Ah, my first blog, *gives one’s self a pat on the back*. For those of you who are reading and don’t know me, I’m Rebecca Devereux: a newbie to the wonderful team at Song Academy. I started in January, assisting at Tuesday’s school in Chelsea, and despite having written and studied song-writing from an early age, I feel I’ve learnt more in the last few weeks about what it takes to be a great songwriter than ever before. Over the next few weeks, I hope to record my findings and explore this creative practice through a series of blogs and interviews with current artists and songwriters in the industry; but first, I thought it might be interesting to explore my own process…

11.25 p.m. Jan 20th, 2015.

I can’t sleep. I sit staring at a blank page in my old, tatty ‘musical musings’ notepad. A brand new inky pen is perched neatly next to it and 88 untouched piano keys glare back at me. You see, song-writing has always been a therapeutic process for me. I had practically filled my tatty ‘musical musings’ notepad during my first term at university, in the midst of dealing with homesickness and many nights of disrupted sleep. Instead of lying in bed and allowing my mind to race, I would sit beside my Yamaha keyboard and scribble my thoughts into a miraculously organised poetical form. A melody would surface just as quickly as the lyrics had tumbled from my busy brain onto the blank page. In what seemed like no time at all, a new song had been born. My mind would begin to settle and I would very often fall asleep on the keys that were responsible for lulling me, very quickly, back to normality.

I always found it funny, if unsurprising, that my most inspired moments and creative ‘splurges’ often occurred at my most difficult times. Emotionally fuelled events in my day-to-day life were often followed by a mad rush to find my nearest piano, paper, pen and recording device. On reflection, I must have known the lyrical content of my songs would relate to a listening audience—I was not the first to face these life troubles and I certainly wouldn’t be the last—yet they were rarely, if ever, publicly performed. It felt like the equivalent of reciting my personal diary to a room full of strangers, it just didn’t feel right. I was scared of being judged. I felt as vulnerable as an insect under a giant magnifying glass.

Eager to perform and test my wavering nerves, I began practising song-writing with stricter boundaries and make-believe content. Instead of writing songs that struck a personal chord, I would create fictional characters, fictional lives, fictional highs and fictional lows. A blues song about a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. A folk song about a sparrow who struggles to take its first flight. A jazz tune about the man who lives on the moon and, most recently, an acoustic tune about a Tyrannosaurus rex who plays a ukulele… seriously. It certainly made it a lot easier for me to perform, knowing that I wasn’t inviting people in to peek inside the story of my life, but in terms of my connection with the audience, I felt that something was missing. I felt like I had lost a bond of some sort, a trust, a sincerity.

12.04am. Jan 20th, 2015.

I look down at my notepad. Still empty. The unused pen is looking rather sorry for itself now. I think back to my first few sessions assisting at the academy: the freedom of the children’s writing, and their natural ability to balance their own life experiences, likes and dislikes with intriguing, fictional, interesting stories. Using song-writing as a form of self-expression, to a degree, seemed to be a rather instinctive process for them. Whether they write a fictional lyric, or detail a personal life event, the sincerity of their songs is reflected in the imagery and melodic and harmonic content that seems most natural to them. I’m so proud to be mentoring these young creative minds, and feel as though I am learning just as much from them as they are from me. Suddenly, I find myself scribbling and the empty page is soon full. Personal stories and symbolic imagery weave together like colourful tapestry. A new song is born, and now it’s time to sleep…

10313853_10152460543819301_1125835470230323007_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow us to keep up to date on our most recent activities-

https://twitter.com/songacademyUK

https://www.facebook.com/SongAcademyUK

What makes the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition unique is that it is judged purely on the song. You don’t need to hire an expensive recording studio or buy the latest recording technology to make it into the judges’ final ten. But even though sound quality isn’t part of the judging process, you still want to get the best recording you can, to give your song the chance to shine.

So now that you’ve written your smash hit, now what? Here our some hints and tips for getting the most out of your recording.

Emile Sande in the studio

1)   What can I record with?

At the most basic level – you can use that magical everyday piece of technology we all carry in our pocket: your phone. Most smartphones these days have a great recording facility within the phone itself.

If you can get your hands on one, a microphone will give you much better sound quality. Your school might allow you to borrow one – an SM58 microphone can be a good basic microphone and they are often used for school concerts or assemblies.

2)   Where can I record?

Make sure your recording environment is a quiet space away from any loud noises (sirens, brothers and sisters…) Experiment with recording in different spaces – try the bathroom for a cool echoey acoustic, or the bedroom for a crisp, dry sound

(Top tip: hanging a duvet on the wall where you are recording can improve the sound)

3) Get the most from your mic

Use a microphone stand!  This means you can angle the microphone better and it prevents any rustling. If using your phone consider getting a phone tripod-stand or holder to keep it steady.

