Songwriting Competitions

There are several Songwriting Competitions held throughout the year.

Following are links to some of these songwriting competitions that OVS students who have recordings of their own songs are encouraged to submit to:

The Song of the Year

For more information and to enter, click here.

The 2011 Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition
Click here for more information and to your enter the competition.

The International Songwriting Competition (ISC)
Click here for more information and to your enter the competition.

Newsong Contest
Click here for more information and to your enter the competition.

The John Lennon Songwriting Contest
Click here for more information and to your enter the competition.

Unsigned Only Music Competition
Click here for more information and to your enter the competition.

Visit APRA|AMCOS for their listings
Click here for more information.

Learning a Song – An Approach

When learning a new song, consider the following seven points in your approach:
1. Song Lyrics
2. Melody
3. Song Structure
4. The theoretical implications of the song
5. The dramatic and emotional elements of the lyric requiring response from the voice and the singer
6. Music Genre
7. Personal Interpretation

1. Song Lyrics
Word processing or writing out the lyric of the song is an important step in studying the song. The following article shows you how to do this.

The lyric of a song is written with purpose and is sung by the vocalist so there is an expectation that it be sung clearly and with feeling so that the messsage or story of the song is conveyed, so pay attention to the diction and phrasing of the lyric. When it comes to phrasing, you can write your breathing marks on the lyric sheet using a tick or ‘. This is very good practise so that when you have your lyric sheet on a music stand and your are practising the song, you can instantly see where you are supposed to breathe without having to rely on your memory. By the time you can sing the song without the lyric sheet, simply by muscle memory, you will naturally breathe with the correct phrasing.

The importance of song lyrics can be dependant on the style of song. If you are singing a dance piece, the lyric will more than likely be less important than if you were singing an inspirational ballad.

2. Melody
The melody of the song is made up of phrases of pitch and rhythm. Listen to the song and break it down into sections. Learn the melody of one section at a time e.g. start with the first section of the song. If it is the verse, learn the melody of the verse first, then learn the next section until you have learnt the entire song.

3. Song Structure
The form and shape of the whole piece will be evident when looking at your song lyric sheet. Be aware of the flow of sections so you know what section follows what.

A song can contain some or all of the following sections:
– Introduction
– Verse
– Pre-Chorus
– Chorus
– Bridge
– Instrumental Interlude
– Tag/Outro

4. The theoretical implications of the song
Understanding the musical elements of the song helps not only assists you in learning the song but also comes in handy when working with other musicians.

Know the following components of the song:
– The key that you perform it in
– Your starting note
– How many bars before you start singing
– Consider having a chord chart or band charts for the song

5. The dramatic and emotional elements of the lyric requiring response from the voice and the singer
This is when you pull from your tool belt of vocal qualities and techniques to add depth, emotion and conviction to your vocal performance. You can use dynamic changes (singing softly or loudly), belt, various levels of twang, vocal fry, whispering, speech, vocal tilting, melismas and the list goes on…

6. Music Genre
The style of your performance is dictated by what music genre the song belongs or you are interpreting the song as. Contemporary genres of music such as pop, R’n’B, music theatre, blues, reggae, rock etc have a their own style which differentiates one from the other. Be aware of the stylist elements of the song you are singing.

7. Personal Interpretation
Your personal response to the piece is important because this is what ensures your performance is unique and worth taking notice of. If you are singing a cover, you can sing it exactly like the recording artist or give it your own interpretation. With us all being unique from one another, a singer will naturally add in their own style when singing a cover especially once they are familiar and comfortable singing the song.

Once you understand these elements, then it’s all about practise and repetition and ingraining the lyric of the song so you can confidently perform the song focusing on how you want to convey the song rather than worrying about what section is next or what the next word is.

Practice Makes Perfect

Regular practice is essential. It is very important to recognise that, as a singer, you are a vocal athlete and that you are training a muscular and mental co-ordination. Each time you sing, you are building a muscular co-ordination that controls the breath and resonance that you want. Your development as a singer requires a controlled repetitive approach (that any good athlete would use) to develop your voice and refine your skills, hence the goal to possess good vocal technique.

