Jump to content

Blogs

Our community blogs

  1. U8f22sk.jpg

     

    My 5th album, ‘Love and War’ - release date October 15, 2018.  The theme and title came to me in 2016 as I was finishing up production on my last album.  With all the bi-partisan fighting that was happening around the country with the upcoming election, it was an obvious choice to me.

    Once again, all songs were written by me – with plenty of input from the forum members at musesongwriters.com and the regular participants at the SONG (Songwriters Of New Hampshire Group) songwriter circle.  I also did all instruments and vocals except as noted below.

     

    Track 1:  ‘Peace and Love’

    One of the last 2 songs to be written for the album.  I didn’t have any songs with ‘love’ in the title, and as I already had a song called ‘The War’ I thought it would be good to include the opposite of war into a title as well.  Inspiration for the title may have come from Ringo Starr’s greeting to fans, or Elvis Costello’s (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.

    The idea came to me that having a soldier say the words would be a good way to tie in the whole theme, so the story of ‘Jimmy’ was invented.  Recorded with just two guitar tracks – 6 string and 12 string, this acoustic song is a bookend with the final (acoustic) song on the album.

     

     

     

    Peace and Love

     

    Jimmy always was a good kid

    Excelled at everything he did

    Never missed a delivery on his paper route

    Every merit badge as an eagle scout

    Captain of his high school football team

    Living the teenage American dream

    When his country gave him the call

    He said to his friends: ‘peace and love to you all’

     

    Did two tours across the sea

    Fighting a faceless enemy

    Kept his platoon away from harm

    Took some shrapnel in his arm

    Got married, had a boy

    Spitting image, pride and joy

    Again his country gave him the call

    He told his family ‘peace and love to you all’

     

    Jimmy went off to fight another war

    Not really sure what it all was for

    But he wasn’t so lucky this time

    Took a round of bullets near his spine

    Jimmy never made it back home

    His whereabouts unknown

    In his family’s minds, he still stands tall

    His memorial plaque engraved: ‘peace and love to you all’

     

     

     

    Track 2:  ‘Valentines Day’

    Flute by Fiona Lindsey

     

    The writing started on this song in early 2016, when I was still working on my last album.  The inspiration was something my wife has said to me since we got married, ‘you can grow old, but don’t grow up’ – she has never wanted me to start acting like a ‘grumpy old man’.  I try my best!

     

     

     

    Valentine’s Day

     

    Broken promises, broken hearts

    Shattered dreams, everything comes apart

    Lost innocence, lost youth

    Lost so many years seeking out the truth

     

    You said you can grow old

    But don’t you ever grow up

    We could have a million years

    But it won’t be enough

    I wish every day could be this way

    Like Valentine’s Day

     

    Love hurts, but love can heal

    Finally found a love that’s real

    Time wears down, time takes its toll

    We won’t let time steal our souls

     

    You said you can grow old

    But don’t you ever grow up

    We could have a million years

    But it won’t be enough

    I wish every day could be this way

    Like Valentine’s Day

     

    Another morning sunrise

    Another long day

    One more evening sunset

    Together we know the way

     

    You can grow old

    But don’t you ever grow up

    We could have a million years

    But it won’t be enough

    I wish every day could be this way

    Like Valentine’s Day

     

     

    Track 3:  ‘All’s Fair’

    This is the ipso facto ‘title track’ on the album – ‘All’s fair in love and war’.  I wrote this in late 2016 but then completely forgot about it until 2018 when I recorded it.  It touches on how hard it can be to find love and how the human need for love can drive us to great lengths – and at the same time cause great suffering.

     

     

     

    All’s Fair

     

    Deepest feelings

    Emotion stealing

    Hearts are so easy to break

    Our darkest dealings

    A need of healing

    We all do whatever it will take

     

    Bullets flying

    Leave us crying

    Fills us with nothing but doubt

    There’s no denying

    All too terrifying

    The need for love is what it’s all about

     

    They say all’s fair in love and war

    Everyone wants to win, everybody wants more

    We’re all looking for something somewhere

    In love and war, all’s fair, all’s fair

     

    Love’s the answer

    Hate’s a cancer

    The cure must come from within

    Fate’s a dancer

    Subtle romancer

    Even though we know that love should win

     

    They say all’s fair in love and war

    Everyone wants to win, everybody wants more

    We’re all looking for something somewhere

    In love and war, all’s fair, all’s fair

     

    We do whatever we can to get love

    When we’ve got it, we still need more

    We do whatever we must to win love

    Win at any cost, what’s it all for?

     

    They say all’s fair in love and war

    Everyone wants to win, everybody wants more

    We’re all looking for something somewhere

    In love and war, all’s fair, all’s fair

    All’s fair, all’s fair

     

     

    Track 4:  ‘Cassandra Climbs the Mountain’

    Oboe by Olivia Blachette

    Strings by St. Riviere Ensemble

     

    After a vacation to Denali National Park in Alaska in June of 2017, this song’s lyrics, about a fictitious girl and the beauty and wonder of nature practically wrote themselves.  The music underwent a big revision after some feedback from my monthly songwriter group.

     

     

     

    Cassandra Climbs The Mountain

     

    Young Cassie felt different from others

    Like she was day and they were night

    She was always in colors

    And they were black and white

     

    A town lying in shadows

    People only half awake

    Cassie’s searching for rainbows

    To get away she’ll do whatever it takes

     

    But when Cassandra climbs the mountain

    She is one with all she sees

    Earth, air and water

    Animals, birds and trees

     

    One night Cassie followed a star’s call

    Through a forest, she ran as if chased

    Sunrise found her above all

    On her mountain, in her magic place

     

    When Cassandra climbs the mountain

    She is one with all she sees

    Earth, air and water

    Animals, birds and trees

     

    Cassandra realized

    That happiness wasn’t just a dream

    Right before her eyes

    She’s become the mountain’s queen

     

    Cassandra climbs the mountain

    She is one with all she sees

    Earth, air and water

    Animals, birds and trees

     

    Cassandra up on her mountain 

    Cassandra up on her mountain    

     

     

    Track 5:  ‘Web of Lies’

    Saxophone by Seth Aufert

     

    This song was originally titled ‘We Can’t…’, but the songwriter group was unanimous on the title change!  I was shooting for a Steely Dan sound on this with the electric piano sound and saxophone.

     

     

     

    Web of Lies

     

    Awaken to the dark

    There is no sun today

    All the light and hope

    Has been swept away

     

    There is no thinking

    No common sense anywhere

    Shuffling zombies

    Who just don’t care

     

    We can’t be blind to the suffering

    We can’t turn our backs and not hear the cries

    We can’t ignore the inhumanity

    We can’t get caught in the web of lies

     

    In a no-thought zone

    Repeating others’ views

    Always ready to argue

    And quick to accuse

    It’s the land of freedom

    For which we fight

    Dare to question a leader

    They’ll take away your rights

     

    We can’t be blind to the suffering

    We can’t turn our backs and not hear the cries

    We can’t ignore the inhumanity

    We can’t get caught in the web of lies

     

    They tell us to our faces

    We can’t do this, we can’t do that

    We can’t say anything

    Better keep it under our hats

    We can’t state our opinion

    We can’t show any regret

    We can’t show dissension

    Cause it’s a sign of disrespect

     

    We can’t be blind to the suffering

    We can’t turn our backs and not hear the cries

    We can’t ignore the inhumanity

    We can’t get caught in the web of lies

     

     

    Track 6:  ‘Star-crossed’

    Inspired by a couple I know (since separated), these two had everything going for them to start, but everything against them after a while, and it was only a matter of time.  I was reminded of other couples in history/media that had similar problems.

