Some Tunes

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Reading, Studying & Recording

This is the latest in the process for me. I'm starting to take online classes again and learning more about recording at home as well as lyric writing, which continues to be the toughest part of the equation for me. I have a ton of ideas, but making them universal (aiming for the largest audience) is where I find the challenge or one of the challenges.

Just started a book by Sheila Davis and hope to continue to get a better feel for the craft as I muddle through and use it in class. The jury's out, so we'll see, but the basics so far are really what I've studied before - song forms, theory, principles - always beneficial to restudy and pick up something that triggers the cranium.

These classes are again through which I really continue to find valuable to me in the process. Certainly, at least, some contact with people who have some degree of success and are willing to share with those of us struggling to open a door and hold it open with our faces squished in the door-jam.

The doors will come I'm sure. I just need to spend some time getting ready and getting my face prepped for the abuse. Now, back to the studio.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Balance hell, I've had it

Okay, last time I talked about balancing work and songwriting. I'm probably not the best one to get insight on that one. I just gave notice at work for a number of reasons. One was that it sucked the life out of me so much that I just wouldn't feel creative. I worked so hard the last year to keep the creative side (that makes me feel so good) in the forefront. Other factors too for sure that I won't go into, but here in a week or so I'll be unemployed, poor and happier. We'll see where this goes, but I plan to really get down to it again.

Now, I sure didn't stop writing and working on songs, but I certainly scaled back. At any rate, another page in life and we'll see where it goes. I did a review of a newer song last week with Sara (co-founder of SongU) and it was simply great insight from a professional perspective. I made some changes and will review now with another successful songwriter later this week and see where we stand.

As I look back at my growth over the past year, I'm pretty amazed and feel like I'm getting closer to the ballpark I want and need to be in to get some songs covered. I'm hoping to get about 3 or 4 ready to take to a demo studio and/or kill it in mine. Right now I'm thinking get someone else to do it and see how that lands.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting Balance

I've been trying to adjust to a balance of work and music creativity time. I think it would be tough enough, but working graveyard with little sleep has added a twist I'd like to not have to deal with. Oh, well, there's always something to overcome. So, I've recently been working on that adjustment.

I'm currently working on a song called "Living Out This Lie" which sounds a lot to me like it could be something from Santana, at least in the main chord progression. I love it so far, but have some lyric rework to do. It seems like about every other song I work on has a feel or groove that I haven't tapped into before. That part is so cool and keeps me guessing. Not sure where that stuff comes from, but I appreciate the input from the universe. Fun stuff.

I'm really enjoying using Macs in the studio and now in our home office. Still doing some adjusting, but I can see what the fuss is all about. Both of mine are iMacs, so the computer is built behind, into or wherever, the screen. Great visual to work from and lightening fast. Can't wait to get more adept at it all. As far as being for the studio. Perfecto. Above is a picture of the screen working on the new tune. Sounds good, right?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Change of Pace

I have elected to go back to work like real people. It wasn't a real free election, but ya know, I do like to eat. It has been a great half a year plus that I've been able to devote to working on music as a full time gig, but now the challenge becomes doing this part time while still moving forward.

The last few SongU classes I've taken have been crazy informative. One on writing and placing music for TV and movies and another on writing from the heart. The business stuff is great to put on the shelf for a little bit. I'm engrossed in anything I can grab onto about writing better songs right now. Sara Light did the class on writing and offered some great tools and aids to help generate good material and to dig deep to find it.

My plans now are to continue what I've been doing, but on a reduced scale. First I have to acclimate myself to the new time schedule and decide how best to ensure that I don't lose ground. To that end, I've scheduled some classes and planned to link up with another writer to keep continuous writing on my plate in addition to what I do on my own.

I've added my latest to the Reverb Nation songs attachment at the top of this page. Still not sure what I want for the title, but for now - Believe in Forever - sounds a bit too Disney for me, but it is what the song is about. This was a quick and semi-dirty recording that I'll change out when I get the time and upgrade. This is my first attempt to write a story line that progresses in true country-like fashion - meaning that the chorus takes on new meaning as you progress through time and the lyrics. I didn't start out wanting to write a country song, but the format lends itself to that. It is fun stuff to write and a real challenge for me this time around. We'll see where it goes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Reviews, critiques and moving forward

The skin continues to thicken, a little at a time. I hear almost weekly that as a songwriter, you need to grow a thick skin, which is not an easy task as you bare your soul trying to find honesty in the depths of your psyche. Oh, well, get over it. I had a number of critiques on a song that is now named "Play it Over" with 180 degree response on some things from seasoned professionals. Now comes the learning when to turn which direction or be better able to hear and trust that inner voice screaming at me. What a bazar thing it all is.

