Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Defense of the Blues


Hey there 7 followers....long time no type....again.


...yeah...


Sorry bout that....life...you know?


Anyway, I've been thinking about the usual: what it means to devote our life to music in an economy that has largely made music have almost NO monetary value.....but I think I've talked about that enough lately....so I started thinking about something Townes said. He said “There are only two kinds of music in the world: the Blues and Zip-a-dee-doo-da.”


So it occurred to me that....I don't really LIKE happy, positive songs. I know. I sort of gravitate towards the real...things that are sad and melancholy have more resonance to me...The Truth of Suffering is 
more apparent to me than pretending everything is ok.


Thats probably part of the reason that I drift to poets like Bukowski...there is always unvarnished REALITY hidden in the lack of structure and simple language...and there is no bullshit. 


Which basically gets to the crux of why positive songs annoy me: there is something inauthentic about singing about how great things are...something that fails to come to grips with the “full catastrophe.” Typically, when I come across these songs on the radio or something....it strikes me as pablum. I mean, the last thing I want when I feel like my life is falling apart is a song telling me how great everything is 
and how things have turned the corner.  That just shows me how out of  touch people can be. 


Maybe a parallel can be drawn to comedy. Comedy works best when the comedian is outside the 
power structure and speaking truth to those inside that power structure....when those that are IN power try to be funny....there is a disconnect between the ability of the person in power to speak TRUTH....so I think that in the same way, when you are writing about how great your life is, when the VAST majority of other  humans on the earth CANNOT relate....you are doing them a disservice...


This Week


Darrell Scott
Tom Rush
Danny Malone
Jeff Black--he has a new album "Plow Through the Mystic" --GET IT


Oh! Guess what? I finally finished the Mysterious Recording Project. You can find it on iTunes! Search for Rachel Rea! 


And, as always, you can still buy Jodi Ann's Album, "A Brief Moment in Time" from her at jodiann.bandcamp.com or you can get a physical cd at jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com

I'm going to try to keep a regular schedule again. Fair Warning...:-)


So until next time: write somethin', will ya? (as long as its not a disingenuous positive song....write some blues...)




Monday, October 31, 2011

Errata

Hey there followers.

Long time no type.

Just a quick one this week: do yourself a favor and go read this review of the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration: Injustice For All

He has a great deal to say about the current state of the music industry in this review. It's very good.

This Week


Almost finished with the mysterious recording project. Listened to some of the stuff I recorded a few years ago, thought I could do better now,  and started remixing some of it.

David Wilcox
Josh Woodward
Waylon
They Might Be Giants

Happy Irish New Year.








....we are witnessing the end of Metallica....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crossroads

Hey all!

Hope everything is going according to plan this week.

This one's gonna be short and way late.

This post is going to be another short one, just some thoughts that occurred to me after having been to a publisher pitch session this last week.

If you're in Nashville, you probably should try to make it to Jason Blume's free workshops at BMI. They're free, you just might learn something, and every month there is a publisher pitch.

This week I went to one of his publisher pitches. It was interesting. The publisher was Nathan Nicholson. He was honest and up front and told us that he was looking for contemporary country songs for male singers. He also told us that he probably wasn't going  to take anything with him unless it was BETTER than what was currently on the radio. He listened to every song, most of the time saying things like, "I just don't think I could get it recorded." Or "Not that it's a bad song, I just think I'd have a hard time getting it cut."

Sometimes there would be a really great song, but not "contemporary enough." In other words, maybe the song would sound like it was from the early  90's and therefore be out of place in today's contemporary country market. And then I started thinking: everybody that I like, and I'm talking about Guy Clark, James McMurtry, Lyle Lovett, Hayes Carll, Dylan, John Prine, Joni Mitchell--I don't think any of them would be able to get a publishing deal today.

So here's what I arrived at: I think everyone comes to this point in their songwriting development where they have to either take the fork in the road that heads to Commercial writing, for money, for the business of it....or take the other fork...that leads to Art...and truth....

So which one are you? Which fork are you going to take?

Sorry this is so late, but hey, there's some life that's gotta happen in the midst of all this.

This Week


Jeff Black
Hayes Carll





....yeah I realize it's a false dichotomy. You can probably do both...but it seems like all the songwriters I admire have chosen to eschew the commercial game for something more transcendent.

write somethin' will ya?


Monday, October 10, 2011

Slipperman's 10 Commandments of AE Beatdown

If you have done a bit of audio engineering, you may have come across a huge amount of discussion fora on the subject. Most are full of people that talk as if they have a clue, but actually do not. There is one shining exception: the World Of Media Boards, or the "Womb." If you haven't checked them out, by all means do so. Here's the Link: www.thewombforums.com. They were started by a guy using the nomme du plume, "Mixerman," to disseminate ACTUAL knowledge from ACTUAL PROS about how audio engineering ACTUALLY happens in REAL LIFE. Mixerman recruited some of his Audio Engineering colleagues that were fed up with the normal trolling and flame war BS that typically happens in fora.

One of these colleagues is a guy whose handle is "Slipperman." He has a huge amount of experience running a high client recording studio on the outskirts of NYC, and on the WOMB, you will find his amazing narratives about Audio Engineering as a Life Pursuit, and his hilarious take on the way the music business is crumbling. He has a huge treatise in which he goes over his methodology for recording LOUD, HEAVY, DISTORTED GUITARS and he also has several podcast-sized audio files in which you can hear him go off about things in highly entertaining ways.

I was reading through various posts one day, and I came across this piece of Slipperman wisdom that has stayed with me...and although it is titled "Slipperman's 10 Commandments of AE Beatdown," I think it applies to ANYONE in the music industry IN ANY CAPACITY. Enjoy.


Slipperman’s 10 Commandments of AE Beatdown

1.) Expect nothing other than a long litany of suffering. You’ll be less disappointed. In fact, soon you’ll learn to LOVE the suffering, and will become, for all intents and purposes, indestructible.

2.) Attach some sort of price to EVERYTHING. Things that don’t have a price attached to them are usually perceived as worthless, no matter what their ACTUAL value is. It’s human nature.

3.) Realize that, with the best of intentions, the nicest people in the world will hurl you under the bus if they have something/someone else who holds more REAL(usually $$$) sway over them. Get over it. Get used to it. Cover yourself accordingly and feel no guilt for doing so.

4.) Assume the worst at all times... then multiply that by 3.

5.) Expect that, when the brass tacks are down, your worthy competition, often posing as good friends... are going WILDLY out of their way to shit talk you and your work. Ignore it and refuse to return the favor. Let your work do the talking. You will suffer IMMENSELY in the short run for doing this. Refer back to 1.) and 3.).