A vocal coach can guide you in how to warm-up your voice and how to strengthen your voice through various exercises and repertoire.

APRA

If you are a music creator or music consumer, the Apra-Amcos website is one of those useful and resources websites to put on your Favourites list. On this website, you will find plenty of useful information relating to the music industry. Competitions, workshops and all sorts of opportunities are listed on the website so become a member and check in regularly.

APRA – Bringing music creators & consumers together

The Australia Performing Right Association (APRA) collects and distributes licence fees for the public performance and communication of our member’s musical works. The Australian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) collects and distributes mechanical royalties for the reprodution of our member’s musical works.

Click here for more information.

Song Lyrics – Writing out Song Words

When learning the lyrics of a song, it is important that you word process the lyrics according to its structure. This will assist in the learning process and also in locking in the lyric and structure of the song so that you can eventually perform the song confidently by memory.

The components of a lyric sheet can include the following:
1. Song Title
2. Key
3. If the backing track ends with a fade, note it
4. Recording artist/songwriters
5. Song Structure sections - Intro (how many bars); Verse; Pre-Chorus; Chorus; Bridge; Instrumental Interludes (how many bars); Tag
6. Highlighted lyrics to indicate where the backing vocals are

Displayed below is a sample of a word processed lyric sheet of a song.

 

The Relevance of Song Lyrics

Song lyrics are a set of words that make up a song. The words are meant to be sung. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist or lyrist. The lyricist of traditional musical forms such as Opera, is known as a librettist. .

The lyric of a song is written with purpose and is sung by the vocalist so there is an expectation that it be sung clearly and with feeling so that the messsage or story of the song is conveyed.

The importance of song lyrics can be dependant on the style of song. If you are singing a dance piece, the lyric will more than likely be less important than if you were singing an inspirational ballad.

With contemporary music, there is the freedom of interpretation where the vocalist can vocal adlib adding embellishments such as melissmas, scats, trills etc… fantastic… but the body of the song remains. Have a look at the song “I Will Always Love You” written by Dolly Parton in 1973. In 1992 the song became an international hit with the version recorded by Whitney Houstin for the movie “The Bodyguard”. If you were to play the melody of this piece according to the original sheet music, it has fairly straight phrasing and little embellishment. Have a listen to how Dolly Parton sings the song. Then compare it to how Whitney Houston interprets the song. Vocally, there is an obvious difference but the core of the melody and essence of the song are fundamentally the same… the lyrics are the same, the structure of the song is the same, the chord progression is the same though Whitney Houston sings the song in A, and Dolly Parton in Ab.

I have worked with vocalists who give no importance to the lyric and pay little attention to knowing exactly what the lyric of a song is making up words, singing jibber and ultimately, giving little justice to the song. It would be disappointing for me to attend a live performance of Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner or Beyonce, for example, and hear them singing non-sensical lyric song after song… that’s unacceptable, unprofessional and displays a lack of discipline and at that league of entertainment, it wouldn’t happen.

As a singer who performs covers, a sense of responsibility and respect comes with singing other people’s songs. There is also a set standard that has already been outlayed by the recording of the song and if the audience is familiar with the recording, they have an expectation of what they want to hear when listening to another artist cover that song. If you were to perform a cover and make up lyrics etc, the audience will not appreciate this and a lot of people, will take offense. “What, does the singer think I’m stupid? I’m trying to sing along and they are singing the wrong words.” I have heard people in the audience listening to a singer and being displeased with the performance because the singer wasn’t singing the song properly in that they were either singing the wrong lyrics, singing out of tune or losing their place in song. In a karaoke or fun amateur singing environment, this is acceptable, but in a professional environment you would not expect to experience this. Of course, song paradys or spoofs are the exception.

In conclusion, what is the relevance of song lyrics? The lyric of a song is part and parcel of the song. The lyric of a song is just as important as the melody. People like to sing along; people take a message with them from the lyric of a song; people make their own interpretation of the lyric of song whether they relate it to their own experience or something else; the lyric of a song has the ability to evoke excitement, memories and all sorts of emotion. As a singer, one of our jobs is to sing the song lyric. Simple… know your song lyrics, understand the meaning and convey it in your performance.

