Monday, December 31, 2007

Music From The Camps - Francesco Lotoro

CBC Radio's show, Dispatches, aired a radio documentary by on Francesco Lotoro's quest to record the music from the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. As labeled by the reporter, Megan Williams, this is "[t]he story of one man's quest to uncover the work of composers once held in Nazi prison camps. "Concentrationary music," he calls it. But you could also call it haunting."

It's certainly a powerful concept of music as the ghosts of those Holocaust victims, a lasting legacy through the music that Francesco Lotoro keeps alive through his recordings. Plus, he's doing it in my parents' home province of Foggia in Italy!

You can listen to this wonder documentary in RealAudio format here, or download the podcast here (it's the last 17 minutes or so of that podcast). I also found this article at the Telegraph that has links to some of the recordings that are moving and powerful...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Reaper DAW

I use Cakewalk Sonar 6, Studio Edition (though edition 7 is the current one), but I may take a look at this product: Reaper is getting lots of rave reviews in the Usenet groups and home studio recording crowd.

They've just released a new version and here are some of the features at a cost of $50 USD for non-commercial, personal use (though it's shareware, so you can try it out first for as long as you like before deciding to buy):

  • Portable - supports running from USB keys or other removable media

  • 64 bit audio engine

  • Excellent low-latency performance

  • Stunning multiprocessor performance

  • Direct multi-track recording to many formats including WAV/BWF/W64, AIFF, WavPack, FLAC, OGG, and MIDI.

  • Extremely flexible routing

  • Fast, tool-less editing

  • Supports a wide range of hardware (nearly any audio interface, outboard hardware, many control surfaces)

  • Support for VST, VSTi, DX, DXi effects

  • ReaPlugs: high quality 64 bit effect suite

  • Tightly coded - installer is just over 3MB

Anything that will help you create the music! May the Muse be with you... and ci vedimes...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Memoriam - Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson passed away prior to Christmas... He was quintessentially Canadian and unsurpassed in his musical talent - playing those jazzy keys and bringing joy to many people. I wore out the grooves on my Night Train LP, and the songwriter in Mr. Peterson shined there in Hymn to Freedom. He lived fairly close to me, but I never had the pleasure of meeting him, though I was fortunate enough to see him at the Orpheum theatre in Vancouver in my university days...On his official site you'll find the following song written by Oscar with Elvis Costello providing the lyrics:
When Summer Comes
Music by Oscar Peterson
Lyrics by Elvis Costello
Originally Performed by Diana Krall

The land was white
While the winter moon as absent from the night
And the blackness only pierced by far off stars
But as every day still succeeds the darkest moments we have known
When season turn
Springtime colours will return
And as the first pale flowers of the lengthening hours
Seem to brighten the twilight and that melancholy cloak
Then a fresh perfume just seems to burst from each bloom
Until the green shoots through each day
As it arrives in every shade of hope
When Summer Comes
There will be a dream of peace
And a breath that I've held so long that I can barely release
Then perhaps I may even find a room somewhere
Just a place I can still speak to you

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas! - Free Stuff!

Just thought I'd compile a list of some free sites/stuff in the spirit of the season...

  1. - This is a fantastic site run by Crispin and it is as the site describes, "a collection of the best Free Audio and Music Software floating around in Cyberspace." Well worth a visit, and a permanent link on my blog!

  2. eBook for How to Set Up a Home Studio - This is from Revolution Audio and it has a great Boxing Day sale set to start after Christmas. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you should check out the free How to Set Up a Home Studio Class offered by Revolution Audio, next scheduled for Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.

  3. Along the same lines, is the online PCStudioTutor - billing itself as the "the ultimate site for home computer recording newbies" where you can "learn about the latest computer recording studio gear and music production software."

Merry Christmas to all and the may the Muse be with you...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Well, I think John C. Reilly is a heck of an actor, so I'm looking forward to seeing his new Apatow-scripted movie.  A synopsis of the movie (which sounds hilarious) follows; and here is a recent quote from Reilly on the songwriting process:

Q: I know you were involved with some of the songwriting for the movie, and I was wondering if you could talk about the songwriting process as well as your musical background, in addition to your acting background.
A: I grew up in Chicago doing rock community theater and musicals because that's just what everyone did, all through grade school and high school, and studied acting at a conservatory program. So music's always been a pretty important part of my life. It's just recently become more of a part of my career for this.
The songwriting process on this was really cool. We just took it period by period, starting in the '50s and wrote the "Walk Hard" song and "Take My Hand" and the early stuff and got our feet wet, and developed the character with the music from his life.
All along the way, we had this kind of amazing stable of songwriters that would be working on their own, and if they got stuck, they'd come to us. In the '60s stuff, we'd pitch them like an idea. I'd be driving to work one day and get an idea like, "It would be so funny if Dewey was really into women's rights, but just because he wanted to get women to take their bras off!" And the song would be called "Ladies First" and he just gets it all wrong. The two main songwriters* and I would go off to a hotel room for a couple of hours and we would come back with a song called "Ladies First."

*BTW, the songwriters include Van Dyke Parks and Marshall Crenshaw...

GENRE: Comedy

DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan

PRODUCER: Clayton Townsend, Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow

SCREENPLAY: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan

STUDIO: Columbia Pictures

Synopsis: America loves Cox! In Columbia Pictures' new comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, John C. Reilly stars as larger-than-life musician and songwriter Dewey Cox. Behind the music is the up-and-down-and-up-again story of a legend whose songs would change a nation. On his rock ‘n' roll spiral, Cox sleeps with 411 women, marries three times, has 22 kids and 14 stepkids, stars in his own '70s TV variety show, collects friends ranging from Elvis to the Beatles to a chimp, and gets addicted to -- and then kicks -- every drug known to man... but despite it all, Cox grows into a national icon and eventually earns the love of a good woman -- longtime backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer).

Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig, Raymond J. Barry, Harold Ramis, Margo Martindale, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, David Krumholtz

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Digital Fake Book

I use and love Lyricist (linked above the posts section in my blog), but if you don't want to spend any money, there's a free application out there called Digital Fake Book.

It might not have the features that Lyricist has, but it's a great tool also for songwriters who want to get the chords and words down (especially from guitar). From the website:

  • Keeps all your songs in one place for easy, one-click selection.
  • Built-in metronome with tempo setting for each song.
  • Audio file linking with A/B section looping helps with learning songs by ear.
  • Text size and sheet divider position is saved with each song enabling the largest text size possible while still fitting the whole song on the screen.
  • Random sets can be created to make practice more varied.
  • Several color schemes (themes) to choose from.

Song of the Year - Suggested Artist


Well, my "A Beat Away From My Heart" received a "suggested artist" tag from the Song of the Year contest for October 2007...

That's two recognitions this year (the first was for Pause and Wonder in July...


Song of the Year

songwriting contest lyric contest
JULY 2007


Awarded to Lorenzo D. Policelli

Lorenzo D. Policelli has been selected as a "Runner Up" in July 2007 and was awarded "Suggested Artist" in the October 2007 round of the Song of the Year song and lyric competition. Song of the Year receives entries from all over the world and only the most noteworthy artists receive such recognition.

For more information about Lorenzo D. Policelli please visit

My SongU Evaluation of "A Beat Away From My Heart"

I took a Feedback 100 course at SongU last week and received some nice kudos for my "Beat Away From My Heart" tune... You can listen to it in my ReverbNation player that's embedded right at the top before my posts section...

"It's a good song... The rhythmic setting of the lyric is working gangbusters for you... There's a real rhythmic setting to the way these lyrics are set... Nice play on words - heartbeat/beat heart..."

That statement was made by Randy Klein, the instructor who headed the Feedback course and is an accomplished and recognized songwriter in NYC...

Here's a video of the session dealing with just my song:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How to make a Top 40 hit? Let them count the ways

From a Globe and Mail article by Marsha Lederman... This is the state of the music business today when it comes to trying to make a Top 40 hit... Nicely written article... Me, I just want to write a song that will get published, let alone make a Top 40 chart somewhere...

Once upon a time, knowing what songs were dominating the music charts was easy: You turned on the radio.

Instantly, you'd be rewarded with a spin of a hit record - by the Beatles, the Bee Gees, U2 (depending on your era). Even if you touched that dial, chances were you'd encounter the same songs on a different station.

These days, it's not that simple. The choice of new music offerings can be overwhelming, coming at listeners via video games, iTunes, television shows, music videos, social-networking sites, online radio, satellite radio and, yes, old school, terrestrial radio - where the hit-driven Top 40 format is making somewhat of a comeback, according to some industry watchers.

With the unprecedented choice comes unprecedented fragmentation. The new multiplatform universe may mean the end of multiplatinum records. "Pretty clearly the days of selling 10 million albums are done," says Nic Harcourt, music director of the influential Los Angeles radio station KCRW and host of Sounds Eclectic. "There's probably less than 10 records that sold two million [copies] this year. I think it's a different world."

So how, in this new world, does a song make its way through the mass of available music, and emerge a hit?

A select group of international music-biz movers and shakers, Harcourt among them, gathered in Vancouver this week to discuss that issue during a boutique-style, invitation-only music and digital-technology conference, focusing on the challenges created by the new musical landscape.

The event, now in its second year, and more think tank than convention, was co-conceived by Brad Josling, who works on the marketing side of the music industry in Toronto. Struck by the contradiction of declining record sales and soaring appetites for music consumption, Josling wanted to create a forum where the issue could be tackled in a meaningful way by key industry leaders. "We hope that overall, the opinions of this group can be used to sort of move matters forward," he says.

It is a critical time for the record industry (which may be now somewhat of a misnomer). Getting music out to people who will listen to it and, please God, buy it, has never been more challenging, the methods never more varied. Radiohead offers an album online at a pay-what-you-want price. Television shows like The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy release soundtracks. Feist explodes onto the U.S. market thanks to an iPod commercial.

Terry McBride, founder of Vancouver-based Nettwerk Records (its artists include Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan), says things have changed radically over the last three or four years. It used to be, says McBride, that "if you had a No. 1 single [on] radio, you could guarantee [it would be in the] Top 10, Top 20" on the sales charts. "That's not the case now."

McBride prefers to think of hit records not in terms of sales or spins, but exposure. He says a tune on the soundtrack of a popular video game like Madden NFL can be as widely heard as a hit song played on a Top 40 radio station. "The metrics of measurement are not really accurate," he says.

McBride believes that, for a rock song, too, exposure on a hot-selling video game can be more valuable than radio play. Getting a song featured on a hit TV series can create a huge impact as well. And a strong Internet presence is key.

The music industry, he says "is a very vibrant place to be, but it's not hit-driven. You have lots of artists sell lots of records and lots of concert tickets without getting an awful lot of radio play." Think Feist, Arcade Fire, Joel Plaskett - all of whom developed a substantial fan base before breaking out on mainstream commercial radio.

How important radio remains in this new equation is one of the questions the industry is asking itself. While there's no doubt terrestrial radio's influence has waned, there are those who argue it is still critical for creating a hit record. The Internet might get the ball rolling, they say, but your local radio station is the final arbiter of what becomes a bona fide hit. After all, Feist and Arcade Fire eventually became radio stars, and Plaskett is on his way (thanks, in part, to a Zellers commercial that featured one of his songs).

