||The Muse's News
Issue 1.1 - April 1998
In This Issue:
ISSN 1480-6975. Copyright 1998 - Jodi Krangle. For more info about placing ads,
send an inquiry.
Sponsored in part by Samurai Consulting. To set up a mailing list or for UNIX consulting, please contact Bryan Fullerton (Owner) at email@example.com, or see their website at http://www.samurai.com/.
Also sponsored in part by Art Online: Featuring contests, digest, articles, and a gallery of online artists. Submit work or simply browse catagories ranging from poetry to sculpture.
Here we go - the second issue. Things seem to be moving right along. I'm very pleased to be able to include Rod's article and I think a lot of you might just relate to some of his insights.
This edition's Songwriter in Profile is singer/songwriter Sam Baardman. If you haven't heard his music, you really should pick up a copy of his new CD. His song "Hearts & Hands" is featured on The Muse's "Sample Songs" page at http://www.musesmuse.com/songhome.html#sam if you'd like a preview. And hey - he was great fun to interview. :) I hope you'll all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
As always, if you're interested in contributing to future issues of The Muse's News, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All articles should be no more than 400-600 words (though I will occassionally make exceptions) and all reviews of CD's or books should be no more than 200 words. If you'd like to pass on market information, place a classifieds or look into sponsoring, feel free to write to me at email@example.com.
Thanks again to all those who have contributed to this issue.
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Songwriting Book Reviews:
88 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right ThemBy Pat & Pete Luboff
Reviewed by Thomas Douglas
The craft of songwriting is a very vast subject. You may say to yourself "Hey, my songs are great, I don't need any help!" Oh yeah...Why are you still reading this?? The truth is if you want to be a world class songwriter, the path is a never ending study and fabulous books like this month's title are a sure winner to get you on your way. Likewise, if you are already an experienced songwriter this book is guaranteed to further your knowledge. I used to think I was a fairly prolific songwriter until I studied this book. What it led me to was an inner reflection and study of my techniques and writing processes. It has occurred to me since, that a great song can be performed by any quality singer and the original idea will still shine through a hit! The draw back of many artists such as myself is that I am writing songs that are only valid if I'm performing them. This is a great thing if that is all you are aiming for. But, if you want to make a career out of writing hit songs for top performers, or keep the possibility open that another star may cover your songs, you must master the technique. The first section of this humorous yet highly educational book deals with song structure and foundation. The great approach they use is a balance of "what not to do" followed up a solid dose of "what to do". Pete and Pat know what they are talking about. They have sat in the drivers seat as music publishers, music photo journalists, editors for Grammy Pulse, Songwriter Magazine as well as penning hit songs for Patti LaBelle (gold album) and Bobby Womack (#2 black single). Their musical rap sheet reads like a who's who in the songwriting world and is about as long as a guitar neck! The book goes on to cover every aspect of songwriting, wordcrafting, melodic content, collaboration agreements, demo do's and don'ts, pitching songs to the big boys, and getting your songs heard. There really isn't enough room or time to describe to you how this book is truly worth its weight in gold! If only once in your life you decide to purchase a book on furthering your music career...This better be the one!"
Tommy Merry fronts the instrumental guitar band "Tommy and The Stompers". He is the creative director of Bayscene Magazine (www.bayscene.com) and is dedicated to the "Musicians supporting Musicians" cause.
HotTips for the Home Recording Studio By Hank Linderman
Reviewed by Rick Paul
This is probably not the be all, end all book in recording, but packs a good deal of valuable advice (including some that helped me unlearn some bad habits I'd learned from a more popular book on the subject which was mentioned in the original poster's list), and is written in a manner that helps make it accessible, probably even to technophobes (though that's a bit hard to judge since I tend to be a techie myself). It is also very well organized to mirror the typical recording process, from preproduction to mixing.
Rick Paul is a songwriter based in Southern California. He specializes in writing country, pop/rock, and adult contemporary, while also writing in other genres. He is a member of the National Academy of Songwriters (NAS) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Rick participated in the NSAI Song Camp 101 workshop in Spring 1997. Rick also sings and plays piano and other keyboard instruments. To find out more, visit his web page .
