The Nashville Trax A Team

“These tracks are smokin’ hot, Bill!!! This album is going to ROCK country style!!! Thanks man!!!! Wow!!!!!!” -Joe, front man for The Swansons, regarding the tracks posted below.

Whether you need a demo of your song, a master, a performance track or even an entire album, the Nashville Trax A team, our best players, are available at a price lower than you might think.

These are session veterans such as Jenee Fleenor, who plays fiddle and mandolin for major label country artist, Blake Shelton.

She was also the fiddle player on John Pardi’s 2016 Billboard #1 country hit “Head Over Boots”.

She is the 2016 CMA Touring Musician of the Year as well as the fiddle player for the popular television show, The Voice.

In fact, Jenee turned down Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler’s offer to tour with him recently, but guess what? Hire us and she’ll definitely play on your project!

Here’s our A team- we call them The Hitmakers- on a music-only track intended for an album we’re currently producing for the Producer’s Choice Awards winner of “The Best Live Band in Los Angeles” award, The Swansons. Their vocals will be added later. But it could just as easily be a demo or a track to use for live performance:

K-K-Kissin’ © 2017 Joe Finley, published by Listen Again Music (BMI):

Drums: Jim Riley (Rascal Flatts)
Bass Guitar: B. E. Watson (Nashville Trax producer)
Acoustic and Electric Guitars: 10 times Music Row Guitar Player of the Year, Brent Mason
Harmonica: Mike Douchette (Tammy Wynette, George Jones, ZZ Top)
Mandolin: Jenee Fleenor
Banjo: Aaron McDaris (Rhonda Vincent)
Tracking engineering:
Bill Watson
Mixing engineering:
Bill Watson
Arranged and Produced by Bill Watson

And here’s the full session including count in, no-vocals-yet quick mix (final mix later) of “Getting Ready”:

Drums: Jim Riley (Rascal Flatts)
Bass Guitar: B. E. Watson (Nashville Trax producer)
Electric Guitars: 10 times Music Row Guitar Player of the Year, Brent Mason
Mandolin and Fiddle: Jenee Fleenor
Banjo: Aaron McDaris (of Rhonda Vincent, playing on his historic “Rocky Top” banjo, the original instrument played on that classic, iconic recording).
Tracking engineering:
Bill Watson
Mixing engineering:
Bill Watson
Arranged and Produced by Bill Watson

Getting Ready is © 2017 Joe Finley, published by Listen Again Music (BMI).

Coming to Nashville in June to do vocals on these songs and eleven others that will comprise their first country album, The Los Angeles based band, The Swansons:


“Best Live Band in Los Angeles, 2017”

And here’s a quick rough mix of a three piece rockabilly jam with Brent Mason on guitar, Jim Riley drums and Bill Watson on bass guitar. More instrument parts have since been added; be sure to pick up a copy of The Swanson’s album (produced by Nashville Trax, intended for release mid-summer 2017??) to hear the full mix:

The foundation rhythm section players: Jim Riley, Drums; Bill Watson, Bass Guitar; Brent Mason, Rhythm & Lead Guitars:

Some of the other A team tracking and overdub players we use:

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Would you like a quote on your project using these musicians?

Contact: Att: B.E. Watson, A Team quote.

All samples above are “music tracked and ready for vocals to be added” quick mixes for songs from the upcoming album by The Swansons to be released in 2017. They are posted here for demonstration purposes only. Any other use without written consent of the publisher is a violation of U.S. and International copyright law and is forbidden.

Kisses, Getting Ready and I Need Your Love are all © 2017 Joe Finley, published by Listen Again Music (BMI).

Welcome! To The Play It Again Demos and Nashville Trax Blog

performing band silhouette

Welcome to the Nashville Songwriter’s Blog sponsored by the song demo service, Play It Again Demos, the recording studio, Nashville Trax and the song marketing service, Song Rocket.

Nashville Trax have been in business producing demos, master recordings and instrument tracks for songwriters and producers since 1991.

This blog contains numerous posts about songwriting technique,. music theory, artists seeking songs, song publishers seeking songs and more!

E-mail us at or at to inquire about:

  • Having a demo, master quality single or album produced
  • Adding instrument tracks played by Nashville session musicians to your self-produced project.
  • Live stage performance tracks made of a cover song or original

Samples of our work are posted below .

Studio News:

Fisher’s of Men CD makes 2016 Grammy ballot

Dan Thompson’s single, “A Good Day for Progress” distributed by Sony drops to radio

Camille Rae’s single, But I Want You, on CMT

Here are some MP3 samples of our song demo work. We produce Country, Christian, Blues, Americana, Bluegrass, Pop, Rock.. you name it.

Here are indie and major label song pitch opportunities

Not computer savvy? No time? No connections? You’d rather focus on song writing than on song promo? Here’s how we can promote your song for you. What a great time to be a songwriter!

Play It Again Demos is a service for songwriters who need high quality demos and CDs made of their work using Nashville session quality musicians and singers.

Nashville Trax is a project recording studio for singers and songwriters who either live in the area or wish to come to the Nashville area from other locations to record. Nashville may be known for country and bluegrass but these guys can play anything.

