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How To Write a Jingle of Super Bowl Proportions

Are you ready for some football?!

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, this Sunday marks Super Bowl XLVI, with the New York Giants and the New England Patriots playing for this year’s title.  We don’t know about you all, but we’re ready to sit back, eat some chicken wings, and enjoy the game (and commercials, of course).

But don’t be surprised if afterward, you have a jingle or two stuck in your head.  With all of those commercial breaks, it’s bound to happen.  (If you’re the type to skip out on the commercials, at least listen up for the dubstep remix of the NFL theme song this year.)

With a lot of hard work, creativity, and networking, maybe your own tune could be featured in the next Super Bowl.  Here are a few great tips from the DiscMakers Blog, Echoes, to get you started writing and selling jingles:

1. Research Other Jingles
“Listen to everything,” says Richard Leiter, a California-based composer who has created jingles for Walmart, Tropicana, the American Red Cross, and Microsoft, among others. “When it comes to the quality of your work, you need to match what’s on TV.”

Lloyd Landesman, a New York-based musician and jingle writer who has worked with Budweiser, Capital One, Dr. Pepper, Ford, and many others, agrees. “Pay attention to commercials and watch channels that are more youth-oriented, like MTV and Fuse,” he says. “What kinds of music are being used in those commercials? Are they dance tracks and electronica, or more quirky, acoustic songs from artists like Ingrid Michaelson? Watching and listening to what’s out there can give you an idea of what the industry is looking for.”

2. Understand Your Role
“Jingles are custom-written works for specific companies that have both words and music,” says Leiter. “Your goal as a jingle writer is to understand what a company’s message is and to translate that into a song. In other words, it’s their message, but your illumination of it.”

Landesman echoes the point, emphasizing that aspiring jingle writers need to be open to suggestions and compromise. “You’re providing a service,” he says. “You want the client to be happy with what you’ve done, so if within the 30 seconds of music you’re writing there are 10 seconds that the client isn’t thrilled with, it’s your job to find out what’s wrong and correct it. Don’t be married to anything you’ve done and be very careful about picking your creative battles. Will changing this guitar part to make your client happy ruin your spot? Probably not — and sometimes listening to your client’s ideas can actually make your work that much better.”

3. Shamelessly Self-Promote
“One way to get into jingle writing is to start a dialog with somebody at an ad agency – a writer, creative director, or producer,” says Leiter. “If you can figure out what their specific needs are at the time, then you can offer to help. They may have focused messages that they need to convey that you’d never be able to guess otherwise.”

Getting access to such people can be tricky, Leiter says, so he advises taking every possible route. “Call them, figure out their email addresses and write to them, send them homemade chocolate chip cookies,” he says. “Tell everybody you know that you write jingles, and see who knows a creative director at an ad agency. Then go in and try to meet with them, tell them you’ll work for free for the first one. You want to open doors, so do what’s necessary to get there, even if it means putting together a free demo.”

Readers, do any of you have experience writing and selling jingles?  Share your expertise with the community! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

 

 

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Photo by rockmixer.

Lyrically Stuck? Think Like Eddie Vedder

Writing lyrics like Eddie VedderEarlier this week, Eddie Vedder announced the venues for his upcoming solo tour, stopping in 13 cities to promote his 2011 album “Ukelele Songs.” The tour begins on April 11th in Las Vegas, and then works across the country, ending on May 16th in Orlando.  Pearl Jam embarks on its European tour just one month after.

Vedder’s passion-filled lyrics, ranging in topics from personal to political, have made him one of the most prominent songwriters of the rock-and-roll genre.  Pair that with his signature singing style, and you’ve got the makings of one of the most influential bands of all time.

If songwriting is something that you want to improve on, honing in on your creativity is an important skill to learn.  We suggest checking out our previous posts on writing lyrics and breaking songwriter’s block, but if you’re still not feeling creative, don’t stress too much.  For many musicians, finding new and unique ideas – and just plain motivation – are the hardest parts.  In order to help you out of that rut, here are 3 more exercises to find inspiration for song lyrics:

1.  Location Inspiration: Find lyric-writing inspiration through location

Location is very important when writing, because atmosphere affects your creative energy.

For example, it may be difficult to write sad or painful lyrics in a park. At a park you’d probably feel relaxed and maybe a little content or happy. This atmosphere wouldn’t work to channel sadness, unless you have a sad memory attached to the park (more on object inspiration next). In an empty and run-down apartment, you probably wouldn’t feel happiness, so it’d be the best location to write a “painful” lyric or two. Even your kitchen is different from your living room in evoking creative emotion. Choose the best location to write your song lyrics.

