Monday, September 19, 2011

Why Bother With Journaling?

These 7 hints are for anyone's info... why you can benefit from keeping a bound book of notes that you carry with you. A future blog will show how to use your journal to efficiently write dozens of songs, if you want :)

JOURNAL DETAILS: Size and style depends on your special needs. I use an 8x10 fake-leather bound lined journal with 400 pages... The first and last 25 are for organizing NOTES and QUOTES. I fill up about 350 pages every 2-1/2 months.

There are currently about 190 original songs written and performed by me on (last update: 12/31/2011) and I have journal notes WITH sketched out music for another 100 or so, written in only 3 years. I could not write so many songs if I didn't keep my journal WITH me almost always, and record ideas immediately. (I'm forgetful... as we all are when "Life happens.") If there are songs in you that you yearn to write, you can easily do the same!

1. To feel better. Writing helps us to “work out” why we feel as we do, helps us learn who we really are. Seeing the causes for why we feel as we do often helps us to control our emotions and to see that feelings aren’t always logical – or, sometimes, even based on truth.
2. To learn from mistakes. When we record our mistakes, we’re more likely to remember them and learn....
3. To provide a place to record our insights. One day these might make great songs... like the humor of noticing a giant tail on a tiny squirrel, which led to my complete song WONDER.
4. For just plain fun sometimes, to go back and see how we thought or what we did years ago. (It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself:)
5. As a comfort to remember as you read about the bad things that happened to you that you pushed out of your memory, that you survived them... even if not in the ways that you wanted at the time. A cool Bible verse is 2nd Corinthians 1:4 observes that we can comfort other people with the comfort that helped us in the past. There's joy in helping other people. And we can see a bit of good come from whatever happened to us.
6. Journaling provides a data source - important for songwriters. We can record facts and ideas that we can later come back to. It’s especially useful to use margin symbols (like a moon for dreams and music note for song idea). These can help us teaching, recording songs or inventions or magazine article ideas, etc. Example: I recorded in my journal cool research on migratory studies; later I used them to write WHO TAUGHT BUTTERFLIES as a song full of both humor and actual scientific information.
7. Journals provide a good location for records. I jot down info from notes I send friends, and even staple or tape things like cards from people in mine for future enjoyment. And a journal makes a safe place for your Christmas Gift list:)
Much joy to you in preparing your resource journals for future songwriting!
©2011 DianaDee Osborne

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fast Practice for Difficult Singing

Many songwriters record their draft tracks in a home studio. If you do, you'll really love this hint. And if you don't, it still will help you "warm up" before recording a vocal track at the studio.
This hint works for any recording program; I use GarageBand myself, so that's my familiar example to share:)

1. Create a duplicate of the track that you sing to, and label it "TEMP" (temporary).
2. Find the place where you want to strengthen your singing with more practice.
3. Split the track a little before and a little after that place.
4. Open the Notation View (Score) and look at the very front top of your separated-out practice region. You'll notice a little ➤ arrow enclosed in a box after the name of the region, just above the ruler.
5. If you click on that arrow, GarageBand will play the region over and over and over until you press the space bar to stop the play. Other recording programs are capable of doing the same.

Hints for splitting GarageBand tracks are on my blog at
especially in August 2011.
Much joy to you in strengthening confidence as your note region repeats!
©2011 DianaDee Osborne

Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Mistakes - Lost in the Music

My July 28th post mentions that sometimes you should KEEP your mistakes long enough to really listen to them... because sometimes they turn out to be fantastic unpredictable music that adds a unique variety to your music that no one else would think of. Besides.... if you keep your mistake, it is no longer an error but a Design!

This hint is for songwriters who record initial tracks into their computer, such as with a GarageBand program. Sometimes when you play from your draft written music, you "get lost" and just sort of keep playing until you figure out where you were. At least, if you like me are not a perfectionist... if you're eager to record before you've completely mastered your music. The common response is to go back into the Notation view for the recorded track (let's say piano) and delete all your wrong measures and notes.

But consider: The phrase "pregnant pause" has meaning in music too. Quite often, you've gotten lost after a really strong music section. That pause meandering over the keys until you figured out "where you are" just might provide the mood change that bridges your song pieces and adds tremendous depth to your song. That gives the listener time to think and contemplate the lyrics. That gives time to really feel the music.

