Bruce, Neel and Phil were all happy to have Patrick Ballantyne back in the Song Talk Radio studio for the third time. He always brings great songs (listen to “Make Believe” and “Sky” for proof) and lots of experience to share about the songwriting process for our listeners. When writing a song, he starts with the music – almost always on the guitar. For contrast, he has started writing on the piano where he has less competency and is forced to “keep it simple.” After writing solo for many years, he recently joined a group of collaborators and enjoyed the process.
Having been immersed in the wonderful world of singer-songwriters during my time at Song Talk Radio, I’ve attended quite a number of gigs and open mics over the past year.
Everyone I’ve seen perform has great talent in singing, playing an instrument and writing music.
However, I find there’s a lot of variation in a performer’s ability to make an emotional impact on me as an audience member.
A singer may have an amazing voice, but if every song in their set (or even a single song) is delivered in the exact same way and with little variation in emotional expression, I might leave thinking: “That was a good show”, but not feeling that my mind was blown or heart inspired.
So, I’d like to share an exercise – the Song Interpretation Exercise, to be exact – that may help in taking your performance up a notch in the mind-blowing, heart-inspiring department.
From the moment Blair Packham started to speak, we knew we were in for some great lessons from a master songwriter and experienced teacher. If You Were Mine featured a great bridge and instrumental break. In Her Dreams started out as a story of a woman in a call centre and moved to a daughter caring for an ailing mother. In our wide-ranging conversation we also touched on the following:
- who are you writing for?
- does the song connect emotionally with the listener?
- collaboration is good
- ask for feedback and use it
- write from your creativity
- the new singer-songwriter accent (Shawn Mendes song Stitches for example)
- song-writing workshops (songstudio.ca)
Listen to the full episode
Bruce, Neel, Phil and Janice spent most of an hour on the subject of song structures with 4 different examples. We talked about:
- the prologue verse (I Left my Heart in San Francisco)
- writing for musical theatre (My Funny Valentine)
- the connection between segment style and lyrical content (Band on the Run)
- Sloan’s song with its many sections and its Beatles influence (Fading into Obscurity)
All in all, a fun and informative show. Thanks for the tweets Tony!
Seasoned professional guitarist, singer-songwriter, and all-around nice guy Scott Neary shares some of his best kept songwriting secrets. Scott also accompanied the talented jazz songwriter Steven Teatz for his appearance on Song Talk Radio. We talked about:
- The great chorus debate – to repeat it verbatim or not?
- Why you should whistle your melody
- Why, sometimes, you need to ask, “Why does there have to be a chord?”
- Why you should re-harmonize your chords after you develop a great melody on conventional chords
- Symmetry, or lack thereof
Multi-talented singer songwriter Steven Taetz turned the Song Talk studio into a smoky nightclub with his perfect renditions of his own songs. Waiting for Wishes (co-written with Emma-Lee) had so many “hooks” we lost count (listen for pre-chorus one and two, and the first chorus!). Lately (co-written with Gavin Bradley) had us enraptured as Steven delivered the plaintive lyrics of a man who fears his lover may have strayed. Listen to the awesome bridge!
Listen to the entire show here!
Have a listen to an informative and lively discussion on chord substitutions. In this show we talked about:
- the Circle of Fifths
- Nashville numbers
- one/four/five chord progressions
- the sixth, seventh, and ninth chords
- how easy it is to use the Circle of Fifths to add colour to your song
- Chord Substitution on YouTube
- Learning on lynda.com (at your local library)
On this highly informative and entertaining show, we talked with John Glover:
- how John adapted his guitar playing after a hand injury
- the difference between “cathartic creativity” and the hard work of writing songs
- Justin Rutledge‘s songwriting workshop
- lyrics versus poetry
- playing with Willie P. Bennett
- starting the writing of a song with a melody and a chord progression
- “Object writing” as a songwriting exercise to build sensory awareness
- “Secret Agent Man” as inspiration
A very special show with Song Talk Radio’s co-host and co-creator Bruce Harrott, showcasing and discussing the process behind some of his best songs. We talked about:
We don’t usually talk about Artist promotion in the Song Talk Radio Newsletter. You can find lots of places on the web that cover that.
But we do see a lot of submissions so we see all the different levels of “promotional” abilities in artists – and some could really use a few pointers.
Understanding your target
The people you want to reach in the music or news industries are pretty busy folk. They’re constantly bombarded with random pitches of varying quality. They’re not going to spend 15 mins trying to decipher a vague description or your artist photo to figure out what you do. You need to be clear and grab them quickly – otherwise it’ll just be the circular file cabinet with your submission. They have a ton of other things on their desks.
1) Building your Arsenal
The first step is to spend a bit of time getting some basic marketing pieces together. Once you have it all ready to go, it’s easy to jump on any opportunities that pass your way. Meet a reporter for a local newspaper? Get his email and send them your description and photo when you get home.
These pieces would be
- Artist Promotional Photos
- Artist Description
- Marketing Materials (so printed junk)
Today, we’ll cover Artist photos.
So, where do I get off telling you all this stuff?
I’ve been working in advertising and design for far longer than I’d like to admit, and have worked with countless photographers on countless projects. Some successful, others less than fully, um, “satisfying” lets say. So you’ll get to learn from my mistakes.
It’s the person behind the camera that counts
Technology these days is incredible. The difference between a consumer level camera, pro-sumer and professional camera is less now than its ever been in the past. Ironically, this makes the actual person behind the camera more important now than ever.
Back in the day, there were quite a few photographers that were in fact not very good. But they were cheap, and had some high-end equipment so there was a good-sized market for them: customers needing photography but couldn’t really tell if what they were getting was good or not. I know – I spent countless hours trying to take their out-of-focus, poorly framed work and make it into something usable.
These days, the person behind the camera is key, and believe me, the ones who are great are truly, truly magic.