A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Archive for the ‘songwriting information’ Category

An Interview with Stephen Horton on Motivational Radio

I had the pleasure recently of being interviewed by Stephen Horton aka Rezinator on his radio show called The Highway of Dreams. You can hear the interview here. Click on the link under Rezinator speaks with Luigi Cappel. 

I really enjoyed chatting with Stephen who is an excellent musician in his own right. We talked about a number of my experiences over the years and discussed a few of my songs.

You can hear my songs You Oughta Run, which features the awesome sax playing of my friend Charly Nice, Old Flame which I wrote about a school reunion and Rarotonga, which I wrote over there, its a bit in the style of Chet Atkins, one of my heroes in the guitar world. If you’d like to know the stories behind those tracks, listen to the show. You can also hear those tracks on my Reverbnation page.

Telephone Card

Telephone CardI wrote a song several years ago which I wanted to make a musical slide show video out of. Unfortunately I have no idea what happened to the photos. This morning I saw a post on Facebook promoting Twitpic. I haven’t used it for year, so I followed the link and connected it to my Twitter profile and up came two of the photos that I had taken at Chartwell Foursquare for the song along with a pile of other photos that I took a few years ago.

This is the part where the Indian grocer is telling me that if I give him my Seiko watch, he will give me a loan for a $2 telephone card so I can call a cab to get home. Mahesh was wonderful when I asked him to pose for these photos, he thought it was a cool idea. I hope I can find them again. You can hear the song on my Reverbnation page.

Rarotonga is an awesome place to have a relax and get some musical inspiration. I wish I was back there now. I guess I’ll have to think warm (its winter in New Zealand) and enjoy the memories.

 

 

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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.

New Song ‘God If You’re Listening’

So I’ve now finished the first cut of my Christmas song for 2011, which as the name of the blog suggests is called, God If You’re Listening. This started off as Santa If You’re Listening, which I wrote about in my last blog. It started as my 2nd to last Harmony assignment for the year. I finished it this morning, 1 January 2011 and recorded the first cut which you can listen to here. God if You’re Listening

I decided to change the name because God If You’re Listening is more generic and while Christmas makes the concept more poignant, and is a time that many people do lose their jobs, it could happen at any time to anyone. Most people will lose their jobs at least once in their lives and often when they least expect it.

Here are the lyrics. I hope you like it. I’ve sent the song off to someone who offered to master a song for me for free. I’ll wait a few days and see what comes back before putting it onto my favorite music sites. So you’re the first to hear the raw demo. Let me know what you think.

God If You’re Listening © Luigi Cappel 2011
Verse One
There’s a young boy on the corner sitting on a garbage can, his red rimmed eyes are looking at the sky. He says
Santa if you’re listening, can you bring my Dad a job? Since they closed the plant we’re barely getting by.
Chorus
Santa if you’re listening I sure could use some help my Mom is lying crying in her room
I don’t need no toys or such, I’ll just do my chores and please Santa can you make it happen soon.
Verse 2
In the bedroom sits his mother and she’s staring at the wall, her eyes glazed over can’t see through her tears, she says
God if you’re listening can you help my family? Our food is low and the rent is in arrears.
Chorus
God if you’re listening I sure could use some help, my husband’s tried most everywhere he can.
I don’t need no Christmas Tree or fancy clothes to wear, I just hope that you have a plan.
Bridge
The same could happen to you or me, if you see someone in misery throw them a lifeline if you can
It don’t have to be much, just a friendly hand and a loving touch can be all it takes to revive a weary soul, and she said
Chorus
God if you’re listening I sure could use some help, my husband’s tried most everywhere he can.
I don’t need no Christmas Tree or fancy clothes to wear, I just hope that you have a plan.

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.

Harmony Assignment

If you follow this infrequent blog, you will be aware that I am studying at Berklee Music. I thought I would share my final Harmony Assignment here. Welcome feedback or questions. This was an awesome paper, led by Shane Adams. If you are serious about your music development I strongly recommend this paper and Shane as an awesome tutor.