6.) In the words of the immortal Rev. Billy Milano: “If yer doing me a favor... you’re NOT doing me a favor”.

7.) Stop expecting to like your own work in the long run. If it ever happens, be very concerned, it usually means you’ve peaked, and worse yet... yer probably in decline.

8.) Everything matters. Everything. HOW MUCH it matters, and what you do with that hard earned knowledge is what separates you from the rabble.

9.) Everybody knows a little bit of something. We’re all pretty silly and small in the face of God. It’s a good thing. Your failures, and HOW YOU DEAL WITH THEM DEFINE YOU. Nobody ever learned SHIT from THEIR OWN successes. Resist the impulse to examine them... they are nothing but smoke and mirrors. In the same respect... Feel free to make as many mistakes as you like. It’s all about graceful recoveries and a steadfast determination to not make the same mistakes again.

And finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY:

10.) Accept all the above and refuse to let it alter your basic love for the craft and your desire to better yourself and your works. The fricative elixirs that surround you in the course of doing this as a LIFE PURSUIT will either be allowed to pool around you and EAT YOU AWAY as a corrosive agent... or you will learn to BURN THEM AS FUEL. It’s your choice. There are no victims who didn’t cast themselves in the role, knowingly or unknowingly.

Pretty great.

...and I think it can be applied to be many more things than just music....just a nice set of life lessons. 

This Week

This week, I've started mixing the mysterious recording project, but I think I have one more guitar solo to record. 

I am also almost finished recording the song I wrote last week, and I have another cool idea...but it's a funk tune....so I get to pretend I'm James Brown....







...we are witnessing the end of Metallica...expect it....


Write somethin' will ya?


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Music Theory: Part Six! (The Last)

Hey there seven followers, I hope the week has proven to be productive and song inducing....

Let's get right into the final post in the Nashville Number System/Music Theory Introduction Series:

The Last Page

The last page is so unbelievably simple, I don't think I even need to scan it and upload it. Here it is in its entirety: 1 6- 5 4 repeat until the fade out. Since you've been keeping up, I'm sure you've figured out by now that in this key, D Major, that progression is D Major, B Minor, A Major, G Major. Repeat ad infinitum, or until the drummer passes out....

How about in Bb Major?  Bb Major, G Minor, F Major, Eb Major.

Simple, right? I invite you to try to make some number charts of your songs as you write them--it's funny--sometimes, even in GoogleDocs, I write out a number chart in the margin, so i can link the progression with the song, so i'm able to remember it for later.

Nobody guessed, what this song is. Surely you've heard it. I KNOW at least three of you have heard it. Anyway, I'll tell you what it is...in bit...

Why are we doing this to ourselves again?

So again: Why it it useful to learn the Nashville Number System? I think there are several reasons to do this to yourself.

First, it will allow you to write charts that Nashville Session Musicians will understand. Even if you aren't in Nashville, competent session players at least have a cursory understanding of the number system.

Second, the number system sort of bypasses the fear of sight reading that most musicians have. It allows the player to be creative within the context of the groove and the chord, without having to adhere rigidly to the written notes.

Third, it allows for quick and relatively painless transposition. Let's say you're Don Felder, and you just wrote and recorded a demo of this great chord progression on the guitar in E Minor. So you bring it to Don Henley, and he takes the demo tape home over the weekend and writes some lyrics and a melody to this progression you've written. When you reconvene in the studio on Monday, Don tells you he finished the song, but he has changed the key. Acting like it's no big deal, you ask Don what key this new song is in, assuming he has changed the key by one whole step at most. Don replies, "B Minor."
THAT'S A FIFTH HIGHER!!! Now you have a BIG problem, if you have already written charts in standard notation. either you have all the players look at the chart as you have written it, in E Minor, and THINK "B Minor," or you re-write the chart, causing you to waste time and money in the studio. With the Nashville Number System (and some session players that are familiar with it), the player would just make the adjustments mentally, and you're off! "Hotel California" is recorded with no new charts having to be written, and the players don't have to perform the odd mental gymnastics required when you are LOOKING at an F#, but THINKING C# (get it? a fifth higher).

Fourth, everybody gets the same chart. Since everybody is sort of improvising their own parts within the confines of the song structure, the key, and the groove, there is no need for SPECIFIC charts. We're going to TRUST THE  MUSICIANS.....I know, but it's just a song, it's not like they are going to date your daughter....

So there.


This Week

Wrote a new song, completed the recording of the background vocals for the ever enigmatic recording project.

Need to play out more. There's a weird dynamic when you play things only for people you know. If they're your friends, they tell you the song is good even if it sucks.  Even if you play songs for someone you don't know, and it's one on one, they are most likely uncomfortable criticizing you to your face. When you are playing for a group, you can usually tell whether or not your song is ok by their applause. Then, if no one approaches you afterward to compliment your song, you know you have a dog....but if they do approach you after you're finished playing and compliment your songs...you might be on to something. Just saying. Maybe you should make that your goal when you start to write; "Man, this time, when I play this song at the Joe Blotz's Terrible Open Mic Night, people are gonna come tell me how much they like it."





No....don't do that.  Write the absolute best song you can that comes from an authentic emotional place, with detail and imagery that exemplifies the emotional sentiment of your song, and don't settle for anything less than the BEST you can pull from yourself.

Hayes Carll
Will Hoge
Jeff Black
Justin Townes Earle
Then there's this song on John Denver's "Aerie" that I keep going back to....it's called "She Won't Let Me Fly Away" the groove is better than it has any right to be on a John Denver record...

Oh!

it's "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans, but you probably figured that out, right? Go buy it. Play along with it.


Write somethin' will ya?

See ya next week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Music Theory: Part 5

Hey there seven followers!

I hope everything continues to go well with you out there in internet land.

Page 2

This week, we're going to wrap up the strangeness that is the Nashville Number System. We have covered the first page of our chart, and I hope you went through it in both D and Bb, so you could get the hang of transposition. Now it's time to move to the second page, where we will find new things to confound us. Have a look:


As you can see, there are a few new elements that require some explanation. We can see that the first twelve bars of the "Chorus 2"  section are almost identical to the first chorus. We encounter a different chord in bar twelve: in Chorus 1, this chord is 4, or G Major in this key, and here in chorus 2, the chord is 6-, or B Minor in this key. The next three bars are sort of a transition to the bridge, complete with specific rhythmic notation. All pretty straight forward.

Flats and Diamonds

The bridge, as I continue to maintain, is the part of the song where the TRUTH of the song, or the MAIN THEME is revealed. Also, since it is a new section, it should do things harmonically or melodically--or both, to differentiate it from the other sections of the song. This Bridge does all of those things...and leads to a Broken Down version of the chorus, where the listener is forced to listen to the words and sentiment of the section.