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Musical Notes: Songwriting Contests & Market Information
1998 Newfolk Songwriting Competition
Information brochures have been sent. For further info, regularly check http://www.kerrville-music.com/kerrfest. Kerrville Music Festivals - E-mail
USA Songwriting Competition:
Join the 1998 USA Songriting competition! It is currently the LARGEST songwriting contest judged in the United States with prizes awarded in 14 different categories. This is a wonderful oppurtunity for Songwriters, Bands, Solo Artists to get discovered! This contest is sponsored by BMI, Guild Guitars, D'Addario Guitar Strings, Cakewalk Music Software,Musician's Friend, Superdups and ASN. For more information visit: http://www.tiac.net/users/asn/songcontest.html or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 1998 UNISONG International Song Contest is now open!
Created by Songwriters...For Songwriters, the UNISONG International Song Contest is a fantastic opportunity for songwriters and writer/artists around the world to have their songs heard, their careers enhanced and make a direct contribution back to the songwriting community and world at large...all at the same time. Over $30,000 USD in cash and prizes in 12 categories. Grand Prize Winner receives an all expenses paid trip to Cuba to participate in the 1998 MUSIC BRIDGE project, "Music Bridge...Over Troubled Waters." Check out our website for details on all the cool prizes and how to enter. http://www.unisong.com/muse
The Song Spree Songwriting Competition records and/or remasters its 20 winners on CD, then promotes them to publishers, labels, radio, etc.--including web promotion--at Spree's expense. Spree offers, but does not demand, publishing (with 2-year reversion) on CD songs, and all winning writers receive royalties for CDs sold. Some of Spree's winners have been signed with publishers, several have been invited to write with hit songwriters such as Rich Fagan, Micheal Smotherman and Robb Royer, many have been fully reviewed by major labels, and all have received airplay. While entering requires a modest fee, entrants are NOT charged for any aspect of promotion. Additionally, all entrants receive a free CD so they will know what judges deem to be winning songs. Spree slogans are: "Get Heard" and "We're no ordinary contest." http://home.earthlink.net/~spree/
GET AN EARLY START ON THE CHRIS AUSTIN SONGWRITING CONTEST
Sponsored by Interstate/Johnson Lane with Associate Sponsorships from D'addario, Acoustic Guitar, Gibson, Epiphone & the Songwriter's Market. In association with MerleFest. Have your songs heard by a panel of professional songwriters and other music industry professionals from the Nashville Music Community. For more information, drop by http://www.merlefest.org/SongwritingContest.htm . This year's competition deadline is already past, but next year's is just around the corner.
Brought to you by Billboard Magazine, Introducing Billboard Talent Net:The New Music Showcase
Billboard Talent Net is the music industry's premier online showcase for new artists in every genre. The dynamic, database-driven website represents unsigned and developing artists from around the world. Utilizing our proprietary and very powerful navigation features, users can search out, learn about, listen to (in Real Audio and .au formats), rank and contact new artists.
For Music Companies, such as Record Labels, Publishers, Artist Management and Booking Agents, this means tapping into tomorrow's potential mega-selling artists at the touch of the keyboard. Companies can also post their own artist listings to secure additional licensing, distribution or publishing deals or to increase their international exposure.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or drop by http://www.billboardtalentnet.com/welcome/
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Songwriter In Profile: Sam Baardman
What were your early musical influences? Did those influences inspire you to begin writing your own songs or did something else prompt you to do that?
My early musical influences were pretty typical of a kid growing up in the Seventies. I listened to absolutely everything I could get my hands on, from my brother's Black Sabbath albums to my sister's Carpenters albums. Everybody I played music with was eclectic to the point of it becoming kind of surreal. We didn't discriminate at all. When I was sixteen I bought a Les Paul because a bunch of us were playing a lot of Zeppelin. But that was when we weren't in the band room jamming on Chick Corea tunes, or sitting in bedrooms singing Dan Fogelberg songs, or singing harmony lines to the hymns in church on Sundays. We played anywhere and anything we could. I played polkas at the Polish Combatants Association, sang torch songs at the local legions, played disco, metal, and blues, in basements, school gyms, bedrooms, and hockey arenas. It was a heady and strange mix; to be wasted and churning out howling leads and power chords one day and the next to be charting guitar arrangements of "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" out of the Psalter Hymnal (because I liked it).
