Why I Do Beatles Covers

Iain Macmillan captures the Beatles crossing the street outside of their Abbey Road studio. 

Here’s one of my favorite Beatles covers just released.

Timeless Melodies

It’s hard to grasp the number of timeless melodies the Beatles have written. What makes them timeless is they are as fresh today as they were 50 years ago. Their songwriting prowess cannot be contested when one considers the number of tunes the average person can recognize as Beatles’ hits. It’s easy to make a song sound new again when the melody is memorable and singable. So, one reason I enjoy covering Beatles songs is because their melodies are timeless.

Wonderful Memories

Most of the songs the Beatles wrote were during a season of my life when music and life events were pretty much woven into each other, like a quilt. Remembering what I was doing when I first heard “Yesterday” or “And I Love Her” brings pleasant feelings that the future was bright and life was good. Wanting to offer people music that lifts them up, playing Beatles covers is a winning strategy.

Beatles Music is Popular

Google any Beatles song name and you’ll see lots of views or search hits. As a content creator, leveraging a topic’s popularity enhances my own chances of having you find and follow my content. Popular songs have important characteristics that make re-doing them fun for the artist too. Plus, little differences can be added that help establish an artist’s signature sound while providing entertainment and a much needed lift to someone’s day.

Here’s my latest Beatles cover song. How’d I do?

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Christmas Music: Classic vs Popular

Which is better?

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

For some real classics recorded live I hope you’ll give a listen to my YouTube Christmas playlist!

The classics remind us of the true origins of Christmas.

This is the reason we sing.  We celebrate a historic event about a real person who came to earth with a mission like no other.

Think about it.  What other season’s celebration is based on facts.  Jesus was unlike any other.  The humble king loved us enough to die for all that holds us back from being all the we are created to be.

The classics are easier to sing.

OK – this may be an indication I’m dating myself a little.  After all, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” does not have a wide vocal range.  And I understand “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” may challenge some young singers.  But a couple years of repetition can do wonders in learning the classics.  And then you’re done, you don’t have to keep learning the same song over and over again.

The classics tell the Christmas story

Stories are what we all remember and cherish all our lives.  That’s why Christmas is eternal in so many ways.  So many songs tell the story of what happened when Jesus was born. “What Child Is This”, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, even tell the historic events that occurred which provide the setting of the story.  God’s people had looked for someone to save them for many generations.  The Christmas classic songs tell us that story too.

Pop songs with a Christmas theme make us fantasize about romance never realized

Pop songs are great at bringing us fresh perspectives on old events.  But when this occurs assuming real life is no longer important, their impact is diminished.  Such is the case with “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “Merry Christmas Darling, and other oldies like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, (unless of course her husband was filling in).

Pop songs with a Christmas theme influence us to think fantasy can become reality

There are lots of these songs played every season.  While they can be fun and catchy they take us away from the real story of Christmas which is so much more fulfilling than imagining a fantasy.

So these are my reasons why I favor the classics when it comes to Christmas.

For some real classics recorded live I hope you’ll give a listen to my YouTube Christmas playlist!

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

How To Write A Song Using Scripture

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

In the blog post I provide 3 variations on how to write a song using scripture. Feel free to watch the video to follow along.

First variation is having a theme or a story to tell. Example follows.

For this we’ll use verses from a song I wrote using verses from Romans 1:16. 5:8, 5:1.

Power from Romans

Starting with the verses themselves, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is the theme? Reading the verses we might come up with themes like Power, gospel, or God.

For the Song form I used one melodic idea repeated for each verse. Concerning the Lyrics, to determine whether they would fit the melody I counted syllables to make the melody and the verse easier to remember.

Another Example of identifying a theme is shown by this song from Romans 15:13.

Here is the verse: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

For the theme what else but hope could it be? God is a God of hope!

Song form is Verse/Chorus. I used the Bible verse for the chorus and wrote other lyrics to support it for the song verses. I added verses that follow the theme, not scripture, per se, but ideas come from scripture.

My 2nd variation deals with having a verse or verses to memorize. Follow along with the video below to see how it works.

the lyrics came from these verses 2 Peter 1:3, and Ephesians 2:10.

