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Proper microphone techniques, optimum audio signal levels, getting a killer guitar tone, how to properly double a vocal (both physically and virtually) and many other tips are stored in our locker known as Recording.

How to Write Songs That Stick!

Below is an excerpt from an e-course I subscribe to by Morgan Cryer. Morgan is a Nashville based songwriter who has had airplay and hits on commercial radio.

That said, he is also a songwriting coach amd internet marketer. He's the author of the e-book Strong Song Writing. I don't pay attention to most e-books, but Morgan's seems different. He cares more about providing in-depth guidance than fluffy content.

I don't own his book, yet, but I do plan on purchasing it very soon because my next big music endeavor is going to be based around songwriting. 

So if your main focus in this business is writing songs you're going to want to pay attention to my next few Round Ups. They're going to be all about how to sculpt the best song you can write - every time.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy Morgan's view on starting your song strong.

 

GET DOWN TO BUSINESS IMMEDIATELY

By Morgan Cryer

Morgan Cryer
Songwriter, Morgan cryer

One of the most overlooked secrets to writing strong songs is so simple you'll think it's stupid.   And yet it's so important that I don't know why songwriting authors and "teachers" have not made more of a big deal of it.

Here it is:  ALWAYS start your songs strong.

It sounds too simple to even be called it a "tip." I can hear you saying it,
"Everybody knows that!"

But do they?  Out of 100 songs I hear at writer's events, 97 of them will have weak first lines (actually weak first and second lines).  Just think of how crazy this is.  You book a flight, pay a registration fee, make sure you're in the right room for the critique session, and then you patiently wait through all the other writers' stuff.

It's finally your turn!  They announce your song title and your name, and press
"play."  ALL EARS ARE ON YOUR SONG!  AND...because you didn't
start strong, all that rapt attention just bleeds out into the carpet while your first
two lines dribble out of the speakers like warm mayonnaise.

No (or low) impact.  By the time your lyric gets up to speed it's too late.
The audience has quietly slipped you into the "just another wanna-be songwriter"
category along with 96 other people.

**Actually, you have 2 other "first impression" chances even before they hear
your first lyrics:  1) Your intro, which should "arrest" everyone quickly and reset
their mood, ...even before that, 2) The moment you walk onto the stage, or into
the room, or into the publishing company office, your personal presence can
greatly help or hurt your chances of being taken seriously.

In my book, Strong Songwriting, I go into great detail about how to "ace"
all these first impressions.  You can check that out by clicking here.

How to write songs that stick!

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING FOR?

Your goal is not to make every song's first line into an epic event.  Sometimes a song calls for an understated beginning.  However, understated is not the same thing as boring or un-engaging.

Here's what I believe you should shoot for in EVERY first line you allow out of the house:

"Your first line should entice, dare, tease, or otherwise promise the listener that if they will listen to the next 3 lines, they will be happy they did."

Remember that a song is a two-way communication.  A listener must literally give your song the time of day to even experience it.  If you don't make (and keep) a worthwhile promise right up front, a split-second decision will be made
to bypass your song.  So keep this simple thought in your mind:

"Make the promise in the first few seconds, then keep the promise with the rest of the song."

For Morgan's next tip, he'll talk about the simple differences between boring songs and interesting songs.

Just Sing The Damn Song!

This is a repost of an article written by Robin Hilton, producer and co-host for the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered. He brings up a question I've discussed many times with music colleagues.

"What's more important? The lyrics or the melody?"

Personally I'm a melody man. A song's melody is very important to me, but the vocal melody is what I really listen to - and hum. Others, like my wife, will know every lyric to every song she hears upon her first listen. I, on the other hand, will probably only get the lyrics to the chorus until I've heard the song about 5 times. Even then I'll probably only know the lyrics to the first verse.

Anyway, Robin gives us his insight and has a questions for the audience at the end of his piece. Enjoy!


by Robin Hilton

Angry little boy
Just Sing the Damn Song!

If you missed it, on our recent SXSW preview show, I revealed one of the secret ingredients you can add to a song to get Bob Boilen to love it: speak singing.

He's a total sucker for it. If an artist rattles off his or her lyrics in more of a spoken monotone than a sung melody (like Lou Reed), you can reel Bob in, hook, line and sinker.

Conversely, I can't think of anything that turns me off from a song faster. I don't want to mention any names, but let's just say albums by Leonard Cohen or the Joy Division or The Hold Steady aren't exactly the first records I reach for (all brilliant artists, just not my thing).

You can read the entire article over at npr.org.

Quick tip: Putting a singer at ease in the studio.

Putting a singer at ease in the studio
Calm is generally better than flustered.

If you're doing vocal overdubs, and doing them right, it's going to take some time. If you have an inexperienced singer the best place to start is by making them feel at ease in the studio.

