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!