A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘artist’ Category

Christmas Hope Songs

So I’ve written a number of blogs about Christmas songs and a key point being that you need to write it 6 months out. A couple of years ago I wrote Another Stretch in Iraq which I blogged about here. This was my recognition of the men and women of the military who have served and are serving around the world. Following this year’s study it is going to get a major rewrite and new name, but the fundamental message doesn’t change.

Coming up to Christmas I was working on my second to last Melody Assignment at Berklee Music and decided to do it as a Christmas song. I haven’t finished it, but thought I’d share a couple of verses and chorus with you. I’m thinking it will end up with another verse and bridge before I record it properly, but hope you like the concept.

I am really into telling stories which will become obvious if you listen to more of my songs. So this one is about a family who have hit tough times and despite their own feelings are wishing for something good for someone else.

The exercise was point and counterpoint between bass and lyric melody. For the verses I’ve used Oblique motion where the dominant movement comes from the bass. In the choruses I’ve used Parallel motion to really draw attention to the emotion in the lyrics.

Hope you like it. All feedback welcome. You can hear it by clicking on the following link: Santa if youre listening

Merry Christmas to you and yours and many thanks for visiting my blog.

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It’s March Already

Wow, time has flown. I’m almost at the end of my first Berklee Music paper which is Music Publishing 101 and have been really enjoying it. I knew from past experience that this means self discipline in getting my readings done and getting assignments in on time, but it is so worth it.

Anyone who has studied subjects they were passionate about at university, knows how much you gain from them, and how they can move your career forward. The only catch now is that I have a list of so many things that I need to do asap, that the course has shown me, that I am wondering how I can start on my next paper and do all of those things at the same time.

Amongst the things I need to do is complete all the administration for my song catalogue and have everything in files so that I can access them on demand. This includes archives of Lyric Sheets, Split Sheets (only one song is a collaboration so far, so that’s not a biggie), copies of each song demo on disk in MP3 and CD format, with liner notes and much more.

One area I didn’t really consider or know how to deal with was TV and Film. New Zealand is obviously very successful in the film industry, but I also learned in my research that publishers such as Mushroom Music NZ has had real success in publishing to local and international TV, so they are on my contact list.

I have decided that I need to re-record every song demo for all songs that are on my A and B lists, before I make contact with people like Mushroom, because I want them to be impressed with my writing and not ruin chances by providing A&R people with hastily recorded demo’s, recorded within minutes of completing writing of songs on my Tascam Digital 8 Track. I have also decided that I should record more of my guitar  music arrangements as they are very good, but I have never considered them as having commercial value.

Of course this is all money and time, but if I want to have a music career as a songwriter and composer, I need to get seriously organized and treat it as a business.

So next steps. I had a meeting with APRA last week, which was very helpful. I was looking for advice, but also to let them know that I am working hard on my craft and music education and looking to go ahead in the industry. I put in an application for a grant to attend the Song Summit in Sydney in June and also inquired about next year’s music grants. Currently I am studying my Bachelor of Songwriting degree online, but I can’t complete the full degree online and the cost to travel from New Zealand to study in Boston MA, with accommodation etc is very high, so I am hoping that when the time gets closer I can get some local support to make the trip.

Another challenge I have is staying in touch with the industry and really getting to know it well, locally and internationally. This means reading magazines that you can’t buy locally. These include Country Music Magazine from Australia and of course Billboard from the USA.  New Zealand is really bad when it comes to accessibility to international music magazines, so this means more money to get subscriptions and of course time to read the magazines. There are of course loads of great websites, including the ones for the magazines I just mentioned, this also means more time for reading and research.

I haven’t done any gigs for a couple of months, because this also takes time for practice and the gigs themselves, but I really need to fit this in as well, not to mention writing new songs!

So loads of work to do, money to find for recording, artists to find to record my songs, because I can’t do them full justice myself. In between I have a full time job, a family, a mortgage and other commitments, but they say if you want something done, give it to someone who is busy.

What I need now is a winning Lotto ticket so that I can focus on my music instead of working 50 hours a week in my day job.

The bottom line is that if you want to be a success in this industry you need to work hard and a little luck would be nice, but most of the time you need to make your own luck, by putting in the effort. I can’t remember who actually said it the first time, but it was along the lines of “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

The Recording Studio

Hey guys, first of all apologies for the blogfade, I’ve been really busy, especially since my broken wrist has healed and I am playing again. I have a few great new songs ready to be recorded, well two of them are ready to be recorded, I’m still working on the guitar solo for the third which is a jazz song.

I’ve said many times that you should sign up to your Performing Rights Association. I’m a writer member of APRA (If you are in the USA you can join either ASCAP or BMI) which looks after Australia and New Zealand. Actually I wonder why it isn’t called ANZPRA? As well as making sure that you collect your performance royalties, they do lots of other things like putting on the awesone S3 Song Summit Sydney which I went to and blogged about last year. They also support and sponsor lots of seminars like the one I went to at Depot Artspace yesterday.

Now I have of course recorded in a studio before, but this was a great workshop with the opportunity to learn more about recording, mixing and mastering. There were a couple of things that I came away with that I thought I would share with you.

