Here are some great tips from Yamaha Artists on some ways of developing your songwriting and recording  talents.  Yamaha sponsors our Young Songwriter 2016 competition.  Hurry to get your entries in – the entry deadline is this Saturday 9th April (at midnight)!

Clare CooganNAME:  Planet. Circle. Star.
OCCUPATION:  Teacher / Producer / Performer
Don’t be afraid to share your work with others. There’s no point giving yourself a hard time if you’re not sure where to take your song next – ask a friend to listen to your work. A second pair of ears can put a whole new perspective on a track and can often fill in that missing piece and take your song to the next stage. It can give you new confidence in your writing and you never know what will come from sharing your work – new collaborations, ideas and opportunities. Sharing your work in its early stages can be nerve wracking, but go for it, you gain so much!


emilydolandavisNAME: Emily Dolan Davis

OCCUPATION: Professional Drummer



Whatever instrument you play, make sure you record yourself and listen back. For me it was scary at first, and I realised the difference between how I thought I sounded, and the reality. The more I did it, the smaller that difference became, and it enabled me to progress so much more than ever before.


Ben KennedyNAME: Ben Kennedy

OCCUPATION: Drummer, currently out with ‘Foxes’

YAMAHA PRODUCT: Yamaha Beach Custom Absolute Drum Kit


Before starting any session/gig, make sure you are comfortable with the set up. It is important to feel relaxed at the kit whilst rehearsing/recording or playing a live gig. Tuning the drums right and making sure heights/angles are adequate, will bring the best out your playing. When possible, bring your cymbals and snare drums. More options means you can create the best sound possible on the day.


DomNAME: Dom Sigalas

OCCUPATION: Producer / Composer



Drum programming- Use your fingers, not your mouse.

Throughout your music career it is extremely likely that you will have to use a drum part in one of your songs. If you don’t have a drummer at hand learn how to play the drums on a keyboard. You don’t have to be a virtuoso.

The secret is to learn the GM (General Midi) mapping. The elements are almost always on the same keys (Kick- C1, Snare-D1 etc) so all you have to do is practice!

It really pays of because your programmed drums will be more natural and have an element of performance rather than being sterile and robotic. I almost never program acoustic drums with a mouse.

Finger drumming is a skill that once you get the hang of it will serve you for life!

Here’s one example of what you can do:

Our music video for ‘Right To Be Loved’ is released today!

Eleven talented singer songwriters from Song Academy, aged between 12 and 16 have written a song to have it’s premiere performance at the “Voice In A Million” (VIAM) concert, entitled ‘Right To Be Loved’. VIAM is a promoter of school/singing events with the ambition to positively change the perception of Adoption and Fostering both in the UK and worldwide.

Click here to buy ‘Right To Be Loved’ on iTunes.

Through the power of songwriting and music, these 11 Song Academy young songwriters aim to remind the world that everyone has a right to be loved, has a right to belong and a right to a brighter future. Their aim is to raise awareness of the large number of vulnerable children in care and the difference that adoption and fostering makes in the world, for both child and parent.

The idea for ‘Right To Be Loved’ was sparked during a meeting between Rowena Atkins, Director of Song Academy and Jo Garofalo, founder of Voice In A Million. They were talking about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition and giving one of the winner’s the opportunity to perform at the VIAM show. It was a natural step to utilise the talents of Song Academy members to write an original song on the topic of children, adoption & fostering so helping the VIAM mission.

Founder and CEO of Song Academy, Rowena Atkins said “It was a perfect fit – young children writing about the plight of young people in care whilst also making their song relevant to older children and parents adopting – reminding the world that everyone has a right to be loved and a right to be a part of a loving family unit. I’m incredibly proud of ‘Right To Be Loved’ and hope it rocks the world.” A thank to our sponsors PRS for Music, Yamaha, Dawsons Music & Farida.

Founders of VIAM, Jo & Robert Garofalo said “We are delighted to welcome Song Academy to Voice In A Million this year, our mission includes giving talented youngsters the opportunity to shine on world class stages. Song Academy’s ‘Right To Be Loved’ is in perfect harmony with VIAM’s ethos.”

The premiere performance of ‘Right To Be Loved’ will be at the Voice In A Million show at Wembley Arena on 2nd March 2016. Right to be loved was produced at Studio Rokstone – home of ASCAP award winning songwriter and chart producer Steve Mac. The producers were Tim Laws, ASCAP award winning songwriter and record producer, Pete Craigie, engineer, arranger, mixer and live production and Diane Allison Young DAYTime Entertainment.  Our music video was produced by Steve Coleman.