The first verse is here: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” And then, similar to a medley I added the verse from Ephesians. “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do works which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

For the song form I chose A/B Separate melody for each verse in a medley approach.

For Lyrics each verse had a distinctly different tune.

Here’s another Example of having a verse to memorize and writing a song to help – John 1:12.

Here’s the verse: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

For the Song form I used Verse/Chorus. Then I counted syllables to make sure things fit. This helps the listener remember more easily. I added verses that support the chorus.

For my 3rd variation let’s consider a call to worship, some say a “‘Call To Action”. Example follows from Psalm 28: 6,7, 30:4.

Here’s the verse: “Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name.”

For the Song form I used Verse/Chorus. The Call To Worship/Action is the chorus.

For Lyrics I used scripture which made the melody and the verse easier to remember. The added verses support the chorus memory verse.

For another example of a call to worship, consider Psalm 123: 1, 2.

The verse reads “To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou art enthroned in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He shall be gracious to us.”

The Song form is one melodic idea repeated for each verse. This makes the melody and the verse easier to remember. Adding verses that support the chorus memory verse is also a best practice.

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How I Wrote A Song Using 1 Corinthians 10:23 For Lyrics

Why do you write scripture songs?

Songs based on scripture provide an easy way to learn the Bible better.  Several years ago I was leading children to sing and remember Bible verses.  What better message to instill in fresh minds and hearts than God is planning great things for your life!  Writing Bible memory songs, or scripture songs aids those wanting to achieve scripture memory.  

How can all things be lawful, or permissible? Really? Is it really that simple? Religious constraints no longer matter? Keep reading and the clarification is apparent.

Here it is: Not everything is profitable, or beneficial. Just because we have the freedom to do whatever we want we need to remember that others are impacted by our freedom. So that is our guardrail – is what I’m doing still expressing love to my neighbor?

If I’m too selfish they are harmed or impacted negatively. If I’m only thinking about myself I will miss the point. Are you with me – yes, you are free – but what you do matters.

How did you get the idea for the tune?

I wanted a cool sound, like you might hear in a cocktail lounge. You might not see that when you hear it. The chords I was looking for I wanted to sound open enough that many notes would be available for the vocal melody. I think I achieved that. The flexibility of the vocal melody suggest the idea of constraints being lifted and singing more freely. To me, ending on a major seventh chord brings it all together. Be free, but be responsible to care for others.

How I Wrote A Song using Ephesians 2:10 for Lyrics

Photo by Lavkush Gupta on Unsplash

Why do you write scripture songs?

Songs based on scripture provide an easy way to learn the Bible better.  Several years ago I was leading children to sing and remember Bible verses.  What better message to instill in fresh minds and hearts than God is planning great things for your life!  Writing Bible memory songs, or scripture songs aids those wanting to achieve scripture memory.  

But first, how is it that God has prepared wonderful things for us to do?  How is this possible?  The answer is laced all throughout the New Testament, but for this song I landed on 2 Peter 1:3.  God has given us His divine power through His promises in the Bible.  By getting to know HIm better we discover that power to live in a way that pleases Him content with the Godliness He provides.

How did you get the idea for the tune?

In my mind I imagined the first reading of these words.  Who were they for?  How might they respond when they realized the great hope extended to them?  I picture people who would have been familiar with Jewish folk music, but at the time just remembered how a I and a V chord provide accompaniment for dance music of the day.  With that as a start the tune sort of took off in a direction of driving happiness.  Adding the Ephesians song was easy because of the notes the voice sings.  It’s an easy key change when the voice shares a common note between the two keys!

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How I Wrote A Song using Matthew 11 for Lyrics

Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

Why would anyone do this?

Songs based on scripture provide an easy way to learn the Bible better.  Sometimes scripture songs for worship have a more transcendent purpose helping people to focus better on God.  Writing Bible memory songs, or scripture songs aids those wanting to achieve scripture memory. 

It’s important that scripture tunes support the words being sung.  One of the best ways to do this is to speak the words naturally, as if you were talking to your friend.  Do you hear any pitch variations as your voice sounds higher or lower emphasizing some words over others?  What about rhythm?  Do you feel a 3 beat or a 4 beat common pulse?

Why these verses?

