Time until sign-ups begin:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We've Moved!

A few little housekeeping notes that many of you won't notice, but some of you will.

First: The web address of the SpinTunes contest has been changed to

I'm posting this here mainly so that, if you are reading this with a newsreader, you'll be aware of the change. Links to specific pages on the old blog may need to change. Just add "contest" after "spintunes". Otherwise they'll just re-direct over here to the newest page.

The one thing that might throw you is that the re-direction of the old page might... just might... cause some security software to have a fit. So if you have browser bookmarks that point to the old address, please update them.

-- Dave Leigh

Monday, May 29, 2017

SpinTunes #13 Schedule

As always, the schedule is flexible. Acts of God and other unavoidable stuff happens. You can keep up with scheduled events on our Google Calendar. If you want these events to show on your own Google calendar, the Calendar ID is the same as our new email address: spintunescontest@gmail.com

June 16th (Friday)
  - Noon - Sign ups start.

June 30th (Friday)
 - 11:59pm - Sign ups end.

July 1st (Saturday)
 - 12:01am - First challenge is announced.

July 9th (Sunday)
 - 11:59pm - First song deadline.

July 10th (Monday)
 - 9pm - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.
 - Immediately afterward, the songs will be made available for free download on BandCamp at our new location, https://spintunes.bandcamp.com.

During this gap:
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

July 15th (Saturday)
 - 4pm - Judges reviews are due.
 - 8pm - Reviews & scores are posted.
 - 10pm - Second challenge is announced.

July 23 (Sunday)
 - 11:59pm - Second song deadline.

July 24th (Monday)
 - 9pm - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.
 - Immediately afterward, the songs will be made available for free download on BandCamp at our new location, https://spintunes.bandcamp.com.

During this gap:
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

July 29th (Saturday)
 - 4pm - Judges reviews are due.
 - 8pm - Reviews & scores are posted.
 - 10pm - Third challenge is announced.

August 6th (Sunday)
 - 11:59pm - Third song deadline.

August 7th (Monday)
 - 9pm - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.
 - Immediately afterward, the songs will be made available for free download on BandCamp at our new location, https://spintunes.bandcamp.com.

During this gap:
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

August 12th (Saturday)
 - 4pm - Judges reviews are due.
 - 8pm - Reviews & scores are posted.
 - 10pm - Final challenge is announced.

August 20th (Sunday)
 - 11:59pm - FINAL DEADLINE.

August 21st (Monday)
 - 9pm - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.
 - Immediately afterward, the songs will be made available for free download on BandCamp at our new location, https://spintunes.bandcamp.com.

During this gap:
- previously eliminated competitors will rank the songs
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

August 26th (Saturday) 
 - NOON - Judges reviews are due.
 - NOON - Eliminated competitors rankings are due.
 - 4pm - Reviews are posted and a winner is announced!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SpinTunes #13 Official Rules

Welcome to another SpinTunes, and the first for which I am your host. I'm Dave Leigh, the vocal half of the band, "Dr. Lindyke".

For those that have competed before, this first time out I'm going to try to keep things familiar, but there will be a few significant changes. As has previously been the case, if something is confusing, needs clarification, if you just think I made a mistake or forgot something feel free to mention your concern in the comments below. It will be addressed in good time.

There is also a Suggestion Box that you can use to submit suggestions for challenges or rule changes at any time. Be aware that your suggestions would not be used in the current contest unless the challenge requires your feedback. I don't say that this will happen, but I can think of a few possibilities...


The schedule will be similar to past contests. The schedule will be posted separately, and will contain instructions for signing up. There will be 4 rounds. At the beginning of each round a challenge will be posted on this website. You will then have a set number of days (usually a little more than a week) to write, record & send in your song, which should meet the conditions of the challenge.

There will be a short break between each round. During this time the songs will be played at a listening party, and the judges will voted on them, review them, and prep for the next round.


Judges will not compete in the contest, but will be allowed to shadow if they choose.

Judges will collectively determine whether each song met or failed to meet the challenge. Songs that fail to meet the challenge will be disqualified. Songs that met the challenge will be ranked.

Each round, the judges will rank all the songs of that round from their favorite to least favorite. Although judges are encouraged to take how well the songs met the challenge into account, ultimately, judging is by personal preference, and the criteria for ranking is the prerogative of each individual judge. JUDGES' RANKINGS ARE FINAL. They need not be explained.

I will not officially rank songs unless one of the judges cannot judge that round. Then I may step in.


Scoring is by rank. Each judge will rank the songs 1 (most favorite) to (least favorite)  Then the songs will be sorted according to total score (low to high). The winner of the round has the lowest total score.

If there is a tie, I will determine the winner. If I am acting as a temporary judge, then in case of a tie the songs will be ranked in the order they were submitted.

Scoring is not cumulative.


There are several ways to be eliminated from the contest:

  • If you fail to meet a deadline,
  • If your official entry is disqualified for failing to meet the challenge,
  • If you score is below the elimination cutoff
  • If you exhibit poor sportsmanship

The cutoff is determined by the number of competitors at the start of the competition. There will be 4 competitors in the final round. So I'll subtract 4 from the number of competitors in Round One and divide the remainder by 3. That's the number of people who will be eliminated each round. It will not matter how they are eliminated, so even if you don't score well you might get lucky if a lot of people fail to meet the deadline or challenge. That makes it worth your while to submit a song even if you don't think it's good or if the challenge is particularly hard.

Final Round:

SpinTunes is "first past the post".  The top-ranked four competitors in Round Three will pass on to the final round.

If one of the top four fails to submit a song, then a Round 4 shadow posted by the next highest ranked competitor will be promoted to official entry. (See Wild Card Reinstatement, below)

In this round, the judges do not vote, although they'll still review the songs.

