Category Archives: laziness

SONGWRITING: Quick power tips

1. Get it done. Don’t make everything perfect.

Write all the time, and stop striving to reinvent the wheel. You’ll never write “In My Life” or “Fix You”. Neither will I. They’ve already been written. Just write. A lot. Daily. Slow and fast songs. Silly stupid songs. Serious ones. Get it done, and stop giving a damn what people think.

2. Get opinions from those you care about.

You made a 5-song digital EP? Awesome. Check in with friends. Send mp3s via email. “What do you think of the EP? Which song is your favorite? Am I onto something, here?”

3. Contrast.

Low-sung verses. Higher-sung choruses. Slow guitar strums with a fast beat. Or the opposite. Piano songs. Acoustic songs. Mix it up. Maybe a song entirely with bass guitar, sax, and drums (the band Morphine made a career of a similar sound).

4. Forget what you know.

Know a lot about music theory? Who cares? Forget about it, when you write. Detune your guitar into some weird altered tuning so you are forced to try new shapes with your fingers. Go into a sound in your keyboard that makes little sense. Don’t always run to the grand piano preset. Throw an effect pedal in between your keyboard and computer, and see what comes about. Experiment with a loop pedal. Take chances!

5. “I’m not as good as…”

Never compare yourself to others. Friends of mine are insanely talented. INSANELY. Their keyboard skills make me want to quit playing keys. Their singing voices are insanely trained. So what? I am not a trained singer, but I can sing, and harmonize. I can play basic piano stuff, but I cannot play difficult passages or songs. I can’t shred a blues solo, and my fingerpicking is capable, but nothing spectacular. Doesn’t matter. I focus on my strengths. Do the same for yourself.

6. Focus on the end result, the goal, the reason you do this.

Stop dissecting every step along the way when you’re writing and recording. “Too much string noise when my finger scraped the strings, there”… or “my voice cracked a little, in that part”…. “my harmony sounds a little weird, but ok…” Who cares?! Roll with it. Then listen to the song when it’s done, then make new decisions and choices. I wrote a song years ago. Recorded it in late 2014. It was cool, but I decided I hated it when listening to it again, last week. I changed the keyboard parts, and sped up the song while retaining the same key (thank you, computers). Now I love the song, and it’s infinitely better. Took two years to tweak it. Needed to give it a rest… listen, and then all the “here’s how I need to change it” brainstorming came out, within one listen of the song. I’ll release it soon… hopefully. End goal, right?

7. Be YOU.

Be yourself. Always. Stop singing like John Mayer or Ben Howard. Sing like YOU. I taught myself to sing listening to Green Day, Third Eye Blind, Ben Lee and Jimmy Eat World a lot in the late 90s. My voice is similar to theirs, and I love that. My songwriting style is similar, in some ways, too. It’s simple. It sounds like me. I can’t do Sigur Ros, and I can’t do Jason Mraz. I can’t do Bon Iver unless I’m playing with my vocal harmonizer pedal and lots of reverb. I fuck around, and roll with whatever sounds good to me. I love so many singers (and TONS of female singers, too) but I can’t do them. I can only do me.

8. Minimalist. Simplicity.

I saw an acoustic singer-songwriter a month ago. Too many fancy chords, rhythms, fancy-pants nonsense. His shit was forgettable. Then a few days later, I saw another dude. Lots of G and Cadd9 chords with a capo. His lyrics, delivery, and vibe of the song spoke to me way more intensely than the first guy.

Matthew Sweet wrote “Sick Of Myself” in 10 minutes. He thought it was a stupid song. Turned out to be one of his biggest hits, and he never regretted putting it on his 1995 album, “100% Fun.”

Jason Mraz… most of his really easy shit… A Beautiful Mess, I Won’t Give Up… SIMPLE AS HELL. And perfect. John Mayer’s “Gravity”? NO ONE CAN ARGUE HOW FUCKIN’ GREAT THAT SONG IS. Simple, and perfect. People like shit that they can just vibe to. They don’t need masturbatory musicianship. They want something that speaks to their souls. Make music like that, and change the world.

9. Collab.

I can do shit solo. And often do. But I also come up with some great shit, working with people. Don’t be afraid to. It’s important.

