Together on GarageBand

I went ahead and submitted Together to GarageBand. It's the first time I've used GarageBand's system that reviews songs and lets them climb up the charts if they're well-reviewed. Should be interesting. Click on the badge to find my page.

Songs In The Round Podcast

I had an idea for a new podcast and started developing the idea today. There are songwriters out there that are gaining attention and buzz by trying to write a song every so often and put it up on their website. That's some of what I've been doing here, both with my own songs, and also my piano improvisations. I've made podcasts out of both of them and listeners keep slowly subscribing, so it's encouraging.

But I'm also finding that people tend to like following along with the development process - it's kind of a way to step inside the mind of a songwriter, and see what it is like. It makes it more community-driven.

I'm also trying to motivate myself to songwrite more often. I want to find ways to get comments, and also find other musicians to possibly collaborate with. I'm sure others are in the same boat.

So I thought a songwriting workshop would be the way to go - but to make a podcast and website out of it as well. Each episode, a few songwriters get together to share their ideas or roughdrafts of their songs. We'll discuss the songs, songwriting in general, and perform for each other. We'll then post the episode and the songs on the website, and tell our friends/fans/supporters. It'll be a great way to get additional visibility, and to motivate each other to write songs as well.

The idea of having half-formed songs out there might be frightening, but I find that the benefits far outweight the costs. People are interested in this, and a songwriter can always write more songs - the hard part is gaining the interest. That's the approach I'm taking - I'm releasing all my music under Creative Commons. Eventually I might release a cd for sale, with better versions of the songs, but in the meantime, I want to find listeners.

I've posted an ad in a few places and have started to get some good feedback and interest. I'll keep y'all posted about the development of the idea. It will be called "Songs In The Round". Feel free to contact me if you're interested. If nothing else, for participants it'll be a fun way to get good comments and free beer, and for listeners, it'll be a good way to get some free music.

New Piano Musings

Coming soon: new piano musings! I'm working on putting together a whole new batch of them... currently deciding on whether to auto-post them every three days, every week, etc. In the meantime, you can check out the old ones here. I think my favorites are still An Elusive Sweetness and Slow Rain.

Symmetric Diminished Scale

As good as I am at recognizing patterns, it's humbling when you miss some! I went into my most recent lesson feeling like I knew my octatonic/half-dim scale. Tony calls it a symmetric diminished scale.

So, he asked me to play it in C. Then he asked me to play it in F. Then he asked me to play it in G. I figured he was just testing me in some random keys.

It became clear later that the point of asking for those three are that those are the only scales I really need to know. All the rest of them are just the same scales as the same as those three because of the symmetry of the scale. Eb, F#, and A are the same as C. Ab, B, and D are the same as F. Etc.

He showed me some sequences then too - any pattern of notes in that scale can become a sequence of playing the same intervals lower in the scale. I probably just need to see some more relationships in the scales and then I'll be able to start putting those sequences together in real time.

Presenting A Song

A few weeks ago I found out the Portland Songwriters Association was advertising an event (presented in conjuction with West Coast Songwriters) wherein songwriters could bring songs in to be screened by a Ms. Antoinette Olesen, who is head of A&R for Parthenon Music Group Inc.

I don't really know what "Parthenon Music Group" is, but I figured what the heck, "head of A&R" always sounds good. I don't really understand how this A&R stuff works, though. The event was $10/head, but I think that was money that went to the two nonprofit songwriters' groups, which I'm more than happy to pitch in to.

There were quite a few people pitching songs - and she was very nice. She apparently liked every song that she heard tonight - songs that weren't a fit for what she was looking for were "perfect for what they were". She was very much looking for "Great country or country pop songs that are outstanding and different from what you hear on the radio but 'fit' major radio. Especially female intelligent up-tempo."

It was interesting hearing the songs, too. There were some very twanged-up retro-sounding old country, stuff that you could just tell immediately would not be marketable for her purposes. And a couple of songs that were quite good that she seemed excited about. A lot of songs with intros that were too long, or with forms that needed tightening.

I decided to attend at the last minute - the song I have that is the best fit is All Aboard (update: I have since posted the song - go listen), and while I think it could go in a Nashville direction, the recording I have now is from a rehearsal and isn't very produced. It's very strummy and without any kind of country touches (other than the fact that it's about a train).

Since I was late, my song was last and didn't get presented until about 11pm, after about 1/3 of the people left.

It was a pretty cool reaction, I guess. "Is this your band?" "No, it's not a band yet, it's just some guys I got together to help me out." "But this could be a band, and you're the artist?" "Yeah, I'm the artist." "I really think you should continue with that. Put your band together and continue with that. This really isn't the style of what I shop, but I like it a lot - the lyrics are picturesque, I really like the sound. I really think you should go for it. And you've got other material? Send it to me as you come up with it, I would like to hear more."

And I got a couple of good comments afterwards, too. I don't know, it wasn't underwhelming. She was so nice to everyone else, and she told plenty of other people to send her more stuff. So it could have easily been her just choosing to be encouraging to a songwriter. But it seemed genuine. I remember struggling with how to feel afterwards, while walking back to my truck, and I ended up just seizing on the thought:

"Well, I did my music thing for the day."

So that felt good.

New And Disappearing Songs

Well, part of the process of getting to know my own website is reacting to new information. I was so much in the mindset of having this be a site about my creative process and development of a jazz musician that I didn't think anything of posting recordings of me playing jazz standards, but it is evidently illegal (and I should have remembered that).

The songs still exist on the site, but just in unpublished (not public) form. I can of course send recordings of me playing to my friends. So I will eventually open up the site to memberships, and add my friends (which are most of you) to the list - that way they'll be available by request.

In the meantime, I have posted a new Piano Musing called A New Steeple. I've also posted another one of my originals, As One, to make up for the loss of the standards. I'll be using the Bits And Pieces podcast more for song ideas, roughdrafts, and other original material from now on.

More postings coming soon about the art/music collaboration that Kasey Baker and I are doing.

Bits and Pieces Strategy

I launched and designed this site, but I feel like I'm still kind of kicking its tires and getting to know it better. One of the things I've had to think about is what kind of podcast strategy I want to have for the Bits and Pieces podcast. What music I upload, what music I don't upload.

This intersects all sorts of meaty philosophical songwriter issues that I'm sure I'll write about a lot more in the future. Whether to give music away for free, etc.

But in a nutshell, it's the question of what kind of music quality I want to upload. I see it in three levels:

  1. finished polished stuff, like produced songs - I definitely should do this to build audience, but it's hard to "let go" and actually make the decision
  2. roughdraft songs, reasonably good sounding arrangements and jazz covers/standards - I'll definitely be doing this, and already have, e.g. One For My Baby (since hidden for copyright reasons)
  3. more "in-progress" material, like snatches of lessons, things I'm practicing (and struggling with). I'm torn on this one because not everyone would want to hear it. But this is also sort of supposed to be a journal of mine.

So for now, I'm definitely doing the first two, but I imagine some of #3 might leak in from time to time.

I Take Requests

I've added something to the sidebar, a link to a Requests form.

One of the purposes of this site is to figure out a way to get people to encourage me to make more music. I'm hoping that eventually I'll market myself enough (and produce enough) that it'll basically be self-fueling, but in these early stages I kind of have to prod things along. So the requests form is just for people to request certain recordings - you want a piano improv to be about anything in particular? You want me to record a certain jazz standard? Make the request there.

I've already received one request since I posted the link, and it'll be a toughie...

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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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