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Our community blogs

  1. Tip #1 - The music industry is a business.


    • That's important to understand because....if you deal with it as anything other than a business, you will almost certainly fail. If you've had very little business experience or lack a basic understanding of how they operate, you need to learn. Why? As I said above, you cannot succeed in something without first possessing a basic understanding of what it is.
    • Talent, musical proficiency dedication to your goals & self-confidence are prerequisites, not your ticket to stardom. Think of them in as you would a college degree. The degree itself guarantees you nothing....other than the opportunity to compete for what you want.
    • Intangibles such as "creative integrity" may have value to you & your peers, but NOT to a business. As a general rule, businesses care about 2 things - making money & saving money. When you present yourself to industry representatives, keep that in mind. If you can convince them of your ability to accomplish one or both of those goals, that should get their attention.
    • If you're unclear about how someone might "save" a record label money, I'll leave you with 2 examples:
    1. Think about the huge growth of the pop, rap & hip-hop genres in recent years. The bulk of the music & arrangements for those genres is created via software & sampling. That means fewer session musicians, less studio time and lower overall cost of production. They're able to sell those CDs & downloads at a competitive price, but the profit margin is higher because of the lower production cost. Do you really believe that change in public buying habits was a lucky accident?
    2. If you happen to be an artist with a huge online fanbase/following (Justin Bieber), that's tangible selling point. A huge ready-made fanbase means lower promotional cost for the label....again, saving them money.

    Tip #2 - Beware of the "Scamortunity"

    As you might guess, the term is meant to describe a scam disguised as an opportunity

    • What does a scamortunity look like? Not an easy question to answer, since they come in many forms. As a general rule, the more unbelievable the opportunity looks.....
    • the more skeptical you should be
    • the more extensively it should be researched
    • the more reluctant you should be to participate

    In other words, if it seems too good to be true, it almost always is! 

    Most cons (scams) are designed to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities. In the case of songwriter/musicians, those vulnerabilities are well known & numerous. Don't allow belief in yourself, belief in the uniqueness of your creations & desire for recognition to become liabilities in your quest for success. 

    • Remember....the music industry is a business & should be dealt with as such.
    • In business, opportunities rarely come looking for you. Don't expect them to seek you out in this industry either. With very few exceptions, they won't!

    Tip #3 - Nothing is owed to you.

    Many in this business develop the attitude that the world/industry owes them something. Simply put, that is not a productive mindset & will do nothing to further your career.

    • Countless hours of dedication to your craft, skills, talent & creative ability are prerequisites....not entitlements! Virtually every one of your competitors (fellow musician/songwriters) has worked as hard as you have....sometimes harder. Those prerequisites earn you the right to compete, nothing more. View them as you would a high school diploma. That diploma doesn't earn you money, it does get you a job & it won't guarantee admission to the college of your choice. But without it, you don't even qualify to compete for those things, because the majority of your competitors have one.
    • Forget about concepts like fairness. The world of business is based on many rules, but fairness is not one of them. Tangible results rule the day.

    Tip #4 - For God sake, spend a couple dollars & get your finished material properly copyrighted.

    We're only too happy to spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone that'll be obsolete next year. ATM fees, wireless streaming fees, credit card interest, bank overdraft fees, apps....all things that we've come to accept as unavoidable expenses. BUT....when it comes to spending $35 to legally protect our own artistic creations, we'd rather not. Seriously....$35???

    That's the current U.S. Library of Congress online filing rate for multiple works by a single author. To the best of my knowledge, a Library of Congress registration is the only universally recognized method for proving legal ownership of a work. There are viable legal reasons for choosing this method & I encourage you to verify that for yourselves.

    Here are a number of direct links you may find useful:

    United States Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/

    Why Should I Register My Work? FAQ page http://copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#automatic

    Copyright FAQ - http://copyright.gov/help/faq/index.html

    Electronic Copyright Office tutorial - http://copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf

    Online Copyright Registration - http://copyright.gov/eco/

    Tip #5 - Remember...it's all about the vocals !

    It’s common for recording songwriters/bands to underestimate the importance of the primary vocal track. Bottom line….it’s "Priority #1" and should be treated as such.

    Why you ask? Simple!

    To the ordinary listener, it’s the single most important thing. Non-musician listeners focus the majority of their attention on the vocal (singer).

    Sure…everything else matters! Just not as much.

    Common Reasons for Substandard Vocals: 

    ·     Internal Band Dynamics - every member of a band wants to feel like their part is essential to the success or failure of a project. Unfortunately, nothing outranks the melody & the singer's presentation of it. Yes…a strong vocal can benefit from a great musical arrangement. But, if the vocal’s substandard, the best arrangement/performance in the world won’t save it.

    ·     When recording demos or finished material, vocals are one of the last things to be dealt with. If you’re working in a pro studio, you’re probably paying an hourly rate. If that is the case, you should budget your session time carefully. You can’t afford to blow the majority of the budget on preliminary musical tracks. When that occurs, the natural tendency is to rush the vocal recordings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends make this mistake! Remember, if that vocal isn’t done reasonably well, everyone loses. 

    Take whatever precautions are appropriate. When it’s all said & done, that vocal track will represent your song. Shoot for the highest quality you can reasonably achieve.

    Tom Hoffman

    Songstuff member profile

    *This article is the result of a question posed on the Songstuff boards. John Moxey asked the question, these were my responses.

  2. Songstuff
    Latest Entry

    By Songstuff,

    Featured Artist - Simon Darveau

    Simon DarveauMontreal based French Canadian artist  Simon is a singer songwriter, self-taught guitar and piano player and wannabe sound engineer in his free time.


    Simon is currently building his home studio where he hopes he will spend most of his time writing and producing his own music as well as collaborating with other artists in a near future.


    A proud member of "The Travelling Songstuffers", a virtual international group, Simon hopes to produce an EP featuring some of their work.


    Read About More Simon Darveau and other excellent Featured Artists 

  3. Before I delve into the Yamaha Variax Standard,....



    I've used Sweetwater for well over a decade now.  Though I did not purchase the Variax from Sweetwater.  It was Sweetwater to the rescue.  My purchased Yamaha Variax Standard did not come with a Battery Charger.  Rather then send the Variax back and wait for a replacement I looked around locally and online for a charger.  Sweetwater to the rescue . http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/L6VBatCharge  Not only did they carry the charger separate.  They did so at a very reasonable price compared to competitors.  The story would have ended there.  I had already waited a week for the variax to arrive and had my hopes up to play it before the weekend as I work two jobs.  I'd made the purchase Wednesday Evening and thought to myself there would be no way for the free shipping of the item would land my charger until Monday.   James Masterson a sales engineer at Sweetwater, followed up after the sale letting me know when the product was shipped and provided tracking information.  It arrived at the post office on Friday (because my mail box is too small) and I was able to pick it up on Saturday.  Very fast.  Very thoughtful 


    So on Saturday I was able to charge up the battery for my variax and get some play time in before heading off to work.  What's more is that added thing every Sweetwater customer knows.... SWEETS From SWEETWATER.   Me, I'm a happy camper I didn't need any sweets. but I had them so I gave them to a sweet gal at work.  She happily gobbled them up and had a smiled the rest of the night..   It's one of those little extra things that Sweetwater does which separates them from the crowd of online retailers.  Sales and Support have always been great with sweetwater, sweets always sweeten the deal.


