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Tips, thoughts & information on music & drumming.

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YouTube & Copyright

Until recently, I knew very little about how YouTube deals with copyright violators. Sure…I’d heard stories from friends & colleagues, but I’d never actually dealt with it firsthand. Now I have! 

For those who aren’t aware, I’m a long-time YouTuber. I set up my first channel back in January of 2010 & currently administrate a total of five. Even with 5 channels, I’d never had occasion to post work I didn’t own, or have permission to use. A few weeks back, I decided to try something new.….a playlist series called “Play Along”. The videos consist of me playing drums to a prerecorded song. Not exactly a revolutionary concept! ;) You’ll find countless examples this type of thing already on YouTube. But….it was new for me & it sounded like fun! 

My original intent was to post each video without the play-along song. That would have avoided the whole copyright quagmire, but it also had an unintended consequence. It made the finished product much less interesting! After some deliberation, I decided to roll the dice. If nothing else, it could serve as a learning experience. 

When I formatted my video, I used an mp3 iTunes version of the audio (song). Typically, mp3s of this type contain tagging which allows the track to be detected on platforms like YouTube. I uploaded my project & classified it as an “unlisted” video. This is standard practice for me. Once I view the upload & verify that it’s intact, I change the classification to “public”. It was late, so I put that final review off till the next morning. 

By the time I logged back on the next day….

  • The legal owner had already detected my use of his song
  • Reported the violation to YouTube
  • Decided what options to offer me
  • Tagged & set up my video for AD monetization

Keep in mind, at this point, my video was still classified as “unlisted”. I hadn’t even checked the upload yet! It seems the wheels of progress turn quickly when there’s revenue at stake! :glare: Fortunately for me, this was the outcome I had hoped for.  Most of those 2nd hand stories I mentioned earlier had described a similar process. Below is a copy of the actual notice that YouTube/Google attached to my video…..

Your video has been blocked in some countries.

Copyrighted content was found in your video.

Because of the claimant's policy, this video can't be played in some countries.


·         Video blocked in 1 country 

·         Unavailable on some devices 


·         Monetized by claimant 

If you agree with these conditions, you don't have to do anything. 
Learn More

Copyright details





·         Look Away (Album Version) - The Ozark Mountain Daredevils

·         Sound recording

·         0:02 - 3:29 play match

·         UMG

·         Blocked in some countries 

·        Remove Song

·        File a Dispute


Additional details about original version of the notice:

  • When you hover over the Video blocked in 1 country” statement, it tells you which country…in this case - Germany.
  • When you hover over the “Monetized by claimant” statement, this notice appears – You can use the copyrighted content in your video, but ads might appear on your video.”
  • As you can see, the poster is given 3 basic choices:

1.    Do nothing, indicating that you agree with the arrangements already negotiated.

2.    Remove the copyrighted song

3.    File a dispute over the ownership of contested material, in this case the play-along audio track.


Clicking on the “Learn More” link took me to a page containing this statement –

“Am I in trouble?

·         In most cases, getting a Content ID claim isn’t a bad thing for your YouTube channel. It just means, “Hey, we found some material in your video that’s owned by someone else.”

·         It’s up to copyright owners to decide whether or not others can reuse their original material. In many cases, copyright owners allow the use of their content in YouTube videos in exchange for putting ads on those videos.”


In the spirit of full disclosure, that page also contains information pertaining to other potential outcomes. Occasionally, the owner of rights can strongly object. In some of those cases, your standing as a YouTube member can be affected….both negatively & permanently.

So, the bottom line seems to be this….doing what I did is a bit of a crap-shoot! There is a chance it could affect your standing on YouTube and more. BUT….the majority of the time, you’ll probably get an outcome similar to what I got here. For me it was win-win. They’re allowing me to use the audio and I gained first-hand knowledge of YouTube’s procedures for handling breach of copyright.

When I changed the video classification to “public”, I added this statement in the liner notes……

***The ADs you see here are not mine. The registered owner of "Look Away" chose to allow use of their audio content in exchange for placing ads in my video. Since I had no commercial aspirations for this project anyway, I thought that arrangement was more than fair!

For anyone interested, here’s the video that brought about this learning experience - https://youtu.be/VRdqL_UCQz0

Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile






Resisting standardization is a natural tendency for creative types.

We want to be different…original, right?

In part, that’s why we do what we do!

The thing is, we sometimes allow that desire-for-different to become an obstacle to our songwriting.

Case-in-point the never-ending battle over lengthy song intros. 

  • You say it’s too long, I say I’m exercising creative license.
  • You say it’s commercially unacceptable, I tell you I want it to be different because standardization stifles creativity.
  • I say it’s too long, you say “who am I to dictate how you write your song”? It’s your song…it should be your choice.
  • I tell you that long intros challenge the reasonable limits of a listener’s attention span…you say that pleasing the average listener is less important than living up to your own creative standards.
  • I tell you it’s too long, you tell me you’ve heard that criticism so often you’re numb to it. 

These types of exchanges have become virtual expectations on songwriting forums around the world. Over the past decade, I’ve watched this “intro” situation devolve.

Suggestions which were once perceived as well-meaning, are now considered white noise. More times than not, recipients respond defensively or not at all.


Some might say – “good, I’m sick to death of hearing about my intros anyway”!

The thing is, I fear it’s the intros themselves that have suffered. We now throw the baby out with the bath water.

Too many writers are ignoring the intros, as well as the advice.


I contend that the importance of the song introduction is greatly underestimated.

Remember back to your childhood…when your parents told you about the importance of first impressions? Well the song intro is your opportunity to make a first impression on your listener!

And…just as your parent told you back then, you may not get a 2nd chance.

Regardless of how creatively fulfilled the intro makes you feel, it’ the listener’s impression of it that really counts If they become bored with it too soon, they’re likely to turn it off.

How do I know this?

Because (news flash) that’s what I do!   Absolutely!

Yes…I’ve been a songwriter 20+ years, a musician 30+…a listener for my entire life and if I begin listening to a 6-minute song on the boards with a long, terrible intro…I turn it off.

Now imagine what an ordinary listener does!


As songwriters, we can delude ourselves into believing whatever we want. Countless people over the years have told me that living up to their own creative standards is their primary goal.

And I might buy that load of crap if it weren’t for the fact that they’re all SongStuff members. The vast majority of whom post material on the boards, in either the critique or showcase sections.

2nd news flash - If a major portion of your creative life is spent making your material publicly available for listening & feedback, then you do care what others think of your efforts.

You may not be comfortable admitting that to yourselves, but you do. On some level everyone does!


With that in mind, here's a few suggestions I hope you'll find helpful:

1.      If you insist on crafting lengthy introductions, please make them interesting. Repetition of a basic chord progression, with basic percussion & a synth pad underneath does not qualify as interesting.

2.      There’s an art to creating an intro (arranging).

·         Give it a defined structure

·         Build in some form of melodic movement

·         It should differ from your other song sections, yet be similar enough to convey the impression of a cohesive whole. In other words, sound like they belong together.

·         It should resolve into the body of your song. The change from intro-to-song body should flow naturally. It shouldn’t sound abrupt or forced.

  1. If you can’t come up with something interesting & distinctive, do yourself a favor…keep it short (15-20 sec.). Contrary to popular opinion, length does NOT = creativity. 


Last, but not least, I’ve including 7 sample intros taken from my own body of work.

They range in length from :17 to :54. Each sample ends where the vocal (body of the song) begins.


*BTW for anyone wondering, NO…I don’t think I’m God’s gift to songwriting.

I've included these samples for 2 reasons - 1) as examples of the things described above 2) to demonstrate that I practice what I preach.  


Intro Audio Files:

00_Dont Lie To Yourself_Tom Hoffman.mp3

00_Slow Down_Tom Hoffman.mp3

00_The Usual Suspects_Tom Hoffman.mp3

00_Pain For Gain_Tom Hoffman.mp3

00_I Hope To Be-Tom Hoffman.mp3

Sunday Christian Intro snippet.wav

00_Middle Class Blues_Tom Hoffman.mp3

If you noticed, Middle Class Blues is the only intro that would qualify as long (by board standards). Even though it's under one minute, it begins with the hook line (title). That lets the listener know immediately that the song will contain vocals. My advice...never assume that they know. Many people, my wife included, have no interest whatsoever in instrumental songs.

For many listeners, it's all about the vocal.  


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile



Writers' Block

As a long-time participant in online musician/songwriter forums, I've seen countless references to the infamous phenomena known as writers block. The thing is.....I'm not certain it actually exists! At least not in the way we've come to think of it.


Writers block is one of those catch-all terms. A shapeless, indefinable brain-fog held responsible for any & all blockages of creative or productive thought.

Whatever the issue, be it.....

  • lack of a viable idea
  • absence of inspiration or personal motivation
  • difficulty in finishing, or developing a specific project
  • inability to find a creative way to phrase a lyric, or make point

The tendency is to chalk it up to writers block.


Like many other creative fields, we musical types tend to shroud our process with a bit of delusional mystique. Simply put, we don't want to be clearly understood by the general public. After all, what we do is special and we wouldn't want just anyone to think they could do it. Would we? Our use of deliberately vague terms such as "inspiration", "writers block", "talented", "gifted" and "emotion-filled" help us to maintain that shroud of mystery. Seriously....I dare you to try and explain to someone what "inspiration" is! Clearly define it in 10 words or less. I certainly can't.


Our industry elites are often the worst offenders in this area. Most of us have had the pleasure of hearing a famous artist interviewed. Have you ever wondered about some of the stories and advice those interviews generate? It's a tough position to find yourself in, particularly when it's one of your favorite artists. You worship the ground this person walks on. You want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, you can't help wondering about some of what you just heard.

  • One of my favorite stories is the tried & true "it came to me in a dream". Good luck explaining to an aspiring writer how to go about writing a song in their sleep! :yes:
  • My nominee for favorite piece of misleading, useless advice is this one - "I never keep records of my new song ideas. If it's worth remembering, I'll remember it. If I don't, it probably wasn't very good to begin with".

