A few days ago I wrote about the Nashville Songwriters Association International and their motto – It all begins with a song. Songs are started and finished here in Music City on a daily basis. Nashville isn’t the only town with songwriters – New York, Seattle, Austin, New Orleans, and Los Angeles are all major hubs of creation, along with many more. Music surpasses geographical boundaries, space and time. People are opening up their journals and pulling out their guitars all over the world. As they write though, there is a difference between personal songwriting and the music that “tends” to get cut by “popular” musicians in major music industry cities.
The commercial music business is quite a different machine when compared to the private poetry of independent songwriting. When a songwriter submits a song to Music Row and it lacks a solid melody, rhyme scheme, poor vocals, etc… it is probably not going to be listened to and if it is, it will quickly be tossed aside. A songwriting partner of mine, Frank Michels, has seen and heard a lot of songs in his years here in Nashville.
Frank is the experienced owner of a successful Nashville demo service. He has arranged and recorded hundreds of songs that have been sent to him from all over the United States, even the United Kingdom. Over the years, Frank has been able to see some fatal flaws in these submissions. These flaws make the songs “un-cut-able” no matter how good he can make them sound in his studio.
The follow is a list of the top 5 reasons he has found that songs need to be re-worked:
1. The lyrics don’t lead into the title or hook
“The best way to have a cohesive theme in your song is to start with a title, or at least a strong, single idea. From the very first line of the first verse, ask yourself, ‘How will this line lead into the title?’ For example, if your chorus starts with the title, the last line of the verse should set it up.”
2. The second verse has a different number of lines than the first verse
“Make sure that the length, number and rhythm of your lyrics are consistent from verse to verse. This is mainly a difficulty for folks that do not sing their own songs, or are primarily lyricists.”
3. The music and /or lyrics are dated
“If you want to re-create the sound of your youth for your own satisfaction, that is great; just do not expect Carrie Underwood to record your song. If you do have dreams of getting your song cut, then buy some current releases and study the rhythms and melodies. You could even purchase an inexpensive drum machine to help yourself write to modern beats.”
4. The range of the melody is too broad
“Remember that you want your song to be sung by a lot of people, so do not put in high or low notes that many singers have a difficult time hitting. Try to keep your song within an octave and a half range for most song styles. Keeping the melody lower during the verse is a great way to have room to go up for a lift in the chorus.”
5. The lyrics have been written before a million times
“Before you write a line like, ‘She walked out the door and broke my heart in two’ just stop. Get some inspiration from your own life, and use picture words, and names of actual places, and names of products people use. Show what is happening, don’t just tell us. Make us believe the story you are telling is about real people and real places.”
I have found Frank to be more than a co-writer. His musical abilities and expertise have enhanced my musical life. His encouragement to dig deeper when we collaborate makes me a better writer. I have learned if Frank says it, it is probably true! He has taken me under his wing and you can always be thankful for mentors. If you are in need of a demo of your music – please look him up on line, his professionalism exceeds most and his love of music is apparent. I will highlight his musical abilities in upcoming posts… but for now, just know he can play all the instruments and has been a touring road musician for over 20 years– you can’t beat that! Give his suggestions some thought – let me know if this information has been helpful, I am sure it will be!