    The Yamaha Variax Standard


    There is so much to write about this instrument it's really hard to cover all the bases. So I'll cover the Body first followed by the variax modeling technology and then other personal observations regarding it all


    The Physical

     This is the one in white which I own.  I've never owned a white guitar before. It is based on a Yamaha Pacifica Model.  Classic strat shape with few appointments. There is a forearm relief cut into the top, however no belly cut  Standard 4 bold properly joins the alder body to the maple neck. It is very much a "student" instrument.  Nonetheless it's a well fitted guitar.  The three ply pickguard fits securely to the top, joins perfectly around the neck and wraps well around the bridge plate. I have to say when I was making minor adjustments I was very impressed with the tremolo assembly. The screws for the saddles are fully recessed so as not to scrape the players palm.They turn easily and uniformly Yamaha was even considerate enough to supply the proper  Allen wrenches for the saddles and neck.  The volume and tone knobs as well as the model and tuning knobs have that traditional telecaster flat dome chrome feel.  It will never slip when you are sweating.  The maple neck sports a 25.5 scale length on a 22 fret standard C profile neck . The nut width is 1.614" with a flat radius rosewood fretboard 



    Yes, The variax faithfully recreates all the instruments it's designed to with the sonic espressiveness that the instrument has.  However at the root of that is the articulation which comes from the performer / performance.  One of my peeves has to do with the location of the volume knob which makes strumming near the bridge a clumsy affair.  My second and biggest pet peeve has to do with the neck setup.. Take this with a grain of salt. You may not get the same setup I did.  While the frets were properly dressed and the intonation is correct the action was simply too high.  It also had excessive bow.  I straightened the neck a little and brought down the action only to find uneven frets.  Which meant I had to raise the action and apply some bow to the neck in order to escape fret buzz.  This may be an isolated incident with my guitar that may not represent Yamaha Variax standards as a whole (I'll get into this more at the conclusion)  The guitar was sold as an "open box" by a retailer known for B-stock.  Which is why I received it for 525 rather then the 800 one would expect to pay for from a reputable seller.



    The Sound - Magnetics

    If the battery ever fails you'll always be able to play the equipped with three passive Alnico V pickups.  I've seen the videos as well.  Surprisingly they don't sound near as dark and aggressive on my guitar then those demonstrated.  However it may be something as simple as I'm not that aggressive a player and amp settings.  That being said they are darker and more aggressive then your average strat pickups.  They are single coil pickups.  They hum, not excessively.  To my ears they sound like Dimarzio.  Yes they are more expensive then those in a Yamaha Pacifica.  Call me a cork sniffer,  Every time I look over at my Stratocaster Plus with Gold Lace Sensors I say to myself I wonder how much it would cost to swap pickups.  I do the same thing as I compare my strat neck with the Yamaha...or for that matter every guitar in my stable.  


    The Sound - Modeled.

    Every variax be they JTV or Yamaha have exactly the same modeled sounds in them.  They all have the same workbench software.  What you get with different models of JTV's be they American or off shore goes down to aesthetics.   More Guitar sounds are to be found in the Variax Workbench hardware.  It is possible as stated over and over again in Workbench videos.  You can modify / create any electric guitar using the workbench by selecting the body design then swapping pickups, adjusting the pickup placement and selecting the electronics / wiring.





    Amazing recreations of the instruments they were modeled after. All the nuance is there if you can coax it out To be honest I haven't played with every model sufficiently.  Not enough time in a day and...I get sucked into one tone and lose myself.  The tone control for the acoustic instruments affects the mic position. In that regard it is both more subtle then your average electric guitar tone control 


    Here are my responses to common questions and concerns regarding the variax.

    Which one is the best?

    The JTV 89 (fixed bridge)  Honestly it all comes down to weight and playability.  It's the fastest most playable model of the lot. These oddly appear to have been discontinued.  Even the 89F USA is getting rare. Plays like butter as it should.  It has the same neck profile as my Yamaha Variax standard but the attention to detail regarding the overall neck work. Is vastly superior.  If you've ever played a top of the line Ibanez RG you'll feel right at home.


    One of the common excuses Line 6 touted about the JTV69's higher action was that in order to properly recreate the sound much goes to action of the original modeled guitars setup;  The "feel" helps with the expressive control.  Well, I've played Ric's with thier high action short scale length and they feel much more playable then the Variax standard.  I've also played some higher action jazz boxes.  It's just an excuse for poor neck work and possibly a belief held by James Tyler as he may like his action higher.  Prior to the JTV versions of the Variax it was not uncommon for many players to have transplants performed.  Taking the guts (electronics) of a Variax and placing them into a more playable instrument.  Yamaha (the current owner of line 6) would probably be able to have greater profitability  if they simply sold the electronics out to other companies then build their own.  It would be a win win  win. Yamaha cuts down production costs, Other makers get into the game with still the best modeling technology out there.  And consumers can have variax technology in a favored brand model.


    Why do all the modeled sounds have a sameness to them?

    Turn up your master volume.  If you like me live in an apartment with thin walls you are prolly playing at low output levels so as not to disturb the neighbors.  As a result your ears are getting a blend of the acoustic tone (yes even from a solid body) and the amp tone.  Also,  play around with your amp / effects settings. What we hear when we listen to recorded music is filtered guitar tone.  Effects. the amp, it's settings, the speaker cab and speakers, the placement of the mics and types of mic's the mixing board eq and post processing even the type of analog tape used to record and the delivery process (vinyl, cassette, radio, digital compression) all effect the final tone.  Line 6 can only capture the guitar's character, it can't capture the performers character of performance nor all the other things which make up the tone.


    The Spank Model Doesn't sound like "my strat"

    Eric Clapton's strat doesn't sound like Eric Claptons strat,,, what's your point?  EC has played many stratocaster guitars over the years. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownie_(guitar)] "Brownie"[/url] doesn't sound exactly like Blackie

    Which doesn't sound like his 80's fender signature sporting lace sensors, which also doesn't sound like his current signature guitar that features fender N4 noiseless pickups. One important note about early pickup windings.  They usually didn't have counters to to count how many winds the copper had around the bobbin. If someone operating the machine lost count they'd guess.  This resulted in some single coils having more winds which produced a "hotter/darker" sound and some were under wound producing a "quieter/brighter" tonality.  This wasn't limited to single coil production.  The famous "Peter Green" Les Paul sound that was slightly out of phase was a result of improperly placing the magnet in.  It was a factory oversight.  To be honest if you want a noiseless single coil sounding pickup that properly reflects the tone without the noise... It's in there.  If you long for single coil noise you can always switch to the magnetic pickups or blend the magnetic sound with the modeled sound (via Workbench HD software)


    Why does the guitar jump volumes when switching instruments?

    If you want to faithfully recreate a specific guitars sound then you also have to faithfully recreate it's output.  That's "Keeping things real"


    Why don't they have more guitars and pickups?

    Well they do but those are in the workbench HD software. No it's not every brand of ever model imaginable.  Sure I'd love it if they modeled a Parker Fly or a Ibanez Satriani or various other guitars and pickups


    I only get 10 custom slots?

    Actually no. All 60 slots can have custom modified guitar sounds  Which you can load from Workbench HD.  You can swap either an entire 60 at a time or as few as one fairly easily.  It took me about 3 minutes to load the entire collection. YMMV depending on your computer setup.


    I get clipping

    More then not it may relate to sending the guitar signal out to an input where the trim is set to high.  (Just like what would occur with any other guitar. Other reasons include playing too thick strings too aggressively.  The obvious answer is to use the gauge strings Line 6 advises and not play like a thrash metal idiot.  If you are still getting clipping consider using Workbench HD and lowering the individual string volumes or simply reducing the volume on the volume control.





    Yes I to get the warbling effect while playing harmonics on the acoustic 12 string. It's the only one I can reproduce the warble effect and the only way.

    I've got the latest in Variax technology Workbench HD 2.0 and while it's improved the overall virtual instrument quality this quirk though minor is still present.


    Final Thoughts

    Before the advent of JTV there was a great deal of interest in Variax guitars yet minimal sales.  Line 6 sold less then 1000 variax guitars.  Many of which where transplanted due to mostly visual appeal and secondarily to play-ability.  JTV's did what the old 00 variax models didn't.  Capture the imagination and present the instrument in a visually pleasing form.  Mostly by just adding magnetic pickups.  There was always something holding me back from purchasing the original Variax series of guitars and later ones including the JTV line.  Yes played them all in stores and still walked away from the deal.  The yamaha variax standard offered a new hope.  Mostly in regards to the body style and play-ability of the Pacifica neck of which I've owned a Pacifica in the past. After a few days of constant tweaking I've finally got the neck into playable shape. Making minor adjustments to the truss rod and the bridge saddles.  One thing I've noticed about the JTV 69 (strat) is that many guitarists are swapping necks.  Yamaha has spent most of it's time focusing on Line 6 amplifier and effects lineup.  It's also borrowed back and is evident in the THR series amps which... I love.  The dedication and re invigoration to developing technologies especially yamaha's point to point  modeling has brought line 6 back on top of the Amplifier modeling market with Helix.  While I find the Variax a complete solution with little need to advance.  (it's near perfect) I hope Yamaha's enthusiasm isn't lost on helix / thr and some of it can come back to advancing Variax technologies.  One need not look to far into the past to see Yamaha dropping the ball on many an acquired project.  Such as when they acquired the Charvel/Jackson line and due to poor oversight dropped the quality and sales.  It wasn't until Fender acquired Charvel / Jackson from Yamaha that the guitar was revitalized to it's full potential.   Over the last few days I've been making adjustments to my Variax setup with hopes that it would play better.  Yes it plays much better then when I first received the guitar but it's still a far cry from...every guitar I currently own and many I've had in the past.. including Pacifica's.  Granted I'm a stickler for action, the average joe/jane guitarist would be rather satisfied with it.  Enough Whining....