One of my favorite songs where I kept getting lost is "Prayer Pre-Requisites"... it's full of meandering note sections that I listened to during the song development and decided to not only keep but to copy through the length of the song. AS IN LIFE, MISTAKES OFTEN ADD INTEREST AND COLOR.....
Much joy to you in enjoying PLAYING music... not "working music"! :)
©2011 DianaDee Osborne

DianaDee Osborne GARAGEBAND Deliberate Percussion Mistakes

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Copyright Package Description (updated 1/2/2012)

An amusing Viewpoints newspaper article here on East Coast of the U.S. began with these words after the Virginia earthquake on Tuesday (that never happens in Va!), horrendous thunderstorm on Thursday, Hurricane Irene on Saturday, and resulting floods ---- "Now that we've had the Dress Rehearsal for the Apocalypse...."

Perhaps now we all might be writing the "songs in our heads" a little faster! This is the first of several blogs with hints on how to make preparation for your copyright package a lot (LOT) easier, based on my trials and exciting discoveries of how to streamline the organization.

To begin: You probably know that you can copyright any song just by writing
©2012 Your Name
with your song title. If it makes you feel better, you can add "All Rights Reserved." Of course, in real life, we know that the happier results tend to go to whoever has the biggest lawyer, and we're not discussing seatbelt size.

Did you know that it is REALLY inexpensive AND pretty easy to officially copyright your song with the U.S. Government Copyright Office?
Better yet, did you know that you can copyright 50 songs for the same cost as a single song?

1. The government copyright office (just google that phrase) has set up a rather use-friendly site for filling out the application with their eCO system (see 1/2/2012 blog for more details). The hardest part for authors is trying to figure out exactly what categories fit what you're copyrighting. For musicians it's easy: SOUND RECORDING.
If it is all original material, you still want to select "Music Arrangement" as well as music, lyrics, text, editing, and don't forget audio files.
"Music" = the notes; audio files are the recordings of those notes. Music arrangement is your unique adaptation, especially important if you've included any part of a Public Domain song, such as an old hymn. (Check out for more information on these.)

2. To prepare your copyright package, you will need (a) PDF files for paper versions of your song -- lyrics and scores, OR you can use a music notation method such as the OTEN method described as a resource at; and (b) MP3 files for the audio recordings. That's it! A future blog will give hints on easy organization. IMPT -- Your audio recordings do NOT have to be mastered and all gorgeously ready for CD distribution. You need only enough music to convey your creative concept. Don't delay just to get a great sound. The copyright office doesn't care.

3. You also do NOT have to wait until you've filled an album before preparing a copyright package. See #4 for the easy organization method that avoids this need. Later you or your representatives can do a collective album package if you want. These hints are designed more for indie musician-writers like myself who aren't waiting "to be signed".

4. I define "package" as a set of more than one song. I use a single "collective" name for every copyright package. My example: I have a dozen or so albums. As I write a new song, I assign it to the album name that best fits its theme, such as Amazing Hope 'n' Humor, or "Amazing Peace 'n' Passion." BUT for the COPYRIGHT package, I use a simple 2-step naming method:

(a) The title of my work for every package is
(b) In the space, I put the year and the package letter.

EXAMPLES: My first package was simply "2006 through 2009".
Then in 2010 I prepared and submitted three packages. The last of those is
During 2011 I copyrighted packages in 3-month groups, entitled
for January-March, and so on through 2011-G for Oct-Dec.
I continued the alphabet because it's easier in file folder naming... more on that another day.
Much joy to you in the eager anticipation of formally copyrighting your songs!
©2011 DianaDee Osborne

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Lose Your SONG Ideas!

A marvelous song idea just came into your head! You're sitting at your computer hooked up to your instrument and microphone--- So you just instantly call up your recording program, play your instrument and sing your marvelous song. And now your wonderful song idea is preserved until you have time to really develop it. Right?

Nope. Maybe in some movie. But in real life, you're in heavy traffic, or balancing a child while you cook, or sweating as you exercise (which technically includes mowing the lawn), or struggling to meet a work deadline.... you get the picture. Great song ideas don't conveniently wait until you're ready to record them. And thus great song ideas are usually lost... unless you're ready.

