Songwriting: What To Look For (Part 3, The Finale)

In a world…….

Where men become heroes…..

Where pets have the uncontrollable urge to scratch themselves….

And where build ups like this don’t exist anymore….

Seriously, what happened? I mean, I know there are more people that have voices like this for movie trailers, WHY CAN’T WE HAVE THAT HAPPEN AGAIN???

Oh well, here’s the final installment of the songwriting trilogy.

Part 3:

Today, we are concluding our look into songwriting with me discussing one of the ultimate determining factors in making a basic song great: the melody.

Am I talking about vocal melody? The melody of the riff? The melody of the guitar solo? Well, I’m talking about all of the above, because like I keep stressing in the previous parts, in your performance, it needs to be done with passion and it needs to be memorable.

Granted, this is all opinion-based, but it’s important if you’re writing a song to be perfectly satisfied and proud of what you just penned down or performed. I have a little notion that some people will probably agree with:

If you aren’t sick to death of the part or melody you wrote because you can’t get it out of your head, you did well.

Remember, it’s important to be catchy, but being catchy means nothing if the song isn’t refined. Pretend you’re performing this song out, what do you want to do to it for you to be proud? By the time you know the answer, it will take repeated tries, but with each effort, the final product will get closer to how you envisioned it.

Now, with the key fundamentals being covered, let me talk to you about my process of crafting what feels like a good song in my eyes.

First off, I need to have a vision. Usually I try to figure out what I should write about during the brainstorming stages because it makes the process easier.

Second, I need to find a way to tell the story. This is the point where the music and melody can be a rough take to help you along. When I’m doing this, I figure out how to make the narrative flow with the ability to keep a listener engaged. Nobody likes a terrible story.

Third, I refine the music and melody. THIS is the longest process for me, mostly because of how hard it is. It’s hard because it is constant, constant trial and error. One day you can be satisfied with a part you wrote, but then all of a sudden, you hear something out of place that screws up your thinking and makes you type stuff like this:

eroipar89gujt49[w04g993e4stgjie;pruioPIGghseproguiserpgs89erhgs;fbnxcvmbnPIGdfbmxcv,.bmxnldfihxeoPIG;ighehr;goiserigshe;PIGrgosetis;goierghO;IRHEOHE0T9E0YHE;FSID;FSHIDJ;HSOE9059590OHGSER;GnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnPIG

Ok, maybe not that.

Still, it can be a pain.

Fourth, I go and perform what could potentially be the final version of the song.

However, if something ends up wrong, I review steps one through three again to make sure nothing went completely haywire.

If everything comes together though, I feel so satisfied because of all of the work that was put into making the song a quality one.

Well, that concludes this analysis on what to look for in songwriting! I had a lot of fun writing this, and to my fellow musician friends out there, I’m really curious. What is YOUR writing process? If you have a specific method, feel free to comment below and let me know! To everyone else, have a great night and keep being amazing!

 

 

Songwriting: What To Look For (Part 2)

Hey everyone!

You know when I said on Friday that I’d have this part up tomorrow? Yeah….. I meant the day after tomorrow.

While I take care of all of the angry mobs forming outside right now, enjoy this next part in the Songwriting analysis!

Part 2: 

When we last left off this column, I was talking about the importance of having flowing lyrics in music along with the advantages and disadvantages of writing with different points of view.

This time I want to discuss the crucial importance that the instrumental sections have with making or breaking a song.

One thing that I have heard a couple people talk to me about when it comes to hit songs that are actually really bad (see my previous post for more detail) is that a certain song “has a good beat”.

Now that in itself is true, but I think I should probably explain a little more about that “beat”.

When I think of beats, I think of drums, percussion, any form of tempo accompaniment that helps establish the pace of the song. However, I think when people talk about the beat, they also mean the general direction of the main riff that’s driving it. Both the tempo and the riff are a true essential in making sure a song is worthy of listening to .  But in the best way to do that, both of them need to play an essential part in the song. I’ll give a couple of examples here:

Sunshine of Your Love: Cream 

It starts out with a memorable guitar riff by Eric Clapton, but when that riff is joined in with the bass and drums by Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker respectively, it helps take the song to a new medium, especially in the chorus.