    It's taken me much longer to write this review simply because... I pick it up and play something then I can't stop finding songs to play.  I love the tone and I love the expressive responsiveness.  Magical.  I'd prolly not even bothered writing the review had I not struggled with the neck so much.... I'd be too busy playing.
















  4. Rudi
    Latest Entry

    Pensive melancholy thoughtful contemplative

    brooding pondering preoccupied absorbed engrossed. Yep I’m fragile alright.

    The intensive shift pattern I'm working is partly to blame. So the last day of the rest period may be a Thursday, but it will feel like a Sunday because I'll begin work in the morning. If working on Sunday, I'll drive in and wonder where all the traffic went. I'll probably never see other engineers who work opposite me ever again. They are working the inverse of my shift pattern.

    Oddly, it may be conducive to making music though. I am making progress again despite suffering ongoing jet lag like disorientation. Having 4 or 5 days off in a row is certainly helping me record.


    Yesterday I completed the recording of my instrumental 'Flamingo'. This is a major landmark for me. It was begun when I was in my 20s. I'm in my 60s now. Its only 5 minutes long, but it has undergone steady changes throughout a period of about 30+ years. Parts of it came and went (were lost through neglect or purging). It was in constant a state of flux. Always changing with only a couple of core themes to anchor it to. After buying my Camps spanish guitar, I worked on Flamingo in earnest. This was the voice it needed. Within a couple more years I finally completed the tune. That is, I formed it into a fixed (well, 98%) and repeatable piece of music.


    Since then I tried to record it a couple of times, but its my most technically demanding instrumental, and the Camps is my most difficult to play guitar. Being a classical guitar, the Camps has a much longer scale, and I had to adjust parts of the left hand technique to suit. I even invented a new technique to straddle frets, because my fingers could no longer stretch far enough. I gave up the task of recording twice. I couldn't get a good enough take.


    I had another try this week and could not get the mics working successfully (a Shure SM58 and a Shure Unisphere). Before abandoning the attempt I thought I would try using the Yamaha Silent. This is a nylon strung practice instrument that uses a piezo pickup. Its still a classical guitar with the long scale & wide flat fretboard, but it isn't acoustic. I got a performance I was satisfied with (still with flaws though) in a mornings work.

    It was certainly easier than using the Camps, but I was unsure how the sound quality would hold up on the Yamaha. Well it doesn't sound as rich, and you can hear the piezo sound too. Being a simple single instrument, I was bolder at tweaking the EQ and choosing a mastering toolset. Reverb also helped a lot too. But I'm enjoying the way it sounds.

    So its done at last. True, it was always a complete mess as a composition, but then it isn't a composition. It was never written. It was never arranged. It just evolved.


    Maybe I should just stick to acoustic guitar instrumentals. I've been steadily turning down the gain on my electric for years now. I'm never happy with my vocals. I cant play bass, keys nor drum. It makes good sense.


  5. Have you ever stopped to look at where you are, and compare it to where you were? I have, but accidentally. By accidentally, I mean I didn't put myself into the famous "The Thinker" pose, or even sit back and consider life in general. No I was playing some of my own songs, and noticed some rather profound differences between then and now, and it got me thinking...

    I have been writing songs on and off for over 40 years. I know, you don't get that for murder! Funnily enough, usually the first thing I play when I sit down to a piano is the very first song I ever wrote. I don't play it correctly, I've changed a few things over that time, and to be honest, I don't play piano enough, and never practice! *naughty boy!

    While I think the lyrics were pretty sucky, and very juvenile (I think) the melody stands up quite well after all this time, and so does the technicalities of form, key, progression etc, and I marvel at that. I knew so little then, yet wrote something I am still proud of, despite scrapping my original lyrics. If only I knew then what I know now, how good could this piece have been? My music teacher at school loved it, and said she could hear strings and an extensive orchestral arrangement (which horified me, I was into Deep Purple and Status Quo and not Symphony Orchestras!)

    40 years down the line, I've now been calling myself a songwriter for about a year. I joined Songstuff in October 2012, so I thought it about time I reflected on the past year. My apologies if this is somewhat self absorbed, but I think there may be some interest by the end of the article, I hope so anyway.

    This morning I was listening to a song I was writing about a year ago, and thought of the original lyrics. The melody was pleasant, but never really produced any dynamic climax, and the lyrics would make even the most hardnosed country singer balk. It was about a domestic abuser finally realising he had gone too far. These days I've learned that no artist would want to paint himself in such a negative light. I've learned that in the last twelve months.

    I listened to another song from late last year. That song goes on for over four and a half minutes and it quite plods along, once again without any real dynamics, although the realisation the song is a eulogy doesn't come until the second last line of the third chorus. A few ladies have mentioned tears in their eyes... However, upon Googling the title, it's been done to death, no pun intended. Well alright, I did intend it. But the title is nothing unique. A title needs to stand out. I've learned that in the last twelve months.

    I listened to another song from around Christmas time 2012. It told a sad, but often repeated tale of unrequited love. The singer lamented this and despaired about that, but nowhere was there an emotional connection with the listener. There were no details that a listen could identify with. It was full of fact, and devoid of feeling. It didn't engage, I told a story without the most important thing in it... the listener! I've learned that in the last twelve months.

    These are just three of the things things I've learned in the last year. I don't know if they are the biggest, the smartest, the hardest lessons I had to learn, but to me they are each significant. However there is yet another lesson I have learned: however good I can write on my own, I can write so much better with others. I have embarked upon a few collaborations lately, mainly through the Weekly Lyric Challenge Group. I am so happy I took up the challenge. I encourage everyone who gets this far down the article to approach somebody regarding a collaboration project. Like me, I'm sure you'll be glad you did. And I've learned that in the last twelve months, too.

    Don't forget to check out my other less self-absorbed articles here: http://forums.songstuff.com/blog/181-kelisms/

    Till next time,


  6. Why bother getting stress right?

    The purpose of a lyric is to communicate something. An emotion a feeling or perhaps a story. For that to be put over the best way it can be, it needs to sound natural. For a lyric to sound natural and conversational, it needs to use language that we use everyday, in the way we use that language when speaking to each other.

    Now every multi syllable word in the English language has an agreed stress pattern. These can be seen in a dictionary. Not only that but each multi syllable word has a melody. Some syllables are pronounced with a higher or lower pitch than others.

    The reason for this is when we hear a multi syllable word for example "evenhanded"

    You will notice that the stressed syllable "hand" is a higher tone than the others.

    Why is this so? It is because we do not hear a multi syllable word as four separate syllables, we hear it as one entity. It is like driving a car when you turn a corner you do several things automatically without thinking about them separately. You are just thinking I am going to turn the corner. The things you need to do that happen automatically it is a learned response.

    So if you hear someone speaking a foreign language it always sounds as if they are speaking really fast. The reason being you do not know the agreed stress patterns and tunes of that language, so you are hearing it as separate syllables. They are not speaking fast at all.

    Now what does this mean to song writing? Several things. It means if you do not place your stressed syllables in the corresponding positions within matching meter lines, within a section of a song. You will end up with unnatural stresses, and forced rhymes. If you do not match the stresses in the same lines verse to verse, you are going to end up with a lot of melody variation between the verses, or a stumbling meter when it's read out aloud.

    What about single syllable words? Normally verbs nouns and adjectives are stressed other parts of speech are not. The exception to this is some times you may want to stress a pronoun to get a particular point across. For example "it ain't ME babe" the idea being that it is not me your looking for. Because I am not going to meet your expectations.

    Ok enough of the boring English lessons what to do?

    Well you can sit there in silence and say each of your lines as you would say them in normal speech, then go through and underline each stressed syllable.

