Posts Tagged ‘rock music’

Copyright: What’s Mine is (Officially) Mine!

April 12, 2010 2 comments


You know what this means - HANDS OFF!


Exciting news on digital front! My songs are now protected by the U.S. Copyright Office. Over the weekend, I submitted all of the recordings from the last two albums (plus a handful of others) for official protection.

It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time but have been putting off; it seemed daunting, what with federal forms, fees, etc. But I finally started doing some research and it turned out to be pretty simple.

Musicians can copyright many works under a single copyright. A handy electronic upload feature at the federal copyright office Web site,, expedites the process. Cost? For $35, I now have the legal copyright on almost 30 tunes. When I get another group of ten or so, I’ll file again and so on.

Chances are I’ll never need the copyright. But $35 is pretty cheap insurance, just in case. Because it is the federal government, the Web site warns that it “can take as long as 22 months” for them to respond and mail you your official paperwork. (Apparently, the U.S. Senate can pass a health care reform bill in the time it takes for the Copyright office to acknowledge that, yes, I wrote some songs.) But the copyright is effective from the date the office receives the application and processing fee.

So my songs are officially my songs, now. Yeah! To celebrate, why not listen to Fossils, the title track from my summer, 2009 release?

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Rock on!


A Few Ideas, Pt. 4: Scrap it, start over

March 28, 2010 1 comment

Sometimes you've got throw something away and start a new draft.


Sometimes, you just have to scrap it and start over.

That’s what I did this morning. I fiddled with the new song in its former version on-and-off all week long and most of Saturday. But it wasn’t going anywhere. In the meantime, I got the idea to rearrange the verse chord progression to make it less monotonous. If you’re going to go that far, you might as well start from scratch.

The demo below isn’t done, but I already like it much it better than any of the previous iterations. I sped it up noticeably and did some drastic rearranging. The old bridge section is gone, replaced with a solo over an extra verse section. The chorus is the same progression as before, but I play each chord for twice as many counts, so it’s stretched out. I like it. It gives it a real power ballad feel!

I came up with a subject matter, too. Finally. The song is definitely going to be about the stupefying of society-at-large by mindless popular culture. I’m not done with words, especially in the chorus. But one line that’s sure to stay (mature language warning!):

Turn on TV and there’s nothing to see but fake tits and ass

Put ‘em on prime time and give ‘em some wine

Watch ‘em fight for cash.

Here it is:

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This took me from 10 a.m. until about 5:30 p.m. today. In addition to finishing the words and vocals, the drums need some work. Some of the guitars will be re-recorded (or maybe just additional guitars added) for a fuller sound, too, I think. And of course there’s more mixing to do. The next upload should be the finished version.

Rock on!


Where Ideas Come From, Pt. 4: First thing’s first

March 9, 2010 4 comments

This is a question I’m often asked by pretend fans: Which comes first, lyrics or music?

Usually, I take the time to answer politely. That is, unless I am in the middle of dinner and do not want to be interrupted – stop doing that, pretend fans! It is rude!

Which comes first? Music or Lyrics?


But when I do answer, my standard response is that, for me, the music tends to come first. More often that not, I’ll begin a song having no idea as to what it’s about, lyrically. I have to figure that out along the way.

But the words do influence the music as I go. If, while I’m writing, I stumble upon a turn of phrase that I like and want to repeat, that might become the chorus, or an intro section that gets me to the chorus. If there’s a section that I want to emphasize because the words are emotional, I can tweak the arrangement of the song to do that, adding a different guitar part, say, or fading the instrumental tracks into the background for to emphasize the vocal.

The point is, even though I typically start with a musical component, the words always play a role in shaping the song. The which-comes-first question tends to mischaracterize the nature of songwriting, because it implies that the music and lyrics are separate from one another, independent things that exist in respective vacuums until the moment the song is made.

I never finish all of the music before starting in on the words. Sometimes, I have a concept for what the song is about and maybe even a few phrases I know I want to use before I start writing.

But that is rare. Trying to reverse engineer a song by fitting lyrics to music is hard for me. I’ve only done it one time. It was for a tune called Low Bidder that I wrote for an NPR songwriting project. The deal was this: NPR, as part of a series of stories about the ease of making music at home today, challenged listeners to write a song in a weekend. To keep people honest, there were certain lyrics one had to include. The required key words included dog, firecracker and NPR.

It was a neat exercise in songwriting. Never had I thought about building lyrics or a song around random, pre-selected words. I tend to be pretty earnest in my lyrics – overly earnest, sometimes; I just can’t help it. So beginning with even minimal lyrical content that didn’t mean anything at all emotionally was challenging. Here’s the song:

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Because I used pre-determined key words in the verses, I used for a chorus a line that was pre-existing also. The bit about my soul being auctioned off came almost verbatim from a comment I’d made to a coworker after attending an embarrassingly cheesy corporate awards ceremony a few days prior. I liked the line when I said it, so I remembered it and stuck in the song.

The end result is a tune that pulled a lot of disparate parts together. It’s not cohesive, and it’s far from my favorite song I’ve recorded, but the process was interesting. Since writing Low Bidder, I’ve been much more willing to let songs be whatever they want to be; I don’t feel the necessary urge to tie every loose end lyrically into a nifty package.

So, pretend-fan-who-is-interrupting-my-dinner, I hope that answers your question. Now leave me alone!

Rock on!