toured subsequently. Lindsay Lawler was then discovered in LA by producers Marshall and London Jones (Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, Marcos Hernandez). She recorded several songs for them, one of which received airplay across the country and another that was sought after by the WB. It was shortly after that Lawler saw a void of passion in her music and quickly decided to return to her roots. She has since relocated to Nashville, TN and is currently writing with some of Nashville’s most prominent writers, recording, and performing full-time downtown. She can be seen on stage at the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Broadway weekly. Lawler’s true charisma is personified in front of a crowd…it is a live performance you won’t want to miss!

In addition to her music, Lindsay Lawler is known to many for her radio personality. She has been featured for several years on the nationally syndicated Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show based out of Dallas and broadcast to over 80 markets. The show continues to support Lindsay and has featured several of her tracks. Lawler has just finished recording an EP and will be hitting the road this fall. An exceptionally strong live performer, Lindsay Lawler exudes classic charisma & sensuality on the big stage, captivating audiences of all demographics.

Rhythm Without The Blues

Rhythm Without The Blues

For many of us musical notation seems beyond us. But the truth is, whether it’s a quarter note, eighth note, a rest, or whatever… Notation is not hard to learn!

And it is a tremendous tool to help organize your thoughts and sounds on paper. Rhythm is the most basic of all music elements. Rhythm is not only the foundation for all musical notation, but the foundation for music itself!

I like to start with Rhythm only… no pitches and note names, no chords and scales. A note tells you WHEN TO BEGIN making a sound, and WHEN TO STOP. There are several types of notes. The type of note determines the LENGTH of the sound.

Counting Notes

You may have heard that musical notation is mathematical.It’s true! And understanding notes is very similar to understanding basic math. They both require you to count.

For example, counting notes can be thought of as counting money.

Review Questions

1. How many quarters in a dollar?

2. How many quarter notes in a whole note?

3. How many half dollars in a dollar?

4. How many half notes in a whole note?

5. How many quarters in a half?

6. How many quarter notes in a half note?

For every type of note, there is a REST of the same value. A REST tells you how long to be silent.

The type of rest determines the LENGTH of silence.

Forms that meets the needs

Forms that meets the needs

The FORM THAT BEST MEETS THE NEEDS OF THE SONG is your best choice.

Tip #3. Song FORM helps the listener PROCESS THE DETAILS OF THE STORY.

If I pull up to the drive-through at McDonalds and an employee runs outside to the car and hands me a fish sandwich and a chocolate shake… how would I respond? I’ve not had time to make up my mind and choose what I want, etc. Timing is Everything!

My tiny brain needs to see the menu and process my order.

There is a reason that the outside menu has big pictures of the food, not just the name & price.

It is possible to begin a song with the Chorus, but it’s usually more effective AFTER we’ve been given some details that lead up to it. Then, it comes as a payoff, not a slap in the face.

The best way to learn about Form is to listen to the professionals. Learn to analyze and understand the Form of your favorite songs. I’ll bet you already understand song form just from listening to popular music.

FORM will usually fall into one of the following categories or labels:

1) 12-Bar Blues

2) ABA

3) AABA

4) 1-part, 2-part, 3-part

5) Verse/Chorus

6)Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge

I would argue that several of these labels actually have identical meanings, but different composers refer to them in the terminology they have grown up hearing.

For example, I refer to a “channel” while others would call it a “pre-chorus”. It is and does absolutely the same thing… it transitions you away from the verse and sets up the chorus.

Some would call this PRE-CHORUS a separate section, others would say it is part of the verse. Others would obviously call it part of the chorus… So what???

You can call it a “TRANSITIONALICIOUSMAXIMUS” if you want… as long as it delivers some musical and emotional impact.

Again, the needs of the song should dictate a song’s Form, not the other way around. You don’t enter McDonalds through the kitchen, even though the food is why you’re there. You don’t place your order in the manager’s office, even though he runs the show.

The McDonalds design works to MEET THE NEEDS OF THE CUSTOMER. You enter, you head toward the menu, you see the options, you choose, you order, you eat… call it blueprint, marketing, feng-shui, FORM…whatever, It works!

In songwriting, we should MEET THE NEEDS OF THE LISTENER. They are our CUSTOMERS.

And, for better or worse, the “customer is always right”. They don’t care about song Form, but they feel it when it isn’t right.

For the beginning songwriter, the principles of song Form may seem like old-fashioned rules that aren’t very practical. But make no mistake, writing music without using the various song forms is like writing poetry without the alphabet… it’s impossible.

There are already many online articles & lessons about FORM in songwriting. Instead of explaining the mechanics for you with a music theory approach, (you SHOULD understand the mechanics), I’ve tried to give you an EMOTIONAL concept instead.

The wrong song form confuses the listener. Using a form that works delivers the “Happy Meal” to your audience.

Understanding Song Form is Essential

Understanding Song Form is Essential

A good songwriter knows which SONG FORM delivers the feeling of a song most effectively.

Imagine walking into McDonalds and the first room you enter is the bathroom… what happened???

The builder used the wrong FORM or BLUEPRINT. Yes, every McDonalds does have a bathroom, but it SHOULD NOT AND WILL NOT be the first room you step into.

Likewise, a song shouldn’t introduce itself to the listener with the wrong section heard first.

This is what SONG FORM is all about.

Since McDonalds has sold a few burgers over the years, they understand the “BIG PICTURE” of selling fast food:

GETTING OUR ATTENTION (introducing), CREATING or STATING A CONFLICT (our need for food) and RESOLVING THE CONFLICT (burger, fries & coke).

In other words:

  • They get our attention. (with advertising)
  • They REMIND you that your stomach is growling. (a problem)
  • They are available, on every corner, to SELL to anyone. (the problem is fixed)

Tip #1. SONG FORM helps you KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN SIGHT.

a) The INTRODUCTION gets our attention.

b) The VERSE(S) creates a conflict/tension.

c) The CHORUS delivers the answer/resolution.

OPTIONAL material:

d) The BRIDGE takes us somewhere for additional information or closure.

e) TAGS, SOLOS, VAMPS, BREAKDOWNS, REPEAT TILL FADE, etc. are icing on the cake, add-ons for arranging and production enhancement.

A great song works like a Novel or Movie, but in 3 – 4 minutes.

We are INTRODUCED to the main characters… (WHO)

we HEAR the story with verses… (WHAT AND WHERE)

and get it RESOLVED with the chorus, and maybe a bridge… (the WHEN & WHY)

All in a singable, danceable, memorable song.

3 & 1/2 – 4 minutes is all it takes.

One Form is no better than another, but there is most likely one that will help deliver the feel and emotional impact MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN THE OTHERS.

Tip #2. Song FORM is usually THE RESULT – NOT THE INSPIRATION for a song.

All of the popular song forms have strengths and weaknesses. Early rock n’ roll, (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis) could express itself best from the mold known as 12-bar blues. That form is still valid today, but may not be as effective with other songs.

Diane Warren, probably the most successful songwriter of the past 20 years, said this in an interview when asked about Form:

“I usually write with verse, chorus, verse, bridge and chorus. Sometimes the structure of my song changes according to the feel of the song”.

The feel or vibe should dictate the form!

How do you pick the best form for your song?

Answer: All song Forms CAN work…