September 23, 2011

Free For All Friday, September 23, 2011

Food Fight!

Hey, kids! Welcome to Free For All Friday, where we throw random stuff at the wall to see what sticks. It’s like a musical food fight! What’s on the menu today, you ask?

Today’s selections include:

1 – The “formula” behind today’s pop hits
2 – Tools for the budding guitar tech
3 – The search for the best teen band in the USA

Rock and roll!

Ke$ha Blinded Me with Science


Although most songwriters would probably cringe at the notion that you can write a great song by some type of science, American Songwriter magazine has an interesting article on the “formula” behind today’s hit pop songs. As most of us know, hit songs are not necessarily great songs,so keep that in mind as you read. But in a nutshell, it uses the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests and the algorithms therein to give us an idea of a song’s “listener friendliness”. Interesting from a science and marketing standpoint, but a little disconcerting from the art side of things.

Personal rant alert! As a songwriter myself and someone who appreciates the art and craft of songwriting as much as anyone you’ll likely meet…as someone who used to buy a plane ticket to Nashville just to take songwriting lessons with one of the best writers in the business…well, let’s just say that the facts contained within this article kinda sorta make me want to beat my head against the wall. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note just how far we’re willing to dumb our songs down for the mainstream listener. Sigh.

ASCAP’s Ralph Murphy, who is referenced in the article, has done somewhat similar analyses for top country hits, although he never got down to word- and letter-count the way this article does. He usually speaks more toward basic song craft elements, such as choice of form (verse-chorus versus AAA, for example), the placement of the title in the chorus (first line versus last line), etc., and how they tend to appear in hit songs. To my way of thinking, this is the true “craft” part of the art.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts on this controversial subject!

Seven-Word Lines and Four-Letter Words: The Science of Songwriting

Tools for Guitar Fools

CruzTOOLS GrooveTech Kit

No, I’m not saying you’re a fool for wanting to work on your own guitar. In fact, you’re a better man (or woman) than I am if you do.

But this simply awesome tool kit from CruzTOOLS makes me wanna rethink my whole “spend time learning to play your guitar, not work on it” thing that I’ve been holding onto for so long! And honestly, it gets awful pricey having multiple guitars set up. See my Guitar Talk page for evidence.

Included with this sweet and heavy-duty kit are instructions for learning to set up your own axe – very nice. I think I’m gonna buy myself one of these. Happy Birthday to me!

CruzTOOLS GrooveTech Guitar Player Tech Kit

The Best Teen Band in the USA

Teens Rock

Stuck playing at the local pool party? Tired of slugging it out in the local battle of the bands for $50 and a gift card to TGIFriday?

Well, listen up future rock stars! If you’re a teen…and you’ve got a band…and you write and play original music…then you’ve got a major shot at some serious street cred right here! I’ll let the press release say it best:

“Just in time for back-to-school, teen bands have the chance to showcase their talent by entering the third annual national SchoolJam USA teen battle of the bands. Beginning today, middle and high school teens, who have a passion for music and want to help promote the significance of their schools’ music programs, can enter the SchoolJam USA competition at

This battle of rising stars is produced by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), The competition highlights quality musical teen talent, gathers students to support music and the arts, provides funding for school music programs, and promotes active participation in school music programs.

Unsigned teen musicians between the ages of 13 and 19, with the majority of band members currently registered in a U.S. middle or high school are eligible to participate and apply from Aug. 1 to Oct. 21, 2011. Bands can perform any genre of music but the song must be original content or designated as “public domain.” To view full competition rules and regulations, and for information about how to apply, visit

To check out the complete article, follow the link!

NAMM’s Search for ‘Best Teen Band in the USA’ Begins Today

See you next Friday…

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Jim Bowley is a professional guitarist, teacher and blogger. A native of Baltimore, he has over 30 years of playing experience and an advanced degree in Music Education from Towson University. Jim lives in Bel Air, MD where he maintains a thriving private lesson studio and performs with his band, Remains of Radio.

© 2012 Jim Bowley All rights reserved.
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