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Found 30 results

  1. 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! 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. VIEWING RESTRICTIONS · Video blocked in 1 country · Unavailable on some devices MONETIZATION · Monetized by claimant If you agree with these conditions, you don't have to do anything. Learn More Copyright details CONTENT CLAIMANT POLICY · 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 profilehttp://www.tune-smith.comhttp://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  2. 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 it available. It's your responsibility to research, evaluate and 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 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 http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  3. This is the first installment of a blog series. The series is intended is to provide a peek behind the creative curtain, taking an in-depth look at the process itself. For this installment, I'm going all the way back to the beginning. "Slow Down" was my very first song. Originally written/arranged & recorded in 1995, it was re-recorded in 98. The Idea In past articles, I've pointed out that my songs typically evolve from one of 4 starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme In this case, the idea was a basic progression I stumbled upon. Not really a chord progression in the strictest sense, but never-the-less a progression. While experimenting with combinations of 2 and 3 note intervals, an interesting pattern began to emerge. It's built upon traditional I-IV-V framework, but layered changes within that framework give it a unique flavor. Rather than try to explain it, I'll show you in a brief video which...... Shows a tablature rendering of the primary pattern positions Demonstrates the actual progression http://youtu.be/yxWZMHQy10c Fundamentals The song is set in Mixolydian mode. For those unfamiliar with the term, Mixolydian mode is essentially a diatonic major scale/key, with the 7th flattened. The flattening of that one note alters the fundamental step pattern of the key. That single change in structure has a huge impact on the flavor of the resulting composition. It's common practice for songwriters to step outside of strict key structure. In other words, it would have been OK for me to employ notes not contained within the basic 7-note scale (A mixolydian). That being said, I chose to remain within the confines of that scale! The vocal melody, bass guitar, 2nd & 3rd guitars were set in A mixolydian, as was the entire arrangement for the bridge section. The secondary guitar part is comprised of 2-note intervals. Guitar #3 is single-note leads and fills. The 3-note combinations played at the outset of each A, D & E section, are the only things vaguely resembling traditional chords. Each combination is comprised of a root (tonic), a 5th and a 9th. Definitely chords, but by no means traditional. Structure Introduction (8 sec.) / 8 Bar Musical Interlude / Verse-Refrain / 4 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Bridge (Middle- / 8 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Ending w. fade Subject Matter Because of the feel established by that primary guitar progression, the song wouldn't have worked with an uplifting lyric. Serious, darker subject matter was called for. Substance abuse (specifically alcoholism) was my final choice. The lyric was written from the perspective of the alcoholic, in this case a male. It's intended to depict the typical downward spiral of both the substance abuser and the relationship. The idea was to reveal the changing mind-set of the abuser as the addiction progressed & the relationship disintegrated. As is the case with most of my songs, the melody was written before the lyric. I also had a specific meter structure in mind. The downside of this particular structure was that it wouldn't allow for a wordy lyric. I had to rely heavily on subtle changes in the person, tense & exact wording to get the lyrical message across. Personally, I enjoy the challenge that comes with this style of writing, but it does present obstacles. The message/meaning isn't as obvious as it is with other styles. A greater burden is placed upon the listener to listen intently. Unlike more popular lyrical styles, the listener can't cherry-pick key words and phrases. The lyric needs to be taken as a whole for the message to come through as intended. Lyric I smile and start another day You smile and tell me it's OK We should have known we would get through it You'd think we'd know by now I promise I....won't drink much tonight I know I blame my life on you You tell me I don't have a clue You should have known not to back-talk me I'd think you'd know by now I know that I....said I would slow down Should slow down Must slow down Will slow down Next week swear I'll slow down! I get up & start another day You're not here to tell me it's OK I should have known you didn't love me You'd think I'd know by now I don't care if...I ever slow down! Final Production Notes Both the 1995 and 98 recordings of this were done on a Tascam 424....4-track analog cassette recorder. Some years later, when I upgraded to a digital recording setup, I dumped the original 4 analog tracks onto 4 empty digital tracks, cleaned them up a bit, compressed & remixed the song. To give you an idea of what I was working with...... The drum track was recorded all at once. No overdubs were possible, because it was done using a freestanding electronic metronome. With the old analog decks, if you tried to record a standard click-track, you'd get ghosts of it bleeding through to other tracks. Even after the click track was erased, remnants of it remained and would be heard on the final recording. The drums & bass guitar shared a single-mono track on the cassette recorder. Drums were recorded first, then primary guitar, then bass. At that point in the process, a combined premix of drums and bass were bounced over to the only remaining track. That allowed the original recordings of each to be erased....opening up two additional tracks. The 2nd guitar was recorded on one of those, lead vocal on the other. The final lead guitar bits were recorded last, wherever open track space remained. All the guitar parts were recorded through a mic'd amp, with effects already applied. Drums had to be recorded with individual EQ adjustments & effect already applied. Compared to current standards, this was the equivalent of working with stone knives & bearskins. Honestly.....given the limitations of the process, I'm amazed that it sounds as decent as it does. Overall, it's a bit muddy, the vocal could sit a little higher in the mix and there are several predominant "s" sounds in the first verse vocal. Hopefully, you're able to overlook the production shortcomings and enjoy the song. YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/RCk-QW_smaw Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1
  4. “Middle Class Blues” was originally written & copyrighted back in 1998. As is often the case, I liked the song, but felt that the arrangement was lacking. In 2001 I did a partial rewrite of the song, adding….. a 40 second introduction a 2nd guitar part (rhythm) The song was then re-recorded, in 8 track digital format. The Idea The song evolved from a guitar progression, set in minor pentatonic block form. I stumbled upon the pattern while practicing scales Eventually built a song around it Chose a subject that was an appropriate match for the music Created a lyric *Video Demonstration & Tab of Primary Guitar Progression - https://youtu.be/PcbYFyIM39o Subject Matter In a nutshell – it’s about the plight of the middle class in America. As you might expect, it’s written from my perspective & based largely on personal observations & experiences. Completely appropriate, since songwriting is a means of creative self-expression. Over the years, the timeless nature of this lyric has been brought to my attention more than once. Simply put…..it’s as relevant now as it was when it written back 98. The purchasing power of the middle class hasn’t improved. Middle class tax burden hasn’t decreased. I still pay into a tax base for schools I’ve never used. NO, I’m not advocating a school voucher alternative, or promoting a specific political agenda! I simply have no children. No children = no use of the school system. It’s an indisputable fact that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, yet we continue funding it with tax dollars year after year. Pharmaceutical companies are ABSOLUTELY getting rich from supplying our Medicare program. Again…now more than ever, since our government is no longer