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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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Songs


Remember, the judges will be doing reviews, but the competitors of SpinTunes 12 decide the winner.  If you signed up to the contest, and you also turned in at least 1 song (shadows count), then you get to vote for the new champion.  I'll be sending an e-mail to these people Tuesday evening, and it'll contain more details.  If you don't get an e-mail, but think you should have, by all means message me.  Sometimes Heather overlooks things.

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


Tom did some mighty fancy juggling in tonight's LP.  Not only that but he surprised us with some new bumpers from the JoCo boat.

The songs are now available for FREE download. Until the contest officially ends I will only allow people to download the round 4 album as a whole. But even after that, PLEASE download the entire album vs downloading just a handful of songs while the contest is on going. BandCamp limits how many free downloads I can give away, and 1 album download counts the same as 1 song download.

We had 4 entries turned in before the deadline & we had 1 shadow turned in.  Good luck to you all, and well done!

(Album cover by Matt Schubbe)

- Judges & guest judges need to turn in their reviews & rankings by March 17th before 6PM (Fri).

- Reviews & results will be posted March 18th (Sat).

Videos: If anyone wants to make a VIDEO for their song, I will include it here:

Links Of Interest:
- Brian Gray posted a song bio for his entry.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Round 4 LP & Deadline News

For now you should know:
- There are 4 official entries.
- There is 1 shadow.
- I think I responded to all e-mails (eventually).
- The listening party will be hosted by Tom on YouTube tonight at 9PM EST.
- I'll be trying out the glasses you all bought for me at 8PM EST in a G+ Hangout.  There will be a link in our Facebook group for that.  If you're not a SpinTuner, but a friend of mine who wants to join the chat you can e-mail me (or message me on Skype) and I'll give you a link.
- Remember...shadows are never late.  If you got a finished or near finished song...you can still send it in.

Listening Party Location: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjmyJwulZoY

Embed of the LP:  Go to the link above if you want to chat with us while you listen!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

SpinTunes #12: Round 4 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) (your submission is due by Sunday, March 12th 11:59PM)

Submitting Entries: Entries must be received by the given deadline. Otherwise it'll be posted as a shadow. Received means that it has to appear in my e-mail inbox 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. You are allowed to send in a draft of your song early just in case something horrible happens & you miss the deadline. Then you can add polish to your song & send in a better version closer to the deadline. 1 minute late is still late, people.

- 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.

- Name your file the song's title, but without spaces & punctuation.

- Title of the e-mail should be the title of the Challenge & your band's name.

- Include the song lyrics in the body of the e-mail. (If your song doesn't have lyrics...consider yourself eliminated. Instrumentals can be pretty, but SpinTunes does require lyrics.)

- Include information on anyone that needs credited if you collabed with someone.

- If you have a BandCamp account, you can just send me a link to your song on BandCamp if you include all the info I mentioned above. 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!

- Other file sharing options if you need them: Sound Cloud (set to download a format BandCamp is ok with) & Drop Box. Please send an e-mail as I already stated, but with the download link if you need one of these services. Please follow directions so your file doesn't wind up in my spam or trash folder accidentally.

Side Notes:

- Remember that you are allowed to send in a little background about your song. Some people don't like to do that, and you don't have to, but if you want to write a couple sentences about your song I'll post it on the BandCamp page for people to see. Some judges will look at the lyrics & this extra info, but they aren't required to.

- If you didn't sign-up in time to compete in SpinTunes #12, you can still complete the challenge & send in a song. It'll be uploaded with the other entries as a "Shadow Song". Check the FAQ if you don't know what that means. You can even complete past challenges from previous contests.

- The only other way to get your music played at the LP is to cover "Today's The Day" by Inverse T. Clown.

- Feel free to leave any questions in the comments.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

SpinTunes #12: Round 3 Totals

Here are the links to your reviews:

Official Judges:

Guest Judges: Corinne Lucy
Alternate Judge's Review: N/A

You can listen to all the wonderful songs from this round by checking out the free album HERE.

Just a note, the DQ discussion was very real this time.  People should always take advantage of the "About" section Bandcamp offers.

Feel free to check for mistakes in the math...as always...Heather could have made a mistake.