So let's take the Bridge bar by bar, shall we? The first three chords we have seen before: 4 (G Major in this key), 5 (A Major in this key), and 6- (B Minor in this key).  The last two bars of  the Bridge is where we are introduced to our new elements. These bars contain the b7 Chord. This chord is a "borrowed" chord, because it is borrowed from a key outside of the one this song is written in. In this case, this chord is borrowed from the key of G, but thankfully, we don't really have to know that to play through this chart. all we have to know is where the seventh of this key normally is--and in this case you should know that the seventh of the key of D Major is C#. So for  a b7 chord, we simply lower the seventh one half step, to C, and play a major chord based on that note. So in our example, when we see the b7 chord, we know to play a C Major chord. It should also be noted with some makers of charts, this chord may be written as 7b...but...I went to Berklee...so I never refer to that chord as "Seven Flat," but always "Flat Seven."

So what do these diamonds mean? The diamonds are basically tied whole notes that the whole band stops on in unison. So we're going to hit the chord and hold it for eight beats. So after leaving us suspended in mid-air at the end of the Bridge, we land at Chorus 3...softly...with stripped-down instrumentation.

Chorus 3 

So Chorus 3 in our example breaks down to just a few instruments: mandolin and maybe a pedal steel guitar playing a pad-type figure. You'll notice that there are more chords in this chorus...probably to provide contrast and give this chorus a feeling of forward motion...impelling it to the end.

There are lots of split chords in this section, with the 1/3s leading both towards and away from the 4 chord. Again, this section ends with a diamond over 4...telling us that the band is holding that chord for the full four beats.

So, again, try to play this page not only in D, but also in Bb. See if you can make it through. Next week, we'll look at the final section of this song, which is on page 3.  and then I'll tell you what the song is, so you can buy it and play along!

This Week

This week, I've been listening more. I've also been comping, editing, and tweaking vocals on the mysterious recording project...also doing a little bit of mix prep, trying to make some notes about how I want it all to fall together.

Jamey Johnson
Hayes Carll
Justin Townes Earle
Pink Floyd
Symphony of Science


And again, you really should buy Jodi Ann's Album, "A Brief Moment In Time." You can download it at jodiann.bandcamp.com or email her here jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com for a physical CD.

How long until we have self-repairing cars?




Talk to you next week.

Write somethin' will ya?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Music Theory: Part 4

Hey there seven followers!

I hope all continues to be well with you.

Last week, we went over the Nashville Number System in a basic way, using this chart:



...and I gave you an assignment: to try to play through Verse 1 in D Major, which is the key indicated by the chart, and in Bb Major. Do you do it? I hope so, it will make going to the studio and writing out your music easier, and probably save you some expensive studio time. 

If you were ambitious, maybe you read ahead and looked at the "Chorus 1" section, and discovered there was something in there that requires further explanation.  Let's check it out: 

The Chorus and Inversions

The first six measures are pretty straightforward, no huge surprises here: 

The Chorus starts with the "4" chord, so in the key of D Major, this is a G Major chord.  This G Major also lasts through the first three beats of the second measure. The last beat of the second measure is a "5" chord, so in the key of D Major, this is an A Major chord, and from the rhythmic notation above this measure, we are told that we play this chord for the SPECIFIC duration of one quarter note.  

In the third measure of the Chorus, we are going to play a "6-" chord, which in the key of D Major is a B Minor chord. The B Minor lasts for the whole measure. The fourth measure returns to the "5" chord, or the A Major, for the first three beats, followed by the "1" Chord, or, D Major (obviously) for the SPECIFIC duration of one quarter note. 

The fifth and sixth measure are easy, two bars of "4",  or G Major again. The seventh measure contains the chord that demands explanation. The first two beats are simple--the "1" chord, or D Major again. The last two beats of this chord look like a fraction: "5/7." This is called a "split" chord, and the way you say the name of this chord in Nashville is "Five split Seven." So what does that mean? To answer that, we have to talk about Chord Inversions. 

Inversions

Normally, when we write out chords on the staff for theory purposes, we write them in a form that is called "Close Voiced Root Position." This means that the notes of the chord are stacked on top of each other in order with the root, that is, the note that the chord is named after,  on the bottom.  In the key of C, from low to high, this would be spelled C E G or Numerically, 1 3 5.  There are two other ways to organize these notes, in a close way. if you simply move the bottom note up an octave, the spelling of the chord becomes E G C, or numerically 3 5 1. This chord is said to be a "1st Inversion Close Voiced C Major Chord." If you take this 1st Inversion C Major chord, and again take the note on the bottom and move it up an octave, the spelling of the chord becomes G C E, or numerically, 5 1 3. This chord, with the 5 on the bottom , is said to be a "2nd Inversion Close Voiced C Major Chord." Here's how the three different inversions of a C Major chord look in the Staff: 


In the Nashville Number System, the chord is assumed to have its root in the bass, unless otherwise notated...and the way they notate that is with "Split Notation."  So here are the chords again, this time with their Nashville Number System Notation: 


 So the "1" is assumed to have its root in the bass. "1/3" is a "1" chord with the "3" of the scale (in this case "E") in the bass. "1/5" is a "1" chord with the "5" note of the scale in the bass. Pretty simple, right? 

Let's move on to the chord and inversion in question in this particular chart. Since there are also 3 notes in the "5" chord, there are also 3 ways to spell it.  If we spell the Close Voiced Root Position 5 Chord in the key of C, it is a G Major spelled G B D, or numerically, 5 7 2. When the root of this chord is moved up an octave, we get a 1st Inversion Close Voiced 5 Chord, spelled B D G, or numerically,  7 2 5. When that 1st Inversions lowest note is also moved up an octave, we get a 2nd Inversion Close Voiced 5 Chord, spelled D G B , or numerically, 2 5 7.  Here's how they all look in the staff, relative to the key of C Major:


So in the Notation of the Nashville Number System, these inversions look like this:


So a "5" chord is assumed to have its root in the bass, the "5/7" chord is a "5" chord with the "7" of the KEY (in this case the key of C major). So the 7th note of C Major is "B." Therefore, the "5/7" chord in the key of C is a G chord with a "B" in the bass. Similarly, the "5/2" is a 5 chord in the key of C, or G Major,  with the "2" of the Key, or "D" in the Bass. 

Let's apply this to the chart:

Since our example chart is in the key of D, the "5/7" is the "5" chord, or A Major, with the 7th note of the KEY, or C# in the bass, so a "5/7" chord is a 1st inversion A Major chord. Mystery Chord Demystified.... albeit in a long-winded way. 

So in this case, the seventh and eighth measures, when translated from Nashville Number System to normal chord notation, becomes this:

D  A/C# Bm A

...and the rest of the Chorus is pretty straightforward. Try it. Try it in Bb. Try it in A. Try it in G. 