If you haven’t had much success with your music in the past using other studios and producers, hop on board and hold on. Things are about to change!

This blog is about songwriting, producing, recording and life. If we think it will help you out in some way, we post it. It’s free of charge and access is unrestricted, stop by anytime. Subscribe if you like, that’s free too.


Christian Song Before/After Production

Bill Watson, music producer Nashville Trax, Play It Again Demos

Bill Watson, producer

Looking to have a Christian song  produced? Give a listen to this client a capella “before” version of this song (titled “Paradise”) then our version.

Client “Before” version:

Nashville Trax “after” version:

Paradise is ©  Jon Smith, posted by permission. If you’re interested in recording this song; using it in a commercial application such as in a movie or on a website; or singing it in a performing situation please let us know and we’ll forward your request to the songwriter and song publisher.

How about that saxophone player? If you need fantastic sax on your tune, we’ll get him.

Pro recordings make everyone- friends, family, artists, record company A & R and music publishers- take notice. Have 3 or 4 pro demos or masters to peddle and they’ll brand you as a pro-level songwriter every time you pitch them.

We would be thrilled to do that for you!

As one of the staff who worked on this track said while listening to the final mixdown, “There are a lot of people in Nashville who wish their album tracks sounded this good!”

If you would like a quote on making a professional version of your song simply drop an e-mail with your rough mp3 or mp4 attached to: with the details of what you want. We’ll likely bat a couple e-mails back and forth before we determine an exact price. It can be completed over the Internet or you can be present for the entire process.

Write in another style? There are more samples of work to your right in Categories > Samples of Our Work.

A Rockin’ Country Demo

Play It Again Demos

Play It Again Demos

If you like older style country we can do that all day long; fiddle, pedal steel out front in the mix, we love it!

But much of what makes radio these days incorporates more of a rock vibe. If there’s fiddle and steel they’ll have to fight for a spot in the mix, distorted guitars and cannon-like drums rule.

Here’s a demo produced by Play It Again Demos by producer, Bill Watson, titled “Renegade” that features those types of sounds.

Renegade is © 2013, 2016 Dan Mathews, used by permission of the songwriter. If you’re interested in recording this song please let us know and we’ll forward your request to the songwriter and music publisher.

Do you need a quality singer like this to make your song sound professional?

An arrangement that make your tune something special, not just regurgitate the rough version? That blues-scale riffs in the intro, halfway through the chorus and on through? The producer, Bill Watson, wrote them in during pre-production.

And how about these musicians? Wouldn’t it be thrilling to hear these guys doing your song? And so worth the money?

Pro demos make everyone– friends, family, artists, record company A & R and music publishers- take notice and will brand you as a pro-level songwriter every time you play them.

We would be as happy to do that for you! Just shoot us an e-mail at with your rough mp3 version attached and request a quote today!

There are more samples of work to your right in Categories > Samples of Our Work.

New Vocal and EQ PlugIns. WOW, will YOU sound great!

Let’s start with this piece of amazement, the Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer:

Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer At Work In A Nashville Trax mix

Waves HEQ Hybrid Equalizer At Work In A Nashville Trax mix

This is the $300 TDM version, and worth every cent.

Basically it will analyze the frequency response of a track and give the engineer a visual as he EQ’s it in real time. The yellow line is pre-EQ, the blue is post. The advantage over a regular analog or digital EQ? Instead of relying on your ears, you can see what is going on, see what needs to be cut or boosted, make the tweak, then get additional visual verification that you’ve achieved your goal.

Either that or it calculates how to get that insect DNA out of your body before you turn into The Fly III.

But I think it’s an EQ.

And here’s another piece of total greatness:

Aphex Aural Exciter

Aphex Aural Exciter

I must admit this isn’t my first Aphex relationship. (That sounds just plain weird doesn’t it?) We had the original Aphex Aural Exciter, the analog physical version, in our rack nine years ago. I loved that little guy but when we went to Pro Tools HD and started mixing in the box, the Aphex was no longer able to be utilized, so we sold it.

But appropriately, on Halloween Eve it’s back from the dead in software form, ready to add sparkle to any track it’s needed on. It may say “Vintage Aural Exciter” but at first listen there was no question it’s an emulation of the Aphex.

I don’t care who you are you have to love an aural exciter on drum overheads. But it will work on many track types anytime a mix is too bottom end heavy. Apply it judiciously and it balances out the lows with quality high end.

And here is our new Lexicon Reverb, part of a $600 bundle that includes everything from concert halls to tiny rooms:

Click here to see the rest of this post about our new Lexicon Reverb. Also learn more about our Tube Saturation Software for vocals and how it might help make your vocal track sound sensational!

Songwriters Paid Monthly


SESAC is now offering monthly royalty check payments. For details visit:

Now Tracking: Better Than A Hallelujah

I hope to help make YOUR project sound GREAT soon!

I hope to help make YOUR project sound GREAT soon!

Working on a limited release demo CD project mixing original songs with cover tunes. First up? A cover of Amy Grant’s Better Than A Hallelujah.

