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Connecting Songwriters Throughout Northeast Ohio

News And Updates

Volume 3 Issue 5

May 2019

Music Delivers

Ken Moody-Arndt, President

“Music is the only religion that delivers the goods” — so stated a sticker that I saw, not too long ago, on the bumper of the car belonging to one of our partners in crime.

Oh! Heh-heh! I just said “religion,” didn’t I? Oops! Sorry about that! Not supposed to do that in a publication like this.

But anyway now that I’ve mentioned it — why don’t we go ahead and look at that solemn assertion. How does music “…deliver the goods” — in whichever theistic, atheistic, agnostitistic, or don’t-give-a-whatever-istic way you might want to take that? How does music “…deliver the goods” in a way that keeps you coming back to a songwriters’ group like ours? How did music “…deliver the goods” for you, in your past, in a way that inspires you to come to a group like ours?

I can think of many examples from my own life:

— the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” (okay, eeeeverybody sing with me: “…but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you just might find, you get what you need…”) — hearing that song, for the first time, right at that moment when I got what I needed, if not necessarily what I wanted, or even expected;
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Pacing The Cage
— a totally secular Bruce Springsteen song with a line in it that — intentionally on the Boss’s part or not, doesn’t matter — could have come straight out of the book of Romans — learning that song, performing it, watching it “deliver the goods” in every church, conservative, liberal, whatever, that I’ve ever served;

— one of Dylan‘s more obscure songs, when I take the time to really think about it, invoking an entire world of meaning and living, even if the words on the face of it don’t make any sense at all;

— Bruce Cockburn’s “Pacing the Cage” becoming real for me in a new way as, later in life, I assume the presidency of a nonprofit;

All of us, musicians, songwriters at whatever level of development, are looking to create that song. Even if we do this solely for our own enjoyment, we’re doing it because we want to “deliver,” for ourselves or for others, in a way that speaks in the same way music has spoken to us. However music “delivers” for you, we are here to help you make music that “delivers the goods.”

The Reprise:
A Mother's Day Showcase Memory

Don Henson, Founder
As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. And Mayflowers bring Pilgrims. May is the month of several celebrations including Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. But no celebration in May is as special as Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day has always held a special place in our hearts and Songwriter Summit is no exception. For many years, Mother’s Day meant we were preparing for our annual showcase, usually performed Mother’s Day weekend at the Quirk Cultural Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

In 2008, several of our members got together to write the finale for our
Treat Your Mamma Right showcase and we decided it would also be the name of the song. The challenge was pretty simple: 12 bar Blues in Ab, write a verse that you will sing, and the chorus will fall into place pretty easily and everyone would sing along. Five verses later along with instrumentals rounded out the song very nicely.

Sunday May 12th is Mother’s Day this year and I’m lucky enough to still be able to visit Mom and celebrate this special day with her.

Here’s the finale of our 2008 Showcase with some familiar and not so familiar faces. Enjoy!
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"2008 Showcase Finale."

Treat Your Mamma Right

Tin Pan South - Revisited

Bobby Patetta
Last year in these pages I told of the good fortune my wife and I had in stumbling upon a songwriter’s festival in Nashville known as Tin Pan South. This year luck had nothing to do with it. We intentionally routed ourselves through Nashville on the way home from Florida for the primary purpose of attending this year’s festival.

It turns out that Tin Pan South is the largest songwriter’s festival in the world, showcasing hundreds of writers in ten different venues around the city, each of which offers two shows a night featuring four or more different performers at each show in round-robin fashion. The whole thing took place over five days, March 26-30, and had very much the same feel as a major international film festival.

This year we jumped in with both feet (or ears) purchasing fast-access passes and lanyards that insured admittance to any show, with preferred seating. These were not cheap, but we found them to be worth the expense. Attendees can otherwise pay $10-$15 per show, with no guarantee of availability. Several shows we attended were sold out. Some shows also had a food/drink minimum.

Venues included the legendary Bluebird Cafe and the Station Inn, rough-hewn taverns decorated with posters of many acts that have appeared over the years, but also the local Hard Rock Cafe and The Analog at Hutton Hotel, a 5,000-square-foot venue with dedicated sound system and lights, elevated stage, plush seating and hand-crafted cocktails.

We were provided with catalogs listing the performers at each show, and decided which to attend, a difficult task, as nearly all the names were new to us. This is not surprising, as neither of us knows much about country music. Jan will often claim that she doesn’t really like Country music.

Nonetheless, choices were made easier with the recognition of a few names and some of the songs the more accomplished had penned. We chose one show based on the total number of Grammy Awards won by the participants!