As I got older, of course, things settled down and the trajectory of my musical tastes became more obvious. I leaned towards anything that was lyrically strong and developed a preference for acoustic-oriented music. Bruce Cockburn was (and is) a tremendously important influence. I just discovered Ron Hynes (wow) and I've been listening to a lot of John Gorka, Michelle Shocked, Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, James Keelaghan, Ron Sexsmith, and folks like that.
Liking good songs and songwriters, of course, didn't necessarily make me want to write songs. The motivation for that, truthfully, is a bit of a mystery to me. I suppose I write as a kind of compulsion. If I wasn't writing poetry, stories or songs, I'd be painting, sculpting or wood-carving. So I guess, first, it's an obsession to be making something out of nothing. But, for me, it's also a means of responding to the world, to people, to issues and events. Writing songs is often about talking back. (Dylan's music is a lot like that; he often addresses others directly in his songs.)
In my songwriting, I also try to describe experience in a way that allows others to find it familiar and still be surprised by it. It's difficult to say how one accomplishes that, and I only rarely achieve it myself. But when I do, it's quite a rush.
(Now that gets me thinking. How _do_ songwriters do that?) I think that songwriters need to develop a heightened sense of how language can evoke multiple meanings. They need a good sense of irony. They need to let go of the logical, the linear, and learn to rely on the power of strongly suggestive images and evocative words, interwoven in a way that disrupts predictability. It means letting go of the commonplace and taking risks. I think that good songwriters love language as much as they love music or rhythm. I remember reading on a website a list of top ten "rules for songwriters" and the number one thing on the list was "No poetry!" My own rule would be "Know poetry!"
Can you describe your process a little? Do you need to be inspired by something or do you just sit down and tell yourself "I'm going to write a song now." What are some of the things that have inspired you?
As for my songwriting process, naturally it changes from song to song. I have scratch pads around me all the time and one by my bedside. I write snippets of stuff, most of which I never use --thoughts, images, poetry, rants. I also have a bunch of cassettes full of musical snippets that I record on a little walkman, again, most of which I never use. I'm terrified of losing something good.
When I'm alone, sometimes I'll pick up the guitar and start playing and mouthing kind of nonsense words. I'll be looking (or listening) for the _sound_ of something, words that have a rhythmic or aural quality that seems to fit what I'm doing with the instrument. After a while, some phrase will pop out that feels really musical. Often that's the key to getting a song started. What the words _mean_ is something that I don't really consider at first. In order to do this (sing nonsense words), I have to really let myself go. I have to lose my inhibitions, and that's not always easy, even when I'm alone. Once I get that first phrase, I typically free-associate to see what else it evokes. It helps if you think of things that are really concrete, tangible, sensual, palpable.
I don't usually start with an _idea_ for a song as much as with a nugget, a suggestion, a seed. I never sit down to write "a song about my aunt Martha." I just don't have those preconceived ideas. They never work for me. It also means that my songs are rarely narrative. My most successful pieces consist of sets of interrelated images, each building on the previous one, all held together (hopefully) by a central idea or image in the chorus.
As for what inspires songs, it's hard to tell. I know that latelyI've been writing less confessional, less intimate songs and concentrating more on songs about the world, about social issues or at least more broad-based experiences. At any rate, even when they're at their most intimate, I try to let my songs deal with big themes, things that resonate across the culture and rattle in people's minds and hearts.
It's also essential that I listen a lot to other artists, singers, songwriters, poets, etc. When I don't, my own songwriting dries up. And if I'm ever in a really bad dry spell, I'll put on some music that I really like and try to re-create the style of that artist, musically or lyrically. Classically, mimetics or imitation was considered one of the most effective ways of developing one's artistic expression. Too bad it's lost on us moderns.
As a songwriter/performer, you perform most of your own songs, right? Do you ever write songs for others to perform rather than yourself? And do you find when you write for other people that you write differently than when you write for yourself?
I've never written anything specifically for other people, but other people who like my songs have recorded them. The last person to record my stuff was a country artist, Sandy Stritz, who did a song of mine called "Every Little Piece." The original is a very moody, slow song in a minor key. She recorded it as an up-tempo country tune and changed all the choruses from Am to C major. It worked wonderfully. Now when I sing the tune, it feels like I'm doing a version of her song. I'm always flattered when I hear someone else do a song of mine. I like it best when I hear them doing something new with it, something that I hadn't thought of.
How do you keep your songs "original" - and do you think there's such a thing?