The songwriting craft evident in Hallelujah blows me away. The lyric is simple yet powerful. The melody just soars. Love it!

There’s no sense in copying Amy’s version, that’s pretty much a definitive performance so rather than attempt to emulate greatness, I want to do something different with it.

One thought was to make it much bigger sounding, over the top alt pop rock with distorted guitars, a full choir, big rock drums, etc.

But I decided while interesting to produce, going huge would lose the best quality this tune has going for it: simple understated beauty. So it will remain at about the same dynamic just a little more dense with a slightly bluesy lead vocal, some Hall & Oates style bgv’s (background vocals) and some unusual instrumentation. Exactly what, I’ll leave as a surprise for now and post an mp3 when the CD is finished.

In my research before charting I found an Amy Grant interview about the song I think you’d find interesting for a lot of reasons.

I also found the The Official Amy Grant Video of Better Than A Hallelujah Not too great of a discovery, Columbus’ place in history remains secure, it comes up 1st in Google, lol.

Beautiful the mess we are.



Songwriting Tip: Contrast Upbeat Music With A Depressing Lyric!

Bill Watson

Bill Watson: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

A tune came in today (by songwriter Tom Hogan a.k.a. Steve Zodiak) at Play It Again Demos that uses a rarely-employed technique you might wish to experiment with.

The song features a happy, upbeat melody but the lyric is definitely negative. For some reason that contrast works.

The best example of this technique is Jim Croce’s “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” where the lyric reveals the dichotomy between the singer’s current career path: “rubbing fenders with a rag and walking home in soggy old shoes” with where he feels he deserves to be: sitting in an air-conditioned office “talkin’ some trash to my secretary sayin’, ‘Hey now mama come on over here!”

I can’t agree with the attitude, a real man treats women they deal with in business or in their personal life as they would want their mother or sister to be treated, but the lyric’s contrast between fantasy and reality is hilarious.

In tough guy with a sensitive side, Jim Croce’s defense, he also wrote “Time In A Bottle” as well as “Operator.”

Another example is “Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. It can give you happy feet but the lyric is mostly negative. Including lyric lines discussing crystal meth addiction.

Happy music, not so fun-loving lyric.

It works, try it!- b.e.

Millennials Leaving Churches In Droves?

Bill Watson

Bill Watson

I read an article on this morning regarding why Millennials are dropping out of Christian churches.

The writer, an atheist, stated that Millennials- teens, college students, and people up to about age 30- are losing interest in attending church and don’t believe in God.

In the bulk of the piece the writer theorized extensively on fault: Who’s fault is it Millennials are dropping out of church?

He concluded it was the fault of the churches for focusing their message on Jesus and non-worldy values, as well as the result of an organized push by atheists with a “God is a myth” message that’s resonating. He also alluded to a general decline in interest among almost all age groups.

He ended with, “It appears that atheists and Christians are finally working together on the same task: getting Millennials to leave the church.”

It’s so typical of the hard left atheistic faction to argue a small point supported by a larger false premise, as if the false premise was a fact beyond debate. They then attempt to focus the debate on the details of the false premise. Clever, but I hope accomplishing The Great Destroyer’s work isn’t quite that easy.

When someone opposing you is saying, “You better change tactics because you are helping us achieve our goals.” it’s a highly suspicious position. If it’s true, the only logical course is to say nothing and keep reaping the benefits!

Is Christianity growing or shrinking? Is it really on the ropes about to expire as the mass media would sometimes like us to believe?

Are people losing interest in God?

I’ve attended two Christian churches in the last seven months, multiple times each. One has expanded to a fifth campus (campus = a complete church with a building, campus staff, a live worship band, etc.) with the pastor’s message cabled from the main campus to the other four. The church began about eight years ago with less than twenty members. It now has thousands of members among the 5 campuses.

The other church I’ve attended started in the late 90’s as a tiny group, meeting for coffee at Starbucks to talk about Jesus. Over time they purchased a building and they’ve added 100 new members over the last year. They are out of room and about to break ground on a huge building expansion project, fully paid for in advance.

The front rows are filled with teens and college kids totally on fire for The Lord and worshiping with tremendous enthusiasm. They even have a weeknight “takeover” of the church attended only by local college students. They started it themselves and they run it, The parking lot fills to capacity.

I’m sure part of the attraction at that particular church is the demographic. These aren’t the uneducated, nearly penniless, rednecks desperately “clinging to guns and religion” some people mistakenly believe all Christians are. Jesus is for everyone.

The church draws it’s membership from the county with the highest per capita income in the United States. Sunday school is taught by college professors to people with PhDs. The church band is comprised of session quality players, some of the most intelligent, talented individuals on the planet.

And these people love Jesus. Look around and you see smiling, happy, super-friendly folks in love with The Lord and visibly displaying it. Millennials may attend the first time for other reasons but they come back because His spirit permeates the place.

Don’t try to convince me it’s not happening using cherry picked statistics. I’ve seen it.