     

     

     

    Star-crossed

     

    Trouble arrived on a warm autumn night

    Flashing his wicked smile

    Took his place under the spotlight

    Sang songs of lust for a while

     

    Luck was there that night, waiting

    For something to change her life

    The simple existence she’d been hating

    All balanced on the edge of a knife

     

    Luck and trouble

    Made for each other

    Fateful couple

    Star-crossed lovers

     

    Luck can be good, or she can be bad

    Ask a couple like Bonnie and Clyde

    The chance Romeo and Juliet never had

    Cause luck decided they’d be denied

     

    Trouble’s no better, it’s true

    Beware those fiery eyes

    A heart of coal ready to burn you

    As his smile fills the air with lies

     

    Luck and trouble

    Made for each other

    Fateful couple

    Star-crossed lovers

     

    Star-crossed, all was lost

    Destined to never be

    Star-crossed, such a cost

    Two lives that will never be free

     

    Luck and trouble

    Made for each other

    Fateful couple

    Star-crossed lovers

     

     

    Track 7:  ‘Change the World’

    Drums by Dom Richardo

     

    A call to action!  Recorded with an intentional sound to be reminiscent of 60s garage band or current ‘lo-fi’ styles.

     

     

     

    Change the World

     

    Listen people

    We must find a way

    To make things better

    Before it’s too late

     

    We can do it

    Shout a little louder

    The world is listening

    And we’ve got the power

     

    We’ve got to change the world

    It’s our future to preserve

    Stop the madness

    End the sadness

    Oh, please, let’s change the world

     

    Listen people

    It’s time to fight hate with love

    Raise our voices together

    And say enough is enough

     

    We’ve got to change the world

    It’s our future to preserve

    Stop the madness

    End the sadness

    Oh, please, let’s change the world

     

    Those in charge

    Say “things must stay the same

    It’s always been this way

    We’re not to blame”

    But not so long ago

    Young people said ‘no more

    We want our rights

    We won’t fight your war’

    ..They changed the world

     

    We’ve got to change the world

    It’s our future to preserve

    Stop the madness

    End the sadness

    Oh, please, let’s change the world

    Let’s change the world

    Let’s change the world

     

     

    Track 8:   ‘Crossroads’

    A nostalgic look back to a simpler time.  The town I lived in during high school, did indeed only have one traffic light, but there was no girl and no convertible.  The inspiration for this song came from a ‘challenge’ proposed at one of the monthly songwriter meetings – write a song using a well-known song title, but make it different.  I’m pretty sure this is nothing like the Robert Johnson blues tune of the same name! The main instrument (double tracked) on this is a baritone ukulele.  For the fuzzed lead guitar sound, I was shooting for something like Randy Bachman’s guitar in songs like ‘American Woman’ and ‘No Time’.

     

     

     

    Crossroads

     

    Grew up in a town so small

    Only had one traffic light

    No strip malls, no neon

    Only stars to light the night

     

    First time I saw you was at the corner

    Watching green change to red and back

    Smiling at thoughts only you knew

    In a place so matter-of-fact

     

    So many years later

    Memories out of the blue

    Went down to the crossroads

    Still reminds me of you

     

    Summer dates with the top down

    Parked at the edge of the road

    Watching cars stop on red

    Wond’ring about when we’d get old

     

    So many years later

    Memories out of the blue

    Went down to the crossroads

    Still reminds me of you

     

    The years went by, we drifted apart

    With age comes wisdom and lots of broken hearts

    Despite all the streets and boulevards, every highway

    My feelings from those days won’t fade away

    And wherever you are – do you remember that crossroads

     

    So many years later

    Memories out of the blue

    Went down to the crossroads

    Still reminds me of you

    Still reminds me of you

     

     

    Track 9:  ‘Long’

    Another nostalgic look back, something we all tend to do as we get older.  The inspiration for the lead guitar sound (tube overdrive, reverb and delays) on this song came from the Virginia band Carbon Leaf’s guitarist Carter Gravat.

     

     

     

    Long

     

    From the past a forgotten photo

    Seems like another life

    Oh-so-young, what did we know

    No concern about passing time

     

    Before we knew it we got older

    Friends often drift apart

    Responsibilities on our shoulders

    Every day life gets hard

     

    Long

    I long to go back, see those friends and reminisce

    Long

    I long to go back, to the days of innocence

    Long, long ago, so long ago

     

    My mind is full of snapshots, clear memories

    The people I knew, the ones I loved, a golden treasury

    Now things have started to fade, it’s been so long, been so long

     

    Always said we would never grow up

    Time would not slow us down

    Eventually comes the final cut

    And no one else is around

     

    Long

    I long to go back, see those friends I miss

    Long

    I long to go back, to those days of innocence

    Long, long ago, so long ago

     

     

    Track 10:  ‘Poor Ian’

    Strings by St. Riviere Ensemble

     

    The original idea for this song came from my sister-in-law, when she mentioned a friend of her husband’s, who she called ‘Ian the Hermit’.  She mentioned he would wear headphones a lot, and was moving into a cabin outside the city to be by himself more.  That afternoon, I made up a song that made fun of him, playing it while dinner was being cooked.  Further thought made me realize that it would be better not to make fun of someone but to express concern and caring about someone “a little different” than others – why are we so quick to be judgmental?  This is the only piano ballad on the album, and I drew inspiration from Todd Rundgren’s ‘Bag Lady’.

     

     

     

     

    Poor Ian

     

    Look at that man walking our way

    Baggy clothes, shaggy beard

    We smirk and hide our smiles

    Maybe he thinks we’re just as weird

     

    We wonder what he’s listening to

    Big headphones on his head

    Blocking the noise of us on our phones

    As we shuffle like the walking dead

     

    Poor Ian

    Just needs someone to listen

    They call him hermit

    Alone in his own prison

    Poor Ian

     

    Maybe he’s just lonely and shy

    Sometimes it’s hard to make friends

    When you’re a little bit different

    And the world doesn’t make any sense

     

    Shouldn’t we say something

    The choice could not be clearer

    Why do we turn our heads away

    It’s like looking in a mirror

     

    Poor Ian

    Just needs someone to listen

    They call him hermit

    Alone in his own prison

    Poor Ian

     

    Why are we quick to judge others

    When we don’t want to be judged ourselves

    Why can’t we take some time to know each other

    Is it fear, or something else?

     

    Poor Ian

    Just needs someone to listen

    They call him hermit

    Alone in his own prison

    Poor Ian

    Poor Ian

     

     

    Track 11:  ‘Nowhere’

    Drums by Dom Richardo

     

    This song came about halfway through 2017 when people started questioning what Trump had done since being inaugurated.  Self-explanatory, I think.

     

     

     

    Nowhere

     

    You promised to make things better

    Improvement over your predecessor

    Feels like we’ve been put through a shredder

    And led by an ignorant molester

     

    Nowhere        That’s where we’re going

    Nowhere        You got us closer to

    Nowhere        A movement’s growing

    We won't follow you to nowhere

     

    You offer a concession

    And say the facts were wrong

    But you won’t make a confession

    You’ve been lying all along

     

    Nowhere        That’s where we’re going

    Nowhere        You got us closer to

    Nowhere        A movement’s growing

    We won't follow you to nowhere

     

     

    Open mouth, insert foot – we’re not surprised

    Half the population’s hypnotized

    Tiny hand gestures aren’t showing us the way

    To make tomorrow better than today

     

    Nowhere        That’s where we’re going

    Nowhere        You got us closer to

    Nowhere        A movement’s growing

    We won't follow you to nowhere

     

    Nowhere        That’s where we’re going

    Nowhere        You got us closer to

    Nowhere        A movement’s growing

    We won't follow you to nowhere

     

    We know where we’re going         Nowhere

    We know where we’ve been         Nowhere

     

     

    Track 12:  ’49 More’

    I wrote this right after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting.  I did a little googling and was astounded by the number of ‘smaller’ mass shootings I had never heard of.  I’ve had comments that the music is too ‘light and easy going’ for the subject, but that was the point – everyday life interrupted by these horrific shootings.  I started performing this song at open mics soon after the Florida shooting.