If you’re aged 7-18 and write your own original songs – enter The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2016 competition before 9th April. Check out how to enter.

This term at Song Academy Winchester, we have begun recording the students’ songs and some asked me about setting up their own recording system at home. There are so many ways of doing this, we all make use of recording and song writing apps but this technology is still relatively new and there is still no better method than using a proper, good quality microphone and making use of one of the various recording programmes available.

Microphone choice

A professional studio often has a great collection of microphones for recording drums, guitars and vocals etc. These microphones can cost thousands of pounds, but all you need to record at home is one microphone. A large condenser microphone, such as SE200 or AT4033 are perfect for recording vocals and instruments and are not prohibitively expensive, costing as little as £40.

This is what the microphones tend to look like, the circular thing in front is known as a pop-shield. This is also a useful piece of equipment as it stops hard sounds such as ‘P’s or ‘K’s from spoiling your recordings. These can be made from things around the house. Why not try twisting a wire coat hanger into a circle and stretching a pair of tights over it (making sure you ask permission first from whoever’s tights and hanger it is).

Audio interface choice

To record successfully on a computer or Ipad it is necessary to get a good audio interface or soundcard. Most computers do not come ready to record music, unless you have had one specifically made. So you need to use an external interface/mixer so you can plug your microphone or instrument into your computer, and control its volume, and allow it to connect to the recording software. Ipads now have several interfaces such as the IRig, which allows you to plug microphones and instruments into an Ipad and use it with various apps including Garage Band, which is one of the most easily used recording software applications. For computers or laptops Focusrite and RME are both highly recommended and affordable. There are interfaces with different numbers of channels to record through, so my recommendation would be to start with a two channel or one channel interface such as Apogee’s One, which also has a built in microphone.

Software choice

There are a number of popular recording software programmes. I use ProTools predominantly, which is the industry standard for live music recording. However, there are some excellent software packages that allow you to not only record your own live sound, but also program drums and other instruments included in the software. ProLogicX and GarageBand are particularly good for this. Cubase, Cakewalk and Reason are also great programmes for live and synthesized sound.

Room choice

Depending on space, there are some things to consider when choosing where to set up your home studio. If you have an unused garden shed or out building, this can be perfect, and wooden walls, which can be quite resonant can be dampened by material on the walls, If you are recording in your house, make sure your are not too near a street or in a room with a boiler or anything which may make excessive noise.

You would be surprised how many songs were recorded in ‘home studios’, and it has never been easier to record anywhere, anytime, so why not have a go!



Tori Kelly is a sensational breakout singer/songwriter who has captured the hearts of millions with her smooth Soul vocals and humble spirit. 2015 has definitely been her year. She’s appeared in every music award show including the VMA’S , Billboard and sang a beautiful rendition of “Who’s Lovin You” written by Smokey Robinson at the 2015 BET Awards show.

Although Kelly is currently taking over the Pop charts with her two current singles “Nobody Love” and “Should’ve Been Us” , her musical journey began when she started posting video’s on youtube doing covers of Rnb and Soul hits such as Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” ( video below)

Tori Kelly has appeared on Star Search at the age of 10 and even made it to the final 24 on American Idol . Although she started singing at an early age, she knew that in order to be authentic and recognised, she had to create her own music and style. She decided to take a new approach by picking up the guitar in her early teens and teaching herself how to play. Kelly came from a very musical upbringing in her hometown of Southern California. Her father sang and played bass and her mother was a proficient saxophone and keys player. In her biography she discusses being greatly influenced by gospel and R&B acts such as Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott . In the article below she discusses her songwriting approach.

The wonderful thing about Tori’s musical journey is that she created her own fanbase using the internet and without the help of labels and management. She found her own voice through picking up her guitar and songwriting. She practiced her craft not only on the guitar but continued developing her vocal range abilities and learned a few other instruments along the way. While kids her age were going out, she preferred to stay indoors and practiced the one thing she loved the most. Once her youtube channel reached close to over 700,000 subscribers, she decided to start her own label and produced her debut album titled “Handmade songs by Tori Kelly”. She recorded the album herself, playing most of the instruments on her own.