1. NOTEBOOK and PEN. This is a well-known way to avoid losing song ideas: Keep these by your bedside, because you'll often awaken with song fragments or even complete song ideas.
2. CLIPBOARD and MARKER. Keeping these near you as you drive can come in handy for when you come to a STOP (Please! the other drivers cry!) and can quickly jot down notes. There's a kind of clipboard that is plastic with a clasp that opens a small container. It's a great way to keep a clean sheet always on top, without losing written-on sheets that you've been able to store until you can get your ideas to a computer.
3. CHILD'S KEYBOARD BOOK. I'm not kidding. There's a Somebody The Train book that has a little keyboard on top that's accurate except for the high C. Pretty convenient even for the subway or parking lot! Of course, you can always keep an old guitar in the back of your vehicle like I do also... that's really nice for good weather days for relaxing outdoors until the bugs start enjoying your music adventure.
4. VOICE RECORDER. Since the stop lights aren't so numerous and lengthy in the areas where I drive, I was finding myself pulling over to the side of the road a LOT to jot down notes. It takes only one really rude or dangerous driver to make a great idea fly out of the mind forever. So I was delighted to find that a very inexpensive voice recorder will save song ideas. What works for me:
a._____Keeping the VR in a cell phone container clipped to the top side of my driver-side visor. No fumbling around to find it.
b._____Playing with the VR until I can hit the Record and the Stop buttons WITHOUT LOOKING at the VR. Then I can keep my eyes on the road.
c. _____Keeping a sketch of idea locations if you start filling your VR folders. Otherwise you'll be ready to start developing a song that's on your Voice Recorder "somewhere."
d._____Remembering to "Safely Remove Hardware" if you hook the VR to your computer to copy files. The instructions for my VR didn't bother to mention that the VR will no longer be able to record until you completely re-format it (that is -- lose all the files, sometimes inconvenient even though they're on your computer).
HINT 1: In your computer directory, keep the VN number but edit the filename to add (at the end) a word or two reminding you which song this is.
HINT 2: It's helpful to later edit that filename to have the actual song title... otherwise as you write more and more songs, you'll forget that you "already used that one." Been there done that.
5. Learn a TEXT -based NOTATION METHOD. I created a method that is fully described at my website,
where anyone who knows the note name and how to count to 8 can write out music on a plain sheet of paper. No special staff paper is needed. No knowledge of the foreign language of music symbols is needed. Using your notebook and pen and Child's Keyboard,
you can easily write out any marvelous song idea that comes into your head.
....And the song ideas that you later realize the World isn't quite ready for:)
Much joy in song writing and the glory of music to you!
©2011 DianaDee Osborne

Monday, August 1, 2011

DianaDee Easy Guitar Chord substitutes

As a songwriter, it's helpful to decide: Which will be your song's main instrument? If only a fairly skilled pianist will ever play it, then the key of Ab (with four flats and a few horrific guitar chord formations:) is great. But perhaps consider the ease of playing if you're hoping guitarists will join in with your music. And consider some chord substitutes. Or "Color" chords... those with numbers after their chord names!

I admit it: I've played guitar for 7 years now and still struggle with guitar chords. I blame small hands, but lack of practice and determination don't help! Still, my "lack" is helpful to other people including children, since I've worked out some *EASY* chord substitutes. In the chart below,
000000 stands for the 6 strings of a guitar; for example
022000 means hold down the A and D strings at fret 2 (an E minor chord).
An 'x' means to not play that string, or to mute it by touching it slightly with a finger or palm.

Eb is a bear to play on guitar, but it's the root of one of the most popular chords for pianists, since the key of Eb major has only two flats. An easy guitar substitute:
Use G minor 7th (Gm7). 3x3333
1. Put your thumb across the G at E string 3rd fret;
2, Touch thumb tip to the A string to mute it; and
3. Wrap your other fingers around the other strings, pressing Fret 3 for each.
Adding the 7th in chords often fits. Here, you lose some of the 'pretty' tone, which doesn't matter if the bassist or keyboardist are playing the Eb chord with that Eb as the 'bottom' while you put the chord's G as your bottom note. So try this one sometime instead of Eb.
Eb7 chord = Eb G Bb D
Gm7 chord = G Bb D F

HINT: This is the easy form for every minor 7th chord. Can't play Cm7? Use this form at Fret 8 (remembering that the E string at fret 8 is a C note).

C {CEG notes} is harder to play than Cmaj7: x32000
And C2 is jazzy easy version of C: x32030 (adds D)

F (FAC} is difficult for many, but Fmaj7 often fits as well:
(1) xx3210 adds the 7th by opening the E string on top
(2) x03210 is the same but gets the F chord's A on bottom

D {DF#A} is easy for most adults but hard until wrists strengthen, especially for children.
D2 is an easier substitute for an acceptable sound: xx0230 {DAE}
and a nice jazzy substitute even if D is easy for you.

