Categories
music production tips songwriting

Here’s a quick way to write new songs

There is no formula to make music. But as for productivity we all need a quick way to reference ideas and jot down parts to use later down in our song arrangement. With that said creating song blocks is a sure way to do so.

Have a list of ideas

Write down a list of ideas you would want to turn into songs. This can be a great way to get stimulate the brain. If you have ideas already great you can skip to the next step.

Convert the ideas into 4 or 8 bar blocks

Why? Picture this you get an idea for a new song but have multiple concepts you want to try out. Instead of trying to pick the perfect one why not just write them all. Write concepts that can be used as a verse or chorus for that particular idea. You can mix and match them later but as long as you get your idea out in a block that can be useful. Like a four bar block that can be used as part of a verse or chorus.

How long should you spend on each block? That depends how comfortable you are with what you have. If what you have  sounds good to you have you dancing in your studio forgetting everything else around. Then you know that your complete. Keep in mind that you don’t have to overcomplicate things. Get all your ideas out as quickly as possible. After that you can spend all the time in the world putting the track together.

Can this work for producers?

Yes. Start by creating a basic drum pattern to jam to get some ideas for your track. Playing to a one bar loop is kind of uninspiring. I know for me that’s kind of boring. But what if you can create an eight bar loop, complete with different drum fills to start you on your journey.

In order to move fast while creating beats is to get all your ideas out at quickly as possible. So How do you get that done? By recording in four(4) to eight(8) bar blocks.

Why? A Basic chorus is typically eight bars long. So is verse. So to get a basic sketch of what that will look like you can use this as a starting point.

So what’s so great about doing that? If you love music like I do, I want to get that next masterpiece out of my head before I lose the vibe and worse forget totally what I wanted to do.

So how do you go about getting that done? start with one section at a time. Have a basic drum track to work with. Then build around that. If you want to play a piano or guitar first to start off the session then do so. Whatever you start with is your foundation. Having a solid foundation will give you the kick you need to get started to compete the beat.

Conclusion

Working in blocks is a fast way to get your ideas down as quickly as possible.  You don’t have to over complicate things just get your ideas down and edit them later into a complete song.

Categories
live performance

Creating the Perfect set list for live performance

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Part of being an artist is performing live. I found this post awhile back by Wade Sutton and he explained how to design your set list. Below is some of the main points he shared to designing your set list of live performance.

Website link: http://www.rockettothestars.com/#!creating-the-perfect-set-list/c1io3

  1. Make a list of nine songs you perform at your shows
  2. Now rate each song from 1 – 5 base upon tempo.
    • 5 being extremely fast and energetic
    • 1 being slow emotional ballad.
    • 3 would be in the middle.
  3. Take a look at the ratings you have done. If all of your songs have similar ratings you have major problem because your set lacks variety.
  4. Create moments in your set. Meaning the thing that you do that fans remember you after you finished performing. It can be anything.
    • swinging from a rope while singing a particular song
    • musical solo

Picking your songs in the right order

This is where you’re gonna control the emotions of your fans

  1. from your set list pick a song that is rated 3 for your first song
    • it must be short 3:00 – 3:30 in length.
    • no extended breaks or solos just get into the lyrics quickly
    • this song is the icebreaker and builds relationship with your audience.
    • end with a trash can ending. this is where everybody ends at the same time.
  2. After the song ends do a quick introduction and thanks everyone for coming. Keep it short.
  3. for the second song choose a song that has a 4 rating from your set list
    • ensure it doesn’t sound similar to your first song. If it does people will start to tune you out.
    • get into the lyrics as quickly as possible
    • end with the trash can ending
  4. For song # 3 choose a 3 rated song.
    • ensure its very catchy so people can get into it and sing along
    • you can use a cover of a very popular song  because it draws more people into the show
    • no talking between songs
    • After the songs ends thank everybody and point out that you have merchandise at the back of the room for sale. Word your free off like this:
    • “I am actually giving away some of my music for free and I would love to get it out to each and every one of you here. For me to do that, I need you to go to the merch table and write down your e-mail address so I have a way to get that music to you.”
  5. 4th song you slow things down this is where you choose a song that is rated 2.
    • this is where you ease up before bring up the energy
  6. 5th song is where you start to build excitement. Choose one of your stronger songs rated 3 – 3.5
    • this is where you include your musical moment. something you can have fun with
  7. 6th song is when you increase the energy with a song rated 4 or 4.5
    • choose a song you can include the audience in.
    • a sing along, a call and response but it has to have a moment where the audience is having fun.
    • This sets you up for thanking your fans and reminding them of your merch table and email list sign up.
    • be sure to introduce yourself again for new people entering the venue. Introduce the band members as well
  8. 7th song this is when you slow things down. do something acoustic to create an intimate touching moment with the audience. A song rated 2 or lower is best.
    • different perspective musically
  9. 8th song: this song should bridge the gap between the previous song and the finale.
    • Thank the venue for having you and thank the audience for coming out.
    • Never mention that the next song is your final song
  10. 9th song: This is when you break out your # 5 rating song to end with a bang.