I looked at Verse – Chorus, Verse – Chorus, Bridge – Chorus formula, but felt I didn’t have enough verses to tell the full story, so ended up with ABABABCB. It finishes in 3 minutes which I think is a good song length.

It uses verse/refrain with a full cadence which builds and emphasizes the title, which is also the hook. The verse makes use of repetition between 1st and 3rd lines and follows the same chord progression model in the 2nd line starting from the IV chord. The verses in effect make use of the Major-Key I IV Power Progressions.

In the melody lines I am making use of contrasting sections from one progression. I used harmonic variations of a melodic pedal in both the intro and the bridge which you can hear in the backing guitar. I also used a tonic pedal for the bass line on the 1st and 3rd lines of the verses.

The verses and chorus use full cadences from the IV chord to the I chord except at the end of the 3rd chorus, where I make use of surprising parallel key modulation with a D minor, instead of the D Major used in all other choruses. This allows me to lead to the bridge, which is in a different key and correctly placed between the choruses.

I used chord rhythm slightly speeding up the 4th line of each verse to help build power and progression to the chorus.

For coloring, the song is mostly in natural keys representing the happy times of the 5 year old. However the Major 7th’s allow me to introduce tension into the verse lines, the refrain going back to the natural chords, with the exception of the B minor (VI chord) I use to help resolve to the full cadence. The verse chord progressions allow me to emphasize that I’m telling a story. The D minor in the 3rd chorus introduces irony into the song, the minor chord leading into the bridge, which expresses sadness that life can’t stay that way.

In the bridge I started with a standard EMaj7, but replaced the G# minor with a G#5 and the A Major with A7Sus4 and A7.

I finished the final chorus with a half line repetition as a fade.

Life is Simple When You’re Five

Copyright Luigi Cappel 2010

Life Is Simple When You’re Five

Verse 1

D……………………….DMaj7……………..D7…….D6…
Summer seems to last forever for a boy of five

G…………………….GMaj7………………Em7………….A7…
Burning sand between his toes he runs into the tide

D……………………..DMaj7…………………..D7………………..D6..
He jumps and he splashes, wipes the water from his eyes

G……………………A7…………D…..Bm…G…………….A7………………D….
Joy is something you can’t buy……… life is simple when you’re five.

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….D…
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

Verse 2

D……………………….DMaj7……………..D7…….D6…
Autumn passes in a blur for a boy of nine

G…………………….GMaj7………………Em7………….A7…
Moving house from State to State, losing track of time

D……………………..DMaj7…………………..D7………………..D6..
As soon as he has made new friends he’s leaving them behind

G……………………A7…………D…..Bm…G…………….A7………………D….
His mind goes back to summer skies……… life is simple when you’re five.

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….D…
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

Verse 3:

D……………………….DMaj7……………..D7…….D6…
Winter seems to last forever for a boy of ten

G…………………….GMaj7………………Em7………….A7…
Father’s left, spends nights alone, mothers out dancing again

D……………………..DMaj7…………………..D7………………..D6..
When she’s back home with a new uncle its dark and 2 AM

G……………………A7…………D…..Bm…G…………….A7………………D….
Joy is something you can’t buy……… life is simple when you’re five.

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….Dm..
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

Bridge:

EMaj7#5…………G#5…………….A7Sus4……….A7……
A loving home where a boy can thrive, with fun and friends good times

EMaj7#5…………G#5…………….A7Sus4……….A7……
If only life could stay that way, let innocence survive

Chorus:

G………………..A7…………….D….G…………………A7….D…
Life is simple when you’re five, it’s so good to be alive

G……………..A7…………D………..Bm…..G………………..A7…………….D…
No cares or worries, never in a hurry, Life is simple when you’re five

G………………..A7…………….D…
Life is simple when you’re five

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