OMG....seriously? Unfortunately yes! As closely as I can recall, that's what the man said. It's so wrong....on so many levels, yet I'll bet there were listeners who took him seriously. So, what's the motivation behind these fabrications of fact? Simple! They want to make our creative process sound just a little cooler, a little less attainable and a little more mysterious than it actually is. Fact is, the tales they tell are more interesting than the truth! So is telling everyone that you have "writers block". :whistle:

Despite its lack of definable meaning.....

  • everyone's familiar with the term
  • using it implies artistry.

After all, one must actually be a writer if one has "writers block"....mustn't one?


Over the years, I've noticed a pattern. The term writers block is typically used by younger, less experienced writers. That being the case, I'd like to point out a rarely discussed songwriting fundamental. There are 2 basic steps involved in creating a new song.

  1. First comes the idea itself. Without the fundamental idea, there can be no writing.
  2. Development of that idea into an actual song. This is the lengthy, grueling part of the process....the actual writing.

My fear is that far too many novices attempt to approach songwriting as a single step process. They schedule time to sit down and write, without having an idea.....hoping that one arrives, like a lightning bolt from the heavens. I have very simple advice for anyone employing this method. Stop!!!

Scheduled writing time should never be spent trying to come up with new song ideas. Either have them beforehand, or don't sit down to write! If your difficulty is in coming up with viable ideas, you are not experiencing writers block. You simply don't have any good ideas. The two are not synonymous.


Typically, ideas for songs don't arrive in a scheduled manner. They come when they come. In my case, they generally evolve from one of 4 starting points:

- a chord progression

- a riff/pattern

- a section of melody

- a central theme

Those 4 account for the majority of my step #1s. Many of these starting points (ideas) are discovered completely by accident. They come while practicing guitar, driving, watching TV, speaking to someone about a totally unrelated subject, listening to music, or waiting to fall asleep. The trick is to keep good, organized records. That way....when you do schedule time to write, you actually have a starting point (idea). From there, you can develop an actual song.


In my 18 years of songwriting, I never sat down to write without first having an idea. Not only have I never done it, it's difficult for me to imagine why anyone would. Think about it for a moment. Would you go out to change the oil in your car, without having a car? Of course not! Only an idiot would do that, right? Then why in the world would you sit down to develop & expand upon an idea without having one? The truth is, an experienced writer wouldn't!


I'll make one final point in closing. Not everyone is a writer! The ability to.....

  • begin with virtually nothing (a blank slate)
  • conceive a viable new idea
  • then develop that idea into a fully fledged song

....isn't something everyone can do. At least not by themselves.

Fact is, I know knowledgeable musicians who by their own admission, couldn't write a song if someone held a gun to their head. Most would love to and many have tried. For whatever reason, they can't.


If that last description sounded a bit like you, but you still crave involvement in the creative end of the process, try partnering up with someone. Figure out what your strong points are, then find someone who's strong where you're weak. If you're good at developing ideas, yet never seem to get any of your own, team up with someone who does! Last time I checked, 2 halves still make a whole.


Topics like this are difficult to address on a music forum such as Songstuff. Were I to post something like this as a response to a question or problem, I'd run the risk of someone taking it personally. In my opinion, subjects like this are better dealt with as blog articles. Hopefully, someone finds this one useful.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Back in July, I wrote a blog article about writers referring to "lyrics" as "songs". The points I attempted to make were that the terms are NOT synonymous & that using them interchangeably leads to confusion. The article had its' share of dissenters. If you haven't read it, I'd suggest doing so before continuing with this installment. I've included the direct link below for easy access.


In creating part one, I committed an error in judgment. Rather than offering the views of the music industry, online world & legal community, I presented personal reasons in support of my case. Part 2 is an attempt to rectify my previous error.


*All information listed below is the result of research done today (5/23/2014)*

1) Google search of "words to songs" - page 1 results matching that description, in order of appearance:

· Song Lyrics

· Lyrics

· AZLyrics

· Lyric Finder

· Lyricsworld

· MetroLyrics

· Instant Song Lyrics


2) Top rated online contests via Google search:

  • John Lennon Songwriting Contest - despite being called a songwriting contest, it doesn't offer a "lyrical" category....sound-file entries only.
  • International Songwriting Competition - ditto the above
  • USA Songwriting Competition - offers a "Lyrics-Only" contest category
  • Great American Song Contest - offers a "Lyric Writing" category & specifies that a typed "lyric sheet" must be submitted with each full song entry.
  • Indie International Songwriting Contest - was not able to find a breakdown of their categories, but here's a quote from their "rules" page - "Songs will be judged based on melody, composition, lyrics (when applicable), originality and phrasing."
  • Song of the Year - has a "Lyrics-Only" category for entries
  • American Songwriter - hosts a "Lyric Contest"


3) Musician / Songwriter Forums via Google

  • Songstuff - has "Lyric critique" & "Song & Recording Critique" sections. It also has a Showcase area for "Lyrics Collections".
  • Musesmuse - has "Lyrics Feedback", "Song Feedback", "Lyric Contest" & "Song Contest" forums.
  • Tunesmith.net - has "Lyrics", "Lyric Re-writes" & "Audio For Songs" critique sections.
  • Songwriter101 - has "Lyric Library" & "Tune Topic" forums.
  • Songwriter Forum- has "Feedback on Finished Songs", "Feedback on Works In Progress" & "Lyrics" forums.


4) Library of Congress (Copyright office) - quote taken directly from their Form PA online filing instructions. Notice the differentiation in types of work being registered.

- Nature of This Work: Briefly describe the general nature or character of the

work being registered for copyright. Examples: "Music", "Song Lyrics"; "Words"

and Music"; "Drama"; "Musical Play"; "Choreography"; "Pantomime"; "Motion

Picture"; "Audiovisual Work".


5) Merriam Webster Dictionary:


noun \ˈlir-ik\

: the words of a song

: a poem that expresses deep personal feelings in a way that is like a song : a lyric poem


So.....do you notice a pattern emerging? :yes:

Bottom line..... it's not just my opinion folks. Virtually everyone in mainstream music differentiates between "lyrics" and "songs". If some of you are still determined to call your lyrics "songs", go right ahead.

You simply need to recognize that your disagreement isn"t with me!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Over the past few years, I've noticed a growing trend. Lyricists have begun referring to lyrics as "songs". It's becoming more & more commonplace on musician/writer forums like Songstuff.com. To be perfectly honest, it bothers me. I've considered mentioning it in posts...on the forum itself, but decided to do it in a blog article. A blog is less likely to be taken personally.


Back when I began to notice this trend, I whipped out my trusty Websters dictionary & looked up the word "song". Much to my surprise, one of the possible definitions listed is...."a poem easily set to music". Go figure! So I guess technically, it's not an inappropriate use of the term. Still, it does seem needlessly confusing. After all, we have a perfectly good, time-tested, accurately descriptive, universally understood term for lyrics...."Lyrics"!


Regardless of Websters one technical exception, use of the word "song" implies a number of characteristics....

  • That it's more than simply written text.
  • That it's able to be listen-to, or played (as in the case of sheet music).
  • That it contains some melodic, musical or rhythmic elements....above & beyond basic lyrical meter.


I'm willing to bet that much of the general listening public shares my preconceived notions. Don't think so? OK then....do a little test for yourself. Ask 10 of your non-writer friends to describe what comes to mind when they hear the word "song". Any bets as to how many of them respond "words-only"?


So why has this practice become so commonplace? I can't know for certain, but I can make a couple of educated guesses. After all, this is a blog. :yes:

  1. It's human nature to embellish whatever we do...along with its value & importance in the overall scheme of things. Bluntly put....it sounds more impressive to say that you write "songs".
  2. Safety in numbers...someone does it, someone else mimics the behavior...the more we see it, the less anyone bothers to question its' correctness.


So what am I really getting at here?

  • First of all, I'm not implying that lyricists aren't a valuable part of the songwriting equation. They certainly are! It's the word "part" that some seem to be ignoring. Here's a quick example of what I'm talking about. An engine is an indispensable part of a car. Fact is, a car won't do you much good without one. Yet, you never hear a mechanic refer to an engine...as "a car". Despite its importance, they recognize it as only a part of the final product. I imagine they also recognize how confusing it would be, if they began calling 2 different things by the same name.
  • I'm also a bit bothered by our seemingly endless need to alter the traditional meanings of words. Take the word "hero" for-instance. Use of that term was historically reserved for extreme behavior. Thirty years ago, when you heard the word used to describe someone, it was safe to assume that they had done something truly extraordinary! But nowadays...you can't turn on the news without hearing the term applied to countless situations where people simply did....what common sense would dictate they do. Forgive me, but that's not heroic behavior! That's living your life in a responsible manner! Yes....we should encourage, recognize & reward responsible behavior. We simply shouldn't label it heroic! Give us another 10 years & the word will be virtually meaningless.
  • This trend is making effective communication un-necessarily difficult. On musician/writer boards such as Songstuff.com, I regularly see member posts asking people to "review their song". Songstuff has both a "lyric critique" section and a "song critique" section. Which of those 2 sections would you guess that poster is attempting to direct you toward? Fact is....we don't know! We also get many inquiries about "how to post a new song for critique". Quite frankly, we don't know how to answer! You see, the procedure for posting an audio (song) file, is completely different from the procedure for posting a lyric (text-only).


Well that's all I have for this installment. Hopefully...if you're a lyricist, I haven't angered or alienated you. I promise that wasn't my intent. I'm simply trying to improve our ability to communicate.

Help us to help you folks! If it's a lyric, please call it a "lyric".

BTW - If you haven't already figured it out, the answer to the question posed by the title is - "When It's A Lyric"! ^_^

Till next time!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




There are as many answers to that question as there are songwriters. The reason for that is pretty simple. There is no definitely correct way to write a song!


Art is universally understood to be a subjective medium. Every artist creates differently and every consumer interprets differently. To call it a vague concept is an understatement! Personally, I think Webster's should add "art" as one of the officially recognized definitions for the word "vague" ;) . The difference between good & bad art, truly is in the eye-of-the-beholder.....or in this case, the ear-of-the-listener. For those who create art, that vagueness is both a blessing and a curse.


The blessing part of that equation is fairly obvious! If there are no absolutes governing the creation of art, then the artist really can't make a mistake. Can they? If there are no strict rules, then....whatever decisions are made, must be correct, at least in theory. From a creative standpoint, that truly is a blessing. It means that artists have complete creative freedom! They begin their process with absolutely nothing.....then end it with their version of a completed work of art. Generally speaking, I imagine that the public is aware of our blessing. But, I doubt whether much thought is ever given to "our curse".