10. Rest. Think. Watch TV. Read. Kill it, but chill, too.

Rest. Rest. Rest. REST. Stop working so hard. Hell, just yesterday, I killed it with my friend Mike. We tracked three new hip-hop songs to beats we threw together in a few hours. We shot a video session for YouTube. We shot video as he tracked vocals, so we can have material for YouTube. We ate food and talked about nutrition and working out. We took a break and hung out. But in 8 hours, we did a LOT, and killed it. Today, I plan on doing the same. But first, I needed four hours to chill, blog, and help all of YOU. Then I’m going to hit the studio hard and work on shit. It’s 5pm. I have til about midnight. I’ll get it all done, and I’ll take a break in between. Don’t forget to fucking REST. Seriously. Ok? Cool. Get to work. Or chill.

-Chris Caulder
http://oustedrecords.bandcamp.com
http://seldomfamily.bandcamp.com

 

Have a tip to share? COMMENT!!! 🙂

 

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SONGWRITING: Try not to fall for those songwriting sites

Recently, I purchased the $30 (one-time fee) for Speedsongwriting.com, by Graham English. His site promises an easy, fast way to write good songs. I know how to write songs (and occasionally good ones), but I wanted to sign up for this, to try and get better habits… and songs written faster… I mean, this is what his “course” promises.

speedsong

I enjoy some parts of it, but I think a lot of is upselling scam crap. His most recent email to me is asking me to join his “Songwriting Bootcamp”, at about $200. “With this, you’ll get… blah blah blah ($197 value).. blah blah blah ($197 value)… blah blah blah”….

I didn’t sign up for that. Mainly because I’m not entirely impressed with the “value” of the stuff I’ve watched/listened to, and read, since signing up.

I’m seeing a lot of repeating things in every new thing he adds, weekly… a lot of repeated powerpoint presentations (made into streaming videos), just a lot of repeating.

I’m wondering if, at the end of this course, that I will be more pleased with my purchase.

He offers a full refund, no questions asked… if you’re not fully satisfied. I won’t do that, but…. I think a post like this might be more helpful, in not losing your money. I’m more interested in trying to help people in a legit way, than offering some “too good to be true” thing.

I’m not a stupid person….. I didn’t “fall” for his course… I decided “ya know… I’ll give it a try. I might learn something new.” But I don’t know… lots of blah blah blah, and lots of repeated stuff…. and upselling. Nothing I hate more than someone trying to upsell me, when they haven’t offered much substance, with their main thing.

I’m sure eventually Graham will find this entry. If he does, cool! Maybe it will inspire him to make a better, more helpful offering, songwriting-wise. Again, as of this moment (two weeks into the course), I’m not very impressed.

Just a heads-up, peeps…

SW/RECORDING: Things to make your life easier.

Didn’t get a chance to get your gift in time? On a deadline?

1. Order it from an ebay seller. They usually have new stuff for 25% to 40% less than Amazon and stuff… or “open box” versions… especially NYC’s “ProAudioStar”.

2. Order from a seller that lives in your region. If you live in NYC, and the closest seller lives in Virginia… buy it from him. It’s usually 2 days tops, sometimes a day (assuming they ship the next morning after you pay, or same day).

Can’t keep track of your files? Document types?

3. Use an app or program like Evernote. It is fucking awesome. Read about it, or watch videos. I can’t live without it these days. From lyric-writing, note-making… budget stuff, “who’s borrowing stuff from me”…”I need to watch this shit… I need to listen to this band…” etc. It RULES.

Can’t finish a task in time or keep getting distracted?

4. Buy an egg-timer or any “analog”-style timer. Not some app, not some crazy digital monstrosity. Seriously. Keep things simple. Portable, easy… “I need to get this shit done in 30 minutes… (TWIST)”. Done. The more simple a timer is, the more frequently you’ll use it!!!

Want to buy music but can’t afford it?

5. Use SPOTIFY… seriously! Add entire albums in playlists named your choice. I have gigantic playlists called like.. “CDs I actually own” (so I can have this music constantly on my phone)… or “Recommended By My Girlfriend”… etc. Costs NOTHING to use Spotify (or $10/month if you want to use the phone app and also “make available offline”… seriously, it fucking RULES. What are you waiting for?