     

     

     

    49 More

     

    Average day, suburban town

    No clue of what’s about to go down

    Parents at work, kids at school

    One person set to break all the rules

     

    Another place, warm spring night

    Everyone dancing under party lights

    Shooting starts, bodies fall

    One person set to kill them all

     

    49 more lives are gone

     No words of warning, no chance to say so long

    Tears are falling, what’s it all for

    Added to the list, 49 more

     

    At a church or an army base

    Move theater or fast food place

    Bullets from a college tower

    One person with all the fire power

     

    49 more lives are gone

     No words of warning, no chance to say so long

    Tears are falling, what’s it all for

    Added to the list, 49 more

     

    Has something been lost in translation

    Is it the end of civilization?

    Madness erupts, no thought of consequence

    Nothing makes any sense

     

    100 senators can’t seem to agree

    They only see what they want to see

    Any means to justify the end

    If peace is coming please tell me when

     

    49 more lives are gone

     No words of warning, no chance to say so long

    Tears are falling, what’s it all for

    Added to the list, 49 more

    Added to the list, 49 more

     

     

    Track 13:  ‘Wall’

    Drums by Dom Richardo

     

    Not just the controversial border wall, but the wall that a person can build around themselves to stay isolated and ignore what’s really happening around them.

     

     

     

    Wall

     

    It all starts with a solid base

    Every piece set firmly in place

    Build it up higher so we can hide

    Don’t want to think about the other side

     

    Concrete and stone, brick and steel

    Make it solid, how’s that make you feel?

    Polish it like a mirror, make it shine

    Stare at your reflection, everything looks fine

     

    It’s your wall

    But you're not secure

    Isolation

    You can't endure

    It’s a barrier

    Between you and me

    It’s your wall

    But do you feel free?

     

    Outside your wall, life goes on

    While you live in your private Babylon

    Feel so safe from the worldwide fight

    Isn’t it a lonely desperate life?

     

    It’s your wall

    But you're not secure

    Isolation

    You can't endure

    It’s a barrier

    Between you and me

    It’s your wall

    But do you feel free?

     

    No way to climb over

    The wall you built so high

    Imprisoned in your own mind

    Alone until you die

     

    It’s your wall

    But you're not secure

    Isolation

    You can't endure

    It’s a barrier

    Between you and me

    It’s your wall

    But do you feel free?

     

    No way to climb over

    The wall you built so high

    Imprisoned in your own mind

    Alone until you die

     

     

    Track 14: ‘Stop All the Hate’

    Things were getting nasty in this country running up to the 2016 election, so I penned this song and started performing it at open mics.

     

     

     

    Stop All The Hate

     

    Aren’t we all human

    Aren’t we all the same

    Why don’t we realize

    We’ve only ourselves to blame

    We’d rather fight than switch

    Until it’s much too late

    Let’s think before we act

    Can’t we stop all the hate?

     

    Stubborn minds believe what they believe

    Those blinded by lies can’t even see

    What seems to obvious to you and me

    To others makes us look like an enemy

     

    Aren’t we all human

    Aren’t we all the same

    Why don’t we realize

    We’ve only ourselves to blame

    We’d rather fight than switch

    Until it’s much too late

    Let’s think before we act

    Can’t we stop all the hate?

     

    It doesn’t seem right

    Brother against brother

    No winners in this fight

    Of one against the other

     

    Life seemed so peaceful

    Now everyone is deceitful

    Divided we will fall, no one will withstand

    When the apocalypse takes command

     

    Aren’t we all human

    Aren’t we all the same

    Why don’t we realize

    We’ve only ourselves to blame

    We’d rather fight than switch

    Until it’s much too late

    Let’s think before we act

    Can’t we stop all the hate?

     

     

    Track 15: ‘The War’

    No one wants a war – not just country vs country but also the (un)civil war that is happening in this country with the political division that has happened since 2016.  As soon as I did the preliminary writing of this song, I knew I wanted a Pink Floyd-like sound, with the build-up of synthesizers, strong bass line and David Gilmore style lead guitar part.

     

     

     

    The War

     

    We fight among ourselves

    Never a moment’s peace

    Is fear our destiny

    No chance the war will cease

     

    Fighting all around the world

    Blood is soaked into the earth

    Everyone’s the enemy

    Does life have any worth

     

    No one wants the war

    No one knows what it’s for

    Only the dead have seen their last war

    No one wins     the war

     

    Can’t escape the hate

    Seems it’s everywhere

    All reason has been lost

    Total lack of care

     

    Wasn’t it only yesterday

    We played as children, unafraid

    Now the war has turned the world to gray

    And caused all love to fade

     

    No one wants the war

    No one knows what it’s for

    Only the dead have seen their last war

    No one wins     the war

     

     

    Track 16: ‘Passengers’

    I got the idea for this song after seeing the movie with the same name.  The message is clear – do we want to sit back and watch, or do we want to be a part of our world?  A simple 1+1 production – 1 voice and 1 guitar part played on a Taylor nylon string guitar.  This is the closing acoustic ‘bookend’ of the album.

     

     

     

    Passengers

     

    Every day another revolution

    Men in charge not seeking solutions

    Only thinking of themselves

    While the common man sweats

    Doing his best, no chance to rest

    Completely overwhelmed

     

     

    Are we passengers

    Watching the world go by

    Only passengers  

    Until the day we die

     

    Greedy men driven by ambition

    No concern for the human condition

    It’s not what they care about

    We must awaken before the fall

    Listen to the warnings, heed the call

    Remove every doubt

     

    Are we passengers

    Watching the world go by

    Only passengers  

    Until the day we die

     

    Let’s make a resolution

    A cultural evolution

    Correct the past errors

    Make this world better

     

    This whole world’s gone absurd

    But we still need to be heard

    Don’t be afraid

    Can’t just go along for the ride

    Have to give it a try

    Before it’s too late

     

    Are we passengers

    Watching the world go by

    Only passengers  

    Until the day we die

     

    Love and War is available at:

    iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/1061792057

    CDBaby:  http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/mikebirch13

    Bandcamp (including physical CDs):  https://mikebirchmusic.bandcamp.com

    Amazon:    https://tinyurl.com/LoveAndWarOnAmazon

     

    https://www.facebook.com/mikebirchmusic

  2. "Not-For-Profit Lifewas the first of my songs to be played on internet radio.

    Back when Jango.com was kicking off their “Artist Airplay” program for unsigned artists, I was contacted about adding this to their playlist.

     

    The Idea

     

    As is sometimes the case, the song evolved around a Hook (title).

    “Not-For-Profit Life” came first…both lyric & music were written to accommodate that theme.

     

    Subject Matter

     

    My intended message was a simple one…..

    Life is about more than the pursuit of money & stuff.

     

    No child is ever born thinking about it.

    We don’t come out of the womb with dollar signs in our eyes.

    The importance of financial success is systematically sold to us.