Next week, we'll wrap it up and go over some more examples of how the Number System handles things like Stop Time and more specific rhythms. 

This Week

I apologize for posting this late,  but my son had to get 3 stitches in his foot last night because he stepped on some glass....yikes!

Still working on the recording project, got vocals recorded this week, just have a bunch of editing to do. 

Just got an awesomely MESSED up Gibson LG-01 from the 50's, for  75 bucks....now I have a new extra time consuming project!!

Not much listening again. 

See ya next week...

Again, please go to jodiann.bandcamp.com and download Jodi Ann's latest album "A Brief Moment In Time."  

Write somethin, will ya?


.....still no guesses about what this tune is? 

heh

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Music Theory: Part 3

Hey there seven followers (and stealthier types)!

I hope all is well with you.

I think this week we'll get to the point, finally!

Last week, we went over the construction of chords and the four basic types of triads. To quickly review:

1. Triads are built from two stacked thirds.

2. The Four basic triads are Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented.

3. A Major Triad is built by stacking a Minor Third on top of a Major Third.

4. A Minor Triad is built by stacking a Major Third on to of a Minor Third.

5. A Diminished Triad is built by stacking Minor Third on top of a Minor Third.

6. An Augmented Triad is built by stacking a Major Third on top of a Major Third.

Harmonizing the Major Scale

If we were to take our old familiar C Major Scale:





...and build triads based in each degree of the scale, here's what we get:






In the above graphic, triads with an "M" above them are Major, triads with an "m" above them are Minor, and the lone triad with a "D"  above it is diminished. Explicitly, these triads are as follows: C Major, D Minor, E Minor, F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Diminished, and then C Major again.

So, you may be asking yourself, why isn't the triad based on D a Major triad?

The answer is that we are constraining ourselves to notes only found in a C Major Scale. When you build  a triad on the second degree of the C Major Scale,  you have the notes D F A. From the previous blog posts in this series, you will recognize that the interval from D to F is a MINOR Third, that is, one and one-half steps. The interval from F to A is a MAJOR Third, or two whole steps. When a Major Third is stacked on top of a Minor Third, a MINOR triad is constructed:






When we analyze all the rest of the triads in the harmonized major scale, we notice similar things. I'll leave you to do that for yourself for E through A, they are either major or minor.  For the triad built on B, we have a MINOR Third (F-D) stacked upon another MINOR Third (B-D): a Diminished Triad.

The Beginnings of the Number System

For centuries, Composers of Western music have attempted to define the sound of the Harmonized Major Scale by creating a numerical shorthand. They basically took the NUMBER of the degree of the scale upon which the chord was built, and paired that number with the QUALITY of the triad built upon it. In order to make this as easy as possible, they used CAPITAL Roman Numerals to represent the MAJOR triads, and LOWER CASE Roman Numerals to represent the MINOR triads.

Like This:






You notice the odd man out: the B Diminished Triad has the "vii" lower case Roman Numeral symbol, with a small "o" to signify the DIMINISHED quality.

The cool thing about this method of  notation is that transposition becomes easy, as long as you are intimately familiar with the Major Scale.

Here's what I mean: as long as you have memorized the notes at every degree of the major scale, in all twelve keys, you are able to tell that the progression I vi ii V I goes like this in the following keys:

C: C  Am  Dm  G  C

Bb: Bb  Gm  Cm  F  Bb

F#: F#  D#m  G#m  C#  F#

This ease of transposition is what made session players in Nashville simplify this old classical shorthand and modify it to suit their unique needs.

So here goes:

The Nashville Number System

So Nashville session musicians use the same Numerical VALUES, but they use the ARABIC Numerals that we all use on a daily basis to notate the values. Also, they thought that is was easier to assume that the chord was Major, unless explicitly defined. That means that in the key of C, using the NNS, 1 is C Major, 2 is D Major, 3 is E Major, and so on, unless the chord is designated 3min, or 3-...then the chord, in C major, would be E Minor.

So the same I vi ii V I progression from above looks like this in the Nashville Number System:

1 6- 2- 5 1

Those are really the basics, let's see they look in a practical application:

Check out this chart:

Let's examine it piece by piece. 

First, look at the upper right hand corner. In this chart, the upper right hand corner is telling us that  the song is in the key of D and that the tempo is 90BPM. If there is no time signature designation, it is assumed that we are in 4/4 time. Notice that the sections have been clearly labeled. For now, let's confine ourselves to the Intro and Verse 1. 

Intro

You only see two numbers in the intro, 1 and 4. In the Key of D Major, 1 would be a D Major Chord, an 4 would be a G Major Chord. In the Nashville Number System, the DURATION of the chord is assumed to be one entire measure, unless otherwise notated.  So there we have it: one bar of D, one bar of G. So what about the ACTUAL RHYTHMIC FIGURE that this player is going to be playing?....well....that's up to the player....and that's kind of the beauty of the Nashville Number System: the player is allowed the freedom to create their own part, as long as it is within the constraints of the chart.

Verse 1

For Verse 1, we are introduced to a few new things. The chords are fairly straightforward, in the Key of D we have 1 (D Major), 6- (B Minor), 5 (A Major), and 4 (G Major).  This section of the chart answers the question, "What happens if there is more than one chord in a measure?' This chart handles it this way: if there is more than one chord in a measure, that measure is bracketed by vertical bar lines : |. 
Normally, if no specific rhythm is notated, is is assumed that, in 4/4, we are dividing the bar in half equally, so if there are two chords in the bar, we're talking two beats per chord. In the fourth bar of our example, however, we are given some rhythmic cues. Notice the slash notation above the fourth bar: we are given 3 slashes with no flags, followed by a flagged slash. This means that for the first three beats of this measure, you play the 4 chord (G Major), with whatever rhythm you're feeling, until the fourth beat, at which point, we play the 5 chord (A Major) with the SPECIFIC RHYTHM of  a quarter note. 

One more thing about the first verse: there are repeat brackets around the first six bars of the verse. Naturally, you would repeat these bars before moving on to the last two bars. 

Try it. Try to play the intro and the first verse in the designated key, then try to play it in Bb Major. 

We'll  get through the next few pieces of this chart next week. Feel free to look over it, try to play it in various keys, but be mindful that there are a few "Gotcha" moments that I will explain in detail next time. 

Bonus Points if you can figure out what song this is...it's a release by a major country recording artist. 

This Week

This week, I've been recording guitars, trying to finish a song, new weird G4 Mac, that I installed Debian on....now if I could just get that pesky WiFi to work....and it's really difficult to find a modern browser that works on the PPC architecture...

