A Songwriter’s Pocket Checklist

Though often reserved for the mundane realms of the shopping cart or office Post-it note scene, a good checklist can be a helpful tool in any situation - a collection of stripped-down, simple reminders that quickly focuses the mind toward the core of the matter.

At the risk of appearing clinical or oversimplifying the often amorphous process of songwriting, here are three song-centric bullet points you may find helpful/worth running through before declaring any new composition complete:

- Does it have a good beat? Can you dance to it? No matter what style/genre you’re working in, remember the hook is king. Does your song have at least one melody, chord pattern, phrase, riff or groove that will (potentially) grab the listener and make them want to sing along, cry, scream, dance or bang their head?

- Say anything? Do your song’s lyrics make a definitive statement whether they’re obtuse, simple, serious, silly, etc? Be it “Won’t Get Fooled Again” or “Love Shack”, each makes a strong statement of intent.

- Do you feel it? Does your song convey a strong feeling or mood? Although both are quite intangible, they are still very real commodities. Never underestimate the power of creating an emotional connection between you and your listener.

Despite its grocery list leanings, hope you found the above checklist helpful and worthy of keeping in your back pocket; a little something to refer to next time you stroll down the songwriting aisle.

-Posted by Mark

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Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also a contributing writer for Guitar World as well as the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com

Get it Down: It’s About Time

Timing in life, as they say, is everything…

It’s, obviously, pretty important in music too so let’s talk tempo.

As songwriters we all think of tempo as the most basic of basics. Tempo, or the speed at which we perform a song, is sort of the quiet engine, the driving force behind all our tunes yet because we consider it so ‘Songwriting 101’, tempo can sometimes become songcrafts sadly neglected middle child.

The hard, cold facts are these - Perform a great song too fast and you’ve lost the race. Play a great song too slow and the only animal left in the barn when you finish will be the turtle you rode in on. Your audience may never intellectualize your tempo miscalculations but they will certainly feel them and sense something’s ‘off’.

Disclaimer: I have to admit, I’m pretty horrible at picking the right tempos for my tunes. Conversely, I know a lot of songwriters who are just plain naturals at the process (hate them). If you’re one of the former, like me, here’s a few survival tactics I’ve developed over the years -

Recording -

Before you begin to record those new songs with your band, have all your tunes’ tempos decided upon and documented via the BPM (beats per minute) standard of tempo measurement.

Despite your drummer’s claims of his ‘killer’ feel and his promises of an early departure from the bar the night before recording, the studio is a bad place to pick tempos. Just too much going on.

Every home Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) comes stock with a click track and BPM tempo controls. If you have, use these tools and mess around with your tempos off-line, on your own time. Even record yourself with just one instrument and a vocal at different tempos and listen back ‘till you find the right tempo that works for each particular tune. Then write them down. Even if you don’t plan on recording to a click (aka fixed time) in the studio, your pre-selected tempos will make for a great reference/starting point.

Don’t have a DAW set-up at home? Check this metronome app for iPhone or this free online metronome, these will help you get the job done. And if all else fails, get your hands on an old fashion metronome, it should help as well.

Another tempo-finding hack I’ve employed goes like this - Think about your new song and try and recall a favorite tune from another artist that might have a similar vibe or feel. Dig out that artist’s track and try and figure out what tempo their song lives at. You can do this by using the ‘Tap’ function in your DAW or app.

Once you establish the model song’s tempo, apply that BPM to your tune. It may not be perfect, but it probably will be close. Adjust accordingly and quietly give thanks to super producer Jack Douglas for helping you pick out a tempo for your song via that old Aerosmith record.

Live -

Same thoughts above apply. Before leaving that dingy rehearsal room and stepping on stage, try and get your tempos in place. If your drummer is tempo challenged (& a bunch of good drummers are, believe it or not), they make a lot of tempo-keeping gear for live application that can be used as an on the fly reference. If you can, use these tools. They will stop you from playing that 45min set in 15 (been there, done that).

What are you methods/tricks for getting your tempos down? Let us know.

-Posted by Mark

A recurring feature on IVC, “Get it Down” will cover subjects related to capturing our songs/song ideas and the tools we use for that purpose. Posts on recording, gear, etc will all be fair game.



Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com





Get it Down

Welcome to another recurring feature on IVC called - “Get it Down”. Here we’ll try and cover subjects related to capturing our songs/song ideas and the tools we use for that purpose. Posts on recording, gear, etc will all be fair game.

In this piece, I thought I’d share some thoughts on a few really simple tools I personally use on a regular basis to capture my song ideas.

Let’s face it, inspiration doesn’t always strike when we’re sitting at home in front of the piano. The muse may call in the car, the plane or the Laundromat. As such, I find myself relying more and more on the only tool I always seem to have in pocket; my smartphone.

These days the iPhone has become my default songwriting assistant of sorts. If a new melody comes to mind, rather than hoping I’ll remember it when I get to a guitar, I’ll quickly pop open the “voice memo” app that comes stock with iPhone and hum my idea into the phone for posterity. I have to say it’s a pretty affective way of remember song ideas and really, you don’t need an iPhone to do this. Most all smartphones and even basic cell phones have some sort of voice recorder built in. You might look insane singing into your phone on the street but hey, people think musicians are crazy anyway.

Another smartphone tool I find myself using is a free app called ‘Dragon Dictation’. If a song title or lyrical idea comes to me out of the blue, I’ll pop open Dragon and just dictate a verse or chorus out loud while the app transcribes everything I say, instantly converting it to text on screen. From there, Dragon allows me to send my (already typed up!) new lyrics to my home computer via email or even share them via text to a collaborator I might be working with. Pretty neat.

Do you have any hacks that help you get your ideas down when inspiration calls? Let us know.

-Posted by Mark


Mark Bacino
is a singer/songwriter based in New York City with three album releases to his credit as an artist. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark is also the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus.

www.introversechorus.com