CD Review: You Can Write a Song! (Jeff Ferguson)

Available from: Artist (at least at events).

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On this three-CD set, Jeff Ferguson (and special guest Regi Stone) explain the three steps to a successfully published song. First, you have to write a great song. Second, you have to have a great demo of the song. Third, you have to get it to the right person at the right time (and the person has to be expecting it).

The first disc covers some of the basics, getting hindrances out of the way, clustering thoughts, and goes through some practices to spark creative writing. Several exercises are offered. Some are one-minute exercises, others are 15-minute exercises. However, since blank space doesn’t make sense in the editing, the edited audio skips from one exercise to another, so be prepared to either skip the exercises or have your CD player’s pause button handy. Another minor quibble: Be prepared for sudden stops between the three CDs. They probably had to cut mid-story (and, it seems, mid-sentence on the first CD) to get the entire program onto three CDs.

The second disc gets more specific, offering ten things necessary for songwriting. Nearly the first half of the CD is devoted to the first point, necessary tools. Then they move onto other points, covering common mistakes to avoid and creating necessary structures for an internally consistent song.

The third disc starts with a co-writing session—showing one of the ways a recording can’t duplicate the experience of actually being there. The attendees break up into six or eight groups and write a third verse to “He Touched Me.” They found out when they got back that they had to perform their verse. Though some were better singers than others, each of the verses had some real merit (and a few had some excellent lines).

The last twenty minutes of the third disc discuss the other two points, making a demo and getting it to the right person. Though the most important of the process is writing the right song, the last twenty minutes alone are worth the price of the project.

Most of the seminar focused on crafting a lyric; though there were a few tips on crafting melodies, there was surprisingly little. Perhaps writing a good melody is something that can’t be taught. But there are some basic principles—structure of chord progressions, harmonies that can and can’t be used in Southern Gospel (if you want a group to cut it), etc.

But for anyone who is serious about learning songwriting, especially if the lyrics side is the area they need to work on the most, this conference set is valuable and worth the cost.

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