The ultimate aim of this is to let fans enjoy your live performance and want to see you again. These tips are very helpful in planning the show to ensure this happens.

Categories
music marketing music promotion

How to promote your music to the press

One way to promote your music is by getting press coverage. Right across the world and over the internet there are multiple publications that will be willing to write about your music. Below are a few tips as to how to go about sending your music for coverage.

Have a press release written

A press release is a news story about your new song or album. If you work with a music publicist, this is one of the ways they communicate with the press. So to get started you will have to get a press or news release written.
The aim of the news release is to tell the story behind your song and the message you are promoting. Essentially telling the public why they should care about you and your music. The key to getting the attention of an entertainment reporter, is to write the news release in such a way that it is useful to them.
What I mean is that you must send something that is relevant. Also how you write the story should look similar to the articles they publish with all the information necessary. Also the angle should be different compare to anything else that is out there now. This is important. By angle I mean how you tell your story.
Have you ever notice some artist do weird things and the media starts talking about them. It is all part of promotion. For example, Ishawna released a song called equal rights, sparking a conversation around a controversial topic in the media. Vybz Kartel did the same thing with skin bleaching promoting his music. These are all calculated events used to promote music.
So if you want to get ideas for news releases, start with an album release around a cause or a charitable event. A concert or release party. The possibilities are endless to what you can come up with.  Study what the publication covers and you will begin to find patterns.

Have high quality photos taken

The next important part of the puzzle is photos. News papers and magazines need visuals. That’s how people get to know who you are. This is how they see your face over and over.
Partner with a photographer, and get some high quality photos taken to send as part of the media package. The theme of the song should be taken into consideration when picking location. High resolution photos are a must so don’t go cheap.

Compile a media list

Once you have the press release and your photos, the next thing you need is a list of editors to send you press kit to. This is easy to compile but time consuming. All newspapers and publication publish an email of the editors in the news paper. For each publications you want to target gather the email address and the name of the editors and store them in a spread sheet. For our purposes we will need to entertainment editor. If the email address is not published you can just call the paper and ask for it.

Distribute media kit

Now that you have everything you need, its time to send it to the press. The recommended way to send the press release is not as an attachment but to paste it in the body of the email. Place the emails of the editors in the BCC section and have another email in the TO section. This will ensure each editor gets a copy of the email without knowing who else received the message. 
I have received news releases from PR people and they don’t do this. I’m not sure if it’s standard practice but from research its not recommended. Add your photos and a copy of your song, or event flyer and send your release.
A word of warning, by doing this doesn’t guarantee that you will get coverage but you can increase your chances.

Categories
music marketing music promotion

How to use advertising to promote an album online

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Releasing music can be a liberating feeling. After spending months in the studio now is time to release what you’re working on. There are lots of ideas floating around the internet about how to promote your music and it can get overwhelming. But in this article I’ll share with you my experience with one. Advertising.

Advertising is paying a publication to drive traffic to your iTunes page. This with the hope of converting that click into a paying music fan. Using advertising can give your album or single a boost in awareness. If done successfully you can make back your initial investment. If done poorly you can loose money and become frustrated.

In July 2012 I released a compilation called “The survey riddim” a dancehall album with various artist singing on the same beat. There are a few things I did which is simple and easy for anyone to do.

Pick a medium to reach your ideal music fan

To get started you’ll need to pick a medium that will reach the fans of your music that will actually buy it. For this release I wanted to target persons in the USA. The site I made an agreement with was fusemix.com. Fusemix.com is a Christian lifestyle blog. They post news and updates about music and Christian entertainment in general. So it was a good fit to try. I knew one of the guys working with the site. This made the promotion deal happen.

The banner ad was just a smaller version of the album cover with the words buy now on iTunes with a link to the iTunes page. It cost me around $US30 for the banner ad for one month.

Have a goal for your ad

For advertising to work you must have a realistic goal in mind. At the time I didn’t have any goal. This was due to my inexperience with marketing in general. This banner ad was just an experiment. So if you plan to spend say US$500 on advertising. Keep the cost of producing the album in mind when you set your goal. IF your production cost is $1000 – $3000 then your sales goal can be $3500.