     

    Don’t get me wrong…having enough money allows one to live a financially responsible life.

    That’s a good thing!

    But beyond the point of enough, it's a question of perspective…a personal choice.

    To quote Sly and the Family Stone, “Different strokes for different folks”. ^_^

     

    Lyrical Structure   

     

    In a nutshell, it's different!

    All 3 verse sections, the first pre-chorus & first chorus are written in 3rd person narrative form.

    The final pre-chorus & chorus shift to first person, thereby taking ownership of the thoughts being expressed.

     

    Song Structure

     

    Introduction / Verse / Pre-Chorus (Rise) / Chorus / Musical Interlude / Double-Verse / Pre-Chorus (Rise) / Chorus- Brief Ending

     

    Lyric:

    Voices of children enjoying the sunshine

    Laughing & playing with friends

    Livin’ out days as if each was a lifetime

    & Losing themselves in pretend

     

    No plan for riches

    No thirst for fame

    Young lives so simple

    Less greed, less pain

     

    They’re livin’ not-for-profit lives

    No sleepless nights, no worries or fears

    They live it one day at a time

    Livin’….not-for-profit…..lives

     

    Then come the years of bigger & better

    The quest for success at all costs

    Convincing themselves they’ve gotta keep pace with

    The neighbors, the times & their boss

    Squandering life for the sake of achievement

    More money, more stuff, but no time

    Chasin’ the dream, the one they bought into

    The one with no reason or rhyme

     

    No thanks, you keep it!

    That’s not for me!

    Things I hold dearest

    Mostly come free

     

    I’ll take a not-for-profit life!

    No sleepless nights, no worries or fears

    I’ll live it one day at a time

    Livin’…a not-for-profit…life

    Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman

     

    Musical Fundamentals

     

    The song is set in the key of E minor.

     

    By 2008, keyboards were part of my musical arsenal.

    Organ & piano were used for this arrangement.

    Both parts were played on my Yamaha P-80 Electronic Piano

    158113991_DCP_0010_autofixed_edited(3).thumb.JPG.681ecd0ba880bb92dff5cc4891546870.JPG

     

    The guitar track is a mixture of picking & chords.

    With its single coil pickup textures, my Fender Stratocaster (Strat) was the natural choice.

    It's rare for me to create an arrangement with a single guitar track, but that was the case here.

    229493287_DSC02345(1).thumb.JPG.b9c42987006fd967be726f631302f961.JPG

     

    Additional Instrumentation......

     - Harmonica (intro-only)

     - Bass Guitar

     - Soft-Shake

     - *Congas

     - *Drums

     

    *Core drum & conga tracks were creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine.

     

    After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to a drum machine in 2007.

    Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about the decision, but the additional control, flexibility & convenience sold me on the change.

     

    Unfortunately, the machine decay rate made crashes cymbals sound VERY artificial.  

    So, crashes were overdubbed…using live cymbals.

    It was inconvenient, but improved the sound quality significantly.

     

    Vocal Details

     

    In each of the chorus sections, the phrase “Not-For-Profit Life” employs what’s known as vocal doubling. The part is sung twice & recorded on separate tracks.

    When both takes are played together, the small differences in pitch & timing produce a thicker sounding vocal texture. It’s a common technique & has been used for decades.

     

    A single harmony vocal track was created for:

    - the entire 3rd verse

    - the final line of each chorus section

     

    Final Production Notes

     

    By 2008, I had traded up to a 24 track system.

    Another Tascam, but this time a PortaStudio 2488.

    2018625870_DCP_0010_autofixed_edited(2).JPG.6870d64bf361fd988e2fbe583c278869.JPG

    Having 24 tracks available opened up a whole new world of arrangement possibilities.

     

    Performance Credits:

    Guitar, bass, piano, organ, harmonica, soft-shake & vocals – Tom Hoffman

     

    Tom Hoffman
    "About Me" Muse Member pg.

    Tom Hoffman YouTube

  3. German band Can established themselves as pioneers of experimental avant-garde by seamlessly combining their influences, from the tape-splicing technique of electronic composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, the trance-like drone of The Velvet Underground, the minimalism of composer mavericks like Terry Riley as well as the jazz rhythms of James Brown.

     

    When Can formed in Cologne in 1968, the members had little experience with rock. Two former students of avant-garde classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, the bassist Holger Czukayand keyboardist Irmin Schmidt wanted to merge free jazz, contemporary classical music, and worldbeat.

     

    They were joined by drummer Jaki Liebezeit, a free jazz drummer interested in math, and later by one of Czukay’s students, guitarist Michael Karoli who was 10 years younger than the others.

     

    It was Karoli, a passionate fan of rock music, who suggested that The Beatles was a better influence to take from than Stockhausen, and the band began their first months together by jamming at a 14th-century castle called Schloss Norvenich.

     

    Read more on MusicTales.club

     

  4. Mr Distraction
    Latest Entry

    I hear this for some strange reason sung by George Michael? Hell if i know why but a powerful voice with emotion!

     

    I Met!

     

    V

    I met a girl

    She changed my world

    I can't describe her beauty

    Even if you said you'd shoot me

    The most beautiful I have seen

    She was my Queen 

    I met a girl

     

    V

    I met a woman

    Oh boy! Oh boy! What a woman

    I gave her all my heart 

    The first I love you was the start

    Now that she has gone

    I don't know where I'm from

    I met a woman

     

    B

    I'm just a man

    I did what I could

    But the women that I love

    Is no longer in love

    With me

     

    V

    I have lost the power

    I've lost the most delicate flower

    I was such fool

    I broke every lovers rule

    Now I pay the price

    I can tell you it's not nice

    I lost the pow.........er

     

    Outro

    Now there nothing left............

     

  5. Author's note: Thanks to kuya, a talented writer on this forum for inspiring this piece - I hope you find it useful.

     

    So, your lyrics are almost completed.
    You can hear the music in your head.
    This song is going to be your best to date - you just know it! :lol:
    You need to hit the record button before your inspiration wanes.

     

    But...

    There is that one weak line in the verse. :(
    It ends with that word you found on Rhymezone.
    It rhymes nicely with its counterpart and it's a well-known word - so no issues there. It has perfect prosody, perfect assonance, nice meter. But it introduces an image or an inference that takes the listener out of the storyline, breaks the mood you've built up and just seems out of place. And you can't find another rhyming word that fits. You've tried to jam in something that doesn't rhyme, but that made the verse feel unstable, slipshod. This is now a show-stopper. All your efforts have been in vain. The English language has let you down again - crap!

     

    But wait - there is a solution. It's right in front of your eyes:

     

    Can't find a rhyme? - Repeat that line!!

     

    Think about it - we want our lyrics to be "conversational" and people often repeat lines when they are trying to make a point. ("Lock her up" sadly comes to mind). Humans like repetition - it doesn't require us to process new information - our minds can relax and bask in the familiar. It strengthens the impact of what has just been sung. Sometimes it even causes the listener to hear a different meaning in the line he/she hasn't thought of the first time around.

     

    Sure, we all know enough to repeat the hook usually in the chorus, but if you're like me, sometimes forget we can repeat a line in the verse or bridge.

     

    It's another arrow in your songwriter's quiver - don't forget to use it!

  6. Hi everyone.

     

    I have a track I've been working on for a while now, I'm stuck on where to go next. I'll add the lyrics below here and then I'll address what I'm going for and other relevant bits and pieces (references, what it's about etc)

     

    So these are the lyrics so far. Verse 1 is almost finished but needs work with flow, some of it doesn't fit as of right now. Verse 2 is just a random assortment of lines at the moment and verse 3 is yet to be started.

