Little Steps Along The Way

A couple of weeks ago in New York City, I found myself doing some things I never dreamed of doing. In fact, I never set out to do them. They just needed to be done and I was the only one in the room who had the skill set to pull them off.

The play I was working on had moved up to a more Nashville sounding band. The last time we did a reading, we had all Broadway musicians. This band consisted of local musicians who played country music on a regular basis. Our music director was a seasoned Broadway piano player and conductor. The issue? They spoke different languages. The band played from Nashville style music charts. I’ve given you an example below. The band leader played from a traditional score. We needed a translator to clear up communication between the two.

I found it interesting HOW I came to be the one who could step in and do this job. It was this series of small steps that put me in position to make it work.

1) I joined the band in 5th grade.

This is where I learned to read music, time signatures, keys, flats and sharps. All of that.

2) I got a guitar for Christmas in 6th grade.

I learned to play from a John Denver songbook that had chord charts above the score. This is where I learned how chords worked in different keys and how chords related to the score.

3) Music theory class in 10th grade.

I needed an elective and thought, “I like music. Let’s try that out.” This is where I learned about chord substitution, general theory and arranging. Never intended to use any of it. Just needed a credit.

4) Tried out for the school chorus in 11th grade.

Here I learned about harmony and conducting from Tim Dishman.

5) Became a songwriter.

When I first demoed a song, I was fascinated with the Nashville number system charts the musicians wrote for my songs. I would take them home and play along to them to try and understand how they worked. I bought a book and learned about the system until I could make charts on my own.

Those 5 little steps – their importance unknown to me at the time – prepared me to be standing on the Opry City Stage in New York City looking out over Broadway, translating back and forth between a score and Nashville charts, and helping conduct the music for a play I wrote.

All of this led me to wonder, “What have my other little steps in life been leading me toward?” That’s interesting to ponder.

Have a great day, all!

Marty Dodson

Co-Founder SongTown

Songwriter/Producer/Part Time Philosopher

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Download Sample Nashville Number Chart – Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’

Download Sample Sheet Music – Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’

13 thoughts on “Little Steps Along The Way

  1. Do you accept submissions of lyrics that you may want to produce?

    I have written a song – comtemporary christian – lyrics.

    Thank you

    1. No Bert, the music business doesn’t really work that way. Your best bet is to find some melody writers to work with who could turn tour lyrics into great songs.

  2. I looked at the Nashville number system page you attached. I think I saw a similar page in high school;
    geometrics or trigonomics or something like that. Will we get to see a picture of you in a tux? There is more security in a broad writing path. Smart move.

  3. You are very inspiring and sincere Marty. I began writing songs three years ago at the age of 41 after reuniting with my father. I was so emotional and I needed an outlet. I had been writing poems since childhood, so I decided to take a stab at songwriting. It became my therapy and I never stopped. The next year my dad bought me a guitar as a random Christmas gift. Everything happens for a reason!

  4. I think that these steps are very accurate Marty. I have been fortunate, also through,(quite a collection of songbooks actually, from different artists, and, finally, after struggling with the decision to buy and start reading it–“THE ELEMENTARY RUDIMENTS OF MUSIC”, by Barbara Wharram) to learn about these steps. My main problem was having difficulty in REALLY BEING AWARE of what I was doing, or learning, and you, along with Clay, Marty, are really helping to “shine a light” on a lot of these writing skills that you both talk about on here. This, in turn, really “shines a light” on what I am doing also. So, once again, thank you so very much. Duncan.

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