Monday, August 29, 2016

How To Write A Song

Every aspiring artist – whether a poet, composer, graphic designer, etc. – is familiar with the tyranny of the blank page. Where and how does one begin? Where do you find inspiration and motivation?

An earlier blog post provided tips for composing music. This post will focus on specific aspects of songwriting. Because of the intersection of written word and music, there are a variety of key elements in writing a successful song. Different listeners will focus on different aspects – one listener may focus primarily on the lyrics, and another may focus on melody and harmony. It is helpful to keep in mind what aspects of your song will resonate with a given audience. You may decide to deemphasize harmony and focus on clarity of lyrics to better convey a story. Or, you may decide that the words aren’t important, and instead you want to provide an awesome aural experience, which complex harmony and counterpoint, like in more complicate choral music. These are all acceptable.

The lyrical content is entirely subjective – personal stories, poetry, nonsense syllables meant only to sustain sonorities. In many cases you will want the lyrics sung as naturally as if they were spoken – this way, the content is clearly articulated and delivered. The music does not detract from the understandability of the words. In other cases, the clarity of the words is less important. However, it is important to keep in mind the experience of the singer at all times. Phrasing must suit both the music and the words, and the words must be set to the music carefully to allow the singer to breathe and sing naturally.

Setting the lyrics to music can be at once fun and challenging. What is the relationship between the two? Sometimes there may not be an obvious one, or there may not be one at all. The songwriter may just really like a particular melody, and there is no connection between that melody and the lyrical content. In contrast, the words could dictate the shape of the music. In the Baroque era, composers shaped music in a way that mirrors the intended emotion associated with a lyrical passage, according to the prevailing aesthetic theory known as the ‘doctrine of the affects.’ Happiness, for example, would be expressed through upward motions and large intervals. Sadness, in contrast, would be accompanied by downward passages in the melody.

These are some ideas you may wish to use as you begin writing songs. What are other ideas that we may have missed? Let us know!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back to School!

Are your kids dour and less energetic than usual? Is traffic a little bit worse in your neighborhood? Finding yourself buying strange things like scientific calculators, protractors, and graph paper?

You guessed it… it’s time for Back to School! You have the class schedule; the materials for math, science, English; the instrument you’ve rented… but do you have the sheet music you need? What composers and works are appropriate? Where to start?

If your aspiring musician is looking for music to perform in festivals and contests, you may need to look at the Classic Festival Solos collection. These are graded works, from beginning to advanced skill levels, available in a wide variety of music styles. All works on our site are legal originals that can be used in recitals and other adjudicated settings.

The Reader’s Digest Digital Songbook Archive includes a number of popular songs and other favorites. These are excellent for beginning musicians looking for artistry in their education.

Our collection of Schott works includes a huge number of Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century works. These are the conventional pieces many aspiring musicians will learn over the course of their development.

The Suzuki catalog is an extremely important source of educational music. We have individual titles with the corresponding piano accompaniments from the famous method books.

Looking for something entirely different? How about something fun, like music from the Schoolhouse Rock cartoons? Educational, but in a different way…!

What music are you purchasing for Back to School? Let us know!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ten Songs for Beginning Guitar Players

Few instruments are as appealing to learn as the guitar. It’s portable – sure, the piano is awesome, but can you just pick one up and jam with your friends when you’re on the go? There’s a lot of repertoire for it – yeah, the glass harmonica sounds amazing, if you don’t mind playing the same three things over and over again. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s sexy – who doesn’t dig musicians, and what better way to start than by strumming a guitar?

Try your hands at one of these favorites. It can be hard to find good songs that are easy enough to play… so we did the work for you! Missing anything? Let us know!