Furthermore I know Trinity Broadcasting Network is constantly expanding on its multiple channel Christian Broadcasts worldwide. Christ’s message is being spread in more ways and with greater coverage than ever, finally fulfilling Bible prophecy that the Word would be preached throughout the world.

It’s even in Russia and bringing our Russian brothers and sisters, former atheists forced for two generations by the state to accept the “fact” there is no God, into the fold in astounding numbers. Not long ago Christianity was predominately a Western religion. Today, Latin America, Asia and Africa hold 65% of the world’s 2 billion Christians.

Wasn’t it just last week that CNN itself reported there are now over 200 Christian churches in Manhatten alone? And one of the newest, Hillsong, has quickly grown to over 5,000 members.

And wasn’t The Bible mini-series the most watched entertainment broadcast on cable this year?

How about the success of Donald Trump meets ZZ Top, Duck Dynasty? It’s breaking viewership records too, not in spite of it’s Christianity, but partly because of it!

Single track downloads of Christian/Gospel music rose this past year 8.8% from 20.3 to 22.1 million tracks over last year. Purchases of music downloads is mostly due to people under 30 years old with by far the highest purchasing age group being in the 25 to 29 age range.

Why would Christian music downloads increase in the U.S. by nearly 9% if Christians, especially Millennials in the coveted under 30 demographic, are losing their faith in droves? I believe these purchases are being made by millennial atheists with a hidden affinity for Christian music they listen to secretly in bedroom closets, LOL.

Christianity is about to breathe it’s last gasp…reeeeally?

Yes, some churches are shrinking in numbers, partly due to people migrating from smaller inner city churches to mega-churches in the suburbs. And some churches are behind the times. God’s message doesn’t change but the delivery system may need tweaking.

I totally understand, accept and love non-believers. Some of my friends and family are atheists and we get along fine. But I don’t understand people, like the author of the article, who actively attempt to destroy other’s faith.


What great good results from taking away a person’s moral compass? What great work are they accomplishing by destroying a person’s belief system that’s inherently full of hope and replacing it with a belief system absolutely devoid of it?

But oh, there is indeed an outcome. Non-belief inherently has a cost to the individual as well as to society.

It’s the devaluing and destruction of the traditional family unit.

It’s an absence of self esteem and the inability to see the eternal picture to the point that teens are committing suicide over Facebook posts and school bullying.

It’s a misplacement of values resulting in adults killing themselves over something as simple as losing a job.

It’s an increase in the number of people who hurt others without a thought of eternal consequences, knowing their actions are wrong but not caring, or maybe not even knowing the difference between right and wrong itself.

It’s more husbands leaving wives, forcing their children into weekend visitation with Dad and his new significant other, which imparts a completely different and unpredictable dynamic to the father-child relationship:

Fatherhood pushed to the fringes instead of where it should be, center stage leading, because the self is more important than doing the right thing.

And worse.

Does anything matter?

If all we amount to at the end of this extremely short journey is a box of bones in the ground then it matters not whether we are moral; whether we rob, rape or kill; whether we spend our time loving or hating, shooting or healing… once it’s all over and the smoke finally clears, nothing matters at all to bones in the ground. There are no consequences or rewards for any choice. Every word we speak or write is ultimately meaningless as is every action. A collective mountain of bones comprised of everyone who once drew a breath simply doesn’t care.

But He does.

Man, if everyone in the world simply turned to Jesus and made Him and His Word the center of their lives, the problem solvers could go away. There wouldn’t be any problems to solve. And guess what, don’t believe in His divinity? It still works!

Belief in God and making Jesus the center point of your brief earthly journey is the default position of the truly logical, the default position of the truly wise, the default position of the few on this earth who are truly intelligent.

Instead of turning toward the one thing that absolutely will work, the one thing that is the real game changer for the individual, for society, the militant atheists are actively turning people the other way, away from Jesus.

Their genius on full display, shining like the brilliant beacon it is, I guess.

People need God. They have a hunger for Him that nothing else will satisfy. There may be agenda driven stats available to support the convoluted CNN article’s premise, but I can assure you, based on plenty of anecdotal as well as empirical evidence, the concept that Millenials are disinterested in Jesus is absolutely false.

Militant atheists want people to believe Christianity is on the ropes, uncool, holding onto a stale position, the refuge of losers, the home of the unintelligent, about to be defeated, when it’s actually the militant atheists who are losing the battle, desperately trying to stop the glorious truth that’s pouring out His message, finding His children and feeding them The Word that satisfies forever.

It’s reaching a people and generation who have technology in bucket loads. And wealth. And mobility. And logic to spare. But they have no hope in anything beyond the grave, the one thing that makes all that good.

Jesus is giving them some. Glory Hallelujah, He is giving us all some!- b.e.

Songwriting Chord Progression Tip: Root to Relative Minor

Songwriters who aren’t trained in music theory often hear a song using a bass line movement descending from the major root chord to the relative minor, then imitate that movement in their own songs this way: (key of C) C, B minor, A minor. In the Nashville Numbers System that would be 1, 7-, 6-.