Instead, everyone who has been eliminated in any of the preceding rounds (who also submitted at least 1 song) plus the contestants themselves will be allowed to rank the songs.

If there is a tie, the judges will vote to break the tie.

If there is still a tie, then I will choose the winner.


Challenges can be anything. You could be given a theme, restrictions, a technical challenge, a song title, a mood, a story, a character type... anything.

There are some basic requirements for all challenges. They won't be listed every time, so here they are:
  1. For the purposes of this contest, a "song" is defined as having lyrics and music. Unless specifically stated otherwise, you must include both.
  2. Rap is ok, but the music must be substantially original. 
  3. Spoken word is risky, but it might be ok, so long as the music is distinctively original and integral to the piece. 
  4. Unless specifically requested, instrumentals are not ok.
  5. You must provide written (that is, readable) lyrics when you submit your song (see below). Those lyrics must actually appear in the song as performed. Minor deviations are common... people sometimes sing a few words differently from the written lyrics... but you cannot submit an instrumental and a separate lyrics sheet.
  6. You are not required to use the title of the challenge in the song.
Hopefully you're forced to do things you've never done before.

The challenges will be chosen or created by myself and the judges before the contest starts. The SpinTunes Suggestion Box has been active for a while now and some of the challenges may be taken from or inspired by suggestions there. You're encouraged to continue submitting suggestions as they come to you.

As we choose challenges, the judges an I will make an effort to devise judging criteria. You may get hints when the challenge is posted, so read carefully. Keep in mind that anything you're told to do, you must do, so getting too "clever" with the challenges can be risky. However, anything not spelled out is up to interpretation, and creativity is important. The judges may or may not be forthcoming on what is valuable in their eyes. Make your choices and do your best.


SpinTunes is unique in that you're encouraged to play along even if you're not competing. Sometimes it's just fun to try a challenge... sometimes you might want to "test drive" the contest before signing up as a competitor. Or you may have been eliminated in an earlier round, and still want to continue.

You can still submit your effort as a "shadow" entry. These unofficial entries will be played at the listening party and will be included in the album, but they will not be ranked. Individual judges may choose to review shadows, but they are not obligated to do so.

Shadows don't have to be new. Since they're not ranked, there's no risk in taking more liberties with the challenge. HOWEVER...

Wild Card Reinstatements

IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE REINSTATED into the competition after having been eliminated. Here's how that works:

If the number of people who submit songs in a round is less than the pre-defined cut-off, I may re-instate a competitor who has provided a "shadow" for the current round (see Shadows, below). For instance, if there are 8 competitors in Round Three, but only 7 of them submit entries, then I may "promote" a qualifying Round Three shadow from someone who was eliminated in Round Two. If nobody from Round Two shadowed, but someone from Round One did, I may promote their shadow. This holds true for every round, including the final round.

Once promoted, that shadow is judged and ranked on equal footing with all of the other entries from that round. Furthermore, that competitor may move forward in the competition as if they had never been eliminated.

It is conceivable that a person who was eliminated in an early round could shadow, be promoted, and win the competition, but only if the shadow they submit meets the challenge.


Submitting Entries:

  1. An entry must be received by the given deadline. Otherwise it will be posted as a shadow, and the competitor will be eliminated. "Received" means that I must have received a link to the finished song by the given deadline. I will be going by the time stamp on the e-mail in my inbox. PLEASE do not wait until the last hour to send me something. If there is a blackout in your area, your computer crashes, or your dog actually eats your thumb drive...I will not care. One minute late is too late
  2. You are allowed to send in a "safety" draft of your song early just in case something horrible happens and you miss the deadline. Then you can add polish to your song and send in a better version closer to the deadline. If you miss the deadline for the polished version, then the safety version will be used for judging. However, after judging is done, then the polished version will be included in the album.
    1. Send your file in a format that Bandcamp accepts. (.aiff, .wav or .flac) (at least 16-bit/44.1kHz) You can find the specific requirements for Bandcamp files HERE. Do not send MP3s.
    2. Name your file the song's title + the bandname, but without spaces & punctuation. Like this: "SummerRain-DrLindyke.wav"
    3. Title of the e-mail should identify the challenge and your band's name. Something like this would be fine: "ST13R1 - Dr. Lindyke".
    4. Include the song lyrics in the body of the e-mail. (remember, no instrumentals)
    5. Include information on anyone that needs credited if you collaborated with someone.
    1. If you have a BandCamp account you can just send me a link to your song if you include all the info I mentioned for emails. Make sure you have it set as a free download, and have it set so that I don't have to put in an e-mail to download it if you pick this option. THIS IS THE BEST FILE SHARING OPTION! It guarantees that your file will contain all the proper information and will be in the right format.
    1. Sound Cloud
    2. Drop Box
    3. Something I haven't thought of
    4. Please send an e-mail as I already stated, but with the download link if you need one of these services. Include in the email any required information (such as lyrics) that you couldn't include in the file. Please follow directions so your file doesn't wind up in my spam or trash folder accidentally.

Song Hosting (the BandCamp Album):

Each round I'll be uploading the songs onto BandCamp as an album. The songs will be set for free download only. BandCamp makes it easy to download songs, you can share one song individually or the album as a whole.

If you want to be entered into the contest, you must agree to the following:

  1. You allow your song to be on the album and made available to everyone under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license. This license allows us to re-distribute the songs and publish them on our Bandcamp page, but leaves you with all other rights. You retain all commercial ownership of your songs. If additional permissions are required for other purposes, we'll ask you.
  2. You allow your song to be played at the listening party and repeated on the recording of the LP on YouTube. (the license allows this)

Otherwise, best of of luck to you, but this is not the contest for you.


If you are fortunate enough to win the contest, you will win the admiration and respect of your peers and a Highly Coveted No-Prize.

