Co-Writing: Well, this is awkward…


Stop right there! It doesn’t have to be.
Co-writing with someone for the first time can feel a lot like undressing in front of a stranger you just met. Writing, for most of us, is a very personal experience. Most of us started writing nervously in rooms by ourselves diving into our emotions and trying to find a way to pull a song out of it. However, co-writing feels completely different. Everyone is coming into it with anticipation and nervous energies but ultimately, expectations. Expectations that together we will make something better than we could alone. And with that expectation, comes the possibility for disappointment. So here are some helpful tips we have found to avoid that disappointment, and to make your co-writes a more enjoyable experience for all.
  1. The ice breaker.
As awkward as it may feel, take a few minutes before your session to get to know each other. Don’t be strictly musical during this phase. Ask where your co-writer is from, where they went to school, what TV show they like, whatever feels natural. Have the same small talk you would with anyone, because you’re a human. The human interaction and connection that happens before a session is vital, and oftentimes transitions seamlessly into a discussion on what the song is about. Don’t skip the small talk!
  1. Know your roles, and if you don’t – find out.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Sure there are some freak of nature writers out there that are good at everything, but most of us tend to have specific strengths within the songwriting craft. I like to break it down into three components: lyrics, melody, and harmony. Lyrics make up the actual content of the song. Melody is the hook or melodies being sung throughout the song. Harmony is the arrangement of the song including chord selection, structure, etc. Take some time and get to know your other writer. It will help you to find a starting point for the song. If you are with someone who is really strong with harmony and you are great with melody, both of you sitting with a pen and paper trying to come up with lyrics is not going to be the best way to start off your session. Play to your strengths, do what feels natural, and have fun with it.
  1. You will have stupid ideas, and that’s 100% fine.
Sometimes we get so scared our co-writer might think out idea is bad that we freeze on the inside and don’t share anything. Nothing will make a writing session go south faster than insecurity. Own your stupid idea. Personally, I’m a melody guy. I’ll often come up with what I think is a strong melody but the first words I think of may be terrible. Sure I could be insecure about it and not contribute anything, or I could communicate exactly how I feel. “I know these words suck, but what do you think about this melody?” Now that I have put the idea out there, it gives my co-writer on opportunity to work with it and make it better. They very well may have better lyrics but no melody to put it to. Team work makes the dream work, and insecurity makes the dream die.
  1. You will not write a #1 hit every time. 
Actually, you won’t even write a hit most times. That does not mean you should stop co-writing and give up all together because your first song didn’t chart. It takes most charted songwriters YEARS of writing (awkward co-writes included) before they have their first placement. However, each write they finish makes them a stronger writer. There is something to learn from every co-writer you work with, just like there is something to learn from every person you encounter. You may not write a hit every time, or for a long time, but keep putting in the work and your career will move in the direction you want it to.
  1. Follow up.
Remember that co-write you did a few months ago that went surprisingly great and you both loved the end product? Chances are the other person feels the same way too! Reach out and set up an additional writing session and make it a regular thing. The more songs you write, the better at the craft you get. Let your co-writers know you enjoyed writing with them. That little bit of encouragement could mean the world to someone when they are battling their own personal demons. The best way to get more opportunities is to always follow up.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you when you venture into your next co-write. Remember, co-writing is a fantastic thing and it should be fun! When two creators come together to make greater art the possibilities are limitless!
So go, write, and be merry!
Keep Creating
Thomas Daniel
Project Manager / Songwriter

Good Vocals – Uncovering The Mystery Behind

We’ve all heard them. We all love them. We all want them.