2. Object Inspiration: Find lyric-writing inspiration through objects

Rarely does inspiration just come from within. Songwriters surround themselves with things that will inspire their next creative work.

– Open a photo album and reminisce on old memories attached to your target emotion.
– Read old letters and remember where you were and what you felt when you first read them.
– Visit friends or family member you haven’t seen in a while, to get inspired.
– Watch a television show or film where your target emotion is prevalent.
– Go to a familiar place and think about old memories from there.

Use whatever object you need to channel your target emotion.

3. Topic Inspiration: Find lyric-writing inspiration through a topic or idea

Imagine yourself in a particular situation. It could be a situation that’s happened to you, someone close to you, a group of people, or someone well-known.  Now put yourself there mentally and emotionally. How does it make you feel? Explore those feelings until you’ve found your target emotion. One way to make sure your lyric idea has the strongest inspiration is to brainstorm on universal topics – issues that large groups of people are experiencing.  Successful topics are often ones that many people find relatable.

Where do you go for inspiration?  Do you write in a specific room or place to get the creativity flowing?  Share your tips with the community by leaving a comment below!

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Photo by marco annunziata.

Drop a Beat Like Jay-Z: 7 Easy Steps

The wait is finally over for celebrity gossip enthusiasts – Jay-Z and Beyonce are now proud parents of their first child together, Blue Ivy Carter.  And as any hip hop artist should, Jay-Z announced the birth by releasing “Glory,” a new track dedicated to his newborn baby girl.

While it may seem simple to put together a bunch of words without a melody, writing rap lyrics – when done right – is often more of an art form.  If you’re thinking of trying it out, check out these 7 great tips for writing your rhymes:

1. Get inspired. Pick a topic for your rap song that you have a unique perspective or understanding of to share with your audience. Without inspiration, your lyrics won’t have very much meaning.

2. Write a hook. If you were writing a term paper, you’d start with a thesis. But this is a rap song, so start with a hook. The hook should summarize the entire inspiration for the song.

3. Brainstorm. Start to make a list of every concept, unique perspective, or point you can think of related to your inspired topic. This will become the content of your song.

4. Write lyrics. Go through each of the points from your brainstorm list and express them in rhyme. Of course, this is where your skills as a lyricist will show through.

5. Pick a beat. If you don’t make beats yourself, search for a beat on YouTube or download from the internet. Pick a beat that invokes the emotion that inspired you to write your song.

6. Structure the song. Now that you have a good idea of the sound your completed song will have, arrange your rhyme into verses (16 bars apiece). You can start each verse with nearly any rhyme, but it’s a good practice to end with a rhyme that makes a point. This way your verse doesn’t seem to be left hanging. A popular song structure is: Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, middle 8 (breakdown), chorus, outro.

7. Rap and refine. Practice rapping your song on your chosen beat to work out the bugs and optimize your written verses. Cut out as many words as possible and then cut out some more. Remember, a rap song is not an English paper. Only use the words that are needed to make your point, nothing more. Don’t be afraid to add a pause or two, as this can help to enhance a certain point in the song.

Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

 

 

You might also like…
Lyrically Stuck?  Think Like Eddie Vedder
10 Proven Steps for Writing Lyrics That Stick
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Image courtesy of wikipedia.org.

10 Proven Steps For Writing Lyrics That Stick

The late Amy Winehouse tribute album Lioness: Hidden Treasures has been making waves on the UK music charts, securing the #1 spot just days after its release.  Although the posthumous album has had its share of drama and questionable reviews, the collection – with its mix of covers and raw, unfinished tunes polished up by the producers – seems fitting in depicting Amy as the troubled, tattered star that she was.

As she sings at the start of “Best Friends, Right?”: “I can’t wait to get away from you/ Unsurprisingly you hate me too/ We only communicate when we need to fight/ But we are best friends…right?”  It seems so simple, yet paints the picture pretty clear.

Even for artists like Amy, writing lyrics can be a daunting task.  Luckily, you don’t need to defy rehab to end up with a Grammy-nominated tune.  Here’s a taste of 10 songwriting how-to’s, courtesy of musicradar.com, to get you started:

1. Practice. Like any other creative process, such as playing guitar or programming synth sounds, lyric-writing is a skill that can be learned and improved upon.

2. Try to have a clear idea of what the song is about. You should be able to sum up the essence of the song in one sentence.

3. Make sure the song has a clear structure and progression. This is particularly important in narrative songs (songs that tell a story). A quick test is to read the finished song through from start to finish, asking yourself “does this make sense?”

4. Use context. Adding a back-story to explain the situation can add interest, and can change the entire meaning of any lyrics following it.

