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Everything posted by tunesmithth

  1. Either flat or sharp of the intended pitch, but not dead-on. For the sake of full disclosure, I've never heard the Prince version of this, so my comments were strictly based on what I heard in your version. Unfortunately, the system I'm on right now won't allow access to the link you included, so I'll have to check it out later. Tom
  2. Where Were You?

    OK, 1 more... Where Were You? - "Texas" (Chris Rea) Tom
  3. Just to be clear, when I referred to minor timing discrepancies in my earlier comment, I was talking about points at which instrument timing sounded less-than-perfect. They were not big issues, but my brain picks up those types of things, so I figured I'd mention 'em. Tom
  4. V e r y cool ! Were it not for Alistair's earlier comments I wouldn't have brought this up, but I can't help wondering how it might sound with... a slightly shorter decay rate on the snare...I'm wondering if that same wide decay is creating minor timing discrepancies in a few spots. the addition of a subtle, off-time high-hat on the "&" counts (8th note counts), 4-per-measure...really quiet, almost to the post of ghosting Other than those insignificant curiousities, The entry line of vocal sounded a tad bit pitchy When the additional instrumentation enters at the 1:45 mark, your vocals lost their dominant position in the mix. At least it sounded that way on my monitors ...perhaps other will chime & add their perspectives. Overall, really nice job ! Enjoyed it very much! Tom
  5. Where Were You?

    As you can tell, I'm a sucker for games like this 3 more that share a common theme... "Brooklyn" (Steely Dan) "Woodstock" (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) "New York, New York"
  6. Where Were You?

    2 more quick ones with a shared theme - "Hot 'Lanta" (Allman Brothers) "Doraville" (Atlanta Rhythm Section) Tom
  7. Where Were You?

