A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘song recording’ Category

Its Music Night at #SMCAKL

It’s music night at Social Media Club Auckland and I was thinking about that and a radio interview I have coming up with Stephen Horton AKA Rezinator on The Highway of Dreams on the 1st of July.

In the shower, where I start my day’s planning I was thinking of all the things I needed today and started thinking about what I wanted to do. That’s play more music, write and record more songs and start gigging again. I’ve been so busy working this last year that my music has played second fiddle and this blog has been sitting in the back room where the guys tune up before getting on stage.

So here we go, another blog and hopefully the start of many more and maybe you’all will come back for more.

Gibson Factory

Yep, that’s me:)

I have to work out which tracks to share on the radio show and am wishing that I had done some more recording because since I recorded the songs which you can hear on my Reverbnation page, they have matured a lot, with rewrites and practice. One of the things that often happens as a songwriter who doesn’t perform much any more is that as soon as you have finished your latest song, you move onto the next one.

I’ve been stuck on one of my latest songs until last weekend when I had a bit of a blow out. I can’t share the recording with you yet, because it is still rough, but I can tell about it. It’s a rock, reggae, blues number with some rap in the bridge (yes I have genre fatigue) and I’m going to need some help with it.

My friend Charly Nice will hopefully add some of his awesome sax to the song as he did on You Oughta Run. I’ll need some help with the rap too. I know what I want it to sound like, I’ve got the phrasing, but not the voice for it. What I’d really like to do is make a music video of it, take you down those mean streets, but of course that means funding from somewhere.

I guess its taken me a long time to write it because it is based on the day my father in law died after his second bout with cancer. It chronicles a walk I made around the streets of Avondale, his final resting place. It’s probably taken that long for me to deal with it.

If you follow the lyrics you might get a gist of the story, but it will take a good recording and video to really share the story so you can feel it. Like walking past a rough pub and seeing a guy covered in ink, drunk as a skunk, with a beer bottle in his hand and a scowl in his face, who makes you feel like you should cross the road quick-smart and then extends his hand in a warm brotherly shake. That was like Auckland weather, all emotions in a couple of minutes.  If you’ve been in a similar situation with someone you cared about and then walked through a neighbourhood made up of some awesome and some quite scary people on a black day, you might relate.

Another Man Has Gone

V1

On the streets of Avondale

Wearing the tread off my shoes

Don’t you talk to me man

Can’t you see I’ve got the blues

My heart is breaking

Cancer called again

Another man is gone.

Chorus

Another man has gone

Life will never be the same

Another man has gone

How do we go on

V2

A brother comes along the road

So drunk he can hardly stand

He looks me up and down and nods

Then he shakes my hand

Life runs in cycles

And they have to end

Another man has gone

Bridge (rap)

I’ve been walking down these streets so long that I can’t feel my feet

But I can’t stop because that’s getting real, accepting the deal

The ache that I’m feeling

I’m reeling one minute you’re there then you’re gone and I can’t stop

Because that’s getting real, accepting the deal

V3

Now I’m on a back street

Man is glaring at me

His eyes are throwing daggers

Maybe he thinks that I’m a D

But I’m just a sad man

Walking misery

Another man has gone

So the writing is done. now comes arrangement and practice, then getting a team together to help record it.

So there’s my latest song-writing blog. If you come back I will too, OK?

Rise Up Christchurch

Today is the day of the Christchurch Rise Up Telethon and I’m wishing that I was ready to record my new version of my song The Fault Was Mine, which is about a father whose daughter is found in the Christchurch Earthquake wreckage. The first draft is here on YouTube, but I think the new rewrite is much more commercial.

Using what I learned at Berklee and with some mentoring the lyrics have been altered so that it is easier for people not close to what happened in Christchurch to understand what it is about and to relate to the situation so many people found themselves in.

My hope now is to be able to record it professionally and put together a music video, of course that means money so I need to look at how to fund it because my focus is on writing songs and what I really want is for someone else to record it. This means that I probably don’t qualify for the NZ Music On Air new funding because it is all about recording artists, not songwriters who do not want to be recording artists.

So here’s the new lyrics and hopefully I will have a new demo to share soon,

The Fault Was Mine Copyright Luigi Cappel 2011

The Policeman on the phone said come right down

To the hospital on the other side of town

I’d been awake all night consumed with fear

They’d found my daughter in Christchurch Cathedral Square

Now I’m walking and a wondering why was it you not me

I should have been protecting you, protecting you

Are you alive?

Are you hurt?

