Author Archives: Joseph Capalbo

4 Ways to Keep Your Songwriting Organized

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Keeping your songwriting organized can make you a more efficient songwriter and save plenty of time. The goal is to spend less time on finding your music, and more time on actually creating music.

Although organization comes down to personal preference, there are several ways to keep your song ideas nice and tidy. Let’s explore some helpful tips for keeping your songwriting more organized and making your life a bit easier.

1. Choose your song capture method

You have dozens of tools at your disposal to capture your songs. Using just your phone, you can hum or sing a melody idea into a voice memo, or type out lyric ideas with a note-taking app. If you’re more tech savvy, you may want to record straight into a DAW. And, of course, you can always use a physical notebook or handheld recorder.

Whichever way you choose, try to stick to the same methods so all of your writing stays organized.

2. Keep track of your co-writers

If you choose to collaborate with other songwriters, make sure to always include the names of the writers, the percentage splits, and other essential information with your co-writing files. If a dispute comes up with a co-writer down the road, you’ll be glad you know exactly where to look to resolve it! You don’t need anything fancy – as long as you include these five things in your split sheets, you’re good to go.

3. Properly name your files

This point is especially crucial if you do most of your songwriting with a DAW. When you get a burst of inspiration, the last thing you want to do is waste time navigating through dozens of files until you finally figure out that “Untitled 22″ is the one you were looking for.

If the song doesn’t have a title or hook yet that you can use in the file name, try a combination of the date and a few descriptive words to jog your memory (e.g., “hip-hop beat with trumpets 5.1.17″).

4. Make future edits easy

The beauty of keeping your songwriting organized is that you can easily revisit your songs when it’s time to edit or rewrite. Instead of disrupting your flow while you’re writing to edit your work, start a separate document within your song file to jot down anything you want to fix or come back to later. Your editing process will be much more efficient if you know exactly what you need to work on.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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How to Apply Music Theory to Your Songwriting

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Music theory knowledge gives you more control over your songwriting, but sometimes it’s difficult for songwriters to figure out how to view their songs from a technical perspective in a way that supports their creativity. In this article, we’ll explore all the major aspects of music theory and give you the tools you need to strengthen your songwriting.

Study other songs

One of the best ways to learn the language of music is by studying other songs. You can improve your craft by learning the tricks and techniques of professional songwriters. When you analyze songs, you’ll want to listen through them at least a couple of times so that you can focus in on each aspect, such as the chord progression, the melody, or the lyrics.

[Be sure to check out our hook-writing webinar on October 22, 2016, to learn the techniques hit songwriters use every day to write strong, catchy hooks!]

Scales

Do you know your way around your instrument enough to play scales? Scales are the sets of musical notes that chords progressions are built off of, and you need to be familiar with them to write melodies.

There are major, minor, and many other scales to help you get creative with your songwriting. For more technically advanced songwriters, modes are a great way to add interest to your songwriting. Each sequential note, or scale degree, has a specific function and evokes a certain response from the listener. Since each scale has its own unique sound, try using a scale that relates to the mood of your song concept to write your next melody.

[How to Create Specific Emotions With Chords]

Harmony

You can use your knowledge of harmonic theory to figure out which chords work well with others in any given key. In the key of C, for instance, the chord family consists of C, D minor, E minor, F, G7, A minor, and B diminished. Start there, and the next step is to put them into a progression.

You can imitate a chord progression from a song that you like, or you can create your own on your instrument. Each chord in the diatonic chord family has its own function. For example, the I chord is called the tonic (stable), the IV chord is called the subdominant (usually resolves to the dominant), and the V chord is called the dominant (creates a feeling of movement). Try your own order of the chords and see what resonates most with you.

After getting comfortable with the different chords and organizing them into progressions, it’s time to make those chords a little fancier. Try different voicings or versions of your chords. Chord inversions are a great tool to find new sounds for chords that you already know how to play. You can rearrange the notes in the chords to make your melody stand out in the song.

Transposition

Knowing how to transpose songs into different keys is a great tool for any musician, but especially for singer-songwriters. Experiment with transposition to see which key works best for the particular song and how each one sits in your vocal range.

If you’re new to transposing and want to learn the basics of how to do it, this article from EarMaster lays the process out very clearly.

 

Register for our hook-writing webinar to learn the proven formulas and songwriting tools you need to write strong hooks every time!

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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How to Balance Technicality and Creativity in Your Songwriting

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There are many different approaches to writing a song, and they usually come in the form of either technical inspiration or creative inspiration. A technical approach to songwriting includes the use of music theory (scales, modes, harmonic theory, etc.), song form, lyric rhyme schemes and patterns, and much more. A creative approach to songwriting, on the other hand, may include exploring your instrument, writing about your own personal experiences, free-writing, and more.