How to Choose a Good Quality Backing Track

To purchase backing tracks, refer to this article for more information.

Usually, there are several different versions of backing tracks to one song.

When choosing what backing track to use, consider the following:

1. Key
2. Quality of Sound
3. Backing Vocals Vs. No Backing Vocals
4. Song Structure
5. Clear ending Vs. Fade Out

1. Key
Make sure that the key is suitable to your voice. If you have been learning the song according to sheet music, check that the backing track is in the same key as the sheet music.

2. Quality of Sound
If you are planning to perform the song using the backing track, play the backing track through a PA System and listen to the track from a quiet volume to loud. The sound needs to be clear and have a nice balance of bass, mids and highs. A backing track with too much mids and highs will sound tinny like it is being played from an AM radio station. Play the backing track and then play the original recording to make comparisons. You can also play a backing track and play another version to compare sound quality.

3. Backing Vocals Vs. No Backing Vocals
A backing track is normally available in two versions: one with backing vocals and one without backing vocals. When sourching backing tracks with backing vocals, it is important listen to the backing vocals before purchasing the track (where possible). The backing vocals need to be mixed well into the track (not too loud) and be there to enhance your lead vocals (not take away). If the backing vocals are not of a good quality, it is best to purchase the track without backing vocals. If you prefer backing vocals, keep looking for other versions with backing vocals until you find a good one. If you don’t come across a good backing track with backing vocals, you can always record the backing vocals over the track.

4. Song Structure
Once you purchase a backing track, sing over the track and check your lyrics are structured accordingly. Sometimes the structure of the song on a backing track version differs to the original recording or sheet music. If your vocals come in as soon as the track starts, you will need cueing by way of a count in and/or starting note. You can record this in yourself using music production software where absent in the backing track.

5. Clear Ending Vs. Fade Out
If you are planning to perform the song using the backing track, it is better to have a track that finishes with a clear ending rather than a fade. Reason being, it evokes a live-feel rather than a recorded radio-feel. If you were to perform with a live band, the song would finish with a clear ending and not a fade out. If the track you purchase ends with a fade, you can edit the song so that it finishes with a clear ending or you can search for another track that finishes with a clear ending. If you find a great backing track that ends with a fade but you don’t want to alter the ending, use it. To cover the fade at the end, banter to your audience or if you are also playing an instrument, play over the fade to give the track a clear ending.

Where to Source Backing Tracks

Backing tracks can be purchased from several Music Shops and Online Stores. Purchasing online is a convenient way to instantly download the track. The following is a list of local stores and online locations where you can purchase backing tracks:

Online Stores include:

ITunes

Karaoke Version

Capital Karaoke

321 Sounds

Music Stores and General Stores that have a Music Section usually stock backing track albums. Check out the Karaoke Section. Google the following stores for a location near you:

KMart
Big W
Target
JB Hi-Fi
Sanity

Where to Source Sheet Music

Sheet music can be purchased from several music and online stores.  Purchasing online is a convenient way to instantly download sheet music, save it onto your computer and print it.

The following is a list of local and online store locations to purchase sheet music.

Online Stores :

MusicNotes

Online Sheet Music

Sheet Music Plus

Sheet Music Direct

Ellaways Music

Allans Billy Hydes Music

Physical Music Stores:

The Music Spot
Ph: (07) 3800 5229
129 Browns Plains Road
Browns Plains QLD 4118
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 10am-3pm

Ellaways Music
Ph: (07) 3359 8266
315-337 Gympie Road
Kedron QLD 4031
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 10am-4pm

Music Express
Ph: (07) 3849 7088
2048 Logan Road
Upper Mt Gravatt QLD 4122

Allans Music + Billy Hyde
Ph: (07) 5532 9550
53 Nerang Street
Southport QLD 4215
Open Mon-Fri 9.30am-6pm, Sat 9am-3pm