     

    VERSE 1

    Let society dictate our place in the world
    Step by step, you don't have a say, just fit into the mould
    Don't question anything you're told
    May the unseen sculptor craft the perfect follower
    I don't want to hear that shit, it is or isn't fair
    Who would've thought we'd be compared to rabbits in a headlights glare?
    A booby trapped planet causing this effect
    As I stumble over tripwires borderlining the edges of being politically correct
    I swear we're the exact same generic lego men
    Clones with different hair colours, Moira Burton and Sherry Birkin
    (Moira everyday)
    And, I reach for pen and paper in my car glove compartment
    As the community evolves from Bedrock to the Skypad Apartments

     

    VERSE 2 bits and pieces

    Take your place in the line, just follow
    Check out the expiry date stamped right beside your barcode
    We aren't free, we're blinded by the dancing lights of a cinema screen
    Trapped within a belief that was force fed down our family trees

     

    I never thought we'd reach a time when there's more meaning in a Taylor Swift song than in our lives
    There's a more striking resemblance between this world and RE than Dracula and Dom Sheed

     

    In a society where distrust spreads like a disease and breeds like rats
    How could communication not take the first hit?
    I hate to say it but this isn't the good old days I hear so much about, we're living in the new age
    If Annie was okay before in YEAR chances are we're now cowering under the same table
    Yet mils apart in connection

    Where the stranger is the symbol used for danger

    Every stranger you converse with could be your murderer
    I swear this world's mantra us work to the grave and obey

    Lower the mask from their face youll see they have the face of the....


    Sly hands shaped us

    Are you really yourself? I don't think so

    A society built on disrepair
    Something about despair

    Shaped by the sly hands of our predecessors
    If everyone's the same how can anyone make a difference
    This is the planet of great apes restrained in rusty chains, different is dangerous, that's why we're all the same

     

    NOTE that alot of that verse 2 stuff is just ideas and mightn't be used. I have just copied that directly from my phone notes as it is so its a bit shorthand.

     

    SO WHAT I'M AFTER...

    A TITLE : At this stage its called Disease, as in its kind of a disease spreading through society that we tend to be distrustful of strangers and so don't often talk to someone unless we know them. Although I'd be interested in how many people agree with that statement.

     

    When i started the track, i saw an add on TV about how we can't communicate anymore. Of course this was blamed on technology, but it got me thinking. I reckon it has more to do with how society has changed. The world has become a more dangerous place (?). I know my grandparents happily talked to strangers back 'in the day'. But now, to sit next to a stranger on a train would be seen as wierd and unwelcome (?). Or is it just me?

     

    Anyway the lyrics ended up becoming a bit about the lack of our ability to be ourselves in a society that has a predetermined mould for how it wants us to be. I cover that theme a lot subconciously.

     

    So yeah any lines or where to go nexts are kind of what I'm after. Thoughts welcome as well on lyrics so far.

     

    THE REFERENCES:

    MOIRA AND SHERRY: Resident Evil franchise characters. Look exactly the same with different hair colours. The bracket bit is a backing vocal.

     

    SKYPAD APARTMENTS/BEDROCK: I think most people will get it, reference to old cartoons (before my time). One is set in the future amd the other the past. Flintstones and Jetsons.

     

    RE is Resident Evil abbreviated.

     

    DOM SHEED: An AFL player for West Coast Eagles. If you look at the right pictures of him or see him in TV on match day he looks like Dracula.

     

    ANNIE: That was a reference to Michael Jacksons Smooth Criminal, may or may not use it.

     

    Like I say alot of those notes for V2 will be discarded.

     

    Think thats all. Keep up the good writing everyone, I'm enjoying reading all your work. 

    • 1
      entry
    • 0
      comments
    • 70
      views

    Recent Entries

    Donnie
    Latest Entry

    Hi y'all, now that I'm not working full time, and I'm backing off on umpiring my fast pitch softball tournament schedule, it's time to work on music. I have a lot of songs to work on. I'll try to check in as much as possible. Thanks for the visit. 

    • 1
      entry
    • 1
      comment
    • 107
      views

    Recent Entries

    nectar
    Latest Entry

    Today I've been listening to and singing 'Protection' by Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn. She has such a beautifully resonant voice - like they managed to get a microphone inside her throat, so thick even when she goes up her range. I'm really tempted to try to make my own cover, because it's in a good key for me and I think I would probably learn a lot from her.

     

    The lyrics are here, and they're so beautiful and heartfelt, but the thing that made me wonder is the complete lack of detail.

     

    The first verse is:

     

    This girl I know needs some shelter
    She don't believe anyone can help her
    She's doing so much harm, doing so much damage
    But you don't want to get involved
    You tell her she can manage
    And you can't change the way she feels
    But you could put your arms around her

     

    No details about the girl. No details on the requirement for shelter. No details on the people that she doesn't think can help her. But it works.

     

    Is the amount of detail that I should put in a song genre-specific? Is 'pure and heartfelt' a special case, like a special effect - is it plenty or nothing with mediocrity in the middle? I remember someone on here making the point that the 'furniture' shouldn't just be thrown into the song unless it's relevant to the plot or used for a rhyme. You want the right detail, the stuff that elaborates about the characters or the setting gracefully and makes the setting feel real, I get that. But how much should I use?

     

    • 1
      entry
    • 22
      comments
    • 136
      views

    Recent Entries

    Since I started this I should go first. 

           The most recent interesting song I've heard is This Is America thanks to Spanish Buddha, which we've already discussed in another forum. Thank you SB. Since it is a cultural touchstone I appreciate you pointing it out.  I won't feel so clueless if somebody mentions it now. 

            The most recent song I played on purpose was this morning I played Memphis Soul Stew by King Curtis, from Live at the Fillmore 1970.  King Curtis was arguably the best R&B horn player (sax) and this was a special band put together to back up Aretha for her Live at The Fillmore album, and King Curtis's live also. When Little Feat used to tour they played this song just before the band came out. This is a song that will wake you up. 

  7. PaulCanuck
    Latest Entry

    By PaulCanuck,

    After @Moso 's kind words on Donna and my song "Coyote" I simply have to respond to his request to talk about how the vocals and bridge were done. I don't pretend to be an expert in production (there are many with more knowledge than I on the Muse) but maybe others will get some ideas from my process and add them to their own.

     

    First off you need to make a track with your background music, or at least enough of it to sing along to.
    The arrangement should be decided before you track vox IMO.
    I find you need instruments in the backing track that are close in frequency to your vocals - such as a piano or guitar. The surest way to sing out of tune is to sing to a bass track :) 

     

    Use a decent mic that suits your voice.
    I use an old Shure 545 dynamic cartridge mic. My vocal is naturally "tinny" and needs some bottom end which this mic provides.

     

    Use a screen pop filter
    Gets rid of explosives caused by puffs of air.
    I find a screen filter works better than a "foam" one which I find changes the EQ of the mic.

     

    Distance from mic
    I sing about 4-6 in from the pop screen which is about 2 in from the mic.

     

    Mic pre-amp
    Use a mic preamp so that the input level is high enough that it doesn't clip, but has a high s/n (signal to noise) ratio so you don't get any hiss. Rather than spend $300, I use the mic preamp in my stereo audio system which is pretty clean.

     

    Don't over-sing!
    This is a mistake I kept making in the past - I'm trying to rid myself of it.
    I worried about every phrase, pronouncing every word, making each note pitch-perfect.
    Don't think about "impressing" anyone with your singing - serve the song - that's the only one you need to impress.