There’s no right or wrong approach to songwriting, but it can be beneficial to learn how to balance one with the other. Let’s take a look at how technicality and creativity can peacefully coexist in your songwriting.

Complement your creativity with your technical skills

As songwriters, we strive to express ourselves creatively by making our songs personal and engraving our own unique voice in them. You can absolutely tell your personal story while letting the technicalities of songwriting complement the message and mood that you’re writing about.

For example, you may want to get your lyrics out on paper in whatever way they flow from your brain, without editing yourself just yet. You can then go back and rewrite certain portions where you want to strengthen the imagery, tidy up the rhyme scheme, or make the phrasing flow a little better. From there, you can use your knowledge of music theory to identify a chord progression that’ll create prosody with your lyrics.

Not sure if your songs sound like they’re too technical, or not technical enough? Try asking other songwriters to listen to your music and give you feedback. If you don’t know any other songwriters in your area, you can find and connect with songwriters online at SongwriterLink.

Don’t let technicality overpower creativity

A song that is written too technically can lead to it sounding stiff, unoriginal, inauthentic, or even robotic. Of course, certain genres may inherently call for a more technical approach to songwriting, but you can still be creative with technicality in that situation. There is a balance between technicality and creativity with songwriting, and everyone has their unique way of approaching it. You want your creativity to take the lead, and the songwriting techniques to support your ideas. You can also have both approaches become mutually beneficial: when the creative juices aren’t flowing, you can use a more technical approach to your songwriting process to get your inspiration going.

The more you write, the more you’ll be able to find a balance that works for you. With a little experience, songwriters learn which approaches they’re strongest in. Many choose to work with co-writers who complement their strengths, and end up with better songs as a result. Join SongwriterLink for free to get matched up with exactly the kind of co-writers you’re looking for, anywhere in the world.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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Songwriting 101: Structure, Arrangement, and Dynamics

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In the first post of this Songwriting 101 series, we discussed the four main approaches to writing a song: melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics. Now that you’ve got a handle on those, it’s time to tackle the basics of structure, arrangement, and dynamics so that you can start applying them to your songwriting.

1. Structure

The song structure or form is a fundamental aspect of songwriting. Simply put, it’s the organization of the musical sections in a song. Form consists of sectional repetition with variation in each section. Each section typically contains a progressing storyline in the lyric and a building melody, harmony, and/or rhythm.

The most common song structure in popular music is verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus, which can also be written as ABABCB. (For just one example of this form, listen to Radiohead’s “High & Dry.”) However, many popular songs leave the bridge out and simply stick to verse/chorus/verse/chorus, or ABAB. Other common variations include adding in a pre-chorus section or a third verse. AABA form, also known as 32-bar form, was the most common song form throughout the first half of the 20th century, and continues to be used in songwriting today.

Try this: Write a song in the standard popular song structure, and then try writing one in your own unique song form.

2. Arrangement

Arrangement is a general term for multiple elements of a song, including the key, tempo, and instrumentation. The arrangement of a song plays a big role in supplementing the story you’re telling and the vision you’re creating. It has the power to grab your listener’s attention and affect the emotion within the song.

Key

The key of the song often relies on the range of the vocalist or a comfortable key for the instrumentalist. The key should always support the story and emotion of the song. In other words, if you’re writing a happy song about falling in love, you’re probably not going to want to write it in a minor key that sits low in your vocal range.

Tempo

The tempo is one of the first things that you set when you’re recording a song demo. The tempo of a song can vary greatly based on the genre. Whereas ballads are typically written at a slow tempo (roughly 55 BPM), dance music is typically written at a fast pace (roughly 128 BPM). The resting heart rate for humans is roughly 60 to 100 beats per minute, so if you want your listener to sit and feel your music, then write in that tempo. If you want someone to dance your music, set the tempo to over 100 BPM and get your listener moving!

Instrumentation

Instrumentation simply refers to the combination of instruments you choose to use in your song, and how they all work together. If you’re looking to introduce instruments in your song demo that you don’t personally play, make sure you study up on their timbre and ranges first.

Try this: Analyze the arrangement of a hit song (like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” above) and try to apply one of the techniques to your next song.

3. Dynamics

Dynamics tend to be one of the most overlooked elements in the songwriting toolbox. Dynamics are what keep the attention of your listener by adding tension, movement, energy, contrast, and depth to your music. Just as building up to a huge crescendo increases the emotional intensity of a song, silence can be just as powerful in grabbing your listener’s attention.