5. Use perspective. For example, a classic songwriting trick is to describe an event in the first verse, and add perspective by describing how it affected you or made you feel in the second verse. Another viewpoint can put an interesting spin on an otherwise straightforward point.

6. Choruses require a different approach to verses, especially if you’re writing pop. They often need to be more ‘plain’ and easy to remember. A common trick is to write the ‘setup’ during the verse, and the emotional ‘payoff’ in the chorus.

7. Don’t feel that using imagery will make your lyrics too artsy or flowery. Used well, it can evoke emotions or moods that can’t be created by using blunt description alone.

8. Experiment with attitude. Songs can be humble, arrogant, hopeful, somber, aggressive and more. Creative droughts can often be tackled by radically changing the outlook of your lyrics. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be yourself, but a bit of experimentation won’t hurt.

9. Be aware of the ‘sounds’ of words. Words have an inherent sound to them which becomes even more pronounced when sung rather than spoken. Some words sound open, some blunt, and some roll off the tongue. Take the sound as well as the meaning of the word into account when writing.

10. Consider the rhyming scheme, if there is one. It’s important to remember that how ‘catchy’ your song ends up is not just a product of the music and melody; it also comes from the lyrics, especially the rhythm and rhyming scheme.

Remember: there isn’t a cut-and-dry formula to writing lyrics, so it’s important to figure out what works best for you.  And when the inspiration hits, don’t waste any time getting your thoughts out on paper!

Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

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Stuck in a Musical Rut? Here’s How to Get Out
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Image courtesy of blog.vh1.com.

How to Break your Songwriter’s Block and Get the Girl

Twenty years ago in 1991, before Justin Bieber was even born, soulful crooners like Whitney Houston and Color Me Badd topped the Billboard charts.  It’s also the year Boyz II Men released their first album, Cooleyhighharmony. Today the group released their latest album, Twenty, featuring an array of new songs, as well as a few of their old-school classics.

If you grew up in the 90s, there’s a good chance groups like Boyz II Men provided the unofficial soundtrack for your middle school crushes and forlorn love stories. The majority of their songs – like most of the R&B genre – have a theme of love and relationships.  For songs with so much emotional draw, lyrics are especially important.

And as pop culture has showed us time and time again, music is a great way to woo the object of your affection (just look at John Cusack in Say Anything – and he didn’t even have to play an instrument!).  But what’s a musician to do when you want to get the girl, but can’t find the lyrics to say it?  Don’t fret – we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to help you overcome your “songwriter’s block”, courtesy of Disk Makers’ blog, Echoes:

1. Start with a title
“Find an interesting title and most of the song will often write itself,” says songwriter, guitarist and producer Tommy Marolda, who has written tunes with Richie Sambora and Rod Stewart. “That’s something I’ve used in a lot of my songwriting.” Successful song-crafters like Bon Jovi and Diane Warren have used this strategy, and songs like “Living’ On A Prayer,” “Bed Of Roses” and “Dead Or Alive” were written this way. “With most songs, the title tells the whole story,” he continues.

But where can you get an intriguing song title if the ideas just aren’t flowing? “Try looking at magazines,” says Marolda. “You can flip through the table of contents and sometimes they use interesting hyperbole or plays on words that can spark something in you. Or go to a poetry section in a book store and look at the titles of poems.”

2. Look and listen everywhere
“Whether you’re on a train, walking around, or just having a conversation, you never know what you’re going to hear,” says independent singer/songwriter Natalie Gelman. “When I’m really in the moment and paying attention to what’s happening around me, sometimes I’ll hear someone say something random and think, “That’s a great line! I should use that.’”

3. Carry a notebook, voice recorder, or both
This may seem basic, but since you never know when inspiration will strike, it’s important to have a way to document a great musical idea whenever it comes along.

If you’re comfortable with traditional musical notation, a small notebook with staff lines can be all you need. If you prefer to sing your melodies, a voice recorder on a smart phone or another small recording device can do the trick.

4. Keep unfinished ideas
Even if you’re only able to come up with a verse here and a chorus there, save everything you write, recommends Marolda. “A lot of famous songwriters have a suitcase full of ideas that they pull for different songs when they get stuck,” he says. “Go back into your own catalog of unfinished work and see what’s hanging out. You’d be surprised that a bridge you wrote years ago might fit perfectly with a song you’re working on now.”

5. Write a lot
For Gelman, more hours spent writing music means an easier overall creative process. “Writing constantly helps you become comfortable with the act of crafting songs — and with yourself as a songwriter,” she says. “As songwriters, we have to accept the good, the bad and the ugly that comes out when we write. It’s important not to reject anything that you write, and to keep writing.”