The show at the Bluebird had the performers facing each other “in the round” in the center of the room. Our preferred seating allowed us to sit close enough to read a guitar player’s iPad notation along with him. We’re talking intimate here. This was something we prized, as one of our faves, Ashley Campbell, was one of the acts. She’s the daughter of the late Glen Campbell, and we had seen her before, and she is simply wonderful. On the same ticket was Jenny Gill, daughter of Vince Gill, and to our surprise, Ashley said to Jenny, “we ought to get together sometime. We have a lot in common.” That sort of casual conversation was typical of all the performances.
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Jenny Gill

Other favorites that week included Dan Tyminski, winner of 14 Grammy Awards with Alison Krauss & Union Station; Songwriters Hall-of-Famer Mack Davis; and Allen Shamblin, who brought us to tears with a tender rendition of his “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” a song that’s been recorded over 500 times and made famous by Bonnie Raitt.

Not all of the performances were “great.” One has to keep in mind that these are primarily songwriters, not Country Stars or even performers. But many performances shone by virtue of the composers singing their own material. There were also some young up-and-comers who still had some learning to do, and some who were there because a record company or publishing house wanted to see if they’d get any traction. But they were all quite good, and every one of them had at least one song that made their presence compelling, even for Jan, who doesn’t really like Country music.

This was also a bit of a learning experience for me. As the songwriters introduced their songs, I noticed that at least 80% mentioned a cowriter or two when introducing a song. I find writing with another challenging, but it has obvious advantages. (One singer mentioned a couple cowriters that included Akron’s own Dan Auerbach, member of the Black Keys and son of Songwriter Summit member Chuck Auerbach.)

Another interesting tidbit was frequent mention of the “writer’s room.” Most of these folks approach songwriting as a regular nine-to-five job. They are paid to show up to the writer’s room in the morning, usually meeting with a designated cowriter, and toss about ideas, banging out song after song in hopes of the occasional hit. One mentioned spending a whole day together on one song without getting much further than a title and part of a chorus. After sleeping on it, they came back the next day and turned it into a hit. Shamblin mentioned that his trademark ballad started out with a bluegrass feel, only to become a megahit after some writer’s room tweaking.
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At The Station Inn

Most songs start with a germ of an idea that can be turned into a “hook.” Any phrase, any snippet of conversation, indeed, any word can trigger the songwriting muse. One artist came up with a clever comeback during some between-songs joking around, prompting another to say, “I’m gonna use that for a song.” The originator of the phrase said, “I better get cowriting credit and royalties!” The exchange was laughable, but the lesson was clear. Almost every good song revolves about a simple, memorable idea captured in a few words. The Hook. The rest is exposition, explanation, expansion - all in service of the Hook.

Song structure started to clearly emerge, the more we listened. I would say that 90% of the songs we heard were based more or less upon the same template. After a short intro a verse was presented, followed by either a second verse or a chorus/refrain that presented the hook. If a second verse came next, it too was followed by reinforcement of the hook. Next would come an instrumental release, preceded or followed by - and Don Henson will love this - a Bridge! Songs built on this template almost always had a bridge, a section as short as a single measure or long as feels comfortable based on different chords than any previous material, instrumental or sung, and even jumping into another key before coming back. Next is either another verse followed by chorus/refrain, or just the chorus/refrain, repeated to the end of the song. There is no reticence about repeating that chorus, as therein lies the hook, the whole reason for the song's existence, and ostensibly, the catchiest, most memorable lines of the song.

As formulaic as all this sounds, it is a formula that provably works. There were a few songs that were couched in the folk song structure of verse + chorus, verse + chorus, verse + chorus, etc., or verse, verse, verse, chorus, verse, verse, chorus. A couple were based on 12-bar blues. Nothing wrong with those forms - just look at Bob Dylan, John Prine, Muddy Waters and so many others. But Nashville, source of so much American music (which, by the way, Jan is starting to admit that she likes!) is built upon these few elements.

And if you ever find yourself with the time and money, go visit Nashville in late March. You’ll find yourself educated, enlightened and entertained.

Beware Of Your Writing Habits

Bob Sammon
Some of you may remember an exercise we did a while back when Bev walked around after a meeting and let each of us pick a fortune cookie out of a bag. We were then to write a song based on the fortune and present it at the next meeting. Some of us took on the challenge. Some decided to pass.

Initially I thought it was one of the dumbest ideas I'd ever heard but then I'd never heard about the idea of writing to a prompt before. After ignoring the project for two weeks I finally sat down with pen in hand and took a stab at it. What developed was, in my view, pretty decent. In fact, it was good enough to add the song to my setlist and perform it at various venues around town. That, in itself, proved that my initial take on the project was flawed and that I really needed to be open to new ideas.
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I'd never heard about the idea of writing to a prompt before."