No trophy. No cash. We might come up with some token, but the real prize is knowing you won and the music itself. If you need gifts and thousands of fans to motivate you to write songs then this competition ain't for you.

The winner will be allowed to be a judge in the next competition, unless they wish to compete.

Listening Party:

Tom Giarrosso ("Tommy G") will be hosting the listening party (the "LP") for each round (he will also help with uploading). This will be live-streamed on YouTube shortly after the submission deadline for each round and will be recorded for replay on demand. Recordings may be made accessible through public access channels under the same Creative Commons license. Tommy G will explain how that works at the first LP or in the SpinTunes Facebook group.

This is your chance to get together with the other competitors in one virtual place while the songs are played for the very first time. SpinTunes is a very supportive community, so come get your ego stroked.

Meet The Judges:

List of judges: TBA

  • I am the alternate judge. If a judge is unable to do his/her job, I'll step in and take over. If the judge has to withdraw from the contest totally, I'll fill in until I can find a replacement. If I happen to have a guest judge lined up already, there will be no need for me to step in as alternate.
  • There could be "Guest Judges" who drop by from time to time. I'm not promising anything, but if I can swing something cool for you all I want to leave that open as a possibility. When a guest judge ranks and reviews a round, it does count toward the scores for the round. If a song is disqualified by the regular judges, the guest judge's rankings will be edited to stay in line with the judges decision. 

Judge Responsibilities:

  1. Before the contest starts, the judges will...
    1. Make and choose challenges in the soooper-secret virtual batcave they'll be invited to.
  2. Each round, the judges will
    1. Weigh in on whether entries failed to meet the challenge. Typically we'll have 48 hours after the songs get posted to do that. I am the final arbiter for disqualifications, so if you don't speak up in that window of time you'll have to live with a decision I make on my own.  I typically go with the majority decision of those who speak up.
    2. Rank the entries for each round. 
      1. If a song has been disqualified, it is ranked last, even if you think it shouldn't have been disqualified.
      2. If a song has not been disqualified and you think it should have been, you're free to rank it as your conscience dictates.
    3. Reviewing entries each round. Shadow entries don't have to be reviewed, but it would be nice if you found the time. You can type up your review or you can vlog it on YouTube. If you decide to vlog your review on YouTube, it needs to be kept private until after I post the reviews on the blog.
  3. Judges are responsible for checking their e-mail, and being generally accessible, especially on deadline nights. Sometimes issues requiring a decision just pop up.


For those of you that don't want to check this blog every day, but also use Twitter, I'll be posting updates on Twitter as well. @SpinTunes was created just for this contest, so we'll use it. You can unfollow it right after the contest if you want, my ego can take it.

There is a Twitter list that includes all the judges & competitors (SpinTunes List). Well, at least all the ones I know that are on Twitter.

Song Sharing:

They're your songs.  You are allowed to share your songs before the LP. In my opinion the songs will be better if you can go to another musician in this contest, share what you've got and get feedback. So if you want to share with a few friends or fellow competitors before the listening party feel free to do so.

Feel free to use your entries elsewhere, such as FAWM, Song Fight, Nur Ein, etc., keeping in mind the requirement that SpinTunes entries must be original, newly written, and meet the challenge.


I would prefer it if you kept it low key, and not pimp it all over the net (via Twitter, YouTube, etc...) until after the LP, but that's up to you as well. It does take a little excitement away from the LP if people have already heard the songs. Common sense.

Just don't try to get feedback from a judge, or from me since I'm an alternate.

Re-recording & Remixes:

In previous contests some people sent their song in on time, but then after the deadline wanted to post an updated version onto the album (they added bells & whistles).

That's fine, but you will be judged by what you turned in before the deadline, which is also what will be played at the LP. Remixes will not be added to the album until after the judging is finished for that round.

So anyone who decides they want to make a better mix of their song, and have it replace the one they sent before...that's fine. Send me the info, and I'll switch the files out. I might not do it instantly, but it will be done. These songs are something you should be proud of, and some people are bugged by not being able to add everything they want in that small window I give them...so hopefully this helps...while still being fair.

In the end, album order is determined by how you scored in the round. But until the judges have scored the round, album order is originally determined by submission order.

Your order on the album will change if you send in an updated file. Keep in mind that this can be important to tie-breakers!!!

Multiple Songs:

You can enter ONE official entry each round until you are eliminated. There is no limit on how many shadow songs you can enter each round. If you are still in the contest and have multiple songs you wish to enter, you just have to pick of them to be your official entry, while the others are listed as a shadows.

If you do submit more than one shadow to a round after you've been eliminated from a previous round, you should indicate which shadow you would have submitted had you been a competitor.

Collaborations are OK. In fact, you're encouraged to collaborate with other competitors. Each band, though, should have a separate email address and a separate contact person.

Wrap Up:

I sadly live in the Real World, as do all of you. At times I may be busy with work and other responsibilities. I will enlist the help of judges and a few other trusted members of our community to help out from time to time. Don't be shocked if someone other than myself responds to you via one of the SpinTunes social media outlets.

Banned Individuals:

There have been banned individuals in the past. With the change of host, I'm declaring "Jubilee" and lifting those bans. There are no banned persons at this time.

That doesn't mean it couldn't happen again. It would take a lot, but reasons for banning someone include but are not limited to egregiously bad sportsmanship. I won't give a list of reasons because I'm sure that people are much more adept at causing trouble than I am at predicting it. So I reserve the right to ban anyone at any time should I determine they've given me just cause.