     

    Do multiple takes
    You can then pick and choose best tuning/phrasing etc. from each track.
    Copy/paste together to get a final raw track.

    I use Audacity for recording and editing mainly because I'm familiar with it.
    Effects/plug-ins are done in my DAW - either Acid Pro or Reaper currently.

     

    Amplify/reduce words/phrases that seem too low or too high in the mix
    This is a pre-compressor process for the really low/high stuff.
    I also amplify soft consonants like an "s" or "f" at the ending of words as these are sometimes lost at the compression stage.
    Silence regions where there are no vocals.

     

    Apply compression on the raw track. I use Isotope's 3-band vocal compression plug-in.
    This levels out the vocal so everything is heard clearly.

     

    Create a new track for wet only reverb and create it by applying a decent reverb plug-in to the compressed track. I like to bring reverb up or down depending on parts of the song. For parts where there is less instrumentation, the vox need less reverb and vise versa. Edit the reverb track to change these levels where needed.

     

    I don't typically double-track a lead vocal. I have done this in the past, but it makes the vox seem unnatural to me. I sometimes sing a track an octave down or up, or both to strengthen the lead vox if I feel it needs it.

     

    Harmony Vocals
    The main thing I try to remember with harmonies is: Don't compete with the lead vox!
    Sing these a bit further from mic
    sing harmonies like a background singer would - don't compete!
    EQ away from lead vox - sometimes I pull down low/mid freqs
    compress 1st harm only - this keeps the level below lead vox consistent
    space harms across stereo field - don't center them!
    lower in mix than lead vox
    avoid too many harmonies - you'll sound like a barbershop quartet!
    use them to build the song - typically leave them out in the early stages.
    don't put harms on every lead line - stay out of the barbershop!
    give them more reverb than lead vox - makes them less distinct - less competitive
    line up timing with lead vox

     

    Greek chorus
    This is what I call any oooo's/aaahhh's or falsetto bg vox
    mix them extreme left/right in the stereo field
    give them the most reverb of all vox - almost like the audience is singing them
    lower level in mix than harm

     

    I usually end up with six mixed-down stereo vocal tracks:
    - compressed lead vox
    - lead vox reverb (based on compressed lead vox)
    - harm bus (all harms that are not greek chorus)
    - harm bus reverb
    - greek chorus
    - greek chorus reverb

    Then I mix the song down to a stereo unmastered track.


    Remember: "Lead vocal rules!" "He is King for all to serve!" - every other vocal and instrument is there to support him.

    And of course, mastering the track will help the sound of your vocals - I use Isotope again for this. Their "Country" preset was used on Coyote.

     

    I'll add another entry for the bridge development.

     

    Hope I haven't bored you!

    cheers

    Paul

     

     

    • 1
      entry
    • 29
      comments
    • 175
      views

    Recent Entries

    Can anybody help me with the issue of coming up with an idea for a song?

    • Try a tempo synced tremolo on your reverb return.

     

    • Humanize your shaker and percussion loops by automating a transient designer. Back off the attack in quieter sections and vice versa.

     

    • Present your hook in an almost subliminal way by loading a sample of it into an IR reverb and sending a rhythmic element to the reverb.

     

    • Stereo trick for mono tracks: duplicate the track, hard pan, use a compressor on one track and an expander on the other.

     

    • Strings: double the part a few semi tones up/down and tune it back to the target pitch. You’ll blend different samples = more real sounding.

     

    • Cut out the reverb for a few seconds to create an almost claustrophobic feeling! Check the verse on “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos.

     

    • Any melody line (or vocal instrumental) can be made richer by adding a harmony, sending it to a reverb, and muting the dry sound.

     

    • Make a pad or shaker track with verb 100% wet followed by a gate. A dry snare triggers the gate and gets a very interesting reverb tail!

     

    • On drum reverbs, use a transient designer and turn up the attack. It gets you a tighter reverb and punchier drums without spiky transients.

     

    • A track needs more presence? Try brighten up the reverb instead of the dry sound. How does it sound different? How does it work in the mix?

     

    • When using several rhythmic loops, try moving them slightly (in samples or ms) to mess with phase. Interesting tonal artifacts often appear.

     

    • Guitar parts played with a pick on single strings: Transient designers can make the player sound a lot more confident. Turn up the attack!

     

    • Automate tempo and go up a few BPM in the chorus. It adds excitement and life, just like when real musicians play together. Subtlety is key!

     

    • For dry sounds that sound a little detached from the other instruments, put a slap delay (80-100 ms), 0 FB, panned to the opposite side.

     

    • Use a filter in the low end to reduce the bass a bit in the verse, turn off the filter in the chorus. The chorus will have a greater impact!

     

    • ABBA used to speed up the pitch of the song (varispeed) and record vocals and then pitch it back to normal. Try this in your DAW.

     

    • Duplicate a track, pitch shift up 1 octave, insert reverb (100% wet) and mix in subtly with the original for a gentle kinda exciter effect!

     

    • You got two guitars or synths panned hard left and right? Put a subtle tremolo on each, one doing 16th notes, the other doing 8ths.

     

    • Try inserting a distortion/saturation plugin followed by a low pass filter on an aux before your delay to simulate a tape delay driven hard.

     

    • Try a de-esser before your reverb. Not just on vocals.

     

    • Put a compressor on mid-range heavy sounds like electric guitars and synths, letting the vocals trigger the sidechain, to make room for it.

     

    • Put a gate on a pad or vocal; let a 16th note rhythm trigger the sidechain, let the gate attenuate 6 dB or so.

     

    • Tape stop reverb: Record the reverb tail to a new track. Automate (or do in real time and print) a pitch shift down an octave or more.

     

    • When using a delay on a send, put a gate after it and let the dry signal trigger the sidechain. Either let it open the gate, or close it.

     

    • Put some street noise or the sound of a train at low volume behind your drum loop to give it depth and subtle variation.

     

    • Classic vocal trick: don't send the dry vocal track to a reverb, instead send it to a delay and send the delay to a reverb.

     

    • Try an EQ after your delay with a hi shelving cut, followed by a reverb 20-40% wet for some subtle depth and width added.

     

    • Try putting a subtle chorus on an aux before you reverb.

     

    • You can have a virtual 3D map in your mind when placing a sound. Front to back - reverb, delay, more (front) or less (back) high end. Left/right - panning, haas effect. Up/down - lots of high frequencis (up), emphasis on lower frequencies (down).

     

    • Automate the reverb time throughout the track; longer times for the chorus to create more depth and sustain - shorten the reverb to clean up when there’s a lot of things going on at the same time.

     

    • Basic sound design and a great way to learn about audio processing: move the plugins around in the chain, one by one and listen to what happens.

     

    • With an EQ in ms mode on the mixbus, use a shelving filter to cut some lows on the sides. It gives the mix some more space and lightness.

     

    • EQ'ing your delays attenuating at 2-5 kHz will tuck them in to the mix creating depth without being too obvious.

     

    • If you plan to high pass-filter a lot of tracks in your mix, try a 6dB/octave filter. You filter out a lot of low end without getting too much separation between tracks. It also messes with phase less to have less steep filters.

     

    • Are your virtual instruments locked to the grid? Tap in some subtle delays manually to get some human feel.

     

    • Transient designers are great for recordings made in a bad sounding room. Back off the sustain and get some of the room out of the way.

     

    • Near the end of a mix, note the level of the snare (this is to see if you tend to mix it too loud or too quiet), pull it all the way down. Push the level up slowly until it sounds right. Do the same with lead vocals and kick drum.