    Then check that you have the right number of stressed syllable per line, in approximately the right places.

    Note and this is important.

    line length is determined by the number of stressed syllables per line.

    Line length is not, I repeat not determined by the actual number of syllables in a line.

    Now I don't know about you but this seems to be a boring and laborious way to go about things. So what else can you do?

    You can write new lyrics to existing songs making sure the stresses all work and you can do that in your head.

    Or you can get, or make yourself a series of loops. Either straight drum loops, or drums and pad, or drums and base. Then say your lyric out loud to the loop. Test the stresses, just hear them. If English is your mother tongue you will instinctively hear what is correct and what is not. So no need to go through the stress analysis on paper. Just feel the meter of it naturally.

    Now this can also be done by tapping a pencil in time on the desk. It is however easier to begin with to use loops. Especially if you are writing to a groove. Less to think about.

    Songs are meant to be heard and felt, not read. So it doesn't make any sense to be writing in silence. It is like writing in a vacuum. Say the words out loud, hear how they feel.

    Now and here is a bonus for writing or polishing a lyric to a loop. Prosody.

    Make your line FEEL the same as what you are saying.

    This is achieved by how the lyric is phrased, where it is positioned in the beat.

    To test this put on a drum loop in 4/4 time and recite this line to the beat.

    " I feel good today"

    Now the first time you recite it just say it naturally with out the drum loop.

    You will hear that the natural stress of this line is.

    "I feel GOOD to DAY"

    So the first way we are going to try it is as a positive statement, simply it's a great day and I feel good and all is right with the world.

    To FEEL this from the lyric the first stressed syllable "Good" will fall on the first beat of the bar. "I feel" are pick up notes from the previous bar. So count one two three "I feel good today" with the "I feel" as half notes on the fourth beat of the pick up bar, "good" on the first beat of the bar, "to"on the second and "day" on the third, rest on the fourth. Say it several times like that and note how it feels.

    If you then try this, you can get a slightly different feel. This time count one two on the pick up bar and say "I" on the third beat and "feel" on the fourth beat, then the rest of the line the same as in example one. Now it could be saying "I" feel good today, you may not , but "I" do.

    Now if in the context of your song this line is conveying I feel good today, but maybe I won't feel so good tomorrow, because today I'm drowning my sorrows, and tomorrow the hurt will come back.

    Then try it like this.

    Count one "I feel" as half notes on beat two, "good" on beat three, "to" on beat four, and "day" on beat one of the following bar. Now it should feel as if your actually saying "I feel good today, but". You should feel a certain doubt or anxiety to the sound of the line.

    Now having said all this, if you write your own melodies you should be having an aha moment right now. Because the lyric is dictating the grove, meter and feel of the melody. You will also notice the pitch. " good" will be a higher pitch and "today" will be descending, because that is how we say it in natural speech.

    This has to tell you, that if this statement is in a verse, Then in the corresponding line in the next verse, if the natural shape of the language doesn't move pitch wise in the same direction,you are going to have a melody variation. That is ok, easier if you don't, but no big deal it is done all the time. Just note that it is there, so that when you set the melody, in one verse you may be going up in a spot, and in another verse going down.

    Even if you are not writing the melodies it is your right and responsibility to get the feel to the lyric that you want. So make Margin notes. For example if you need the "I feel good today" line to be simply I feel good today. Note that you want "good" on the down beat. IE, beat one of the bar.

    The technical term for these phrasing techniques is "back heavy" and "front heavy" phrasing.

    Front heavy being the first stressed syllable on the first best of the bar.

    Back heavy being the first stressed syllable on the third beat of the bar.

    When I am preparing a lyric for melody writing. I make notations on the lyric sheet, for the phrasing notation I will write ( BH) at the end of any lines I need to have that feel, the assumption is that if it's unmarked it's front heavy. This is not a convention it's just my own short hand.

    So if I ask the question again: Why bother getting stress right?

    The answer might well be because if you don't, you have some nice words on a page. But what you don't have is a song.

    In summary

    Write to drum loops it's so much easier.

    Play with the phrasing to get the feel of how the lyric sounds, to match what it is saying.

    Happy writing.



  7. I know there are a few Aussies on this site.

    Just hoping everyone is safe wherever they are!

    My daughter has lost her house in the Blue mountains. My other daughters best friend has also lost her house (Susan Antonio who just joined this site recently) and many other friends of theirs have also lost homes or are being impacted by fires in some way or another.

    It's been the most frightening experience for our family as most of my family live right in Winmalee where over 200 houses have been destroyed and the crisis still continues with bad weather ahead.

    So many fires are still burning in different areas. It's just unbelievable that we are seeing this kind of thing so early in the season.

    My heart goes out to all those people who are now faced with having lost everything they owned, pets...oh that just upsets me so much. My daughters boyfriend braved the fire to try and get in to save their two dogs but unfortunately he was only able to save one.

    I have so much respect and gratitude for the firies who are out there facing horrific circumstances. Just true hero's.

    While so many homes have been lost, so many have also been saved, including my parents and my sisters homes.

    Just praying that what they are predicting weather wise will not be as bad as they fear.

  8. For the Relay for Life (Sunday, July 8 at 1 a.m.), the setlist looks like:

    SET ONE:

    Dead Things in the Shower—fast two-step (chairperson Robin requested it)

    Bungee Jumpin’ Jesus—deliberate Gospel

    Crosses by the Roadside—slow two-step (and one of my two cancer-related songs)

    Bluebird on My Windshield—fast bluegrass

    Invitation to St. Patrick—sleazy blues

    The World Enquirer—fast bluegrass

    Milepost 43—mod. tempo two-step

    Welcome to Hebo Waltz—fast waltz

    Selling Off My Body Parts—fast bluegrass

    One Gas Station—mod. tempo folk

    Prehistoric Roadkill—fast bluegrass

    Hey, Little Chicken—slow & sleazy quasi-blues

    Oil in the Cornfield—mod. tempo folk

    The Termite Song—fast bluegrass

    SET TWO:

    I’m Giving Mom a Dead Dog for Christmas—slow & sleazy

    Duct Tape—mod. tempo country

    Doing Battle with the Lawn—fast bluegrass

    You’ll Make a Real Good Angel (Tarra Young)—slow Gospel (the other cancer one)

    Free-Range Person—fast bluegrass

    Eatin’ Cornflakes from a Hubcap Blues—slow & sleazy quasi-blues

    50 Ways to Cure the Depression—folk-rock

    Song for Charity (and Faith, and Hope)—fast bluegrass

    Leavin’ It to Beaver—mod. fast bluegrass (starts slow though)

    20 Saddles for My Chicken—fast bluegrass

    Writer’s Block Blues—slow & sleazy

    Born Again Barbie—Everly Brothers-style rockabilly

    Pole Dancing for Jesus—slow, sleazy Gospel

    Meet Me at the Stairs—fast bluegrass (starts slow, again)

    Un-Easy Street (Stan Good)—deliberate two-step

    Yes, I remember all of them. (I’ve been running through the ones I haven’t played in a while, or don’t play very often.) I tried to concentrate on songs that didn’t require a lead break, since if I’m playing solo, there’s no one to do lead; “20 Saddles†does have a lead break, but it’s a joke—I do a voice-over saying how I’m not going to do the break from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus†at the same time as I start to play it. “Bungee Jumpin’ Jesus†also normally does the break from the “What a Friend…†song but I can leave it out easily.

    And there are a few songs on the list that I don’t normally perform because they are too long if they have a lead break: “Oil in the Cornfield,†“Leavin’ It to Beaver,†“One Gas Station,†“Hebo†and “Meet Me at the Stairs.†“Oil†and “Beaver†are six minutes long as is, without a lead break. (Both are old songs, from back in the 1970s. I wasn’t insisting on a 3-1/2-to-5-minute limit back then, and the Dodson Drifters didn’t care.)

    I guess I’m as ready for the Relay gig as I’m going to be. I’ll get to play music Friday night (Coaster practice), and then Saturday night at the Dylan Show in Nehalem, before going to the Relay gig. It did occur to me that this setlist would probably work okay for the house concert I’m supposed to do July 14 (I think); I can do these, plus (since they’re fans, and familiar with most of my stuff) take requests.