Again, you need to buy Jodi Ann's latest release "A Brief Moment In Time." Download it here: jodiann.bandcamp.com or get the physical CD from me, by commenting here!

I think  podcast is immanent, I just have a few things to worry about before that...like trying to eat, and feed my family and stuff like that, but stay tuned!

Graphics by GIMP

Notation by MuseScore


Not much listening this week, unfortunately.

Write something will ya?







Sunday, September 4, 2011

Music Theory: Part 2

Hey there SEVEN followers!

Hope all went well last week.  Where was I?

Oh yeah...we just got through learning how to construct the Major Scale, and we're about to get into intervals and chords.

Here goes:

Intervals

When we build our Major Scale, each step of the scale has a particular name, and over the last 400 years or so, we have sort of arrived at a naming convention that is closely tied to the sound of this scale. Each step of this particular scale is named a MAJOR or PERFECT something.

In order, they go like this: Perfect Unison (the identical note played at the same time), Major Second, Major Third, Perfect Fourth, Perfect Fifth, Major Sixth, Major Seventh, Perfect Octave.

The thing about intervals is that they can be played MELODICALLY, that is, one tone after the other; or HARMONICALLY, both tones played simultaneously.

Here is what the intervals of the major scale look like when played Harmonically in the staff:



All these intervals have specific definitions, in terms of space between the notes. A Major Second, as an example, is defined as being an interval separated by one whole step, or two semi-tones. So, by definition, the note D is one whole step away from the note C. Another way to say that is to say that
D is a Major Second away from C. ANYTHING that is two semi-tones away from a particular note is said to be a Major Second away.

Here are some examples of Major Seconds based on several different notes:



Similarly, Major Thirds have a specific definition. Major Thirds are two notes separated by two whole steps, or four semi-tones. Here are a few examples of Major Thirds:



I won't bore you with the definitions of all the other major intervals, but I will refer you to wikipedia, as it is an excellent reference for all kinds of musical terms. Start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_interval

All of these base intervals can be manipulated in several ways, making the interval sound different and be called something different.

For example, any of the intervals, labelled "Major" can be flattened by one-half step, making them "Minor" and changing their sound accordingly. So, if you take a Major Second and lower it by a half-step, you get a Minor Second:

If you take a Major Third and lower it by a half-step, you get a Minor Third:



The "Perfect" intervals can also be manipulated. Each of the Perfect Intervals can be flattened by one half-step, causing them to be called "Diminished." Or you can sharpen the Perfect intervals, causing them to be called "Augmented."

Triads

For lots of reasons, Western Music and Western Harmony have evolved to use Triads as their basic building blocks. Basically, a triad is two Thirds stacked on top of each other. This means that there are four possibilities for stacking Thirds:

1. You can have a Major Third on the bottom, with a Minor Third stacked on top, Like this:

...and for reasons that are not altogether clear, we have come to label this type of triad a "Major Triad" or a "Major Chord."

2. You can have a Minor Third on the bottom, with a Major Third stacked on top, Like this:

...and for reasons that are not altogether clear, we have come to label this type of triad a "Minor Triad" or a "Minor Chord."

3. You can have a Minor Third on the bottom, with a Minor Third stacked on top, Like this:

...and for reasons that are slightly clearer, we have come to label this type of triad a "Diminished Triad."

4. You can have a Major Third on the bottom, with a Major Third stacked on top, Like this:

...and for reasons that are slightly clearer, we have come to label this type of triad an "Augmented Triad."  

...And I think we'll stop there for this week...seems like a good place.

Next week, we'll actually get to the point of all this: the harmonization of the major scale and the Nashville Number System.

This Week:


I have been working on the production project and some new songs.

spotify.com

kentblazy.com

gretchenpeters.com

briannutter.com
...seriously, download "Red Sundress" it'll either inspire you or make you give up...

Podcast on the horizon...stay tuned....






How does it sound now?

Write something, will ya?

See ya next week!




Monday, August 29, 2011

Music Theory: An Introduction

Hey SIX followers!

Hope you're doing well this week.

This week, we're going to start a basic theory series, hopefully, at the end of this series, we will understand how the Nashville Number System. In order to learn about the Number System, you are assumed to have a basic knowledge of the mechanics of music theory. If you already know this stuff, just bear with me this week, so we can have a common foundation from which to build. So let's start from the beginning, shall we?

The Staff

In order know about theory, we need to know about the way music has been written and thought about for about the last 400 years. Music is written on a staff of five lines and four spaces, usually with one of three clefs. Since I am a guitar player, I will speak about the "G" Clef, or "Treble Clef."

The G Clef is so called because the circular flourish at the end of the Clef Symbol surrounds the second line, which is where the note "G" is located. It looks like this:



If G is on the second line, the notes fall on the lines of the staff like this:








Usually people use some kind of mnemonic device to remember these when they are first using them, like "Every Good Boy Does Fine" or "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge."

If those are the lines on the treble clef, the spaces look like this:









It's pretty easy to remember these notes, as they spell "FACE" from bottom to top.

These are all the natural note names of all the positions on the staff. Usually, though, composers need to extend the staff to positions outside the range of the staff. For this, they use "Ledger Lines."

Here are some examples of ledger lines that are being used to place notes beyond the range of the staff:








Accidentals

Also, if you know much about music, you know that there are not only seven notes in any octave, there are twelve. The notes shown above represent "natural" notes, that is, notes that have no "accidentals" or sharps and flats in front of them.  A flat, which looks vaguely like a lower case "b," lowers a note by one half step, while  a sharp, which looks like a "pound" sign ( #)  raises a note one half step.

The Major Scale

Ok. Composers noticed that when you played the noted of the staff from low to high, it sounded a certain way. This is an arrangement called a "scale" and for about 400 years, this has been the basic building block of all western music. The scale used most in western music is called the major scale, and it is always arranged in a certain way. Here is a major scale built off of C:






When you play this scale, you should recognize the familiar " Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do"  sound. This scale sounds that way because of the arrangement of the whole and half steps between each note. When we examine the arrangement of the whole and half steps between each degree of the scale, here is what we get:






So: whole step between C and D, whole step between D and E, half step between E and F, whole step between F and G, whole step between G and A, whole step between A and B, and half step between B and C.

With this formula, we can build a major scale off of any note, like A-flat:








...and I think that may be enough for this week, Next time, we'll talk about intervals, and triads, most likely.

This Week:

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

The 4 Hour Work Week

buildyourcnc.com

hackerconsortium.com

brianstephens.com

stevemoakler.com

Still working on the production project, got a cool new song in the works....

Remember,  you can still get her latest album, "A Brief Moment In Time" by downloading it from

jodiann.bandcamp.com or, if you prefer a physical CD, and all of its inherent rights, you can email her at: jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com.