I've set up a review with another songwriter; Craig Bickhardt. Craig has a long list of accalades and I've listened to him critique others - I'm very impressed. He is active currently writing and recording new material as well as a long history of top songs recorded by various artists. I've got to trust his input, so my plan is to take a newly penned tune and see what the word is. Again, I think its good stuff or I wouldn't throw it to the wolves - I've thought that in the past too. But, I know I'm learning and putting more craft behind what I do now than I did 6 months or even 1 month ago. The process continues.

I thought I'd throw in a Gary's home studio shot here as an aside. I found some wall mounts for my stringed instruments and it really clears out the floor space. Check out guitar wall mounts on ebay if you're interested. Great price and they sure work great whether its for the acoustic or even down to the neck size of the ukelele - adjustable.

Monday, April 19, 2010

And Rewrite and Rewrite

You know, this is a lot of work. But, I gotta say, I do love it. I've been getting some mentoring from Alan Roy Scott this past couple weeks and it has been invaluable. Alan has written for so many people - like Celine Dion, Luther Vandross, Notorious B.I.G., Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LaBelle, Neville Bros. Roberta Flack, Cher - just to name a few. What a wide range.

Anyway, he's a great coach and I feel privileged to be able to tap into his 25 or so years as a successful songwriter. I've taken a recent song back down to the bones and even replaced some of the bones in an effort to make it a more viable commercial entity (and yes, that is my target right now). I'm currently on about the 5th rewrite and the 3rd title based on the extensiveness of the rewrites.

I felt like I was taking some lumps early on in this process, but I really wanted to fast-track my journey as long as I could keep enjoying it. With a few little bumps in the "fun" part of it, I find the challenges incredible and the personal rewards pretty intense. I also find it amazing that if I were to look back 10 years or even less, I would not have been able to find the people that I'm finding to help. Some aspects of technology are an incredible asset.

All that being said, I've decided to take a couple songs and let them go on the rewrite ride with me. I will forgo recording much at all until I increase some of my songwriter skill sets and get some good solid, "Hey maybe its time to pitch these songs" kind of feedback. The needed changes can tend to take one back to square one anyway, so . . . I'll keep increasing my ukulele "skills" and my fingers tough on the acoustic - not to mention my psyche. I think as long as you can continue to laugh at yourself when needed, you can make it through.

Here's a short "laugh at yourself" thing from last week for me. I found myself using metaphoric type lyrics to the point that people didn't know what the heck I was talking about, they didn't understand the song without my interpretation. Now, I suppose that's OK if you know your doing it, but I really thought I was being clear - apparently not. I took a mortar to the gut and survived. Now, part two of the story. My wife's work is moving and she is tasked with letting all of their clients, etc. know of the impending change. She always comes to me to wordsmith and this time was no different. However, I told her that by the time I was done with the announcement, nobody would have a clue as to if, where or why they were moving, but it would be done so poetically that it wouldn't matter and I was up to the task.

I take a breath and move on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Industry Feedback

This is tough stuff. I feel like I'm at some sort of crossroads with my writing. I find it so hard to be objective, but I also find that I'm taking constructive criticism pretty well - maybe my skin's getting a little thicker. That being said, I'm finding it challenging to connect the dots with what makes sense intellectually and absorbing things into my DNA.

Each time I apply changes or new guidelines, I feel progress, but never as fast as I'd like it to be. The crossroads really is just this: Do I have what it takes to write professionally and play with the big boys and girls? Tuesday I thought I did and Wednesday I wasn't sure. But, after I take a few deep breaths I think it is really not just a talent thing. It is a tenacity + talent + inquisitiveness + creativity + (add in whatever you think here)-thing.

Today I have my first mentoring review in a SongU class. I've decided to review my newest write in which I applied some different techniques and I'm reluctantly excited about getting feedback. I think its a good write, but that's just me - so we'll see how some other, more seasoned ears feel about it.

Although I love taking the time to record, I have discovered that once I take the time to put something down in 1's and 0's form, it feels like I should be done. So, I'm going to only record for the fun of it or to do more live-type recording until I can get up to par on the writing.

Oh, and here's a quote that is my new mantra for writing songs: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." from Maya Angelou, Professor of English Literature Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC.