In a nutshell, it's that same complete freedom, which endlessly complicates the creative process. The question presented by the title of this article, is merely one example of that complication.
"When Is A Song Finished"?
· Exactly how does a songwriter go about making that decision, given their complete creative freedom?
· What do they base the decision on, since there are no hard & fast rules?

Chances are, unless you're a songwriter, those questions have never even entered your mind. That's one of the reasons I chose this particular topic. Hopefully, those of you who don't write are getting a glimpse of what's behind that mysterious creative curtain.


For purposes of this article, the term "song" will be used to refer to only the essential elements.....lyrics, melody & single instrument accompaniment. Believe it or not, the complexities multiply about 1,000-fold once you begin factoring in elements like the arrangement, effect choices and final mix. Honestly, I can feel myself growing older just thinking about it! :rolleyes:

With just those 3 basic elements to consider, how complicated could the process be....right? After all, we're only talking about words, a melody for those words and some backing chords to be played by 1 instrument beneath that melody. That does sound simple! You would think that, once a writer has created those 3 elements for a song, the song would be done....right?
Yeah....till the writer begins asking themselves questions like:
· Is the meaning of my lyric as clear as it could be?
· Will most listeners be able to come away with the message that I hoped to convey?
· Does the rhyme scheme of the lyric work well? Did I include enough rhymes, or did I make it too rhymy? In either case, does that detract from the overall message I'm trying to convey?
· Does my lyric contain a solid, easily memorable hook? In other words, is there something built into the lyric that's catchy & repeated, that will help make the listener want to hear the song again?
· Are all of the verses solid, or do I need to rewrite the 3rd ......it seems a bit weak?
· Is my title catchy & cool? Will it be easy for people to remember? Is it short? After all....long titles are frowned upon.
· Will other people find my lyric interesting? If not, why not? Should I change something to make it a bit easier to identify with?
· Does the meter of my lyric (feel & flow) sound natural when it's sung?
· Does the melody work well with the single instrument chord structure behind it?
· Are both the melody & the feeling of the music good matches for the lyric? Do all 3 elements point the listener in the same direction? Do all 3 complement one another?
· Does the song need a bridge section? If so, what type & where should it be placed within the song?
· How's my introduction? Is it short enough? Will it keep a listener engaged, or make them want to turn the song off?
· Is my song too long?
· Does my song flow naturally from section- to-section, or does the change from verse-to-chorus sound too abrupt? Should I have included pre-chorus sections, rather than trying to move directly from verse-to-chorus?

Some of you may be asking yourselves....is he serious? Believe it or not....totally!

None of these questions are far-fetched. As absurd as it may seem, they represent merely the-tip-of-the songwriting iceberg. There are many more. This internal battle we wage, is simply a necessary part of the process & songwriters learn to accept it as such. But, sooner or later a song has to be finished....right? So the real question becomes...how much of this examining process should we allow ourselves to do? At what point does it cease being useful & instead become a neurotic exercise in futility? Once again, there is no single answer. Each writer's process is different. That's our curse....the never-ending questioning of one's self!


Though I can't pretend to speak for every writer, I can certainly speak for myself. For me, the process became manageable once I learned to define, control & embrace my own version of it.
That's right....I actually
· examined my process
· considered my specific goals & motivations as a writer
· made realistic assessments of my up-front expectations, the tools I had to work with and my available time.

Keeping in mind that there is no such thing as "the perfect song", I made some simple decisions. I weighed what I was willing & able to put into a project....against my expectations of the end result. I tried to achieve a balance between what I was willing to accept....and what it would take to get me there. From that, was born my version of the process.


I've been writing songs for over 16 years now. Somewhere along the line, I stopped viewing songs as finished or unfinished. I prefer to look at everything as a work-in-progress....at various stages of development. When I'm done with a song, I'm essentially "done for now". Because I also recognize the incredible importance of re-writing, I never rule out the possibility of returning to a project at a later time. As a matter of fact, I just finished doing that to a 2007 song - "The Real World".


So in closing, I'd like to leave a simple piece of advice for novice songwriters. Do yourself a favor & figure out what your personal version of "finished" is going to be. If you wait for inspiration, intuition or divine intervention to let you know.....you could be in for a very long wait! :P Don't buy into the fairy-tales you've heard about how this magically works. Get in there & figure it out for yourself. You can always make adjustments to your process as you go.


Happy writing everyone!


Tom Hoffman
Songstuff member profile


You may have heard about the recent youtube scandal. That's the one where several major labels were supposedly caught cheating....artificially generating huge numbers of plays for videos of their artists. Anyway, as the story goes, millions and millions of plays were removed from the offending video stats. The articles I read left me with the impression that Google (YouTube) was concerned about....

  • big offenders
  • huge numbers of plays
  • mega-artists
  • and the perceived credibility of YouTube's "play" counts


Honestly, I recall thinking to myself - "good....maybe that will level the playing field a bit for smaller, amateur artists".

But, I wasn't expecting what came next!


Phase #1 - Jan. 2013


I maintain 2 personal youtube sites. One of them has been active a few months, the other for a couple years. This past January, I pulled up the oldest site (TomHoffman1). I immediately noticed it had gone from 8,000+ plays....down to 7,000+. Huh? Well...no big deal I thought. They must have made an adjustment....perhaps based on videos that I'd deleted from the site over time. Out of curiosity, I returned the following day. By then, I had lost half my plays........ approximately 4,000 out of the 8,000+ I had 2 days prior. That was a little bigger deal! I began wondering where this was all headed? How many more might I lose....and on the basis of what? I didn't have a clue!


Fortunately, I'm an amateur. So at least this didn't mean actual dollars to me. These sites, like most of my musical endeavors, are strictly passionate hobbies nowadays. But the whole thing was more than a little irritating! At this point, I could safely assume that Google had no intention of limiting its corrections to big artists or major labels.


BTW - It's probably worth pointing out, that I have never received any type of notice or explanation from YouTube/Google. The stats were simply changed.


Phase #2 - Feb. 2013


Earlier this week, both of my sites were altered. They're certainly staying busy over at Google these days :yes:


I'd actually been quite pleased with the progress of my newer drum-specific site (DrumStuffTH). It was only a few months old, but had already drawn over 5,200 plays. Honestly, I thought that was pretty decent. Anyway, I pulled the site up last night to add detailed descriptions to several of the recent videos. Surprise, surprise.....my site play total had been reduced to 3,215. I dont recall ever deleting any videos from this site. Wonder what they based this change on?


So, being the paranoid individual I am, I immediately pulled up my older site (TomHoffman1). Yup...you guessed it! Reduced again....down to 1,620 total site plays this time. Simply amazing! That's the 3rd time they'd randomly reduced the total for that site. Back in early January, I had over 8,200 plays. Now I had 1,620???? Just for grins, I added up the play totals for the 9 individual videos currently displaying on that site page. The play totals from just those 9, add up to more than 1,620. Now I'm even more confused!


As I stated earlier, neither of these are commercial sites. So I'd love to know exactly what they think they're accomplishing....and why? What's the end-game here? To my knowledge, they've never changed any of the individual video play counts on either site. They've just altered the site play totals. If this was part of an effort to legitimatize YouTubes' play-count numbers, they'd be concerned about individual vid counts....not overall site counts. Right?


Back in 2012, I began noticing another interesting YouTube phenomenon. Many of the individual video play counters, on both my sites, seem to lock up around the 300-play number. I truly don't understand that! I'll share a couple of specific examples:


· "Memories of Christmas" (TomHoffman1) had achieved a play-count of 301 by Oct. 2012. From Thanksgiving to New Years', I had links to that video posted on 8-10 different sites, had emailed the link to friends & family and had even played it myself a few times at relatives homes....on their computers. That's the heart of the Christmas season and it's a Christmas song/video, so you know it got played...at least a little. I checked the play count for that video on 2/22/2013. Guess how many plays it had? If you guessed 301, you're absolutely correct! Not only is that highly unlikely....it's damn near impossible! Yet, there it is....go figure!


· There's a 2nd example on my DrumStuffTH site. "Understanding Shuffle Rhythms/Beats (part 1)" reached 302 plays right around the first of the year. As of 2/22/2013, it still shows a total play count of 302....hasn't budged! As with my last example, I've played it myself on several other systems....just to see if the count would change. It didn't!


Absolutely amazing!! But in YouTubes' defense, they do still offer their sites FREE! Because I don't profit from my sites, I'd have a really tough time justifying something I had to pay for. I do appreciate the fact that they're still available. BUT.....I'd love to know why some of these questionable practices are of benefit to anyone? I simply don't get it! My sincere hope is that this blog article generates some comments. I imagine there are people out there who possess a greater understanding of these seemingly random practices than I do. I truly look forward to hearing from them.


Tom Hoffman







When I started writing percussion tutorials for Songstuff, that section of our site library consisted of 3 articles.

My basic approach has been to:

- Define what I felt were the fundamental components of trap set drumming

- Cover the basics of each

- Further develop each component with additional articles....beyond just the basics

At this point, I don't see any huge holes in our coverage of the basics. There are however, small holes.

This blog article is intended to plug one of those & serve as a supplement to the tutorials.



Background & Purpose

For 9 years of my life, I was a gigging drummer. Back then, there was no internet.

Yes boys & girls, back in-the-day.....we beat our clothes on rocks to clean them, our primary possessions were stone-knives & bearskins and there was no internet! It was a barbaric existence! :001_tongue:

Anyway, prior to the existence of the internet, information & tips were harder to come by. Advice on subjects like "what extras gigging drummers should carry" was virtually nonexistent. Most of us learned from our mistakes....figuring it out as we went along. Kind of a learn as you earn process. That worked OK, but it did have one serious downside.

The mistake always came before the learning. These few, simple recommendations may help with that.



To perform (gig) with a band, two obvious things are required:

  • Something to play with (sticks, brushes,etc.)
  • And something to play on (drumset)

It's the little things that are often overlooked. So here's my short-list of recommended necessities:


1. Always carry extra drumsticks....2-3 pair minimum.


2. At the very least, carry an extra top-snare head (batter) & bass drum head. If money's not a huge issue, it's really nice to have extra top heads for your entire set. But snare & bass drum are the most crucial. The extras can remain in your vehicle. Just be sure that wherever you've stored them, you have quick access if needed.