"Radio is still the overall primary source for listening to music," says radio programming consultant Guy Zapoleon, President of Zapoleon Media Strategies, based near Houston. "This is why the record labels still spend millions of dollars a year promoting new music to radio."

Zapoleon says that Top 40 radio, also known as contemporary-hit radio (CHR), which plays the roughly 40 most-popular songs over and over, has recently enjoyed some of the best ratings the format has had in years. He also points out that CHR is the format with the most influence on music charts, appealing especially to teenagers.

Results of the all-important fall ratings period for Canadian radio, released this week, indeed show growth in CHR in some influential markets. In Vancouver, for instance, the Top 40 station, The Beat, is now the No. 1 music station in the market - racing past its nostalgia-heavy competition over the past year.

Zapoleon says Top 40 is at the top of its game right now thanks to a climate in which all the key styles for current music (pop, R&B and rock) are very "pop" in nature and can be played on one radio station. Playing Timbaland and Michael Bublé on the same station creates a broad appeal - so mothers and daughters, for instance, can listen to the same station.

Zapoleon says that society's current love affair with celebrity culture has also helped push Top 40 radio ratings higher. "Let's face it, people young and old always want to know what's happening in pop culture, and no format does a better job of featuring music from, and information about, the hottest artists."

Still, radio overall is bleeding its younger audience. Statistics Canada data released earlier this year show a steady decline in the number of hours people aged 12 to 24 are listening to radio. Teenagers spent about seven-and-a-half hours a week listening to radio in 2006, down from more than 11 hours a week a decade earlier. And teens are a key target market for record companies.

Young consumers are finding their music elsewhere these days - mostly online, of course. "The power's really been put back on the consumer to make the choice of what they like," says Josling, "versus there being ... gatekeepers to drive who the pop stars are going to be."

But while a 16-year-old might enjoy spending hours online sifting through the overwhelming amount of music available and looking for cool new tracks, her 50-year-old mom, who might also want to know what's happening in music these days, may not have the time / skills / inclination to investigate.

For that consumer, the sheer volume of uncurated music available can be daunting. Without the easy filter of pre-Internet days, where a radio DJ or music director selected what relatively few songs got to air, finding music becomes a more active, rather than a passive, pursuit. There may be more music available, but you have to go looking for it. And that's not always convenient.

Still, Nettwerk's McBride has no interest in returning to the less-complicated old days - even if his company, like others, has taken a revenue hit. (Although not as extreme a hit as the big, more traditional labels. Overall, the Canadian Recording Industry Association says, retail sales of physical formats brought in $676-million in 2006 compared to $1.3-billion in 1999. Sales of digital music comprised about 6 per cent of the market in 2006, not nearly enough to fill the revenue gap). "What was played on radio was the gospel for such a long time, but it was such a small amount of the music that was actually released," he says. "So radio became a huge filter, but a filter that basically suited their commercial needs."

McBride loves the way the Internet has created options for fans of all types of music. "It's much easier than going into a [now-] defunct Tower Records, and trying to get the kid behind the desk who has a Mohawk to tell you about something new, maybe, on the bluegrass scene."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Songwriting - Collaboration and Co-Writing

My TDSB course on songwriting ended Wednesday night. I met a lot of very talented, enthusiastic songwriters to whom I'll be linking/posting in the near future.

I just wanted to give a plug to MaryEllen's upcoming course starting in the new year on Wednesday nights: Songwriting - Collaboration and Co-Writing.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend (I'm already registered for the Home Studio 201 class at Revolution Audio on Thursday nights). But I do recommend a course like this for the information, encouragement and the connections you can make!

May the Muse be with you...

Censorship over lipsyncing Simpson

Original article here.

Ashlee Simpson spoof controversy


Ashlee Simpson.

A Calgary rocker is causing quite the controversy with a tongue-in-cheek tune he penned about a lipsyncing Simpson sister.

Jason Darr, songwriter and front man for Neurosonic, a Canadian hardcore punk band, is reported to be in hot water with Ashlee Simpson and her beau Pete Wentz, bassist for Fall Out Boy.

Darr wrote Neurosonic's acid-tongued single, So Many People, mocking Simpson's now notoriously embarrassing Saturday Night Live performance in which she started lipsyncing the words to the wrong song.

"I meant every word of it... I'm a sarcastic little feller sometimes and the song just wrote its self," Darr told Sun Media. "But it was in good fun -- it's not meant to be malicious."

"Everything under the sun going to hell in an episode of SNL/watch it on the TV you ugly girl you cannot sing, can't even lip sync," shouts Darr during the song about Simpson (sister to infamous blond bomb shell, Jessica Simpson).

During a performance of the tune at New York City's Knitting Factory club last week, Darr told the crowd Wentz had a "cease and desist" order out against Neurosonic, banning them from playing the song.

The comment caused an avalanche of media coverage, starting with reports in the New York Post and NME Magazine, as well as numerous online music sources saying Wentz was considering legal action against the Calgary-bred rocker.

"I recall making a comment on stage about it one night. We're always up for a good for a laugh," says Darr, who grew up in Strathmore, just outside of Calgary.

Wentz responded to the comment on Fall Out Boy's web site, stating he had "never heard of that band or ever sent a cease and desist in (his) life."

Wentz added he, "hopes it works out for (them).

"I'm still not gonna have a fight in the press.... If your songs are good then sleep easy and have fun playing them -- just don't attach me to them."

Darr says the song and music video, which spoofs blond-haired celebritants, plastic surgery and Hollywood's redcarpet culture, was meant in jest, and brushed the incident with Wentz off with a good hearted laugh.

"I was in the same room with him (Wentz) at the Chainsaw Awards (held in L.A. in October), but he hadn't heard the song yet. We didn't speak -- I'm pretty sure he doesn't know who we are," said Darr.