You know, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Take a deep breath and continue. Hey I still enjoy it, so onward and upward and downward and back upward.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Songwriter Chops

I find it very interesting that when I attend, either in person or online, various discussion groups that are touted as songwriter oriented, the conversation always ends up around recording or playing. I have done and do the same thing, but I'm trying to change. Not that these things aren't important in the process if one is attempting to move their material to an artists, but it all starts with the song. It is so easy to put that in the background and concentrate on the other things. Hell, I've done it here on this site, for sure.

I have spent some time over the past few weeks searching online and trying some different avenues in an attempt to find a good and comfortable path for myself with the end product being improving my writing skills. I always find the paths interesting to look back at and note the weaving of the fabric that gets you from A to B - and it never seems like a straight line to me, but I'm sure I'm not seeing the whole picture. At any rate, contacts that I've made, instruction and searching on the web have now lead me to SongU. See how much fun their having in this picture? That could be you, my friend. With only 3 easy flex payments . . . (sorry, couldn't resist).
I'm still in my 10 day free trial period, but have finished a few courses and been online for a workshop and I'm very impressed. I've taken time to apply some new ideas and I'm simply blown away with not just the change, but the creativity channel that going through a new application process in writing is having. I realize that I'm still in the baby stages of this new avenue, but I strongly recommend a look at this site for anyone interested in improving their craft.

I decided to write my next song partly by choosing two or three "new" writing techniques that I just studied and see what happens. Don't know yet what anyone else will think, but I'm excited. When I get it recorded, I'll add it to the play list at the top of the blog. Assuming I don't change the name for some reason, it will be "No Guarantee".

Now, if I could only find a site to make my hair grow back on its own, my life would be complete.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A "New" Instrument

I just returned from a week plus in Maui. Hey, ya do what ya gotta do. Anyway, since you were wondering, my wife and I had a great time celebrating our 20th (anniversary not birthdays). I had planned to check out ukuleles somewhere during our visit as I had a song that I felt that sound would be great on, but I knew nothing about the instrument.

Well, now I know just a little more. I visited Mele Ukulele and spent a bit of time listening, talking and "playing" in an effort to get some understanding. I knew I'd be shocked as to the variety of woods, sizes, string configurations and I was not left wanting on choices. After careful consideration, I ended up buying a 6-string tenor that you can see here.

I recorded just a taste once I got home and its going to sound great - but I need to spend some more time getting my fat fingers positioned on the midget-size fretboard and my brain wrapped around the differences between guitar and ukulele. Its fun. I haven't picked up a new instrument in forever, so the challenge is great.

I also started a music twitter just for the heck of it and will tie all the music bit machines together soon. All strange and fun. I may have to go back to the islands for lessons - like I said, ya do what ya gotta do.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Songwriter Workshop

I attended a Eugene based songwriters' workshop for the first time a couple weeks ago. It ended up being a group of about 15 this time, which meets in a local bookstore once a month. The intent is to critique songs for form, content, everything except performance. Some bring in recordings and some play their guitars. I had no idea what to expect and as fate would have it, I was asked to present first. I'm glad I had a CD instead of playing this first time. Too much pressure for this old guy.

I was extremely impressed with the way the people in the group sized up the presenter and gave great feedback in the form of suggestions as well as positive responses. I have written before about belonging to an online forum community called SongRamp. My take on it so far is that people tend to give only positive reviews which is great for the ego, but does little for the process of improvement. While sitting face to face in Eugene, I found it to be a very effective approach. I know I took with me some great suggestions with the song I presented as well as some good ego boosting comments, but its the suggestions for improvement or at least ideas to think about that I appreciate the most. I found myself a little slow to the critique process of other peoples' material, but I got into the swing after a couple of them. I really loved it and will continue to go as much as I can in the future.

As a follow-up to the workshop, I logged onto the website that is maintained for it and discovered that I could set up a free website of my own for my music. Its free, until I want to have more than around 10 songs, so I'm sure I'll either find another avenue or upgrade for a small monthly fee. Pretty cool and simple for someone who isn't overqualified in website management. My site is if you're interested.
Happy writing to all. Soon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't Blame the Tools

Well, I can no longer blame the tools. I think I've got all I really need to get some good tracks down. I am still on a steep learning curve though. The last major piece to the puzzle for me was a studio channel tube preamp with compression, parametric EQ and phantom power for my condenser mic. Hell, I never new I needed most of this stuff and am now slowly learning how to use it along with the new software, etc.

My "work" day basically consist of reading/learning, trying some hands on, playing with some new tracks, rerecording and sometimes I forget to get in there and write some too. I'm trying to keep all the balls in the air and not lose any one leg of the songwriter table. Did I mix my metaphors? Gotta work on that too I guess.