This target will help you to know whether the ad is working yes or no. Once sales reach your target, anything above that would be profit. This will make your efforts fruitful. And you have the money to make another album or at least pump more money into promoting it.

Results from my ad

Looking back at it now proved that the ad worked. I never knew back when I ran it because I didn’t know much about marketing. I was just trying random stuff and it wasn’t consistent. Running the ad on a Christian entertainment blog was the perfect fit for my compilation. The result  was close to $US100 for a ad that cost $30 that ran for 1 month. The investment was worth it and I should do more of it. So I missed the opportunity to push the release even further and get the most out of it.

Lessons

For a marketing campaign to work you need to give it more time. I would run the campaign for at least 3 – 6 months to give the ads more time to produce the results I want. As well as expand the amount of sites I use. The issues with reggae gospel is that their is no dedicated music blog for our genre so going broad in terms of entertainment, lifestyle, urban gospel publications are the perfect fit to find out audience.

In addition to blogs using social media sites to advertise can be added to the mix as well. Just try them out and see what works for you to reach your goals.

If you have ever used advertising to promote your music let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Categories
recording

How to record vocals if you don’t have a vocal booth

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The ability to record vocals was one of my greatest dreams as a producer. Because I didn’t want to be guy lock away in a room, making beats on his computer without seeing the light of day or interacting with anyone. I wanted to make full songs with artist and I wanted to have a space  I could call my own.

So the most logical step was to build a vocal booth and record artist. But there was one problem, I didn’t have the space to build the booth. Also, I don’t have a dedicated room to build a recording studio. So all the fancy videos of people showcasing their own space with panels on the wall and dedicated voice room just seem out of reach for me.

At that time I was still living in my parent’s house. I had limited space in my bedroom but I had a closet I could use, so I started researching on ways I could achieve my dream of recording vocals.

While researching solutions one of the main themes that pop up is an acoustic treatment for the room that will be used to record vocals. The larger the room the better was the recommendations by most persons on forums such as gearslutz and recordings.com among others.

For vocal recording to be effective the room has to be treated to reduce the amount of reverberation inside the room. So when you record the song, the vocals sound as dry as possible. The most recommended solution is that have a duvet or a thick rug behind the singer. This will allow for the audio bouncing off the walls to be absorbed. So these and other solutions were taken into consideration in my pursuit in 2010.

In order for you as a producer or singer/songwriter to record vocals, there are solutions available to you. From the DIY to the super expensive. All of which are geared at solving the acoustics issue when recording vocals in a small bedroom. Here are some ideas.

Closet with lots of clothes

This solution is free because once you have a closet with lots of stuff in it you can use it to record vocals. When I started recording, I used my closet to produce 3 – 4 compilations and lots of singles. When I released the tracks no one could tell that I used my closet.

To try this out, place your mic stand inside your closet with your condenser microphone. Ensure that behind and in front the singer that you have enough of your shirts and other garments that will be used to absorb the sound going into the microphone.

Sound Reflection filter

A recent option is the sound reflection filter. A lot of companies have their own variation which makes perfect sense. The device wraps around the microphone, it has acoustic foam secured inside a plastic which is secured unto the mic stand. The idea is when the singer sings, the sound going into the mic is absorbed and sound coming from the side and the back of the microphone is reflected away thus creating a dry vocal recording.

Gobo or portable partition

The last solution I want to share is the GOBO or portable partition. This is basically a moving acoustic panel. Recording studios use these panels to create a drum shield or to block band members from each other to do recordings.

You can build your own or buy one if you so choose. This involves creating a partition, placing acoustic panels on the partition and when you are ready to record you can pull it out set it up live a V, record your song and then pack it up when your done.

These 3 solutions are ideal to start with if you don’t want to build a full blown vocal booth. Hope these ideas help you in your recording pursuits.

Categories
music production tips

How to convert ideas into finish works of art



As  creative people we have lots of ideas floating around. This is because we have lots of influences that we draw from on a day to day basis. We get inspired by our favourite artiste, our experiences, stuff we see on the road. We have so many ideas we often forget about it.
The good thing is creativity and ideas are  not in short supply but the problem comes when finishing stuff off and getting it out to the world. Could this be a procrastination problem or just lack of time. Or worse, not knowing how to polish off our ideas and turn them into something useful.

Before we dive into the process of shaping ideas one must understand what a finish product looks like. Also the process it takes to get to that point. This can be rewarding when you spend time to go through that refining process.

Know what the end is.