3. Carry an extra drum key. Keys are very small, hence very easy to lose or misplace. For no more than the cost of a drum key, why take the chance?


4. Your bass drum pedal is an indispensable part of your kit. I see 2 available options here:

- Once again, if money's not a big issue, carry an extra pedal. If you do, make sure it's already adjusted & ready for use (mallet height, tension, etc.).

- If money IS an issue, as it always seemed to be for me :rolleyes: ,there is a practical option. Carry an extra mallet/shaft assembly & tension spring. These are the 2 parts most likely to create a problem.


5. Always carry a rug (mat) large enough to place your drum set on. Band performance areas are inconsistent, at best. I've set up on finished wood floors, flatbed truck trailers, asphalt parking lots, carpeted stages, marble floors, etc. You can never be certain what type of surface you'll get, how fragile it may be, how stable it is, or what acoustical properties it will possess. Have a rug! If you don't need it, don't use it, but always take it along.


As always, I appreciate your interest in these articles. Please feel free to post comments.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Unless you've played in a cover band, you're probably not aware of this little tidbit. Generally, the drummer will spend less time picking-out & learning parts than anyone else in the band. I played in bands for 8+ years of my life. When it came time to learn new material, I was the envy of every guitar, bass & keyboard player I ever played with!-LOL

Those are the times it's particularly good to be a drummer!


It's not that we're a lazy breed. It's simply the nature of the beast. Here are a few of the reasons:


- drum parts are easier to hear & pick out in song, even in today's environment of over-produced studio cuts


- our parts contain fewer unfamiliar components


- in most cases, parts don't need to be learned as exactly as some of the more familiar, signature parts of a song


- drummers don't have to deal with concepts like melody, pitch, harmony, chord voicing, achieving a similar tone & effect, where to position a lead on the guitar neck.....and how to make one guitarist sound like 3 or 4 on the CD.

Alas, ours is a simpler task! happy.gif


On the other hand, when it comes to setting up & tearing down equipment, you'd rather be anyone but the drummer.

The proverbial shoe is on the other foot. blush.gif

When the job is over, the guitar player wipes down his guitars, put them in the cases, unplugs his amp & pedal-board, covers or cases them......and he's off.

Yes, it seems that what comes around, goes around!

The time we save on learning parts, we spend on grunt work later. Go figure!

Of course, if you're financially able to carry a road-crew, the work load isn't nearly as uneven.

But, if you're doing it yourself, the drummer does get the short-end-of-the-drumstick (pun intended).


Anyway......that's all I have for now. Hopefully you found this inside information interesting.....or at least amusing.

Next time the subject will be "Dispelling Musical Myths". It's a bit of a departure for me, as it deals more with music in general, than drums & drumming specifically. Check back in a couple of weeks & I'll have it posted.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Back in part-1 of this blog, I made the statement that new drum students don't need an actual set of drums to begin the learning process. In fact, I went so far as to suggest that starting out with just a few tools offered some real benefits. I promised to supply you with some reasons, so and here they are:


1) The student finds out very quickly if their primary interest is in having a new toy, or actually learning to play an instrument. Sitting down at a table, with a pair of sticks & a practice pad isn't glamorous. It's simply the means to an end.


2) It gives the new drum student something to work towards and sets-up a connect-the-dots kind of thinking. It becomes immediately obvious that there will be no drumset, without practice & authentic-prolonged interest. In my case, I wanted to be a drummer, wanted drums, understood from the start what I needed to do to achieve those goals and did it. Basically, if you do the work & spend the time, you get the prize. It's simple, direct & it works. Whether you're the prospective drummer or the parent, there's simply no downside to handling it this way. At the end of the process, you'll still have the drums you wanted, but you've earned them. Knowing that feels good!


3) It establishes a starting point - your hands. Drums are a tricky instrument in that they utilize both hands and feet. That's a bit overwhelming to think about. The trick is.....don't try to master it all at once. You tackle it in smaller steps, beginning with your hands. Because you only have sticks, a pad and a book, you're not faced with the temptation of trying to do it all right away. For new drummers, the hands are always the first thing addressed. Once you've begun to develop a basic level of comfort in utilizing your hands, the feet slowly come into play. At that point, you'll need at least a basic drum kit.


One last comment on this subject. If you are taking lessons in connection with a music store, beware of any instructor who tries to tell you that you have to buy a set before you begin. Chances are that instructor has a commissioned sales arrangement with the store & will personally profit from his advice. Not that I have anything against making money, but your instructor will need that money just as badly in a few months, as he does now. blush.gif Trust me...I know!


Next time I'll talk about utilizing your feet, some of the issues which spring from that and a few suggestions on how to deal with those issues. Once again, thanks for your continued interest!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Once you do get a set, here's a brief video tutorial covering essential beat patterns to get you moving in the right direction.



As the title indicates, my next couple of blog entries will deal with what tools you need to begin learning drums, when you need them and why. If you happen to be the parent of an aspiring student, I think you may be pleasantly surprised. smile.gif


Unlike most instruments, you don't need a set of drums to begin learning. Many instructors advise waiting a few months before purchasing a drum set. My first teacher did & consequently, that's how I learned. I started with:

-a pair of sticks

-an instruction book

-and a practice pad

That was what I practiced with for the first 3 months. To this day, that's the same arrangement I recommend for anyone starting out. It's exactly what you need.....no more & no less. It offers other benefits too, but I'll deal with those in part 2.


*This is probably a good place to mention that many instructors recommend starting out with heavy sticks. I agree! It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but learning with a heavier stick will build strength in your hands & wrists quickly. Once you've done that, it's a simple task to trade-down into a smaller, lighter size. You'll find that you instantly gain speed & agility when you do..........and that's the pay-off! thumb23.gif


Check back in a week or so for the next installment (part 2). I'll try my best to make you a believer in these recommendations.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Musical forums like Songstuff draw more than their share of songwriting questions. Topics range from technically related software questions to structure & theory. Being one of the more experienced members, I try to assist these posters wherever I can. In the course of doing that, I've noticed something. Many of the inquiring members lack the musical knowledge necessary to understand the answers to their own questions.

For the sake of clarity, here's a sample, fictitious question....

Let's say a new member makes a post, inquiring about how to write a specific type of chorus section. The member sites several examples of popular songs with choruses of the type they prefer. It seems that, no matter what they try, they're unable to duplicate what they're hearing in those examples. They'd really love to be able to create chorus sections like those. What should they do?

Well..my first advice would be to take those popular song examples, break them down into specifics and analyze exactly what's happening. The poster knows their end-game. They want chorus sections that sound more like the examples. Simple enough! So, figure out how the examples did it. One way to accomplish that is by answering questions like:

  • Where does the melodic structure go....does the chorus melody ascend, or descend from the previous sections?
  • How does the backing musical (chord) structure compare to that of the previous sections? What did the writer change for the chorus?
  • What else is occurring? Are there extensive vocal harmonies being used....did they bring in additional instrumentation....does the emotional feel, or timing of the vocal change dramatically?
  • Is there a shift in timing...say from half-time to full-time?

In my humble opinion....a greater, more thorough understanding of what they already like is the shortest route to the answers they seek. Problem is....for that suggestion to work, the poster must already possess some knowledge of:

  • Basic key structure & melody
  • Chords & how they relate to key structure
  • Vocal harmony and what it consists of
  • Basic timing concepts....straight time, half-time, syncopation, lyrical meter, etc.

If they don't, my proposed solution would be no help at all. Honestly, nothing will. What they actually have is a knowledge gap, not a question about songwriting. They've been attempting to create, what they lack the knowledge to understand. That's gotta be tough! Would you be able to write a cohesive book without a firm grasp of your chosen language? Of course not! Unfortunately, that doesn't stop folks from trying to write songs before they truly understand what a song is. Essentially, music is the language of songwriting. There is a direct correlation between creating music (song) and possessing the knowledge to comprehend it.

That brings us full circle, back to the title of this article "To Write, Or Not To Write". Simply put, many people attempt to write before they should.

I can speculate a couple of reasons for this.....

  • We're living in a short-cut society. Everyone, particularly young people, crave a quicker means to their desired end....in this case songwriting.
  • Learning about theory, structure & your instrument aren't nearly as enjoyable as experimenting with creation. Fact is, they're tedious endeavors requiring repetition & personal discipline. The creative process can be more loosely structured and honestly...a lot more fun.

I get that because I've been there...done that! Perhaps that statement will make more sense if I share a little about myself. Rather than bore you to death with redundant info, I'll refer you to my Songstuff member profileIt's brief and the first 2 paragraphs contain most of the pertinent information.

I was fortunate! Because of my youthful involvement, I knew enough to understand what I lacked. So my first goal was to fill in those knowledge and ability gaps. I did not allow myself to begin writing until I had accomplished that goal. I knew that I'd be tempted to stray from that commitment, so I devised a simple, but firm plan:

  • Time is a limited commodity. Given that, I could see that consistent focus & structure was vital. Bottom line....I needed to limit my initial efforts to learning & structured practice. I decided that I would not begin writing until I'd acquired a grasp of all the basics and had become competent on my chosen instruments. My goals never included becoming a stand-out player, or an absolute theory-head. I was simply interested in achieving competency in both.
  • Once I'd reached that goal, I'd continue learning & practicing, but I'd spend much less time on both. That would free up enough time to begin writing.
  • From day one, I set myself up with notebook paper, tablature paper and a means by which to record impromptu ideas. Just because I wasn't going to write, didn't mean I should keep track of any and all viable ideas that came my way. For 2 years, as I came across riffs I liked....juicy chord combinations....catchy song titles or concepts....bits & pieces of memorable lyrics, I kept organized records. Once I was finally ready to begin writing, those notebooks & brief recordings were the first things I reached for. I'd simply chose an idea and run with it. Honestly, I had so many backlogged by the time I began writing, it was years before I worked through them all. Trust me...as a writer, too many ideas isn't a bad problem to have!