allowed to negotiate the cost of Medicare drugs. More tax loopholes exist for the wealthy today, than in 98. The poor are no more able to contribute to the tax base than they were back then. Leaving the middle class to shoulder the lions’ share of the tax burden. The end result being – “We’ve got the Middle Class Blues!” Not a single one of those areas has shown improvement in almost 20 years. I’m sure there are conclusions to be drawn from that, but I leave those to you. I’m just a songwriter stating the obvious. Lyric Got those middle class blues Well when I look at my economic state With what I make I ought to be livin’ great You gotta know my heart gets to feelin’ down When tax time comes around I pay for schools that I don’t even use I fund a war on drugs that we’re bound to lose You got know that I keep-a-waitin’ for Some way to even the score Got those middle class blues! Well now I know that I need to pay my share But while suppliers get rich from Medicare I’ve got to ask myself what it’s all about I just can’t figure it out ! The wealthy don’t pay much, cause they know the game The underprivileged can’t, the end result’s the same That leaves the middle class to pay & pay Hope we get our someday! Got the middle class blues! Copyright 1998 – Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Guitar Based Verse-Refrain Section / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Ends on Repeat of Musical Refrain Musical Fundamentals The song is set in A# minor. For whatever reason, I find it easier to craft interesting melodies in minor keys. Consequently, many of my songs share that characteristic. Back in 2001, when I made the decision to add a 40 second musical introduction to this song, I also doomed it to commercial failure. For those who aren’t aware, long introductions are strongly discouraged in commercial songwriting circles. The average listener tends to focus on the vocal, so delaying its’ entry into a song is tempting fate. Industry folks will tell you that anything over 20 seconds is viewed negatively. Attention spans being what they are, you run the risk of the listener going elsewhere. Since I’m not a professional songwriter, my focus was on creating a well written song….not a commercially viable one. When you make your living elsewhere, you can afford to make decisions based on personal preference, rather than industry norms. That being said, I did build in something to help with damage control. The song begins with a single vocal line, which happens to include the hook (title) of the song. “Got those Middle Class Blues”! By doing that, I accomplished several things: 1. Immediately announced to the listener that there WOULD BE vocals in the song. Long instrumental intos leave listeners wondering. “Is there a vocal coming?” Some get bored & won’t stick around to find out. A single line of vocals up front removes that uncertainty. Listeners know that eventually……it’s coming! 2. It re-enforced the song’s lyrical hook….the thing you want to stick in the listeners’ head after the song has ended. “Middle Class Blues” is a guitar-based arrangement. If I do say so myself, some of my more creative guitar work! 4 individual tracks were used for guitar….all done with my SG 1 track for bass guitar 1 for vocal The only stereo pair of tracks was used for the drums Final Production Notes This was one of the first songs I recorded after upgrading to the digital realm. My Tascam PortaStudio 788 had a total of 8 recordable tracks….6 mono & one stereo pair (tracks 7 & 8 ). Overall, I wish the production quality of this final version was a little better. That being said, the song itself remains among my favorites! Performance Credits Guitars, Bass & Drums – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/fQDOSaXpmsc Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  5. As a participant in several online musician/songwriter forums, I can attest to the fact that the "lessons" question, is a fairly common one. It's natural to be curious about how others acquired their knowledge & skills. Many players are self-taught, but many take the formal lessons route. I actually recommend a combination of both. I'll spend the remainder of this blog elaborating on my preference & sharing some tips on how to get the most out of formal lessons. Let me begin by giving you a bit of background. I was a drum student 44 years ago, followed by several years as drum instructor. I became a novice guitar student 17 years ago and in recent years, have done some basic instruction in that capacity. My point is........I've seen the pros & cons of lessons from both sides, several times, with various instruments. Bottom line.........I speak from experience! Freelance music instructors are an extremely diverse group. When I say freelance, I'm referring to teachers who either: - teach from home or - teach in conjunction with a music store or some other type of retail entity (on or off-line) In the US at least, these are the most common, readily available type of instructors! Their skill levels, knowledge & basic qualifications run the gamut from virtually unqualified to extremely gifted. There is no certification process and no standardized list of requirements. In most cases, instructors are completely unregulated. What I'm getting at here, is that the responsibility for choosing a decent teacher rests entirely upon the student. Buyer beware, or in this case....student beware! Unfortunately...this model, which makes the student, or student's parent responsible for selecting the teacher, has one serious flaw. It assumes that the student (or parent) is qualified to make the selection....that they know what to look for. In many cases, they don't! Hopefully, I can offer a little assistance in that area. Here's a short-list of qualities that I look for in a teacher/instructor: 1) Reasonable competence as a player - They don't have to be great, but they should come across as being at least comfortable with their instrument. 2) They should seem more concerned about your learning, than about feeding their own ego by dazzling you with their ability & brilliance. 3) They should not only allow, but encourage questions from you. As a student, I never walked into a lesson without having at least 1 or 2 pre-prepared, written questions! Don't trust yourself to remember. Write them down! Typical lessons are only a 1/2 hour long. It's easy to get rushed, busy with something else, or simply forget....write them down! Always remember that the instructor is only half of the equation here. The other half is you! You're paying this person. Make sure you're getting your money's worth! This is the area in which a combination of self teaching & formal instruction can be most beneficial. Trust your instructor to guide the direction of the lessons, but don't hesitate to do extra reading & research on your own. This is where many of your weekly questions can come from. Use your teacher's knowledge to help you gain a better understanding of how all these musical concepts work together. Show initiative, be inquisitive & get them to share as much of that knowledge with you as possible. In doing so, believe it or not, you're probably making their job a little more interesting. *One quick caution about on-your-own reading & research. Try and stick to concepts that you're already somewhat familiar with. When it comes to music theory, skipping too far ahead isn't a good idea. Chances are.....if you've ventured into material you're not yet ready for, you'll know it. It won't make any sense to you! Whatever the subject is...don't panic. You're just not prepared to deal with it yet. Yes, this too...is on my list of past mistakes. The funny thing is though, when the time is right....and you're able to place that information in the proper context, it'll make perfect sense to you. The trick is that the fundamentals always need to precede the more advanced concepts. Fundamentals are the building blocks. Skipping over them would be like trying to learn how to read, without first knowing the alphabet. 