Monday, August 12, 2013

The Revolving Songwriting Challenge

The idea behind the Revolving Songwriting Challenge is to have a different challenge every month or so, chosen by the nominated winner of the previous month.  Hopefully these challenges will have you thinking outside your usual routine, and listening to the submissions of others could give you some new ideas or even collaborations.  Who knows, you might even strike gold; Chris Cornell's song Seasons was inspired by a mock song title written on the track listing of a prop album for the 1992 film Singles.  Participation willing, I'd hope to keep this going for a while with a new challenge fairly regularly.  So here's the nitty-gritty, subject to change as we get deeper in...

The challenge: to write a guitar-driven song following the theme of the challenge to be voted on by your peers.

The rules:
1.) The song must follow the specified theme; ie: key, tuning, mode, time signature, etc.
2.) The song should have a structure with at least 2-3 distinct parts, such as verse-chorus-verse-chorus, A-B-A-B-C, and so on.
3.) Other instrumentation is acceptable except where prohibited by specific challenge rules, though guitar should always be essential to the composition.
4.) Songs must be submitted within the timeframe dictated.
5.) Winners will be voted on by other contestants and the composer selected best for that challenge will set the rules for the next challenge.

Submissions can be uploaded to the Smiles and Gimps Soundcloud dropbox by clicking the link below.  At the end of the submission period a poll will be posted here and will be active for one week.  The winner will be announced at that time.
Send me your sounds
If you don't have a Soundcloud... Get one here!  It's free and easy to set up and doesn't only let you share your music online but lets you discover other music as well!  You can even record directly to Soundcloud from your computer or Smartphone.

Voting guidelines:
1.) Songs should be judged first and foremost by their adherence to the challenge posed.
2.) Other factors that should be taken into account include originality of material, skill of the musician, and overall feel of the song.
3.) To make these challenges more accessible to all guitarists, quality of recording should be omitted from judging criteria, as someone with a full home studio will inevitably end up sounding better than the guy who recorded his submission on an iPhone.
4.) Constructive criticism only; anyone who posts otherwise risks having their submission discarded.

Challenge #1
So to start, I propose the challenge of composing a song tuned to Low C Tuning (C-G-D-G-A-D).  At least one guitar should be in that tuning and should be present throughout the song, whether as rhythm or melody/lead.  To keep things simple, all other aspects of the song are up to the composer.  For a kick start, check out my post the Low C tuning showcase for chord shapes and various scale diagrams.

Since this is the first go 'round and I'm still trying to recruit challengers, I'll put the extended deadline as September 20th, with a winner to be announced on the 27th (and hopefully a new challenge ready to rock by the first week of October).  

Submit your recordings to the Soundcloud link above, and be sure to check out the competition while you're there!  Check back often for new submissions and updates here on the blog.  Questions, comments, or suggestions can be posted here as well. Let's try and start something here people!

As always, long days and pleasant nights!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tuning Showcase: Low C

A favorite of Celtic finger style guitarist El McMeen, Low C Tuning was originated by an English guitarist by the name of Dave Evans, purportedly as a variation of a common Hawaiian tuning, CGCGAD.  In essence, this is a bastardization of Open G tuning, with the first five strings ringing a G suspended 2nd chord.  The sixth string, normally the fifth of the open tuning, is tuned down an extra whole step to C.  The result is an added 11th in the bass.  The vaguely Celtic feel of the tuning is reminiscent of the more common DADGAD, or Dsus4, tuning.

Starting in the bass, the two lowest strings are tuned to perfect fifths, C to G and G to D, respectively.  Next is a perfect fourth from D back to G, and then the common anomaly of open tunings, the perfect second from G to A.  We finish off with another perfect fourth, from A to D.  These intervals allow for fairly accessible chord shapes and scales that don't require too much jumping around.

The following image shows common chord shapes in Low C tuning.

And a few movable shapes for major chords:

Minor chords:

And some other quandaries:

I've made two sets of scale charts here, the first is from "standard" position, or starting with the root on the fifth string, as one might do for Open G or Open A.  The second has the root in the "bass," or starting on the sixth string.  This gives an array of scale options for this versatile tuning.