Although I spent 2 full years in the initial learning/practicing phase, that's NOT the norm. If you read those 2 paragraphs of bio I referred you to, you know that I took on 2 brand new instruments (guitar & bass guitar), had to re-learn a third (drums), began music theory pretty much from scratch and knew nothing about current home recording equipment or techniques. My goals were lofty, but I was positioning myself to function alone. Most folks don't go that route. They take a more reasonable approach, such as basic theory & a single instrument.


Congratulations....you've reached the end of this article! I'm all done making recommendations. Obviously, I can't control how seriously you take them, but I will leave you with one final thought.

Everything I've said here is based 100% on personal experience.

I didn't hear it from anyone...I didn't read about it in a book...it wasn't taught to me. I lived it!

Because of that, I can absolutely guarantee you that it worked! Tackling the basics BEFORE I started writing worked!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




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.


As a musician and a songwriter, I'm very aware of the fact that I don't hear music in the same way that regular folks hear it. I'm not an isolated example of this phenomenon. Generally speaking, it's a shared trait among writer/musicians. Because of this difference, I can't help but wonder if we writers truly understand what our focus (priorities) should be? In other words, are we always concerned about the things that actually matter? Anyway, the topic seems extremely blog-worthy and I rarely see it discussed on songwriter forums. So here we go!


If you happen to fall into that regular folks category, this concept of differences in listening may be news to you. After all, how could you know? We musician/songwriters on the other hand, were once regular folks. None of us exit the womb playing instruments & writing songs. At some point in our lives, we listened as you listen. Unfortunately, many of us tend to forget what that was like. Forgetting simply isn't a luxury we can afford! After all, it's regular folks who make up the vast majority of the listening audience!


Even if we're hesitant to admit it sometimes, most songwriters would prefer to write material that's liked & appreciated by a variety of people. That being the case, how can we expect to write a song that appeals to regular folks, without first recognizing & accounting for the fact that they listen differently? In my humble opinion, we can't...except maybe by accident!


With each new instrument I've taken up over the years, I've gained a greater understanding of how it moves & how it typically sounds. I think most musicians would back me up on that claim. It's sort of a package deal. Anyway...as a result of that, when I listen to a song, my ears tend to hone-in on that specific instrument. It's not so much a conscious process anymore, as it is a reflex action. Because my ears & brain react to the sound in that manner...even though I'm listening to a song, what I'm hearing is more like a collection of the individual parts. Most musicians hear the continual interaction of those separate parts, along with the song itself. Our listening process tends to be a bit more analytical.


Generally speaking, regular folks (non-musicians) lack the detailed knowledge & training needed to understand much of what goes on within the context of a song. Their ears tend to take more of a holistic approach to listening. They hear the song as whole, rather than as an infinite collection of bits & pieces occurring simultaneously! Because most listeners have a voice, have some basic understanding of rhythm and are emotional by nature, those 3 song elements seem to be the ones that garner their attention. My experience has been, that typical listeners focus on elements they're able to personally identify with...voice, rhythm & emotional feel!


In an effort to support that theory, let's consider the massive success of rap music. If I understand correctly, rap's initial success happened without much, if any, support from the major record labels. There was no big money behind it, no credible advertising, yet it grew & grew until it became too big a force to ignore. What 3 primary song elements does rap typically consist of? You guessed it...voice, rhythm & emotion! So....rap music was built entirely upon the 3 song elements that most people find easy to identify with. Gee...no wonder it succeeded!


As the music industry has known for a long time, hooks also work well to grab the attention of regular listeners. Basically, a hook is anything within a song, that the listener remembers long after the song has ended. That just goes to show...if something is cool & catchy, it doesn't need to be understood to be liked & remembered!


So with those listening differences in mind, why is it that I see so many writers focusing great amounts of time & energy on issues like:

- real sounding drum tracks

- technical difficulty & complexity in instrumentation

- meticulously chosen tones & effects

- massive amounts of compression & volume on final tracks?

In a nutshell, I think we do it because those are elements that we appreciate & are drawn to. That's great, as long as we're the only one's listening to our music! Sometimes, if it's our own song, we allow ourselves to get hung up on perfecting facets of it that bother us. I can't help wondering though, if some of that time couldn't be better spent focusing on what the average listener hears? After all, if the average listener's not even capable of detecting many of those minor nuances, how important can they really be? Notice my use of the word "we". I'm not excluding myself here! My guess is that most writers wrestle with this issue to some degree. But the first step in addressing any issue is to become aware of it. That's why I chose this specific blog topic. I'd really like to see this subject discussed more than it is.


In addition to rap, one more pertinent example comes to mind. "Disco at its peak, was absolutely huge! I was still a gigging musician back when it was coming into its own. Most drummers I knew at that time, felt like disco was the devil incarnate! We all hated those incredibly artificial, cheesy sounding drum tracks! The thing is...I don't think I've ever heard a single non-musician complain about that cheesy sound. Musicians were the only people on the face of the earth who seemed bothered by it! When I look back on that now, I realize that...not only didn't normal listeners find it objectionable...they never even realized that they were supposed-to! It didn't even show up on their radar! So why were all of us so put-off by it, when normal listeners didn't care? Who knows? But we were!


So at this point, you may be asking yourself...what am I supposed to do with this information? After all, we writer/musicians hear all these intricacies in music. Are we supposed to simply ignore them? NO, not at all! I'm merely suggesting that we could do a better job of maintaining perspective. After all, there's no harm in addressing these things that regular listeners don't hear. But too many times, I feel as if writers allow those issues to become the priorities! When that occurs, I'm not sure it serves anyone's interests well. It's useful to remind ourselves occasionally, that not everyone hears what we hear!


In closing, I'd like to offer one more question for you to ponder. Ask yourself if you can think of another craft or product, in which the entire focus of the process is anything except the end-user? I can't! Even the more creative ones tend to create with the end-user & potential market segment in mind. My best advice is this - be honest with yourself about your motives for writing. If you truly don't care whether any other human being on the face of the earth likes what you write, then I'm sorry for having wasted your time here. For the rest of us though....it may be helpful going forward, if we remember to consider who's listening.


As always, I appreciate your interest in these blogs. Please feel free to comment!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who's an aspiring drummer (and will remain nameless.....for a price wink.gif ).

He got himself a full drum set a while back and began taking lessons. Long story short....after just a few lessons, he had to stop....at least temporarily. He was still playing and learning what he could on his own. Apparently, his hands were fine, but he was having a problem with his bass drum speed & general technique. I believe his exact words were - "my bass is so terrible it's not even funny". He did remember his drum instructor telling him to "always keep on his toes for the pedals", but not much beyond that. He asked if I had any tips or advice that might be helpful. Since helpful is my middle name, I elaborated a bit on what his teacher had already told him & gave him a list of things to try.

Then it occurred to me......

  • there may be other folks out there experiencing this same issue
  • this topic had all the makings of a good blog

To begin with, there are several schools of thought on whether to play flat-footed or on your toes. For the most part, I'm in agreement with his teacher. I've always preferred playing on my toes. The disadvantage to that approach is that balance & weight distribution become big issues. To help offset those issues, here are a couple suggestions:


1) Stay with the "on your toes" approach for bass drum, but try playing off your heel for the high hat foot. If you keep that heel planted most of the time & only your bass drum heel is kept elevated, I think you'll find that many of your balance issues disappear. With that left heel down, you have much more stability & leverage to utilize on that bass drum side. You'll also find it very helpful when doing crash cymbal work or moving extensively around the set for fills.


2) Stool height & placement are possible issues. Again, this goes to balance. Experiment with various seat heights & with moving closer to....or further away from your set. Eventually you'll land on a position that seems most comfortable. Try that one for a while and see what you think. I'd love to tell you that there's only 1 correct place to sit, but that's simply not the case. Much of it has to do with your height, weight, overall fitness & personal preference. As you take your stool higher, more of the action fall on your upper leg & hip. A lower stool position tends to rely more on your ankle & knee. It's common to see drummers sitting so low that their knee ends up even-with or higher than their hip. Personally, I prefer a higher perch. My upper leg actually slopes down somewhat... toward the bass drum. But again...it's all in what you find comfortable.


3) Try adjusting the amount of tension on your bass drum pedal. I use more than a lot of folks. The more you increase the spring tension - the harder it will be to push the pedal down, but the more effortlessly it will return to the "up" position. You can also adjust the length of your mallet shaft....higher or lower. Unfortunately, there's no quick answer. Much of what I've suggested is simply trial & error. With the hands, things are at least a little simpler. There aren't nearly as many adjustment options or variables to deal with. Good luck, but most of all...try to have fun doing it!


As supplements to this article, I put together a couple brief demonstration/drill videos.






That's all till next time.....when the topic will be "Center of the Rhythmic Universe". I know it sounds a little pretentious, but hopefully it's useful. It deals with fundamentals that every gigging musician should know.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




If you're a musician/songwriter, the title of this article may remind you of a past nightmare. If you & I were playing a round of "Jeopardy"...and the answer I gave you was "practicing scales & writer's block", your response might be "what are 2 things we try to avoid"- LOL But what if I were to tell you that routinely practicing scales might help you avoid that dreaded writer's block? Would it be worthwhile then? Obviously, I can't answer for you. But my personal answer is a resounding YES!


As a member of online musician forums, I've seen countless posts & conversations about both of these topics individually. Typically, posters complain about scales being mindlessly boring and inquire about how to fix supposed writer's block. From what I can tell, many people view writer's block and the absence of ideas & motivation as 2-ways of saying the same thing. Personally, I've never cared for the term writer's block, but I guess that's easy for me to say. You see...in over 15 years of songwriting, I've never had it! ^_^ Seriously....never! I certainly have my share of other problems, just like everyone else. But, I've never had that one. My biggest obstacle has always been available time. Are all of my ideas brilliant? Absolutely not! But that's not my point. My point is that I'm never without at least one viable song idea.


I can't attribute that continual flow of ideas to any single variable. But I can tell you that I've stumbled across a number of them while practicing basic scale patterns. "Too Small To Save", "Pentatonic Playground", "Reluctant Love", "Bottom Feeders" and "Middle Class Blues" are all examples of this accidental discovery process. Each sprang from a riff that I came across while doing my typical warm-up routine. I'd love to tell you that these riffs came to me in a dream...that I immediately woke up & wrote them down...& that I felt as if they were inspired by God himself. But that would be an absolute load-of-crap! Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has already bestowed enough of that upon us to last for several lifetimes. So I'll try not to add to the delusional mystique that is so commonly used to shroud the creative process.


OK, back to the subject at hand! Let me try to connect-the-dots a little better by providing some detail about that typical warm-up routine I mentioned. Years ago, I got myself in the habit of using scales to warm-up on guitar. Generally, I'll pick 1 specific type of scale/mode (natural minor, diatonic major, mixolydian, etc.), pick a key & run a basic block pattern...6th string thru to 1st string then back again. Once I've started to loosen up:

  • I'll allow myself to begin deviating a bit...within the confines of that same basic pattern
  • eventually, I may shift to a pentatonic version in the same key then fiddle around a while
  • by selecting different starting & stopping points, doubling back on various strings, incorporating hammers & pull-offs...basically farting around, but remaining within the structure of that same scale pattern.

It's this final farting around (improvising) stage of the warm-up that's proved useful in generating riff ideas. Once I'm warmed-up, I allow myself the creative freedom to roam around inside the given scale structure, trying different combinations and free-forming. Since I'm already operating within the parameters of a set scale, I have the advantage of knowing that anything I come across will be theoretically sound. I don't have to consciously think about what notes I'm playing. I simply play & listen for any random combination that I like. I've always been of the opinion that creativity happens when we allow ourselves the opportunity to play around & experiment. That's become easier for me, because I routinely practice scales. That practice has helped me to develop finger memory. Finger memory means that my hands know the shapes of the scale patterns. Because of that, I'm able to allow my mind the freedom to play around & hopefully discover. Bottom line....if scales weren't already a routine thing for me, that simply wouldn't be possible!


Will this work for you? There's only one way to find out! Do yourself a favor though....if you do decide to try it and you stumble across an idea, make an immediate record of it. Personally, I never trust a new idea to memory! I always make a quick recording or a written record of it. Most times, I do both! For quick recordings, I've typically used either a cassette-tape boom box or a hand-held digital recorder. My written versions are usually tablature. Once that's accomplished, I forget about it & move on to whatever I had originally intended to do. I'd be willing to bet, that right about now, someone is asking themselves -"what...you don't drop everything else & continue working on that new idea?" No! Almost never! I find that my life and my work flow in a more orderly fashion when I plan my work, then work my plan. And no, I didn't just make that up. It's an old adage in business. My life is less chaotic that way and my projects get finished! As with most other things in life, I do leave room for the occasional exception. But it doesn't happen often.


If you can get yourself in the habit of keeping organized, detailed records of all your ideas, you may find that you begin to develop a surplus. Wouldn't it be nice if your biggest problem was finding time to develop your ideas, rather than not having any? I've always thought so!


Since a picture is supposedly worth 1,000 words, I thought it might be a nice touch to include a video attachment with this article. It's a quick guitar demo of the primary riffs in "Middle Class Blues".




Thanks...and as always, your feedback is welcome & appreciated!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




I was thinking about my early days as a songwriter. Reflecting back on the antiquated, tedious process I worked with
for almost 6 years. Hard to believe what I went through every time I needed a drum track for a new song!
That being said, when I listen to those old recordings, I’m amazed at how well some of them turned out. :yes:
Hopefully the details of that process make for an interesting article.


*Examples of those old recordings are available throughout the article.
“Slow Down” - http://www.tune-smith.com/Slow_Down.mp3

My adventure as a songwriter & home studio aficionado began back in 1994. Digital home recording devices were starting to make their way onto the market, but analog was still the dominant force. It was also the more cost-effective of the two.
That being the case, I opted for a 4-track analog cassette style recorder…a Tascam 424 PortaStudio.




The PortaStudios were decent devices, but they had their limitations:

  • No onboard effects or compression
  • No phantom power
  • Very few microphone inputs

To overcome those limitations, I purchased a number of supplemental devices:

  • An 8 channel Peavey analog mixer w. phantom power
  • A Peavey DeltaFex effects processor
  • A DBX analog compressor



These were used in conjunction with the PortaStudio….providing me with reverb, compression, multiple microphone inputs & phantom power (overhead condenser mic.)

Without getting overly technical, here’s an overview of that setup….

  • Drum set mics were fed into the Peavey mixer. Depending on the song, anywhere from 6-8 mics were used….Shure SM57’s with an EV condenser mic overhead.
  • The Peavey EQ’d each channel individually, added a preset amount of reverb to each channel signal, combined all the incoming signals into one stereo signal, sent that 2-channel stereo signal out to its next destination.
  • That next destination was the DBX compressor. It processed the signal, then sent it to the Tascam 424 recording deck. On its way to the Tascam, that 2-channel stereo signal was reverse-Y’d into a single mono feed, which was then recorded to high bias cassette tape.

Unfortunately, with only 4 recording channels available, that final drum track had to be mono. Eventually, that mono track was bounced over (premixed) & combined with the bass guitar track. Fact is, the majority of my analog masters are set up that way. The final drum & bass guitar recordings share a single mono track.

There were a multitude of issues associated with the process I’m describing:

  • All drum mic adjustments had to be made pre-tape. That meant I had to balance each mic volume as best I could…accounting for bleed, make EQ adjustments per-channel at the mixer, set type & desired amount of reverb for each channel, adjust individual & master fader volumes to non-distorting levels. Needless to say, once these parameters were set, I made only minor adjustments from recording session to recording session. Essentially, I tried to improve whatever shortcomings existed in the previous recordings.
  • Once a final drum track was recorded, it was set-in-stone. The BPM was locked in…mic volume, tone & effect were virtually fixed. If the ride cymbal was too loud or the snare sounded over-compressed, I had 2 options. The entire track could be re-recorded, or I live with the imperfections. Simple as that! The decision always hinged on 2 variables. How much imperfection was I willing to tolerate? How noticeable would those shortcomings be in the finished version of the song?
  • Because of the need for premix bouncing, my bass guitar recordings were also fixed. I had to estimate what EQ settings might be best once the other tracks were recorded. Same was true for the volume of the bass in relation to the drum track. Once drums & bass were bounced over, the combined mono premix was fixed. Unlike digital systems, analog recorders didn’t offer virtual track storage. So….once a bounce was complete, both original tracks were erased. That opened up additional track space, allowing new instrumentation & vocals to be recorded.
  • Since I worked alone, components that required monitoring were positioned close to the drum stool. In other words, I had to be able to see the meters while I was playing drums. Fortunately, once the initial parameters were set, the only thing I had to monitor was input signal to the mixer. That signal couldn’t venture too far into the red. The photo below shows where the Peavey was positioned. The recording deck meters were not in my line of sight, so I had to trust the accuracy of my preliminary settings. Playback was the only way to verify results. If something had gone wrong, the track was rerecorded.


* “Love Will Find Me”https://youtu.be/7Y8ycXZY4gI


As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there were other issues. Once a new song had been written, arranged & roughed-out…it was time to begin the final recording (keeper version). If the song had drums, they were always recorded first. As is the case with live performance, better results are achieved when everyone plays to the same rhythmic center…in this case drums. But getting them down first wasn’t a simple task.

  • With the old cassette style recording decks, click tracks weren’t possible. Track bleed was so bad, that ghosts of the original click would remain audible even after complete erasure. That being the case, the logical alternative was to play to an electronic metronome. That gave me a timing center, but virtually eliminated the possibility of over dubs. Since the click was completely independent of the recorded drum track, there was no way to match the 2 for auto-punch patchwork. Bottom line…the vast majority of drum tracks were the result of start-to-finish takes. In other words, the entire part was played straight through.


Electronic Metronome


  • Another standard practice for drum-first recording is the use of a guide track. Guide tracks give drummers a basic outline to follow. That way they’re hearing a roughed out version of the music while playing along with the metronome (click track). It helps in remembering the feel of the song, where various sections begin & end, etc. Bottom line….I couldn’t use a guide track! The reason once again was track bleed. Ghosts of that roughed out guide were audible on the finished drum recording. So I became very good at memorizing new tunes, start-to-finish. By the time I was ready to record, I knew a song so well that I could hear it playing in my head all the way though. So….none of those analog tracks were played to music. The only thing playing besides the song in my head was the constant click of the metronome.
  • 2 measure count-ins were recorded at the beginning of every song. This was an absolutely must! Since drums were recorded first, there had to be a way to accurately tell where the song started. How else would I know when to begin playing or singing as additional tracks were added? Obviously, that section of the tape was later erased. Since beginning sections were trimmed off in final production, track bleed really didn’t matter.


Current Drum Kit


At the beginning of this article, I mentioned thinking back on this whole process. The reason for my nostalgia was simple. A few months ago, I set up a new YouTube channel called “The Story Behind The Song”. Several of the songs used for the channel were early recordings. Some of those made passing reference to the fact that I had changed from real drums…to an electronic method of creation. The videos weren’t the proper format for an in-depth explanation of why. But I thought a blog article might be. If nothing else, it can serve as reminder of how much simpler things are for home recording enthusiasts today!


* Links to several additional Video Examples of these early drum recordings are listed below.


Tom Hoffman
Songstuff member profile


Online Credibility

In this day and age of FREE advice, suggestions & tutorials on the web....how does one go about determining what's valid and what should be disregarded?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard......"The internet is full of bad advice and information".

Unfortunately, it's true!

There is an incredible amount of misdirection & incompetence....some deliberate, some not.

So what's the answer? What's a poor site surfing seeker of information to do?

The answer is simple.

We need to become more discriminating consumers. We have to force ourselves to examine & evaluate our sources of information.


The biggest obstacle to validation is also one of the biggest advantages to operating online.....anonymity!

The internet offers the perfect opportunity to pretend, or to function in relative obscurity.

As long as we talk a good game, we can masquerade as whoever or whatever we chose.

While there are valid reasons for wishing to hide one's online identity, there are at least as many questionable ones.

That being the case, internet trust should be earned, not given indiscriminately.


For musician/songwriters, the internet can be an incredibly useful tool. Sites like Songstuff.com provide an environment for people with similar interests to learn and interact. They also serve as a breeding ground for posers. Over the past 7+ years, I've gotten to know some great people! Unfortunately, not everyone fits into that category. Some choose to present themselves as more than they actually are. Often, it takes a while to figure out who's who, but that's a necessary part of the process.


So, how does one go about verifying online credibility?

Well hopefully, the individual in question has made that a simple task.

I'll use myself as an example.

  • I have little need or desire to mask my internet persona. In a nutshell, what you see is what you get! My name is Tom Hoffman.....I chose the Songstuff member name "tunesmithth" because my primary website is tune-smith.com and my initials are TH. I deliberately avoid exaggerating my musical credentials. What credentials I do claim, are easily verified.
  • The "About Me" section of my Songstuff member profile is detailed, historically accurate & publically available. It refers to me by actual name and member name, as does my "Tips & Tidbits" blog. It also provides a link to the Metro St. Louis Historical Site http://www.stlmusicyesterdays.com/Nickels.htm. You'll find my name listed near the top.
  • My Songstuff member signature, which displays at the bottom of every post I make, includes 6 links.....3 Youtube channels, my Facebook personal profile, tune-smith.com and "Tips & Tidbits". All clickable & readily available for examination.
  • Provided on those sites are 20+ original mp3s, ringtones, drum tutorials / demonstrations, guitar demonstrations, music videos, published articles, photos, etc.
  • The Library of Congress website is searchable by song title, or registrant name. Either will yield a history of copyright registrations for Tom Hoffman. They're a matter of public record.
  • What I never list on the internet is my exact date of birth, where I went to school, political preference, religious affiliation, etc. Identity thieves, data collection entities & special interest groups are the primary beneficiaries of details like that.


So....given that I've provided all the resources necessary to make an assessment of my musical qualifications, does that mean you should trust my online advice?

In a word, NO!

But it does mean that I've done my part.

All I can do is make the information available. It's your responsibility to research, evaluate & decide who to place your trust in!

No one can do that for you and you shouldn't want them to. After all, you're the one who will pay the price for being wrong.


When it comes to my own online interactions, I operate by a simple rule. Unless you've done your part, I'll probably disregard your advice. Sorry, but if I can't verify that you're qualified to offer me the advice, I won't be taking it seriously! I'll respond courteously, thanking you for your insights. I simply won't act on them! Why would I? If you're a relative stranger and you haven't bothered to provide some sort of qualifying credentials, how would you expect anyone to take you seriously?

In fact....shame on anyone who does!


So where does that leave the individual who's bound and determined to maintain online anonymity?

As I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate reasons for choosing to do so. Unfortunately, those reasons don't outweigh our need to verify.

Bottom line....if people aren't in a position to supply something, they can't be taken seriously!

Life's a trade-off.

People who truly have the need to operate anonymously should be willing to recognize the limitations imposed by that.

Fair or not, it's impossible to "consider the source" when that source is a nameless, faceless internet entity :blush:


Do yourself a favor.....take the time to learn something about folks who offer you online advice & information.

If you don't, there's a pretty good chance it'll be worth exactly what you paid for it ........NOTHING

As always, comments and feedback are welcome.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




Musical Self-Image

Honestly, I was at a bit of a loss for what to call this entry, but musical self-image probably describes the topic as well as anything. I've been a participating member in musician/writer forums for almost 5 years now. In that capacity, I've had the opportunity to observe how various folks chose to define their place in the musical pecking order. Some see themselves as professionals, some as amateur/hobbyists and some aren't quite sure.


As a result of my somewhat anal character tendencies, :-[ I'm a person who craves a certain amount of order in life. Because of that need for order, I tend to mentally categorize. In many cases, it's not even a conscious or deliberate effort......more of a reflex action I guess. Anyway....it occurred to me that in recent years, I've begun mentally identifying musical folks as belonging to 1 of 3 basic categories. I thought that defining, discussing and obtaining other people's feedback on those categories, might make for an interesting blog. I guess we'll see! Seriously.....I'd be interested in hearing other perspectives on this, so please feel free to post responses.


Category #1 - Music Professionals


When I think of true professionals, several criteria pop into my head:


A) To really consider yourself a pro, I think you need to be as serious about the business of music as you are about music itself. That means....

- you're concerned about current trends in the industry

- meeting or surpassing industry expectations for your specific niche

- and approaching your day-to-day involvement in a businesslike manner.

Obviously, you need to be good at what you do, but you also need to recognize that being good is only one piece of the puzzle. True professionals recognize & address the music industry as a business. That's something I didn't do very well in my younger years :rolleyes:


B) Financial gain is one of your primary goals. You consistently earn a reasonable portion of your total income from your musical endeavors. Music doesn't have to be your sole source of income, but I do think it needs to account for a significant percentage.....on a regular basis.


C) You measure your own abilities, knowledge & accomplishments against those of other true professionals. I don't think that you can afford to see yourself as a pro, but continue to measure yourself on an amateur scale. The bar's set higher at the pro level!


Category #2 - "Aspiring" Music Professionals


I guess this is my version of musical limbo-LOL. At this level, many people wish to view themselves as pros, but for one reason or another, haven't quite managed to turn that perception into a reality. Not yet, anyway! If your life's ambition is to turn your musical involvement into your primary career, but you're not quite there yet............in my mind, you're an aspiring pro.


Even though I view all of the above criteria as important, B is the deal-maker...or breaker! If you're unable to meet that single financial requirement, I think you still have to be considered an aspiring pro. The other side of that coin is this. If you are meeting the requirements of B, I guess A & C have to take a back seat to that. The fact is.....money talks! If the financial requirements are being met, regardless of A or C, I think you need to be viewed as a pro. Realistically, I can't imagine many folks who would fit that description, but if you do......you get my vote! ^_^


Category #3 - Amateur/Hobbyists


According to my self-imposed criteria, this is the category to which I belong. No doubt.....I'm an amateur/hobbyist & proud to be one! Regardless of what my skill levels may or may-not be, financial gain has absolutely nothing to do with why I'm musically involved! The closest I've ever come to even considering it, was to admitted to myself that if some earnings were achievable as the result of work I was doing anyway........I wouldn't turn the money down. Even then, my level of interest would depend largely on the specific circumstances involved. That's a long way from financial gain being a primary goal. Anyway, as I've said before in previous blogs (An Amateur Perspective on the Digital 2000s) , this is a great day & age for people like myself! We have more tools available to us and more ways to get our material heard, than at any other time in history. Trust me......being an amateur/hobbyist isn't so bad! :thumb23:


That's all I have for this installment. Thanks for your continued interest & please feel free to post reactions & opinions to this article.


Tom Hoffman

songstuff author bio




Have no fear faithful readers! I have NO intention of whining endlessly about my personal pet peeves. Actually, I thought it would be nice to try something different...more of an interactive format. I'll get the ball rolling, but leave the longevity and future direction of this installment in your capable hands. Please feel free to contribute to our ongoing pile of peeves. :yes:

Now that I've dispensed with the preliminaries, here are 3 forum-related peeves to get things started.


1) The "Scamortunity"

Has a nice ring to it, eh? As you might guess, the term is intended to describe a scam disguised as an opportunity. To be completely fair, music forums have no monopoly on scamortunities. Countless variations exist out there in webland. But indie music....and therefore music forums, have more than their share. As sites like Songstuff grows larger, they become more attractive to prospective scammers. In their minds, more web exposure equates to a larger pool of potential victims (suckers). Bottom line - buyer beware! The more it looks like an unbelievable opportunity, the more skeptical you should be and the more thoroughly it should be researched. After 7+ years on Songstuff, I find that my patience is wearing thin for these opportunists masquerading as helpful souls.


2) The "Decoy Question"

"Decoy questions" are those asked by people who have no sincere interest in actually obtaining an answer. The question itself is simply a ploy to draw attention to their post. Many times, this type of thing is done by new forum members. Because they're new, it's impossible to judge their level of sincerity. Most times, site staff will give them the benefit of the doubt. Problem is, in the case of a decoy question, the poster has completely wasted our time. Not only is this disrespectful, but it consumes time that would be better spent assisting someone who actually wants help.


3) The "Drive-By Poster"

The typical "Drive-By Poster" joins the forum with a single purpose in mind - self promotion. Most don't bother to review site guidelines because they have no intention of adhering to them. Makes sense, right? :whistle:

  • They join
  • Make their self-serving post, usually in an inappropriate section
  • Quickly present themselves in a credible light, as someone worthy of attention
  • Do little or no follow-up to that initial post
  • Reap whatever benefit is available to them ("plays", "likes", "subscribes", "fans")

Depending on how they feel about the benefit derived, many are never heard from again. Some will double or triple dip, attempting to duplicate the results from that initial effort. Once they've exhausted those short-term benefits, they're off to the next website.

Don't get me wrong....we all have some selfish motives when we join. But the keyword in that sentence is "some". My problem with the "Drive-By Poster" is that they have "only" selfish motives. Sites like Songstuff need members who are willing to give and take. If no one was willing to give back, there would be no Songstuff !

OK...that's all I have. Now it's your turn! Step right up & voice your grievance!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




I've always been of the opinion that music serves very little purpose unless someone listens to it.

Really...what else is it good for? You can't wash your car with it, the grocery stores won't let you buy food with it and it doesn't make a very good hat. So....with that in mind, is yours' being listened to? Fortunately, mine is.

To those uninvolved in music creation, this question may sound like a stupid one.

Honestly, I wish it was!

But in the online music world, this topic doesn't garner nearly as much attention as it deserves.

Fact is, it tends to take a back seat to things like:

  • What your numeric market ranking is on Reverbnation?
  • How many "likes" your band/artist page has on Facebook?
  • How many "play clicks" you've racked up on your various online players?
  • How many subscribers you have to your YouTube channels?
  • How many false online identities you've set up to aid in promotion of your own material, sites & blogs?
  • How many "followers" you've racked for your "Fandalism" page?
  • How impressive the graphic design of your virtual presence is?

In the world of online music generation, it's almost as if "music" has become a trivial detail, rather than the end game itself. Music now serves as a virtual ticket, allowing entry into this huge online video game known as "Indie Music". Players don't win by improving at their craft. They win by doing whatever's necessary to generate numbers & the appearance of credibility.

I said the "appearance" of credibility because "likes", "play clicks", "subscribers" & "followers" can be purchased or generated through artificial means. This isn't a new phenomenon either! The illicit world of digital assistance-for-hire has been around as long as the internet itself.