Smoke On The Water: Deep Purple

Do I even need to say more about this riff? Most guitarists starting out have heard this as one of their first songs they’ve learned. Most musicians know this song, and the ensemble of musicianship surrounded around the riff takes the song’s power to a great level that is still high today!

Dream On: Aerosmith

Keep in mind when I say ensemble of musicianship, I mean the vocals too, because without a good vocal performance, something will feel like it’s missing in your song.

Anyway, all of these elements are addressed in Dream On: an amazing opening riff that is integrated throughout, captivating vocal performance by Steven Tyler, and the fact that you feel the song building and building toward its peak. Those were all of the things that I realized were going on when I heard this song for the first time.

Now someone might be thinking:  “Ohhhh Marshall, these are all classic rock songs, why aren’t you talking about things from other genres that we were born to listen to?”

To be honest, do I really need to?

All of these things that I’m saying can apply to really any song that you would take a liking to, whether it’s technically good or bad.

Now, what do I look for in the overall riffs?

Well, there needs to be passion. Without somehow feeling the effort and determination of what you’re playing or singing, the performances can come off as very robotic. As a result, you lose the next key component: memorability. Without it, your song can lose its personality and end up as a no-name copycat in a genre full of them. Here are the biggest culprits to me: Country, Pop, and Alternative Rock Music.

I don’t hate Country, I may have brought it up as a subject of criticism in these past two blogs, but I don’t hate it, I really don’t. I just like it when it’s good.  In today’s generation I’ve noticed that a good bit of Country has succumbed to the traps of Hit #444Z trying to sound the same as Hit A. As a result, the riffs or “beats” start to sound the same, making the resulting songs a bit generic.

Now, Country is one of the tamest offenders of this though, Pop and Alternative Rock are much worse. I feel like Pop has this little pie chart dissecting one song and turning it into seven new songs within the span of two weeks. Granted, it’s gotten better, they’re adding diversity in their song genres. That in itself is nice,  but it still doesn’t offer the amount of quality that you would ask for as a general listener, much less a musician.

Alternative Rock: See the last two paragraphs and combine them with a harder edge to it. I love Alternative Rock, but lately this seems to be the case. However, throughout this year I’ve heard really good callback songs from bands like The Pretty Reckless, Royal Blood, Volbeat (even if I’m not a huge fan), and plenty of others.

Thanks for reading this installment of my Songwriting series, and next post I will be concluding this discussion  by talking about a few more important things and then discussing my process into crafting what I feel is a good song. Until then, enjoy your day and keep rocking out to your favorite songs!

 

Songwriting: What To Look For (Part 1)

Pun Version: “Songwriting to the Tune of Fish”

Hey everyone! I figure that since this is a blog that has music highly in the subject matter, I might as well talk about a couple of aspects of songwriting.

I may still be young, but I grew up listening to the artistry of Lennon/McCartney, John/Taupin, Jagger/Richards, and Mercury/May/Deacon/Taylor as my first exposure to music. Part of me still wishes that I was born during that time, but hey, what can you do? I guess you just need to try and keep the past alive within the music, and I plan to help make that vision possible!

Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked here. I guess a bit of my nostalgia kicked in.

Anyway, whether I write a song or I’m listening to a song that has lyrics, one of the most important things that I focus on is a flowing story or subject matter. Whether you’re the writer or the listener, the power of engagement is an important key. ‘

Every writer is filled with creativity, they can literally tell a story or write something based on life experiences. I’m guilty of doing both, but each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages. While writing lyric-based stories, you can expand your creativity and stretch beyond the constraints of a simple matter, but you risk the possibility of not relating to the listener and what they’re interested in.

I know that everyone has different tastes, but it’s important to be sure that your narrative has flow and that  it’s able to attract a good level of interest.  To me, a boring song is worse than a song that is all around terrible. Sometimes the latter you can just  have fun laughing at, but if a song has no substance and engagement in it, it really hurts the potential staying power.

Now what does writing something based on a life experience have? Pretty much the opposite scenario.

You have the advantage of being more relating to others, but the creativity gets dialed back in the process. For example, breakup songs have these set of options:
A: I got hurt/I hurt them
B: I’m/they’re scared to break up
C: Insert random feelings here

Do you see my point here?

Country songs about vehicles are like this too. Don’t believe me?

A: A guy gets hurt by a woman. It doesn’t matter though, the guy is in love with his truck. (and in need of a couple therapy sessions)
B: Cruising in *insert motored vehicle here*
C: Loving in *insert motored vehicle here*

I don’t think I’m causing any revelations here!!

As for me, what I look for in lyrics is the ability to flow, because stilted and/or stupid lyrics can take away from appreciating the actual music.

Part 2 will be here tomorrow, and there I will conclude analyzing lyrics and shift the focus to the factors of the actual music. Until then, jam out to your favorite songs and have a great night!!

 

Awesome Restaurants in Baltimore, Maryland

Hey guys, I’m going to do something a little different here.

I’ve talked about trivial things on this blog before, but I’ve never really opened up myself before…..

OR HAVE I????

Haven’t I?

Oh wait, not really.

So, with that being said, I know that I have people that are interested in me and my music outside of where I live in Maryland. With that being said,  I want to be able to help you all when you decide to make the trip up here. When making a road trip or visit, it’s crucial to find out where there are good places to eat. And now I’m going to help you all out by naming some of my favorite restaurants in Baltimore!

Mex Tequilla Works
26 Market Place:

This place is my favorite place to go when I’m in the mood for Mexican food! The drink selection is top notch, especially their margaritas, and I haven’t eaten one bad menu item so far. My top recommendation is the loaded nachos, because when they say it’s loaded, they mean it. You might want to share that with someone because you aren’t going to finish that by yourself, trust me….

Lost City Diner
1730 N Charles Street:

If you’re into comics and 50s sci-fi, you’ll definitely love this place! It is full of charm and nostalgia from the moment you first walk in. The menu has a lot of variety, including a wide selection of gluten-free options, so it’s definitely catering to more people than your normal diner. The burgers are great, the milkshakes are really appetizing, and the staff is really nice and always helpful for if you have any questions. So, all-in all, if you love having a good meal while traveling back through time for a bit, I definitely recommend Lost City.

B&O American Brasserie
2 N Charles Street

This is a restaurant that I recently went into for the first time, but by the time I left, I was already hooked. The setting is really fancy and laid back, and the staff is some of the best that I have ever seen in any restaurant. I know this is going to sound a  little weird, but I think their flatbread pizzas are actually the best thing on the menu. The presentation is wonderful, and with each selection there is a unique flavor and texture to keep the dish memorable. I still need to try more of their entrees to judge them, but for now, I’m really liking this place and I think its worth checking out!

Joe Squared
133 W North Avenue

For those of you who don’t know about Joe Squared, it’s a restaurant that specializes in really creative and original flavors on its coal-fired square pizza.

Don’t believe me? One time I had a pizza with some of my friends, we were surprised to find out that crawdads was a topping choice, so upon trying them on our order, it really added to the texture!

In fact, I’m adding a link so you all can see the topping choices.
http://joesquared.com/food/build-your-own-pizza/

Anyway, the food is really satisfying, the environment is laid-back, and you have two different locations to choose from! There’s one in Power Plant Live as well next to Mex, but I prefer the main restaurant location a LITTLE bit more because of the extra space and the live music that plays here!

Thank you all for reading, I definitely recommend checking these places out when you have the chance! The next post from me will be talking about my things that I look for in songwriting and my opinion on how songwriting in general is being handled today.

Until then, board a plane down to Baltimore and chow down for me!

Regarding Today’s Post……..

Today has been really flaky and full of interruptions, and because I have a show tonight at Angels Rock Bar in Baltimore, Maryland, I won’t be able to finish today’s blog. So as a result, it’s being pushed to tomorrow.

Sorry everyone, I’ll be sure to get it up as soon as I can and then I’ll be back to the regular schedule with a couple more special posts for all of you!

 

Thank you all for understanding, and I hope that you have a wonderful day!