Archive for June, 2017

June 2017 Showcase

Monday June 19th, 2017 Showcase

Our 311th Consecutive Show

A Showcase of Original Songs

 

This past Monday the Virginia Organization of Composers and Lyricist gathered once again for their monthly showcase! Despite the rain, VOCAL had a good crowd on Monday night who were there to eat delicious food and enjoy some great entertainment.

Monday was an open mic night for members and non-members of VOCAL to perform and showcase their original songs. The night’s performers consisted of the one and only Norman Roscher, Steve Righter, and Steve Nuckolls.

Norman opened up the night with three of his original songs including: “Within Your Eyes,” “You’re Beautiful,” and “Holiday.” It was a nice change to hear Norman play a few songs that had a slow, somber pace and rhythm. Each song filled our hearts and minds with thoughts of love and adoration for those we hold dear to our hearts. However, later in the evening Norman brought back a bit of comic relief with his songs “Mr. Johnson’s Sticky Substance,” “Boobs,” and “I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore.” The crowd joined him through the chorus of both “Boobs” and “Mr. Johnson’s Sticky Substance” which left the group feeling cheerful by the end of the night.

Following Norman, the audience of O’Tooles welcomed Steve Righter onto the “stage.” Steve filled our hearts with feelings of love and joy as he performed five of his original songs including: “I Want that Kind of Love,” “What I’m Trying to Say,” and “When I See You in the Dawn.” My personal favorite happened to be “I Want that Kind of Love” simply because he drew inspiration from the famous film (my favorite film) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan…You’ve Got Mail. We all want that movie screen romance! However, I think the crowd favorite could have easily been his song “What I’m Trying to Say,” which he wrote for his wife. That song is a symbol of true love and adoration two people share with one another, and it was a pleasure to hear performed on Monday.

After Steve left the mic standing alone, another Steve came up to play! Steve Nuckolls was the next performer of the night. As Norman said, “It’s the night of Steve’s!” He treated the audience to five of his original songs as well, and one of the favorites being “That Old Road.” In this particular song, Steve claimed to reminisce about his childhood and the small town dirt roads he used to travel down. It was a relaxing and enjoyable song to hear, and allowed the crowd to perhaps even think back on their old stomping grounds as well. Our hometowns are a place we all will hold dear to our hearts no matter where we may be in life, and how old we are. The place that you first call home is always going to be with you no matter what.

Thank you to these three terrific performers for taking time out of their Monday night to treat us all with wonderful music! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future, and that you have a great rest of your week. Please come out to the next Showcase on July 17th at O’Tooles! Again it will be an 8:00 PM start time. Stay tuned to the VOCAL Blog, Newsletter, and Facebook page for more information regarding meetings, membership, and the performers for next month’s showcase!

 

 

 

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Song Design

by James Linderman

As I was writing my newly released Song Forms for Songwriters workbook, I started to draw parallels between the crafting and manufacture of a song and the crafting and manufacture of other artistic and non-artistic consumables.

As I did my research, the two words that kept appearing were “abstraction” (which involves creating a version or illustration of something that only shows a particular part or feature of it) and the word “design”.

I certainly knew about sound design since I had colleagues who worked in that field, but I was not sure I had ever heard the term “song design” and I began to see that this might be the name for the kind of work that would allow those of us who write song to create better songs.

Of course, form is an essential element of any kind of design work and since I had just spent the last ten years analyzing and compiling 500 of the most successful and iconic song forms for my book, I felt like I was practicing and studying the foundations of song design already.

Of course, classical composers completely understood the importance of compositional form. They wrote menuettos, sonatas and fugues and poured their creative choices into these pre-designed frames. Writing to a form like a menuetto comes with some rules and stipulations but it is surprisingly liberating since the writer can then focus on the expressive elements and the structural decisions look after themselves since they are pre-determined.

First and foremost, to be considered a menuetto, the composition must sound like a menuetto. How the composer innovates their own creative elements into it, cannot be so vast that the listener can no longer identify the form. For instance, it must be in 3/4 time and historically people had to be able to dance to it, in a dance that involved a series of small steps. A traditional menuetto is 32 bars long with an AABB form. See Menuetto in C Major by Mozart.

Within the restrictions that come with writing to a form, it is then essential for the music creator to make a brand new work and not have their music just mimic the examples that preceded it. Everyone who writes music has a responsibility to move the art form forward. It is what separates those who paint, from those who paint by numbers.

In our day and age you would get the impression that form is not an essential part of the songwriting process. To create a commercially successful song you do not need to understand, or even pay any attention to song form. I meet songwriters all the time who cannot distinguish their verses from choruses and they did not write their song with an awareness that they were creating their own song form as they went along. The downside to this kind of writing is that, songs that do not have a strong reliable form, no matter how instantly popular or immediately successful they are commercially, always die as quickly as they rise.

The urban dictionary refers to these kinds of songs as disposable music. Music that listeners find instantly appealing, but will abandon for their next musical infatuation, sometimes within days of the first listen. How commercially successful or popular these songs get before they disappear obviously varies greatly, and the study of that trend is not the focus here. Perhaps I will write on that topic another time but for now lets get back to song design and have a look at the difference between a well designed and a poorly designed element of a song.

Since my new book could be considered a design catalogue for chord progressions lets look at a small section of the template featured on page two. It is in the key of G and it is in 3/4 time.

The templates in the book display the sections of a song; the intro, verse, chorus, etc. with boxes representing bar lines like this…

Linderman Chord Choice Box

The chords displayed in this eight bar intro are options so the songwriter can choose one chord from each bar and determine if, within this very stable and reliable form, they can find a pattern that they might want to write a song with.

That song might look like this…

Linderman Chord Choice 1

Another version could look like this….

Linderman Chord Choice 2

If you listen closely you will hear that there is a distinct similarity in these two introductions because they have the same form and the chords in each bar do the same kind of job, but there is also a significant difference in these two intros as well. They each convey a different mood and therefore represent the artistic choices of their particular songwriter.

Play through both of these examples a number of times and the elements that make them similar and the elements that make them unique, will both become clearer as you get your ear accustomed to this analysis. Also try singing or playing a melody to this song part and see how easy it is to set a melody on a progression that has a reliable form. Many songwriters even go as far as referring to an element of a song as being trustworthy as it relates to the other song elements.

If you have enjoyed taking a look at these inner workings of song design, please visit my website at jameslinderman.com and find more information on my new book Song Forms for Songwriters as well as information on my Skype teaching and song coaching.

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