    This one even contains the name of the contest - "Where Were You When I Needed You" (The Grass Roots) Tom
  8. The original version of “Middle Class Blues” was written / copyrighted back in 1998. (*Song title is a SoundCloud mp3 link. You're welcome to open it in a 2nd browser window & listen as you read.) As is sometimes the case, I liked the song, but not the arrangement. In 2001 I remedied that situation with a partial rewrite. The revised version incorporated several new elements: a 40 second introduction a 2nd guitar part (rhythm) This new arrangement was re-recorded & that’s the version you’re hearing now. The Idea The song evolved from a guitar progression, set in minor pentatonic block form. I stumbled upon the pattern while practicing scales Built a song & melody around it Chose a topic that worked well with the music Created a lyric Subject Matter In a nutshell, it’s about the plight of middle-class America. As you might expect, it’s written from my perspective & based primarily on personal observations & experiences. Completely appropriate since songwriting is a means of creative self-expression. Lyric Got those middle class blues Well when I look at my economic state With what I make I ought to be livin’ great You gotta know my heart gets to feelin’ down When tax time comes around I pay for schools that I don’t even use I fund a war on drugs that we’re bound to lose You got know that I keep-a-waitin’ for Some way to even the score Got those middle class blues! Well now I know that I need to pay my share But while suppliers get rich from Medicare I’ve got to ask myself what it’s all about I just can’t figure it out ! The wealthy don’t pay much, cause they know the game The underprivileged can’t, the end result’s the same That leaves the middle class to pay & pay Hope we get our someday! Got the middle class blues! Copyright 1998 – Tom Hoffman Over the years, the timeless nature of this lyric has been mentioned more than once. Sadly enough, it’s as relevant now as it was in 98. Purchasing power of the middle class hasn’t improved. Middle class tax burden hasn’t decreased. I still pay into a tax base for schools that I’ve never used. NO, I’m not advocating a school voucher alternative! I simply have no children. No children = no use of schools. Our “war on drugs” has been an utter failure, yet we continue funding it with tax dollars year after year. Pharmaceutical profits continue to grow, since our government is no longer allowed to negotiate the cost of Medicare drugs. Thank you G.B.! More tax loopholes exist for the wealthy today. The poor are no more able to contribute to our tax base than they were in 98. Leaving the middle class to shoulder the lions’ share of the tax burden. The end result being – “We’ve got the Middle-Class Blues!” None of those areas has shown improvement in the past 20 years. I’m sure there are conclusions to be drawn from that, but I leave those to you. I am but a humble songwriter stating the obvious. Song Structure Introduction / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Guitar Based Verse-Refrain Section / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Ends on Repeat of Musical Refrain Musical Fundamentals “Middle Class Blues” is a guitar-based arrangement…key of A# minor. If I do say so myself, some of my more creative guitar work. When I made the decision to add that 40 second musical introduction, I doomed the song to commercial failure. If you weren’t aware, long introductions are frowned upon in the world of commercial songwriting. Since the average listener tends to focus on vocal, delaying its’ entry is tempting fate. Attention spans being what they are, your listener may go elsewhere. BUT…since I’m not a professional songwriter, my focus was on creating a well written song, not a commercially viable one! When you make your living elsewhere, you can afford to base decisions on personal preference, rather than industry norms. That being said, I did build in a little something to help with damage control...“Got those Middle Class Blues”! That single line of vocal at the beginning of the song: 1. Tells the listener that there WILL BE vocals in the song. Why does that matter? Because some people, including my wife, won't listen to instrumentals. If she thinks it’s an instrumental, she will simply turn it off. 2. Re-enforces the lyrical hook…that catchy phrase you want to stick in your listeners’ head after the song has ended. BTW in this song, it’s also the last line heard. Final Production Notes This was one of the first songs I recorded after upgrading to the digital realm. My Tascam PortaStudio 788 had a total of 8 recordable tracks…6 mono & one stereo pair (tracks 7 & 8). 4 tracks were used for guitar, all done with my SG 1 track for bass guitar 1 for vocal Drums were recorded in stereo (7/8) Performance Credits Guitars, Bass, Drums & Vocal – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube
  9. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    I'll hazard a guess that story rings true for a number of musician/songwriters, myself included.
  10. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    Interesting! I guess there are any number of approaches you could take to something like this. Many of my completed lyrics were written from makeshift guide sheets. Once I had a central theme, a line or two of lyric & tentative melody, I'd create a guide-sheet based around intended song structure & syllable count. I'd fill in the lines I already had & the rest would look something like this.... Verse #1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Verse #2...etc., with each line representing an single syllable. It would simple to create a blank guide based on the actual lyric I used for song. The task could be to create lyrical content within the given guidelines that's an appropriate fit for the musical backdrop. Anyway...just spitballin' ideas here. You folks have a much better idea of what might work than I do. Onward !
  11. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    Years ago, when my 8 channel deck was on it's last legs, I was concerned about retaining viable backups of material. As an extra precaution, I saved additional master-mixes of the drum track & instrumental mix...without vocal or lyric. A couple months ago, I was diggin' through my archives downstairs & came across those old premixes. The drum-only track I used as an attachment for a blog article, but the instrument-only mix is just sitting there collecting dust. God only knows if I'll ever use it for anything, but if it would serve for a project like this, you're welcome to use it. It's a finished arrangement without lyric or melody...drivin' garage-rock kind of track. I certainly won't take offense if you don't use it, but I figured I'd offer. Tom
  12. Writing Lyrics: Formula or Freefall?

    As is the case with all public blogs Mike, there are simple things individuals can do to assist those traffic numbers. When I set mine up, I added 3 external links to various pages of my tune-smith site, 1 in the form of a post on my personal Facebook profile + 6 additional placements on my YouTube channels (2-per channel). That's 10 external links right there. I'm not generating any huge numbers yet, but sometimes those things will surprise you. I never even considered a personal blog till someone suggested it me a few years back. Once I tried a few articles, I took a liking to it & continued on. Much to my amazement, some of those old articles ended up drawing 5 - 10 thousand views each. Go figure! Not exactly viral numbers, but I was surprised. Sometimes you don't know till ya' give it a shot. Tom
  13. "Arrangement 101"

    A collection of 4 videos dealing with various aspects of new song arrangement. The cover photos below are encoded as a hyperlinks, so clicking on them opens the video. (7:59) (7:36) (5:00) (7:30) Hopefully, you find this new playlist helpful BTW none of these videos contain ads...comments & suggestions for future videos are welcome. Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube
  14. Books?