4) This final quality is a little hard to describe, but it's also the most critical for an instructor to possess. They need to be capable of remembering what it was like to be a student! If they can't, it's unlikely that they'll be able to explain things to you in an understandable way. If your teacher has forgotten what it was like not to know, you'll begin to see that within the first few lessons. Even though it not their intent, teachers like this tend to frustrate students. Too many times, frustrated students become ex-students. They walk away, assuming that their inability to understand is somehow their fault........and they never pick up the instrument again. Obviously, that's not the end result you want! Always remember that a teacher is there to be of benefit to YOU......not the other way around. Regardless of how brilliant & talented they may be, if they can't find a way to pass some of what they possess...onto you, it's a waste of your time and money! With this type of situation, my advice is simple......find yourself a different teacher! I did! When I first decided to take up guitar, I did what many folks do. I walked into the closest music store & signed up with an available instructor for lessons. Many times, new students don't even have the opportunity to meet the instructor before signing up. I didn't. However, I did have an advantage over many new students. I'd already spent time on both sides of this student-teacher equation and I knew what to look for! So.....my first lesson rolled around and I met with my instructor. He was a 21 year old, 4.0 GPA, pre-med student at a prominent local university. I'd played with enough good guitarists in my day, to recognize that this guy had skills! Anyway, if I had any doubts, he was only to happy to remind me of it....often . In his defense though, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy & appeared to have nothing but good intentions. Unfortunately, as an instructor, he did have one pretty big problem. He didn't have a clue how to teach beginner or intermediate students! Apparently, his own knowledge had evolved to the point where everything seemed simple to him. Rather than bore his beginner students with fundamentals, he decided to dig right into subjects that he considered more interesting. As part of my 2nd lesson, he proceeded to explain to me how a diatonic major scale & it's relative natural minor scale, are essentially identical. The only real differences being the starting & ending points of each....& the fact that the same note holds a different numeric position, depending on whether it's part of the major or minor version. If I've just lost some of you, I apologize. For those of you who do understand the concept, so did I.............one year later! I'm one of those people who still has every note, from every lesson he's ever taken. A year after that 2nd lesson, I pulled out my notes...looked them over and the light bulb went off in my head. After an additional year of guitar method & theory, it actually made sense to me! I understood exactly what he was trying to tell me. I also understood how completely insane it was for him to think it was appropriate to teach that in a 2nd lesson. But there-in lies the problem. In his mind, the concept was no longer difficult. Because he understood it so well, he'd come to believe that everyone would. He had simply forgotten what it was like not-to-know. Needless to say, he didn't remain my teacher for very long........3 lessons to be exact. I went to a different shop & got myself another teacher. My second teacher was also my last. He was very good at what he did. I wasn't unkind about leaving the first guy, but I did leave. In closing, I'd like to offer one last suggestion. Before you decide to change instructors, take a good, hard look at your part of the student/teacher partnership. - are you actually practicing regularly? - are you asking questions? - are you genuinely interested in learning & improving? If you're not, the best instructor in the world can't help you! A good teacher can make an immense difference, but even the best can't teach someone who's not interested in learning! Be honest with yourself because there's nothing to be gained by placing blame where it doesn't belong. If it's you, fix that! If it's them, try a different teacher. Thanks once again for your interest! HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com
  6. “Too Small To Save" was written & arranged in 2008….recorded & mixed in early 2009. Those original recorded tracks were edited & remixed in 2014. That 2014 version is the used for this SBtS video. The Idea My songs typically evolve from…. - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme In this case, it was 2 of those elements combined. 1) A guitar progression (riff/pattern) 2) A central theme, which was also served as the title (hook) In songwriting, it’s essential for the subject matter to blend with the musical feel. In other words, one should complement the other. In my humble opinion, that is the case here. Subject Matter This particular lyric hit pretty close to home. It was loosely based on my wife’s employer, who shall remain nameless. The lyrical message was inspired-by…and based-upon changing conditions following the financial collapse of 2008. Simply put, none of those changes benefited the employees & most didn't bode too well for the financial future of the company. Much to my surprise, the company survived. The employees however, were a different story. Most of what they lost was never returned. The financial recovery that followed did little to benefit them. The title “Too Small To Save” was applicable to both employer & employee. At the time this song was written, both fit the description…seeming doomed to failure. As you may have guessed, the title was also a tongue & cheek play on that infamous 2008 headline - “Too Big To Fail”. While banks & auto manufacturers were too big to fail, small companies & employees were “Too Small To Save”. Essentially, the yin & yang of monetary policy. Structurally, the lyric is brief…with a generous dose of repetition. The message is heavily reliant on imagery & metaphors, which is not typical of my lyrics. Because the subject matter was both current & dismal, I chose an artsy lyrical format. Lyric Too small…too small to save Just another business crushed by the wave One more tiny fish…too small to save A victim…of the economy No golden parachute waits for me Almost 80 years business don’t count these days No friends in high places…too small to save Last call…for 401Ks Get ‘em while you can…they’re fadin’ away It’s closin’ time cause we’re…too small to save Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse-Refrain / Instrumental Verse-Refrain (guitar solo) / Bridge / Verse-Refrain / Ending Musical Fundamentals Musically, “Too Small To Save” was built around a single guitar progression. It’s the one you hear being played throughout the intro & verse-refrain sections. The song is set in the key of Aminor….BPM 100 Genre-wise, I’d have to call it blues-rock. This arrangement is guitar-based, utilizing 3 separate mono tracks. My Gibson SG was used for two of those. The 3rd was a mixture of Strat & SG…with Strat being chosen for the bridge section. Its’ single coil pickups were useful in creating thinner sounding guitar textures. - One of those 3 tracks contains intermittent lead guitar. - The other 2 are the primaries, heard throughout the song. The verse/refrain sections consist of 1 guitar playing the primary progression, while a 2nd guitar plays 3-note power chords (I-V-octave). The bridge was intended to have a unique feel, so both guitar parts change dramatically. The SG picks single notes within standard open chord forms, while the Strat strums triads (3-note chord forms…I-III-V). The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to the Boss unit in 2007. Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about using synthetic drums. But the additional control, flexibility & convenience of the machine method sold me on the change. Suffice to say that recording live drums in a single-person home studio setup is a tedious process! Regardless, the marching snare used for the bridge section was an actual drum. Unfortunately, the machine decay rate makes crash cymbals sound VERY artificial. So… all crashes were overdubbed onto separate tracks, using actual cymbals. Final Production Notes The recording, editing & mixing were done on a PortaStudio 2488….a 24 track Tascam system. Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/8A6W4OarAWY Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  7. “Love Will Find Me” was originally written & recorded in 1997, using a Tascam 424 analog cassette deck. Revisions were made in 2005........ - The original 4 analog tracks were transferred to an 8-track digital deck (Tascam 788, shown below). - Keyboard strings & organ were added to the arrangement. - Some of the secondary guitar work was re-recorded & the song was remixed. In 2014, some minor editing was done on the 2-track master & the ending was shortened. That final effort yielded the version you’re hearing now. In recent years, I’ve come to view all my songs as works-in-progress. “Finished” means…”Finished for now”. Truth be told, change is NOT the enemy of artistic integrity! Subject Matter This is one of my few "relationship" themed songs. It's not that I dislike the subject. Commercial music is simply overrun with it! Since life is about much than the emotional roller coaster ride of 2 star-crossed lovers, my songs tend to focus on other aspects of it. That being said, “Love Will Find Me” was an exception. The lyric is set in first person narrative, so the story’s being told by the individual experiencing the loss. Essentially, it’s a look back at his recently failed relationship…a new version of the unrequited love theme. It covers an array of emotions…. The grief-stricken pain of loving someone who doesn't love you. A fleeting glimpse of self-pity Then finally, the realization that life goes on, coupled with a belief that eventually….love will find him. Most songs of this type have a commonality. They describe a universally understood experience. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone beyond the age of puberty who hasn't dealt with similar feelings, including me. That’s why it’s such a common songwriting theme…because listeners easily identify with it. Lyric Can’t believe you’ve left me all alone All alone, no one to care Wish you’d learned to love me so I would Have someone with whom to share Why should I….even try When you’ve already said goodbye? Life goes on….so will I Someday….some way….love will find me! Tried so hard to grant your every wish Every wish was my command Thought in time you’d learn to love me too Guess you’ll never understand Wonder what….I did wrong Wanted you….for so long Maybe I….pushed too hard Just not….sure anymore Why should I….even try When you’ve already said goodbye? Life goes on….so will I Someday….some way….love will find me! *Repeat Chorus Section Copyright 1997 Song Structure Brief Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Bridge / Double Chorus / Ending & Fade Track Length - 3:05 Musical Fundamentals The song is set in D# minor. Since most of my songs aren’t relationship-based, I go the extra mile to make the few I have unique. I see little point in creating new versions of “the same old thing”. Unlike much of my material, “Love Will Find Me” was built around a syncopated chord progression…played on my Strat. The chords are all 5th & 6th string Barre forms Much of the progression is played staccato, which is why barre chords were chosen. They can be muted by simply relaxing pressure on the frets. Secondary guitar parts were done with my SG. They consist of 2-note intervals (primarily 4ths), single note patterns and licks. While the primary guitar chords are the songs’ foundation, these secondary parts were created to fill, add color & support the vocal melody. Keyboard strings & organ helped to fill out the arrangement. Since there was no secondary guitar part written for the chorus sections, something additional was needed. Both were played on a Yamaha P-80 electric piano. As was the case with all my earlier songs, live drums were used. If I do say so myself, this serves as a great example of how to get creative with a drum track! It’s syncopated, generates a unique rhythmic feel and works nicely with the other song components. Because the drums were part of my original 4 track recording, they share a single mono track with the bass guitar. Shame it had to be that way, but compromises of that sort were common back-in-the-day. Performance Credits Guitars, Bass, Drums & Keyboards – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman You Tube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/7Y8ycXZY4gI Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  8. Norfolk & Westerne

    From the album Back-in-the-day

    An old band buddy of mine ran across this cleaning out his practice/storage facility. Norfolk & Westerne was the original name for the band that became "Nickels". Steve Madison & Paul Tassler of Continental Ent. asked us to change it because everyone thought we were a country western band. We were not! The name was taken from a famous railroad. This was an early publicity shot done for Continental...circa 1973. That's me 2nd from the left. Honestly, I had no idea any remnants from this stage of the band survived. Leave it to Frank...he never throws anything away...thank God!
  9. Crafting Drum Parts Tutorials

    A 3-part series in multiple formats....full video or text-only. Links to both sets are listed below: YouTube Video Versions - Part 1 - https://youtu.be/F1IDKRjpmAc Part 2 - https://youtu.be/sgsYxI2cImg Part 3 - https://youtu.be/Y_R7SLHzsLA Tom
  10. Subject Matter Written, recorded & copyrighted in 2003, "Borrowed Time" was inspired by an actual event…the death of my boss Fred Marshall. Several years prior, Fred had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Once traditional treatment had failed, Fred received the bad news. There was little more medical science could do for him. For all practical purposes, he was living on borrowed time. He knew the "what", but not the "when". Grant it, Fred wasn't the first to receive a terminal prognosis & he wouldn't be the last. But, I couldn't help wondering....how does someone come to grips with that? What's it like to live with that knowledge? Questions worthy of a song, don't you think? I did In the end, Fred lost his battle with cancer. The day of the funeral, our company closed so that everyone could attend. He was laid to rest in his hometown, several hours North of St. Louis. As you might expect, it was a very quiet drive back. Since I was a passenger...with the back seat to myself, I made good use of the time. I wrote the majority of this lyric. Given the circumstances, it seemed a fitting activity. Lyric Livin’ on borrowed time Not sure how he’s gonna use it Livin’ on borrowed time Knows he can’t afford to lose it When life gives you a surprise It can open up your eyes Should already be…part of history Dead & gone before his time, but he’s… Livin’ on borrowed time Not sure how he’s gonna use it Livin’ on borrowed time Knows he can’t afford to lose it Livin’ every day In a different way Cause he’s never sure How much longer he’ll survive Told him he’d be dead last year Doctors say the end’s still near Still he’s tryin’ to…use the time to do All the things he holds so dear, cause he’s… Livin’ on borrowed time Not sure how he’s gonna use it Livin’ on borrowed time Knows he can’t afford to lose it Livin’ on borrowed time Livin’ on borrowed time Copyright 2003 – Tom Hoffman Personal Insights Back-in-the-day, I participated in a number of songwriting competitions. The Billboard World, Song of the Year, American Songwriter, USA, UK & Great American to name a few. Out of all the songs I entered, “Borrowed Time” scored the highest ...one of 5 finalists. The most traditional, mainstream song I’ve ever created…and they liked it best? Go figure! Take from that, what you will. Musical Fundamentals Genre was an easy decision. Given the subject matter, traditional country was a perfect fit. It’s set in the key of G…a commonly used country key. BPM = 104 …a comfortable, easy-going pace for this type of song. Structurally, it is different. Following a brief introduction, it flows immediately into a chorus section. That’s not unheard of, but it’s certainly not the norm. For this particular song, I thought it was an excellent choice. It allowed one of the primary “hooks” (the song title) to be heard almost immediately. Instrumentation Choices Fender Strat Acoustic Bass + Harmonica (Hohner) & Keyboard Strings (Yamaha P-80 digital piano) Production: Tascam 788 Performance Credits: • Guitars, Bass, Drums, Harmonica, Keyboards – Tom Hoffman • Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/EbeVOh7m5FE Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profilehttp://www.tune-smith.comhttp://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  11. For this installment, we’re looking back at 2008. “Not-For-Profit Life” was the first of my songs to be played on internet radio. Back when Jango.com was kicking off their “Artist Airplay” program for unsigned artists, they contacted me about adding this to their playlist. The Idea As sometimes occurs, this song began with a Hook (title) and evolved from there. Subject Matter My intended message was a simple one…..Life is about much more than “the pursuit of money”! It’s never been a driving force in my life and with any luck, it never will be. No child was ever born thinking about it. We don’t come out of the womb that with dollar signs in our eyes. The importance of financial success is systematically sold to us. Don’t get me wrong, having “enough” money allows us to live financially responsible lives. But…beyond the point of “enough”, it becomes a non-essential & a matter of contention. As Sly and the Family Stone so famously said, “Different strokes for different folks”. Lyrical Structure Simply put, it's different! All 3 verse