If someone is banned from SpinTunes it means they are banned from competing, shadowing, judging, & all the social parts of SpinTunes I administrate. They are also not allowed to collaborate on songs.  Anyone collaborating with a banned individual will be DQ'ed from the round & their song will not be played at the LP or put on the album.  Helping someone evade a ban can also lead to me banning another person.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How To Be In A Songwriting Contest

Tommy G, Glen, Brian, Zoe & Adam put together a SpinTunes panel on JoCo Cruise 2017.  Angela Brett was nice enough to film & upload video of the panel.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

SpinTunes #12 Champion: Brian Gray

Winner: Brian Gray (33)
Runner Up: Ryan M. Brewer (47)
3rd: Steve Stearns (54)
4th: Zoe Gray (56)

Brian Gray - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 4 - 1 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 2
Ryan M. Brewer - 2 - 3 - 2 - 2 - 4 - 1 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 1 - 4 - 1
Steve Stearns - 3 - 4 - 3 - 4 - 2 - 2 - 4 - 1 - 1 - 4 - 4 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 3 - 3
Zoe Gray - 4 - 2 - 4 - 3 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 2 - 4 - 2 - 3 - 1 - 3 - 4 - 2 - 4

Votes were cast by:
Dr. Lindyke - Zoe Gray - Ryan M. Brewer - Adam Sakellarides - Brian Gray - Megalodon - Bryan Schumann - Ominous Ride - Kevin Savino-Riker - Kyleen Downes - Steve Stearns - Ross Durand - Emperor Gum - Boffo Yux Dudes - Edric Haleen - Heather Zink - Governing Dynamics - Turtle Fence - Shyfox
*votes are private so these names were scrambled from the order of the scores above.

Congrats Brian!  I think you were runner up once before, so congrats on making it over that final hump.  All 4 finalist turned in some great songs, but there can only be 1 champion.  I'll be contacting you about your free t-shirt in the future & I'm sure Dave will be contacting you about judging SpinTunes 13 when the time comes.  Until then, enjoy being champ!

Judges:  Ted Kiper - Zarni de Vette - Nick Dellaposta - T.C. Elliott - Joe Lamb
Guest Judge:  Marian Call
Alternate Judge:  Spin

I want to give a big THANK YOU to all the competitors, judges, guest judges, shadowers, fans, Tom for hosting the LP's, Matt for the album art, and anyone that had anything to do with this contest.  None of this is possible without the participation of all you wonderful people.  I'd like to say I'll miss you all...but I won't...cause I'm not leaving.  I may be stepping down as captain, but I'll still be around.  I'll of course be listening to every round of every contest (reviewing from time to time), but I'll be around to help Dave in other ways if needed.

I'm sure Dave has some changes planned.  I expect he'll be posting about that here in the near future.  Website changes, e-mail, contest structure, rules...whatever the changes are...I'm sure the main focus will continue to be things like having fun, making music, being challenged, being part of a community & getting feedback.  If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be stepping down.  So I look forward to seeing what happens here next, and hope to see you all back for SpinTunes 13.

Make sure you follow @SpinTunes on Twitter for contest updates.  If you've completed at least 1 song for SpinTunes, you are also welcome to join the SpinTunes Facebook group.  It's a good way to keep in touch, and we post about related news in there as well.

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: Marian Call

Back in SpinTunes 10 I was extremely excited to have Marian Call guest judge a round.  She's someone I've followed & been a fan of for a long time.  So I'm very thankful she was willing to come back to help judge my final round of SpinTunes.  Marian recently released a kickass new album titled "Standing Stones".  I was one of the many backers this album had on Kickstarter, and it was well worth it.  I'll embed my favorite song from the album below, but I strongly suggest you go listen to the entire album after you read your reviews.

- Spin


Loved all the entries!  There was no "last place," I would have placed all of these at the top of a much larger pack of songs.  I hate to have to rank them, but I finally did.

Zoe Gray - The Coven - 4th
"We don't talk about the coven" -- great line for the hook.  Strong scansion and rhymes throughout.  Nice simple and clear use of different instruments for different characters, fulfilling this week's challenge.  I would love to hear a little more deliberate choices for melody notes, there are moments that really ring out ("you fall under her spell," "at least not when they're around") but a lot of meandering melody in between -- that would be the next step to take to tighten up the song.  Nice chord progression, I enjoy the mysterious feel and sparseness; I'd recommend more instrumental layers to articulate the harmony in the chorus, so we feel the change between sections.  The chorus might be a nice space to include/intertwine your "character" instruments, or to add some triads to allow the choruses feel large and grand.  The instrumentation is sexy and spare but it gets a little monotonous, so as a next step to flesh out the song I recommend making the choruses as lush as they want to be to support the doubled vocals.  This could be a really great finished piece, well done!

Ryan M. Brewer - Second Coming Semantics (Part And Parcel Bound) - 2nd
Exciting melody and harmonic rhythm!  It sounds like this song is final vocals searching for a really massive beat/drum track throughout.  Without the imagined rhythm track the section changes are a little disorienting, but it's the bones of a cool and complex concept piece.  Lyrics have strong emotions, imagery, and scansion, but seem to be abstract enough I can't quite follow the story or characters (that may be the goal, so I don't count it a shortcoming, it sounds stylized).  I'd be interested to see where this could go with a few more passes at instrumentation and rhythm, with more layers of percussion mixed way forward.

Steve Stearns - Shiny And New - 3rd
A really fun chord progression, I love the inventive harmonies and silly style changes.  I might even risk tightening the sections more for a little faster trippy mode switching. "What's the sound of one mind snappin'" is a terrific payoff for the opening lines, and "Time to meet the future / I've seen the future -- shiny and new" is a great concept to turn a song around.  The challenge seems to be met?  The singer, their significant other, the parents?  There are different grooves although not quite separate instrumental voices that stand out.  I'll let it slide, the song is fun and danceable.