Try this: Listen to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”above, and analyze the how the dynamics affect the emotion of the song.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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The Ultimate Guide to Songwriting Contests, Conferences, and Festivals for the Rest of 2016

The first few months of 2016 were filled with some fantastic opportunities for songwriters, but there’s plenty more happening between now and the end of the year that you still have time to be a part of. Check out these great upcoming festivals, conferences, contests, and more to take your songwriting career to the next level. And please leave a comment below with any opportunities for songwriters that we might have missed!

1. Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival

This songwriting festival is full of events tailored to the craft of songwriting, including performances, songwriting workshops, co-writing with hit writers, and much more. It’s a great opportunity for songwriters to get promotion and make connections.

When: August 24-28, 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

2. International Songwriting Competition

With cash prizes and exposure on the line, this annual contest allows both aspiring and established songwriters to submit their songs to be judged by industry professionals.

Deadline: September 9, 2016 extended to December 8, 2016

3. Martha’s Vineyard Songwriting Festival

The 6th annual Martha’s Vineyard Songwriting Festival will provide songwriters with the opportunity to attend workshops, Q&A sessions with hit songwriters, performances, and much more. You can view the schedule here.

When: September 14-18, 2016 in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

4. Mid-Atlantic Song Contest

Now in its 33rd year and one of the longest-running songwriting contests in the US, the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest is an opportunity for talented songwriters to receive the recognition they deserve.

Deadline: September 15, 2016

5. Durango Songwriters Expo

The Durango Songwriters Expo is packed with showcases, open mics, workshops, concerts, and more. It’s been described as a very intimate event, so it’s a great opportunity for songwriters to network with industry professionals.

When: September 29-October 1, 2016 just outside of Boulder, Colorado

6. Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival

Like other events, the Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival a wonderful way to make lasting music industry connections, but the white sands and beautiful location make this fest especially rewarding and fun.

When: September 29-October 2, 2016 in Pensacola Beach, Florida

7. Wild West Songwriters Festival

Held in historic Deadwood, the Wild West Songwriters Festival is a three-day gathering consisting of performances, panels, and parties.

When: October 13-15, 2016 in Deadwood, South Dakota

8. Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival

Taking place about a half-hour drive west of Austin, this intimate event is all about the songs. The festival features more than 20 Nashville-style, in-the-round shows per day.

When: October 14-16, 2016 in Dripping Springs, Texas

9. SongDoor International Songwriting Competition

SongDoor is a worldwide songwriting competition for songwriters ages 16 and up. Prizes include music publishing deals, songwriting education resources, song demos, and much more.

Deadline: November 15, 2016

10. Taxi Road Rally

This annual conference is free for Taxi members and attracts professionals from all facets of the music industry. It’s a must if you’re looking to get your songs critiqued, attend insightful workshops and panels, and make serious industry connections.

When: November 3-6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California

11. Great American Song Contest

The 18th annual Great American Song Contest has a mission to benefit every songwriter who participates. $10,000 in prizes are on the line, and all submissions receive a written evaluation from contest judges.

Deadline: November 17, 2016

12. John Lennon Songwriting Contest

This year, JLSC is offering its biggest prize package yet, worth over $300,000. Judges include George Clinton, the Black Eyed Peas, Prince Royce, and many more. All entry fees from the contest help support the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

Deadline: December 15, 2016

 

Ready to take your songwriting to the next level? Join SongwriterLink for free today to find your perfect co-writers.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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How to Critique a Song Like a Pro

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As a songwriter, you know how important it is to get honest feedback on your songs. But when another songwriter asks you for constructive criticism, do you know how to deliver it effectively? Let’s go over some tips for critiquing a song like a pro.

1. Give it your full attention

When you’re critiquing a song, you should give it the undivided attention it deserves. If you become distracted, you may miss the full shape of the melody, an essential line in the lyrics, and many more elements that can be crucial to the song. So, turn it up, close your eyes if you need to, and bring all of your songwriting knowledge to the table to suggest improvements.

2. Try the “sandwich” method

Originally taught to me by Bonnie Hayes, chair of Berklee College of Music’s songwriting department, the “sandwich” method of song critiquing has proven to be effective. Explaining what you think works well is just as important for songwriters to hear as what needs to be improved. Start with expressing what you liked about the song, then give your honest critique, and end with positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

3. Be specific

It’s crucial to give as much detail as you can when you’re critiquing a song. It doesn’t matter whether you liked or disliked the song – try to figure out why it made you feel that way. The goal is to help take the song from good to great, and a lack of detail can leave a songwriter more confused than before. The more detail you give, the easier it is for the songwriter to revisit the song and apply your suggested edits. 

