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Singer-Songwriter: 5 Ways To Improve Your Chances of Success

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by Larry Butler

Singer-Songwriter

Singer-Songwriter

We’re all familiar with the standard rules given to those who think they want the fame, glory and money that comes from being a successful singer-songwriter––work hard, practice, smile, be nice to people, etc. In the 40 years or so that music industry veteran Larry Butler has worked with some of the most successful artists in the business, he says he’s found a number of pieces of advice that you’re probably not going to find in those well-worn lists. Here are five taken from his new book The Singer-Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Success. None of them involve smiling.

 

1. Be a solo artist or a duo, at most. There’s way less overhead and you never have to attend any band meetings.

In addition to being less expensive to mount a career (vis-à-vis a band), at every step along your uphill career path you are going to have to know how to perform and entertain in some kind of solo, acoustic, stripped-down, bare bones situation and sometimes at the drop of a hat.

For instance, to get the attention of radio programmers, music supervisors and ad agencies you’re going to have to set up in a solo acoustic setting and perform in office break rooms and convention/seminar showcases. Your goal is to be better than the singer-songwriter who was performing in their conference room the day before. Is your show way more entertaining? It had better be or you lose out.  And you can’t be just good or even very good––you have to be GREAT!

 

2. Get your own vocal mic. God knows where the club’s mic has been. And stop hiding your mouth behind your mic. Stop it!

Most clubs and sound companies use Shure SM58’s for vocals––they’re the standard of the industry. The trouble is that to get the SM58 to sound good you have to sing directly into it and hold it as close as you can to your mouth. But then your mouth is hidden, isn’t it? And your mouth is one of the three ways of communicating with your audience (the other two being your eyes and your hands).

You can change that! Modern audio science has developed a microphone design that allows the singer to sing above and across the top of the mic by holding it at a 45-degree angle at the chin while preventing feedback and other noises from the stage. In fact, it doesn’t work that well when the singer attempts to eat the mic!

It’s called a hyper-cardioid dynamic mic and it comes in many styles, sizes and price ranges. I prefer the Telefunken M80 for high pitch voices or M81 for lower pitch. Try them both and see which one you prefer.  Sound techs don’t care if you want to use your own mic at a show; in fact, it’s usually a sign of a professional, and they welcome that any night.

 

3. Develop a stage personality with an attitude and a different way of looking at things. Show it off in your between-song patter.

Presenting your musical work in an entertaining manner is the presentation of personality. First, you need to have one––a personality, that is. And the best place to present that personality is in your essential between-song patter. Heretofore, you’ve probably not rehearsed anything to say from the stage and decided to “wing it.” If you’re going to do that, why even bother to rehearse your songs? Why not “wing” those too? Exactly.

I believe that the between-song patter is at least as important as your songs (and perhaps even more entertaining) and needs to be presented with the same amount of thought, preparation and rehearsal as your songs. Entertaining patter leads the audience to a better understanding and appreciation of your song and of you.

The idea here is to not only shed some light on the songs, but also how you FEEL about the songs, and the world, and relationships, and music, and whatever. You need to generate a reaction from the audience and not be afraid to step on a few toes. You need to present a relevant, consistent and personable attitude.

 

4. Lose any appearance of pride on stage, even to the point of looking foolish. Be vulnerable. People love that.

I don’t mean like the pride you take in your musical skills or professional standards. I’m talking about the pride that everyone hides deep in their ego that prevents them from making fools of themselves in front of other people. But there’s nothing wrong with looking foolish on stage––as long as it’s scripted and rehearsed and delivered with a wink. That’s entertaining!

The thing you have to get over is your reticence to doing something foolish on stage. Show your vulnerability by letting that foolish pride go––all successful entertainers have done so. Being vulnerable on stage is the best way to emotionally connect with an audience. If you can’t (or won’t) do that, then you are doomed to keep performing at the level you are now.

 

5. Studies show that creative artists have more emotional problems than the average person. Solution? Seek and accept help.

Creative artists’ lives are, more often than not, ruled by their emotions, which take undue precedence over rationale, reason and reality.

Drugs and alcohol are thought to be the shortcuts to creativity. But they’re also the express lanes to dysfunction. And don’t think you’re immune––you’re not. It’s not about will power or common sense, even if you had either one to begin with.

And addiction goes beyond the poster children of alcohol and drugs. There’s nicotine, caffeine, antibiotics and Afrin, for instance. They’re all good in moderation, but moderation is not a common attribute of singer-songwriters and artists.

There are solutions and there is help. Search out someone who has suffered through many of the same problems as yours and could offer some suggestions. And when help is offered, accept it. It’s the only way out.

[Permission Reprint by Music Connection Magazine]

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Composing for Film and Television

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Composing for Film and Television

by Fred Kron

 

Fred KronAt the age of one, when most infants are pounding on the table, I was pounding out the notes to “Happy Birthday.” My childhood was spent studying Beethoven, Brahms, Madonna, and Hall & Oates, as well as the super catchy tunes of television composing legend Mike Post. Did I practice? Sure, sometimes. But did I play what I heard on the radio and television? All the time! From pop tunes to TV themes, movie scores and obscure jingles, I tried to soak it all in. My college years were spent at the University of Miami, studying and earning a degree in Jazz Piano Performance. But once I became aware of multitrack recording and sequencing, I was hooked. My official transition from performing into the world of composition came through a college friend who had just graduated and landed a job with Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production company. Without my knowledge, he had bothered someone there just long enough for them to ask me for a demo reel, which I thankfully had been working on. A job was offered to me by Adam Sandler to compose music for a batch of Internet short films, and so began my career as a film and television composer. Here are five things I’ve learned along the way.

 

  1. When in Doubt, Ask

Trying to read your clients’ minds and understand what they want from you for their project (musically, emotionally, and stylistically) can seem a bit challenging at first, but with experience and learning what questions to ask, you can greatly improve your chances for a successful collaboration. These questions can range anywhere from what sonic palette you might choose to whether the client is looking for a textural vs. melodic approach.

 

  1. Know Your Studio and Sounds

Everyone works a bit differently, but many composers spend more time than they’d ever care to admit working on templates (preloaded instrument tracks, mix routing, and EFX) so that sounds are dialed in, and always at their fingertips when composing. I have some templates, but I usually like to start with a blank page. I don’t see this as a disadvantage, as I’ve made it a point to become extremely familiar with my sound libraries and plug-ins, and often the extra 15 seconds it takes me to load a sound can be time spent thinking of what part I might lay down, or what I might order for lunch.

 

  1. Don’t Be Married to Anything

Sure, in your heart of hearts, you know that what you’ve submitted on your first pass is “pure gold,” but everyone has an opinion (and, unfortunately, they’re probably making more money than you are), so it’s a good idea to let them express theirs. I’m only half kidding. Making changes is part of the gig! Sometimes, requests for changes come in the form of statements like, “Yeah, definitely add a crescendo there, and make it really soft so we can barely hear it.” That’s one of my personal favorites. More often than not, collaborators give good notes that can really make the cue or piece better.

 

  1. Always Be Improving

Prior to my composing career, my background was mainly as a pianist and keyboardist. That part of my skill set has always been extremely advantageous to me, even if I’m landing a writing gig; instant demonstrations are always impressive and create great networking opportunities. It also helps me work faster and more efficiently. For example, if I’m working on an orchestral composition, the less time I spend performing the parts, the more time I can spend on tweaking controllers and geeky MIDI things for realism.

 

  1. Remember: Composing Is Collaborative

You are composing music to make the picture better, and that is the only acceptable outcome. The people hiring you all have unique personalities, varying degrees of musical knowledge (and vocabulary), and different approaches to their projects. Embrace these differences, as they are often what keeps each project unique and fresh.