     

    • There’s an idea that you shouldn’t have any compression on the master bus if you’re gonna send the mix to mastering. If you’re compressing for movement/groove - absolutely keep it there. If you’re compressing/limiting for loudness - remove it.

     

    • Space for vocals: Attenuate vocal frequencies on other tracks (mixing). Move things out of the way, changing timing or pitch (arrangement)

     

    • Layer your vocals with a whisper track. It helps the lyrics cut through and can create a bit of an eerie feel if you turn it up loud.

     

    • Add weight to vocals: Duplicate vocal track, filter out highs and high mids. Distort. Blend in with original track.

     

    • Put a phaser in parallel on your hi hats or shakers loops for a subtle variation to make it sound less like a loop.

     

    • You probably have a lot of unfinished music on your harddrive. It can be a burden for sure. Try using the old sessions as sample libraries and create cool and unique samples. Suddenly that work was not in vain.

     

    • Vocal production: use breaths creatively, copy an intense sounding one and paste before a phrase or transition to add drama and intensity. Also works wonders for VO work when there's too much intensity on a single word; lower the volume slightly and add a big inhalation.

     

    • Widen mono track: duplicate track, pan the tracks hard left/right, boost with EQ on one track and cut at the same frequency on the other track.

     

    • Any processing you do to your audio tracks you can do to your reverbs. EQ, distortion, delay, another reverb, pitch ...

     

    • Two similar instruments playing the same chords, use different voicings or octaves and pan them L/R. It adds width, depth and detail.

     

    • A close miked source can sound even more in your face with a short delay on it. Gives your ear a point of reference.

     

    • Adding a tiny bit of attack with a transient designer on the master bus before the final limiter can give that extra bit of life and punch.

     

    • More difference between L and R means wider stereo. Think about this when it comes to microphone choice, EQ, compression and arrangement.

     

    • Boomy low end, mix gets thin when you try to fix w/ EQ? Shorten the sustain of the bass drum/bass. Edit manually or use transient designer.

     

    • For instant inspiration: load up a loop that's preferably kinda cheesy but with great groove and energy. Compose around it, then delete it.

     

    • Make virtual instruments like drums, pianos, etc, sound more natural by turning down the velocity and turning up the volume

     

    • Before EQ'ing your kick/snare, tune them to fit the track. If it doesn't sound quite right, tuning a sample up or down a semitone can do it.

     

    • Sweep with an EQ on the master bus, find the bad frequencies (if any). Then cut 0,5 dB or so from several tracks at that frequency instead of 5dB on the master bus.

     

    • When you’re asking ”How many?”, three is often a good number. Three layers (drums, lead melodies ...), three dubs, three harmony parts, three cups of coffee ...

     

    • Using delays in sync with the song (8th notes, quarter notes etc), offset them a few milliseconds to create a rushing or dragging feel for a section.

     

    • Steal the dynamics from a drum track by routing it (mute the output of the track) to the sidechain of a compressor that’s inserted on anything you want to move like the drum track.

     

    • 2
      entries
    • 29
      comments
    • 269
      views

    Recent Entries

     

    This is something I wrote a while ago and it appears elsewhere on the site (but it's pinned, which means it is invisible to the average human). If you are reading this I appreciate that you must be bored out of your skull and searching for something anything to fill the soulless void of your existence so I do hope that it at least entertains a little - or maybe acts as an emollient while you wait for your wife/husband to finish doing whatever the fuck they need to do when it's time to go out and do something a little more interesting than the mundane routine that we all fall into eventually...

     

    Here goes ...

    ...

    So, you’ve listened to songs for a long time now and you’ve decided to write lyrics of your own. It doesn’t look hard. Hell, it can’t be hard – just look at some of the stuff that gets recorded!

    What’s more, you are a damaged individual. It may be that you had a bad childhood, you were excluded at school, your marriage failed, you can’t get laid, you had problems with substance abuse, and any or all of myriad reasons that people decide to write songs - choosing that path from all the other masochistic pastimes they could choose.

     

    You see, what that dreadful former life made you was ... a keen observer. You are a walking empath. You can see the big picture and the tiny details of people’s lives. You don’t judge – oh, no! You bear witness to the fumbling, daily slapstick and you can relay truths about life and the pitiful vanities of our existence with good humour, wit and kindness, lending insight and wisdom that helps us to laugh at ourselves and love one another just a little more than we otherwise would. You are a latter-day saint and a poet and a warrior, all rolled into one (yes, women can be warriors too).

     

    But, more than that, it made you want them to understand you. Admire you. Whatever. They have to think you are pretty goddamn cool. That’s fo’ sho’.

     

    So you write. And you find that it’s not so easy to do all that. In fact, it’s hard to do all that - in 3 minutes, especially.

     

    And people aren’t quite as bowled over by your genius as you expected. And, because you are a damaged individual (hell, we all are), you don’t like that one ... little ... bit.

     

    Help is at hand.

     

    Here’s a handy list of the 10 things you do wrong when you write a lyric. I’m guilty of all of them (sometimes in the same lyric! I'm that talented).

     

    There are more, but 10 is a catchy number ! Which is why I wrote 11. I despise “catchy”.

     

    1. You use the wrong pronoun

    You visualise who is talking to who in the song itself - and you also take into account the fact that, when the song is sung, there is a singer talking to an audience. Go, you!

     

    However, if you paid too much attention to the latter, you still got it wrong. “I said this and she said that” can sound like a whine or a rant (see point 7, below). It also doesn’t really help the audience to connect. If it was simply “you said that”, it would work so much better and be more immediate.

     

    Wait. You went for third person.

     

    Third person can work for stories (but the story HAS to be interesting,and yours wasn't - not really). In all other circumstances, you need a good reason to move away from 1st and/or second person.

    Mind you, 1st person can get you into trouble with point 7, too.

     

    But let’s talk about that later. The point is, you chose the wrong pronoun(s).

     

    2. You use the wrong tense

    Past tense, in particular, is boring.

     

    Some parts of the song can be in the past tense but it needs to be made relevant to the present and, ideally, we would have a time progression that would lead at least to the present and, possibly, into the future.

     

    Stories can be past tense – but are they REALLY interesting? If not, don’t bother singing them to me. What if they were related to the present, at least in the bridge?

     

    It would be slightly less boring, at least.

     

    Or you could make the story funny. That works in whatever tense.

     

    3. You lose rhythm by cramming words in

    If you don’t understand meter, maybe this thread will help (but read it later. I'm talking.).

     

    Even if you do understand it, aren’t there times when you try and cram in two syllables where only one fits?

     

    People will say it’s OK. Singers will even cram it in for you. Friends will say it sounds OK.

     

    Songwriters will say nothing, and simply be glad they weren’t that guy. Do you want to be that guy?

     

    4. You don’t change rhythm between sections

    You have a great rhythm running through the song. Still running. Getting bored with it now. Where’s the chorus? Oh! We had it already and I didn't even notice! It had the same rhythm. Please give me a bridge. And change the damned rhythm!

     

    Words make rhythms. Words can force a change in rhythm. If the words don’t do it, the musician (maybe you) has to be much more innovative in changing rhythm and/or melody than he/she would otherwise need to be. Think of the musicians :)

     

    5. You don’t grab attention early enough

    Your lyric has a killer line (or twist or idea or something). The trouble is that it’s in the third verse or the bridge.

     

    People won’t listen that long. It’s like a joke that needs over a minute to explain before it can be told. The listener turns off.

     

    You have maybe 30 seconds to grab some sort of attention – give a surprising line or an idea that draws attention. It needs to be in the first fifteen seconds of singing.