Darr is the sole songwriter and main creative force behind the band. He moved from Calgary to Vancouver a little over two years ago, where he wrote and recorded Neurosonic's debut album, Drama Queen.

Darr was previously lead singer of Calgary's Out of Your Mouth. When the band broke up, he decided to move to B.C. for a change of pace.

He wrote and recorded Drama Queen by himself.

Other members of the band, including fellow-Calgarian Jacen Ekstrom, were added later.

Neurosonic has been on tour in the U.S. and Europe for most of 2007, with plans to return to Canada soon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Beat Away From A Critique

Well, I received my best critique yet for one of these song contests (Song of the Year). You can hear the song in my ReverbNation player in the top section of this blog. Anyone want to market this for me?

The following information is a critique of a single piece of material you have submitted to Song of the Year for review. The opinions stated are from an experienced professional in the music, entertainment, or media industries. Your views may differ greatly from their views of the material since music and lyrics are a subjective art form. Please be mindful that the comments made about your material will be critical only to encourage your songwriting ability and help develop your skill.

Song Writer Title
Lorenzo Policelli A Beat Away From My Heart
Reviewer ID Reviewer Specialty
#RB93272 Radio Media Supervisor

Section 1


(Scores below)

LYRICS: Impact of words and phrasing; clarity of content; structural and grammatical.
Weak Average Strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

TITLE: Ability to attract listener attention; pertinence to the song.
Weak Average Strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Weak Average Strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Emotional Commentary: The lyrics to the material are tender and engaging, the illustrative words create such a vivid picture. Therefore making the passion in the mood come to life. "A Beat Away From My Heart" is a great title for this song, its relative and original. This song is easy to relate to which makes it more personal and overall emotional.

Section 2


(Scores below)

Writing Mechanics: Rhyme structure, grammatical quality (slang & dialect none withstanding)
Weak Average Strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

STRUCTURE: Composition elements and arrangement.
Weak Average Strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Technical Commentary: Wonderful rhythm and rhyme structure, great sense of emotional direction with the choice of words used throughout the material. The overall structure was flawless in the construction, arrangement, and delivery.

Section 3


(Score below)

MARKETABILITY: Sound quality, mix, dynamics, and finishing.
Weak Average Strong
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Friday, November 16, 2007

Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 2008


Hi Music Fans,

What do Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens (Alex Kramer, Joan Whitney), Paul Anka, La bittt à Tibi (Raoul Duguay), Claude Dubois and Oscar Peterson have in common? Besides being Canadian, they are just some of the iconic songs and songwriters who will be honoured at the CSHF 5th Annual Gala on March 1st, 2008.

Held at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, this memorable night is not to be missed. Join us as world-class Canadian and international artists perform Aimes-tu la vie comme moi? (Georges Thurston, Billy Clements, Phillip Mitchell), Heart Like A Wheel (Anna McGarrigle), Love Child (R. Dean Taylor, Deke Richards, Pam Sawyer, Frank Wilson) and more.

Songs by critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Paul Anka and Claude Dubois, one of the most beautiful and significant voices in Quebec songwriting history, will also be performed and celebrated.

Brilliant jazz pianist and composer Oscar Peterson, famous for his musical dexterity and energetic performances will be honoured with the Founders Award.

For a complete list of this year’s inductees visit our 2008 Inductees page.

Seats to this star-studded event are limited. Tickets will be available online through Ticketmaster in early December.

Make sure to visit the store to pick up some great music from this year's inductees and performing artists.

To ensure that you are always up-to-date about the CSHF, make sure to sign up to our official newsletter.

The CSHF Team
Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
56 Wellesley Street West, Suite 320
Toronto, ON M5S 2S3
Tel: 416.926.7953/ Fax: 416.926.7958

Songwriting for Kids

Just want to give a plug to a wonderful website for young songwriters: Songwriting for Kids. There's monthly contests to involve young ones to hone their songwriting chops, and a blog to go with the website... My 5 1/2 year old chose not to take the bait, even though she wrote the wonder With Mama song some months back... Right now, she's just into her ballet...

May the Muse be with our kids!

FACTOR'd down!

Oh well, my second request for demo proceeds from FACTOR was turned down... seems I have to work on my songwriting skills... precisely the reason I'll be asking for a grant to attend a songwriting camp next summer!

:( May the muse be with you...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Small Talk

I was working on a song last night from an idiom (Small Talk) that is an assignment in my songwriting class. We came up with the notion that "small talk", which may have a negative connotation as being meaningless and superficial, can actually be a lifesaver for some people who are not in the mainstream - a kind "hello" or "how are you doing?" at an opportune time could bring someone down from the precipice...

Wholly unrelated... I did want to point out a posting from this morning giving kudos to all the songwriting bloggers out there... Thanks to Jeff for maintaining a great songwriting blog... I certainly don't equate this with the "small talk" part of my thought process, just the random "bon mots" part...

May the Muse be with us...

Friday, October 26, 2007

EDIROL/SONAR: The 'Ultimate Combination' Tour

Roland Canada presents EDIROL Product Specialist Jeffery Lyon showcasing the latest EDIROL interfaces, keyboard controllers and digital mixers plus Cakewalk’s acclaimed SONAR audio production software featuring SONAR 7 Producer Edition.

Experience the ultimate combination of workflow flexibility and sonic excellence with EDIROL and SONAR. Whether you're new to computer audio production or interested in upgrading (or crossgrading) to SONAR 7, this interactive clinic is for you. Special 'incentive' pricing will be available on select EDIROL and Cakewalk products for this event only.

Where: Long & McQuade Bloor - 925 Bloor St. West, Toronto ON
When: November 1, 2007 from 7 to 9 p.m. (Registration in advance required at Roland's website - here)

I'm going to try and go and see what's different between Sonar 6 and Sonar 7...

Ci vedimes...