Fast forward to an open mic about a year later at Prince of Peace church in Westlake. As part of my set I did"That's How the Fortune Cookie Crumbles." And felt pretty good about how it went over. The laugh lines all hit in the right places. The song worked.

As I was walking off the stage my friend Gary Hall noted that the melody on the verses was familiar. Ken Moody-Arndt agreed and we tracked it down to a note for note comparison to one of my other songs. Oops. I felt like an idiot. Not recognizing my own tune was a bit of a bummer. Since then, I've been experimenting and trying to come up with a new lick. In the meantime the song is off the setlist.

You'd think that would have been a fair warning. Well not for me. It just happened again with a song I was working on. I was just about finished when it started to sound just a little too familiar. The more I played it the more I was convinced I'd heard part of it before. I decided to play it without the lyrics and discovered that - much to my chagrin - I'd"borrowed" just a bit of"City Of New Orleans." I was lucky this time because I caught it early and was able to correct the problem.

But getting stuck as a writer isn't unusual. Many of us follow familiar patterns or chord progressions. We tend to write in keys we're comfortable with. We forget to stretch before we sit down and put words on paper.

This all came back to me when I
found this article from Berklee Online that addresses this very issue and offers five ways to work around it. I wish I had seen this years ago. It would have saved a bit of embarrassment. And a whole lot of extra work. Hope you find it helpful, too.

Join Us For Our Next General Meeting
May 6th at 7 PM
2 Girls Cafe & Bakery, Stow Ohio

Meeting Details

Review: Magical Pick Guitar Toolkit

David Palomo
YouTube reminds me of visiting the beach in Carpinteria California when I was in grad school. You never know what the ocean is going to barf up for you to look at. Shells, sand dollars, beach glass, sea creatures, usually small, in various states of decease.

The mysterious algorithmic waves of YouTube barfed up a short but very intriguing video about an app (iOS only) called Magical Pick from Mutual Noise. Here’s what I saw
in the video: you choose a key (eg C major, E minor), open the Filters and select “Quick Chords.” The app displays 14 randomly chosen chords that will work in the key you’ve chosen. You can play around with them and find something that sounds good to you.
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Despite its $9.99 cost I went ahead and downloaded it because I thought this “Quick Chords” function is worth the cost. I still do.

The app also has areas for organizing a composition, both lyrics and chord progressions as well as a record function. It’s like the Songwriter app I reviewed last year with the added features of a chord library and the Quick Chords function.

I say “chord library” because you can select a key, say E major, and it will give you all the chords that are related to E major. You can go into the Filters and select to see only certain kinds of related chords: major, minor, 7th, Major 7th, Minor 7th, Diminished or 7sus2.

Since the video on the Quick Chords function isn’t as helpful as it could be, here are the steps to follow:

1. When you open the app, select “Chord Reserve” at the center of the bottom of the page.
2. Then select the key you want to work in (you have to click the letter name and then select major or minor).
3. Click the icon in the upper right of the screen - it looks like a down pointing triangle formed from successively smaller lines. This takes you to the Filters page.
4. Click the words “Quick Chords” and you’ll get your 14 randomly chosen chords that relate to the key you’ve chosen.

Me - I think the Quick Chords function by itself is worth the ten bucks. You’ll see it’s only rated 3.5 stars on the Apple App store. I can understand why. The video tutorials seem to indicate that you can click on selected chords and your device will play them as so many other apps do. Not my iPad. And there are no help files to clue you in and no support or contact link on the Mutual Noise website. Not the end of the world - I can still play the chords on my guitar. I just can’t use the app in a café or some such to play around with and hear chord progressions.

If any of you decide to take the plunge, I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

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Videos Of The Month

A Showcase Memory

Here's how our 2011 Showcase started out.

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Start 'em Young

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Grace Notes
Our Next Meeting
Our next meeting will be held at 2 Girls Cafe & Bakery, 3707 Darrow Road in Stow Ohio at 7 PM on May 6th. If you are presenting a song please bring 30 copies for distribution to the other attendees. Copies will be returned to you at the end of the meeting. You do not need to be a member to attend a meeting or bring us a song.
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Officers And Board Members
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Ken Moody-Arndt

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Bob Sammon
Member At Large

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Don Henson

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Mike Urban
Member At Large

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Dave Waldeck
Recording Secretary

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Larry Davis
Member At Large

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David Palomo
Member At Large

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T. B. Announced, Jr.
Member At Large

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