Originality is fool's gold. At least, in its popular sense it is. The mythology around the artistic process suggests that songwriters ought to be the very source of new and original material. After all, if we wrote just by selecting and arranging inherited forms, no one would call that "original." But of course, that is just what we do. My favourite expression of this is by Goethe, who wrote to a friend in 1832:
What am I then? What have I accomplished? . . . My works have been nourished by countless different individuals, by innocent and wise ones, people of intelligence and dunces. . . . I have often reaped what others have sowed. My work is the work of a collective being [Kollektivwesen] that bears the name of Goethe.
We are given pre-existing genres, language, musical structures, song formats, and, in a sense, we collaborate with everyone and everything we have ever heard. Who invented 12 bar blues? The real uniqueness comes in the way we adapt everything to our own purposes. As Goethe says, we do that "by means of the internal world which takes hold of, combines, creates anew, kneads everything and puts it down again in its own form and manner." Things become uniquely our own because we mix our own experience with that of others, our own reconstituted visions with what others have seen.
Ultimately, it comes down to two things. First, none of the tools we use to create (language, musical forms, etc.) is original to us. And second, in the act of expression, something is created that is totally unique in that moment, in that act.
Of course, none of this addresses the other side of the "originality" debate, which has to do with clichés and overused images and musical forms. After all, "ooh baby baby/oh you make me crazy" will always be hackneyed and worn (unless it's used ironically).
How I keep my own songs "original" and fresh? I think the answer is that I try to write in forms that I am very familiar with and have a deep musical understanding of. If you have only a passing acquaintance with, say, Celtic music, then likely you will only reproduce what is most stereotypical of the genre when you try to adapt it to your own songs. The same is true of any genre: jazz, blues, etc. This does not mean that we should avoid those forms, but it means that we should approach the unfamiliar with respect and humility. In this case, a little knowledge is truly a dangerous thing.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you're up to now? How the CD is doing? Where do you think your songwriting is going to take you next?
The CD is selling fairly well when I'm playing and not at all well when I'm not playing. Of course, that's not unusual. As a folk album, it doesn't get a whole lot of airplay, so I've got to be gigging to keep up the momentum. With the summer festival season approaching, I know that things will pick up.
I'm working on a new album. Recording of demos is underway and we're trying to get the funding in place. It's a long process. We've been at it for several months, and we probably won't get into the studio till the fall. I will say, though, that I'm really excited about the new material. With the first album, songwriters tend to record songs that have been hanging around for a long time. You have to get them out of the way. But the second album is where the real action starts. I just love playing the new songs and it shows in my performance of them. They're still fluid and changing and I'm still being surprised by what can happen in those songs.
Sam Baardman is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is co-founder of the Ten Bones Celtic Music Weekend, an annual school of Celtic music. He leads songwriting workshops and retreats and is touring this summer in support of his new album, "Kicking the Stone Home." The CD is available by writing to:
390 Scotia Street
Canada R2V 1W9
E-mail orders are also welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone orders too: (204) 334-6403
If you write, phone, or e-mail, he'll be happy to send you a copy of the CD along with an invoice. It should arrive in about a week (he's a trusting soul). The latest review of the album appears in "Folk Roots" magazine, April, 1998.
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Muse's Clues - Web Site Reviews by Jodi Krangle
Harmony Ridge Music
Designed by: Harmony Ridge Music
Wow. Could I spend a day or two wandering through *this* gem. Dedicated to highlighting female singer/songwriters, this site is chock full of information on different performers in just about any genre you could imagine. There's also a "Featured Artist Of The Month" section that goes into a little more depth with a particular artist. Tons of real audio samples, a huge list of links to other music resources, a photo gallery, a catalogue where one can buy the music of many hard to find female artists, and more musicians than you could shake a stick at (if you were into that sort of thing. ;)) makes this a frequent stop of mine,and one that I wanted to share with all of you. I have to admit that I find the intro page a little confusing in its layout (which would be my only complaint about this wonderful resource) but that doesn't stop me from dropping by continuously to see what's up.
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Feature Article: The Songwriting Process
(According to Rod A. McMillan(BMI))
Whoever said song writing was easy? Whoever said we would not make mistakes? What is our muse but the expression of our passion?
It is funny, the song writing process. Where do songs come from? A thought, turned to a story line, a catchy melody, and presto.