What they are actually trying to imitate is this: C, G/B, Am
or in Nashville Numbers speak: 1, 5/7, 6-. The G/B means a G chord played with a B bass note. If you play guitar or piano and you’re solo you can make the movement happen by voicing the deepest pitched B note as your root for the G chord. But if you’re working with a bass player it’s fine to simply play the full G chord and let the bass player take the B bass note. Another example just to confirm you understand the concept, this time in the key of G : Instead of G, F#m, Em use G, D/F#, Em- b.e.

Microphone Locker: The AT 4040

 A pair of At 4050's used as overheads on our studio drums.

A pair of At 4040’s used as overheads on our studio drum kit

The fact we have a pair of matched AT 4040 microphones is yet another reason to choose Play It Again Demos (our over-the-internet demo recording service) or Nashville Trax to do your recording work. They let us give you predictably fantastic drum sounds, and they add one more color to the producer’s palette.

For large diaphragm condensors they’re “cheapies” listing at around $500 each and retailing about $300. But price is irrelevant to application. In other words, a $150 dynamic microphone will sometimes outperform a $3,000 condenser microphone, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

The AT is listed as having relatively flat response across the audible spectrum from 20 HZ to about 20K. In actual use I’ve discovered it is a little heavy on the bass end, not muddy, just loud, and crystal clear in the mids. The high end is clear too but if that’s what the application requires, you have to roll off the bass to reveal it.

We use a pair of AT’s for drum overheads so normally I keep the 80 Hz, 12 dB/octave switch set to minimize the bass response. Once EQ’d properly, they shine as overheads.

I feel blessed here at the studio in two ways. We have a good selection of mics to choose from that cover every recording situation, plus we have a drum kit set up permanently.

So many studios let the drummer furnish the drums and that means setting up and tearing down the whole kit for most sessions. Then the mics have to be set up and re-calibrated each time. It can be done but I have zero time for redundant, skull numbing mindlessness and there’s no way you’ll achieve the consistently great sound inherent in a permanent drum setup unless you have one. So we do.

Comments from seasoned studio musicians on the drum sounds are typically, “I wish my kick drum sounded like THAT!” and, “The drums sound PERFECT, don’t change a thing!”

The drums alone have 9 microphones: bass drum, snare, hi-hat, 3 tom mics, the two AT 4040’s, and a room mic. I can fire up the gear, the drummer can simply sit down and start pounding away and with minimal tweaking, we’re ready to record.

All that being said I must admit that I sometimes pull an AT off the drum kit, usually out of desperation because a far more expensive mic isn’t getting it done. And usually the AT excels. I’ve used them on background vocals, fiddle, even horns.

On one session I used an AT for lead vocal instead of a $1,000 mic that pre-session I figured would almost certainly work because it had for that same singer many times prior. Both the singer and I agreed: The AT simply sounded better for his voice that day- B. E. Watson

Tough Gig and Tougher Crowd: The Battle of Franklin TN

Plaque describing the Battle of Franklin. The lower right corner is where the quote below was pulled from.

Plaque describing the Battle of Franklin. The lower right corner is where the quote below was pulled from.

Stopped by the small Civil War park in Franklin TN yesterday having no idea such a large battle had been fought there.

On November 30, 1864 the Southern General John Hood held a position on the hill where the park is now located. He decided to attack the Northern troops located toward Franklin. His line was the largest single array of troops in the entire war, some 19,000 men moving shoulder-to-shoulder across the fields at the foot of the hill.

The plaque pictured above tells it best:

At 4 p.m. here on Winstead Hill, launched the single largest attack made during the American Civil War. The Federal soldiers never forgot the sheer spectacle of the Confederates sweeping across the fields before you with bands playing “Dixie” and “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” One Union observer later wrote that “we were spellbound with admiration, although they were our hated foes.”

Maybe the musicians should have altered the playlist with a tune less controversial than “Dixie.” The Union troops listened for a bit then opened fire. When the smoke cleared at day’s end there were over 6,000 Southern casualties. The action was a disaster for the South.

If I were the general I’d have suggested playing “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

In just the first few minutes of battle, five Southern generals lost their lives in the field just to the right of the hill. Altogether 15 Southern Generals were killed in the fierce fight. Hood’s forces were rendered incapable of effectively engaging in battle for the remainder of the war.

If memory serves correctly Hood was Robert E. Lee’s right hand man in The Battle of Gettysburg, afterwards going to GA to harass Northern General Sherman near Atlanta as Sherman “Drove Old Dixe Down.”

Imagine walking from Gettysburg to Atlanta and on to Nashville as these troops must have done, including the musicians. Tough gig, tougher crowdb.e.

One of many markers on the site detailing the battle. I love history but let's not ever get to this point again as some are pushing for. Our nation torn in two and killing one another by the truckload isn't as much fun as it sounds.

One of many markers on the site detailing the battle. Man, I greatly enjoy history but let’s inject wisdom in all situations and pour out understanding, tolerance and love instead of hate so we never get to this point again as some are now calling for. Our nation torn in two, boys not yet in their prime being slaughtered and killing each other by the truckload? It can’t be near as much fun as it sounds.

