I have written two books for Alfred Publishing. The first, Songwriting for Beginners, co-authored with Kiya Heartwood, is an entry level instructional book. It starts with basic theory and introduces simple keyboard progressions and first position guitar chords. Musically it discusses melody writing, key substitutions, rhythm, reading and writing lead sheets and composing in different styles. On the lyric end it covers how to generate ideas and work through writer’s block, imagery, rhyme schemes and lyric structure and how to put lyrics and music together in a well crafted song. The book also serves as a good basic resource with scale and chord charts for both keyboard and guitar.
In 2005 Alfred released, Teach Yourself to Play Accordion, as part of their very popular “Teach Yourself” series. Challenged with the task of writing an instructional book for the absolute novice required that I stay in ‘beginner’s mind’ for the duration of the creative process. Also starting with the fundamentals of music theory with the goal of teaching the student how to read music, I discuss left and right hand position with exercises for both, how the accordion works, how to buy a new and used instrument, how to take care of it and a chapter on reed instruments and their history. The most fun part in the writing the book this book was the music that I composed for it. Each lesson covers how to play in a contemporary style, with a piece of music to illustrate it and suggestions for playing in that style, it's technique and embellishments. The book comes with a CD for play along and practice.
Editor, Transcriber, Music Engraver
For thirteen years I taught at and worked with the National Guitar Workshop to develop instructional books for their summer music program. Those books have since become an integral part of Alfred's contemporary instrumental catalog. During that time I acted as an editor, transcriber, music engraver and layout editor. Working on a book project with an author required the ability to organize long-term and lead in a supportive yet motivating manner. It was an invaluable experience for me when I went to write my own books, and helped me be very patient with myself as I struggled with the process! At that time, computer facilitated music engraving as we know it now was just starting to be developed and there was no standardized notation for contemporary guitar styles. It was a challenge for us to transcribe and then create graphics for upward and downward bends, whammy bar wiggles, growls, grunts and, well, just think of your favorite rock song!
I currently engrave all my own music as well as musical projects for hire. I have transcribed/engraved some interesting things over the years, from books on funk and blues to choral arrangements, singing exercises and warm-ups, to a musical family history composed by a grandfather as a legacy for his grandchildren.
Learning how to play guitar during the resurgence of the singer/songwriter movement in the ‘70s began my introduction to songwriting. While the process for me continues to remain a pretty personal experience, I love the process and have taught it at adult education programs, summer music and adult enrichment programs, workshops, and in schools and artist residencies.
As part of my current job as a church music director I often have the need to compose or arrange something special for a service, whether it be for a small instrumental ensemble or for the choir. We often have small groups perform and arranging on the spot is a common occurrence.