    I've had a few over the years, dealing with a variety of subjects. Books on the business of music, basics of composition, songwriting, piano, theory & guitar. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be "The Guitar Handbook" by Ralph Denyer. Covers a lot of ground & makes a great ongoing reference! Bought my first copy as a guitar student 25 years ago & still find it useful. Tom
  15. "When Is A Song Finished?"

    Nope...no checklist for me Mike. Over the years, I've learned to trust my ears. My process of evaluation is more subconscious these days. The specific questions were intended as a learning tool...for those unfamiliar with the process. ...appreciate the comment & additional information! Tom
  16. There are as many answers to that question as there are songwriters. The reason for that is simple. There is no definitely correct way to write a song! Art is universally understood to be a subjective medium. Every artist creates differently - every consumer interprets differently. To call that vague is an understatement! Perhaps Webster’s should add “art” as one of its’ official definitions for the word “vague”? But for creators of art, that vagueness is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part is fairly obvious. If there are no absolutes governing creation, then the artist can’t make a mistake…right? With no strict rules, whatever decisions we make are viable…at least in theory. And from a creative standpoint, that is truly a blessing! It means the artist has complete creative freedom! They begin their process with nothing & end it with their interpretation of a finished work. Unfortunately, that same freedom endlessly complicates the creative process. The question asked by the title of this article is merely one example of that. “When Is A Song Finished”? How does a songwriter go about making that decision? Chances are, unless you are a songwriter, that question has never occurred to you. That’s one of the reasons I chose this topic. Hopefully, those of you who don’t write will get a glimpse of what’s behind our mysterious creative curtain. For purposes of the article, the term “song” refers to just the essential elements (lyrics, melody & single instrument accompaniment). Believe it or not, complexities multiply 1,000-fold once you factor in variables like arrangement & production. Honestly, I can feel myself growing older just thinking about it! So, with only 3 song elements to consider, how complicated could this process be? You write some words, a melody for those words & plug-in a backing chord structure. Simple enough, right? Yep! Right up to the point where the writer begins reassessing & fine tuning their work...a necessary part of the process. · Is the meaning/intent of my lyric clear? · Will the average listener understand what my song’s about? · Does the lyrical rhyme scheme work well? Does it contain enough rhymes, or too many? In either case, does it work well with my chosen subject matter, or detract from the message & mood I’m trying to convey? · Does my lyric have a solid, memorable hook? In other words, does it contain a word or phrase that’s catchy, repetitive & will stick in the listener’s head after the song has ended? · Are all my verse sections solid, or should I rewrite the 3rd? It seems weaker than the rest. · Is my title catchy? Will it be easy for people to remember? Is it short enough? Does it effectively convey what my song’s about? · Will other people find my lyric interesting? If not, why not? Does it have wide-ranging appeal, or target a specific listener demographic? Should I change something to make it easier to identify with? · Does the lyrical meter (feel & flow) sound natural when it’s sung? If not, what should I change…the lyrical meter or the way in which it’s sung? · Does the melody work well with my supporting chord structure? “Melody” is the most important of those 3 song elements, so nothing should be allowed to interfere-with or detract-from its’ effectiveness. · Are both musical elements a good match for my lyric? Do all 3 point the listener in the same direction? Do they complement one another, or conflict? · Should I add a bridge section to the song? If so, what type & where should it be placed within the existing structure? · Is the song too long? If so, what can I remove without disturbing the integrity of the overall piece? · Does my song flow naturally from section- to-section, or is the change from verse-to-chorus too abrupt? Should I have written pre-chorus sections, rather than trying to move directly from verse-to-chorus? If it’s not a major issue, might it be address in the arrangement phase, by adding a musical interlude? By now, some of you may be thinking…is he serious? Totally! None of these questions are far-fetched. They represent merely the-tip-of-the songwriting iceberg. This internal battle we wage is a necessary part of the process. But sooner or later, a song has to reach the point of completion….doesn’t it? So, the real question becomes, how much of this examining process should we allow ourselves to do? At what point does it cease being useful & become a neurotic exercise in futility? Once again, there is no single answer. Each writer’s process is different. For me, the process became manageable once I learned to define, control & embrace my own version of it. That’s right, I took the time to… · examine my process · consider my specific goals & motivations as a writer · make realistic assessments of my up-front expectations, the tools I had to work with & my available time. Keeping in mind that there is no such thing as “the perfect song”, I made some simple decisions. · I weighed what I was willing & able to put into a project, against my expectations for the end result. · I tried to achieve a balance between what I was willing to accept & what it would take to get me there. From that, my version of this process was born. Somewhere along the line, I stopped viewing songs as finished or unfinished. I prefer to see them as works-in-progress, at various stages of development. “Finished” has come to mean “finished for now”. Because I also recognize the importance of re-writing, I never rule out the possibility of returning to a project at a later time. I'll close this out with a piece of advice for novice songwriters. Do yourself a favor…figure out what your version of “finished” is going to be. If you wait for inspiration, intuition or divine intervention to decide for you, you could be waiting a very long time. Happy writing everyone! Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube
  17. March 2018 Song Contest