  9. In being a newer member of MAS (Minnesota Association of Songwriters), I received word of an invite from David K Rockstarwannabe.tv to local singer/songwriters for a contest Dec 18 at the World Theatre in Minneapolis. Rockstarwannabe.tv is shown on Twin Cities cable; it is a reality show in which David K happens upon towns in Mid-America literally asking residents, "who should have 'made it'?" and featuring that unknown artist. Secondly a famous artist is featured. David K's own story of continuing his musical journey is woven in as well.

    I immediately signed up. Several email exchanges took place with David K, from whom I sensed a sincere goodwill toward the singer/songwriter. In viewing Rockstarwannabe.tv's Dec 2010 Show, there was much to like, including one of David K's originals Border Ride, and especially the interview with Jon Anderson of Yes.

    The Suburban World Theatre is a true theater, picturesque, cathedral ceiling, substantial stage. The first person to speak to me was another contestant, and I ended up sitting in the same alcove with Troy Castellano, his wife and their friends.

    There were about 15 writers in all, including a cat whose original was traditional Mexican (he was runner up, good writer/singer and a very sweet guy). The format was David K calling up writers from his list, and there were giveaway raffles interspersed between blocks of performers. Following the contest was a short set of originals by David K's band and lastly, a free-for-all jam.

    We were to check-in with the sound engineer Kevin Hovey, whose resume includes international acts from Prince to Celine Dion. Amiable and easy-going, with a real smile, I immediately appreciated him.

    On a related note, I must mention David K's nephew, Nate. That young man adopted me, ceaselessly offering assistance (and pleasant company) including an escort at night's end to my car.

    The introduction I was given, was when I learned there were no other women writers, which I thought a little odd. Although the contest parameters may have had something to do with that, and not only for women. Winners were chosen by applause and writers were heavily encouraged to "bring your posse". [Mine consisted of zero people btw. That is not why I signed up, esp. on short notice. A number of folks said they wished to, or would try to come, nice that. I saw a great opportunity to do something I find difficult (playing solo), on that World Theatre Stage. David K's good attitude in email correspondence also had a lot to do with the follow through]. My goal was simply to do the best justice possible, in that moment and setting, to this song that had come through me.

    The contest was taped, the winner to be featured in the January TV show. I had heard that other clips from the contest would also be aired (which prompted my Facebook question, "is white OK to wear on TV?" to which there were dozens of replies).

    Fellow MAS writer Rod Kinny performed during the second half of the show. I'd only learned about a week ago that he has CD's (as in multiple) available. It was really nice, having been to the MAS songwriting critique meeting Dec 14 and seeing Rod bring in his latest fare, and then seeing the cat onstage playing those beautiful chords and voice melodies, notably enjoying himself, and later saying hello with a big smile.

    I'd a preoccupation with my car being at a parking meter, plus it was chilly in the theater (which I dealt with in part by going here and there within, and sometimes without just to get a cold blast to make me grateful for the theater temp again). During one of these forays came the first highlight of my night (besides getting up there solo). A man looked me in the eye and said, "I liked your song." What more could a songwriter want? To my delight I found out a moment later that I was speaking to Jody Ray, of The Flaming Oh's. He told me of his current project, RebbyRay (later I was given their CD). I stumbled in trying to tell him how I'd heard of him long time, that he was of the tier 'so high' and etc;

    Troy Castellano became the headliner of the show - after he was done, the writers were placed onstage and one by one, given the definitive applause to be judged by. Four writers received the most, then these four (including Troy) played an excerpt to refresh the memory. Then the final judged applause. Joel Kachel, who played a great song called Crow, won. And soon my second highlight in that Joel sought me out. That was an amusing exchange, repeating mutually "I liked your song!"

    David K introduced Troy by revealing that Troy was chosen by Tommy Lee of Motley Crue via an online collaboration contest, to record with Tommy Lee. Sure enough, in our conversation bits in the alcove, which included the Castellano's children, Troy's studio set up, and confrere Mike explaining some friend/family history, Troy showed me pictures of his session with Tommy Lee (but first he showed me pics of his 3 children - smart man). We exchanged contact info; and those guys were really nice in watching my guitar whenever I ran out.

    David K's band performed - I was delighted that one main b/u vocalist was the drummer (Bob), and had to nudge Troy, whose view was blocked, to point out who was doing those spirited backing vocals. It was a good set, the band sounded right on. The jam followed, and it was with happiness that I made my way to a drumkit. We did some originals from various writers - and notably (or perhaps not as it may've sounded not-so-good "out there")

    (eeeyow!!). I hate to be a broken record, but really everyone was very nice, especially Bob, David K's drummer, his brother David (guitar/vox) and Mike the (fantastic!!) piano player.

    I was offered a couple gigs afterward: the one that would pay right away, however, was out of the running for me as it involved road work. It was a great night, and I look forward to furthering musical relations with two last contacts made, and hopefully solidified right there (the final highlights of my night).


    It's hard for me to judge, but I think in the interim between the last couple entries and this one, there have been significant steps I've taken, some of which come through in what's written above. There is so much going on that's hidden - it can require 20 steps to get to a single Big One. It made me uncomfortable to write about every little (or big) new thing going on: it seems vain and narrow-minded, because my world (and certainly your own!) is much bigger than that. Also, it's as if I don't have the words to open things out these days. Maybe there's less to say when one is doing more. I do want to mention that I'd been keeping some musical company lately with a Twin Cities' artist well known locally. I'm currently learning a lot of his music, and hoping that early 2011 will see me gigging some (drums). I think he's brilliant musically, and a fine writer.

    Thorny Swale, (the band I'm in) continues on amidst recession and all the rest, like everyone else in these lands. We're up to 5 of my tunes, and strangers continue to like the songs to the degree that I'm starting to get used to it. Each new original gets a strong reaction. I've just finished (er I think!) another song, and in some ways it's my favorite EVER. I have a great memory of our last gig: the 6 of us standing in a circle in the parking lot discussing which songs to learn next. We decide on one cover, then bassist Ken says, "and originals!"


    It was beautiful to come back home. Kayla is staying over, currently tucked upstairs somewhere, among 6 of the 7 Dwarves. It was warm here, nicely lit. I was greeted by Dylan, Kayla, and the new puppy who was beside himself with excitement in seeing me; then snuggled up close and quiet wherein I felt graced.

    Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis!

    ~ Merry Christmas ~

  10. For those that have read my past few blogs you will notice a short gap (of a couple of months) since my last post! I have been studying away at trying to nail the Swedish language... pleased to say that it is going well!

    Anyhow, on the music front things are moving along and it looks like 2011 could develop nicely. I've been chatting to a guy I used to work for in Stockholm, who owned a studio, he's looking to open a new place sometime this year. Should be a nice place running Pro Tools HD and doing a range of activities from band recordings to voice over and general audio work.

    On the producing front we are starting a 3 track EP for a UK artist next week. For this project I will be in on the songwriting side as well as the production. Its paid work, so I am not moaning!

    I am heading back to the UK next week for a few weeks of buisness development with my company 'Kayto Sound', I am working with a couple of people on developing a range of studio training days and other programmes, should be fun! (Also managed to get in a visit to Liverpool to watch a football match at Anfield and have a chat to a few guys up there about some project management ops and tips and tricks on online marketing and promotion),

    I am looking forward to looking around this site again and seeing what everyone has been up to in the last couple of months. Speak Soon, AndyC

  11. So, I got a DAW setup - yeh, party time.

    I got all my plugins to link (well 99% of them) correctly - yeh, party time.

    I got a Novation Launchpad hooked-up and making noise- yeh, party time.

    But there hasn't been any time for a party :no:

    You see 'between' each potential party-time of the first three lines, are a lot of things each respective company doesn't tell you. How could it with all the permutations of OS, DAW's, Plugins, Soundbank file types, Sound Card setups, Keyboards, Controllers etc. Well it could go a long way if truth be told !!!!!

    Take this Presonus example; they offer you a list of compatible and tested 'external devices'. But if your 'things' aren't in the list, then you set them up manually. To do this you choose which category your 'thing' fits under:

    1. New Keyboard
    2. New Instrument
    3. New Control Surface.

    But that creates a problem, since if your 'surface controller' acts as a Midi interface and you add it as a surface controller, it will not act as the Midi interface it is supposed to. So you have to add it as a keyboard. They don't tell you that, but they could (and if they do, I haven't been able to find it 'from them').

