A blog about songwriting and about the songwriter Luigi Cappel

Posts tagged ‘songwriting tips’

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:)).

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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

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?

Pack and Run

I have just finished the first draft of my latest song, which is called Pack and Run and I think it is one of my best so far. I need to still do some work fine tuning the lyrics. Often I am too impatient with a new song and want to record a demo as soon as I have finished writing it. I will try to be patient and work through it some more. It would be a shame to rush a good song when it could be a great song.

This is probably something that most writers should think about. It is easy to write a song and then consider it finished, but there is so much to consider at this point, especially if you want great songs.

Is the structure consistent? One of the first things I do is take my scribbles out of my songwriting spiral wound notepad and key it into word, complete with copyright details and the chord structure. I have 2 of these, one which is in my bag all the time in case I come up with great ideas when I am away from home and the other sits at my music desk.

I also record it while I’m writing on my Belkin Tunetalk so that I can’t forget the melody or the sound I achieved. This is important because I often use unusual inversions and positions that I will forget unless I can record them, as I am not great when it comes to notation outside of the common chords.

I also look to see if I have things in the correct order. As Pat Pattison taught me, often songwriters write the last verse first, but don’t realise it.

Does the rhyme work? Is it consistent? Is the tense consistent? Am I consistent in the person I am talking to? Does the hook work? Is the hook in the chorus? Is it repeated enough so that the hook works? Is the hook consistent with the song?

While I was writing, I was also hearing the accompaniment. I don’t think this is a pop song, but it could have legs on the Country charts.  I do hear harmonies in the background, maybe Eagles style and I already have in my mind the way the song starts with just a single guitar, then vocals, then bass, then the rest of the band which is probably just another guitar and drums.

Does it need a middle eight? I don’t know, but it could, now that I think about it, I could put in a bridge. The song is about a guy who finds out his partner cheated on him and how his love was blind and he wouldn’t listen when his friends tried to tell him.

A bridge would give me the opportunity to add an extra element, perhaps after he has left her and looks in the rearview mirror of his car while he is driving, hoping that isn’t her in the car behind, wondering if he will ever be able to trust someone again.

Another question is who the target market for the song is. I think this song would fit someone who likes Don Henly (who has a new album out by the way, called Inside Job), the Eagles and probably and older audience, not teenagers but probbaly anyone from mid 20’s on who has perhaps had a few knocks, not in short term relationships but longer standing ones. Someone that is a more discerning listener, not into bubblegum music, but music with good melodies, good chords and a rich sound. I’m not sure exactly what the genre is, it’s country in the way that Eagles is country, but it’s contempory as the Eagles are. Can someone help me out and tell me what genre they think of the Eagles as?

Anyway, those are things I’m now thinking about. I’m also thinking about imagery. These days so much of music is about imagery and not just the word pictures a songwriter creates, but imagery I can put into a music video or slide show.

If there are any fellow songwriters reading this, I’d welcome your thoughts on this, when you have written a song, do you call it finished, or is that when the real craftmanship begins?

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.

Radioscope – Another Great Music Site

I said I would tell you about some more sites that might be of interest to your songwriting career. Radioscope is really an industry website for broadcast radio in New Zealand. So why should you care about it?

If you recall in previous blogs, I said that the best way to get journalists to write about you is to get to know them, find out what they are interested in, what they like, read their stories, develop a relationship.

Radioscope is where a lot of media people go for their news. At least I think they do, because they haven’t put anything new on the front page since July. They do have links to new stories, so maybe it is just “technical difficulties”. Therein does lie a lesson. If you have date stamped information on your web site, keep it current!

On a deeper look, I suspect someone has left the organisation and perhaps only current feeds like the charts are being updated.

One thing that is really good is the Chart Feeds. You can find the latest in a range of charts including singles, albums, DVD, compilations, Top 40 Airplay, Pop, Rock, Urban, Juice, MTV, C4, Alt, pretty much every chart you want. A great feature is that you can download them as an Excel File.

You may recall in a previous blog about Hit Songs I suggested that ir you want to write a Hit Song, you need a pretty good idea of what people are listening to in your genre. This a great place to look for if you are wanting to write a hit song for the New Zealand market in one of the genres covered on New Zealand radio.

There are lots of reasons songs become hits, many that you have little control over as a songwriter. The record companies, song pluggers, DJ’s, concert or tour promoters and even the media and advertisers are influential. Look at what the Cadbury’s ad did for Phil Collins. When “In the Air Tonight” came out, it peaked at Number 2 in the charts, Since the Cadbury Gorilla Ad, the song has gone to Number One, years after the original song.

There are some other useful things on RadioScope. There is a large list of bands and recording artistsalong with their Label. There are also links to their web pages.

If you have an RSS Aggregator (I use iGoogle. You can access anything from their site that gets updated without actually having to keep visiting the site.

There is a weekly blog called ChartBitz by Andrew Miller which is a quick update on who’s hit the charts and other relevant news.

Another excellent feature is a listing of Labels with links to their websites. They have the 4 major labels as well as 31 Indies and 2 Distribution Companies.

There are lots of places you can go once you have written your songs. If you know who a target artist that you have written a song for is signed with, this is one way of pitching it. Go to their label. One comment on that, never send them anything unsolicited because it will probably end up in File 13, aka the wastepaper basket. Ring them, tell thyem you have written a song in the style of the target artist and ask them if you can send it to them and if you do, if they will give it a listen.

I’m sure you can find more good information on this site. I like ikt much more now that I’ve trolled through itg. It has loads of great information. Just a shame that the home page isn’t kept current.

Hey just as a footnote, I don’t sit at my desk all the time. I actually wrote this blog while walking on a treadmill for 3.8km (because my PC crashed and I had to do some of it again) Exercise mind and body.

Thanks for reading this blog. If you found it interesting, why not subscribe to it. If you know someone else who might find it interesting, send them a link. I’m also keen on feedback. Disagree with me, have suggestions or want to leave a comment, please do. I’d love this blog to be more interactive.

Hello world!

Hey, welcome to The Songwriter. I am a songwriter and I am writing this blog to share my music, my thoughts on music marketing and to develop a relationship with song writers and other people in the music industry as well as music lovers. There will be lots of topics and information, some of it brief, some of it lengthy. I hope you’ll bookmark it, or select one of the RSS Aggregators so that you can stay up to date with my news.

The blogs will start very soon. In the meantime if you would like to listen to my music, you can do that on my MySpace page. Hopefully you will like my new song and slide show of Watch Me Daddy. You can also find the slide show on YouTube. Go have a listen and please leave me a comment.

If you are a Twitter fan, you can also catch my Tweets. I will be expounding on them here, especially the Songwriting Tips which are already up in the 200’s.

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