May meeting

Hey songwriters,
The songwriting assignment “adventure” resulted in a wide array of interpretations Tuesday at a particularly constructive meeting of Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle. With five new members present the group parsed musical and lyrical components of songs before an invigorated featured set by Ray Lanich (
Producer Doug Wilkin ( dropped in to answer questions about the group’s upcoming album project and offer tips to make your studio sessions less stressful and more productive (see Doug’s tips below).
Frankie Lee will play the featured set at the group’s next meeting 7 p.m. June 4 at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (4412 Liberty Ave., 412-682-8611). The optional songwriting assignment is “hope and/or regret,” and throughout the summer album project participants are encouraged to workshop the song they plan to record with the group.
In addition to the new members, the Circle welcomes Acoustic Challenge promoter Nancy Lackner ( to this mailing list.

Album project
Some members see the placement of their song on our compilation album as the end of a process. In more professional settings a CD is generally seen as a promotional tool used to draw people to gigs, where music artists finally monetize their music. The same applies to our CD — promoters are using our annual showcase of Pittsburgh singer-songwriters to find artists for their shows. Participation in the album project has paid off for members who’ve been asked to play paid gigs at the SummerSounds festival, Calliope’s Cup and Chaucer series and other performances.
The clock is ticking closer to the May 14 deadline to get on the 2014 album (see the attached project overview). Send your $100 duping/participation fee to John Hayes, 101 Daggette Dr., Buena Vista, PA 15018.
See you soon,

Recording Session Tips
Doug Wilkin
609 S Trenton Ave Pgh, PA 15221

1. Prepare! This is No. 1 for a good reason. The best recordings result from good performances and good material. All the other stuff is secondary. Finish your song before coming in. Practice it until you’ve got it down. The more confident you feel with your performance, the better you can realize it in the studio. Practice to a metronome. Have your tempo decided. Note the bpm [beats per minute]. Unless you’re going to do the song live, which has its pros and cons, practice playing the song without the vocal and/or melody. It’s a great skill to bring to a recording session and will serve you well as you record in the future. Bring lyric/chord sheets. Why blow a great take because you forgot the bridge?
1a. If you have any concerns or feel you are unable to achieve No. 1, contact me and I’ll help you. Song arrangement, backing instruments, additional vocals, whatever. Answering questions is free. Sitting down with you and working things out at the studio is on the clock. I can offer myself playing guitars, bass, basic mandolin [I’m no virtuoso], harp, vocals and light drums/percussion. I charge only for my time, not my performance [see previous Calliope records for examples]. I can also refer you to a variety of session players for hire.

2. Guitarists, get your instruments in good shape. Guitars require maintenance. Neck, nut and bridge adjustments can make your instrument play and sound better. New strings are vital. I can’t record frequencies that aren’t there.

3. Come on time. Not early, not late. Simple. I’m not a dentist, I don’t offer a waiting room with snazzy magazines. Actually, I have some snazzy magazines but they’re for when you wait for your bass player to finally get a good take.

4. If you’re looking for a particular “sound” bring an example and be realistic. That “sound” may be the result of the performer’s talent and skill as much as anything else. It may also involve many, many hours of studio time and racks of gear I may not have.

5. Bring whatever you’d like to drink. I have a small kitchen and you’re welcome to use the fridge. I’ll have water and coffee.

6. Enjoy this process! Recording can and should be, if not fun, at least satisfying and rewarding. Don’t get stressed out about it. I’m really patient [unless you’ve chosen to disregard Nos. 1-4] and will guide you through the process if you’re new to it. Know that you’re a part of a very cool thing. The Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle record is something to be proud of. I’m really glad to be a part of it again this year.