Brian Gray - Happy Me - 1st
I like this twist on the "at least three characters" prompt.  The prosaic voice but tight scansion and rhyme feels great, nice triple rhymes and shifting line lengths/structure.  The voice of the speaker is strong and coherent even while tripping across many identities.  The melody is memorable and catchy, it'll be in my head a long time, pretty clearly riffing on Jonathan Coulton's style, but with ease and expertise.  Would love to hear a more final recorded version of this, with bigger instruments and mixing.

Wendy Fisher - Clickie Clappie (Shadow)
I've recorded lots of a capella jams like this, so I know what a challenge they are!  An interesting lyrical concept and a lovely voice.  I recommend taking care to get a more precise rhythm track (if you're looping it), or manually edit the rhythm track into perfection when it's this sparse.  The extra time, takes, and crossfades can help lock a piece like this together.  The harmonies are lovely but the rhythm sometimes wants to pull apart, and the rhythm is clearly important since it's named "Clickie Clappie." I also recommend trying to get very tight vocal rhythms in dense sections like at the end, so all your eighth notes line up and lock in for more power.  Have you listened to "Le Fil," the album by Camille?  This reminds me of her a little, you might enjoy that.

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: Nick Dellaposta

My reviews are in order below. I've been traveling all week down at SXSW and headed to Hawaii on Saturday so I had to type all of these out on my phone this time around. I hope there's not too many typos or formatting issues. Also, I went into more depth than in the past for the finalists.

- Nick

Happy Me
Brian, each round you've delivered high-caliber songs. I hope there is something useful for you in my extended review below.

There are some really cool call-and-response melodies between the verses and instrumentation. The refrain goes to an interesting place with some rich chord changes which the musician in me likes but if I'm being honest, I can't say it's all that memorable of a chorus. What's interesting is that your songwriting has had some theatrical flare, but where musicals typically have extremely catchy choruses, your songs are less bubble-gum.

This is where you really set yourself apart. The interplay between instruments and the thoughtful choices for when to introduce new sounds give this song (and your others) an extremely well-produced quality that has less to do with recording technique, and more to do with mature song craft.

This was an interesting take on the prompt. As with the last round, I'm probably out-of-step with some of the more literalist judges, but I'm looking for good songwriting first and less about whether your lyrics are literally about 3 people. I'm actually glad you came back this round with another song that pushed the envelope in this regard. Incorrigible. ;) The story is not just relatable for all of us day-job/night-job musicians but also for pretty much any nine-to-fiver.

Your tunes by their nature lend themselves naturally to being songs that I think would be fun to hear live. The banter between your keyboard fills and the lyrics is almost conversational and entertaining to hear unfold.

There's definitely a painted-on-smile undertone going on with this song that I can really appreciate. The music at times is boppy and upbeat, while the story is unforbearing. The chorus takes a sharp turn and the two flip-flop... the music sheds its major-scale cheer and the story describes how someone else's magic brings forth "Happy Me". I think it's pretty clever... after Happy Me is introduced we are treated to some fantastic passages of musical dissonance which is not an easy feat to pull off without sounding like an absolute train wreck. I enjoy the complexity and tension because it ultimately forces your listeners to feel the uneasiness that the main character experiences.

Your music is thoughtful. The trade-off is that it may not always be the most accessible for everyone. I'll let you decide whether that is important or not. After listening to all of your songs over again, Code Red stands out as a notable tune. I think you were outside of your comfort zone a bit more and that's something you should consider doing more of. (Not necessarily in terms of genre) Another characteristic that I've noticed is that you tend to sing like a keyboard player. By that I mean, there isn't a lot of bending of notes or even vibrato in the notes that are sung. The note changes tend to fall exactly where syllables or words change. This can cause it to sound kind of robotic or percussive. I'd encourage you to try to develop your voice by folding in texture and vibrato in a way that is natural for you. Practice some vocal exercises like singing the major scale within a single-syllable word. Then transpose it up or down a half step and repeat. This is a very common exercise, but it might help you escape the "Doe Ray Me..." thing you've got going on where note changes are accompanied by word changes.

The Coven
Zoe, as a finalist, I'd like to make sure you get a little more out of my review than just a pat on the back, so I've broken down this review into a couple sections that go a bit deeper than in reviews past.

The Coven has decent melodies that are well distinguished from other sections within the song. There are a few places where the phrasing feels rushed and therefore you might consider a slight rewording of the lines to simplify the syllable count. Is the hook strong enough to be memorable at first listen? Probably not, I'll let you decide whether that's important or not. Some of my favorite songwriter's hooks take me a few listens before they achieve permanent retention.

Musically, I wish there was something more interesting happening. The simple instrumentation and limited range cause the song to quickly plateau.

The story has an interesting subject matter but lacks some of the tactile details that you've used in past songs. The lyrics do attempt to create a picture within the mind but the lack of poetic details leave the picture somewhat abstract.

Your singing combines two interesting characteristics that I don't often associate with a single voice; glossiness & impassiveness. You're able to smoothly bend into notes and sprinkle in melismatic flourishes in a way that great singers do... (Think Mariah Carey) To the contrary, you tend to stay within a tight melodic zone which leads to anticlimactic compositions. See the considerations section below for examples of artists that use both of these qualities successfully.

The sound is mysterious which is appropriate for your story. There is some tension that builds leading into the chorus which i'd prefer to hear erupt with more drama, but overall the tune is successfully emotive.

As a producer, I hear all kinds of possibilities for your music. I think a top notch band would really elevate your songs and add the energy that is currently missing.

Listen to how singers like Adele are able to deliver a powerful punch with their vocal dynamics alone. Imagine the chorus of The Coven sang this way. It can be pulled off by changing the register, or the intensity of the vocal. Alternatively, listen to how more limited-range singers like Lucinda Williams rely on the character of their voice to deliver powerful lines with confidence and emotion, all the while being somewhat impassive. Imagine how a singer like this would cover your song. You're singing combines characteristics from each which is why I think it would be interesting for you study these different approaches and see if any growth comes from it.