The words of Jesus have a special impact in our current world.  Whether it’s the COVID crisis, an uncertain future, fear, depression, or just plain anxiety, Jesus’ words still bring hope to us in our troubles thousands of years after they were spoken.  Consequently selecting a major key and weaving in minor chords for impact and color can calm emotions and enhance memory as the music reminds us of the words.

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How To Write Your First Blog Entry As A Musician

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Introduction

Is there anything unique about writing your first blog entry as a musician?  In many ways no. 

When you’re starting you need a good model to follow.

Let me suggest this blog post as a helpful starting place.

Find Your Passion

Identifying passion can sound a little mysterious, but it’s not really that difficult. Just ask yourself a few questions. 

If money was not an issue, how would you spend your days?  

What activity keeps you awake past your normal bedtime without you becoming tired or even noticing? 

What are people always telling you you’re good at?  Maybe they’re suggesting you start something along that topic.

Solve A Problem

Passion identified?  Great! Now, how in the world does it relate to a problem to be solved? 

Do you hear people complaining about and imagining “if only”?  Is it a problem you can solve? 

Take music – what is something people have a problem with it comes to music?  What do they have a hard time understanding? 

Music theory?  Reading music? Beginning guitar lessons?

Or maybe it’s their favorite band.

Here’s one way I’ve found to solve a problem. For memorizing Bible verses I write songs using verses for lyrics.

Do Keyword Research

Keywords are the topics covered in your blog post. SEO uses keywords to help people searching for you content to find your article.

The reason to do research before you write your first blog post is to get an idea of what people are interested in. 

Knowing this helps you write content that people are looking for.  It also improves the amount of traffic you are getting to your website. 

Some ideas to consider would include the making of your album, the history of your band, or respond to an opinion article.

These topics form the keywords of your blog posts.  Just write about one at a time.

Conclusion

There you have it – enough to write your first blog entry as a musician. Write from your passion. Solve a problem. Do keyword research.

Sources:

https://makingmusicmag.com/writing-tips-music-blogging/

https://bandzoogle.com/blog/5-musician-blog-posts-you-can-write-now

https://bloggingtips.com/music-blog-ideas/

How To Benefit From Rowing as a Musician

Kyle Franz from Unsplash

Introduction

I don’t know what it is or why, but at the place I workout, there is only a single rowing machine.   Is it just that people have no idea of the benefits of rowing?  Or maybe the link between music and exercise seems more elusive than obtainable.  But musicianship and rowing definitely complement each other.

Effective Cardio – Low Impact Exercise

No matter your age, cardio exercise is an important aspect – or should be – of an effective exercise plan.  If you’re used to running and have ever felt the pounding in your knees or hips, rowing can provide a welcome break, while continuing to provide benefits for losing weight.   As a musician, rowing is more like a legato, (smooth and connected), phrase instead of one with lots of accents – from pounding on the concrete.

Weight Loss

Did you know that 30 minutes of vigorous rowing burns 105 calories on average, according to Harvard Health Publishing.  Even a moderate pace will burn 86 calories on average.  Every musician who disciplines themselves with daily practice knows the benefits of continuing and not skipping days or giving up those exercises which seem unimportant.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Upper and Lower Body Workout

Rowing exercises the rhomboids, or push up muscles, in the shoulders.  The trapezius in the upper back, and latisimmus dorsi in the lower back also benefit.  A stronger back and shoulders include improved posture and reduce back pain. Rowing also benefits biceps, pecs, and abs, for a stronger core.  As a musician, our cord is pretty much the center of everything involving the physical aspect of playing an instrument or singing.

Rowing utilizes leg muscles; the quads in the upper front of the thighs, as well as the calves and glutes (buttocks) also feel the burn. Rowing is also resistance training benefitting flexibility and balance.  As a musician, the overall strength gaining benefits from rowing also benefits us, no matter how we apply this to our craft.

Here I am applying the benefits of rowing.

With My Song I Shall thank Him

Conclusion

There it is – 3 reasons why Rowing is worth your time.  And each one lends itself to some aspect of musician life.  So maybe when you see that rowing machine all by itself you’ll have more knowledge to employ to make a change and enjoy the benefits of rowing.