Much Joy in Easy Songwriting to you!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Painful Keys for Songs

If you are a keyboardist / pianist as I am, you know which keys are painful to play, except to very experienced musicians: E major and B major. Four Sharps; five sharps. And who ever remembers the key of the scale with six sharps? Songwriters often write in the key they're most comfortable with... that's understandable.

So, if you're a guitarist songwriter: If your song will fit just as well in D as in E, please consider having mercy on the poor keyboardist.... Select some other key besides our favorite guitar key of E. (Some vocalists would thank you for selecting D instead also.... easier for most.)

But if you're a keyboardist songwriter: Think of how hard four sharps are, and consider giving some RETURN MERCY to all us guitarists and bassists --- avoid the keys of Bb and Eb.  Go JUST ONE  HALF  STEP  difference to C,  or  to D  (A with its 3 sharps can be hard for keyboardists;  F is hard for many guitarists to play.)

       Yes, these are common keys in classical music and hymnals. Yes, flats are easy to reach on the keyboard. Yes, Saxophonists and other brass and wind instrument players like flats. But there are two main reasons to avoid choosing a Flat key if you hope that guitarists and bassists will play it well:

(1)  On the guitar, only musicians who've learned to barre can play full Eb, Ab, Bb, and B chords. Bb is rather weak to play, just the three strings of the A form but 1 fret higher on the neck (fret 3). Ab is also weak to play without barre chords.... the same three strings in A form at fret 1 rather than 2. But that moveable form doesn't work for Eb... there's no 'shortcut' to even a basic Eb sound on guitar, and we don't even have a low Eb note to pluck.
(2)  On the bass, you lose the beautiful resonating open E string as a bottom note if the song is in the key of Eb. Yes, five-stringers can play the B string 4th fret... but there's something about the depth of that open E string you'll miss. And  bassists won't be able to add a gorgeous double-stop *thick* E sound with an open E string plus A string Fret 7 plucked simultaneously. Much Joy in Easy Songwriting to you!
©2011 DianaDee

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Music Mistakes? -Keep 'Em!

If you record your music right at the computer, here's a fun hint: Sometimes -- just KEEP YOUR MISTAKES! (By the way, if you do, then they're no longer "mistakes" but your unique touch on the World of Music!)

Perhaps you've accidentally let your right hand "miss" -- instead of the usual three-note chord that you planned, you hit 5 clashing notes. Before you hit "delete" on a couple of notes, listen to the full sound. If your song is in a minor key, this "mistake" may very well be one of the best chords you could give it, providing a dark dreary mood that perfectly fits your lyrics.

Goofed while recording your vocals? Maybe the "mistake" is perfect for your song's feel (mood). Sliding into the note might add a comfortable touch for your listeners. Even going off-key can be perfect if the song is about making mistakes! In DORKY SONG (, I got slightly off key at the end of verse 1 but kept singing since it was just a first draft anyway. But at the end of verse 2, I got so far off key that I cracked up laughing... and my producer was so surprised that he didn't hit the STOP button. It was the session end... 3 AM... so I decided to just go ahead and put the draft on the website to have "something" there 'til the next session. In the meanwhile, listening to my sampler CD during the week, I enjoyed my laughter so much that we ended up keeping it in the final mix---

MISTAKES CAN ADD A "PERSONALITY" TO YOUR SONG that **only** you can give it! Try keeping them awhile to see if you grow to like your personal touch! It's no longer a mistake after you decide to keep it! Much Joy in Easy Songwriting to you!

This blog is related to my GarageBand Hints blog dated 23 August 2011....
Deliberate Percussion Mistakes

(written with much joy at finally having internet access again!)
©2011 DianaDee

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lyrics 101 b: Picking Words

OK, say you have a basic idea of what words you want in your song... but how do you decide WHICH words? Here's one very, very useful hint from personal experience: DO NOT LOCK YOURSELF into your originally selected words... Be flexible. After you have written the music and start fitting the lyrics syllables into the music (see earlier blog Lyrics 101a), test the words to be sure you or someone else can actually sing them with that music. Be willing to change them if needed. Surely some other wording can get across the same point?