Tori’s hard work paid off. Even at moments when she was rejected or turned away, her passion and determination kept her moving to her ultimate goal . Tori is now being managed by Scooter Braun ( Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen) one of the most prestigious music managers in the business . In 2014 -2015 he has helped Tori finally gain the full recognition that she deserves as a powerful and unique artist who created her own musical path. She is now hailed as an “Artist to Watch” by Rolling Stone, USA TODAY and is in talks of being nominated for a Grammy with her debut album Unbreakable Smile which was released just this year.

Unbreakable Smile – Itunes link:

Or listen to the full album on youtube:




Last week BASCA announced the nominations for the 60th Ivor Novello Awards, taking place on 21st May. Now in case you haven’t heard of them, winning an Ivor Novello award for your songwriting is to a musician what an Oscar is to an actor. Named after entertainer Ivor Novello, these awards – nicknamed The Ivors – are presented annually by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), with the esteemed and appointed Ivors committee comprising of industry experts, songwriters and composers deciding on the winners each year. The statue itself, is a solid bronze sculpture of Euterpe, the muse of lyric poetry. Seeing as our SAYS15 judging panel have eight of these prestigious awards between them (5 for Barry Mason, 2 for Eg White, 1 for Tom Odell) we thought it would be worth a look at this year’s nominations.

Clean Bandit lead the way for the 2015 Ivor Novello awards with nominations for both Best Contemporary Song and Most Performed Work. FKA Twigs is the bookie’s favourite to win Best Contemporary Song, having narrowly missed out on the Mercury Prize earlier in the year. James Napier, better known as Jimmy Napes, is the man of the moment with three nominations for his work with Sam Smith and Clean Bandit.

Watch James Napier talk about writing the Ivor-nominated song ‘Stay With Me’

Interestingly this year, The Ivors are now restricting the total numbers of writers who claim credit for a song to six, and all entries must have a British or Irish contribution of at least one third to qualify. So on songs with multiple writers, not all of them may receive a nomination. For example, Tom Petty has been credited with 15% following the dispute over Stay With Me, but he doesn’t merit a nomination for the song.

You can see the full list of nominations on The Ivors website>

To see the list of finalists and specially commended songs for our own 2015 Young Songwriter Competition, head to our competition page>


In case you missed it, here is the best of the Brits 2015…

Madonna – Living for Love

Everyone is talking about that notorious tumble, but what was most impressive is that Madonna didn’t even miss a whole verse and carried on singing to give what was the best performance of the night. The show must go on!

Ed Sheeran – Bloodstream

Ed shows what you can achieve with just a guitar and a great song (and one helluva loop station!)

Sam Smith – Lay Me Down 

Sam Smith delivers a note perfect performance of his moving ballad.

 The winners

It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour, selfies and gossip of the ceremony. But don’t forget that the Brits were established to celebrate the musical talent of the UK and beyond. So here’s the complete list of winners – well done to all of them!

British Artist Video of the Year: One Direction, You and I

British Breakthrough Act: Sam Smith

Mastercard British Album: Ed Sheeran, X

British Female Solo Artist: Paloma Faith

British Male Solo Artist: Ed Sheeran

British Group: Royal Blood

International Male Solo Artist: Pharrell Williams

International Female Solo Artist: Taylor Swift

International Group: Foo Fighters

Critics’ Choice Awards: James Bay

British Producer: Paul Epworth

British Single: Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk

British Global Success Award: Sam Smith


Now onto the main event of the UK music calendar #SAYS15! With a panel of judges that have a glittering array of Brits and Grammys between them, make sure you get your entry in to be in with a chance of winning! Here’s to the next generation of Brit winners…

Here are the Brit 2015 nominees, and Song Academy’s predictions for who will win tonight…


Damon Albarn // Ed Sheeran // Sam Smith // George Ezra // Paulo Nutini

Song Academy predicts:  Ed Sheeran is cited as inspiration for many of our Young Songwriter Competition entrants. So for inspiring the next generation of Brit winners…go Ed!


Ella Henderson // FKA Twigs // Jessie Ware // Lily Allen // Paloma Faith

Song Academy predicts: We’ve been loving Paloma Faith this year, check out our blog on her collaboration with Sigma.


One Direction // Royal Blood // Clean Bandit // Alt J // Coldplay

Song Academy predicts:  We’re routing for One Direction (and of course Jamie Scott, SAYS15 judge who has written many of their tracks)


Chvrches // FKA Twigs // George Ezra // Royal Blood // Sam Smith

Song Academy predicts:

It’s been a cracking year for George Ezra and he will also be performing on the night!