Second Coming Semantics
Ryan, congrats on being a finalist! You'll notice I spent a bit more time on the finalists' reviews in hopes to give you some things to think about that may (or may not) be helpful.

You spent a notable amount of time and effort working out the melodic/harmonic phrasing between the instruments and your characters vocal parts. As you now know, I'm a Zappa-fan, so... I approve. As for a main hook, I can't say this tune really has a primary refrain, punchline, or even a repeated phrase to help make it indelible. This is not necessarily a criticism. It just means the song will have to rely on other means to stick in your listener's heads... which I can't really say that it does for me.

It's not often that I hear cut-scene arrangements in music. This was a bold choice for you. You're first three submissions have all been so musically diverse yet really strong in terms of composition. Honestly, the tri-polar arrangement of this song is my least favorite of the songs you've submitted. The abrupt directional changes feel like several incongruent parts mashed into one tune. While it supports your storyline and checks the box for the prompt, the literal interpretation left this tune feeling disjointed overall.

You have a very compelling story. (Some might say the greatest story ever told). It makes use of some crafty tongue-twisters and engaging character development. The contrast and interplay between the characters is identifiable, fun and well-written. I am particularly intrigued by Mari's character. You have a gift for being able to revive an old tale with a fresh take.

You did a good job personifying each of your characters with distinction. In some ways this must have felt like an acting challenge for you which in this case deserves a standing ovation.

This song has moments of emotive quality throughout. Joe and Mari's opening verses start out somewhat dejected while the overall vibe remains mostly upbeat. Sprinkle in a frenetic diety and a stoic choir of narrators and this emotional mess probably starts to resemble a pregnant meltdown during Mari's third-trimester. I have to believe that most people would have mixed emotions about this mix of emotions.

I found it insightful to hear Steve Vai once tell some music students to deliberately NOT focus on their weaknesses. Instead, to exploit the hell out of their strengths. What you did with Existentialism On Senior Spring Break and Mareno, I would consider strengths. They're both somewhat folksy and have those simple repeated chorus lines. Will Hoge may not be your cup of tea stylistically, but there are some similarities in vocal delivery that I think if you were to study, you'd pick up some tricks that could be really powerful. Plus he's a hell of a songwriter.


Shiny And New
Steve, great work on becoming a finalist. I've tried to go into a little more detail to reward you for hard work in hopes that you might get a little more out of the project.

Shiny and New has a decent hook and lyrical lines that are melodically satisfying. Even though the words and notes have some movement, the phrasing becomes very tired and predictable. The line near the end: "You might find just what you need" is really the only line that drifts outside the very tight melodic range that the rest of the song is in.

You've presented your tune with a very classic arrangement that is tried and trusted for mainstream music. The guitar part added to the second verse/chorus has an intriguing variation from the rest of the instrumentation but mysteriously drops from the mix at the word "Nothing". I would have like to have heard some more modal exploration around that change to make it seem more intentional. That would likely make the instrumentation a little weirder and more intriguing but also... probably less accessible to most people. I'll let you determine which direction you think is best for your music but I'd encourage you to explore ways to escape sounding too "cookie-cutter".

Your story is fun and optimistic. You've told it in a way that has clever details and good character development. The woman is especially well-described with small details about her personal tastes and future goals that really help a listener complete the picture of who this character is. As I've said before, using idioms as your main chorus hook seems like a real crutch. I'd encourage you to invent your own by exploring new ways to describe things like a "One horse town", and "Shiny and New". These are borrowed phrases that are also the lyrical hook of a hundred other songs out there. I only bring it up because it is something I push myself to be better at and I think it's something worth being cognizant of. It's not an easy task, but writing in a way that is a little more thought-provoking will ultimately be more satisfy for you and your listeners.

I'm not really sure this recording captures anything special performance-wise. It's so polished, quantized, double-tracked, and overall so "plastic feeling" that it could have been tracked verse-by-verse for all anyone knows. Yes, it has good production value but so can good performances. Think about ways to capture irreproducible moments or feelings, and how that could elevate your songs. Sometimes details like the little breakup in someone's voice on a particular day can really reinforce the vibe and help listeners "feel" the emotion of your song.

The choice to make your song sound futuristic is appropriate although when I first read the description with the instruments that were used to represent your characters I thought I would be in for a totally different kind of song, based on how organic they typically are.

The songs you've submitted are all so different and yet have a signature quality to them. Consider employing production and recording techniques that are outside your typical wheelhouse. I don't say this because there is anything wrong with how you're doing it, but rather because I hear a common thread that I think you might have fun unwinding. For me. An Ineffable Moment of Mazoom was a standout song of yours.

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: T.C. Elliott

4) Steve Stearns - I like the phrasing in the melody. And that chorus is catchy as all get out.  I would have loved to have guest vocalists on the second and third parts.  I liked the different synths for each section/character and this challenge could be quite difficult, but I'd still like to have a larger difference in the instruments. Ultimately I think this song is the one I would like to listen to again the most.

3) Zoe Gray - I like the ever-so-slightly sinister sound to the track and the vocals are gorgeous as always. The melody is good (and seems to be a strength of yours.)  I like the different sounds for each character. Your three sounds are similar and I was imagining contestants would be using radically different instruments which isn't necessarily the case. But this works really well for me.

2) Ryan M. Brewer - I like the guitars and the bass and I think you nailed using the different instruments as characters. The melody on your narration was excellent. The sound behind the rap was cool and worked really well for me. Honestly, I could have ranked this higher as it's well written and you hit the challenge, but I didn't much care for the Joe's vocals and melody.  Enough that I'd rather listen to the other entries first. I will say that I intended to listen to these five or six times a piece and didn't get a chance in the last two days because of work. But this is still growing on me.

