Blog Archives

Writing Our Hallmark Songs

Guest Blogger: Andrea Stolpe is the author of Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling (Berklee Press)
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Recently I was standing in front of the Father’s Day card section at my local drugstore, trying to pick out a card that didn’t ooze with corny platitudes.  Forced rhyme, canned emotion, and seaside graphics littered too many of my options, so finally I settled on a good laugh rather than a heartfelt expression.
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The very language used to express sincere devotion was instead working to expose my relationship for what it really was – flawed, less than ideal, and a work in progress. I couldn’t help but think how the same is true for so many song lyrics.  We start with a burst of inspiration, driven by intense feelings surrounding a place, person, or concept.  But more times than not, that emotion is not felt with the same intensity by the listener.  The feelings are so big, that to capture them we use generalized language, cliches.  But instead of inviting connection, we create distance.  Perhaps that distance is our safe defense to remain invulnerable.
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The challenge a songwriter faces is bringing the listener into a moment so that in context of that moment those familiar phrases that are the language of our hearts feel intensely true again.  If I were writing a greeting card, it would probably start like those I passed up on the drugstore shelf.  But once all that general sludge oozes out, we can employ our songwriting tools to get more original material going.  Songwriters use the process of object writing to describe a pivotal experience or a poignant moment in time.  Taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, and movement descriptions paint a world for the listener (or reader) to walk around in.  It sets the stage for the listener to ‘feel’.  I like to let my mind wander while I’m object writing, reminiscing about a specific situation with my loved one.  My goal is to describe that moment so clearly that the listener can taste and touch and hear and smell and see as I did living within that moment.  Then, when the listener becomes so immersed in the scene that he’s forgotten about his own world, I whisper those sweet nothings that seem so cliche but utterly true.  So for now, I think I’ll let Hallmark provide the humor, but leave the genuine expression of devotion for my own writing sessions.
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Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling
Write songs that sell! Hit-songwriter/educator Andrea Stolpe shares time-tested tools of commercial songwriting. Her ten-step process will help you to craft lyrics that communicate heart to heart with your audience. She analyzes hit lyrics from artists such as Faith Hill and John Mayer, and reveals why they are successful and how you can make your own songs successful too. Stolpe advises on how to: streamline and accelerate your writing process; use lyric structures and techniques at the heart of countless hit songs; write even when you’re not inspired; more!

Jokes for Film Composers

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Guest Post: Jonathan Feist is the author of Project Management for Musicians, published by Berklee Press, distributed by Hal Leonard.

Here’s a joke about a film composer that I like to tell to my project management students—among other reasons, because there just aren’t enough jokes about film composers, out there! It nearly made it into my book, Project Management for Musicians, but I had to cut it out, due to space constraints.

So, this film composer goes to his doctor, and says, “Doc, I’m supposed to be finishing up a film score, but I just can’t concentrate. I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I have Lyme Disease?”

The doctor looks at him and says, “Lyme Disease! Did you see a bullseye rash? Do you have any joint pain?”

The composer says, “Well, I’m a little sore, but I think that’s just from skiing last weekend. We went to Aspen for a few days. I was hoping the mountain air would clear my head. But no dice, I still can’t write.”

The doctor asks, “What about your reflexes? Do you notice any change in your hand-eye coordination?”

The composer says, “Hmm, nah, in fact, I just got my highest score ever playing Guitar Hero with my daughter. We play every day for a couple hours when she gets home from school. My reflexes are in tip-top shape.”

The doctor thinks for a minute, then asks, “Tell me, how many drinks do you have in a week?’

The composer shrugs and says, “Not too many, really. Maybe a beer at lunch. A couple glasses of wine at dinner. But not to excess, I’m not a real big drinker.”

The doctor nods, frowns, and says, “Hmm, I think I know what’s wrong with you. “

“You do?”

Yes,” he says. “I’m afraid, there’s something wrong with your butt.”

“With my butt?!” cries the composer, shocked.

“Yes,” says the doctor. “It’s too far from your chair!”

Do you also suffer from CBPS— Chair/Butt Proximity Syndrome? It’s a common affliction, in music as with any profession. Studying project management can help!

Project Management for Musicians

Get organized, and take charge of your music projects! This book will help you harness your creativity into clear visions and effective work plans. Whether you are producing a recording, going on tour, developing a studio, launching a business, running a marketing campaign, creating a music curriculum, or any other project in the music industry, these road-tested strategies will help you to succeed. Music projects come in all sizes, budgets, and levels of complexity, but for any project, setting up a process for planning, executing, and monitoring your work is crucial in achieving your goals. This book will help you clarify your vision and understand the work required to complete it on time, within budget, and to your highest possible quality standard. It is a comprehensive approach, with hundreds of music industry-specific tools for keeping your work on track, mitigating risk, and reducing stress, so that you can complete your project successfully. You will learn to: develop work strategies; delegate tasks; build and manage teams; organize your project office; develop production schedules; understand and organize contracts; analyze risk; and much more.