sections, the first pre-chorus & first chorus are written in 3rd person narrative form. The final pre-chorus & chorus shift to first person perspective, thereby taking ownership of the thoughts being expressed. Lyrics Voices of children enjoying the sunshine Laughing & playing with friends Livin’ out days as if each was a lifetime & Losing themselves in pretend No plan for riches No thirst for fame Young lives so simple Less greed, less pain They’re livin’ not-for-profit lives No sleepless nights, no worries or fears They live it one day at a time Livin’….not-for-profit…..lives Then come the years of bigger & better The quest for success at all costs Convincing themselves they’ve gotta keep pace with The neighbors, the times & their boss Squandering life for the sake of achievement More money, more stuff, but no time Chasin’ the dream, the one they bought into The one with no reason or rhyme No thanks, you keep it! That’s not for me! Things I hold dearest Mostly come free I’ll take a not-for-profit life! No sleepless nights, no worries or fears I’ll live it one day at a time Livin’…a not-for-profit…life Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Pre-Chorus (Rise) / Chorus / Musical Interlude / Double-Verse / Pre-Chorus (Rise) / Chorus- Brief Ending Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of E minor. By the time 2008 rolled around, keyboards had been added to my musical arsenal. This particular arrangement contains both organ & piano tracks. Since I've never been a MIDI user and haven’t utilized software patches or VSTs, the keyboard tracks were played on my Yamaha P-80 Electronic Piano. The guitar part is a mixture of picking & chords. With its single coil pickup textures, my Fender Stratocaster (Strat) was the natural choice. It's rare for me to create an arrangement with a single guitar track, but that was the case here. Just the one Strat track. Additional Instrumentation...... - Harmonica (intro-only) - Bass Guitar - *Congas - *Drums *The core drum & conga tracks were creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to a drum machine in 2007. Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about the decision. But the additional control, flexibility & convenience offered by the machine sold me on the change. Unfortunately, the Boss decay rate made crashes cymbals sound VERY artificial. So… crashes were overdubbed, using live cymbals. It was an inconvenient method, but it improved the sound quality significantly. Vocal Details In each of the chorus sections, the phrase “Not-For-Profit Life” employs what’s known as vocal doubling. Simply put, the part is sung twice on separate recorded tracks. When both takes are played together, the small differences in pitch & timing produce a thicker sounding vocal texture. It’s a common recording technique....widely used for decades. A single harmony vocal track was used for: - the entire 3rd verse - the final line of each chorus section Final Production Notes By 2008, I had traded up to a 24 track system. Another Tascam, but this time a PortaStudio 2488. Having 24 available tracks opened up a whole new world of arrangement possibilities. Performance Credits - Guitar, Bass guitar, piano, organ, harmonica & Soft Shake – TomHoffman - Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/wB-yIHfg0NA Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  12. “I Hope To Be" was written & recorded back in 2004. Despite its’ simplistic melody & country-pop textures, it’s played a lot ! That partial slide was taken from statistical tracking data on my primary website (www.tune-smith.com). It lists the 5 most-played songs in the month of March, 2014. As you can see, “I Hope To Be” was played 922 times…in its’ entirety. Just goes to show…..writers are often the last to know what others will like. This song has NEVER been one of my favorites, yet listeners seem to prefer it. Go figure! Don’t get me wrong….I’m delighted when someone likes any of my songs! I’ve simply given up trying to predict which ones. Overview Over the years, I’ve experimented in a variety of genres. Back in the early 2000’s, I was dabbling in country. Of the 6 songs that dabbling produced, “I Hope To Be” is the only one I’d call county-pop. Songs in that genre are typically…. Up-tempo Written in a major key Positive in tone & message “Twangy” sounding This songs qualifies in all 4 categories, which may have something to do with its’ overall appeal. The title probably doesn’t hurt either! “I Hope To Be”….short, sweet, positive & lyrically descriptive. Subject Matter While the title & hook line have a very positive tone, the overall lyrical message is a mixed bag. I probably should have called it – “I Hope To Be, BUT…” Yes….it’s a relationship-based song, BUT…a deliberately different one! The lyric is tentative and full of contrast. For instance…… “Love’s left its’ mark / Still life’s not a walk in the park” - In other words, as great as love it is, it does NOT conquer all. “Life” presents challenges of its’ own. “Hopin’ that things go our way / But I know, that if they don’t, we’ll still be OK” – hope contrasted by realism & the importance of rolling with the punches. To summarize my intended lyric message… “I realize you have goals for us, I hope to help you achieve those, but it’s important to recognize the unpredictability of life because sometimes sh** happens!” Lyric Love’s left its’ mark Still life’s not a walk in the park You’ve planned each step that we make Tryin’ to help me down the path you’d like me to take I hope to be Everything you want me to be But, we need to see How it works out eventually Whatever life you’re dreamin’ for me Life can turn out so differently Still, I hope to be ! Your hand in mine We reach for the life you designed Hopin’ that things go our way But I know, that if they don’t, we’ll still be OK Sometimes…even the best plans Don’t quite come to be Sometimes…your life’ll take ya’ Somewhere you never planned to see Still…I hope to be Everything you want me to be But, we need to see How things work out eventually Whatever life you’re dreamin’ for me Life can turn out so differently Still, I hope to be ! Copyright 2004- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Bridge / Chorus Length of song - 3 min. 20 seconds Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of E major….BPM 126 The arrangement consists of 7 total tracks, 6 mono & one stereo pair. Mono Tracks assignments - 3 separate guitar parts, bass guitar, keyboard strings, single vocal Stereo Pair – live drums My Yamaha acoustic was used for the primary guitar. Aside from the intro section, this part is made up entirely of strummed chords. When the song was written, this part & the vocal melody were created first. Lyrics were added later, which is typical of my process. Together, these 3 elements represent the core of the song. The musical structure of this primary guitar is unusual in a number of ways. All 3 song sections (verse, chorus, bridge) end on the same chord…an E. Both verse & chorus sections begin on the same chord….an A. The chorus sections contain a generous helping of sus 4ths The acoustic guitar for the intro section consists of muted 2-note intervals (alternating 4th & 5ths). Both secondary guitar tracks were done with my Fender Strat. One track is entirely lead guitar licks, while the other is a combination of strummed chords & single picked notes. Final Production Notes The recording was done on a Tascam PortaStudio 788. It’s an 8-track digital recording deck. Performance Credits Drums, Guitars (acoustic & electric), Bass, Keyboard Strings – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman You Tube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/owSCMudfMao Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  13. 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! 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". 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. First comes the idea itself. Without the fundamental idea, there can be no writing. 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 http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  14. Nickels1973-StairwayToHeaven

    From the album Back-in-the-day

    One of the earliest known photo of the band, taken at an outdoor park concert. We know it was taken during "Stairway To Heaven" because of the dual-flutes (right & left). God....I used to hate doing this song! LOL Wish I still had that set of Ludwigs! The 3rd high-tom isn't visible...obscured by Chuck's 12 string. Set had dual floor-toms too. Tom
  15. 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". http://youtu.be/25UoTx-mBfc Thanks...and as always, your feedback is welcome & appreciated! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1 http://www.tune-smith.com