Can’t finish songs?

6. Read all of the articles in this blog! Buy songwriting books! Watch songwriting tip YouTube videos! Join a songwriting group where each person has to finish like 3 songs a week…. meet up on Sundays, and share your music!

Scared of confrontation?

7. Don’t be afraid to say no or disagree with someone about anything, most importantly, DON’T offer an explanation why you’re saying no. Just say “no, can’t do that… sorry.” Even when they ask why. If you absolutely need to give them a reason, say quite frankly, “because I don’t want to.” This one comes from my girlfriend. Best advice I’ve ever received.

“Stop texting me! Seriously, what the fuck?!”

8. Turn off your phone completely after 10pm. Usually nothing’s an emergency. And if people text you to death, or you keep getting email notifications when you’re trying to get ready for bed (or relaxing, whatever).. just turn off your damn phone. Nothing can’t wait. If it’s an absolute emergency, chances are someone in your house will get a phone call and wake you up, or you’ll hear the news in the morning. I don’t know. I just HATE this shit… seriously. Phone. Off. Now.

“I can’t relax. No matter what I try to do.”

9. Oh yes, you DEFINITELY can. See an acupuncturist, see how amazing it is…. and learn how to take care of yourself, internally… before you try to take care of yourself externally. Meditation and just laying down for an hour every day, just BREATHING, helps tremendously. And then, there’s exercise. And going outside for a walk. DO IT. Your bullshit email means NOTHING in the long run. Your stupid friends’ facebook updates are bullshit, too. If you aren’t healthy from the inside out, none of that bullshit matters… it has never mattered, and it never will. Fuck technology. And fuck this fucking blog, too!

Having a lot of arguments with your significant other?

10. Try to treat them a little better. Try to be more conscious of your actions, responses, and behavior in general. We’re all guilty of this, man. Life is too fucking short to be up each other’s ass about stupid shit. Give your significant other a hug daily, and…. be giving in other areas of your relationship. Take the fucking time, people. Facebook, blogs, The Onion, Buzzfeed, HuffPost….. who gives a shit. Live in the now. Look into your lover’s eyes. Make out more often. Go for more walks. Enjoy life. At the snap of a finger, you could lose it all. So don’t waste any more fucking time.

Love to all my friends, family, and everyone in my life who is good to the core. I am not friends with anyone who isn’t genuinely good/kind/sweet to the core. And you shouldn’t be, either.

Happy holidays. Get shit done.

SONGWRITING: using the least amount of bar chords (guitarists)

Everyone’s gotta learn their bar chords, without a doubt. They are essential, especially the shapes for F (which is also the shape of Bm), and B (which comes from the open A shape).

However, if you’re dead-set on not using bar chords (again, NOT recommended)…. try this…

key of C:
F is the only bar chord, but you can play it in triad form, on the top 3 treble strings (xxx211), or the top 4… xx3211)

key of G:
Bm is the only bar chord here, but you can also play it in triad form, on the top 3 treble strings (xxx432), or the top 4… xx4432)

key of C– use a capo with the “key of G shapes” (and avoiding the Bm shape entirely, thus ignoring chord iii, which isn’t always necessary in most chord progressions)

capo position: 5th
G shape– chord I (C)
Am shape– chord ii (Dm)
C shape– chord IV (F)
D shape– chord V (G)
Em shape– chord vi (Am)

key of G– use a capo with the “key of C shapes” (and avoiding the F shape entirely)

capo position: 7th
C shape– chord I (G)
Dm shape– chord ii (Am)
Em shape– chord iii (Bm)
D triad shape at the 12th fret (xxx12_13_12 — actual frets)– chord IV (C) or use F triad shape (xxx211 – frets relative to capo)
G shape– chord V (D)
Am shape– chord vi (Em)

using a capo in the key of E (without ever having to play a bar chord for the B chord, and including chord iii and chord vi, as triad forms)

capo position- 2nd
D shape– chord I (E)
Em shape– chord II (F#m)
minor triad shape (xxx222)– chord iii (G#m)
G shape– chord IV (A)
A shape– chord V (B)
minor triad shape (xxx432)– chord vi (C#m)

alternate key of E
capo- NOT USED
E shape– chord I (E)
minor triad shape (xxx222)– chord ii (F#m)
minor triad shape (xxx444)– chord iii (G#m)
A shape– chord IV (A)
major triad shape (xx444x)– chord V (B)
minor triad shape (xxx654)– chord vi (C#m)

Hope you guys and girls find this helpful…. especially for you beginners out there, eager to write songs. However, don’t neglect your bar chords! This is just a useful tool to pull out every now and then, when you’re feeling lazy or when your fingers hurt.