    Then take the Novation Launchpad problem. They made it to work with Ableton Live, so that DJ's could perform amazing live sets. DJ's seems to have united to the Launchpad and have been busy creating various maps etc that will allow them to use it with FL Studio, VDJ and a host of other DJ type programs.

    But it has the ability to be used like a Midi keyboard, just pads to hit instead of keys, and to organise the pads in the way you want (called mapping). So if you have EZDrummer, you can create a Midi drum track quite easily.

    But there's little help in this area, probably in one respect due to all the permutations of OS, DAW's, Plugins, Soundbank file types, Sound Card setups, Keyboards, Controllers etc.

    But it doesn't stop the frustration of knowing it 'will' do the job you want it to do, but taking a lot longer to work out how to. Couple that with the hours spent going through say Youtube and people's so called tutorials that are just them showing off what they can make the Launchpad do without saying how, and finding out way, way down the line about how you setup the wrong permutations of connecting and routing a Midi external device .............. you end up not feeling very much in the party mood.

    People create these amazing 'map' files, but they seem to omit where you put them to work. All these little types of things just mount up in frustration and time spent tracking down answers that offer solutions aswell as joining multiple forums to ask basic questions that leave you in 'limbo land', as you wait for days for a kind person to answer your question.

    It's no wonder really that musicians walk away from mixing and production - they'd have no time left to make music :lol:

    So, if you're the kind of person who gets a new toy and opens the box and plays with it without reading the instruction manual first (requiring some doctorate in language interpretation), or you have zero PC / technical skills, or you have no patience .......... I advise you to think carefully before going down this path :lol:

    I mean, install Ableton and be left wondering why the 64 bit version will not utilise your 32 bit plugins, I dare you :lol:

    I bet you're glad this is 'my' mountain to climb now :yes:

    Onwards and upwards ......... as they say!

  12. Just1L
    Latest Entry

    As I was sitting here today thinking, a thought crossed my mind. If you look at what's popular today, most of it has made a subtle, yet dramatic change. TV went to Reality TV. Motocross/Skateboarding, "extreme sports" took things to a whole new level in the past decade or so after X-Games started. News has gone 24/7. What did music do? It went to TV to create reality TV shows. It didn't change music (well it did, but I don't think it took it forwards really), just exploited a hole that needed to be filled in the Reality TV business. So, what has music done? I've heard bands pushing the envelope a little bit but nothing extreme. What bands do you think are pushing the extremes? And how? Does music need some sort of "take it to the next level" awakening? Hell, I don't know. What could music do to take it to the next level?



  13. OK. So, I have started my own personal diary of sorts to keep track of my fishy business! It was suggested I post it as a blog! OK, so first of all, Since my diary did not start until I started cycling my tank I will give some BG info..

    10 gal tank (to be used for quarantine/hospital tank)

    2 inch gravel (1 inch sand colored fine substrate for plants, 1 inch colored substrate for looks)

    6 fake plants

    2 live plants

    1 large cave ornament

    1 med sized pink/whiteish rock (real)

    1 4 inch long bubble stone.

    3 plant bulbs

    Before this first post, my two live plants where removed. (due to in order for my bacteria colony to grow, cannot have plants that will absorb all the ammonia)

    So.. here goes...

    Day 1 (9/29/07)

    Added ammonia, waited 4 hours. testing 3.0. Added more ammonia to bring up to 5.0. tested 12. did 25% PWC. testing low again, added a few more drops of ammonia. Testing 5 now.

    Day 2 (9/30/07)

    Temperature fluctuations. Yesterday w/ light 79.9F

    w/o light 96.4

    Before bed 75

    wake up today 74.

    5:20 pm 80 (after light being off for one hour)

    Day 3 (10/01/07)

    Ammonia holding steady. temp fluctuations continue. Removed fake plants. Bulbs still not sprouted. Will leave in until done cycling. if still not sprouted will remove and replace with live plants. Also: Two inches of gravel. Too much. removed 1 inch. Also removed rock as placement was not sufficient. any fish who would swim in front of filter would end up being pushed into it. Left cave. It and a few live plants will be more than suitable for its purpose as a QT tank.

  14. How I Got (and YOU can get!) Nominated for Best Song at:

    The HMM (Hollywood Music In Media) Awards (Thurs., Nov. 18th, 2010)

    (by Cheryl Hodge)

    I'd like to take a moment to share my recent experience with you all, and to let you know that - YES! - there is hope for ALL of us to be acknowledged in the industry for our work & talent... and plenty of room, if you do the right things. And, to be competely honest, I'm also hoping that you will join me at Reverbnation.com after you read this article. I'd like for all of us to immediately join each other's fanbase there, and mailing list. It is an awesome site!

    It isn’t often in this life that we unsigned singer/songwriters experience true recognition for our craft from our peers in the industry; especially in the highly competitive world of music. When I received my nomination for “Best Jazz Song” from the Hollywood Media& Music Awards committee for my song, "INDIGO"; I’ll be honest; I thought there must’ve been a mistake!

    However, it turns out that I was in fact, nominated for my song INDIGO (hooray!). I thought to myself, this was going to be a good month. I knew I would have lots to share with my Songwriting and Business of Music classes – especially when it meant that I would also be attending the Interactive Music Symposium (sponsored by the NAMM show folks). In my case the nomination was mostly due to the visibility I have recently garnered as a top ten jazz musician for Canada on the ReverbNation charts (to check out my site, go to http://reverbnation.com/thecherylhodgegroup)

    Of course, the whole awards show was done with impeccable taste. The red carpet walk at the Kodak Theatre Complex in L.A. was a long one, though; and while in line, I talked with many of the honourees and managed to make a few (always valuable) contacts.

    Once inside, I immediately began connecting with other potential winners and various giants of the music industry. The night flew by, and I barely even shrugged my shoulders when it came to my turn to hear my category - and found that my name was destined to stay in the nominated (not winning) category. It didn’t really matter to me. I had already felt as if I had won, just by being present as a nominee. I was rubbing elbows with “the Big Boys”, like members of Matchbox 20, and producers like the infamous Nile Rogers.

    I was most impressed, though, by the executive producer of this event, Jim DeCicco, who has a mandate and purpose for this whole event: to help unsigned (should be signed), and talented songwriter/composer/performers, through honouring them and providing them with a slew of contacts in the industry.

    Naturally, I was curious about the selection process, and here's where YOU come in... I want you all to realize that there are still avenues out there for you that WORK. I was selected by submitting my music through the HMM contest at Reverbnation.com I went ahead submitting, even though I didn't think I had a chance in hell. Turns out I DID.

    Unlike some other sites I have read about and even joined, and put money into (like Sonicbids.com - which was a complete BUST, and yielded NOTHING after pumping money into it for over a year!), it turns out that Reverbnation is quite reputable, and actually comes through with real, tangible opportunities.

    Contests, my friends are THE way to go, for unsigned artists. Keep your heads up, and hang in there. It may be your turn next!

    All the best, Cheryl Hodge

    http://reverbnation.com/thecherylhodgegroup]http://reverbnation.com/thecherylhodgegroup :thumb23:

  15. Well a while ago I shelved plans for an album due to life getting in the road... but here I am back again, in the early stages of planning an EP and an album with accompanying singles.


    For now I have a provisional timescale, with the plan to release the single in October, followed by an EP in November. Hopefully then I will release singles and an album to follow in April / May. The tracks are mostly written for both EP and album and recording has begun. Tracks are being selected for EP and album as we speak, though at this point the track allocation is quite fluid.


    The good thing is that there are loads of tracks to choose from. I have enough written for several albums, and with new tracks being written all the time. I've also re-worked a few older tracks recently, so I may include some of those.


    I'm looking forward to this!

  16. Graham Coxon 14/05/2009

    OK, sorry about the huge gaps here, and the missing gigs, but I am poor, and assuming there's no-one as really cares anyways :P I'm afraid this one is also a bit of an album review as well as gig, for a fairly obvious reason...

    This gig was too big a chance for me to pass on - probably my favourite famous person, and indeed musician, playing at an awesome (small) venue, playing his entire new album "The Spinning Top". The venue was the Thekla, which I'm sure I waxed lyrical about already, but that had a different feel, it wasn't sold out last time for a start! This gig was acoustic too, so made it feel lots more intimate.