Voice Care Tips – The Fundamentals

Rest – Hydrate – Warmth – Diet – Exercise 

Your voice will function at its best when it is housed in a healthy body that is well-rested, hydrated, warm, and fit.  The following are points to consider in keeping yourself healthy and your voice functioning at its optimal when singing:

Rest

Hydrate

  • Drink fluids regularly throughout the day – when dehydration occurs, the vocal folds are the first organ in your body to dry out.  Keeping well hydrated is vital for your voice to be able to function properly and for your general well-being.  Do what you can to keep your body warm and at a steady temperature.  It is important for your vocal tract and larynx to be well lubricated when singing.  Water requires approximately one hour to circulate throughout your body.  Avoid consuming anything other than luke-warm, filtered water for at least one hour before singing and keep hydrating yourself while singing.  I drink Nobles Pureau as it is pure water that does not contain salt, chlorine, fluoride or any other impurities normally found in tap water which could potentially impede my vocal health.  Hot water causes the vocal folds to swell and cold water causes them to become thin and brittle.  I have noticed a lot of students drinking cold drinks in their singing lessons – that would be similar to you being outside in the freezing cold with shorts and a singlet and me telling you to do 10 repetitions of 20kg chest presses.  Be kind to your body.
  • Steam is the only source that will directly carry fluid and hydrate the vocal folds instantly – so to instantly lubricate your voice, steam.

Warmth

  • Keep warm – maintain a steady, warm body temperature (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • It is not ideal to sing in an air-conditioned room but this is mostly unavoidable.  Avoid positioning yourself in the direct air flow of the air-conditioner.  If you have control of the air-conditioner, have the temperature set to 25°C.
  • Avoid sitting in a breezy or windy area.  If you are outside and there is a breeze blowing on you, move.  Moving could be as simple as moving to the table across from yours.
  • If you wash your hair, dry it immediately.  Avoid exposing your wet or damp hair in cooler weather.
  • Do not sleep with open windows or the fan on in cooler weather

Diet

  • Maintain a balanced plant-based alkaline diet.  Choose certified organic foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants that are alkalizing to the body such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains by eliminating acid-forming foods such as animal meat, dairy, fried food, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine.  Acid-forming foods breed ill-health and disease.  The consumption of dairy causes inflammation and results in increased mucous production leading to recurrent URTIs and Hay fever symptoms (a nightmare for a vocalist).  Eat fruits rich in Vitamin C such as Kiwi Fruit.
  • Vitamins – be sure to take a B12 and get your Vitamin D fix by getting out in the sun everyday

Exercise

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily – include Cardiovascular, Resistance and Core Strength
  • Prepare you mind and body to sing by doing physical stretches
  • Warm up your voice before you start your performance or practice session

Hygiene

  • Wash your hands regularly with antibacterial soap for 20 seconds – avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Close the door after going to the lavatory to avoid spreading airborne germs.
  • Grooming for an entertainer is very important.  When an entertainer is poorly presented or has poor hygiene, it distracts from their performance.  Audiences can be quite fickle and unforgiving, so keep yourself neat and tidy to keep the attention on your performance and to respect yourself and your craft.
    • Before a performance:
      • brush, floss and mouthwash your teeth
      • remove any unsightly hair (for ladies – toes, legs, bikini line, armpits, chin, above the upper lip, nostrils, nose, around your eyebrows; for men – nostrils, ears)
      • pore strip (do this at least a day before a performance)
      • groom your finger and toe nails
      • shower
      • moisturise
      • apply make-up (for ladies – to match your outfit; rich enough to be seen from the stage)
      • style your hair
      • dress to impress

Allergens and Irritants

  • Avoid local irritants such as tobacco smoke, alcohol and medications such as Cold’n’Flu tablets or anything containing antihistamines.
  • Reduce air borne irritants in your immediate environment.  This includes deodorant sprays, hair spray, domestic cleaning products, dust, paint products etc.  It may be of benefit for you to be tested for allergies.  See your GP for an allergy test.
  • Avoid menthol or eucalyptus – use peppermint or chamomile instead
  • Choose Certified Organic where possible