SOCAN Tariff 22.A (Copyright Board of Canada)

This new Tariff was petitioned by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), successfully, before the Copyright Board of Canada. The Board recently released its decision on October 18, 2007. The decision dealing with Online Music Services can be found here in PDF format and is rather long, but here's the gist:
  • Online music retailers will now be subject to the new tariff on downloaded music files.
    The new tariff allows SOCAN to collect 3.1 per cent on the sale of each song downloaded from online commercial music sites like Apple's
    iTunes Music Store or the Canadian service Puretracks.

Personally, I use Zunior...

Now, if I could only get published and sell a song, then maybe these downloads would translate into some cash in my pocket... Dare to dream...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Upcoming Contest Deadlines (More)

The Song Door 2007 International Songwriting Competition is set to close November 15, 2007, so get your songs in quickly there... Enter online if you'd like directly from their website... $10USD per song entry...

There's the Canadian RadioStar 2008 National Songwriting Competition. That contest is closing on November 23, 2007. There's no online entry for this competition so you'd have to make your CD and get it into a participating radio station fairly soon... There's no fee for this competition.

Best of luck to you entrants (I submitted to both, but I never win anything...)

5 Ways Non-Musicians Can Start Making Music

At Musician's Notebook, Joel Falconer has posted an article entitled "5 Ways Non-Musicians Can Start Making Music". The 5 ways are:
  1. Melodyne
  2. Drum loops
  3. A good rhyming dictionary
  4. A blog or frequently updated website
  5. Digital audio input

I'd add that you should know how to write a song too :), but it's a nice article for a beginning non-musician who thinks they have some ditties in their head that they need to get down and recorded...

Ci vedimes...

TDSB Songwriting Course

Well, I've completed 3 of the 9 classes in the songwriting course I'm taking through the local school board... the classes are interesting with a very wide range of people in the class. That's what makes it even more interesting as week after week we've been thrown in with others to collaborate on songs or even just snippets of songs (song titles in week 1 for example).

The instructor, Mary Ellen Gillespie, is a composer (not sure if she's been published in the pop song sort of area, but she has scored a film as a credited pro, so...). The others, I'm still meeting, though I've already made "friends" in MySpace with a couple of young songwriters who are very good guitar players and burgeoning writers with bands even... maybe they'll want to play one of my songs one day when they make it big...

In any event, you should check out these guys: Adriel (whom I'm currently paired with while writing some music/lyrics in class) is a member of
Analog, while Matt is a member of Metacom (although he appears to be a member of many bands as well as running his own studio!).

May the Muse be with us all!

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Regional Songwriters Group

My SAC Regional Songwriter's Group met on October 6, 2007, for the first meeting back since the Spring... It was nice to get back into it and the meeting location was my favourite home recording gear store: Revolution Audio.

The special guest was Eve Goldberg, and she played and related some wonderful songs, songwriting tips and stories. Here is Eve's bio (shortest version) from her website:
Known for her watercolour voice and solid guitar style, Eve Goldberg is a
compelling writer and interpreter whose music spans folk, blues, country, swing, bluegrass, and gospel. A favourite at festivals, folk clubs and concert series across Canada and the U.S, she has released three albums to widespread acclaim.

As always, Liana led the group and I thanked her for quoting me in the latest edition of SAC's 'zine, Songwriter's Magazine. There's no link to the magazine yet on SAC's website but I just related how the group led me to see songwriting as a "craft" over my past treatment of it as a "hobby"... Now, I NEED to get PUBLISHED!

May the Muse be with you...

Turntabling... A Lot Has Happened...

Since my last post... Just been super-busy, songwriting-wise and otherwise...

Personally, I celebrated a milestone birthday surrounded by family... which was great... My lovely wife gave me an Ion USB Turntable that I was hinting at (my old turntable had died, but now with the new one hooked up to my stereo and/or my laptop, I'll be able to enjoy the old LPs and digitize them!). You can read a ThinkGeek review about this product here.
More posts to follow shortly...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free (almost) Music Critiques

Music Connection magazine is offering music critques for free, except for the $2.50 Sonicbids submission price (to cover Sonicbids' admin costs). Anyway, find out more about it here, but the gist of it is:
"Demo Critiques" is one of the many opportunities Music Connection Magazine provides for emerging artists to get worldwide attention. All genres are encouraged to submit and you must identify
which THREE songs you want reviewed. Lyrics for each song must also be provided. A "demo" is defined as any recording (even a full-length CD) that is NOT professionally distributed to brick & mortar stores through a major distributor. Online distribution does not apply. If your EPK is chosen for review, you will be contacted to verify all information as current and accurate before publication. If you don't hear from us during this submission period, it just means you weren't chosen at random, so feel free to submit again next quarter. PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT US ABOUT THE STATUS OF YOUR EPK.

Good luck to you if you submit this quarter... Deadline is October 7/07... and may the Muse be with you...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Songwriters' Musings

I like to hear what other songwriters (unpublished and pros alike) have to say about the craft that confronts me with a blank page at times... Here's a couple of internet items to follow that...

First, the Matthew Bennett Band has a Vox blog where Mr. Bennett waxed on as follows:
I am currently in the middle of writing new songs for the band, new songs which in time will hopefully become our first album. Songwriting can be the most frustrating and fulfilling jobs you can think of, something that can take minutes or days to complete, something that can seem impossible or come as naturally as dreaming. A strange job but one of a very few jobs in which you can hopefully create something that no-one ever in the history of mankind has made before, a job that allows you to interact with people all round the world even if it is indirectly and a job that lets you express what you need to express whenever you need to express it.
So to everyone who reads this please take the time to listen to our songs because being a songwriter whose songs are not heard is like being the world’s foremost scientific genius, who has been made to live inside the body of a cat and forced to live with the worlds second most scientific genius whose work is quite immature.