Remember those old tongue-twister riddles of your childhood? "She sells sea shells by the sea shore"? Well, some word combinations are just as hard... especially when you try to fit them into music. A practical example from my current song in progress, "Amniotic Rest":

ORIGINAL WORDS, in 4/4 time showing one measure per line (eight 8th notes), where an underscore shows a half-count rest note:
"Mark __ 9's ex-am-ple that God
un-der-stands my ques-tion-ing __"

Those are great words, referencing a cool story in the Bible, in Mark 9:24 where Jesus didn't zap the guy for saying he didn't quite believe Jesus... Jesus simply healed the man's child. Sadly, my head disagreed with this wording for the lyrics as I tried to sing this-- even in a rather slow song. I had just a half-count to breathe before starting the next line, even if I managed to shove all of those syllables into two measures without stuttering.

RE-WRITTEN WORDS that are far easier to sing;
"Mark _ 9's __Word __God __
un-der-stands my doubts __ __ __"

This says the same and basically misses only one word, "THAT God understands..." In our common language, our head will hear that word anyway, so there's a needed rest by deleted an unnecessary little word "that." And don't be afraid to change your lyrics at the last minute: So often I've gotten to the studio to record a song and found myself tongue-tied trying to get out a line that seemed to work at home during practice.'s your song, you get to enjoy making any changes you want!

By the way-- ONLY you can change the lyrics if you've copyrighted your song.... see future blogs for hints from personal experience. Much Joy in Easy Songwriting to you!
©2011 DianaDee

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lyrics 101 a: Accented counts

How do you know where to divide a word in your melody? Each syllable needs a note, but which note? (see 101b) Which count? In all time signatures, count 1 gets an accent, so put accented syllable there if it fits. Example: "Resounding drum crashes puncture the air."

(1) Since "-sound-" is the accented (louder) syllable of the the first word, it needs to be on count 1. So "Re-" is the last count of your previous measure. At this point, it doesn't matter if it's 3/4 or 4/4 or etc. time.

(2) Both "crashes" and "puncture" are cool color-packing words. Which goes on an accented count? This is where you the songwriter get to decide your time signature -- how many counts will be in each measure. But first: WHAT is an accented count? Quick guide below:
Accented count just means which one is louder, which helps you keep the beat.

-- 3/4 time (also called waltz time since you can sway to it... think of cobra dances:), puts the accented count first, on 1 so you have (LOUD soft soft), Lss, in your measure.
-- 4/4, Count 1 is louder but count 3 is medium loud, more than others, not as much as Count 1: LsMs.
-- 6/8 time is similar to 3/4 except that the 4th count is not as loud as the first: LssMss.
-- 7/4 time is a cool off-beat I love for my rock songs... LssMsss OR you can choose LsssMss. Just add up to 7.

These all assume "quarter notes" but that's perhaps TMI (too much info... not really needed unless you want to count half notes in 2/2 time, etc..... let's not, shall we?!)

(3) So, back to the question, which syllable do you next accent in: "Resounding drum crashes puncture the air"? It's your fun as the songwriter to decide what sounds good to you, what matches the 'music in your head'. Here are some possibilities, where underlines represent music rests:

EXAMPLE 1 ... 3/4 time (3 counts per measure)
Emphasize the syllables "CRASH" and "PUNC-ture" and AIR:
___ ___ Re-
SOUND- ing drum
CRASH - es ___
PUNC- ture the
AIR ___ ___

EXAMPLE 2 ... 6/8 time sounds milder.
Emphasize only the syllables "PUNC-ture" and AIR:
__ __ __ __ __ Re-
SOUND- ing drum Crash- es __
PUNC- ture the Air __ __

EXAMPLE 3 ... 4/4 time (4 counts per measure)
__ __ Re-
SOUND- ing __ __
DRUM crash- es ___
PUNC- ture ___ the
AIR __ __ __

EXAMPLE 4 ... 7/4 time (suggested for hard rock)...
and this example begins differently, on RE, for different feeling,
and the accent is heavy on count 1, somewhat heavy on count 4:

RE- sound- ing __ Drum crash- es
PUNC- ture __ __ Thun- der through
AIR split- ting Ears of all....

HINT: it is easier to write 7/4 songs against a drum machine to be sure you put the syllables where they make the most impact... if you can program the beat to give a slight accent to either count 4 or 5. However, the built-in metronome accents only count 1 since it doesn't know whether you'll be giving the slight accenting to 4 or 5.

WHICH example is right or best? There IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG. Hey -- this is YOUR song... Enjoy! Create whatever music your hear and want to share. And it's a joy for me to share ideas that might bring you Joy in Easy Songwriting for Us all.
--DianaDee Osborne ©2011 has free examples with downloadable MP3's, templates, easy text-based music notation method.