  16. This is the 2nd in a series of new videos/articles, intended to give a glimpse behind the creative curtain at the how’s & why's of songwriting. For this installment, we’re flashing back to 2002. “Not Quite The Same” was my attempt at a different kind of 9-11 song. It's one of several tracks that were written & recorded, but never promoted or made available online. The Idea My songs typically evolve from one of 4 starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme In this case, the starting point was a combination of 2 elements. • a central theme – 9/11 and a different approach to the topic • a basic chord progression, which seemed a good fit for the subject matter Subject Matter Long before this track was finished, the onslaught of 9-11 songs from major artists had begun. Typically, they were overtly patriotic....cliché ridden attempts to take commercial advantage of our national tragedy. At least that's how I saw them. Don't get me wrong....I recognize that artists need to make a living. But attempting to profit from tragedy is right near the top on my list of unacceptable behaviors. Depending on the genre & artist, they evoked feelings of sorrow & pity, or testosterone & anger. Songs about "why us" or "how dare you"! Both attempting to cash in on existing emotions ....neither striving for anything productive. Bottom line - If I was going to write a 9-11 song, it wouldn't be like that! My messages would be different! More like............ - Nothing here was quite the same after 9-11. We shouldn't expect it to be. - We'd allowed ourselves to believe that it couldn't happen to us. Other counties....yes, but not us! That was a flawed assumption. - Freedom isn't free....it has a cost. Hopefully those thoughts come across in the song. Lyrics Something's changed Kind of strange Lots of talk.....speculation & doubt Can we find comfort when....life feels inside out? History's shown Safety at home We've assumed it would always be so Life has no guarantees....guess we never know On we go! (Refrain) Just not quite......the same Until we realized It could be us that died We never recognized....it could happen here! Buildings fell September Hell We know now...what we didn't know then Freedom comes at a cost...and payment never ends! (Refrains) Just not quite.....the same! (repeat) copyright 2002-Tom Hoffman. Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Verse / Refrain / Bridge / Verse / Refrain / Ends with variation on a 2nd refrain Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of G minor. At its core, a basic rock arrangement ....single rhythm guitar, lead guitar, drums, bass guitar, lead vocal and a single harmony vocal on the refrain sections. BPM – 138 The rhythm guitar part consists of "power chords". For those who don't know, power chords are 2-note intervals....possessing neither major nor minor characteristics. Strictly a root note with a 5th on top. The bare-bones framework of this song is a I-IV-V progression. That being the case, I did what I could to make it my own. Unusually timed chord changes & slides help to set it apart from similar progressions. At least, that was my intent! The intro, verse & refrains sections are strictly power chords. The bridge section is not. Since bridges are meant to sound different, the rhythm guitar part shifts to full chord forms. My trusty Gibson SG was used for all the guitar work A number of elements contribute to the unique feel of that bridge section. I've already mentioned the change in chord structure, but there are others. - The drum part shifts to a half-time feel. - Both the emotion of the vocal & the lyrical meter change. Final Production Notes By the time 2002 rolled around, I had converted to a digital setup. A Tascam PortaStudio 788 was my tool of choice. Performance Credits Drums, Guitars & Bass guitar – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  17. “Pentatonic Playground” was originally called “Romantic Guy”. It had a vocal melody, lyrics and told a tongue-in-cheek tale of a dysfunctional relationship masquerading as romantic behavior. If you’re curious, those original lyrics are listed at the bottom of this article. “Romantic Guy” was written & recorded back in 1998. Honestly…I liked portions of the arrangement, but the song as a whole didn’t work. In May of 2009, I began work on this instrumental version (“Pentatonic Playground”). With this new format, came structural changes. The original verse sections were cut in half, making this instrumental version 48 seconds shorter than it’s’ predecessor. The 2 versions were copyrighted…separately. About The Song Structurally, “Pentatonic Playground” is pretty basic. verse / chorus / bridge / verse / double- chorus / ending It’s one of four instrumentals in my entire catalog. Of those four, two began as lyrical works, eventually becoming instrumentals. My songs generally evolve from one of the following: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme This one grew from a riff that I stumbled on while practicing stretch scale patterns. Major pentatonic patterns to be exact.....hence my choice of song titles. Both verse & chorus guitar parts are variations of that pattern, played in the key of G. Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of G….BPM 116 Alternative genre Total run time - 2 minutes 42 seconds It’s a guitar-based arrangement, built around that primary progression mentioned earlier. Guitar #1 plays the primary riff (progression) for both verse & chorus sections. For the bridge, it changes to picking single notes within chord forms. Guitar part #2 is made up of 5ths (2-note intervals) played throughout the verse & chorus sections. It switches to strumming full chords during the bridge. The 3rd guitar part plays what was originally the vocal verse melody. For the most part, the chorus sections double guitar #1. Guitar #3 drops out for the bridge section, allowing simulated strings to take over performance of the melody. My trusty Gibson SG was used for all the guitar work. The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. I converted to synthetic drums in 2007, after 13 years of fighting with live drums in a home studio setting. Suffice to say that it’s a tedious process! Despite my use of the machine, the drum parts are still written the old way….sitting behind an actual drum kit. Crash cymbals are overdubbed live, on separate stereo tracks. Unfortunately, the Boss decay rate made the machine versions sound VERY artificial. Try as I might, I was unable to live the results, so I continue recording those the old way. Final Production Notes The recording, editing & mixing were done on a *PortaStudio 2488….a 24 track Tascam system. (*top-center of photo) Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Tambourine, Keyboard Strings & Breaths – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song “Romantic Guy” (Lyric) Verse Came home again late…third time this week Smelled like a barroom…too drunk to speak Next day he’s sorry…what a surprise! Sends her some roses…Romantic Guy Chorus Romance...is a temporary patch on a bleeding life! Good chance….that it fills the vacant place in her heart, for just one… Bridge …Night He’ll make her feel like she’s a queen He’ll be her slave for a night He know…tomorrow brings Time enough…to spread his wings They’ll pretend for now that things are alright Verse Lost his whole paycheck…out at the track Borrowed more money…to win it back Next day he’s sorry…what a surprise! Sends her some roses…Romantic Guy Double Chorus Copyright 1998- Tom Hoffman