Good vocals. 
I’m not talking your average vocals. I’m talking make you stop what you’re doing, turn it up, and figure out what exactly is going on – vocals. Vocal recording can make or break your entire song. Whether you are an aspiring songwriter trying to pitch your songs, or an artist trying to convey a specific emotion through your voice – the delivery of the vocal to the listener is vital to a song’s success. So, what is it that makes a truly great vocal sound?? Here are some tips to help debunk the mysticism around recording vocals!
  1. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will ever substitute for a great performance. 
This is arguably the hardest part, and also the least convenient. In the world of autotune, click and drag plug-ins, endless reverb, etc. – there are thousands of tools producers can use to cover up vocal imperfections. But at the end of the day, that’s all it is. A cover up. TAKE YOUR TIME. Make sure the session is engineered with the best resources you have in the best way you know how. Make sure your singer is prepared, rested, and comfortable. Oftentimes, psychology has more to do with our performance behind the microphone than our voice does. Don’t settle for takes just because they’re “good enough.” Capture a truly inspiring performance because that is what will translate in your final product. The goal is to not have to cover up the voice, but showcase it!
  1. Learn and use the best process for the singer you have.
Everyone has their own process/preferences. Some singers like taking shorter takes, some like doing complete takes. Some singers like singing with reverb in their headphones, some like their mix dry. Some singers like click (rare, but I’m one of them), and some don’t. Taking the extra minute to communicate and get a comfortable mix for your singer can make all the difference in the world. Ask your singer how they typically go about recording vocals, and make a plan from there. Jumping straight into a session because you are short on time, or even just cause you are excited, will ultimately create more work in the long run. Work smart, communicate, and aim to capture the best performance you can! (There’s #1 again.)
  1. Think about the end goal every step of the way. 
It’s more than just singing into a microphone and recording it. Do you have any artists that you love and SWEAR they sing better live than they do recorded? Oftentimes the energy a singer feels while in the hype of a show will aid their performance! When you are standing in a vocal booth (maybe a closet for some of us) that energy isn’t there – so you need to make that energy. If you want something to come off more energetic, more breathy, more powerful, – sing it exaggeratively so. Nine times out of ten, it will come across just right in the final mix, even though it might feel silly in the moment.
  1. Leave your offense at the door.
Everyone MUST be on the same page that everything you are doing is for the sake of the song. Vocalists in particular can be very sensitive. If you aren’t open to constructive feedback, you are never going to grow as a vocalist and you ought not be a session singer. Your producer is listening objectively to you sing while the track is playing – something you can not do. So learn that nothing is a personal attack. You are talented, and you wouldn’t be in the room if you weren’t. Learn to appreciate feedback because you know it will make the end goal that much better. Producers, develop a good relationship with your singers – and vice versa. The more comfortable you are with one another, the easier it will be for you to communicate about getting the best vocal performance possible.
  1. Know your limits.
Producers, know what your singer can handle. Singers, know what your voice can handle. Don’t put yourselves in positions where you feel like you will be set up to fail or hurt yourself. Knowing when to take a break or even call it a night can make all the difference. Communicate about how you feel. No one is psychic. If you feel like your voice is getting hoarse and you need some water, ask for it. If you feel like a singer is straining to hit notes, ask how they are feeling. Knowing your limits isn’t giving up. It’s using your time wisely and ensuring a successful outcome.
Recording vocals can be loads of fun or a complete nightmare. Hopefully some of these tips will help to ensure the loads of fun part. The voice is the medium that we use in music to convey information. So just remember when you are spending hours making up the perfect track, or finishing up that final verse – don’t let that all go to waste by rushing through your vocals. Take your time, get a great performance, and have fun!


Keep Creating
Thomas Daniel
Project Manager / Songwriter

THE SXTM Produced Tracks For International CCM Production “The Thorn”

Nashville, TN – September 7th, 2015

The Thorn is a CCM musical that is known for putting on a breathtaking performance. The SXTM was given to task to create custom music for their DVD release synced to picture. The song was written by Thomas Bracciale, produced by Christian Fiore, and featured vocalists Lara Landon and Joe McNally. We we’re given the task of creating an epic Coldplay style CCM track with real string arrangements and compelling lyrics. The Thorn DVD will be released internationally in the coming months.