I get ideas mainly from an everyday phrase. I will hear the words I have heard a million times before and this time I will attach a different meaning. From there it is not too much a stretch to find a story line, and if I am really lucky I have a melody which lends itself to the mood and I have a song. It is mostly serendipity.
Serendipity was explained to me as an idea waiting to be discovered. But the discoverer needs the proper training and frame of thought to pick it out of all the background clutter. Scientists require years and years of specialized training to stumble across some very basic and fundamental principles and the consequence is a rain of praise and fortune from their peers. So we write, and continue to write, hoping we can stumble across that one combination of words and melody that will catapult us into fame.
Looks good on paper doesn't it? Most of us reading this are in some way interested in song writing as an expression and extensions of ourselves. I believe at times we all want to buck the system. Show our rebelliousness. What is a songwriter but a rebel? After all, music is totally subjective. There is no right or wrong. We can blindly say that our way is the only way but that would be arrogance on our part. Prejudice has no place in the creative process. It becomes apparent that we must write to certain parameters in order to be commercial and to fit the established norm, but I believe we should always look at it from the fringe. Let's try to bring freshness and influences from wherever it is available to enrich music and keep it new and stimulating. To stimulate passion in our audience is really our ultimate goal.
Before I ever thought about actually making money at this craft, I wrote to please myself. I didn't look at billboard charts. I didn't try to follow trends. I just wrote whatever came out. Some a bit off color. Once I wrote a song from a line I got from PENTHOUSE Forum. Of course that was well before I was married or had children. Now I watch every line so that I am politically correct. Oh, believe me, I can wallow in self-doubt and ask myself, while sitting here at my computer in the sticks of western Kansas, why anyone would want anything I have created. What gives me the right to become spokesperson for the passion-impaired? That answer comes easy: Because I believe I am good; that I have something to say; that I was given the gift of being able to express the inner desires of most people.
In an interview with Bob Sieger, he said song writing was a lonely work and not for the faint of heart. You must harden yourself to rejection and criticism. There is not the common camaraderie found in most trades. For the most part, you write by yourself, with few distractions, in a Spartan environment. And, when you are done you expose your works to the scrutiny of the masses to be shredded and disassembled by every would be critic, or worse yet, your work meets with total lack of interest and apathy. Of course I elaborated on what he said, but I believe all of us know exactly what he means.
Rod A. McMillan (BMI) (NSAI) penned his first song at age 10 and performed it for his classmates. It has been an ongoing addiction since then, but only in the past 6-7 years has he begun taking his talents seriously. He continues to strive towards that first hit song so that he can realize his desired occupation. He can be reached in e-mail at: email@example.com and his web page can be viewed at: http://members.wbs.net/homepages/t/r/a/tralfaz1.html .
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Classifieds & Useful Services:
Need constructive feedback on your songs? Need answers to questions or help with demo packaging? I can help and I'm affordable too. Email me for background info and description of exactly what it is I do. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EXPAND THE MARKETABILITY OF YOUR SONGS:
I do English to Spanish song translations. Please contact me via e-mail for further details. E-Mail:email@example.com
LYRICIST LOOKING FOR COMPOSERS/BANDS
I'm a lyricist with 215 songs in many styles. I can put lyrics to your music or you can compose music to my existing lyrics. I have contacts with record labels and publishers.Also looking for bands or singers. Scott Olivier Perron Davidson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
MUSIC FROM ANOTHER PLANET
has thematic music available for TV, films etc. Please email us with interest. We are also interested in merging forces with any musicians/web pages/businesses in pushing progressive instrumental music worldwide. <email@example.com>
LYRICIST SEEKS NEW YORK COMPOSER/PRODUCER
Multi-genre lyricist seeks co-writer with versatility, ambition, and equipment for recording demos. Connections a plus. Serious parties should contact Crockett via email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
US$2/line/issue. Min. 2 lines, max. 7 lines, where a line = 65 characters including spaces and punctuation. All contracts must be prepaid. E-mail to: email@example.com
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Contact Info & Credits:
Jodi Krangle ...........EDITOR
Kathryn Obenshain ......GRACIOUS PROOFREADER
Bryan Fullerton ............SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR
Back issues and other information available at: http://www.musesmuse.com/musenews.html
The Muse's News is part of The Muse's Muse, a web resource for songwriters.
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