Songwriting Tip: Three Chord Groups


Knowing a few chords on guitar or piano is a good thing but some roughs I’ve reviewed here reveal that some newbie songwriters aren’t sure how to use them together. Sometimes chords are used that don’t support the melody or several chords are used that inadvertently introduce a new key in a spot where that shouldn’t happen.

Hopefully this post will reduce that confusion slightly, but in the larger sense, it’s aimed at introducing the abecedarian songwriter to the concept that there is a right way and wrong way to use chords, thus fueling the desire for further exploration of the principles.

Huh, abecedarian… pretty good word, eh? It means neophyte or beginner. Use it to replace a cuss word: “Listen, you abecedarian…” : )

As in most endeavors, there are rules. Rules can be broken but songwriters who don’t know the rules in the first place tend to break them in a bad way, in a way that detracts rather than enhances.

So here is a rule of sorts: Inject a sense of order in the writing process by employing a chord progression, which is several chords played in sequence that sound good together and firmly establish a key. There are many chord progressions that are accepted in music theory as “standards” and are used over and over, the simplest being the three chord group.

Many hit songs are written using only a three chord group, some with as few as two of the three chords in a group.

The easiest three chord groups to play on guitar are:

1. E, A, B7th
2. G, C, D7th
3. A, D, E 7th
4. C, F, G7th
5. D, G, A 7th

All of those can be played on guitar using open chords (chords that contain unfretted notes). The first chord in the three chord sequence is the tonic chord a.k.a. root chord. The second is the dominant chord, the third is the sub dominant or sub dominant seventh.

A three chord group is based on the major scale. Choose the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of a major scale and those notes name the three chord group for that scale with that 1st (the root note) naming the key. Also add a dominant 7th (7th) to the final chord (although the 7th is sometimes omitted).

For example, the notes in a C Major scale are:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, (and back to C, up one octave in pitch from the original C).

The 1st, 4th and 5th notes of the C Major Scale, counting from C are C, F, G. So in the key of C, (C because the first note, the root note, is C) the 3 chord group is C, F, G. In the Nashville number system they’d be referred to as 1-4-5.

Click here to read the rest of this post, including how to use a three chord group to write a song and how to employ the principal of chord substitution.

Or you can skip the free stuff and go straight to the books this post is drawn from, we’re barely scratching the surface here. If you want to learn very basic open chord progressions and simple rhythms get my book Guitar Shop. If you want to learn more complicated chords, extended chords, how non-root bass notes work and learn all the chord substitution rules, get Ted’s bookbill watson

Get On Track With The God Of Wonders

The radio alarm sounded this morning with this song and it was such a perfect wake up call I thought I’d share. A GREAT way to start the day or anytime really.

Focus and energy just pour on in!- b.e.

Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds

A lot of aspiring artists just don’t seem to get it. They can sing, they may be good looking. But in Nashville that’s only the bargaining chip that gets you to the table, everyone holds those cards. In most cases, to “win” you need more.

My advice: Hit the stage with intent.

This band gets it:

Sure, there are big acts that basically just stand nearly motionless onstage and win people over with their personality and/or talent. But they already have hit records. Too many aspiring artists who “want to get signed” get the chance to do a live showcase for major label A&R and when the lights go on, have nothing.

No stage movement, no personality, nothing unique.

The difference between singers I’ve recorded during my time time here who did move on to a major label recording contract and the ones who had great talent yet failed to move beyond a development deal or even the showcasing stage is a lack of drive, a lack of setting themselves apart from other aspiring artists in some way.

Sister Sparrrow and The Dirty Birds is a group totally into what they’re doing. It wouldn’t matter whether there were 5 people watching or 55,000, they’d perform just the same. The band is tight, the girl has a unique voice and makes the most of what she’s got. This is the type of act any A & R person would jump to sign- b.e.

Nashville Trax Produced “Lighthouse” debuts at #1 on Southern Gospel Charts.

The just-released single, “Lighthouse” by The Greatest Gift debuted this week at the #1 spot on The Southern Gospel Times Weekly Top 40 chart.

Update: It’s no longer on the charts but what a feather in the cap of this singing trio.

All music tracks on Lighthouse and the album it’s from, “Fishers of Men” were produced by Bill Watson of Nashville Trax.

Drums/Percussion: Jim Riley, William Ellis

All Acoustic and Electric Guitars: Tom Wild

Keyboards: Steve King, Mike Biason

Violins: Jenee Fleenor

Horns: John Heinrick

Bass Guitar: Bill Watson

The Greatest Gift career is taking off in other ways as well, recently just about sweeping the Christian category at the 2017 national NACMAI competition with multiple #1 awards.



The Greatest Gift

Play It Again Demos client, Bobby Layton, Signs Publishing Deal

Just before his death in December, Bobby Layton’s good friend and sometimes co-writer,  Mark Gray, writer of #1 hits by Alabama (Close Enough To Perfect For Me) and most of Exile’s hits, heard a demo produced @ Play It Again Demos for Bobby Layton and said,”That’s the best demo you’ve ever had done, Bobby, this producer, Bill Watson, is the guy you need to stick with.” Here’s Bobby yesterday, signing a contract on the second song produced by Play It Again Demos for him, That Ain’t Country Music, to Listen Again Music, (BMI).