SONGWRITING/RECORDING: Get to work. Now.

Every week or so, I talk to my cousin on the phone. He lives on the Jersey shore, and I live just outside of Philadelphia, PA. I’m about an 80-minute drive from him, and vice-versa. We see each other about once every two years. That’s not enough.

Let me tell you a little about my cousin.

He’s a genius. He can play guitar decently, can sing anything, can freestyle rap and make anyone piss their pants who’s within earshot, and he can write great lyrics that actually say something (or nonsense) and it always grabs everyone’s attention. That’s just the kind of guy he is. Everyone says he’s got the gift of gab, and he does. I’d kill to be as insane, and magnetic as he is.

But he talks shit all the time. “I’m gonna be the best damn producer ever” or “oh yeah man, when I make that first million….”

He’s 38 years old. I’m 37. I don’t think anyone gives much of a damn about our artistic endeavors anymore (or if they ever did). But…. my cousin’s the type of guy that if he really put in the work, he COULD be a millionaire. He could be the next ANYTHING…. Eminem, Ray William Johnson (the YouTube personality), ANYTHING…. he’s just got that “IT FACTOR.” I don’t have that It Factor.

I can’t count how many times we talk on the phone and say the same crap all the time… “let’s do this… seriously, we’ve got to do this… man, I’ll visit you… you visit me, we’ll really grind stuff out… put these wheels into motion.”

And yet… it never happens.

A year and a half ago, I made the drive (and I HATE driving, believe me)… and set up his computer, tweaked it, let him borrow some great recording equipment, a great mic, a MIDI drum pad, you name it… tons of sample loops, etc. We played guitar and sang songs and he showed me some ideas he had, which I thought were genius… Johnny Cash-ish country underdog tunes, and Social Distortion-ish rockabilly awesomeness.

Almost ten years ago, my cousin recorded 7 rap songs (produced fully by him, after training from me) and they are STILL the coolest things I’ve heard in a while. They’re cocky, confident, original, and completely my cousin. And if he re-recorded/tweaked them a bit, and put them on YouTube, the world would be at his feet. No shit.

But he hasn’t done anything yet.

Our conversation tonight began.. “well, I gotta upgrade my computer… I think it’s slowin’ me down…” (it’s a quad-core with like 12GB of ram, but yes… it’s only running XP, but that doesn’t matter, because all of my recording programs and stuff are still 32-bit, so they don’t use anything more than 3GB of ram, and I’ve never run into problems when tracking… even after 24 or 25 tracks with a lot of effects plugins like reverb/compression, etc). But this is kind of how he operates. There’s always an excuse or something holding him back.

But nothing should be holding him back. He’s got a gift from God or whatever you believe these gifts come from… he needs to be “out there” and making at least tens of thousands of dollars from his amazing ideas.

There’s one thing I never want to see (but I’m afraid it’s inevitable)… it’s turning 60, and my cousin turning 61, and him saying the same damn shit he’s always said since his mid-20s…. “yo, man, when I make my first million…. shit man, I just need a Mac with 64 gigabytes of ram, and a double-octacore Intel i700 processor… and I gotta have that EXACT bass sound that Rhianna used in her song from way back when in 2014….”

All of you reading this— get the fuck to work. NOW. Before you know it, we’re worm food. What do YOU want to accomplish as an artist? Whatever it is, get the fuck to work.

And no one needs this advice more than ME right now, too. Thankfully I have some people who love me and always encourage me to keep going and get shit done. Laziness, fear of rejection, and bullshit excuses always hold me back. Don’t let that shit hold YOU back. Get the fuck to work.

Much love to all of you,
Chris Caulder