    The support was pretty cool, I've forgotten the name (and he said he is usually the singer in a band as opposed to usually a singer songwriter), but he played some cool acoustic songs, with nice riffs and a good voice.

    Graham Had a backing band, a drummer and bassist anyway, the bassist having an electric double bass for most of it - very cool. As the new album is quite folky and acoustic, that was most of the gig, but it was nice to see Graham whip out the electric guitar and rawk away for some of it - it wouldn't be a Coxon album without it!

    The first few songs are nice acoustic finger picked things, had me wishing I could finger pick better. There's something special about Coxon's voice, a little thin and not too strong sometimes, but it fits his style perfectly, it always makes me smile, whether it's a sad or happy! On board the good ship Thekla, being up close and personal (almost close enough to lick!) really added to the already special feel of the album. Graham seemed to have an odd effect on the crowd, everyone seemed to get very giggly (I'll confess I did too), laughed at all his jokes, indeed, at all his comments, right up to the point he asked 'So, you all going out to a discotheque afterwards?', after we had chuckled away, he seemed a little confused and said 'That wasnot a joke, you know, it was a question!'

    It was my first listen to any of the new material, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and it is certainly different from his last record ("Love Travels At Illegal Speeds") which was very much a punky piece, full of energy. In fact The Spinning Top is more like a return to his first few albums stylewise, but better. His first albums are something of an aquired taste, and certainly don't demonstrate the songwriting skills he has obviously developed in the 10+ years since his first solo work. One example of this is 'In The Morning' 8+ minutes of somewhat perculiar sounding catchy happy.

    'If You Want Me' was the first song he brought out the Telecaster, it has a nice, the first half of the song is clean and quiet, and not knowing the song, it was a real kick when he slipped on the overdrive and effects and it all went grungy and nasty (in the good way). The only problem with the song I had was that I had the 'why so serious?' meme from the last Batman film brought to the front of my mind by the chorus 'It's all so ser-ri-ous', which distracted me somewhat! This kinda rawky burble of a song ended and we were told 'This next song is about bunny rabbits and fishes. Trying to make babies on the riverbank. There really are rabbitfish out there, you can google them when you get home'. I regretted doing that - real rarbbitfish are hideous! nothing like the cutesy image I got, especially after listening to the song, as it is an example of Graham's odd skill with getting away with the silliest lyrics, and indeed music.

    "Out of the tree and into the sea, swam my perfect love for thee"

    C'mon! But some how, with the fun, happy little guitar riff, and a kickass sax solo (performed by Graham himself - he's something of a multi instrumentalist, having played all the instruments for the recording of all but his latest album), it is just a silly happy summery song.

    The rest of the set started to get a little confusing as the album progressed, as the last half of the album seems to switch between electric and acoustic pretty much every song, and with 'Caspian Sea' hitting you in the face with an actually somewhat annoying repeatative rawk for a little to long at roughly the halfway point, it felt a little odd. It did make a bit more sense when I listened to the album, and found out that it has a backing concept - it is meant to follow a boys life from birth to death, which somewhat explains the confusion in places - who isn't confused a lot?!

    The end was reached far too soon for me, and the encore was a little odd, as it was two songs, both excellent. However, the last song on the album has a slightly funeral dirge in the background, and that combined with the last song being dedicated to a musician who had died last year (I'm afraid I didn't know, and don't remember, the name :s), led to a slightly odd elated-yet-sad feeling as I walked away.

    Overall a great gig, a really special experience. I can't wait for his full electric tour that is apparently coming in the Autumn, as while I love his acoustic side, the punk side of Graham is essential to the mix, and is guarranteed to be a fun gig!

    Sadly the only upcoming gig now is Blur, and I will not have regular internet access by then, so that review may be a while. It will be an awesome gig though, it can't really fail at that!

    Providing everything works out well in September with my new job, usual gig levels should hopeful return then! :D

  17. ATom2
    Latest Entry

    Hello everyone,

    I know it's never a good thing to brag, but I have to tell someone.

    My company Stora Enso, based in Finland, employing just under 50,000 is doing a story about photographers who work for them, in their next magazine. They selected one from Finland, one from Germany, one from China, and one from North America. Well, yours truly was informed today that I will represent North America. Seems that a fellow employee, and all around good egg, Shelly Ghere submitted my name to corporate and they liked some of my stuff. Apparently they don't have very good vision insurance down there.

    Anyway, I hope by announcing this I am not jinxing things.

    Take care all,


  18. Musings

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    I recently started a Youtube Vlog series called Mahesh Music Diaries to simply express all the things that goes on in my day to day life as a singer songwriter. I thought it'd be a great thing for the humble audience I am fortunate to have back home. But also, it is a great exercise to see yourself from third person and be able to mould yourself into a better and wiser person. And also, it's fun!




    Why do you always write sad songs?


    This is one question that has been asked way too many times in my short career than I can remember. It seems fair that the first reaction to a singer-songwriter with mostly sad music is to think that he’s pretty much a sad sod with nothing else to talk about. But is it really accurate? I wanted to answer this question on my vlog and that’s what I wanted to share with you here today.




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    I don't know what to do.

    But I know this, I'm tired of pretending. That every things great, every things good, and every things fine.

    Because its not. It's awful, it's horrible, it's empty. :pianoplay3:

    And I go through it time and time again.

    Give me freedom, please give me some faith.

    I'm only here because you have been through way too much.

    But how am I suppose to believe, :acoustic:

    Anything you say to me?

    So far it's mostly lies,

    That only make you cry.

    And I stay strong

    And hard as a stone.

    The hurts too much,

    For anything else than that, anything else than silence.

    I'm tired of pretending. That every things great every things good, every things fine.

    There's a fine line. Because its not, it's awful, it's horrible, it's empty.

    And I go through it time and time again.

    Time and time again.

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    Hey guys,

    I just posted a new thread asking about peoples opinions on traditional vs. new media for music marketing. As I started by saying over there, I've been working on a marketing plan for an album set to be recorded in a years time. Like any new and exciting project it's been running circles through my mind and it seems to be all I can think about lately. While working on my overall business plan I got to thinking more about the importance of having a plan and in what ways a plan can improve implementation of our strategies and ideas. In this entry I'm going to talk through how I go about working on plans.

    Planning the Plan.

    I'm entering my last year of university in the coming fall, 2 of my 3 completed years have been spent as a BBA student and in that time I've worked on a lot of different types of plans. The thing I've consistently noticed when starting these plans is that they are never perfect in their first draft. Probably similar to when many of us are writing songs, we're constantly revising parts and changing the wording. After a semester spent writing draft after draft of plans I decided to make it easy on myself and start planning for the plan.

    This step is fairly easy and can save you a lot of time, all you need to do is grab a piece of scrap paper and write down key points. Write out important pieces of information that you want your plan to contain. These little scraps can be specific things like "November 15, I want to play my songs at " or more general concepts that are important but that you haven't given much thought to yet. These would be things like "work out promotion plan"or "Distribution Strategy" at this point, hopefully you'll have an idea of how you want to go about these things, but it's ok to not have specifics. Just make sure to keep the notes somewhat organized and relevant to what your goals are.

    For some peoples purposes this may be as far as you need to go, a more detailed plan could just be a waste of time and energy.


    It is not impossible to make a plan without this step, but I personally feel that this can really separate a good plan from a bad one. If you're making a marketing plan at this step you'll probably want to find some statistics on your target market and try to figure out how likely they are to purchase your product. Also, make sure that your target market makes sense, always target people who have the ability, willingness, and authority to buy your product.

    Study trends in the industry, see how others have done what you're trying to do. Look at success stories and failures and try to see what the differences are and how they handled them. You need to do a StrengthsWeaknessesOpportunitiesThreats (SWOT) analysis of yourself as a business venture and be brutally honest. This will help guide you and show you potential ways to find a niche market.

    This step is a huge part of the plan, and as far as I'm concerned probably involves the most work. However this can really make your plan shine, this will take your plan from being an opinion

    Draft the plan

    This is where the bulk of the writing is done. Here you will try to combine your ideas from the planning phase with what you've learned from the research phase. If theres any issues between your research and your plans, try your best to make everything work out and make as much sense as possible. A plan is only coherent if it's grounded in reality.