    Many seem to be making their top scores public, so I figured I'd chime in with my top 3... 9 / You Lift Me Up - Jason Kalman 8 / Your Life - Oswlek 7.5 / I Got The Satellite - ScenesFromPalacio My scores ranged from a high of 9 to a low of 3.5...many tough choices, lots of good entries. My compliments to all the contestants! Tom
  18. March 2018 Song Contest

    Congrats to all the winners ! Tom
  19. Songs advice

    You may find this helpful - https://www.bmi.com/news/entry/how_much_would_you_pay_to_advance_your_songwriting_career It's an article from BMI's website & from what I could tell, gives a pretty honest assessment of the whole "pay-to-pitch" concept. It deals with publishers & professional song-pluggers, including the big online entities. It also talks about the dominance of the Nashville market. A good read ! Tom
  20. "When Is A Song Finished?"

    I absolutely agree...intended purpose makes a difference! Perhaps I should have included more specifics about my personal circumstances, but I figured the article was lengthy as it was. I'll insert a few details here... I'm a 20 years+ hobbyist singer-songwriter, so the article's written from the perspective of a dedicated amateur. I don't write for publishing call-outs, I'm not paid for my work & I rarely face any type of deadline...other than a self-imposed one. Bottom line - I write because I wish-to and because I can. I operate 100% on-my-own...always have, so there is no shared ownership of material. Since all rights belong to me, decisions about when projects are "finished" are mine to make. No one else's judgement, rights-of-ownership or personal standards factor in. BTW your feedback & personal perspectives are much appreciated folks! That's exactly what I hope for when I write something like this. With any luck, someone finds this collection of viewpoints useful in developing their own process. Tom
  21. March Lyrics Contest