I’d do anything to turn back time.

They said it was

A new fault line

But I felt the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

The trip past the earthquake rubble seemed to take years

Doctor sat me down, I listened through a haze of tears

At the hospital we did everything we can

Now its up to God we hope you understand

Now I’m walking down the corridor, why was it you not me

I should have been protecting you, protecting you

Are you alive?

Are you hurt?

I’d do anything to turn back time.

They said it was

A new fault line

But I felt the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

A city’s made of bricks and mortar

They can be rebuilt but daughter

It would crush my heart to lose you now

Are you alive?

Are you hurt?

I’d do anything to turn back time.

They said it was

A new fault line

But I felt the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

I still feel the fault was mine

Christchurch Cathedral

Temporary Home Song Analysis

I’m in the process of fine tuning my new song God If You’re Listening, which is a Country Christian Christmas Song. As part of that I am analyzing Temporary Home as an example of both a hugely successful song and one that I love, written by Carrie Underwood, Zac Maloy and Luke Laird.  I want to emphasize that I have utmost respect for all of these amazing writers and that this analysis is to help me improve my craft, rather than to comment on theirs, given that they are all hit song writers and I am still working on becoming one.

At the end of this blog I have included a YouTube clip which displays the lyrics, rather than the official video, so you can see what I am referring to in my comments. You can see the official music video on my previous blog here.

So here we go. The first think I looked at was the hook, which is also the song title. It fits perfectly and is repeated twice in each chorus, so you are left in no doubt as to the point of the song. People who like the song will know the title even if they have never been told it. This is of course important for marketing if people hear it and want to buy a copy.

The theme of the song is consistent. It’s all about people who are in diffifult transitions in their lives, but accepting that better is to come, one way or another. I have read some critiques which said that the song is too simplistic, but I disagree.

I understand that Carrie knew exactly what she wanted to write about when she sat down with Zac and Luke during a 2 day writing session. They each drew from their own experiences, and songwriting teachers always say write about what you know.

There is a balance between writing a song that tells you an exact story, complete with detailed imagery, vs telling a story allowing you to insert your own imagery and imagination, being able to make it yours, based around your own experiences. Someone who listens to a song that matches their emotions and experience and has that special moment, wondering, how did the artist know that about me, is going to be a much bigger fan.

The lyric moves between the 1st and 2nd person, building a word picture then making it personal. I really like the imagery of “windows and rooms”, which is sufficient for you to fill in the gaps from your own memory or imagination, getting you involved in the story. The same with the old man. We know he’s in a hospital bed, we know he’s dying, but it is more powerful to not say it.

The only part I would change would be the beginning, with the 6 year old. The words do not belong to a 6 year old, rather to a commentator. What I’m trying to say is that a 6 year old foster child probably wouldn’t have that positive attitude unless it came from the advice of their caregiver. Like Luke Laird, I also had a time when our family hosted several foster children and they tended to arrive insecure and socially inept and certainly not thinking positively about the long term future. But then most people would not notice this and you quickly move on to the next vignettes and the old man situation which so many more of us can relate to.

The structure of the song is excellent whilst again simple. Whatever the critics say, I believe that commercially simple is best. People can learn the song quickly and sing along with it. The melodic repetition also supports this. Most won’t have Carrie’s chops but they will enjoy singing this song. The build from a boy, to his mother to the old man is linear. Carrie’s performance builds to long sustained notes with the song climaxing with the old man dying and the tension is then released in a more subdued chorus. The cadence from the 1 note to the 4 note at the end of each verse builds expectation and identifies the arrival of the chorus.

The arrangement is excellent for the song. There is a lot more in it than you will hear first time around, but ultimately this is a showcase for the power and clarity of Carrie’s awesome voice. Her phrasing makes so much impact on the song, for example “Looking for a way…………….out”. Great sustained notes and some sweet harmonies.

The backing band is tight as you would expect from Nashville, with the vocal taking centre stage, again I understand a Nashville recording prerequisite. There is some nice pedal and as I mentioned, each time you listen you will here something more, which makes it nice to come back to.

I found it interesting that the song runs for 4.29, which is long for a pop song, but probably less noticeable for a country track and one that tells a story. I would have expected a bridge chorus at the end or for the final chorus to go up a note for a final climax, but the writers kept it simple.

So what was the point of all of this?

  1. Just like an art student studies the great artists, a songwriter wanting to write hit songs, has to study hit songs.
  2. I want to write not only hit songs, but songs that tell a story, engage the listening and evoke emotions. The best way to do this is to understand the crafting of songs that I like, that do this.
  3. I am often too impulsive in writing songs, as I mentioned in my last blog. This exercise is forcing me to slow down and rethink the specific song I am currently writing, “God if You’re Listening “.

So my conclusions? I am now going to rewrite my new song again. I’m going to remove the bridge and do a 3rd verse which will be about the husband and father, thereby telling a 3rd part of the story. In my bridge I have moved from the story to a commentary and I’m thinking that this commentary should be coming from the listener, not the singer.

I have also decided, as per my previous blog, to make the performance simple, just lead vocal, guitar and bass. If I do a version with more, it will just be for fun, but I am not writing as a singer songwriter, I am writing for someone else to perform. I believe that the more elements I add, the narrower the appeal will be for someone to pick the song up.

This has been a personal exercise for me, but I hope it also gives you some ideas for your own writing. I would welcome any feedback.

Songwriting New Year’s Activity and Resolutions

So its 2011 and I have made some resolutions, the big one being to really work hard in my songwriting and I’ve started off the way I intend to continue.

My first blog for this year was about my new song God if You’re Listening and having given it a lot of thought in the wee hours, I am doing an about face which will hopefully head me off in the right direction, especially a week before my first Berklee Music Semester of the year, with the paper on Commercial Songwriting Techniques.

So here’s my first weakness which I aim to correct. When I write a new song, I record a demo straight away. That’s fine if you do it so that you can remember all the nuances, but I tend to want to upload it onto websites straight away before it ripens. The result of this is that:

  • I haven’t learned how to play it properly yet. This means that the recording sounds like what it is. What it isn’t is a quality demo. Just because I know how I want it to sound, doesn’t mean that it is ready or refined.
  • I haven’t run through my Song Quality Checklist from Music Publishing 101. The first question of which is “Does the title sound like a hit. My song from my last blog started off as Santa If You’re Listening, but I very quickly realized it was wrong for lots of reasons, including that the dominant theme was a woman talking to God. It also means that it is not just a Christmas and Country song, but also a Christian song.
  • I rushed the accompaniment which actually sounded rushed and boring.
  • I added more instruments than necessary which actually detracted from the recording. As I songwriter, I really need to focus on simple elements, vocals, one guitar and bass. If  I want to pitch the song to an artist, in most cases less is more.
  • The melody and phrasing always improve the more you play a new song.

So sometime soon I am going to re-record “God If You’re Listening”. In the meantime, I am going to do the following things:

  1. Work through my Song Quality Checklist.
  2. Create a song Admin Sheet
  3. Print copies of the song and chords for my 3 performance clearfiles
  4. Register it with APRA
  5. Analyse a hit song in a similar style from my ongoing list of 5 songs for analysis. Probably Temporary Home by Zac Maloy, Luke Laird and co-written and recorded by Carrie Underwood, because it is similar inasmuch as it was written to evoke emotions and because it is a very successful hit song.
  6. Then I will revisit my song to see what I can improve.
  7. When I am happy I will re-record it, put some copies onto CD and then submit to a number of websites.

The key point I am making is about treating my songs as a business product, because if I don’t no one else will.

Rarotonga

I’ve just spent a week on the beautiful island of Rarotonga. Of course my guitar came with me and I deliberately turned my mobile off and stayed away from the Internet.

I was lucky on the way over, the woman at the check in counter had a son studying violin and went and asked her supervisor to waive the $75 for a second piece of luggage. Had to pay on the way back, but that’s how it is these days. If I had more legs on the trip it would have been cheaper to buy another guitar than pay the excess luggage!

Whenever I have a holiday, whether its domestic or international I try to write a song to remember the place by and Raro was no exception.

I bought a new video camera before I left. Haven’t read the manual yet, but I managed to take some video and photos. When I got back I got on to my trusty Tascam and recorded a couple of guitar tracks and the bass.

I was hoping the camera software would have a feature allowing me to add a soundtrack to the video clips but it didn’t. Fortunately when I came back, my computer wanted to do an update of Windows Live, which I don’t actually use, but I saw it came with Windows Live Video Editor, so I thought, “why not?”

Turned out to be really easy to use. I didn’t need to read a manual and figured out how to upload clips, edit them, do transitions, title etc and upload the soundtrack and match the video to the length of the track. This is all a first for me and I was pleased to see that Windows Live also included an upload to YouTube feature, so I now have a new YouTube Video.