I've gotten pretty good at remembering to write down things that come to mind and at least throw them on the idea pile for later, if not right away. For the first time in my writing career, I feel like I have a ton of ideas, so that shouldn't slow me down - I'll have to find another excuse. No, I love that part of it. I remember years ago thinking that I had no idea how to keep coming up with more song thoughts, but as it turns out, that couldn't be further from the truth. I've got a thick file that appears to be like the energizer bunny of directions.

Today I worked through a number of ideas for a song I'm working on. Trashed a bunch of takes, went back to the drawing board, did some more, undid some and on and on. I find that after a few hours I've got to remember to escape and do something else for a while and come back again with some fresh ears. I've heard and read more than one place that your ears really do hit the ceiling - and already knew that happened mentally, but I didn't realize there was a physical thing going on with the ears also. Makes sense - like in anything else fatigue sets in, even if you love what your doing.

More to come.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I hadn't written a post for a while and there's been a lot going on. Right now, I'm relearning studio life, yet again. I decided that what I've been using to record is too limiting and dated (this probably happens every 5 to 10 minutes).

I have taken the plunge to all computer with a new iMac and have chosen Sonar from Cakewalk for my software.
Well, this meant that I had to:

1. Learn to "speak" Mac.

2. Load Windows on my new Mac to run the program.

2. Learn how to use software for recording.

So, now that I've got that all down - holy crap, I hope I can swallow what I've gnawed off.

Okay, this is my first Mac experience and I love it. Should have gone there a long time ago, very sweet. I'm going to give myself a couple weeks to get down the basics of recording on the new software, utilizing MIDI and breathing. I find so far that I can study this stuff for about an hour, then I have to go out into the real world and turn a screwdriver or hit a hammer or just bang my head. Oh, or sit down and write some more, since I've got to get better. I've never been fast at learning this stuff and I'm slower now than before, I think.

At any rate, its all good and I knew going into these changes it would be pretty challenging - I'm not disappointed. In this case, I'm sure the end will justify the means.

I'm really exited about it, just new stuff, new world of music and old me. It's a lot to soak in, but I be a sponge.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rewriting and rewriting

Reworking material - rewrites - has never been something I've been good at in the past. In this new creative life, I've decided to put some focus in this area. I have spend quite a bit of time the past few weeks reading and studying "songcraft" trying to better understand a number of different facets of the whole enchilada. So, time spent reading, listening to examples of phrasing, beat placement, emotional response mechanisms, etc. Sounds all to scientific, yes? I guess, but there really is something to it all and melding it with old fashioned creativity.

I find this time around the adventure that I have a ton of ideas to work with and I really want to hone some skills from a writing perspective. To this end, I've pulled back on writing new things the past month and am trying out new ideas with already penned materials.

Most of my time has been working and reworking the song I posted the lyrics to before; "Can't Say No." Although I'm still working the recording side of this one, I believe the lyrics better suit what I was shooting for. I'm going to record it again from the beginning and see if I can't create more contrast and dynamics into it. Again, this rewriting and re-recording process I find fun, but doesn't come naturally, so I constantly seek inventive ways to motivate. Sometimes I've got to walk away and many times, wham, a new direction or piece to the puzzle. The trouble with this puzzle is that there is really no definitive "puzzle's complete." Always room to grow. Maybe "trouble" was the wrong word as it really is opportunity laying in the wings.

Here's the new "Can't Say No" with only a few additions really. The major change is an added lyric to the bridge section. The bridge is now lyrical rather than instrumental lead, but I think sums up the song direction. When I get it down digitally, I think it will have a great impact and change the song (for the better??!!!).

There’s something in the air
Moving on the ground
Feeding on the night
Making no sound

A deer in the headlights
Frozen in your tracks
Can’t keep moving forward
And you can’t go back

Can’t trust what you’re seeing
Can’t trust anything that you know
Don’t believe what you’re feeling
But you can’t say no, no, no

A shadow ‘cross the moonlight
A ripple in time
Sporting double vision
Just another sign

As you knew your life, it’s over
Never be the same
No way to recover
Can’t find the reigns

Can’t trust what you’re seeing
Can’t trust anything that you know
Don’t believe what you’re feeling
But you can’t say no

Now that mask is slowly lifting
Resistance not enough
And despite yourself, your every breath
Fans the fire of love
You can’t say no
You can’t say no

Can’t trust what you’re seeing
Can’t trust anything that you know
Don’t believe what you’re feeling
But you can’t say no, no, no
You can’t say no
You can’t say no
You can’t say no