First of all, with the economy as it is, many studios are quiet and you may be able to negotiate a deal, even if its just some extra practice time. Rates seem to vary from $25 an hour to huge sums. Don’t just go on price because you may get what you paid for, although some people may be very good, but either getting started or just want to help fellow musos or gain experience. So cheap doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality.

A key bit of advice is to hear some examples of their work. Also see if they have experience in your genre.  Someone into electonica or heavy metal might not bring the best out of country or a solo singer songwriter with just a guitar. But then they might too. Anyway check what they have done and ask if they have testimonials or any hits under their belt.

Another good bit of advice is to collect a selection of tracks of artists whose sound you like and you would like your track to sound like. Then you can take those tracks to the studio for the team to listen to. You can say, I want my track to sound like that. The guys at Depot Artspace, said that if you do that, they will be able to come close, although of course a lot of it is up to y0u.

There was some discussion, instigated by me, as to what costs to expect for mixing, mastering etc. I wont preempt any pricing but you should be leaving at least a c0uple of hundred dollars. One of the suggestions was whether you were looking for a single or ‘just an album track’. I was surpised at that. Obviously some people want to put more into their ‘best’ tracks. The problem I have with that is that I want all my tracks to be the best they can be and often the track you like the best isn’t the one that becomes the hit. There is also the issue that in todays world of iTunes and downloads, its quite possible that most of your sales will be for single tracks. These days of most of the albums I buy, there are only a few tracks that I really like.

I’ve currently got my eye out for a few musicians that would like to record with me in the studio. I’m especially after a drummer and someone who plays pedal steel. I can’t pay them but they will get credit on the demos. I’ll do another blog soon about demos, this blog is about the studio.

For solo artists like myself (I do play with resident or jam bands but its been many years since I’ve been IN a band), keeping time can be an issue when you bring session musicians in. When  its you on your own people won’t notice if your timing slides a fraction and sometimes you even do it deliberately. I do that in my new jazz song Color Blind. If you can’t keep steady in a studio, it’s going to cost you time and money and annoy the other musicians. My Tascam home studio has a click track and I also have a metronome, but they are both so  boring and don’t give you the one beat. Fortunately my new Digitech Jam Man has a choice of 10 click tracks, they aren’t great, but much better than what I had before and I don’t mind playing with them. Maybe I’ll  be able to download some better samples. One thing the Jam Man doesn’t seem to be able to do is let you select the beats per minute, you have to tap it in, but I digress. The point is that if you make sure you are as ready as you can be, before you get to the studio, the better your result will be.

So shop around, do your homework, ask for examples of their work and ask liots of questions. People don’t work in recording studios for a job. They do it as a vocation. They do it because theyh love it. You will pretty much find all of them interested and happy to show you around and explain how they work. Remember, its about their reputation as well as yours.

How about leaving a comment and sharing your experiences in the studio?

Weaving a story

Many people will tell you that there are 2 key ingedients in writing a great country song, the first is telling a good story and the other is roping you in so that you get emotionally involved in the story.

Today I received a ‘friend request’ on my MySpace page from Kirsty Lee Akers. Her voice sounded a little like Dolly Parton’s and that isn’t a bad thing. But this girl is from Australia and is totally her own person. She has some really good songs, covering a range of topics that show up her talents and belie her age, but one of them prompted me to stop what I was doing and really listen.

Any song that really makes you listen and can evoke emotions the way The Territory did in me, shows great talent. Kirsty Lee has a great voice, clear and crisp, but what stands out is the story which even without a great video is very moving. Another thing you should do is have your own website and hers is crisp, modern and yet you get the impression that she is sharing herself with you.

I recommend a close listen to each word for an example on how to craft a great song.

Books are full of song ideas

I don’t usually suffer for a lack of ideas to write songs about because I am always open to them. I read lots of books and always find a way to keep notes or make sure I can find my way back to lines that caught my attention.

I recently found a highlighter that also has a Post It flag dispenser in it. This means that with just the one device you can highlight your notes and put  flag on the page so you can find it again. Many of the books I read, especially non fiction, are full of Post It flags.

I also found a card of different colored Post It flags which is like a bookmark, so I often carry that with me as well, especially when I am travelling. Really handy when I’m on a plane and I’ve forgotten to take a pen out of my jacket which is now in the overhead luggage compartment and I have thewindow seat.

Something else that you need is something to take notes on, or even write lyric ideas. You need to have this anytime, anywhere. I have 2 lyric books, which are A5 (half an A4) and ringbound, so I can easily fold it around and write on both sides easily. Sometimes, such as the previous example, I don’t have quick access to it. I often carry around a blank A4 sheet of paper in my jacket as well. If neither of those work, I use anything and a common one for me is the back of a business card. It’s amazing how much you can fit on one of those if you are desperate.

Sometimes you are in a position where you have to memorise what you have written, such as when you are in the shower.  Then I go back to the rote memorisation I learned at school, just repeating it over and over again and hope that I don’t get distracted by anything or anyone before I can get pen to paper. That’s what I did with my new song that I am still writing, ‘When Madison Smiles’, but now I’m digressing.