[Why Songwriters Should Embrace the Rewrite]

4. Don’t critique just for the sake of critiquing

Not every song will have something that needs to be fixed as you analyze it. If you couldn’t find anything wrong with the songwriting, try giving it another listen. But if a song is good, then leave it how it is. Let the songwriter know which specific elements in the song that you enjoyed so that they can apply it to their future writing.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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3 Things All Timeless Songs Have in Common

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Why is it that some songs will only stay on the charts for a short period of time, while others are able to stand the test of time? It could be a chord change in a certain section of the song, a lyric that reaches out and grabs you, or many more possibilities.

Analyzing the qualities of timeless songs is a great tool to enhance your songwriting. Using examples from this list of the 30 most timeless songs, let’s explore three commonalities that you can practice applying to your own writing.

1. They’re relatable


Timeless songs have lyrics that feel very personal and understandable. The story of the song is very relatable, reachable, and believable. Accompanied by a strong melody and well-written harmony, the lyrics feel as if they were written just for you.

As an example, let’s take a look at the lyrics to the chorus of “Let Her Go” by Passenger:

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low

Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home

Only know you love her when you let her go

And you let her go

This is a song about not appreciating something while it’s in front of you, but finding that you miss it when it’s gone, which is a universal feeling for people to grasp on to. Writing a lyric that’s relatable and believable when you sing it is a great way to keep your listener’s attention. You would be surprised about how many times your story can generally relate to a large audience! Try to write lyrics that are understandable, yet still tell the story in your own unique way.

2. They’re singable


Not only do the lyrics in the song sit right with you, but the melody does as well. Most timeless songs have a melody that is singable, memorable, and easily perceived by the average listener. Take the melody in the song “Hey Ya” by OutKast, for example, where the chorus is only two words with three different notes. This shows that not all well-written melodies need to be complex. Try writing a song with a simple and understandable melody.

3. They take you somewhere


Have you ever listened to a song, and when it finishes, you felt like you just came back from an epic journey? The combination of all of the different components of songwriting working together allows the listener to forget that they’re listening to music and can take you wherever the song wants to take you.

Take John Lennon’s “Imagine,” in which the lyrics paint the picture of where you are, and the melody, harmony, and rhythms keep you listening.

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Try writing lyrics that describe your story and can take your listener to that exact time and place.

Ready to start songwriting? Join SongwriterLink for free today to find your perfect co-writers.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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Songwriting 101: The 4 Approaches to Writing a Song

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As songwriters, we each have our own unique process to start and develop our songs. When we write a song, we begin with some type of inspiration or idea. These ideas typically fall into four big categories: melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics.

Although there are many other aspects of writing a song (such as arrangement and dynamics), having a deep understanding of these elements will give you a more knowledgeable and controlled approach to your songwriting. Let’s explore these four approaches to writing a song so you can start to have control over them in your own writing.

1. Melody

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The melody is the succession of pitches (pitch and rhythm) typically performed by a vocal or a lead instrument. It’s what a listener usually recalls most easily.

Because it’s the most memorable aspect of a song, a well-written melody is very important in songwriting. A strong melody can have the power to engage a listener, evoke certain emotions, change the feel of the song, and much more. It’s very common for a song to start with a melodic idea.

2. Harmony

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The harmony in a song is another term for the chord progression. The harmony accompanies the melody in your music. A well-written harmony can greatly enhance the pre-written melody of a song.

The writing of your harmony gives you control over many elements of a song. The energy, speed, and emotion can all be affected by the song’s harmony. It’s also very common for a song to start with a harmonic idea.

Pro tip: Try recording a melody and play different chords over it.

[How to Create Specific Emotions With Chords]

3. Rhythm

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The rhythm is the placement of sounds in time. The rhythm can refer to the timing of a pitch, such as in your melody or harmony, or to a non-pitched instrument, such as your drums and percussion (sometimes referred to as part of your rhythm section).

A well-written, catchy rhythm is a crucial part of writing a memorable song – just think of the drums in the intro to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

4. Lyrics

The word lyric is of Greek origin, translating to “sing to the lyre.” The lyrics are the words in your song, whether spoken or sung. The lyrics paint the picture of your song, setting the scene and telling your story. Whereas a well-written melody has the power to grab your listener’s attention, a well-written lyric has the power to keep their attention there.

[5 Tips to Write Stronger Lyrics]

A great lyric can make a song timeless, so it’s no wonder how, for example, John Lennon’s “Imagine” is still such a powerful song.

Pro tip: Try writing four different songs, each one of them starting with a different song approach, and see what you come up with. Notice which approach works best for you.

 

With a little experience, songwriters learn which approaches they’re strongest in. Many choose to work with co-writers who complement their strengths, and end up with better songs as a result. Join SongwriterLink for free to get matched up with exactly the kind of co-writers you’re looking for, anywhere in the world.

 

Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.

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