  18. 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. 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! 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 http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  19. For those of you who've never been part of a band, there are some fundamental guidelines that most bands adhere to. One of those guidelines is that the drummer should always serve as the band's rhythmic center! Much like the function of the conductor in an orchestral setting, the drummer is responsible for setting the pace. No.....I'm not trying to worsen the clash of egos that's an inevitable part of the band experience. This is simply the way it works! If anything, hearing it from someone outside of your immediate group should reduce the potential for disagreement amongst yourselves. If you're a drummer, accept this as one of your responsibilities. If you're a guitarist, keyboard player, singer, etc....for everyone's sake, please recognize that this is the way it needs to be. Have you ever wondered why so many bands locate the drummer near the center of the stage? One fundamental reason is ease of access. The other band members can more easily see and hear them in that center position. Everyone plays toward that same rhythmic center....not to one another. While there are other elements involved in accomplishing a tight sound, without adhering to that one basic principle, you can't get there! Regardless of individual proficiency levels, if the keyboard player is playing to the guitarist, the guitarist is playing to the bass player and the singer is taking his timing cues from the keyboard player.......you'll hear that in the end result. It will not sound tight! This principle also applies when recording final tracks. For you non-drummers......if at some point in your future, you hope to write & record fully arranged versions of your own material, you need to be aware. As a general rule, when recording the final version of a song, that final drum track is recorded first. This is done because it's not possible to center every other instrument around the drums, if there are no drums. Seriously....even if you work alone like I do, that drum track is used as the rhythmic center for every additional instrument track laid down. When I record the guitar tracks, bass track, keyboard track, or misc. percussion tracks to a new song.......I'm playing along with that previously recorded drum track. It's my foundation! For the sake of clarity, I'm not a user of MIDI technology. This "drums first" rule may not apply as strictly for MIDI users. That's outside my area of expertise. My next blog entry will be called "What Comes Around, Goes Around".....the yin & yang of drumming in a band. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  20. 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! 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. 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 http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  21. I'd like to talk about learning a 2nd instrument and why that can be so beneficial......particularly for drummers. Many of my blogs, including this one, are inspired by lessons that I learned the hard way. By exposing you to my perspectives, I hope to provide you with some food-for-thought. Even if you choose to repeat my mistakes, perhaps you'll correct them more quickly than I did. Most well-rounded drummers end up with a reasonable understanding of rhythm, timing, time signatures & dynamics. Typically, drums don't offer much exposure to the concepts of melody, pitch and harmony. That's a shame, but it's simply the nature of the beast. Because it's not essential knowledge for drummers, it's generally not taught. Unfortunately, that lack of knowledge leaves a huge hole in a drummers understanding of....and overall appreciation for music. It certainly did in my case. I simply didn't realize it at the time. During my 9 years as a drummer/singer in various bands, I was perfectly content to concentrate exclusively on those 2 skills. Why....I'm not altogether sure? I guess I had convinced myself that widening my musical scope would somehow detract from the focus on my primary instrument - drums. Looking back, I realize that was complete nonsense! But, as they say.....hindsight is 20/20. Honestly, if I had it to do again, I wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of the excellent musicians I had around me. Off the top of my head, I can think of several who would have shared much of their knowledge with me for free. Oh well! I guess in the final analysis....whether we learn, matters more than when. Fact is.....I did eventually expand my musical horizons. For anyone wondering about specific instrument recommendations, both guitar & piano (keyboard) deal with melody, pitch and harmony. Certainly there are other instruments to choose from, but guitar & piano (keyboard) offer one big advantage over many others. Both are capable of playing multiple notes simultaneously. In other words - chords. Chords & harmony are inseparably linked and are vital parts of the overall musical puzzle. Guitar & keyboard also offer the widest range of practical applications. Either will allow you to: - recreate recognizable parts of your favorite songs - play strictly for your own enjoyment - play as part of a band - write songs - any combination of the above An overwhelming majority of songwriters choose either piano or guitar as their primary writing instrument. My personal choice was guitar. Finally....learning a melodic instrument aids dramatically in developing your sense of pitch. As a drummer, even a singing drummer, you may think you hear pitch well now. I did! But, it's simply amazing how much better you're able to scrutinize it after a few years of dealing directly with it. I first began to notice the difference in the accuracy of my hearing a couple of years after beginning guitar. I was listening to some of my old vinyl albums, from back in the 70s. Pitch imperfections in some of the vocal tracks were smacking me right in the face. These were songs I had heard hundreds of times before! It wasn't like I was listening any harder now. I was simply hearing things I hadn't been able to before. In one particular song, which happened to be a long-time favorite of mine, the main vocal in the first verse was really sharp. Honestly, it was tough for me to believe that I'd never noticed. Fact is though....I hadn't! It had been there all along.....I just couldn't hear it. At least not like I hear it now. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that truly needs to be experienced to be understood. So don't take my word for it.....go experience it for yourself! That's all I have this time. Thanks for your continued interest! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  22. People sometimes know me for years, before finding out that I'm an amateur singer/songwriter. It's not that I'm particularly secretive about it. It's just not something that fits easily into day-to-day conversation. Occasionally, if a discussion is already headed in a musical or technical direction, I'll bring it up. Experience has taught me though, not to be surprised if the news draws a strange or uncomfortable reaction. I've come to believe that many folks are simply thrown a bit off-balance by my hobby. Unless they happen to know someone else who writes, I guess they're a little unsure about how to process the news. A few years back, I made a 20+ year acquaintance aware of my musical pastime. Her reaction was the kind I always hope to get...one of seemingly genuine interest & curiosity. Anyway, as a result of our conversation, I left her a computer burn CD containing some of my better-quality demos. I ran into her again a few weeks later...and she made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed it. She seemed amazed & impressed by the fact that one person could do everything she'd heard on the recordings. Then she laughed & said that her husband had a slightly different reaction. He was absolutely certain that I was being less than truthful with her! Naturally, I couldn't just leave it at that. My curiosity was killing me! I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but basically, it turned out that he was laboring under a life-long musical misconception......hence the title of this article. As we continued talking, I discovered a little more about her husband's reasoning. Basically, it boiled down to this: - He knew nothing about the concept of multi-track recording - He was under the impression that all recordings resulted from everyone involved (musicians, singers, etc.) gathering together in a recording studio, performing the song similar to the way they would do it live...and recording that performance. The bottom line was this....he wasn't questioning my personal integrity. He simply believed it was impossible for me to do what I had claimed! The thing is though, he was very mistaken! Afterward, I was thinking to myself...."here's a reasonably well educated man, in his mid-50s, who's been an avid fan of music throughout his life, but has absolutely no idea of how it all works! Gee! I wonder how many other folks are walking around thinking something similar?" At the very least, that might help explain some of those strange & uncomfortable reactions I mentioned earlier. So here's my take-away from this experience: 1) We songwriter/musicians tend to assume a lot. Much of the time, we take for granted that the general public has some understanding of how our musical world functions. Many times, they don't! 2) For any non-musicians reading this article, recording is generally not done in the way this gentleman envisioned. For many years, commercial recording has been achieved through the use of multi-track technology. Even though multi-tracking has evolved dramatically & continues to