 

[Permission Reprint by Keyboard Magazine]

Fred Kron is a Los Angeles-based keyboardist, composer, arranger, and orchestrator, who currently has music in more than 12,000 episodes of television. His current projects include original composing for Fox, touring with Colin Hay (Men at Work), and subbing on keyboards for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!


For information for the 2016 IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), visit: http://www.inacoustic.com

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Would You Let Donald Trump Use Your Song?

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Donald Trump on his Presidential Campaign Trail

Donald Trump on his Presidential Campaign Trail

It’s become a perennial news story: Multi-Billionaire and multiple headline maker Donald Trump, the very first reality TV star who became a major party United States presidential candidate uses a hit song on the campaign trail, and the artist makes headlines by voicing his disapproval.

Queen — the British rock band best known for its openly bisexual (and unapologetically fabulous) frontman Freddie Mercury — was upset after the homophobic and xenophobic Republicans ended their Klan rally with one of Queen’s most popular songs, “We Are the Champions”.  Queen stirred up the conversation on the first night of the Republican National Convention, calling Donald Trump’s use of their song “We Are the Champions” unauthorized. Usher, Michael Bolton, and John Mellencamp recently appeared to perform a musical plea for politicians to stop using their songs.

Just a couple of weeks later, Queen emerged victorious — Trump is now banned from using their music at his events.

But the legal reality behind “unauthorized” use like this is often pretty misunderstood.

In most cases like this, the law is actually on the politicians’ side at first. Performing rights organizations (PROs) enable venues and event hosts to purchase the rights to play song catalogs. The three main PROs — BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC — cover most of the music published in the US. As long as the venue or the campaign pays those fees, it’s allowed to play whatever music is included in the PRO’s catalog.

That means that Trump — and any other politicians who get into trouble for their song choice — is legally in the clear if he secured the PRO license.

So every time musicians speak up against the use of their music at events, they aren’t exactly pointing out an illegal action. It’s more of a request for courtesy toward the artistic intent.

But under BMI (the PRO that licenses Queen’s music), musicians are allowed to request that their songs be pulled from a given politician’s available catalog if they don’t want their work associated with the campaign. After Queen and Adele made such requests this year, BMI sent letters to the Trump campaign and the RNC detailing the artists’ objections. That means their songs are no longer available to Trump under the blanket license.

So no matter what the polls say, it seems like we won’t see Trump walk out to “We Are the Champions” again anytime soon.

Now the big question: if you were given the chance, would you let Billionaire Donald Trump use your song? If so, which song would you let Trump use? Please leave your comments below.

For more information on 2016 IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) , please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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7 Ways to Improve Your Music Recordings

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7 Ways to Improve Your Music Recordings

by Jessica Brandon

Today, I’d like to give you 7 ways to help you meet your music recordings and help you grow yourself as a music artist.

  1. Get focused on your target goals
Recording Guitar

Recording Guitar

A lot of musicians/music artists waste a ton of money on demos/recordings because they haven’t spent enough time choosing the right sound for their music act. Get clear about who you yourself as a music artist/band and who your audience is. Once you do this, you’ll cut your waste to zero and start getting maximum results from all your music.

 

  1. Fine tune your Unique Sound.

If you are still comparing and competing with other music artists, then your Sound needs work. We get comment from music artists describing themselves “I sound just like Ani DiFranco, but better”, or “I sound like the band “Kings of Leon, but more acoustic sounding”. Create a sound that makes your music the clear and only choice for your audience.

 

  1. Co-write your songs with another Songwriter, or Producer.

When you have run of ideas, you may want to co-writer with another songwriter or producer who may bring other ideas to the table to help you with your next song.

 

  1. Get into a Professional Studio to Record, Arrange or Remix.

Are you tired of your homemade recordings, sound and need fresh ideas? You may need to look for a professional recording studio and seek a music producer (with whom the recordings that the bands you recorded you respect).

