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.

Songwriting Basics: The Minor Three Chord Groups

Acoustic Guitar Sound Hole and Strings

Acoustic Guitar Sound Hole and Strings

In regards to the post on Three chord Groups, here are the most commonly used Minor Key Three Chord Groups:

1-4-5 (each chord’s root note is derived from the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of that key’s natural minor scale. The D natural minor scale notes are: D E F G A Bb C. )

Key: Chords m = minor.

Dm: Dm Gm A
Am: Am Dm E
Em: Em Am B
Bm: Bm Em F#
F#m: F#m Bm C#

The 1-6-7 is also a common progression:

Dm: Dm Bb C
Am: Am F G
Em: Em C D
Bm: Bm G A

Also the 2-5-1:

Dm: Em7b5 Am Dm
AM: Bm7b5 Em Am

Try the 1-4-7:

Dm: Dm Gm C
Am: Am Dm G

Try playing each of these progression types several times. Perhaps even choose one and write a song.- Bill Watson

Phillip’s Song : The Healing That You Have is Finished, Charity Benefits!

Here’s the second song we’ve finished for the songwriting trio, Winston Harold:

It benefits a charity for the family of Philip, a boy who unfortunately died of cancer before the song was finished and recorded.

Why not download the song? 50% of sales at Winston Harold’s Reverb Nation page go to the Love, Hope Strength charity.

“Love the fat bridge and how the arrangement progresses! All of us thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It is excellent, We are very pleased!” Rob C., Winston Harold.

The Healing That You Have Copyright 2014 Winston Harold.

Cowboy Coterie: Proof That Indie Product Can Be Great!

The album of cowboy songs by Brian Berquist, Cowboy Coterie

The album of cowboy songs by Brian Berquist, Cowboy Coterie

Coterie: A small, exclusive group of people with shared interests and/or tastes. A clique.

Cowboy songs may not be your bag, but you might wish to check this out anyway, it’s a great example of an independent project “done right!”

I had produced about fifteen songs for Brian Bergquist- country, pop, you name it- when he called me one evening from his home in Manitoba, Canada (I think he said the temperature was average, about forty below zero there!) with an idea: “I want to do an entire CD of Cowboy songs,” he exclaimed.

The whole thing was pretty much mapped out in his mind and it made sense: the musicians, the artwork, the promo. He wanted it sparse, to sound like cowboys sitting around a campfire telling stories and swapping songs. Sparse, yet high quality: acoustic guitar, male and female vocalists, and he just had to have a Nashville musician he’d heard playing fiddle on a TV show coming out of Nashville, one Wanda Vick. “She just plays so beautifully,” he said.

I discovered, courtesy of Brian, that there was a bigger market than you’d think for cowboy songs. There were cowboy poetry circuits, cowboy conventions, magazines serving the market, just all manner of places and devices to market a project of this sort. I realized an endeavor of this magnitude would eat up a great deal of my time but he convinced me it was well worth pursuing. And “cowboy campfire songs”….who does that? Very cool!

For the next few months I entered an imaginary world where men wearing cowboy hats and carrying six-shooters still ride the range; where cactus, rattlesnakes and campfires were part of daily life; and where tumbleweeds are fascinating objects worthy not just of mention at every opportunity but often the focus of an entire conversation.

And oh how I LOVED being there!

So we started bouncing his tunes back and forth. He’d sing his melodies over the phone, I’d record them into Pro Tools, figure out the chord arrangement his melody and lyrics suggested, record a simple rough with me singing and playing acoustic, then send that on to the real singers as a guide. Because he “wrote” a capella, things didn’t always line up in a musical framework. There was quite a bit of lyric revision and rewriting to beat Brian’s songs into shape.

Finally, we moved on to actually recording tracks. Meanwhile Brian was working with various graphic artists designing the cover and inner sleeve artwork. I was astounded when I started receiving the proofs from the graphic artists:

Independent product CAN have fabulous artwork!

Independent product CAN have fabulous artwork!

And this, which has the list of songs and credits. The lyrics to every song are on the back:

inner sleeve, BrianBergquist's Cowboy Coterie

Inside Sleeve of Brian Bergquist’s Cowboy Coterie

Just because you own a computer and software allowing you to design your own artwork doesn’t mean you are a graphic artist. Be smart like Brian and get the input of a pro. Yes, it costs, yes it makes your project look more professional and speaks well of the music inside.

So the project is now complete, the songs sound great, the whole thing has a cohesive feel, and the lesson here is valid regardless of whether you’re doing cowboy songs, pop or metal: to not limit yourself, take your time, invest wisely, and you too, can do quality.

Just as important, have a target market in mind upfront and ensure every element of the project aims straight for it.- b.e.

* Unfortunately Brian passed away on May 7th, 2013. I never met him in person but we spent many hours on the phone working out song details, discussing the music business and becoming friends. We often joked that we were long lost cousins.

Cuz, you be sorely missed until, I too, reach “The End of My Trail.” But we both know where this trail ends and the next begins; there I’m sure we’ll saddle up together once again and ride where the tumbleweeds roll.