do so, the concept itself is not new. As a matter of fact, The Beatles utilized multi-track recording! That should give you some idea of how long it's been in existence. Basically, the technology allows for the recording of different sounds, onto different tracks. Typically, each instrument and vocal part is recorded to a separate track. This allows for separate control of each part. It also allows the parts to be recorded one-at-a-time, if desired. A musician or singer has the ability to listen to the previously recorded parts, while playing or singing along with them and recording their new part onto an unused track....all by itself. Pretty cool, huh? Most commercial recordings are not the result of everyone playing & singing in the studio together. The version that becomes available for public consumption is generally the result of many, many individual tracks, which are blended (mixed) together into one pair of stereo tracks. Sometimes, 100 or more individual tracks go into the making of that final stereo recording that you hear. As you might guess, there's much more to it than what I've briefly described here. But hopefully, this serves to give you a basic understanding of the process. That's about it for this time. With any luck, if you're a musician & were already familiar with most of this, you found it amusing food-for-thought. If you're not a musician and much of this was new to you, I hope you found it informative. Thanks...and as always, your feedback is welcome & appreciated! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1
  23. 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. 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? 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 http://www.tune-smith.com https://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  24. In this age of seemingly endless technological advancements, a question has occurred to me. Is it possible that the production/technical side of our modern music industry and the end-user side, have been moving in contradictory directions? In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no formal expertise in either side. But my knowledge of...and continued exposure to both sides has caused me to wonder. By absolute coincidence, the digital age was beginning to take hold right about the time I made the decision to re-involve myself musically. For the past 17 years, I've watched as both the creation & end-user sides of this business have evolved. The business (creative) side has continued to develop its technical capabilities. The multimillion dollar recording studios of today are capable of amazing things! They'd likely be the first to tell you that they're an indispensable part of the creative process. From what I understand, the industry's position is....that without their sophisticated equipment & technical expertise, the virtually flawless recordings of today wouldn't be possible. I don't dispute that claim! But, along with that capability, comes increased cost of production. As you might imagine, this increased cost has to be passed on to the consumer. So, the bottom line is that you & I end-up paying more for our music. Proving once again...that there's no such thing as a free lunch!-LOL Seriously, I can understand that! After all, if their cost is higher, they have to reflect that in the end price of the product. But, here's what I do question. Despite the industry's claims that we need this modern level of quality....do we really? Given the recent direction of the end-user (listener) market, is it necessary, or has the music industry simply chosen to ignore current trends in listening technology? Back-in-the-day, small/portable/low-quality listening was the trend. To be more specific...mono AM-only transistor radios. Fifty years ago, that was our version of a personal listening device. By the time I was into my mid-teens, stereo sound had become the new standard. Thank God! With that change, came an increased desire for high quality listening capability. Virtually everyone I knew at that time wanted a good quality receiver, turntable & speakers. The speakers had to be 3-ways, the receiver had to be low noise...low distortion and the turntable had to be state of the art & capable of tracking at 1 gram or less. Lighter tracking was thought to aid in preserving the quality of the vinyl albums. We had finally become picky about our sound! We were concerned with things like frequency response range, so that we'd be able to hear extreme highs & lows as they were intended to be heard. These systems didn't come cheap, but we were willing to pay more for the quality we wanted. Now....let's flash forward to the digital 2000's! Essentially, we've returned to an age of less expensive - highly portable listening devices. Grant-it, today's versions are much better quality than our transistor radios were. They're also capable of doing much more. But the overall market trend is similar! Isn't it? The average listener today: - buys, or somehow acquires, music in a128 kbps mp3 format - hears much of their music through ear buds, pc bar speakers or lap top speakers Bottom line...today's listeners hear most of their music in a format that's well below the quality of a wav-form recording, through speakers with limited frequency response capability. So, refresh my memory again! Why was it that we needed that virtually flawless quality at that elevated cost? Tom Hoffman http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1 http://forums.songstuff.com/user/1454-tunesmithth/
  25. Musician/songwriter forums, such as SongStuff.com, are incredibly useful for certain things. Seeking reliable, definitive advice about copyright related questions is not among them. Yet year-after-year we see an endless parade of new-member posts inquiring about exactly that. There are 2 generally accepted sources for information pertaining to copyright: The Library of Congress (Washington D.C.)Entertainment AttorneysConsulting the first of those sources is free, but you'll need to do the research yourself & draw your own conclusions based on that research. Typically, entertainment attorneys are not free! You'll probably have to pay for their advice, but they will get the answers for you. If you're undecided about which of these avenues is best, I recommend asking yourself one simple question. Can you afford to pay an attorney? If the answer to that question is NO, then there is no decision to be made. The Library of Congress is for you! That's exactly how I learned & I've been registering copyrights for 16+ years. Believe me....it's much easier to find information now, than it was 16 years ago. 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#automaticCopyright FAQ - http://copyright.gov/help/faq/index.htmlElectronic Copyright Office tutorial - http://copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdfOnline Copyright Registration - http://copyright.gov/eco/If you're still bound & determined to ask your question on a musician/songwriter's forum, here's what you can expect. - You'll get an array of responses & contradictory advice, from well-meaning individuals with a variety of qualifications. - Those responses may be based on personal experience, personal knowledge, guesswork or opinion. You'll have absolutely no way of knowing which, since the people offering it are virtual strangers. - The conversation will stray from your original question. Based on years of personal experience, I can tell you that it always does. You'll end up reading responses, which have little or nothing to do with your original question. - If you do get lucky enough to find a forum member who is actually a practicing attorney, there's no way they'll be willing to risk whatever liability may result from offering you free online advice. If they are willing to offer an opinion at all, it'll be strictly a personal opinion, NOT a legal recommendation. Even in the best case scenario, you won't have advice that you can afford to count on. BTW - this will always be the case, regardless of the specific forum! When it's all said and done, you'll come away with unreliable advice. It's your work.....right? That is why you asked the question to begin with...right? So are you really willing to base your decision on advice offered by a bunch of total strangers? If you're truly concerned about protecting your work, you can't afford to guess. You need to know! Hopefully, this blog article doesn't offend anyone. That's not my intent. I am simply amazed at our chosen methods for acquiring information these days. Many seem to feel that asking complete strangers is better than figuring it out for themselves. I find that incredibly sad! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH