Write Smarter, Not Harder: Bro. Andy Paens the Praise of Evernote


My fourteenth semester at Visible Music College has concluded, and I’d like to roll out the time to plan and plot. However, a two-year-old bio-terrorist in the twins’ class brought a lice outbreak to their classroom, and now I’m just trying to keep cheese on the cracker.

But. On to this week’s lesson and musings. I know you’re excited.


Today I’m going to show you how the organizational process I use to write and save songs.
It’s crucial to write down and record every song I write. I audition scores of scallawags for the college’s Songwriting Division who simply rely on their own memory devices to recall all the songs they’ve written. Let’s give our brains a break. Our minds feel relaxed and open to new sources of information and inspiration when they feel they don’t have to “hold” on to previous data. That’s basically the scuttlebutt on one of the primary ideas behind Morning Pages.

Up until about three years ago, I’d transcribe chord charts in Word/Pages/Finale and save them in a “Music” folder within Documents on my laptop’s hard drive. Inside that there would be different folders corresponding to a bevy of bands, projects, or years (if they were songs-without-a-home). This helped with organization as far as archival, but not helpful when it came to quickly finding something I was looking for, or juggling in-progress ideas. As I normally work on two or more songs at a time, this weakness was crucial to fix. Also, trying to access the songs anywhere besides my hard drive was a drag. I’d need to print off on paper or email a file to myself in order to open it on my phone (where I do most of my work on-the-go).

Next, I’d sing musical ideas into the VoiceNotes app in iOS, or just throw down a rough take in GarageBand. As far as  on-the-go lyrical ideas, I’d use an iOS note feature like MagicPad, since it had more text editing features than Notes, (although the Notes feature of syncing-with-iCloud is really attractive).

I needed ONE primary source to aggregate all my inspirations, works-in-progress, and finished ideas. Not countless computer folders that I can only access on my Mac, not three different was of recording. Not even two. ONE.


ENTER: EVERNOTE
I’ll forever sing the praises of Evernote. All my files live in the cloud, so I never lose information whenever my computer or phone crashes, AND I don’t need to worry about re-copying material across multiple devices. Basically, you create documents called “Notes” that you can put in formatted text, photos, audio, etc. It is not limited by page breaks or tight margins, so I feel like I’m writing on a giant whiteboard, not a typewriter sheet. For some reason, that stimulates the ol’ Newton noggin. In fact, I write all of these blog entries in Evernote, then once edited, I upload them to the WordPress interface.


WORKCHAT
Since Evernote’s WorkChat feature has been added, the possibility of collaborative songwriting efforts right in the program are realized. I’ve used it a couple of times in teaching songwriting lessons, but not yet in something that I’ve worked on with somebody. (If you want to collab on something, email me!) The only thing I feel WorkChat is missing is a markup history, ala  GoogleDocs, that way I could follow who made which changes. It definitely decreases the amount of steps needed to share a saved file between people, whether it is a song chart or a saved web article.

NOTEBOOKS
On the organization/archival front, Evernote lets you create “Notebooks” that contain notes on a certain subject. For the topic of “Songwriting”, I actually have three: Songwriting Tips, Songwriting Ideas, and plain ol’ Songwriting, where I have works-in-progress and completed songs. Evernote’s tagging feature helps me further organize the minutia.
Here’s a simple songwriting workflow.

Sample Songwriting Workflow


Full disclosure: when I’m in a pinch, (aka driving) I’ll still open up iOS voice notes and quickly throw an idea in there, but if I can focus long enough, I depend fully on Evernote.

I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the capabilities of the program, but I wanted to simply outline the way I use it for my songwriting workflow. I’ve chosen Evernote because hey, you can’t beat free, but ultimately I would encourage you to find some method that helps you 1. Record and archive every idea

Watching: Whiplash
Listening: The Delivery Man – Elvis Costello
Advertisements

FOMO and MACCA

Been awhile. Took some time off for Christmastide. Didn’t really “produce” anything but lethargy and indigestion. Was marvelous. I needed a break. I need a break from production. From “creativity”. We all have an overhead and it’s good to let your levels eek down when you find yourself in the red. At the end of the year all the magazines and blogs and news outlets are taking vacay time and compile big year-end lists and I feel like I need to get to them all or I’ll miss “making the best me”. I use Pocket as a read-it-later assist and it was bursting with 1’s and 0’s. I feel overwhelmed with all of the articles I’ve saved to read later, the “Best of 2014” record list I need to listen to. It reached critical mass. I got to Sharon Van Ettan’s record, (’s ok, but probably grow on me later) and D’Angelo’s (a revelation) and then I kind of move on to consume the next thing, a musical Pac-Man. Or cultural vampire. I like Pac-Man better. This year I’m starting a playlist for each month to kind of compile and document the stuff I’m into month-to-month. So many new tunes come across my “desk” that it feels furtively pulling records from the In-Box putting it on and bobbing my head for seconds and throwing it in the Out-Box in order to make time for the next thing. I’ll get to what I get to. Screw the Cult of In-The-Know, screw FOMO. Still haven’t heard the whole War On Drugs record all the way through, but shoot, what am I gonna do, my hands smell like diapers and I fall asleep 23 minutes into an episode of anything. And I’m still digging through the Old bin, classic records that were great before I was born, the Lennon deep cuts, The Band, Warren Zevon, Big Star. The holiday break found me making my way through McCartney’s cringey productions of the 80’s, albeit with a couple 24-carat nuggets like his collaborations with Elvis Costello. I flipped my freaking wig when I heard My Brave Face, and just kept the beast on repeat.
I’d been nuts for a while about Costello’s Veronica cut, but learned it was only one of the four co-writes that came of 198???’s co-writing sessions with McCartney (didn’t know it was a co-write, either).
Paul’s 80’s stuff suffered from trying to maybe distance himself from the experimental efforts he had put out. I mean, he was the guy that was into noise-rock and experimental tape manipulation.
He was trying to escape the shadow of The Beatles, but the 20 Year Cycle of tidal fashion was coming around again and folks were again geeking out about Beatles-esque harmonies and chord changes.
Makes me want to collaborate. Break new ground, and ground myself. My brother sent me some stuff to listen to, maybe something will become of that? In any case, hopefully you took time to reflect, get inward, and fill your gas tank. Getting back on the horse last week, I jumped back on the horse, (wait, no, I don’t mean heroin) and wrote 4 songs. Didn’t say they were any good, just became recharged again to get back to creative work.