 

  1. Test, Test and Test.

If you have a regular gig at a club (or try out at an Open Mic event), you may try performing your song and see what kind of reaction from the audience you get. If it doesn’t work, you can always tweek the lyrics and chord progressions when you get home.

 

  1. Get better at Songwriting.

Competition for attention of you and your songs are at an all time high. Too many music acts are sloppy and don’t give enough care to creating good, relevant, compelling songs —consistently. Learn the fundamentals of crafting compelling songs and resist the temptation to just whip something up and get it out. Poor songwriting will alienate your audience—sometimes permanently. While a consistent compelling songs will get them wanting you more.

 

  1. Record Your Music/Song Ideas As You Go Along.

You might be surprised how many of your great music and song ideas have “gone missing”.  Record your ideas on your smart phone or voice recorder as you go through your day. Just a one line change, a lyric change, a chord change may dramatically improve your song and go from good to great!

 

Doing one of these things will improve your recordings. Doing all of them could make a tremendous impact. Pick one or two to start and once you’ve implemented them; move on to another one (or two) on the list.

 

To enter the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:

http://www.inacoustic.com

 

 

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Size does NOT matter: The REAL secret of great musicianship with Meghan Trainor

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by Kate Beaudoin & Jessica Brandon

Meghan Trainor, singer-songwriter

Meghan Trainor, singer-songwriter

How did Meghan Trainor do it? It’s been a year since pop singer Meghan Trainor hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with, “All About That Bass.” Within the year of the video’s release, it racked up an impressive 1 Billion views on YouTube. Before long, the single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for nine weeks (also hit #1 in 58 different countries) and helped Trainor’s debut album, Title, debut No.1 on the Billboard 200 charts. The media has written that Trainor came from nowhere, but did you know she was discovered in IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) in 2009 and won Best Female Artist with an acoustic song “Waterfalls”? And she became one of the most-talked-about artists of the year. And she did it all on the mantel of empowerment — at least, that’s what she’d have you believe.

 

“All About That Bass” was so successful in large part due to the idea that it was the new feminist anthem; after all, 2014 was the year of the booty and empowerment was in. But to those who read between the lines of Trainor’s clever marketing ploy, it’s clear as day that “All About That Bass” is as far from a feminist anthem as they come. Trainor’s problematic stance extends far beyond that single. By simultaneously claiming a feminist mantle and advocating an anti-feminist agenda, Trainor has become a threat to all the gains that pop music has made in feminism recently.

What the lyrics are really saying. The messages in Trainor’s songs are often ostensibly about encouraging healthy self-confidence. “I hope [‘All About That Bass’] helps girls love themselves more, because they’re adorable. Women too,” Trainor told Glamour. The issue, however, is that those supposedly empowering lyrics encourage impressionable girls to be happy with themselves only when men deem them acceptable. People criticized “All About That Bass” for its skinny-shaming, but even more concerning is that Trainor claims your worth comes from what men think of you.

“Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” Trainor sings, explaining why it’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch.” It’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch,” but only because some boys prefer you that way.

The crown jewel of Trainor’s anti-feminism is easily “Dear Future Husband.” When the video for “Dear Future Husband” hit YouTube in March, many rightly claimed that her message was sexist. Trainor’s lyrics advocate outdated gender roles (“Cause if you’ll treat me right / I’ll be the perfect wife / Buying groceries”), seeking self-worth based on men’s opinions (“If you wanna get that special lovin’ / Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night”) and, of course, confirming the idea that all women are crazy, emotional creatures (“You gotta know how to treat me like a lady / Even when I’m acting crazy”). But those who defended Trainor claimed that it was just a song and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

“I don’t believe I was [being sexist],” she told MTV. “I think I was just writing my song to my future husband out there, wherever he is. He’s chilling right now, taking a minute getting ready for me; it’s going to be great.”

He’s getting ready — doing crunches and 200 pound dead lifts so he’s ready to be strong enough to impress Trainor!

 

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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