Calvin Harris – Summer // Clean Bandit ft Jess Glynne – Rather Be // Duke Dumont ft Jax Jones – I Got U // Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud // George – Ezra Budapest // Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk // Route 94 ft Jess Glynne – My Love // Sam Smith – Stay With Me

Song Academy predicts: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars –read our blog on why this song is SO GOOD here>


Alt-J – This Is All Yours // Ed Sheeran – X // George Ezra – Wanted On Voyage // Royal Blood – Royal Blood // Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour

Song Academy predicts: The fact that SAYS15 judges Fraser T Smith, Eg White and Naughty Boy all have writing and production credits on ‘In The Lonely Hour’ mean that we are 100% behind Sam Smith on this one! 


Calvin Harris – Summer // Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud // Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk // One Direction – You And I // Sam Smith – Stay With Me

Song Academy predicts: Ed Sheeran Thinking Out Loud is a beautiful video, but as this one is down to a public vote will the Directioners make it a win for 1D?


Beck // Hozier // Jack White // John Legend // Pharrell Williams

Song Academy predicts: We think ‘Happy’ will swing this category for Pharrell Williams


Beyoncé // Lana Del Rey // Sia // St Vincent // Taylor Swift

Song Academy predicts: It’s a tough call between Sia and Taylor Swift – but for the sheer number of amazing songwriting credits to her name we’re backing Sia.


5 Seconds of Summer // The Black Keys // First Aid Kit // Foo Fighters // The War On Drugs

Song Academy predicts: 5 Seconds of Summer have proven worthy rivals to One Direction so for that feat alone we think the gong should go to them!


 Song Academy predicts: This award is top secret and announced on the night. In terms of global success and Sam Smith’s Grammy haul and smash hit ‘Stay With Me’ is the reason we think he should win this category.


Alison Goldfrapp & Will Gregory // Flood // Jake Gosling // Paul Epworth

Song Academy predicts: Not many nominees here but it’ll be 3rd time lucky for super-producer Paul Epworth.


James Bay // George The Poet // Years & Years

Congratulations James Bay: We predicted George The Poet – if you are find you are stuck on lyrics for your SAYS entry why not do like George The Poet does and say them out loud? For his lyrical genius we think George is deserving of the Critics’ Choice award.

Now get songwriting and enter our Young Songwriter 2015 competition!

You hear a song on the radio. You want to buy it – not stream it – because you want to keep it and play it again and again; so you go to iTunes or Amazon and you purchase it, roughly £0.99 a track, £9.99 an album. There. Lovely stuff. You’ve bought your new favourite song or album. It’s yours. You think you own it. But you don’t.

It might surprise you, but in most cases you are renting, or leasing, the song, not buying it. When you buy from Apple and Amazon you are being sold a licence to use the song/film or ebook but are not buying the actual item itself.

Thinking many years ahead, what about when you die; who can you leave your music collection to? According to Apple, you can leave your family or friends your iPod with your music on, but you cannot leave instructions to share out your iTunes account after you are gone. So as the law currently stands one cannot leave their iTunes music to their family.

For years families have been passing down their music collection to their children and grandchildren to share their past with them via music. They’ve been able to do this as their music is in a physical form; on vinyl, tape or CD. What’s more, your parents’ and grandparents’ music collections act as a wonderful history of songwriting, educating you on how and why music has evolved through the decades. But in our over-technological era, the songs you’ve downloaded and “purchased” in your life may end up resting in peace with you.

Think about all the songs you have on your computer – what if you couldn’t give those songs that you’ve paid for to your children or friends? Do you think people will go back to illegally downloading mp3s, because they’d rather own them illegally, than pay for “renting” them? Or do you think this will regenerate an interest in CDs and Vinyls with people being able to buy them and own them physically, not digitally, and thus be able to pass them on to their loved ones?

Tweet us at @songacademyUK to let us know your thoughts. 

What do you think of when someone says the word vinyl? Vintage, old fashioned, crackley, retro. These are just a few words used to describe vinyls by young music listeners today. Some didn’t know what a vinyl was, others knew because they’d heard their parents talk about them. But have you ever listened to one? Have you ever listened to your favourite song through a record player, hearing the needle find its familiar spot on the groove of the record with a buzz and crackle, building anticipation and excitement before the melody and lyrics ring out?

Many of you will have grown up ripping music online or illegally downloading it through torrent websites or streaming it. But what can you do with a vinyl that you can’t do with a download? Hold it. Feel the imprints of the song along the outside of the record, look at the album artwork close up and frame it, get out the lyric sheet from the booklet inside the vinyl cover and read the words you may have missed when listening first time.