Have fun!

Write Something, will ya?





Monday, August 22, 2011

Random Thoughts

Hey all!

I hope the last week treated you well.

This week is just going to be a sort of clearing of my mind of  all the disparate thoughts about songwriting that have been accumulating as of late.

The first among them is this: are we at the beginning of an era in which songwriting becomes something like poetry. That is, something with which you can't really make a decent living. You remember my previous post about the Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser? Mr. Kooser made it absolutely clear that you need to write poetry to WRITE POETRY, with no expectation of being able to support yourself writing poems. I think we might be at that same place with songwriting.

The overwhelming majority of us are going to be writing songs for no reward other than the advancement of your own skill set.

That being said, unlike the majority of  poetry, songs do not exist in a vacuum.  For there to be a song, an audience is kind of a requirement. Writing songs for yourself is a sort of empty exercise. Unlike most poetry (obvious exceptions are poetry slams and their relatives), songwriting is expected to be a PERFORMANCE art. So, if you're a songwriter and reading this blog, you should be finding someplace to play. If there are no open mic nights where you live, MAKE ONE! Create your own community. Create your own opportunities. People need to hear your songs. New people. Not just your friends and family.

I guess that's the theme--make your opportunity. I've been reading, or rather, listening to The Four Hour Workweek, so I've been thinking about how I can make songwriting a viable and money making enterprise, so I've been thinking of ways to make my own community...ugh...that sounds like a Jim Jones kind of a thing...have no fear...I'm just trying to think of ways to get critiques without having to PAY some ORGANIZATION to do it.  The community I'm wanting to emulate is the Nashville Songwriting community of the early and middle 1970's.  In that community you had Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Townes VanZandt, Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Steve Young, and more. They would play songs for each other, and they would critique each other, and basically bring up the total quality of the aggregate. That's the kind of community I want to have. It seems like in recent years, NSAI, TSAI, and the Songwriter's Guild have taken the place of that kind of community. It's sad in a way, but I really want to cultivate a community that values good songs and camaraderie without having to pay dues, or pay for song critiques.....

Ok. That's enough ranting. I've noticed that I have been focusing on lyric writing lately, so I think I'll do a series in the coming weeks on basic music theory as it relates to songwriting, with a discussion somewhere in there about the Nashville Number System.

This Week:

This week I finished my song for this local contest, and it should be in the player in the upper right hand corner. It's called "On My Way Back." We'll see.

Also, I (sort of ) finished my super cheap telecaster body. It looks like this:




...more of an Esquire, really....but it sounds GOOD! (and that's the neck from my other Telecaster BTW, so it really needs one...and a pickguard...and a jack cup...donate please ;-)

Also, congrats to Jodi Ann for achieving her Sell-A-Band goal! WooHoo!

Remember,  you can still bet her latest album, "A Brief Moment In Time" by downloading it from
jodiann.bandcamp.com or, if you prefer a physical CD, and all of its inherent rights, you can email her at: jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com.

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you!




Measuring is for children!

Have a good week! Write something, will ya?




Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Case For Imperfect Rhyme

Hey there 5 followers!

Hope all is well with you.

This week, I've been reading more of Jimmy Webb's book on songwriting, Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting. I'm reading it slowly and carefully, because I figure the guy who wrote "The Highwayman" has a lot of stuff to teach me. In my third week, I have reached chapter 3 (I told you I was reading slow).  Chapter 3 is titled "It's Only Words," and he walks us through the Jimmy Webb process for crafting a lyric.

He starts with how he decides on a title that's worth writing about. Then he moves to a discussion of  how he chooses a theme that best illustrates the sentiment of the title. In short order, he enters into a narrative about the different types of rhyming dictionaries and how to use them. Not long after that, in my opinion, he jumps the shark and starts into a section where he calls the imperfect rhyme a "mistake" and goes on to analyze some of the songs he has written, that in his estimation contain "mistakes." Apparently, Mr. Webb thinks imperfect rhymes are lazy and base, and he considers those that rigidly adhere to perfect rhymes to be  True Artists.

I disagree. I'd like to outline why I think imperfect rhymes are perfectly legitimate, and why Jimmy Webb should lighten up.

The Definition of Rhyme

While most dictionaries would define "rhyme" as words that share the same ending sounds, I would define rhyme a little less strictly. I'd say that two words rhyme if their final vowel sound is the same.
This is where we get into tricky territory. Mr. Webb contends that his rhyme
I love you more than want you
and I want you for all time
and  the Wichita Lineman
is still on the line
   ...is a mistake, because he should have come up with a perfect rhyme for "line."

I would argue that it does rhyme, for the following reasons:

1. The words "time" and "line" share the long "i" vowel sound
2. The final consonant sound in each of these words belongs to the "Voiced Nasal Consonant" family of articulation.

I would say that because the vowel sound is the same, and that the ending consonant sound is closely related, they create the impression of a rhyme in the listener....and that's the POINT.  You want the words to have the FUNCTION of a rhyme, even if they do not strictly adhere to an archaic definition.

In the same chapter, Mr. Webb rightly tells us to avoid cliche rhymes like the plague, a sentiment I agree with. If we must adhere to his rigid rhyming guidelines, how are we ever going to rhyme "heart" without landing on a cliche?

According to Mr. Webb, this line from Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet would be frowned upon:
It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
So, I guess because the perfect rhymes for the word "heart" have been used so much,  "heart" is off-limits to serious songwriters for the duration of the life of the universe.

NO! I think most people writing songs today, and making money doing it, are using imperfect rhymes all the time to make their songs better and to avoid the dreaded cliche rhymes.

Rhyming As Cadence

There are other, more calculating reasons to use perfect and imperfect rhymes to advance an over arching feeling in your song.

Perfect rhymes can be used to emphasize a feeling stability, "landing on your feet," if you will.

But sometimes, at the end of a phrase, you don't want the feeling to be stable, you want instability to reign. This is the place for the imperfect rhyme. and the less perfect the rhyme, the more unstable the feeling.

Observe:

The sky was rolling, turning black
you kept the driver from turning back

or

The sky was rolling, turning black
the waves were crashing on the deck

The perfect rhyme seems more stable to me...the imperfect rhyme seems to magnify the anxiety in the situation.

Try it, see if you can use perfect and imperfect rhyme with INTENT to give the right feelings of stability  and instability to your songs.

This Week:

Harry Nilsson
Jimmy Webb
David Wilcox

Also still in the midst of the new recording project!

You should really buy Jodi Ann's latest album, "A Brief Moment in Time." I co-produced, edited, arranged, mixed, and played all the instruments. You can download the digital version here: jodiann.bandcamp.com, or you can email her to purchase a physical cd:
jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com.