Setting the environment

A good place to begin is to make the environment comfortable by dimming the overhead lights. Bright lights can make even the hippest studios feel clinical. Candles also work well in this situation, but don't make it so dim that they can't read the lyric sheet. A light on the music stand could help create the best of both worlds.

Takes. Lots and lots of takes

Next, if you know they are going to be doing a lot of takes of the same parts make sure to leave a good amount of space before and after the punch (that's a drop-in for you Brits). They need to know that they have enough room to feel comfortable before the punch so they can get into the vibe of the song. Better yet, don't let them know where you're punching in or out. Just have them to sing along and you punch what needs to be replaced. The less thinking the vocalist needs to do the more natural the take will be.

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Branding vs Positioning

Guest post by Cliff Zellman

Cliff Zellman
Cliff Zellman

This is a guest post by engineer extraordinaire and my audio engineering mentor, Cliff Zellman. Starting out as his assistant quite a few years ago, Cliff and I worked together making records for internationally renowned recording artists, as well as, local musicians in the LA area. Since then he's become the go-to guy for voice over performing, original music compositions and script writing at RadioVision in Dallas, Texas.

Having been in the production industry for over 30+ years, Cliff has pretty much recorded, produced, directed and edited just about anything & everything audio. Below is a very insightful piece he wrote on the differences between Branding and Positioning.

Take it away, Cliff!

Lately, there has been an over abundance of self-injected philosophies on Branding. It seems to be an easy subject to sell for coaches and mentors offering voice performance related services. Some come in the way of a “webinar” (insert unnecessary definition of webinar here), blogs, social media postings and face-to-face classes and seminars. What they mostly offer is a list of “example brands”, nationals such as Campbell’s Soup, Levi’s, CNN, Chevy, and Kleenex or tagged to an individual like Cher, Lady Gaga, Don LaFontaine, Oprah, or Elton. They follow by saying, “These are brands. You need to have a brand. You need to stick out from the crowd. Be noticed.” OK, I just signed up, paid my money and invested my time to be in your audience– how do I do it? Most likely you will hear that same line repeated and I will spare you that. Just go back a few sentences and read it again if you must.

What I rarely hear being discussed is Positioning. Why? Maybe it’s not as sexy as branding. BRANDING! Wow that’s a cool word, so instant and so final at the same time. It sounds so powerful. This is MINE!

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Do vinyl records really sound better than digital?

 

Vinyl-records.-Photo-credit-Knipsermann-CC-BY-2.0-Wikimedia-Commons
Knipsermann's photo of classic vinyl.

Over the past few years there has been a surge in musicians releasing their material on vinyl. I love this! Mostly for nostalgia and the fact that they want to try something outside of the norm - digital downloads. They want to experiment, play around, get into it. Tweaking and fussing is what musicians do naturally. Eddie Van Halen refers to himself as a tone chaser.

Whether it be tone, harmony, melody or whatever we're all chasing some form of audio bliss. I live for this. I'm at my best while in the zone mixing.

When the track starts to come together and it resonates deep inside me I literally start to dance in my chair. There are very few similar feelings. Anyway, I digress. The subject of this article is, "Do vinyl records really sound better than digital?" So. Does it?

I'm going out on a limb here and say no. At least not as a modern music distribution method. The reason why people think vinyl sounds better than digital is most likely because they've listened to vinyl recordings from the 60's, 70's and 80's - the height of vinyl production - and thought "Wow! Why does that sound so much warmer than today's music?". I think I know and can tell you in one word... Analog.

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So what are you? A Geek or a Nerd?

Having worked in music and technology for over 15 years this conversation has come up more times than I can count. When it does arise it's a hilarious bit of banter. People can get so heated claiming to be one and, in no way, would they ever consider themselves as the other. If you do make that mistake though you better be ready to do battle like these guys because them fightin' words!

That said, all signs point to me being a Geek. Whew! In my (mac power) book that's way better than being a nerd.

Here's a great infographic to help you decide your fate. Feel free to comment below if you'd like to defend your brainy existence.

Geeks vs Nerds

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Logic’s Pitch Correction plugin. Is it too simple?

An all inclusive audio resort

I love Logic. It comes with everything. From synths to samplers to loops to drum machines to a ton of plugins. One of it's best, and I'll assume underutilized, is its plugin for Pitch Correction. If you're confused by this tools ultra simple interface you are not alone.

That's so simple it just might work!

The  plugin interface is so simple that I thought it can't possibly be a "real" pitch correction tool. When I first opened it I wasn't sure what to make of it. It has a piano keyboard layout, a couple of buttons and that's it. So I of course headed over to YouTube to try and find a video about it and discovered that the guys over at Gearwire created a great six minute tutorial that outlines the plugin nicely.

Click below to see other GearWire videos...

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