{ subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/nls-music-notes.php' }

Nashville Cats!

According to the song “Nashville Cats” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, there are “thirteen-hundred and fifty-two guitar pickers in Nashville.”  I wouldn’t question that number, but in fact I suspect it has increased dramatically since that song debuted in 1966.

As my colleague Lindsay Conway wrote about in her blog post Music City 101:  NLS Heads to Nashville! NLS will be hosting its biennial Network Conference for regional talking book libraries in Music City, USA. No doubt all will have a good time listening to guitar picking and country music with its tales of heartbreak, sorrow, pity and sometimes true love.

And along with all those guitar pickers, I would assume there are just as many songwriters, working on lyrics, hanging out at improv sessions, and shopping their songs around. Everybody wants to have a break-out hit and finally arrive to their destiny.

Famed songwriter and performer Hank Williams.

Songwriting is an art form.  Sounds easy enough; rhyme some words, get a catchy melody, fill in some chords, and you’re done.  That’s a good formula, but that’s not how it goes.  NLS has some titles to guide you if you are feeling inspired and need basic instruction.  Songwriter’s Workshop, (DBM 01322) is a series of one-hour talks featuring five songwriters and lyricists on using the guitar and drum machine as writing tools, developing new lyrics, using the piano for melodic development, developing ideas on electronic keyboards, and navigating the business side of songwriting.  Though it’s not focused on country, The Early Days of Songwriting (DBM 00528) provides a history of popular music during the Civil War until the 1890s.

And while great talent can carry an individual very far, there are still some basic rudiments in music required (so you can succeed faster!). We have some titles such as Play by Ear and Improvise by Gale Pederson (DBM 01282) with techniques of broken chords/blocked chords. And the Piano by Ear series (DBM 02407 and DBM 02408) contains instruction for 12-bar chord progression and pentatonic scales for C, G, A and E in both pop and blues styles without the use of music notation.  There is also a braille title available, Music Business Handbook and Career Guide by David Baskerville, with the call number of  BRA 17638, a 17-volume work.

In the March-April 2018 issue of Contemporary Soundtrack an article about songwriting in today’s Nashville highlights the complexities of getting a song recorded and published. At one time, there were 3,000 to 4,000 songwriters making a living trying to get their songs recorded and sold. This group is competitive but supportive.  Everybody wants to have a hit song, and everyone understands the work required to make that happen. But it must sting if you pitch your song to one artist and they promise to record it while you wait around, and another artist is available to take it on immediately. You can have an informal-but-not-in-writing agreement for the first artist, but the wait would try anyone’s patience.  Like many professions, timing is everything.

For a number of years, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) participated in a concert honoring songwriting at the Coolidge Auditorium in the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress.  Go to YouTube and enter keywords “We Write the Songs ASCAP” to pull up a listing of past performances.

And those famous country song titles?  How about “She Got The Gold Mine and I Got the Shaft?,”  “Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone,” (one of my favorites and I can vouch it’s a real song), and “If You Keep Checking Up on Me, (I’m Checking Out on You.”) A classic from creative songwriter/artist Roger Miller “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” was on the Billboard chart for six weeks, and made it up to number 40 of the Top 100.

The next time your sweetheart leaves, don’t cry about it.  Take that inspiration and put it into a song!

If you would like to borrow any of the books listed above or learn more about the NLS Music Section, contact us by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-424-8567, extenstion 2. You can also search BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service, for books in the NLS Music collection that you can access instantly.

Music City 101: NLS Heads to Nashville!

Last month country music legend Dolly Parton joined Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden in a presentation to celebrate the achievements of Parton’s book-gifting organization (video of the event available here). They announced that the Library of Congress Young Readers Center is partnering with Parton’s charity to provide a special series of story time events. […]

New BARD additions: December- January

The Music Section has been very busy over the past month adding new and newly digitized music materials to BARD. From Mozart, to bluegrass, to method books for alto and bass flute, there is a little bit of something here for everyone! If you have any questions on how to use BARD or to obtain […]

New Year, New BARD Titles

I hope everyone out there had a relaxing and peace-filled holiday season. Now that the year is almost through, it’s time to look ahead to 2016 and the new beginnings that await us there. In keeping with that spirit, this blog will highlight some of the newest braille and digital talking books that have been […]

B is really for banjo

There are a lot of B’s in the Music Section. Bach, Bax, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Barber, Bartok, and Bernstein, not to mention the very note B –in every octave. We can’t forget Beer, Berger and Belcher, or Badarzewska-Baranowska. Instrumentally, we have the bass guitar, string bass, bass drum, the bari and the bamboula. The bongo […]

News about popular contemporary music? Yeah, we got that!

My colleague, Amanda Smith recently blogged about one of our magazines Musical Mainstream. While I have written of my classical music background and attend concerts in the area, I still like to be connected with what is trending in popular music. Contemporary Soundtrack is a compilation of magazine articles and reviews of popular music, featuring […]

Folks are Folks; Women in Bluegrass Music and Beyond

As we add titles to our collection from the Smithsonian Collection, we are eagerly learning more about different music genres and their development, particularly of American Folk Music. When I was told I would have “other duties as assigned” there was no indication that those duties would be so enjoyable. I grew up listening to […]