Part and parcel of writing a lot is working on whatever inspires you at any given moment, regardless of whether or not it fits into your genre of choice. Are you a shred-metal guitarist who suddenly comes up with a great Zydeco accordion line? Write it down. Even if it’s totally unusable for your current band or project, you never know when such a creative tidbit might come in handy down the road.

This is just the start to the full list of tips, which can be viewed here.  After you’ve tried your hand at writing, let us know how it goes.  What are your own strategies for writing songs?  How many of you carry around a notepad for when inspiration hits?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Looking for songwriting lessons?  Click here to search for a teacher near you!  Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.




TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Beverly M.

Beverly MMeet Beverly M. of El Reno, Oklahoma, who is this week’s Rock Star Teacher of the Week!  Although Beverly has only been a TakeLessons instructor since February, she has quickly become an active member of our teacher community and brings over 27 years of experience to her role as a piano and music theory teacher.  She has worked with students of all ages, and her teaching style covers a variety of musical genres – everything from classical and gospel to country and blues.  Having lived in South America as a child, Beverly is bilingual and teaches lessons in both English and Spanish.

In addition to being a classically-trained pianist, Beverly is also a talented songwriter, having composed more than 200 songs – many of which have been recorded by various artists or arranged for church choirs.  As an instructor, Beverly’s greatest desire is to instill her love for making music in each of her students.  She considers music to be the “language of the heart,” and enjoys sharing her musical knowledge and love for playing with anyone who is willing to learn.

TakeLessons Rock Star Teacher of the Week: Andrew H.

Andrew HThis week’s Rock Star Teacher of the Week is the talented Andrew H. of Tampa, Florida!  A recent graduate of the University of Southern Florida with a degree in Music Composition, Andrew has been a TakeLessons instructor since July 2009 and has 10 continuing students with an average of 30 lessons per student – which just goes to show how much his students enjoy learning from him.  Andrew began studying piano at the age of 13, and now enjoys sharing his passion for music with his students.  In addition to piano, he also teaches singing, songwriting, music theory, opera, and theatrical Broadway singing.

Andrew’s versatility comes from his background performing and composing many different styles of music, including classical, opera, jazz and pop.  During his collegiate studies, Andrew fell in love with teaching music and has led several church youth choirs and other vocal groups, in addition to working with students one-on-one.  His lesson plans focus on learning fun repertoire that helps each student develop the techniques needed to become a better all-around musician.  Great job, Andrew – we are glad to have you working with us!

How unique is your song title?

Jeff S, our guitar and songwriting teacher from the greater NYC area has given us his insight on how to create a great title for your song:

Some songwriters start out with a patch of melody or a line or two of lyric Songwriting as their creative catalyst.  Others, like me, usually start with a song title.  Obviously, the catchier and more novel your song title is, the greater chance it will stand out and be identifiable with you (as a the songwriter and/or artist).  While a song title is not copyrightable, a strong one can help pique interest and generate listens out of pure curiosity.

As a general guideline, it is probably best to stay away from hackneyed song titles like ”I Love You” or “I Need You”.  On the other end of the spectrum, it is also a wise idea to avoid leeching onto titles that are intrinsically and irrevocably identifiable with the original artist; that they almost become almost proprietary (and in some cases, they are). 

Such iconic songs as Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”, Tom Petty’s “Freefallin’ ” Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”, and Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” fit under this category.  They are so woven into the pop cultural fabric that it would be fool’s gold to try to re-excavate them. These are but a few of such seminal songs, but I’m sure you get my drift. 

And more recently there’s another stockpile of uniquely indelible songs/titles like Amy Warehouse’s ”Rehab”, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” or Beyonce’s, “If I Were A Boy”.  All these are immediately correlated with these artists.

I am in the process of titling my 3rd artist CD and I wanted to see just how “fresh” my potential titles were.  So I typed my 3 leading title contenders into the iTunes search engine and it gave me instant insight and tacit guidance.   I emerged with the realization that I had to dig a bit deeper for a title that wasn’t overused and was able to immediately eliminate some titles that I was considering.

My curiosity was sufficiently ramped up by my research, so I decided to plug in some other titles that popped into mind.  I found 147 songs under the title, “Always” and 75 entries called “The Hard Way” or “Hard Way”.  I was surprised to see 150 songs listed under the title of Addicted “.  And this was just on iTunes, so it reflects just a microcosm.

Besides itunes, there are some other fantastic sources you can utilize (for free!) to get a fix on the creative uniqueness of your song titles.  The major performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, all have super extensive databases. ASCAP has the ACE Title Search.  On the BMI site, look for the word search at the top of their home page.   SESAC has a repertory search at the bottom of their home page.  No matter what title you come up with, have fun and try to find a previously unexplored approach to your title and craft it into something that is truly you!
Jeff S 
Jeff S