Round 3 Results:
(Corinne - Jeff - Joe - Ted - Nick - T.C. - Zarni)
Ross Durand - 12 - 15 - 14 - 8 - 17 - 14 - 17 (97) (34)
Zoe Gray - 7 - 16 - 15 - 7 - 15 - 15 - 16 (91) (32)
Ryan M. Brewer - 17 - 14 - 4 - 4 - 16 - 17 - 15 (87) (30)
Steve Stearns - 10 - 13 - 16 - 15 - 12 - 9 - 9 (84) (28)
Jailhouse Payback - 13 - 9 - 17 - 13 - 7 - 8 - 13 (80) (26)
Brian Gray - 16 - 17 - 3 - 2 - 13 - 13 - 14 (78) (24)
Ominous Ride - 15 - 2 - 13 - 14 - 11 - 16 - 6 (77) (22)
Kyleen Downes - 5 - 11 - 12 - 17 - 14 - 12 - 4 (75) (20)
Army Defense - 8 - 12 - 11 - 16 - 8 - 11 - 7 (73) (18)
Governing Dynamics - 11 - 6 - 6 - 12 - 10 - 10 - 11 (66) (16)
Shyfox - 9 - 7 - 9 - 5 - 2 - 6 - 10 (48) (14)
Adam Sakellarides - 6 - 5 - 8 - 11 - 9 - 4 - 3 (46) (12)
Bryan Schumann - 3 - 8 - 5 - 10 - 4 - 7 - 8 (45) (10)
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 14 - 1 - 7 - 3 - 3 - 3 - 12 (43) (8)
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1 - 4 - 10 - 9 - 5 - 1 - 5 (35) (6)
Rob From Amersfoort - 2 - 10 - 1 - 6 - 6 - 5 - 1 (31) (4)
Mick Bordet - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 2 (15) (2)

Place - Points
17 - 34
16 - 32
15 - 30
14 - 28
13 - 26
12 - 24
11 - 22
10 - 20
9 - 18
8 - 16
7 - 14
6 - 12
5 - 10
4 - 8
3 - 6
2 - 4
1 - 2

Current Totals: (If your name is in bold you've made the finals.)
Ryan M. Brewer - 96
Zoe Gray - 88.6
Steve Stearns - 86
Brian Gray - 84.04
Ominous Ride - 79.6
Ross Durand - 76.2
Governing Dynamics - 70.68
Kyleen Downes - 64.72
Bryan Schumann - 64.08
James Young - 57.56
Shyfox - 54.64
Jailhouse Payback - 54.28
Dr. Lindyke - 43.64
Boffo Yux Dudes - 38.36
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 34.32
Mariah Mercedes - 33
Adam Sakellarides - 32.32
Army Defense - 28.44
Rob From Amersfoort - 26.8
Megalodon - 24.24
Jerry Skids - 22
Heather Zink - 21
27 Tikis - 20
Sumner Wynn - 18.76
DJ Ranger Den - 18
Caravan Ray - 15
Kevin Savino-Riker - 13
Mick Bordet - 12.88
Emperor Gum - 12.4
Alex Forger - 12
Domingo - 6
Turtle Fence - 5.92
Edric Haleen - 0
The Crack Fox - 0

Ryan M. Brewer - 17
Brian Gray - 16
Ominous Ride - 15
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 14
Jailhouse Payback - 13
Ross Durand - 12
Governing Dynamics - 11
Steve Stearns - 10
Shyfox - 9
Army Defense - 8
Zoe Gray - 7
Adam Sakellarides - 6
Kyleen Downes - 5
Mick Bordet - 4
Bryan Schumann - 3
Rob From Amersfoort - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

Brian Gray - 17
Zoe Gray - 16
Ross Durand - 15
Ryan M. Brewer - 14
Steve Stearns - 13
Army Defense - 12
Kyleen Downes - 11
Rob From Amersfoort - 10
Jailhouse Payback - 9
Bryan Schumann - 8
Shyfox - 7
Governing Dynamics - 6
Adam Sakellarides - 5
Boffo Yux Dudes - 4
Mick Bordet - 3
Ominous Ride - 2
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 1

Jailhouse Payback - 17
Steve Stearns - 16
Zoe Gray - 15
Ross Durand - 14
Ominous Ride - 13
Kyleen Downes - 12
Army Defense - 11
Boffo Yux Dudes - 10
Shyfox - 9
Adam Sakellarides - 8
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 7
Governing Dynamics - 6
Bryan Schumann - 5
Ryan M. Brewer - 4
Brian Gray - 3
Mick Bordet - 2
Rob From Amersfoort - 1

Kyleen Downes - 17
Army Defense - 16
Steve Stearns - 15
Ominous Ride - 14
Jailhouse Payback - 13
Governing Dynamics - 12
Adam Sakellarides - 11
Bryan Schumann - 10
Boffo Yux Dudes - 9
Ross Durand - 8
Zoe Gray - 7
Rob From Amersfoort - 6
Shyfox - 5
Ryan M. Brewer - 4
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 3
Brian Gray - 2
Mick Bordet - 1