Things sound different on a vinyl; the song comes to life, it has a warming authenticity which requires you to interact with it as you have to turn it over to hear the other songs on the album when the first five tracks are finished. By needing to engage with the physicality of turning a record over, it requires you listen, and to not ‘multitask’ (i.e. putting it the machine and popping off to do something else, expecting it to play until you turn it off). And now, the excitement of holding a vinyl record in your hand, putting it on the turntable and sitting with a friend listening to it together is back in fashion.

Vinyl sales are on the rise – some say by a 50% increase. Only a few years ago it looked as though vinyl would become obsolete. Vinyl records had been overtaken by cassette tapes, which were subsequently superseded by compact discs (CDs) in the early 1980s, which was then ousted by mini discs, which was then overshadowed by iPods. The trend? The more portable, the better. The iPod boasted of having over 2,000 songs which you could listen to anytime, anywhere with earbud headphones. But what has the iPod done for the listening experience to music? Can you really hear the emotion of the song through tiny headphones on noisy trains or tubes or has music become a means of blocking out daily life?

It poses the question – how and why do you listen to music? What do you think, if any, are the sonic differences between vinyl and digital music? Do you have a record player? If so what is in your collection? Tweet us at @songacademyuk and or Instagram us a photo of your records.

And if you want to add to your record collection, check out this link for the recommended vinyl stores in the uk:

There is a threat on one of London’s most vibrant and historic streets, a threat that will eradicate decades of music history from our city and further remove future generations from an essential link to our music past.

Denmark Street, also know as Tin Pan Alley since the late 1950s, has been a mecca for musicians ever since rock’n’roll moved to London. But now, due to development plans surrounding the Cross Rail Interchange and the increase in commercial interest in the local area, there is a rise in property values and these “skyrocketing rents are making it unaffordable for small local businesses [to stay] and are dissolving the community and its legendary musical culture.” [RoundBoyPictures “The Demise of Denmark Street”]

What will take the place of the music history that has been around for last 70 years? More corporate chains such as Starbucks and Pret A Manger (as if there aren’t enough already, clogging up London’s streets), more over priced housing for the elite to be at the heart of the city with excellent transport links, that’s what. However, by adding homogenous chain stores and removing historic individuality, what will people travel into town to see? Commercial property? Why will tourists want to visit the heart of London if they destroy iconic sites like Denmark Street, a gem in British popular music culture?

For a musician, this street was a haven; you could do everything as Alex Jackson, from an independent film company called Round Boy Pictures who are making a documentary on “The Demise of Denmark Street” ( said. “You could join a band, buy instruments, get them repaired, record, play live” and furthermore you could discuss new and old music face to face all day long with other like-minded people – the opportunities for young, aspiring and professional “museos” were endless. This street heard the early recordings of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, this street was the first place that Elton John worked, it was where the Sex Pistols lived; it’s drenched in British pop culture; yet all of that is on the verge of being demolished.

Having already shut down the Astoria and 12 Bar Blues, two venues which have hosted some of the best live showcases in London from Adele, to Jeff Buckley, to the Libertines to many more, developers want to renovate the rest of the street.

Denmark Street is about real life musicians and music lovers. It’s something tangible, away from social media threads, an important piece of London’s history. How many music streets solely dedicated to music are there in London? How many memories will be swept away under the concrete? What message is this sending out to young aspiring musicians, music journalists, up-and-coming managers and songwriters? Where else can you go and play 15 different guitars or try out 10 different pianos, just to make sure you’ve found the one to suit you best? Will we be forced to buy our instruments on the Internet, putting them at risk of being damaged in transit or having to spend time and money sending them back because they not the right fit for us, purely because we haven’t played them first? Choosing an instrument is a very personal affair, and one that shouldn’t be compromised to make way for something that will not improve or remember the culture of the city we live in.

Jobs will be put at risk in an already struggling employment crisis and for many musicians working in music shop is a way to work flexible hours in order to make a living whilst following their musical dream.

As one fan said on social media, “I’m sure the Pret A Manger they replace [12 Bar Blues] with will bring an equal amount fo character, heritage and sense of community.”

How many of you have been to Denmark Street? What are you views on it? Tweet @songacademyUK and let us know what you think about its current demise. And if you haven’t been then make sure you go along before it’s gone, take some photos (don’t forget to tweet/instagram them to us) and perhaps jot down a few ideas for a protest song while you’re there entitled “Denmark Street”: send your songs to for a chance to get featured on our website.