The Nashville Trax Isolation Booth

In The Iso Booth

In The Iso Booth

The Nashville Trax isolation booth is working out great!

This is where guitar, fiddle, mandolin and other acoustic instruments are tracked, usually as overdubs.

The booth is slightly larger than most. It was designed to accommodate more than one performer if need be.

There’s one window that permits the performer to make eye contact with the engineer and/or producer in the adjacent control room.

Be careful not to touch the far right button! It ignites fuel tubes #1 and #2 and the countdown for your blast off to Neptune will begin. 10-9-8-7…Just kidding, it actually turns up the 2 mix in your headphone cans.

The booth is double drywalled, has no parallel walls (to prevent sound from bouncing back and forth) and it’s padded with just enough Auralex to remove the larger room ambience, slap and flutter without creating that “absolutely dead on arrival” sound you get from some studio’s iso booths. Lovin’ it! – b.e. watson

Debra Alt CD

Debra Alt CD In Broad Daylight

Debra Alt CD In Broad Daylight

It was great to finally receive a copy of this CD in the mail along with a very nice thank you note from singer/songwriter Debra Alt. Even more exciting is to see that one of the two excellent songs she recorded here at Nashville Trax with yours truly engineering, as last minute tags onto another songwriter’s session “just to finish off the project” is the first song on the CD!- b.e.

Microphone Locker: The Mojave MA-200

One excellent microphone for vocals as well as other applications.

One excellent microphone for vocals as well as other applications.

This Mojave large diaphragm condenser microphone is one of my favorite go-to mics for lead or background vocals. I’ve also been very pleased when using it on electric guitar amps/cabinets. In vocal A-B-C comparison tests it has won more than any other in the locker.

The MA-200 was created by David Royer of Royer Labs fame and the Mojave is advertised as “sounds like classic German microphones.”

I guess they can’t come right out and say it but I can tell you which “German microphone” it was modeled to sound like: The Neumann U87, no doubt about it. It’s likely the Neumann U87 is the most used mic in Nashville.

By the way, here’s a little tip that just might save one of your song projects someday. Having the right tool, which will often be the Mojave, is great but the singer IS the song! Before investing in tracking be sure you have the right one for the song. For those times you get stuck, bookmark this link. These are some of the singers I use and each is fabulous at what they do and willing to be the vocalist on your project.

Both U87 and the Mojave are advertised as having a flat frequency response from 20 to 20khz, other specs are similar, and, unless examined at extremely close range, they look nearly indistinguishable, even the baskets the microphones sit in are dead ringers.

Some engineers will argue it’s the Neumann U67 clone, and yes, they’re still popular on the used microphone market, but even Neumann no longer makes the U67 only the U87.

Before we go further you should know the following information was obtained at great personal risk and required donning a trench coat, wearing a Fedora, driving hundreds of miles, sleeping in my car overnight, and hiding a camera up my left nostril. It actually felt pretty good up there and cut my Kleenex needs in half, so I haven’t taken it out other than to retrieve the Mojave graph pic below:

Additional proof it’s a U87 clone is contained in the actual frequency response curve, nearly identical to the U87 throughout, except for a slight bump centered around 4k:

MA-200 Frequency Response

MA-200 Frequency Response

I suspect the bump is there intentionally, so no preamp EQ tweaking in that range is necessary. I often don’t need to do any EQ in the preamp stage to the MA-200, it sounds fantastic as-is.

The U67 does have a slight bump. but it’s centered around 1K, not 4. No longer manufactured, wrong bump placement. Nope, doesn’t add up.

The good thing is the MA-200 retails at just over $1,000 complete with power pack, case and basket. The U87 is a budget busting $3,500. It would be interesting to do a blind listening test featuring a U87 and an MA-200 through various pre-amps. How many engineers would stake their reputation on being able to tell the difference? I’ve made that offer around town a few times, and so far, no takers. Hmmmm…

So if the MA-200 so great, why not use it for everything or at least for every singer?

Because there is no such thing as the perfect microphone. Every voice has unique characteristics. Recordings of anything, especially vocals, sound the most natural when the least EQ tweaking is necessary at mix. So you want a microphone up that brings out the best characteristics of that particular vocalist. If, for example, the singer’s wheelhouse is in the high registers and they have an edgy, desirable peak in the upper mids, I want a microphone that brings those features to the forefront.

If you go through tracking tossing up any microphone simply because it records all frequencies, adopting an “I’ll fix it in the mix” approach, you’re going to have a whole lot of unnecessary knob turning happening during mixdown, That is extremely undesirable on vocals, and it can result in a weird, unnatural sounding mix.

The better approach is to choose microphones that reproduce the sounds you want to hear or as close to a particular sound as possible, so very little EQ tweaking is necessary.

When recording a new vocalist, I’ll usually listen to them sing in the control room either a capella, or with just an acoustic guitar as accompaniment. Then I’ll situate them in the vocal booth and start tossing up various microphones while I test record them singing through the Avalon and on into the Pro Tools session file track. If I test 4 microphones I’ll edit the track down to about 15 seconds of each side-by-side in an A, B, C, D style comparison so I can hear how each microphone sounds with their voice, then go with the winner.