Knowing the end will give you a template to work with when blending ideas together. This is having a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your writing songs for your next album or creating beats, taking pictures, writing poetry or painting on a canvas. Whatever you do know what a finished product is. So that you can share with your audience .
Draw from your influences, and make a list of the best products you see out there and use that as a marker and a guide for what you are trying to achieve. This will be your guide when editing your work. For example this could be a list of songs you admire that you listen to over and over again. This could be pictures that you look at, that gives you a look that you want to achieve. This could be paintings that you love have a certain technique you’re a trying to master.
When you do this, it gives you a structure that you can borrow to arrange your ideas for testing later. It is always good to keep a running list. Austin Kleon says it’s good to steal from other people. This will ultimately help the creative process later.

Deconstruct the target and put it back together

When you have a template, or a goal that you are trying to achieve, now is  time to deconstruct it and put the pieces together. What you’ll be looking for is how these people did what they did, what are the decisions that they made and how you can do the same.
I used to do this all the time trying to recreate drum patterns from some of my favourite producers when i hear tracks i loved. The Game’s Dream drum track  produced by Kanye West, Come Over by Estelle and Sean Paul done by Supa Dubs not to mention trying to recreate the melody line from Lean On by Major Lazer.
All this helps in learning new techniques and different ways to do things. In my case make great beats and music. Your situation might be different but the end result is the same. Austin talks about this alot in his book Steal like an Artist.
After the deconstructing the work you’ve chosen and put it back together in some shape or form use what you have learnt about putting together a final piece or work to good use. Now is time to draw from your idea  box and assemble them together.

Polish of the rough edges

With the template and the deconstruction phase you should be motivated to try stuff out. Here is a snapshot of what that looks like.
If you’re a songwriter, a chorus idea here, a line for a verse there, and random phrase that can be used for a hook or a bridge, a chord progression here, and a few random melody ideas. Put that together and you have a version of a song. This will be your starting point. Once you go over it you can now refine those random pieces and create a song that you can record and share with your fans.
If you’re a photographer you might find poses for a model for your next photoshoot to try, different angles for wedding you might test out and so on.  You can test them out on your dog, or get your spouse to pose for you while you try your ideas out to refine the skill and technique.
I hope you start getting the idea. Refine the ideas into something that you can now share with your fans.
When you’re finished with these mashup of ideas you would be amazed at what the final piece looks like or sounds like. Because once you’re done refining the creative piece you now have one more project for your portfolio.

Share what you have created

Now that you have spent the time to refine your idea into a finish product don’t sit on it hoping that you can get the chance to share it. Just share it and get it out there. You have something that is very useful to someone else other than yourself and you should not be afraid of just letting the world know that you have created something. Even if its not perfect in your eyes.
The ideas for this post was inspired by Austin Kleon’s book Steal like an artist and Share your work.
I really love the message in these two books they have helped me out alot and hope the ideas will help you too.
PS. The link is not an affiliate link just so you know.

Categories
podcasting

Podcast Equipment for beginners

If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, one the questions you might have is what equipment should I buy.  With the array of choices, you might be confused and eventually delaying starting your podcast. No need to delay any longer because what you will need to get started is a few basic things, and they don’t need to be expensive.

Microphone



A microphone can make or break the quality of your podcast. This is the most important piece of equipment you will buy. How much you buy depends on how many persons you will be recording in your podcast production studio. For now one will do.  When choosing a microphone they’re some things to look out for.

First, you will need a dynamic microphone. The reason for this is they are built for live performances and are less sensitive compared to a condenser microphone usually used for studio recording.  These types of microphones are ideal for recording in home offices and small spaces where you can easily set them up and record without the worry of picking up unwanted noises.  You will need to keep your environment quiet while you’re recording though.

The most recommended microphone by top recording engineers worldwide is the shure sm 58 microphone. It is a rugged microphone and has an excellent sound. I have used this microphone at press conferences in Jamaica for years, not to mention at church.

Their other microphone on the high-end side from a price perspective is the shure sm7. Almost all radio stations in Jamaica has this microphone in their studio. I have been working with this microphone at the Jamaica Information Service for over 8 years and they sound great.

Mixing board / Audio Interface



Most dynamic mics’ comes with an XLR input. To use this input with your computer or laptop you will need a mixer to connect to your computer. An audio interface is a great way to do this. They come with a 1 to as high as 8 or more channels. They can record multiple tracks which can be great for recording guest inside your office.

They’re many options available and they are built pretty well. I personally use the M Audio mobile pre. I’m not sure if they are still making this unit because I’ve had it since 2010 and it is still working the only issue now is the headphone jack is not working properly.