....oh, and there's this:



....you could donate so I can afford a neck! ;-)


Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Weirdness of DIY

Hey there 5 followers! Hopefully this post finds you well.

This week, I'm going to ramble on about what the DIY revolution means to music publishing and songwriting.

As traditional publishing gets weirder and tries to retain their "members only" mentality, the Do-It-Yourself path becomes a more and more viable option for the contemporary songwriter...it is not without its dark side, however.

What Traditional Gatekeepers Did


Before computer recording was ubiquitous, if the songwriter wanted to get a professional-sounding recording of their song, they needed to lay down a fairly sizable chunk of cash at their local recording studio. This was a rather high hourly rate that would pay for the tracking room, the audio engineer, the tape and the musicians. To ensure that they would not waste the studio's time or their money, the songwriter, ideally, would have thought about the arrangement, made accurate chord charts, and have attended a few rehearsals to run through the song with the musicians. If you were trying to do ANY of those things during the recording session, you were lighting money on fire.

So there were some barriers to entry for even being able to book the session: you needed to have the song written, arranged, charted and rehearsed, and you had to have the cash to book the session.

Usually, before it got to this point, you would have first played the song for your family and friends (who of course loved it, because they wanted to be supportive, while keeping their TRUE opinions to themselves) and hopefully, you would have played the song for complete strangers and had a good enough response to justify the studio expense.

If you were in one of the "Major Songwriting Markets," it was a little different. Normally you would try to get a meeting with a music publishing company to get some HONEST, professional feedback on the new "Hotel California" you've just written.

If you weren't that great, and you still needed to learn about the craft of writing songs that they might be interested in someday, they would tell you to join NSAI or the Songwriter's Guild, or some other organization that could help you to learn what publishers were actually looking for in songs.

If you showed a glimmer of hope, like maybe you understood how songwriting was supposed to work, but you hadn't written enough songs yet, they would refer you to a performing rights society like BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC, and tell you to go talk to the songwriting liaison there.

If you had written a song that was head and shoulders above everything they had heard in the last week or two, they would offer you a single-song contract and continue your relationship professionally. At this point, they would either record a demo to play for producers and artists, or start pitching the song directly.

So all of those are Gate Keepers. Their job is to weed out the people who aren't ready and only let the obviously talented through to the next step.

There are obvious benefits to doing things this way:

First, you eliminate the junk that is 95% of people trying to make music.

Second, you have a tiered, ladder-style system that can allow the untalented to develop their craft.

Third,  songwriters can focus on the thing they SHOULD be focusing on: SONGWRITING. They do not need to be concerned with recording equipment or techniques of mic placement and such. They are able to devote themselves with limited distraction to their craft, and become better by WRITING GOOD SONGS.

But there are also problems. Chief among them is that corporate executive-types become the arbiters of cultural taste. I don't really want business people deciding that "good" is equivalent to "sell-able."

Also, it is entirely possible to discourage those that need encouragement and encourage those that need discouragement....so to speak.

The Do-It-Yourself Revolution

Computers have changed everything about music publishing, except in the rarefied air of major-label recording contracts. Now you can buy recording software for about the same price as it used to cost us to record in a nice recording studio for a few hours. Instead of jumping through the hoops of trying to land a publishing deal or a recording contract, you can spend some time recording in your bedroom and immediately upload your song, EP or "Album" (for lack of a better word) to iTunes.

Legitimately talented artists that are a little too avant-garde  for the mainstream record labels can find an audience directly through small tours and nicely designed websites.

But has all this new found freedom come at a cost? While I admit, there has never been a time in the history of the world when it has been easier to self-publish your own music, I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. True, there is more music than ever available for us to consume, but at the same time, it also means that there has never before been as much terrible music to wade through.

And while in the former music business model, the artist was able to concentrate on being an artist, now the creative personality-type has to wear many more hats. Just to compete with the status quo, the independent musician must be the producer, engineer, manager, and booking agent all at the same time. Before, there were people whose job it was to be an Audio Engineer and that was their focus, to make instruments and voices sound good as an aggregate. Now those who can make their living as a dedicated Audio Engineer are becoming fewer and farther between. Same with producers, managers and agents.

In order to be successful, you are going to have to separate yourself from the chaff. So how are you going to rise above the 98% of the junk that is out there?

Here's what I propose: start a songwriting community in your area. get together once a week with other songwriters and critique each other's latest songs. Be nice, but don't pull your punches either. Then write and write and write.  Keep improving your craft...focus on writing. Learn what good songs are. Improve your understanding with every song.  After you've done that for a while, only record and distribute the ones that are GREAT.

This Week: 

I've been trying to figure out what to do with my positive song...I think I need to re-record it at a faster tempo and do a quick re-write to get it closer to what I actually mean...not much time, though, I've got to get it in by the 20th or something.

Kris Kristofferson
Guy Clark 
Darrell Scott
Jeff Black

I've also been producing, engineering and playing instruments on a new 5 song recording project!

Stay tuned!

...and if you don't have it yet, you should really buy Jodi Ann's latest album, "A Brief Moment in Time." I co-produced, edited, arranged, mixed, and played all the instruments. You can download the digital version here:jodiann.bandcamp.com, or you can email her to purchase a physical cd:
jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com.





...Masonite Telecaster?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Fiction Writers Can Teach Us About Songwriting

Hey there 5 followers (and Others)! I hope this post finds you well.


Recently, I came across the audio of science fiction author Cory Doctorow interviewing fellow science fiction author William Gibson.   In fact, you can listen or download the audio from that talk here. At the end of this talk, they open up the floor to questions from the audience. Predictably, someone asks the obligatory "What is your advice for writers that are just starting out?" question. Here's what Gibson says:

Well, I mean, I always go back to this totally annoying advice that Robert A. Heinlein gave, which I still think is the best advice for young writers, and it's that, you know, you have to write, you have to finish what you write, you have to submit what you write for publication. While you're waiting for it to be rejected, you have to write something else. And, you know, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. If you don't keep doing that over and over, nothing will happen.

