Creating the Perfect Pre-Chorus – Part 1

The pre-chorus is NOT just the bit before the chorus – it is the bit before the chorus that creates TENSION! Building up and releasing this tension is one of the most effective ways of writing big, beautiful and impactful CHORUSES! In this video, Part 1 of a 3-part series, we examine how to use chord choices to build tension in your Pre-Chorus before releasing that tension in a satisfying and powerful way. We focus on how to avoid the ‘tonic’ and and leverage the ‘gold coin magic trick’- as well as diving into some famous examples from Beyoncé and Adele.

How to Use Chromatics to Write Killer Chord Progressions

Break out of predictable patterns and inject some colour into your craft with this chromatic approach to writing killer riffs and memorable melodies!

In Part 1 of the CHROMATIC MAGIC mini-series – we look at a simple yet effective way of breaking old patterns and introducing new sounds to your repertoire. Starting with some warm-up exercise that will challenge guitarists of all levels, we then look at some exciting ways to create improvised lines and memorable solos, before examining two iconic riffs and looking at the role that chromaticism can play in grabbing the listener’s ear and empowering you with many more songwriting options.

In Part 2, we continue the discussion on taking a chromatic approach to your songwriting, starting with some basic principles before moving on to advanced music theory. Our main focus throughout this video is to examine the movement between chords, how to connect chord sequences and utilise all 12 notes. We also explore chromatic chord options, break down tritone substitutions and play around with walking bass lines. Putting this all together will give you powerful and creative ways to construct your songs, allowing you to break free of predictable patterns and gain control over your stylistic choices.

And before you go! We have a LIVE (online) interactive Chord Workshop coming up in April 2022! You can find more info and tickets here:

Picking the Perfect Chords

As songwriters we often start with a chord progression, using it as a framework to add lyrics, melodies, textures and embellishments. But one question that continually pops up is ‘what chord do I choose next?’

In this video, my musical compadre Ben Romalis looks at the functions and relationships of chords in a diatonic system, to give you more control over the choices you make and more variety as the song develops. He breaks down a simple yet effective process for writing chord progressions that doesn’t feel random, doesn’t feel repetitive and gives you total control over the direction you’d like to take your composition. Finally, he looks at some great substitutions to spice up your song and support your lyrical message.

There is an upcoming 90-minute interactive workshop that explores this topic in more depth. CLICK HERE FOR INFO AND TICKETS.

Get a free PDF download that analyses the relationships and functions of chords within a diatonic system here:

Understanding Musical Genre for Songwriters

Professional songwriters often need or want to write in specific genres. This video explains 5 different ways to understand and emulate musical genre.

This video was made for a Songwriting class I teach at Collarts in Melbourne, Australia. A major project during the semester is to write a song to a specific brief provided by a music publisher, which asks for songs in a specific genre.

In order to write for this aspect of the commercial industry, it’s important to know how to listen to songs, and define the necessary characteristics of the genre so that you can emulate those characteristics, while still bringing in your own creativity to the project.

Genre is notoriously difficult to nail down, but in this video, I go through five concepts that are often at the heart of defining a genre.

The Secret Life of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen.

The song ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen is now thought of as a glittering jewel of genius. But the story of its rise to recognition reveals that it was the thinnest thread of circumstance that brought the song to the attention of the public imagination at all.

Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of the song in his wonderful new(ish) podcast Revisionist History. You can listen to the episode here:

Gladwell traces the history of the song (starting around halfway through the episode). Hallelujah was first released by Cohen in 1984. Cohen performed the song, but would constantly alter verses, sing verses that didn’t get recorded, eliminate biblical references (then bring them back), and generally move the pieces around like an Escher jigsaw. Very few people beyond fans paid attention to the song.

However, a singer-songwriter, John Cale, heard Cohen perform a version at a club in New York, and recorded his own version, taking Cohen’s sombre, dramatic, gospelised version and turning into a melodious piano-vocal that extracted the emotional core of the song and put it into a stark, haunting light. It was released on a small French label. Still, very few people paid any attention.

One of the few people who happened to have the record was a woman who was friends with a young man, a young and little-known singer-songwriter, by the name of Jeff Buckley. While house-sitting, he happened to put the record on. He happened to like the song, and happened to perform his own cover of John Cale’s cover in a tiny club in the East Village.

This happened to be heard by an executive at Columbia Records, and the version was released on Buckley’s debut album Grace. Grace also missed its target and fell disappointingly short of the public’s attention—until Buckley disappeared into the Mississippi River in 1997, and the rest in history.

What is astounding about this chain of events is how fragile and circumstantial the links of the chain really are. This was the farthest from an inevitable outcome. The song could very easily have remained in obscurity, a gem buried in the sand.

The journey of genius is complex; creativity is an impossible web of personality, circumstance and damn hard work (it’s well known that Cohen wrote between 50-70 verses in the process of crafting Hallelujah); and the recognition of genius is never guaranteed.

We just got lucky this time.

 

Soft Songs for Sleepy People


Exactly 11 months and 30 days ago I was 8 and a half months pregnant. That’s a lot of pregnant, by the way. It is so much human inside another human.

 

At that exact time, I also made ONE single new year’s resolution: that I would release these 3 songs, which I had virtually finished writing and recording while being that full of another human. It seemed like a reasonable goal for 2015, and I smugly believed that with some minor mixing to do and an hour on the internet, they would be out in the world by February, latest.

 

It turns out that having a baby is, um, time consuming. So here we are: December. But! I am pretty excited to have stopped showering, cooking, and going outside for the past few days (who needs hygiene, protein, or sunshine anyway?) in order to stave off the wave of self-flagellation that would engulf me if I failed the one and only resolution I made 11 months and 30 days ago…

 

These songs are a labour of love (teehee!). They are bedtime songs, written in a flurry of contemplation and love for the tiny human nestling in my body.

 

They are meant to be played as the sun is setting, as stars are flickering into light, and people are becoming gentle, warm, and cozy. I hope some of these words are whispered by parents to their children, from one loved one to another. They are soft songs for sleepy people. I hope you enjoy them!