When buying, choose a device with the number of inputs you are going to use over and over again. It would be a waste of money to invest in a unit with 4 channels when you only need 1 or 2.  Higher price does not always equal better quality but you might get a better-built device.

Studio headphones



The ability to hear yourself clearly is important not only when editing but recording as well. A good headphone can get you that. I personally love the shure srh440 headphones. They sound great and transparent. If you want to hear a lot of booming bass in your headphone, you won’t get that in this one.

The other headphone I know very well is the AKG k240 headphone. They also sound great, and very flat and transparent. My only issue though is that it’s not as bright as the shure srh440 but with a good reference point they are good to have.

Recording and Editing Software


Most audio interfaces come with recording software like Cubase ai, or Ableton live lite. For podcasting purpose, both are good to use, If you happen to get a copy with your audio interface use it. The plus to this is that you don’t have to go software hunting. You can set up templates for your show. Also, they are not that difficult to use.

Another option is audacity. This is also free and can work on both mac and pc.

Arm Suspension Stand



Finally, you will need a microphone stand to attach to your table. You can get a regular desk stand if space is an issue for you. Otherwise, get an arm suspension stand.

Conclusion


Starting a podcast is not difficult. With your shopping list now in place go and take action. Buy what you need and get started.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

Categories
music career

What makes a song successful

In high school a friend of mine introduce me to music production. Before that, i was making mixtapes using PCDJ silver recording it through music match. It was a fun time but making beats or riddims as we call them in Jamaica was different.

I got a copy of FL studio 3.4, and started to make beats as i knew then. It was fun, i had many weird ideas, drum patterns and melodies all thrown together. At that time i knew nothing about arrangement all i cared about i had an idea and i just created a pattern. I would draw out the pattern for 3 minutes long and that was my beat.

When I started sharing my work with my friends, the comments were not as encouraging. Plus when i compare them to popular tracks they just don’t sound the same. They were nice but different. Something was missing and at that point in time he shares with me that my beats needed a bit of structure. This would be useful so artiste can write a song to it.

One of the questions some artiste I knew at the time would ask me is when does the chorus start? Where is the verse? How long is the intro? I was clueless to what they were talking about. Luckily my friend knew some well known producers and they explained everything to me, that I’m about to share with you in this article.

For songs to be useful for both listeners and DJ’s they have to have a certain structure. Meaning the songs must be arranged in such a way when played against another track it doesn’t sound weird or different. That’s if that what you are aiming for.

Popular music has a familiar feel to it and knowing this structure makes it easier for you as a producer to make music that artist can use. The most popular format being used by songwriters and producers is the ABABC format. This is also known as the verse – chorus – bridge format. There’re many variations to this but essentially it bowls down to this.

The A or  verse section

This section of a song is calmer and less busy. The reason being is that you want your listeners to get connected to the heart of the song and move the story along. All songs tell stories in some form of way and the verse is where you get all the details.

For example in Bruno Mars Grenade, in the verses it’s only a piano, a basic drum beat.  The lyrics talk about the details of the type of person he was in a relationship with. The way he pens the lyrics gives us the details of what was happening and a little more into his perspective and what he was feeling at the time.

From a production standpoint as the song moves throughout the verse the anticipation builds to a point where we expect something else to happen and boom the enters the pre chorus. This builds more emotions and changes up the music a bit to lead into the next section of the song.

The B or chorus Section

The chorus is the heart of the song. It’s also called a hook. This is debatable because I have read in book where the author teaches songwriters that every song must have a hook and the hook can be a line in the chorus or the chorus itself.

For a producer this is the section of your beat that’s hype, very busy and has a main repeatable melody. This is what you use to differentiate the verse from the chorus and it helps the artiste and listener knows that the music has changed.

When arranging songs and beats these two are the most important section for any song and as you arrange your ideas utilise them to your advantage.

To build on Bruno Mars song Grenade, the chorus is obvious and it stands out from the rest. The way he sings changes, there’s more musical elements in the background and background vocals thrown in to fill out the spaces and make it interesting and memorable. These little things when added together makes the chorus stands out from the verse.

The C or Bridge section

The last component of the song is the bridge. This is noticeable by the chord changes and at times can be dramatic as well. This section is often useful to give a different feel to the song and make it even more interesting and less boring.

Not all songs have a bridge, and this section is used a lot in pop music as well as r&b and country. Genres like reggae and edm don’t use it a lot. So don’t feel like you are a slave to use it in all your work, you don’t.

Conclusion
Those are the components of a song hope they prove useful to you and your productions as they did mine.