Songwriting

Little Steps Along The Way

by Marty Dodson
Jul 18, 2018

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

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

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

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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