    Revise the plan

    This should be the last step. Go over everything with a fine toothed comb, make sure that if you're using numbers or statistics for things that they are constant throughout, make sure theres no contradictions or half formed ideas.

    This method has worked out really well for me, it might not work out so well for you. Thanks for reading.


  19. blog-0049394001373343673.jpg3 Easy Steps to Better Sound - Part 3 - High Frequencies - Control Your High end, - give some sparkle and air

    This is the third part of three steps to improve your demo recordings. If you have not read the other two, no worries. You can find them here.

    The Three Steps: click on a link to view that document.

    1. Part 1: The Low Pass Filter - Less low noise, -this will clean up your sound and make all the parts sound out clearly
    2. Part 2: Sweep - Find the bad sounds and cut those frequencies from your song
    3. Part 3: High Frequencies - Control Your High end, - give some sparkle and air

    There is a lot to know about mixing and being a sound engineer. I am not a sound engineer, nor I am a professional with years of work in the studio. Those professionals are part of what you pay for in the studio work. They are well worth it.

    The High Shelf Filter

    What we've done so far

    We've gone through the steps to control the low end. We then found the bad frequencies and brought those sounds under control. We now want to give back a bit of the high end. A little bit of sparkle and air is how I hear it. It will be different for each ear. Listen carefully to what you hear without it and then with the filter in place.

    The high shelf filter looks like the screen below. What we are going to do is to boost the signal about +6 db and then move it to the left to increase the range. As we do this we listen to the difference in the sound. When you find what you like stop and roll it back a bit to the right


    I will do this with a clean EQ, in other words there is no other settings being used for the moment. Why do it this way?

    I do this so that I can get a feel for how much high end I want to boost. You may have heard that you don't boost you cut. Yes that is true. For the most part you really don't want to boost your signal. However, you can do so, and by the way, the pro's do it all the time. Just keep in mind that those pros are boosting very good recordings. If your recordings are on the thin side you should boost in very small amounts. Somewhere between +1db and +3 db. The numbers that I call out and the screens I show are only rough ideas. Your final settings will depend on what your ears say it the right amount.

    Stage 2

    Now that you have an idea of what your high pass filter will add to your sound its time to use it with the tweaks we have used from parts 1 and 2. The screen below has the low pass filter done. The notches are in that cut out the unwanted frequencies. All we have left to do is to add in our high pass filter.


    Place your High Shelf filter around 10 k Hz to start. Again your final setting will depend on what you hear as you adjust it's place to the left and right in the frequencies. How much you boost will also depend on what you hear and what you like.


    My starting place screen below.


    And where I ended up placing it for this song.


    I had it a bit more to the left and then I made the effect less by going a bit to the right. That's it. you are done.

    You can play with this and all the other EQ tricks that I talked about in these three documents. The main idea that I hope you get is to have a basic starting point and then play around. Your ears will be the only real guide for this task. Stay fresh, don't work too long, and enjoy your self.

    With The High Shelf Disabled, all the other tweaks are on.


    And now I've enabled the High Shelf Filter


    You can find the full version of this song on my soundcloud

    Closing Words

    I wrote these easy steps with the idea that it could help those of you who create great music but found your final product not sounding as good as it could. These documents are just a small beginning of what might happen in a studio. I wanted to keep it very simple and clear. I hope that it will help you all feel that it's not so hard and that you can control your EQ just a bit better.

    If you have any questions or comments do post them. Send me a pm or two. I'd love to hear from you.


  20. I've taken a few days off from practice to deal with various other matters.  It's a very strange process indeed when you are your own teacher on an instrument with no set rules.


    Trying to balance possibilities of techniques with limited time to devote to developing muscle memory along the way is quite the challenge. Scales for both hands combined (in variation of fingering) Scales for left and right hand with great variance.  Having thumbs to target notes is an odd development for a guitarist.  Everyday I set aside time for scales. Time for the left and time for the right. playing out the various positions in one, two and three (even four) octave runs.  There is little joy for me executing a simple scale nut it's a matter of building foundations for future playing.  I've spent no time playing the guitar or other instruments since acquiring the Linn.  It's that addictive.


    I had purchased the upgrade to Guitar Pro 6 as it has settings that allow for eight strings. I thought that having gp6 might be useful writing my own exercise regiments and other things.  I was wrong.  Firstly Even though I can set up the linn for channel per row (as midi guitars are set up) GP6 refuses to accept 8string channel input. So It's back to number pad and cursor buttons in order to input tab scores.  Secondly GP6 refuses to convert piano scores into tablature.  GP6 has turned out to be a huge waste of time and effort and money in regards to developing exercise material.  BIAB has limited fretboard arrangement.  I'm left with.... Standard Notation for practice material.  Yes I can read notation but I'm slow as molasses in winter at it.  I haven't had to read notation in a good 15 years or more.


    Oddly I've disabled some of the Instrument feature for now.  I'm more about developing a organ/piano type of approach to the instrument. Without bend / slide and pressure sensitivity (yes velocity works without afterpressure pressure sensitivity) It becomes a more stable more uniformed control It also is much more the feel and expression one might attain on an actual piano (sort of).  


    In regards to finding material other then scales.  I've dabbled slightly in jazz standards but admit I've got a long way to go. It's all about developing the muscle memory first.  I've got a certain disdain for classical music that can't be wiped from my soul.  Nonetheless the Bach preludes are proving themselves to be quite handy.


    When I first saw an image of starr labs z-board (same concept although it came out in 1990) my heart was aflutter.  I'd dream of playing it night and day knowing I could never afford the $6000 price tag. Oddly the z-board still has more features then the linnstrument. .And I believe it to be easier to play due to the smaller "keys".  I'm finding that new frontiers (at least for me) take a lot of time to get there.

  21. typo
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    nice to see how songstuff is coming along. new features being added etc.

    as a music site it's really pretty cool, and it's good to see site crew active on the forum.

    i thought it about time i acknowledged this in my blog!

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    Well, I cant say I would be upset if I this week was completely erased from my memory. I kept hoping it would look up, but the change of tides never did come. I really hoped it would get better tonight when I got home from work, but nothing has changed, well other than another day has gone by. I know, I tell other people to look on the bright side, but im not seeing any light right now. Ive had to go all week wondering if my man was mad at me or if he was hurt or something. I was physically sick all week until yesterday and I didnt even realize why. I finally figured it was from the diet pills I started taking. Work has been BLAH but also BOOM. alot of clashing. One of the supervisors is breaking down, she just cant handle it anymore. If she would start taking advice from other people she might make it, but if she doesnt change soon, shes going to be fired. Me, im just trying to keep myself out of the way, do my job and nothing more, since everyone is pretty much ignoring me anyways and nobody ever seemed to give a f*ck when I went the extra miles anyways, so f*ck it. Im sick of being the only one who cares. but oh well. Then, oh and this is great. I spent $300 on two bedding/curtain sets (one blue one purple) and of course, just like always my luck.. what happens? delivery problems.. why.. f*cking asshole sellers feel the need to use DHL.. goddamn idiots. now I was supposed to get the damn package 2 weeks ago, I talked to a woman at DHL last saturday and gave her VERY clear directions and a description.. goddammit theres a huge f*cking rock face mountain right behind my house, you cant miss it. she told me, oh yes, i know where you are talking about, we will get that back out to you next week (this week).. well guess what.. IT HASNT COME!!!! I just went on dhl to see the tracking info.. its giving me errors like crazy wont let me view the tracking info WTF.... but hey, whats it matter, with my luck I probably wont even be getting my new house anyways, or my husband for that matter.... someone just give me a hole to crawl into, please.

  22. I have got this mad idea - and it's probably been attempted before. Mixing pop lyrics with rock music. If by now you're scrolling madly trying to get away from this mad blog, think about this: "The plasticy catchy lyrics would be a perfect complement to the powerful beat of rock n roll!" I actually never recognised this in a song before, and naive as I am, was also wondering if anyone who wasted their time reading this blog might have heard a song like this.

    On another note, Telephone music video? It's the perfect piece of artistic videography to put with the music - can't get it out of my head, and it wasn't a complete waste of 10 minutes of my life. Also, I think the director, whose name escapes me, must've been gay to not have a permenent 'b' during the filming O.o .... I couldn't stop staring. :3 Yes, I'm bisexual, but still, it was awesome ^^