I thought that was brilliant, so I scoured the web looking for the actual rules that Heinlein wrote, and here they are:

Robert A. Heinlein's Rules For Writing:

You Must Write

Yep. I guess there's no way around it. If you want to be a writer of any kind, you have to write. I guess I would say that you can't be merely interested in writing, you have to be DISCIPLINED about it. You have to make distraction-free writing your priority. 
You Must Finish What You Write
It's probably not a song until it's finished. How are you going to play it for anyone unless it is finished? Work on it until it is finished. Again with the discipline.
You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except To Editorial Order

Obviously, I vehemently disagree with this one. I feel that in songwriting specifically, rewriting is what makes the song HAPPEN. I've read commentaries on this particular rule, and they all agree that, a) Heinlein rewrote all the time, and that, b) he was probably talking about INCESSANT rewriters that rewrote and rewrote, never believing their novel to be good enough. I can understand that. Sometimes I have problems calling something finished when there are still things that bother me about it.
You Must Put The Work On The Market

We can tell from our modern vantage point, that Heinlein is in the realm of "Traditional Publishing" from this statement. He's talking about sending your manuscript off to publishers with the hope of landing a publishing deal. I think this is still a way to go, but it may not be for much longer. The analogue in the songwriting universe, is much the same: land publishing meetings so you can play several songs for them, with the hope of landing one of the 7 types of publishing deals.
 You Must Keep The Work On The Market Until It Is Sold
Then you collect mountains, great large heaps of rejection letters, until someone finally "gets it" or is tired of being annoyed by your manuscripts littering their mailbox, at which point they offer you a publishing deal. In songwriting, I don't think it works so much like this. It's more like this: the publisher, during those meetings, will most likely hear something in what you wrote that they think is close to something they can sell. They will offer you re-write suggestions and send you on your way.  Then it will be up to you: do you rewrite it to please the publisher, or do you shop it unchanged to other publishers? Maybe both...anyway, you keep working until it is sold. 
...and though not in Heinlein's original list of rules, most people, including me,  agree with Robert J. Sawyer's amendment: 

Start Working On Something Else
This one can sometimes feel like juggling, trying to keep as many balls in the air as you can. After you consider your song "done," get on to the next one. Keep up the discipline. Don't give up. Keep moving forward.

This Week: 


Still working on my "positive song." I have the form together, and a couple of scratch verses that I feel require a kind of heavy rewrite in order for the verses to "lock in" to the sentiment of the chorus. I recorded the whole song, but upon extensive listening, I feel the tempo needs to be a little faster...back to the drawing board.

David Wilcox
The Amazing Rhythm Aces
Gary Nicholson
The Bridge
Darrell Scott
Kent Blazy

The Black Company

I Should Be Writing


...I think I'm gonna start a podcast....but who would listen?


See ya next week.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hell on Earth

Hey there 5 followers!

This week I started re-reading Jimmy Webb's book, TuneSmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting. Here's what he has to say about the difference between professional songwriters and hobbyists:
So what is the primary factor that separates the rejected amateur songwriter from the accepted professional? Probably this: Most amateurs do not regard the writing of songs as serious hard work. Indeed, there are members of my family who believe that worrisome character flaws and much personal ruin have evolved from the fact that I've never had a real job. In reality, however, songwriting is Hell on Earth. If it isn't, you're doing it wrong. 
I get what Mr, Webb is trying to say, that most people think songwriting is easy and believe it's not a big deal to put pen to paper and in an afternoon's writing session, come out with something that's not bad. His point, I believe, is that it almost NEVER happens that way. Making an effective song, not to mention one that has what it takes to become a "hit," requires wading chest deep into the refining and rewriting process, which at times, can make a root canal seem like blessed relief.

Even in my fair city, the capital of songwriting, there are people that think they will get cuts by writing songs that are "just fine the way they are." There are still people that believe that songwriting is easy, and that inspiration is enough to build song out of. So yes, they are hobbyists trying this "songwriting" thing out to see if they can cash in quickly...and then there are the rest of us.

We are song geeks. We are obsessed with well-written songs. We hold ourselves to an extremely high standard. We don't let ourselves use cliche rhymes, we rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. We write songs because we are always thinking about them, because we can't stop.

But Hell on Earth? Really? I remember an NPR interview with Randy Newman, where he said something along these lines (I'm paraphrasing from a rusty memory, so take it for what it is): "You know, it's real easy for people in the entertainment industry to whine about how difficult their jobs are, but let's face it: it beats laying pipe."

I think it's sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. There are some people who can walk right past a half-finished jigsaw puzzle that's laying there on the dining room table and never give it a second thought the whole rest of the day. Then there are those that walk into the dining room, look at the puzzle, pick up a few pieces, try to fit them in, maybe even put some of the puzzle together, but they reach a point when they reach their frustration threshold, and they walk away, claiming to have done "enough." Finally, there are those that, upon seeing the puzzle laying there in the table, will not get up until it is finished, or they pass out from exhaustion.

So would jigsaw puzzle people say that being obsessed with finishing a jigsaw puzzle is Hell on Earth? I doubt it. Probably most people would say that because both songwriting and jigsaw puzzle solving are voluntary acts they cannot be Hell on Earth. Whereas, to use Randy Newman's example, there are probably very few people who have an obsession with laying pipe (insert your own joke here). Most people who find themselves doing that job are doing it because they HAVE to (read: because an outside force is MAKING them: an ecomonic force, a matrimonial force, the force of obligation), making it exponentially closer to Hell on Earth.

So to Jimmy Webb, I say, "Relax!!!! You are one of the few to have a career in songwriting!" It may be brain-straining, mentally challenging, frustrating work, but it isn't Hell on Earth.

Write songs because you are internally driven to do so. Not because you think you should, or think you can.

This Week:


I finished my new song!  It's probably playing right now! It's called "Checkin' Out." If it isn't playing, click on it in the player at the upper right-hand corner of your screen! Let me know what you think. Both of you.

I'm also having problem with Google right now, as they have pulled my AdSense Account and refunded all of their advertisers their money. Apparently you aren't allowed to tell people to click on their ads...a fact which you will not find explicitly stated in their user agreement. From perusing the complaints Google has received about this, it looks remarkably like they are using the "guilty until proven innocent" philosophy...just like the Chinese Government they fight so heavily against. I guess to Google, freedom is fine as long as it helps and does not hurt our business model....So here's the deal: not only do I explicitly advise readers of this blog not to click on ANY Google AdSense text ads, EVER on ANY webpage they may visit, but I also encourage you to use a search engine that does not gather information about you so they can exploit your search history to try and sell you things, like duckduckgo.com. And watch this space for further changes, since blogger and blogspot are owned by Google, such as a migration of this blog to a WordPress domain. Stay tuned.

If you want to help me out, I guess the best way would be to donate using the Google(doh!) Checkout button underneath the music player (I like how they let you get signed up to Google Everything before they pull the terrible business practices).  But maybe I'll start sending out cds to those that donate, what do you think?

David Wilcox
Marc Cohn
Kris Kristofferson, still
James McMurtry
The Amazing Rhythm Aces
Todd Snider


...and if you don't have it yet, you should really buy Jodi Ann's latest album, "A Brief Moment in Time." I co-produced, edited, arranged, mixed, and played all the instruments. You can download the digital version here:jodiann.bandcamp.com, or you can email her to purchase a physical cd:
jodiannfanclub@yahoo.com.





You repair guitars?