Ross Durand - 17
Ryan M. Brewer - 16
Zoe Gray - 15
Kyleen Downes - 14
Brian Gray - 13
Steve Stearns - 12
Ominous Ride - 11
Governing Dynamics - 10
Adam Sakellarides - 9
Army Defense - 8
Jailhouse Payback - 7
Rob From Amersfoort - 6
Boffo Yux Dudes - 5
Bryan Schumann - 4
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 3
Shyfox - 2
Mick Bordet - 1

Ryan M. Brewer - 17
Ominous Ride - 16
Zoe Gray - 15
Ross Durand - 14
Brian Gray - 13
Kyleen Downes - 12
Army Defense - 11
Governing Dynamics - 10
Steve Stearns - 9
Jailhouse Payback - 8
Bryan Schumann - 7
Shyfox - 6
Rob From Amersfoort - 5
Adam Sakellarides - 4
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 3
Mick Bordet - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

Ross Durand - 17
Zoe Gray - 16
Ryan M. Brewer - 15
Brian Gray - 14
Jailhouse Payback - 13
Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost - 12
Governing Dynamics - 11
Shyfox - 10
Steve Stearns - 9
Bryan Schumann - 8
Army Defense - 7
Ominous Ride - 6
Boffo Yux Dudes - 5
Kyleen Downes - 4
Adam Sakellarides - 3
Mick Bordet - 2
Rob From Amersfoort - 1

SpinTunes #12 Round 3 Reviews: Corinne Lucy

This year I followed FAWM closer than I have in the past.  I've known about it for years, I know a number of SpinTuners participate, but I've never spent a ton of time there.  This year I tried to log in most days & go through at least a few pages of songs.  It was a lot of fun, and I plan to do it again next year.  I found a lot of cool songs, and one of them I stumbled onto was "Stationary Dancing" by Corinne Lucy.  I really enjoyed the song, and when it came time to look for a round 3 guest judge I remembered that song.  So I messaged her to see if she would judge a round, and here we are.  While you're reading over her reviews you should check out some of her music on SoundCloud.

- Spin


Ryan M. Brewer
Nice use of sibilance in the first verse
Very strong imagery right from the start and throughout
I like the syncopation of the repeated melodic line in the chorus
Great hook with those harmonies at the end of the chorus
Love the layers of harmonies on “creep”
Great shift to a waltz
Love the Tom Waits-style interlude – adds another dimension and keeps the listener interested
Very catchy – I was singing along by the last chorus on the first listen
My only criticism would be that your singing style might be slightly false, put-on – but then I haven’t heard you speak, so perhaps it’s 100% natural
Great singing ability
Soprano section at the end is wonderful – very soulful

Brian Gray
Proofreading hat on – “Whilst”, not “Whiles”
A battle-cry extremely chantable indeed – fantastic chorus, great hook
Overwrought lyrics but you’ve certainly kept a consistent atmosphere
Harmonies on that hook really add triumph
Strains of Jonathan Coulton? Threads of Shpadoinkle…?
Enjoyed how you linked the two choruses together at the end
You sang and wrote this like a song from a musical and I want to watch that musical

Ominous Ride
I love the call-response harmonies
“EVERY DAY!” shout in the chorus is great
Double-tracking needs to be tighter in timing and pitching – with more than 8 days I’m sure it would be
I like the dramatic delivery of the made-up phrase
Very strong structure

Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost
What a fantastic concept!
Your singing sounds so assured and nonchalant – sounds influenced by Liz Phair
The melody in the chorus sits uncomfortably over the second chord – it’s mostly the note at the end of the line, e.g. “can you feed HER”, “can you reach HER” – shift it up a semitone or sing it in more of a growl to avoid the dissonance (unless you were going for dissonance)
Emphasis on “hatebaby” ends up on the “-by” because of the melody; consider making the second syllable (“-ba-”) 1 beat longer to place the emphasis more naturally
Really liked the call and response harmonies at the end

Alex Forger
Really sweet melody but without a strong hook
Lovely singing voice – soft and sweet
Minimalist production could benefit from some harmonies
The topical message is very softly delivered – this is a great way to handle a divisive and potentially bitter issue

Jailhouse Payback
Very pleasing groove – reminded me of They Might Be Giants and The Beatles
I like the fact that it doesn't resolve
Nice guitar solo – simple like Beatles
Very nice melody, nice harmonies
Very accomplished production – the drums are great