Sources:

https://www.livestrong.com/article/82470-benefits-rowing-machine/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.htm

Top 10 Benefits of Using a Rowing Machine

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-rowing-machine

Victor Freitas from Unsplash

I’d love to hear what your experiences have been rowing as a musician

How To Write A Song With Established Lyrics

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Introduction

Writing a song can be approached from many different perspectives.  Sometimes the assignment involves writing the melody after the lyrics have already been established.  The tune must support the words, not the other way around.  While this may appear limiting initially, a little extra work to simplify our task can be just what is needed.

The melody

When the lyrics can’t change, the focus must be on how the melody can support them.  Consider your audience.  Will the end result be sung as a solo or by a group?  For groups, keep in mind varying levels of musical literacy and skill in tracking with the melody.  By this I mean, the simpler the better.  Of course should it be a solo performance, should you consider the artist may adlib?  Does the melody resolve easily to notes nearby as part of the chord?

The meter

The best songs always synchronize the lyrics and the rhythm of the words.  When the words can’t be changed, this can seem constraining.  However, do this.  Talk through the words.  What is happening as you read them out loud naturally?  Can you hear the meter coming through?  Are there natural rises and falls to the sound of the words?  If so, this makes your job a little easier because it may be possible to fit your tune to match what the words are doing.  Count syllables.  Sometimes you will find the lines match.  If so, even better for the sake of a tune because repetition makes it easier to remember.

The blending of the two

Here’s where it all comes together.  Experiment with major and minor keys to try different emotional viewpoints of the harmony against the melody.  Chords make a difference here.  Try major, then the relative minor.  What supports the lyric better?  Don’t forget cadence too.  I – IV – V is popular. But what if you tried iv after the I chord? Or the ii before the V?  These are all possibilities to make the words resolve just like the melody does.

Conclusion

 Finally, step away and come back.  Give your brain and your ears a rest. To write a melody when the lyric can’t be changed can be difficult.  But the way to do it is to break the work into small pieces.  Complete each one till you have a song.  Sing it.  Are you surprised?  Does it feel constrained of did you find a way to make it work?

I’d love to hear from you.  Was this helpful?  What ways have you found to write a song when the lyrics can’t be changed?

photo by Clint McCoy from Unsplash

3 Reasons Music Helps Us Improve Memory

mohamed nohassi form Unsplash

As long as I can remember I’ve heard people say that scriptures for memorization, or really anything relating to scripture memory was difficult to master.  Being trained as a musician, I wondered if a tune would help.  Although I’m not the first to try or introduce this, I have learned that people CAN learn and memorize scripture using songs based on scripture, or simple Bible memory songs.

I’ve included an example of one of my scripture songs for worship, a simple memory verse song, part of my daily meditations.  These scripture tunes are not really part of any scripture songs album… yet.

3 Benefits of using music to help us remember:

Minimize Your Stress…

Why is it we can’t seem to remember things without music helping us out?.  Often when studying something head on, we create our own stress.  The reason we can’t remember things is related to the stress in our lives.  Music induces a state of meditation, resulting in relaxing our brains and enhancing memory.   This process actually disengages the brain freeing it from “debris which can impede its memory function.”  

Improve our mood…

There is a part of the brain called the hippocampus.  Music can stimulate chemicals that improve our moods.  When learning something new, an enhanced mood can ease the task.

Allow you to think more clearly…

With less stress and an enhanced mood you can think more clearly.  When this occurs memory improves.

The basic theory of why music can facilitate improved memory and enhanced learning has to do with its ability to generate positive emotions.  Positive emotions generate expectation of reward while negative emotions impair memory.  This is attributed to the hippocampus which mediates both emotions and memory formation.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Mozart Effect or the Vivaldi Effect.  Both are research studies that show when classical music, without words, memory can be stimulated to produce better test scores.  Pleasurable learning can improve test scores.  Positive mood management is real and aids us all in learning and remembering.  I use this idea to write songs that help people memorize scripture.  

How do you use music to improve your mood – or help you remember what you want to learn?

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/memory-medic/201312/does-music-help-memory

https://takelessons.com/blog/effect-of-music-on-memory-z15#:~:text=With%20that%20said%2C%20scientists%20found,which%20impede%20their%20proper%20functions.

kal visuals from Unaplash
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