I hope you will have a watch and let me know if you like the song. I’ve been wanting to do YouTube videos for ages and so far, bar one the only YouTube videos featuring me were done by other people.

So here is my view of Rarotonga. If you like it, please tell someone else (and me:)).

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?

DIY Record Album Production lessons

Almost every time I’ve played a live gig, I get asked if I have a CD that people can buy and the sad and sorry answer is no, but here’s my card and you can visit my website at MySpace. Now there is my first error, you really should have your own website, but I haven’t found a CMS yet that is easy for me to use, but I will do soon. Anyway, even if you can’t afford to visit a studio, there are plenty of low cost tools that you can purchase, either software or hardware. I have both.  Now you can create your own CD.

I will also visit Go Daddy one of these days and get my own URL, which you can easily link to your MySpace or other page until you have your own. They only charge $9.99 for a .com domain. If you listen to the great Musicians Cooler Podcast, he has a number of promo codes that will give you a discount off Go Daddy services.

I’ll wait until I use up most of my business cards which have the MySpace address on it.

Anyway, back to the story. I bought myself a Canon iP4500 printer which will print directly on printable CD’s. It was very cheap and did a great job, except it doesn’t print all the way into the hole of the CD, which is a minor dissapointment. I checked the settings and they are set to the closest it will go.

I spent quite a lot of time on the image I wanted on the label and also making sure it was consistent with the insert cover and the theme of the Album which is Greenhouse. I thought I’d be able to find some good templates on Microsoft Publisher but was sorely dissapointed. Fortunately at a sale last week I found a software package called CD Covers and Labels for Dummies, which was as simple and simplistic as you would expect, but awesome value for $5! So I as able to use their templates and my images.

I put the title on the CD label and also in smaller print on the bottom Copyright Luigi Cappel 2009.

I worked out the order of the tracks I wanted, which I listed on the Album insert. I didn’t put in the song times, which I will probably do on the next batch, because if any of these do find their way to a radio station, they will want to know how long the tracks play for.

When I went to burn the CD’s using Sonic Digital Media Plus v7, I found (having wasted 3 CD’s) on testing them that the software had reordered the tracks alphabetically which meant I had to solve this problem because I wanted the tracks in the specific order to keep it relevant and interesting to the listener and I had already printed the inserts including the track listing. To solve this, I used the Rename function and numbered them in front of the song title. Now we were sweet.

Printing the labels was easy, although cutting them to size was a pain. I used fairly heavy paper so that it would look professional and not try to slide out of the case when it was opened. I used a guillotine and found it really hard to get the edges exactly right. Next time I’ll use a straight edge and a craft knife, which will be much easier. Also you need something for the back to fold the little edges which are the titles that you can see from the side.  Detail is important as even though the CD’s are home made I want them to look professional. The only thing missing is the shrinkwrapping, which I will have done later when I create more volume. There are plenty of places that will shrinkwrap for you very cheaply.

So just to go over the presentation. The front cover is consistent with the concept of the album. This album is called The Greenhouse Demo’s, because the songs are demo’s and Greenhouse is the title of Track 4. The cover art is a picture of a big block of Franz Joseph Glacier ice that is melting at a rapid pace. The title is very easily read on both the CD label and the insert.

On the inside of the isert I have a photo of myself (because the listener can’t late to you if they don’t know what you look like and the album is about building a fan base) holding a huge block of glacial ice which has melted and been washed away in the icy river.

On the back I put another picture of myself, this time standing on White Island which is an active ocean volcano and represents the global warming and the yin and yang of hot and cold. The other crucial data I put on the back is my email address and URL so that people can make contact with me, probably one of the most important things of all.

All in all, it was pretty simple. Everyone should have an album available, even if it’s home made, whenever you perform. I’m really pleased with how mine turned out and it looks more professional in my humble opinion than some that I have seen, made by ‘professionals’.

As a footnote, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts yesterday while I was vacuuming the pool. it is Music Business Radio. The interview was with Meiko, who I strongly recommend as a good listen. I love the song Boys with Girlfriends. Anyway, on the podcast they have a section called Dave’s Demolition Derby where they get their guests to review 3 songs hat listeners have sent in for critique. I can’t remember her Manager’s name but he used to be an A&R man and made the comment that Record Companies and others get loads of unsolicited CD’s in the mail and some of them look really cheap and nasty.  If you hae to pick a few of them for a quick listen, which one do you think will get an airing, the one with a CD which someone has written on, something like My Cool Song, or one that looks like it was purchased of the shelf of your favorite CD store?

one-cube2

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