Dan Thompson Single “A Day Without Progress” Produced by Nashville Trax, Distributed By Sony… 28 Weeks on Sirius XM. Give A Listen!


Singer/songwriter Dan Thompson performing at the George Jones Entertainment Complex. downtown Nashville on Feb. 2, 2016.

Dan Thompson’s followup single, A Day Without Progress” has released to radio and is enjoying lots of radio play… April 3rd, 2017 marking 28 straight weeks on Sirius.


A Danny Thompson fan’s shot of “A Day Without Progress” cranking out on Sirius XM 171.

In fact, the Nashville Trax produced Dan Thompson album is finished and Dan signed an agreement that even prior to completion, saw the first single Miles And Miles” released and distributed to 242 territories through Sony.

Miles was actually released midstream, about three months ago, before the full album was finished and even prior to the deal with Sony being finalized. It’s absolutely blew up on radio, receiving over 2,000 spins per week on hundreds of stations in Australia and the U.K. (including on the BBC).

Now “Miles and Miles” is starting to gain traction on radio in Dan’s home country of Canada:

CJFN in Peguis, MB – ADD – “Danny Thompson Band has been added to rotation.”

CFBW in Hanover, ON – ADD – “Danny Thompson Band is now in our system.”

“Miles and Miles is being played on a country radio station in Owen sound. One of my drivers heard it twice Saturday while working on his truck!!!!”

CHMM in Mackenzie, BC – ADD – “Danny’s song is now in full rotation.”

Glad to see our hard work and Dan’s investment in doing quality work is paying off!

And here’s the followup single:

Why? Because Dan’s kids love the way the harmonica sounds like a duck quacking in the intro; they want to hear it over and over. Now there’s a scientifically sound method. Why bother with demographic research and test marketing when you have quacking ducks, lol!

“A Day Without Progress”

Lead Vocals: Dan Thompson
Drums: William Ellis
Bass Guitar: Bill Watson
Acoustic and Electric Guitars:
Tom Wild
B3 Organ: Steve King
Harmonica: Mike Douchette
Background Vocals: Angela Derrington
Tracking engineering:
Bill Watson
Mixing and Mastering engineering:
Bill Watson, Shawn Conley
Written by: Dan Thompson
Arranged and produced by Bill Watson

From the same album, here’s “Nowhere Road”:

Lead Vocals: Dan Thompson
Drums: Jim Riley
Bass Guitar: Bill Watson
Acoustic and Electric Guitars:
Tom Wild, Bill Watson
B3 Organ: Steve King
Fiddle: Jenee Fleenor
Background Vocals: Angela Derrington

Tracking engineering:
Bill Watson
Mixing and Mastering engineering:
Bill Watson, Shawn Conley
Written by: Dan Thompson
Arranged and produced by Bill Watson

Okay, there was more to it than a quacking duck! A Day Without Progress is uptempo, has the “bro country” rap portion near the end (bro country is super popular right now). Plus it’s a “pull ’em out of their seats” dance tune.

Nowhere Road and A Day Without Progress are © 2016 by Dan Thompson, posted here for demonstration purposes only. Any other use is a violation of U.S. and international copyright law. The songwriter currently retains the right of first release until the projected release to radio April 10th, 2016 after which, requests sent to by parties interested in recording* either song; program directors interested in airplay or by producers interested in using the songs in TV/film projects will be forwarded to the songwriter and/or publisher.
*A Compulsory Mechanical License may be filed by parties planning on recording Nowhere Road or A Day Without Progress The current royalty rate is 9.1 cents per copy. Advance payment for 1,000 copies ($91 U.S.) must accompany the filing, payable to the publisher.

Need Session Quality Instrument Tracks For Your Project? Here’s Where!


Our 1st cartoon scoring yesterday morning went great thanks to Aaron McDaris’ excellent playing! “The banjo tracks are ridiculously great. I’m speechless. Amazing performance. Amazing recording. If you can do the harmonica and steel you mentioned by 5 a.m. Pacific Time tomorrow, consider this my order for both.”- Composer Steve Mayer. Los Angeles, CA.

That little monkey wrench in the schedule turned a busy day into absolutely crazy but Steve received his 2 steel and 3 harp tracks about 6:30 p.m. last night.

Need a banjo track? Send payment ($95 per track, most folks need just one banjo track per song) to then e-mail your here’s-where-I-am-at this-point mix to the same e-mail address. You msy include specific notes as well.

A chord chart is helpful, but not necessary, just makes it go quicker.

Additional information and banjo samples.

We also offer:

  • Sax
  • Trumpet
  • Fiddle
  • Violin
  • Cello
  • Piano,
  • B3 Organ
  • Synthesizer
  • Acoustic and Electric Guitars
  • Bass Guitar
  • Drums
  • Harmonica
  • Pedal Steel
  • Dobro
  • More!

e-mail us for details on those instruments or go to the above link and in the upper right hand corner, click on the word “more” which offers a menu with a dedicated page for each instrument, including samples and testimonials.