At least half the time, that’s the MA-200- b.e.

Studio Gear: Fender Precision Bass Through A Hartke Amplifier

Bill Watson plays the Fender Precision Bass through a Hartke amp 7-15-13

Bill Watson plays the Fender Precision Bass through a Hartke amp 7-15-13

If you like the Fender P bass sound, we have one available at all times in the Nashville Trax studio for your project. You are more than welcome to play it yourself, or a session quality player can be provided.

The actual percentage of hit song recordings that have been played using a Precision is unknown but surely no other bass has been used on as many.
It’s not as much the “go to” bass as it once was, but it’s still popular.

Most of the Motown hit’s bass lines, some of the greatest, grooviest and most memorable bass lines in history, were played on The Funk Machine, a 1962 Fender Precision Bass (Google Bob Babbitt or James Jamerson sometime) and certain players from every era and every style of music swore by one. Today, you can find a player in about any genre who uses a Precision to record.

Typically when this bass is used on a client recording we run the Precision direct into our Avalon U5 or the Avalon 737 setup for bass guitar and on into the board. Sometimes to provide options at mix we’ll also run a microphone on one of the two Hartke speaker cabinets, or run a second line through a processor.

Country, rock, funk out slappy poppy stuff, it’s all good on a P-bass.-b.e.

Brentwood Church of the Nazarene

Hey, if you’re a Christian visiting Nashville and need a church to attend during your stay, or if you’ve recently moved here, I highly recommend Brentwood Church of the Nazarene. At the urging of legendary session musician Wanda Vick, I attended this morning for the first time and it was fantastic!

No need to hurry to Heaven. When Wanda starts playing her banjo and everyone in the congregation starts smiling and clapping along, you’re just about there anyway.

If you’re not Christian, attend at your own risk. They may just start playing It Is Well With My Soul. By the time they finish, you will be- b.e.AlterChurch

584 Franklin Rd
Franklin, TN 37069
Every Sunday Morning
8:30 & 10:45 AM

Songwriting Tip: Separate That Chorus!


The chorus section of a song sums up the point of the lyric. It is usually repeated three or four times in the typical radio hit. Not all songs have a chorus but most do. The chorus usually makes its first appearance after the first verse, but a chorus can open a song also either right off the bat, or just after a 4 or 8 bar instrumental introduction.

What I often see from songwriters looking to have a demo made, is a section marked on the lyric sheet as “chorus” but listening to the rough it’s nearly identical to the verse
in terms of line length, melody, note values, etc., with little or no separation. Often the chorus also goes on too long, eight lines when it would be more interesting pared down to four. Be concise and powerful, make your point and move on.

I can create some chorus separation by having the drummer change his playing when the chorus hits and/or by introducing a new instrument and/or other musical devices. For a small number of songs that is the correct approach because the choice to avoid “Here’s the huge chorus” was intentional. If lack of separation serves the tune, I don’t fix what ain’t broke. But in the majority of cases the lack of separation is simply due to a lack of writing experience and the best fix is a re-write.

Experiment with changing note values in the chorus section so it contrasts with the verse (or the climb section leading in, if it has one).

If you don’t understand the difference between whole notes, eighth notes and such, try changing the syllable count, for example, use predominately two or three syllable words to lean on in the verse then switch to single syllable words in the chorus, one of several possible avenues to achieving chorus separation.

Steppenwolf sums it up nicely I think:

“Get your motor runnin’

Head out on that highway…


Give me separation in the structure of the song and the things I do in terms of arrangement will only enhance it and make the separation more dramatic.- b.e.

Florida Georgia Line in Rolling Stone

There’s an interesting interview in Rolling Stone with the hottest act in country music, Florida Georgia Line. It’s comforting to know that the duo, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, does keep Jesus in mind for their bus parties:

Rolling Stone Interview

Hey guys, how does that work exactly?

What’s A Good Studio for Recording Christian Music?

Record Where Your Beliefs Are Respected

Record Where Your Beliefs Are Respected

Just because a studio claims to be “Christian” doesn’t mean its the best choice to record your Christian material. It also needs to be a studio with the right commercial gear and reputation.

Consider Nashville Trax At Nashville Trax the owner/producer, singers and musicians who will work on your songs are Christians who understand the process of recording Christian material. Its what we listen to. In fact, most of us, when not touring, play in the worship bands at local churches on Sundays, constantly learning the best of the latest Christian music.

One major benefit here is we have at Nashville Trax  combination of session quality Christian musicians you can get nowhere else on the planet.

Most Christian singers or Christian songwriters will benefit from working in a studio where their efforts are respected so they can focus completely on their project.


Nashville Trax does record secular material but Christian and country are the studio favorites. You can’t beat the equipment at Nashville Trax or being surrounded by believers as you record your single, your demo or your full blown CD.

And if you’re doing at least three Christian songs on your project, Nashville Trax automatically gives you up to 8 hours of free recording studio time to help defray or eliminate your travel expenses!

Why not forward your rough MP3 files now to for a price quote?