1) Brian Gray - I liked your melody and vocal delivery. I was disappointed in your three characters. Not because I dislike internal struggle, I actually love that angle, but I just didn't feel you technically met the challenge and while I like your song it doesn't stand out enough to rank it higher. (Although I did like the tasty harmonies/doubled vox.)  Btw, you did a great job on a limited time budget.

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: Zarni de Vette

Zoe Gray 
Cool vibe here - I didn’t really get the feeling that there were entirely different musical “characters” here as much as we wanted with the song prompt.

Wendy Fisher 
Really liked the barebones approach and the lyrics..I hear this as being more like three different melodies playing in a round style as opposed to the Peter and the Wolf scenario where musical instruments represent a certain character…Because the snaps and claps continued the whole time and there was a consistent musical basis, I found it difficult to decipher which character was which.

Steve Stearns 
Cool production! I felt the break between the man and woman was just a bit long (same with the last section) Also, when that section starts, it sounded more like a normal different musical section as opposed to a musical instrument that represents a certain character. The dad’s theme was sort of that wah keyboad/clav while the childs was the synth- I think…and wasn’t totally sure for the woman so I thought all of that could’ve just been more obvious. Would’ve maybe been cool to bring them together at the end too? Just a thought.

Brian Gray 
I just love your lyrics- every week your songs are so well written and I really enjoy them. You would be SUCH a great theater writer, and your melodies are pop yet non-grandious- love them. I liked how at the end you had the cacophony of the different ‘you’s’. I think you could’ve used more Peter and the wolf like themes throughout once the different “me’s” and their coinciding instruments were established. You wrote them so well lyrically (loved the whole idea of the Me’s) but in terms of the prompt you were given, there could’ve been a bit more of those reoccurring musical themes going on (especially in the chorus if they were all overlapping and then went away on plain old Happy Me).

Ryan Brewer (WINNER)
This is so cool and catchy- great melodies and production! It was also really clear to me who the different characters were and I thought you ‘cast’ them musically well… Joe sounded like a bass to me. Clever lyrics too :) I think of everyone, you carried out the song prompt the best, keeping that Peter and the Wolf instruments talking as characters theme, clear throughout. Loved when you brought them together too.

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: Ted Kiper

        Hello, everyone! As much as I enjoyed listening, I'm relieved to see a round with less songs to judge. I had a busy couple of weeks, and I was afraid I wasn't to make it through.
But I suppose it doesn't matter too much at the end of it all: it's up to you guys who should win. What did you guys think of the challenge?

Peter & The Wolf - Tell a story in song involving at least 3 people & have each person represented by a different instrument. (2 minute minimum length) (they had 8 days)

You can thank Spin for this one. I insisted for him to add something he always wanted to see done here, and I hold no regrets. You guys made it look so easy.

As a bonus for reaching the last round, I decided to throw in some thoughtful haiku poems in these reviews. I took account of your style, profiles, and my admiration of you. Let me know if you like them!


1. Steve Stearns - Shiny And New
Disco? Funky? Pop? 70s? Whatever it is, I love it, and it's so far my favorite of the round. Weird at first, but it works enough to grow on me quite well.
Coupling two different instruments per person was a neat idea. Why settle with one, I suppose? I don't know if I would've noticed the doubling if you hadn't mentioned it on the lyrics page, but the subtlety of their use was pleasant.
The music feels like it wants to go all over the place, but somehow it stays together cohesively. I'm a keyboards guy, but the second verse might be my favorite arrangement.
I find the lyrics workable, but the message nicely light-hearted. The positive mood is very attractive. I hope the voters agree.
Where have you been before Spintunes 12? You've done amazing stuff here. 

Favorite Submission: This is difficult. I've liked all your submissions, and "The Ride" was nearly perfect in craft, but my favorite might be "Shiny And New". It caps your great run with good feels.

This chameleon
Sets kaleidoscopic eyes
On electric fun

(2.) Wendy Fisher - Clickie Clappie (Shadow)
Goodness, the arrangement is absolutely fascinating! Story-wise, I find it very bizarre; but for songcrafting purposes, it's freaking brilliant. In reality, I can see this simultaneously fit for THREE challenges:
1) ST1R1 - Those are some funky super villians. But despite limited lyrics, I like their character.
2) ST4R4 - This a capella piece could replace the song "Don't Miss the Rainbow" anyday, just with the 5/4 timing alone.
3)  ST12R4 - In my most flexible mood, I can see how the different percussive mouth-sounds can represent different parties to satisfy this challenge.
I'm not being sarcastic. I sincerely see much potential.

Dropping off a tune
Super shiny, flickers brightly
Hope you come back soon

2. Ryan M. Brewer - Second Coming Semantics (Part And Parcel Bound)
Huh. Unexpectedly, we come back to a musical style similar "ReCount, Revenge"; and yet, this is completely different. This one blasts me with creativity, perhaps even more so than "Mareno".
I think you did well with meeting the challenge, even if they are guitars. I certainly couldn't think of any better ways with what you have played here. The personified instruments are clear and straightforward, and to this I thank you.
The lyrics, not to mention the topic of choice, are mystifying. It takes such a subtle, personal view with a backdrop of epic circumstances.
I'm not sure why God is rapping, and I'm not sure if it hasn't been done before. Because drums are not melodic, so no need for a God melody line? Perhaps. But I seriously can't decide if I'm appalled or impressed with the bold choice of song-style direction. It was delivered like a strange musical bypass that I didn't know existed or was possible. And it's not a part that one could cut and not miss--the song hinges on the God section. I don't know; certainly, this "way is mysterious".
I hope you win. You were so very close in ST8R4, I remember it very well; "Christ Speaks" was an amazing submission. You deserve it.
Favorite Submission: "Existentialism On Spring Break". I feel you did more adventuring with "Mareno", but "Existentialism" has such raw confidence that keeps me coming back. It is truly an addicting piece.