The Swansons band from Los Angeles… going country in Nashville?

The popular Los Angeles area based band, The Swansons, have been secretly working on their first country album with Nashville area music producer, Bill Watson, of Nashville Trax.

How will their original tunes sound with fiddles, banjos and steel guitar?

Pick up their album expected to be released by the fall of 2017 and find out! (rumor has it the tracks rock!!!! or Country? er…country rock???? hmmm….anyway, meet The Swansons:

Banjo Track Excites Producer Client!

“Hey Bill!!

I just want to say thanks so much to you and Aaron for the awesome Banjo track, it sounds great the mix, exactly what I was after.  I think this will be my third order now with Nashville Trax and I’m sure there will be many more to come in the future.  You guys are fantastic!!

Thanks again!!”

Kind regards,

Louise Darcy


Louise hails from Australia. Instead of her coming to Nashville, we provide her with professionally produced banjo tracks online that drop seamlessly into her mix, usually within 1-3 days, sometimes just a few hours!

Need a banjo part? Here you go:

Need drums. bass. piano, organ, synth, sax, harmonica, mandolin, fiddle or something else? Inquire here:

Congrats to Jenee Fleenor Billboard Country #1 Hit, Jon Pardi “Head Over Boots”


Jenee Fleenor fiddle at #1 Country Billboard hit party for Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots”

Jenee dreamed of hearing her fiddle on country radio since she was eleven years old. Scratch that off the bucket list, Jenee. Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots” hit Billboard #1 two weeks ago. Great player. Very humble. Congrats!

Nashville Trax producer, Bill Watson, recording Jenee Fleenor fiddle tracks yesterday on four songs for various clients:

Posing With The Usual Suspects


Nashville Trax producer Bill Watson, apprehends two of our usual suspects: ten times Music Row guitarist of the year, Brent Mason, and fiddlist Jenee Fleenor (Blake Shelton, Terri Clark, Martina McBride, The Voice).

Both A-list players were fully armed at the time, Brent with a Les Paul featuring the ability to switch the humbucker pickups to TheUsualSuspectssplit coil, Jenee with her trusty fiddle.

Unfortunately both slipped through his hands and are once again on the loose. If spotted please call local law enforcement.

How Much Money Did Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” Pay In Songwriter Royalties?


Hit country song royalties are paid by the performing rights organization (BMI, ASCAP or SESAC) chosen by the songwriter/music publisher and can be compiled from many possible sources.

Artist: Jake Owen

Song: What We Ain’t Got

Songwriters: Travis Meadows/Travis Goff

Released: August 11, 2014

369,000 copies sold through May 2015.

Highest Chart Position: Billboard Country Airplay Chart: #18

Billboard Hot 100 peaked at #89 mid February 2015

Past 12 Months Royalty Stream, June 2015 to June 2016

Distributed via BMI derived from:

AM/FM Radio Airplay, You Tube, Sirius XM, I Tunes, Rhapsody

AM/FM airplay: ($72,537)  All other sources: ($9,374)

Total Royalties, one year period: $81,911

Best Quarter: $71,269 1st Quarter 2015

Royalties dropped to $1,544 for the fourth quarter of 2015.

Royalties posted here reflect only the songwriter share. The music publisher received identical amounts.

Music Promotion: Get Your Songs Heard!

Your music is recorded and ready to market but you’re not sure how to best do that?

You know what to do but marketing your music is taking all your time?

Try Song Rocket!

Song Rocket is a small group of professionals who noticed the dichotomy between what should be happening for songwriters trying to promote their music, and the reality.

Song Rocket founding member Tim Spinks puts it this way,” From about the year 2,000 on, as the Internet and communication markets expanded,  new Internet sites entered the song selling game, cable television expanded its offerings and more…in short the need for original song material increased exponentially, yet overwhelmed with decisions and choices, many songwriters were feeling frustration.

At the same time life became “busier”. People, including or perhaps especially those in the music business, became tethered to their cell phones and addicted to Facebook. They don’t have time to capitalize on the opportunities and weren’t even sure which were worth pursuing.

We launched Song Rocket to solve that problem.For a small monthly fee a songwriter can relax and rest assured their song copyrights are being exploited. And if they spring for Premium membership they’ll be exploited to the fullest.”

#1 Angel Eyes by Love and Theft still earning airplay royalties 5 years in! How Much?

Angel Eyes by Love and Theft
Co-writers: Eric Gunderson, Jeff Coplan and Eric Paslay
Released: November 14, 2011
Format: Digital download
Certified Platinum (over 1 million copies sold)

Chart Action:
August 25th, 2012 #1 Billboard Country
32 on the Billboard Hot 100
Canadian Hot 100 68
Released in 2011, and still earning performance royalties in 2017.

2016 performance royalties:
1st quarter $804.48
2nd quarter $849.20
3rd quarter $946.81
4th quarter $812.94

Sources of performance income:

1. Country radio
2. Satellite radio
3. Internet Audio and Music Videos