In recent years, much of my online musical interaction has taken place on Songstuff.com.

While Songstuff is primarily a musician/songwriters resource site, we do our best to assist with any & all musically related questions.

More & more, questions from new members touch on subjects like:

  • The legal aspects of the industry (copyright protection, licensing, etc.)
  • The safety & security of their online songs/lyrics (how can they be certain they won't be stolen?)
  • How to get ahead in todays' music business
  • Can we recommend various types of short-cut software?....everything from scoring software to artificial music creation programs.
  • Can we help them get hooked up with a "Producer"?

I find this trend more than a little disturbing. Music creation should be about creating art, NOT about protecting rights & making a quick buck!

Personally, I was drawn to writing for 2 reasons:

  1. my lifelong love of music
  2. a genuine interest in creative self-expression

It truly bothers me that things are becoming more about short-term personal gain and less about the listener and the overall musical experience.

In my mind, when creation becomes more about the artist than the art, the world's in big trouble!


Anyway, returning to the question posed by the title. For someone like me, the internet age is an absolute Godsend! It allows me to offer my music to a vast pool of potential listeners. Despite my being a tiny fish in a huge musical ocean, listeners manage to find me at tune-smith.com. Although I do maintain a number of other sites, the bulk of my online music is there. I own the domain name, maintain the site and therefore control the encoding quality of the mp3s offered. Since I don't pay for professional mastering of my tracks, encoding control is particularly important.

Most sites of this type provide extensive tracking data. Honestly, I don't look at it much, but I do occasionally check to see what kind of traffic the site's drawing. The chart below is an example of one category of tracked data. It's also the reason I'm able to tell you with absolute certainty that my songs are listened-to! What you're looking at are stats for the month of January 2014, taken early evening on the 31st




  • From this data, I can not only see that "Don't Lie to Yourself" was the most frequently played track (551 times), but I can also tell you that virtually every listener played the entire song. See that "average size" column.....it reads 5.5 MB, which also happens to be the actual size of the song file.
  • "Someday" didn't do quite as well. It shows a 4.98 MB usage, with the actual song file being 5.47 MB. Although it did very well, it's obvious that it wasn't what some folks expected & they chose to move on prior to completion of the track.
  • The portion of the chart I copied covers only 6 of the available songs, yet the combined total of those 6 is in excess of 1,200 listens. Those aren't new songs either. Matter of fact, the average age of the top 5 is somewhere around 10 years.

So....in closing I'll ask you once again.....is your music being listened to?

Music isn't good for much unless someone listens to it.

***Next addition to "Tips & Tidbits" is titled....Online Credibility. Should have it posted late Feb.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




It's fairly common knowledge that both music & musical notation have their basis in mathematics. Each note within the system is assigned a specific time value and each relates to the others in a logical, mathematical way.

· One 1/16 note is equal to the value of two 1/32 notes

· One 1/8 note equals two 1/16 notes

· One 1/4 note equals two 1/8 notes....and so-on.


All very consistent, right? At first glance, it would seem so. Until you examine the way in which we deal with triplets. ^_^

For those of you not familiar with the concept of triplets, I'll briefly explain.

Essentially, triplets occur whenever 3 evenly spaced notes are played within a musical space designed to accommodate only 2 notes.

For example.....

· In 4/4 time a 1/4 note occupies the space of 1-full-count, which equates to 1/4 of the total measure.

· As was stated previously, one 1/4 note = two 1/8 notes

· But if 3 evenly spaced notes are played in place of those two 1/8 notes, the result is referred to as a "triplet".


The way in which triplets are played doesn't pose a problem for me. It's our traditional notation of them that I question.

In my mind, the problem is simple. When the actual time value assigned to a note changes, so should the numeric value of the symbol (note) used to represent it. But, that's not the case with triplets! When a 3-note-triplet is played in place of two 1/8 notes, the resulting triplet is shown by inserting three 1/8 notes in place of the original two. So...to quickly summarize, two 1/8 notes = one 1/4 note....except in the case of a triplet?????? Who in the world thought that was a good idea? That's every bit as consistent as saying that two 1/8 notes = one 1/4 note, except on Tuesdays.....when the moon is full-LOL Come-on!


Would it have been better to create a 1/12 note? If three 1/12 notes had been used to fill the space of a 1/4 note, that would have been mathematically consistent. So why wasn't it set up that way?

For the past few months, I've been constructing a series of tutorials on shuffle rhythms. "Shuffles" happen to be built upon the same framework as triplets. That's what got me thinking about this little inconsistency. Honestly, I haven't a clue as to why it was originally set-up this way. But, if we ever hope to inspire a change in the current system, I guess we'd need a viable alternative. As luck would have it, I did have an idea or two.

· As a drummer, I'm fully aware that 1/8 note triplets aren't the only type in use. Double-time triplets (1/16 note triplets) are also very common. So realistically, we'd probably need to create a 1/24 note in conjunction with our 1/12 note. Simple enough!

· So, how would we write our new notes? Our current system shows triplets in several ways. Generally, the number "3" is combined with either a half-moon shaped arch, or a straight-line bracket....shown either above, or below the staff. Well...we wouldn't need that number "3" anymore, but it might be useful to hang onto a familiar remnant from the old system. So how about incorporating that traditional half-moon arch? If we did that, the resulting notation might look something like this:



Would that work?

· It's no more difficult

· You'd no longer need to look above or below the staff to identify a triplet

· It would re-establish mathematical consistency within the system


So what's your opinion? Is it worth changing? After all, I'm just one guy with some impromptu thoughts on the subject? Does the idea make sense, or have I neglected to consider major obstacles in my quest to reinvent the wheel? :rolleyes: What's your take on it and is it worthy of further consideration? I'm simply hoping to get the conversation started. Hopefully, I've accomplished that!


Tom Hoffman
Songstuff member profile



Hello To All!

Up until now, I've been a blog virgin rolleyes.gif . Yeah, I know, I'm probably a little old to be any kind of virgin, but there you have it.

Since I started writing drum tutorials for this site, I've found that I keep coming up with little bits of information that I'd love to pass on in the articles. The problem has been.....finding appropriate places to include them.

It finally occured to me (with John's help), that maybe I shouldn't be concerned with trying to link these bits to a central theme. They could simply be passed on as regular blog entries.....so that's what I'm gonna do. I'll be making new entries on a regular basis. I'd expect the first tip/tidbit to post within the next week or so. Hope you find them worthwhile & please feel free to comment.

Tom Hoffman

songstuff author bio




In my last blog entry, I was talking about some of the reasons why playing with other musicians makes sense for up & coming drummers. I promised some more reasons this time & I'm a man of my word - drum roll please......




- It'll help expand your musical horizons. When you're around other musicians (guitarists, bass players, keyboardists), you're exposed to elements of music that drums simply don't deal with. Drummers aren't taught concepts like pitch, melody, key structure and songwriting. Those topics don't have much relevance for drums. But they are incredibly important to the understanding of music as a whole.


- It helps you to develop a sense of when to apply some of the things you've learned.

Like I've said in past tutorials......just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Knowing how to do something and understanding when to do it are 2 separate things. Many times your fellow musicians are your best source for feedback. If you'll allow them to, they can really help you in figuring out what works & what doesn't in a given situation.


Well.....I've tried my best to make my case. I do feel pretty strongly that.... to be an aspiring drummer, you should also be an aspiring band member. The 2 work really well together!


It's not my intent to discourage anyone from taking up the drums. I'm simply trying to provide a clear picture of what to expect and why. Too many new students become discouraged, bored, frustrated, disillusioned....and simply quit!

If someone takes up the drums and quits 2 months later because it's too hard, I can't help that.

What I'm trying to avoid, is someone quitting because they don't understand the limitations of the instrument.

If you're wanting to learn drums because you........

- love everything rhythmic

- love doing physically challenging things

- want to play with other musicians

- enjoy being part of a group & working with others

- are looking to use drums as first instrument & learn additional ones later

- like to be noticed & make noise

.....then welcome to the club! drums.gif


On the other hand, if you're taking up drums because you.......

- want an instrument to sing-along-with

- have no desire to be in band, would rather play to entertain yourself, family & friends

- think that you'll be able to actually write songs as a result of learning drums

- are strongly interested in concepts like melody & harmony

........you may be better off taking up guitar or piano. blush.gif


That's everything I've got for this installment of the blog. Next time I'll talk some about equipment requirements & recommendations...............

What you actually need, what you don't, why & when.


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile




In recent months, several of our Songstuff members have expressed an interest in learning drums. That's great...drums are a great instrument! For those who don't know me, I play drums as well as guitar, bass guitar & some keyboards. Playing those instruments has given me the opportunity to see the similarities & differences first-hand. Bottom line - drums are different in a number of ways. With these next several blog articles, I'll share some of those differences. Hopefully, I can offer you an advantage that I didn't have......information from someone who's already been through it.


- Are you interested in becoming part of a band? Believe it or not, this is a vital question. Drums really don't have much melodic capability. Their primary function is rhythmic. The dedication & degree of difficulty involved in learning drums, is comparable to that of traditional melodic instruments like guitar or piano. The difference is, once you've become reasonably proficient, the more melodic instruments offer a wider array of application choices. Drums don't! With drums, once you've achieved a reasonable skill level, the next logical step is to combine your abilities with those of other musicians.

Doing that helps you:

1) Continue progressing with your instrument. Playing with others gives you a specific reason to practice and further develop your skills. No one enjoys looking bad in front of others. That's a great motivator!

2) Remain interested in drumming. I hate to say it, but this is not a little thing! As much as I love drums..........by themselves, they're just not that interesting! I was lucky. I really wanted to be part of a band! For me, drums were a means to that end. Without the band setting though, I seriously doubt whether I would have remained a drummer more than a year or two.


Don't let me confuse you. Knowing that you want to be in a band, doesn't mean that you need to have a band ready & waiting. It just means that you do have the desire at some point in the future. When I started taking lessons, I don't even think I knew another musician. As my skills began to progress, that issue pretty much took care of itself. Trust me.....when you're ready for a band, you'll figure that part out. No sweat!


The next installment of the blog will add to this list of reasons. Till next time!


Tom Hoffman

Songstuff member profile