Second, is Steve Earle in yesterday's Globe and Mail (read the article here). He talks about Canadian Singer/Songwriters and his recent move from Nashville to New York (and recent marriage to a girl who has a job).

But what if I did have a heart attack or a stroke? I wanna be in a place, when I get older, where I feel at home. I'm totally okay with being one of these old commies with a walker that I run into between here and the deli in my neighbourhood. I think this place will keep me younger, longer, but I'm totally okay with growing old like that. Washington Square Serenade is a very folky record. I'm living in a neighbourhood that my job was invented in. The only place I can think of that had more to do with the development of the modern singer-songwriter than this four-block area I live in is probably Canada. The idea of the singer-songwriter as mainstream acts stuck, in Canada, in a way that it didn't in the United States. Joni and Neil and people like that. And Lightfoot. There's also Murray McLauchlan, and Ian Tyson, who I have nothing in common with politically, but I still think is one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived.

May the Muse be with us all...

Free Plug-ins

Found a great site that has numberous free plug-ins (VST's that can be used in your DAW software - I use Sonar 6 although Sonar 7 just came out). The plug-ins are both instruments and effects... Makes me want to download them all and check them out with a new recording...

Visit the Free Plugin List...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Throwing some Rice at the Lloyd Webber

Source Article

There's a little ego involved in songwriting and splits/credits... The fights go on all the time and the bigger you are, the nastier it can get (well, I guess more's at stake then too...). As related in the Independent UK:

...Sir Tim Rice and Lord Lloyd Webber, are another case in point. While promoting a new production of their musical Joseph, Lloyd Webber inferred that his long-term collaborator prefers to see his name take prominence on the songsheet. "Tim Rice has written great lyrics for the new song," he said. "It's wonderful to hear a new Lloyd Webber/Rice song after all this time – or Rice/Lloyd Webber as he'd prefer."
Sir Tim, however, is quick to reject the claim. "I have never insisted, no," he says. "The order on the credit has varied over the years from one to another. And, as far as Joseph is concerned, it's an 'Andrew Lloyd Webber Production'. I couldn't give a stuff."

May the Muse be with us, we long-suffering, humble song-crafters, and away with "successful" egoists... okay, so I'm (a little bit) jealous...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pursuing Passion for Music: Justin Hines

I can't link to it as it was included in a special interest supplement to todays Globe & Mail, but there was a nice piece on Justin Hines, a local performing singer/songwriter who's just released a new CD, Sides.

Hines, who is confined to a wheelchair due to Larsen Syndrome, a rare joint condition that he was born with, discusses the honing of his "songwriting chops". Sides is all-acoustic and evokes the '70's greats (James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin and Jim Croce - I've Got A Name is covered on the album). Of that "golden age" era and those songwriters he states:
"A lot of time was taken to write great lyrics, and they never over-complicated
things. There was beauty in their simplicity. I think you can really
capture people's emotions with the most simple song."
And of the presence of the craft of songwriting in his life, Hines reflects:
"It is part of my life now, something I do every day whether I want to or
not. I have enough material for another record already, and that's a good
place to be in."

I think Hines is coming from the right place, doing something that is not "trendy", but just honest... I have to remember to keep that honesty going in my songs...

May the Muse be with him...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Songwriting Course

Well my Home Recording class was canceled (previous post) so I decided to try my luck at the local TDSB's course in songwriting offered in my neighbourhood and I signed up for it. Here's the details:

Are you interested in learning more about songwriting? Are you an emerging artist trying to find your voice? Would you like to co-write with fellow songwriters? This course will cover the main aspects of songwriting including: Song Form; Lyric-writing, Melody; Collaboration. Music business basics, including information on copyright protection, will also be taught. You will learn useful analytical and creative tools to enhance your Songwriting skills. You will also add several new and improved songs to your own song catalogues! In-class performances and collaboration will be encouraged. Some out-of-class preparation will be required. (material costs: $5)

Home Recording 201 - Canceled

Well, I had a message that my Home Recording 201 Class at Revolution Audio which was going to start on Thursday has been canceled. That's a bummer... but hopefully it will be offered in the new year...

Foster wants to pen the theme for Vancouver 2010

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - The man who wrote the theme song for Calgary’s Olympics in 1988 wants to do the same for Vancouver in 2010. But no one's officially asked him yet.

On top of working with some of the world's biggest stars, David Foster is also recognized for his own songwriting talents.

He says he'd love to pen a song for 2010.

"I was asked a couple of years ago and I think I’m a logical choice, but I haven't been formally asked, but I’d love to do it if I get asked."

Last week, Olympic organizers unveiled Australian David Atkins will oversee a team of ten putting together the opening and closing ceremonies for well as all the nightly entertainment.


I guess you have to have an ego in this game... Foster's certainly earned it, but a little humility goes a long way too I think... May the Muse be with him...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Patrick Watson wins 2007 Polaris Prize

Kudos to Patrick Watson for beating out the favourites for this year's Polaris Prize for its album: Close to Paradise. Check out Patrick Watson's MySpace site as well...

Songwriters Hall of Fame

Relive the magic on CBC Television Tuesday, September 25 at 9PM (ET) as the CSHF honours and celebrates Canada’s songwriting legends, featuring performances by David Clayton-Thomas (Spinning Wheel), James Taylor (Woodstock), Jim Cuddy and Oh Susanna (You Were On My Mind), Corb Lund (There’s A Love Knot in my Lariat), Divine Brown with Herbie Hancock (Help Me) and George Canyon (My Old Canadian Home). Also featured are Gemini nominated performances by Measha Brueggergosman (Both Sides Now) and Michael Bublé (How About You?) as well as a special appearance by 2007 Modern Era Inductee Joni Mitchell.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great World of Sound

I read Simon Houpt's "New York Diary" article today on a mock-umentary that's playing there by the title of Great World of Sound. You can find the article here.