     

    You then have another short space of time before you need another – and it’s not long.

     

    6. You forgot to write the first verse

    The listener doesn’t know who these people are. You do. So you wrote the meat of the song assuming they did too. You started with the second verse. We often write the second verse first. It needs a first verse to set up things and invite the listener in. It’s your introduction, if you like.

     

    And see point 5.

     

    7. You are preaching (or venting or whining) - and you aren’t being funny about it

    I don’t want to be preached at, whined at, or vented at – unless you make me laugh. I bet you don't want that either, do you? No!

     

    So don’t write songs that whine, preach or vent. Simple. Unless they make us laugh.

     

    I mentioned something in the part about using the wrong pronoun about using 1st person. A lot of songs written in the first person can be whiny, venting or preachy if we aren’t careful.

     

    So are a lot of songs about “them”, “They did this, they did that ... they are bad”.

     

    It’s a delicate line to tread. A confessional song can work but it has to show the singer as insightful and sensitive – not as a bad person, or a whiner.

     

    A song has to make the singer look good. See point 11, below. So, be careful.

     

    8. You included details – but you included the wrong details

    So, you know you need details (it said so in a book) and so you put them into your song.

     

    What colour is the sun? What about the grass? Let’s say “golden” and “emerald” because “yellow” and “green” sounds boring, right?

     

    Wrong. The colour is boring, period. It adds nothing to how I feel about what’s happening. In fact, adjectives should be used sparingly. Just find better words, damn you. English has so many of them - for a reason. Mind you, only use words when you know what they mean. Dictionaries help.

     

    Details are what bring a picture to life or, better still, an emotion to life. They aren’t what’s in the picture. They are the parts that show how we feel about the picture.

     

    They are metaphors for feelings – or they are nothing. They can be sounds, smells or objects or textures. Or they can be one of those that prompt others.

     

    “Car wheels on a gravel road”. I can hear them. Now, what do they make me feel?

     

    9. You use too many words

    What it says above. Trim them. ‘Nuff said.

     

    10. Your rhymes lack reason

    You paint yourself into a corner with a rhyme scheme and now you have to find a rhyme for “Drove me in his truck”. You don’t want to use the obvious rhyme so you decide to rhyme with “luck” instead. And you contort things a bit and get a line that kind of half-works and then you convince yourself that it’s fine.

     

    There is always that one line you aren’t satisfied with in a song, isn’t there? Maybe more than one?

     

    Why not just change the word "truck"? Or the whole verse? Or the whole song? You made the corner you are painted into. You can un-paint it.

     

    And never (never!) start turning sentences around into "yoda-speak" to get a rhyme. It's just crap.

     

    11. You don’t write for women

    All songs are written for women. Even songs that are written for male singers are written for women. They are written so that the singer can look good to women. Don’t believe me? Fair enough. But don’t say I never told you.

     

    The only exception is that small demographic of teenagers (of all ages) who wear black T-shirts and listen to doom-laden heavy metal genres in their bedrooms at full volume. Guess what? You can’t write songs for them anyway. They are either writing their own or they can’t hear you over the screaming of Megablood Death Spasm (or whoever they are listening too). If they do show any interest it is only because they want you to give some attention to their own written-down angst stuff (i.e. lyrics, but not as we know them, Jim).

     

    So, leaving them aside (it’s for the best, trust me) – all songs are written for women.

     

    So write songs for women.

     

    If you don’t know how to do that, ask one (preferably not your mother). If you are one, ask yourself what you want to hear when you are stressed out. If you don't know any women, buy a black T-shirt.

     

    I hate rules. Are these rules? Not at all. Songs can work perfectly well without them – but they are less likely to do so outside of a particular setting.

     

    That setting might be a late evening after a few drinks. It might be in front of a group of friends or family. Whatever the setting, it will be in a situation where the song fits the environment or suits the mood the listener is in – but only at that moment, in that place. Only there.

     

    But ... but ... don’t the songs you love have the power to change the environment? Don’t they change your mood when you hear them?

     

    Yes, they do. But they don’t do that by accident, and most listeners aren’t too forgiving. Give them an excuse not to listen and they will take it. A flighty, fickle fiend is what an average listener is. Including us.

     

    This list could also be headed “10 excuses a listener can use to stop listening”. Except there are 11 of them!

     

    Sue me.

  8. Thought I had the Lazz Last Gasp Set Two sorted.
    But I suddenly ran into big juicy trouble with it.

     

    Fred had made me the offer, and set me the task, just before Christmas. Our first window for wrestling with Set One happened at the beginning of February. It didn’t seem to have been a long wait. Neither did Christmas seem so long ago.  But the New Year had already brought me back into messing around with the eighteen-piece “Narwhal” ensemble on the North Shore across the inlet. That’s how I ran into trouble.

     

    Members of this “Narwhal” unit are all disconcertingly young and talented. (Except for way older and less skilled Lazz.) Participation has me teetering on the edges of my competence: having to shut-up and follow directions, attempting to blend smoothly with the other voices, and struggling to sight-read the notes placed before me. The other singers all sight-read. When I brought in a song for which I had voiced the vocal melody in fourths, they had no problem.  When the musical director brought in another with tight close voicings, that was fine also.  My envy is as large as my inadequacies.

     

    Invitation to join the group had come from M.D., Jared Burrows, multi-instrumentalist head of the jazz department.  His plan was for part of this semester’s focus to be songs from Lazz (once again an unexpected and enormous compliment) and somehow suddenly he and I were writing together…

     

    And thus the trouble I run into regarding Set Two is the result of having a pretty incredible brand new writing partner and a consequently unexpected abundance of new material.  Well – seven new songs seems like abundance to me – seven tunes could constitute one set all on their own.

     

    ·       A pentatonic Irish-style folk-song on a drone.

    ·       A laid-back rock-ish groover.

    ·       A rousing 6/8 gospel-style hand-clapper.

    ·       A Cahn-Sinatra style swingin’ love song.

    ·       A 32-bar standard-style moaner.

    ·       A silly playful tango.

    ·       And one serious heavyweight epic.

     

    The way we work is quite fresh and new to me.  After I send a finished lyric to Jared, he places an order with his sub-conscious (that’s how he describes it) and the next morning when he wakes, the tune is ready to be written down. He credits my lyrics for the inspiration. Very reassuring to discover that he finds my intentions so transparent – because they all turned out unbelievably close to how I imagined them.  Uncanny. 

     

    The setting for our heavyweight epic was the exception which took more time – maybe two weeks – but it still hit that same E.S.P. target.  My overblown pretentiously dramatic tear-jerker lyrics, full and heavy with meaningful self-importance, had actually caused him to weep, and to develop a moody waltz like that from a romantic French movie – in the style of Michel LeGrand.  Again, it was what I had envisioned – like a cross between Jacques Brel and Kenny Wheeler.  Wow!!  I love it.

     

    And the extra bonus is that Jared - a fabulous guitarist and luthier with deep background in a broad range of different musical traditions - expressed a wish to be part of the project I am working on with Fred.

     

    image.png.8f5d7725595bae9007570f6725972a34.png

  9. Suggestions Box

    • 1
      entry
    • 74
      comments
    • 578
      views

    Recent Entries

    Alistair S
    Latest Entry

    By Alistair S,

    Is there something you want from the community that you aren't getting? Would you like to see new features? Is there anything we can do to improve?

     

    All suggestions are welcome! :)

  10. No blog entries yet

    • 0
      entries
    • 0
      comments
    • 24
      views

    No blog entries yet

×