Once you have your mic set up – angle it towards where you want to record the sound – remember if using a phone the microphone will be at the bottom. For a guitar, point the mic towards the point where the guitar neck joins the body. For vocals, don’t sing too close to the microphone, try about 4cm away.

(Top tip: A pop shield prevents ‘popping sounds’ when recording singing – you can make one out of an old coat hanger and tights and it dramatically improves your vocal recording)

4)   Record one part at a time

Try recording one part at a time, first the guitar or piano, then the vocals as a separate track recorded into your computer using Garageband or something similar. Once you have recorded the instrumental part, then create a separate audio track to record the vocals over the top. This technique will get the most out of each instrument and allow you to give the best vocal performance.

Once you’re done…you can upload your song to AudioBoom and enter the #SAYS15 competition. Good luck!

The first bonafide big hit of 2015 is without a doubt ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. It’s currently on its 8th week at Number 1 in the UK charts, it’s been Number 1 all over the world and inspired many viral videos. It might come as a surprise to some that such a retro song has been so successful, but clearly some things just never go out of style.

‘Uptown Funk’ is a midtempo song in 4/4 with heavy influences of funk, soul and disco. It’s in D minor with an interesting lengthy structure of Intro/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Hook/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Hook/Breakdown/Chorus/Hook/Outro. Although there is a sung chorus, the real chorus of the song is the instrumental disco-like horn hook. The song is absolutely laden with hooks, from the funk bassline and guitar riff, to the bass vocal ‘do do’ hook. The verses are quite bare, with just the vocals over a beat, with the instrumentation gradually building up until the climax of the hook, adding guitar, bass, brass section, synth and backing vocals. The call-and-response backing vocals are also quite a funk/soul influence. You can really hear the influence of 70s and 80s artists such as Prince, James Brown, and Sugarhill Gang. Lyrically the song is about feeling confident and partying in the city.

Mark Ronson is known for his retro productions, such as his work with Amy Winehouse, so his arrangement and production is really what brings this song to life. Bruno Mars also pulls it off very well, his voice and attitude suiting this retro style. It’s very hard to resist the energy of this song, and I think people have been attracted to its nostalgic style in a music scene that’s increasingly experimental and electronic – it really stands out when not many big artists are making this sort of sound at the moment. And I say long may it continue!

 

Favourite lyric – ‘Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent, gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty’

 

As the Song Academy end-of-term gigs approach, there remains the all important question on everyone’s lips: what are you wearing?

It goes without saying that the music that should come first. But image plays an important part of defining who you are as an artist and performer. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams (and his hat) – these are just a few artists that have created their own unique look that sets them apart. And everyone from One Direction to Jake Bugg will have had a stylist at some point.

Whether you like it or not, fashion is an important part of the modern music industry, so what can you wear that makes you stand out from the crowd? Here are a few fashion idols that you can take inspiration from:

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley was known for slick and smart rock ’n’ roll style. John Newman’s look is modelled on his style, with his signature slicked back hair and quiff.

Florence and the Machine

Florence Welsh of Florence and the Machine mixes vintage dressed with quirky costume jewellery and accessories, taking influence from flame-haired pre-Raphaelite pictures and bohemian flowing fabrics.

Remember to make sure your outfit doesn’t inhibit your performance in any way. Above all, fashion shouldn’t distract from your music but it can enhance it.

Song Academy Chart Picks – Style & Genre

Everybody has their own style and there is almost every type of genre out in the charts at the moment, from electronic dance music (listen to Kiesza), to classic rock (you should all have their new album in your iTunes!) Here are some top picks from who is in the chart this week…

Taylor Swift – ‘Tim McGraw’ – Country  Taylor Swift is topping the pop charts with her new single ‘Shake It Off’ but she actually started in the music business as a country star. This song ‘Tim McGraw’ has all the key features of the country genre – twangy electric steel guitars and descriptive storytelling in the lyrics. Country is hopping over the pond to British soap – partly thanks to the legendary Dolly Parton’s amazing Glastonbury set – watch out for the likes of The Shires and Ward Thomas.

Watch the video

John Newman ‘Love Me Again’ – Modern Soul Soulful melodies are all over the current music scene. Taking influence from the old-school greats such as Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles are the likes of Sam Smith and John Newman, who write emotional lyrics from the heart to inject that ‘soul’ into their music.

Watch the video

MAGIC! – ‘Rude’ – Reggae MAGIC! take influence from reggae and ska music in their song ‘Rude’ by putting the emphasis on the the 2nd and 4th beats of the bar, just like other pop-reggae acts like No Doubt. Why not try doing this with one of your songs to see how it sounds?

Watch the video

Play the Song Story videos to find out more about different coming from and find what you love. Why not create your own style? Combine two different styles? Express yourself, and make your songwriting unique and original.