Driven, golden heart
Journeys to the epic truth
With a sharp guitar

3. Zoe Gray - The Coven
Such delicious moods. I wish there was more of this stuff. I am musically in love with your style.
The songcraft structure makes this very easy to discern what each "instrument" represents which verse-person. And I very much appreciate this, thank you.
Although the motifs for the coven girls is fantastic and precise, I'm not a fan of the melody line. If there was a hook here, I'm not quite satisfied by it, particularly for the chorus. It does only what it needs to.
I also find that the beat doesn't want to explore to new ideas. Perhaps the next step in production is to add more development in the percussion department throughout the song. Just an idea.

Favorite Submission: "Long Live The Queen", for sure. The layers were properly introduced, played well with each other, and with seductive songwriting and  dynamic production, delivers something very hypnotic.

Pretty, dark and smooth
Siren calling, bright and tall
Basking in the moon

4. Brian Gray - Happy Me
You took the challenge was such stride, I almost forgot about it. Three instruments? Pfft, let's do five, why not ten? You make it seem so natural, but honestly, you've always had a knack of making anything seem natural. 
I actually admire the personal level of this song. It sounds sweet and sincere. 
My favorite part might be the instrumental bridge going crazy before the Poser Me verse. The unpleasant chord changes provided the sense of collapsing anxiety, shifting gears to something somber, and picking up with collective agreement. 
Maybe it feels a bit too long, even though it's less than four minutes. But really, I can't find anything wrong here. 
Haven't you won Spintunes already? No? Well then it's about time. Best of luck!

Favorite Submission: "Code Red" would be my choice. I didn't like "St Wendigo's Day"'s production, despite tasty chords. "Abernathy Fitzgerald" was so cheesy I found it more frightening than funny. And unfortunately, insightful "Happy Me" isn't as catchy. "Code Red" doesn't even need the accent to hold the replay value. You made good stuff this competition.

Introspective mind
Soft performance strongly stores
Personal delight



You know, I was planning to put in a shadow too. The transitioning of Spintunes inspired me to add lyrics to an older piece of music I made long ago, stuck in compositional limbo. In the lyrics, I wanted to name some of the many Spintunes artists that impressed me, mentioned with endearment and preserved like a time capsule; but I also wanted it to be thankful and self-deprecating, to show that the person I'm most critical is myself. Yes, I have to be. You guys really set the bar high for me. 

Don't worry, someday I'll get my recording computer to work properly again, and you'll know what I mean when I say I got a lot of catching up to do! Hope to see you all by then. 

Finally, I'm sure you're tired of hearing it from me by now, but to you, Travis, thank you for hosting and delivering all your hard work. This happy community is a reflection of your good leadership.

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: Joe Lamb

Glad it isn’t up to us to decide on this round!
So – usually my stance on The Challenge is that it is either met, or it is not, and the song then stands or falls on it’s own.
Problem with this round is that the challenge (to my mind) IS the song.
With the instruments being intended to “represent” the characters.
All of the finalists have certainly used a singular separate instrument (or approximation of one) when singing about different characters...
The problems arise when you question – are those instruments representing the characters, or just being played at that particular part of the song....
Whereas, in Peter and the Wolf, the instruments were not there to play the same tune just on a different instrument - the tunes themselves and the style of the music also changed for each character...
So, is that difficult to do in one song?
Yes... yes it is... but that is why this is the final.
And, to my mind, only one contestant met the challenge to its most complete form.
So, in running order...
Zoe  - Like the song – it’s a very *Zoe* song! (Glad to hear it had none of the 1700 Ukes!)
There’s no doubt you are developing your own style... just try and be careful that style doesn’t become too much of a millstone.
There’s nothing wrong with having a *sound*, but things can start to become a little same-y if you’re not careful.
The coven was a good idea. The playing of the same tune on different samples maybe wasn’t. (But you’re not alone in doing that in this round.)
The characters are never really defined enough. If you had shortened the chorus and extended their thumbnails it might have worked better, but the instrumentation should have been altered for each one.
Looking at the characters, I might have thought; windchimes and ethereal glissandos for the first. Dischordant chordage for the second. Minor keynotes and bells for the third.
Just not the same little bit of melody played on a different sample.
In order for this to have properly worked, you need to know where to break the rules of song writing. And I think you played it too safe.
If my votes counted: 2nd

Ryan – This is how different instruments represent different characters.
It is clear who is who when the instruments come in. (Nice touch to make the female character the heavier electric guitar.)
The Narrator.. perfect choice.
And the *Rap* for God is precisely what I mean about changing things up for the characters to be properly represented by the instruments chosen for them.
On top of that, it is (I think) the best of the songs this round.
Excellent stuff.
If my votes counted: 1st

Steve – Same problem here as with Zoe’s song. It’s just a standard song (albeit a very good one)  with different instruments playing at certain times in it.
(I like the line “What’s the sound of one mind snapping”) But... treacle and people..?? Oooooh!!!!
Still, yeah, nice song, nice hook, just not adventurous enough for the challenge set.
If my votes counted: 3rd

Brian – Well....
Personally, I don’t see this as being more than one character. “Me” is still “me”. regardless of the mood or situation I am in? And that doesn’t equate to separate characters.
Instrumentation... I struggled to hear the differences, and that’s not good for something which is supposed to be actually representing the characters.
Decent enough song, your best of the contest to my mind... But, to be honest... I can’t get away from the fact that it sounds like you are trying too hard to be Jonathon Coulton.
(Even down to the intonation of the word “Unpleasant” in the first line.)
If my votes counted: 4th