    Congrats to all !!! Tom
  22. “Slow Down” was my very first song. (*Song title is an mp3 link. You're welcome to listen as you read.) Originally written/arranged/recorded in 1995, it was rerecorded 3 years later. Although copyright is considered valid from the date of creation (1995), the song wasn’t officially registered with the Library of Congress until 1998. The Idea Typically, my songs evolve from one of 4 starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme This particular song grew out of a progression. While experimenting with combinations of 2 & 3 note intervals, an interesting pattern emerged. It utilizes traditional I-IV-V framework, but layered changes within the framework give it a unique flavor. Fundamentals The song is set in Mixolydian mode. For those not familiar with the term, it’s essentially a diatonic major scale/key, with the 7th note flattened. The flattening of that single note alters the step pattern, dramatically changing the feel of the resulting composition. Although it’s common practice to utilize notes not contained in the primary scale (key), I chose not to do that. Every note played or sung in this song falls within the confines of A mixolydian. Three separate guitar tracks were written for this arrangement. The primary guitar plays the progression depicted in that earlier tab chart. The secondary guitar part is all 2-note intervals. Guitar track #3 is comprised of single-note leads and fills. Song Structure Introduction (8 sec.) / 8 Bar Musical Interlude / Verse-Refrain / 4 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Bridge (Middle-8) / 8 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Ending w. fade Subject Matter Because of the feel established by that primary guitar progression, this song wouldn’t have worked with an uplifting lyric. Serious, dark subject matter was called for & substance abuse (specifically alcoholism) was my final choice. I wrote it from the perspective of the alcoholic (first person), in this case male. It depicts the abuser’s downward spiral, revealing his changing mind-set as the addiction progresses & the relationship disintegrates. Melody & meter were written before the lyric, as is the case with most of my songs. The downside of this particular structure was that it didn’t allow for many words. I had to rely on subtle changes in person, tense & tone to convey my lyrical message. Personally, I enjoy the challenge that comes with that style of writing, but it does present obstacles: The message/meaning isn’t as obvious. A greater burden is placed upon the listener to listen intently. If you try to cherry-pick key words & phrases from this lyric, as happens with more popular forms of music, you’re likely to miss the point. Lyric I smile and start another day You smile and tell me it’s OK We should have known we would get through it You’d think we’d know by now I promise I…won’t drink much tonight I know I blame my life on you You tell me I don’t have a clue You should have known not to back-talk me I’d think you’d know by now I know that I..said I would slow down Should slow down Must slow down Will slow down Next week swear I’ll slow down! I get up & start another day You’re not here to tell me it’s OK I should have known you didn’t love me You’d think I’d know by now I don’t care if…I ever slow down! Final Production Notes Both the 1995 and 98 recordings of this were done on a Tascam 424 (4-track analog cassette recording deck). Some years later, when I converted to a digital setup, those original analog tracks were transferred to the new digital system, cleaned up, compressed & remixed. That digital remix is the version you’re listening to now. Recording process: The drum track was recorded all at once. No overdubs were possible, because it was done using a freestanding electronic metronome. With old analog decks, if you tried to record a standard click-track, you’d end up with ghosts of it bleeding through to other tracks. Even after the click track was erased, remnants of it remained & would be audible on the final recording. Drums & bass guitar shared a single-mono track. Drums were recorded first, then primary guitar, then bass. At that point in the process, a premix of drums & bass was bounced over to the remaining open track. That premix-bounce allowed the original recordings of each to be erased. Additional guitar was recorded onto 1 of those newly vacated tracks…lead vocal onto the other. Final lead licks were recorded last, squeezed onto whatever track space remained. All guitar parts were recorded through a mic'd amp, with effects already applied. EQ & effects for the drum track were added pre-tape. Compared to modern standards, this was like working with stone knives & bearskins, but it got the job done! Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass guitar & Vocal – Tom Hoffman Supplemental Video (1 min. 9 sec. demonstration / primary guitar progression) – https://youtu.be/x5dzZMNeVlk Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube *BTW that MP3 link at the top is set-up as free download. If you'd like a copy for your personal use, you have my permission.
  23. How can we improve the site?

    Nope...viewing it on a relatively new high-def 23" Dell monitor screen / Windows 10 via Edge. I've also viewed it on my employers' system...looks pretty much the same. Tom In case I wasn't clear in my earlier posts, it's the member preview window that I'm referring to...the one you get by hovering your mouse over a member name or phot on the boards.
  24. How can we improve the site?

    Perhaps it's my aging eyes, but that silver text on the dark-green background isn't readily visible (*refer Below). I just messaged my contest scores to Paul & had a hell of time spotting the "message" tab. I know it's a small thing, but I figured I'd mention it. Message Ignore User Find Content
  25. Song order on an album

    Excellent question! I'd probably begin and end the album with strong tunes. That way you make a good first impression & leave 'em wanting more...hopefully. I've never released an album or EP, but if I were to, I'd be particular about my choice of first & last songs. Other than that, I agree with many of the things you already mentioned. Tom *BTW is it just me, or do we now have "star rating system" for topic threads? I don't recall seeing that before...part of recent upgrade perhaps?