The concept: Advertise for "Serious Talent" and "Major Label Record Deal Search" and see who comes crawling in.. the "record producers" are fake, but the performers and wannabe songwriters aren't... some get hurt too in the end (but they get their money back at least if they were scammed out of it - lesson learned for entertainment purposes...). As the creator of the movie, Craig Zobel, put it:
"There's just something that is so much more empathetic when watching it with the real people, that I felt made it jump off the screen," he said. "I feel like they're the heart and soul of the movie." He swears he wasn't trying to exploit them. No one was paid; but then, even the professional actors deferred payment."

That led me to the research the movie and has a full plot summary here, reproduced below, and the trailer from the movie website follows. Just wish that I could find this playing in Toronto somewhere...

Martin answers an ad to train as a record producer, where he's excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists. The company, called Great World of Sound, partners shy, unassuming Martin with the gregarious Clarence and sends them on the road, visiting southern towns where the company has placed newspaper ads and turning motels into makeshift audition studios. Though an unlikely duo, they sign more acts than anyone else at the company. But when Martin takes a special interest in a young girl's "New National Anthem," putting up his own money and following her progress, he discovers that something's amiss with the enterprise. As things threaten to unravel, he's forced to weigh his nagging conscience against both his loyalty to Clarence and his own financial ruin. A playful, contemporary take on the classic American story of the confidence man, "Great World of Sound" evokes conflicted hucksters from Willy Loman and the Mayles Brothers' salesman to the seedy charmers of seventies Altman. With real-life audition footage weaved into the fictional narrative, Zobel's provocative debut explores the outer limits of our desire for celebrity, where big dreams beget bigger illusions, and fame always has its price.

Friday, September 21, 2007

From Second Cup to Starbucks...

I wrote about Second Cup yesterday and today it's Starbucks turn as I read this little item in The Globe and Mail's Social Studies page:
A New Jersey singer known only as DaVido says he has been "kicked out of" more than 200 Starbucks outlets in the New York-New Jersey area in his attempt to give a rendition of Java Jitters, an ode to caffeine that he has written. He is determined to get the song on a Starbucks retail CD, and regards himself as "the singing Rocky" who never gives up. DaVido is now brewing plans to go on an expanded "rejection tour" that could bring him to the coffee giant's hometown of Seattle, The Seattle Times reports.

DaVido has his won website here:

May the Muse and Java be with him... I think...

Vic Chesnutt in Montreal

Athenian singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt made it up to Montreal to record his latest album and I think this article reproduced below is insightful with respect to the songwriting craft:

Crown Vic: Singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt gets his collaboration on
by Andrew Clayman

“My songwriting process is a very lonely one,” says
Vic Chesnutt, Athens, Ga.’s resident, lo-fi folk legend. “It’s just me locked in a room and in my own little bubble. So it’s quite good for my heart to join in some sort of collaborative process for the recording itself.”

In the past, Chesnutt’s therapeutic recording sessions have seen him swapping brain cells with the likes of fellow Athenian Michael Stipe (1990’s Little), Nashville chamber-country collective Lambchop (1998’s The Salesman and Bernadette), and studio icons Bill Frisell and Van Dyke Parks (2005’s Ghetto Bells). In each case, Chesnutt’s absorbingly earnest but offbeat folk tales have held the foreground in the midst of his heavyweight collaborators. It’s a trend that continues on his latest
release, North Star Deserter, which pairs the acoustic balladeer with some unlikely cohorts in the form of Montreal post-rockers A Silver Mt. Zion (AKA Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band).

“It was the producer Jem Cohen’s idea to bring in the musicians he brought in,” says Chesnutt, referring to the full cast of
Silver Mt. Zion, as well as members from Fugazi and Godspeed You Black Emperor. “(Cohen) wanted to get me up to Montreal to record at Hotel2Tango with all those guys. And I’ve known Jem for 20 years—I’m a big fan of his. I’m a big fan of Godspeed, Silver Mt. Zion, and Fugazi, as well, so I was very excited about working with all of them. Unfortunately, I can’t take
credit for actually coming up with the idea.” One thing Chesnutt will take some credit for is understanding the subtleties of collaborative art, even when the down-to-earth Georgian is working with a roomful of Quebecois dramatists.

“The thing is, because I am this singer-songwriter guy—and not a band—it lends itself really well to collaboration,” he explains. “I think I have an ear for which one of my songs will go with certain bands. I have a good feeling for that kind of thing.

“This session (for North Star Deserter) wasn’t particularly different or unique from my other sessions. I wrote the songs and we presented them to the band, and we just kind of recorded it, you know, live in the studio—which is how I like to do it. It was a very organic process, quite a bit of fun, and quite a life nurturing experience, really.”

As a testament to Chesnutt’s craft and flexibility, North Star Deserter sounds as intimate and personal as the lo-fi recordings that earned him his cult following in the early ’90s. Somehow, a sense of continuity comes through the intermittent laces of strings, choral accompaniment, and electric guitar feedback on the album—which, incidentally, includes songs written across a span of more than 20 years.

“A lot of the songs on this record are really old,” Chesnutt says. “The first song, ‘Warm,’ I wrote in 1985. So it’s really old. But then there was another song, ‘Marathon,’ that I wrote the day before the session started. I played it in the studio, and everybody said, ‘Ah, let’s record it!’ So we did.”

According to Chesnutt, this blending of dusty, old songs and sparkling new ones is par for the course when he cuts a record, which helps explain why each successive album has managed to maintain such a great balance in its sensibilities. Some songs just have a longer gestation period than others, and for a prolific songwriter like Chesnutt, there’s a pretty massive archive of tunes to work from.