Basically what I wanted to share is that the books you read are full of ideas that you can write songs about. The key to me is a subject that touches you strongly, or that you have a strong opinion about. Good songs are written with passion and from the heart. If you keep that in mind when you are reading, writers block should not be an issue. Of course if you don’t read books, magazines and newspapers are also great building materials to grow ideas from.

The most importand things are:

  1. Be open for new ideas all the time
  2. Have a way to highlight or find the idea again later when you need it
  3. Keep paper or books and a pen or pencil handy at all times, even when you are in bed asleep, especially when you are in bed asleep and this is often when you are most creative.
  4. If you are really organised, find a way to catagorise the texts you have highlighted. Coloured tags could be a way to do that. Most songwriters though don’t tend to be that well organised in my experience, but you should consider whether you are writing for fun or as a hobby or as a mental health tool, or whether it is a business or career, If it is the latter then you should treat it the same way as you do a job. If you are doing a job, of course you have the right tools on hand.
  5. Finally, if you do become successful and maybe even famous, the paper you originally scribbled your lyrics on could become very valuable, as collectors items although not necessarily to you personally, but perhaps your children or other important people in the future. For example someone made 1,000 prints of the John Lennon song ‘Little Flower Princess’ from his original writing and is selling them for $150 EACH at eBay right now!

Give Pump Audio a try

Some time ago I was told about Pump Audio, but I hadn’t checked it out until now. I’ve been using Sonic Bids for some time and I suspect if I lived in the USA, they would be really good for me, but I haven’t seen any gigs in New Zealand to aim for and very little in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sonic Bids is great, it just hasn’t been able to do anything for me.

My focus and goals are as a songwriter rather than a performer, although I do love playing to an audience. This means that my needs are to get my songs to a market, but my market is performers more than listeners which presents a problem for me. I’m not sure whether Pump Audio can do anything more for me, given that they are really looking for high quality finished product. My recordings are samples and I typically look for a way of presenting my songs that opens a door for the artist / singer to put their own personality and interpretation into it and l feel that by recording to the highest quality makes it more difficult for it to fit into someone else’s style, thereby reducing the size of my potential market.

The thin with sites like Sonic Bids is that you pay for each submission and that can add up pretty quickly. I must say that they give real value for money and the work they do is worth every cent they charge. The problem for my needs is mostly that they are US centric and more gig and song competition focussed. I will continue to use them for competitions or opportunities when I plan to travel to the US again.

So back to Pump Audio. First of all from a credibility perspective, they are owned by Getty Images, who purchased them in June last year. Getty are a world leader in photography and imagery and having just received a healthy check for a photo they bought from me recently, I know at first hand that they are serious about their business.

You can’t send Pump Audio MP3’s (except for the first couple which are an audition to see if they good enough), they are looking for high quality CD’s. The first benefit in my opinion from this is that it removes the tyre kickers who submit every song to anyone who they think will listen, and of course most of them don’t. You have to make an effort to send them your music.

You don’t pay unless they sell your music and then you get paid 50% of what they sell it for. This sounds a lot, but when I think of the money I have paid for other submission services that got me no money, this way they are motivated to move your product and if your product is good, you will get your return.

You keep your song rights (IP) and their deal is not exclusive, so you don’t have any barriers to also offering your music to other buyers. They cover a variety of media and say that last year alone they placed over 80,000 items to TV alone!

If you have high quality recordings on CD, I would highly recommend giving them a go.

In the meantime I am working on my latest song which is another song about dads and daughters, really about babies. It’s called When Madison Smiles and hopefully you will find it on my MySpace and Music Forte sites before too long.

Who do I sound like?

There are lots of sites where you can post your music and one of the ways people find you is when they are looking for people who sound similar to one of their favourite artists. MySpace has that feature. Last FM is built around that concept.

Last FM is like your own personal radio station that tries to come up with the music you like. It’s free, which is great and when you listen to music you can rate it, love it or ban it and the station will eventually evolve into exactly the kind of music you like. You can get it to start playing music by selecting an artist or a topic. If you want to listen to songs about Christmas, just key in Christmas, if you want to listen to my songs or artists like me, select artist and enter Luigi Cappel.

As a songwriter, artist or band, you can set up your own site where you can upload your music and videos and people can listen to your music. Just go to the Music Manager section and start creating your page. I have 1 1/2 albums up there so far. Greenhouse and Reflections which is only half complete so far.

So here’s the problem. I have entered 3 artists who have influenced me, particularly on certain songs. They are Don Henly (in particular my song Only Memories Survive), Willie Nelson and Jimmy Webb. The problem I have is in being objective when I listen to myself. So perhaps you can have a listen to some of my songs on one of my sites and tell me who you think I sound like. You can here them at Last FM by entereing my name, you can hear some at MySpace and more at Music Forte.

If you can be bothered, it would be great if you can give me feedback on what artists you think I sound like so I can add them into my sites to help people who like those artists find me. I’ll be happy to return the favor of course.

There are many benefits of understanding who you are like. If you know who you sound like, you can look for gigs where people like that kind of music. You can get a better idea of who to pitch your songs to as a songwriter and you can guide potential fans to your music online.

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