Ross Durand
Very sweet concept that drew me in
I like the rhyme scheme with rhymes halfway through each line
Your made-up word has a nice “etymology”
The structure is nice as well – AABABA is kind of unusual and you created a strong refrain so it works very well

Governing Dynamics
I love the lyrics – is this about someone in a coma? Or a Major Tom thing?
The harmonies sound a little uncertain in places and I think that’s making them pitchy – try to go for it with confidence and you’ll get better results
Turn the drums up, especially at the end – the guitar drowns them out almost completely
The whole thing is very evocative – it’s dreamy and slightly uncomfortable, which fits the lyric perfectly

Steve Stearns
Are these chords borrowed from All The Young Dudes at the start? If so, consider changing the electric guitar sound and melody – it’s very similar!
I love the production – the strings and brass, and the way the drums are used, really create a Sgt Pepper feel
It’s a great mash-up of Bowie and Beatles influences
The vocals get lost in the mix sometimes, could they be louder?
I love the sitar and the backwards tambourine!

It sounds as though the harmony an octave lower isn’t quite in your range – consider using a vocoder or similar to achieve the same effect, it’ll match the main vocal perfectly in pitch and timing
I really like the melody, it’s very varied and evocative
Is there any mileage for you in singing with more confidence? If you try to really go for it you’ll probably get better results
Very much like the counterpoint “yurtinflorfum” harmonies over the second verse

Army Defense
Less of a strong melody here
Super fun though
In some lines, emphasis is on the "wrong" (awkward) syllable
Those seventh harmonies in the chorus need to be more assured to sound in tune
Double-tracking is out of time on the chorus
Like the re-coloring in the final chorus
Great counterpoint harmony in the final chorus, love the pad-like one at the end

Zoe Gray
Wonderful imagery – reminded me of Aimee Mann
This could have benefitted from harmonies as well as double-tracking
The double-tracking could be tighter
Catchy chorus but I’m not convinced by the use of “sleep with your eyes open” – it suggests wariness; I think that’s the opposite of your meaning, which is perhaps more like being awake with your eyes shut…
I love the menacing tone and the contrast created by those little music-box bells – perfect prosody with the lyric

Lucky Witch & The Righteous Ghost
The distortion on the verses has a very nice effect
Fantastic imagery – “I try to talk but bird sounds come out” is freaky! You’ve conjured nightmares brilliantly here
Production is great with the churchy organ and whatever that distorted noise is behind it – very creepy indeed
The smeary tube-amp-like distortion on the chorus is very piercing – it’s difficult to listen to. It fits the tone but you could turn the effect down to make the song a bit more palatable while still keeping it very creepy

Adam Sakellarides
It sounds as though you don’t quite know the melody - perhaps more familiarity with the song will solve this
Really reminiscent of They Might Be Giants
The melody is unusual enough to carry this level of repetition, but it might be worth changing it up in the chorus nonetheless

Kyleen Downes
Nice concept; the dreaminess could be brought out more strongly with dreamier production, e.g. turn the guitar down & add a bit more reverb
You’re doing some vocal fry
The emphasis on some of the lines is in an unnatural place – e.g. “But this sun-SET”… “Maybe not having IS”…
“The key to change what your life needs” doesn’t make sense for me
The verse melody is strong
The pre-chorus does a great job of building up expectation but the melody in the chorus could be stronger for a bigger pay-off

Mick Bordet
This made me laugh
It sounds a bit like Blur at the start but quickly morphs into something off the B-side of David Bowie’s Low
The production’s very interesting – this would fit into a David Lynch film
Really like the oboe – this is such an unusual piece!

Bryan Schumann
The magical sound of the chanting at the start is a strange fit for the RATM-style rap that follows
I’d turn the guitars down and the drums up
The siren-like sound is very evocative
The song is somewhat uncomfortable to listen to – given the subject matter, that may have been on purpose, but the whole thing could be brought together with louder drums and bass to counter the piercing guitars and siren
Not sure about your accent on “without human, can earth survive?” It does suit the ungrammatical phrase, and that creates a great rhythm – but it’s still questionable for me

Rob From Amersfoort
I really like the production – the muffled syncopated drumbeat and bass are great
Interesting harmonies on the chorus, it goes somewhere very unexpected – especially the counterpoint “They rule the world now”
Ik wil horen hoe je klinkt als je in het nederlands zingt!

Boffo Yux Dudes
For my liking, the pitch-shifted high voice is overused here – it’s funny but after a while it gets irritating. Consider using different effects for each time it appears?
This reminds me of the Bonzo Dog Band obviously but also early Queen, e.g. Bring Back That Leroy Brown – with tighter harmonies this could really work
The piano is sometimes out of time with the other instruments