“(Songwriting) is a very natural thing for me,” he says. “I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. And it’s a nervous habit. I do it all the time; I take notes all the time, I think about it all the time. It’s just something I do. It’s part of my personality.”

Chesnutt, now 42, has been relegated to a wheelchair since losing the use of his legs in a car accident at the age of 18. The music he’s written since stands alone without the context of such adversity, but the quality of his character is hard to ignore. Even after a couple decades of critical admiration, Chesnutt only seems stymied when asked to set his modesty aside and promote his own show.

“Well, I’m a unique songwriter,” he says. “I have my own vision of the world.” There’s a long pause. “And I’m not a great self-promoter, that’s for damn sure.”

Article Source:
Metro Pulse

Managing time, when music isn’t your “day job”

This is a nice article contained in the always-helpful songwriting resource at the Muses Muse website. One of the suggestions/tips is to:
Schedule time with yourself for your songwriting, collaborating and rehearsing. Keep these dates with yourself and others as sacred appointments!

That's really the crux of the matter. When Jeff and I had scheduled jamming/collaborating sessions, the music was flowing a lot easier than now when I'm looking at my home recording and NOT setting aside the time for it that I should...

Here's the link to the whole article:
Managing time, when music isn’t your “day job”

May the Muse be with you...

Karaoke on Demand

Rogers Cable here in Canada has introduced Karaoke on Demand for those who like to sing at home... There's quite a large selection (from Achy Breaky Heart to You're The One That I Want) so hook up your mic and sing to your heart's content...

If you don't have a digital cable receiver, and you get one (soon I would think), you'd also be eligible for a mic from Rogers (500 are available)...

The shower isn’t the only place you can sing like a rock star. PersonalTV from Rogers introduces The Karaoke Channel On Demand. Get free, unlimited access to hundreds of your favourite sing-along tracks anytime you want, with new songs added each month. Whether you want a solo practice session or you’re having a party, centre stage is now in your living room with The Karaoke Channel On Demand.

If you have a digital box, you have The Karaoke Channel On Demand for FREE. Go to Channel 100 and become a rock star!

You’ll find The Karaoke Channel On Demand in the ‘Music’ section on Channel 100. Use your remote control to scroll through songs and find your favourite tunes. Sing as many songs as you like, as many times as you want. And best of all, new songs are added each month, so you always have a fresh selection of tunes to sing.

Sing your Heart Out with The Karaoke Chnnale On Demand on Channel 100.

You’ll find songs to suit your every mood, including:

  • Oldies
  • Pop
  • Standards
  • Country
  • R&B Hip Hop
  • Classic Rock
  • Modern Rock
  • and more!


Well, sort of... something I wrote was printed in the latest edition (Fall 2007) of SAC's Songwriters Magazine. There's an article on Regional Songwriters' Groups and the part of that which focuses on the Etobicoke Group (written by the group's leader, Liana DiMarco) quotes ME:
Lorenzo P., an active participant in the group, notes: "I know that being in the group and hearing others describe their writing processes has helped me become more conscious of something that I've done without thinking in the past... it's making me see this as a craft instead of a hobby."
Now, if I could just turn those into lyrics with some music!

The New Pornographers

There's an interview of The New Pornagraphers' founder, guitarist, singer and main songwriter, A.C. (Carl) Newman in the most recent edition (Fall 2007) of SAC's Songwriters Magazine. The article (not up onthe SAC website yet) concerned, amongst other items, Newman's growth as a songwriter and his influence from various 60's songwriters (Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson and more). His advice to fellow songwriters, along the lines of perseverance and consistency, follows:

"Just hack away and do it and try to do something interesting," he advises. "And keep going. Who is it that said 90 percent of success is just showing up? I kind of feel that way.

"When I think of all the times I've played music, I feel like I've never really changed my plan. I've just kept playing music because I want to play music. Even when I had a day job, I still continued to play music and eventually that strategy worked.

"If you want to write songs, just write songs. Keep writing them until you get better."

Okay Carl... I'll just keep writing then... and may the Muse be with you...

Second Cup Opportunity

SAC has reached out on behalf of its members to partner with the Second Cup Coffee Chain to support Canadian singer/songwriters. The following item is from here:

Second Cup is looking for singer/songwriters across Canada to perform at local Second Cup cafés in the areas that the artists live. They are building a database of artists that their Franchise Partners will be able to access when searching for performers to hire at their café. Looking for artists who perform styles suitable for cafés (soul, instrumental: classical, jazz, flamenco, salsa etc…). Many artists who currently perform at our cafés do so for the opportunity to sell their CDs during their performance, however Second Cup is also open to listing artists who require payment per performance. Second Cup will not provide any speakers, mics etc for the performances. It is assumed that if the artist needs elements to perform at a café they will be responsible for bringing them at no additional cost.

Interested artists can apply immediately by sending an email to

The subject line of the email must be as follows:
(city the artist is from), (province the artists is from), (main genre(s) the artist performs).

This format must be adhered to.
The body of the email must list this information briefly in point form:

1) City the artist is from
2) Province the artist is from
3) Genre(s) the artist performs
4) Instruments the artist can play during a performance at Second Cup
5) How much the artist would charge the café to perform
6) How long the performance would be
7) Previous experience
8) Phone number
9) Email address
10) A photo of the artist in jpg format – this is the only element that is not absolutely essential
11) A direct link to samples of live recordings of the music. In the case that this is not available, a well marked CD can be rush mailed to:

Laura M.
The Second Cup Inc.
Second Cup
6303 Airport Road
Mississauga, Ontario
L4V 1R8

Applications will not necessarily receive a response. Selected artists will be added directly to the select database of Canadian artists for Franchise Partners to contact directly.

*No phone calls please
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