Inside Song: Mixing It Up

A few years ago, after I completed a large, exhausting album, I stepped back and tried to get some perspective on my own work. By observing my own process, it occurred to me that I’d fallen into a pattern of how I wrote songs. It was almost always lyrics with a hint of melody first, followed by chords, and ending with the arrangement, orchestration, engineering and studio production. I felt, however, upon finishing that big album, that I’d played out the possibilities of that particular approach and more or less knew what would happen if I set out to write more songs in that same way. So I determined the songwriting element I usually focused on least of all – rhythm – and decided that for my next project, I would start there.

Collaborating with a percussionist, I built rhythm tracks and wrote music to accompany the beats, recording and producing as I went, essentially composing straight to tape. The very last thing I did was add lyrics. I effectively inverted my songwriting process and came up with extremely different sounding material. Even the types of words I used changed – fewer syllables, less ornate or metaphoric language – since they occupied such a different place in the creative process than they had before. The music I wound up making was something I never imagined I had in me.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.51.35 AMSongwriters often vary the types of songs they create and broaden their spectrum as songwriters, simply by varying their creative process. Bob Dylan famously headed down to Nashville and worked with a completely new group of musicians to come up with Nashville Skyline. The Talking Heads sought to break down the perceived relationship of David Byrne as frontman supported by a backing band. They experimented with new techniques and expanded instrumentation to create what many consider their best album, Remain in Light. Paul Simon first split with his writing partner, Art Garfunkel, to alter his sound, then later travelled to South Africa seeking new sounds and different creative approaches to write the wildly successful album Graceland. Read More →

Pandora for Glass: from Hack-a-thon to Explorer Edition

Twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, everyone in the technology organization here at Pandora puts our day jobs on hold and comes together for a Hack-a-thon.  The 72-hour event culminates with employees gathering around (with keg beer) to watch each team demo their hack. Winners are awarded for Best Demo, Most Creative Idea, Best Improvement to Pandora and Best Project Not Related to Pandora.

During the Hack-a-thon this spring, one team developed a hack for Pandora on Glass. It was such a hit that we decided to show it to Google, and we’re excited to announce today’s launch of Pandora for Glass.

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Glass is smart eyewear: A lightweight frame and tiny display that rests neatly above your eyes that makes exploring and sharing the world around you faster and easier. Read More →

Inside Song: Inviting The Muse

Excellent songs can be made at lightning speed, with little intent, hardly any effort and no training, using a minimum of technical ability. It doesn’t matter how it was made. A good song is a good song, and sometimes all that’s needed are a couple chords, some very simple lyrics and a basic melody. But it’s not often the case that great songs come effortlessly, and even when they do, it’s usually because of something more than just blind luck or “natural” talent.

IMG_1104I started writing songs when I was a junior in high school. Actually, it’s more accurate to say, “I started writing song fragments” back then. I would write a riff (that was a direct rip-off of “Sunshine of Your Love” or “Black Dog”) or a chorus or pages of words that were neither good enough to pass as poetry or musical enough to cram into a verse.

This went on for a couple of years resulting in maybe a small handful of completed songs that time has generously erased. I studied Music Composition and focused on other musical practices before winding my way back to songs. When I did return, I wrote secretly for a few years, fortunately having enough insight to recognize that the songs were “not yet ready for prime time.” It took grinding my way through dozens and dozens of songs over more than a decade before I felt like I had something worth sharing publicly.  Read More →

Inside Song: Overcoming Writer’s Block

From around the middle of 2009 until late 2012, I didn’t write any songs. There were three days in the summer of 2010 where I banished myself to the basement and recorded the music for three songs, but was unable to generate any lyrics I could tolerate, so I don’t count those. In effect, I had a three-year “dry spell.” As someone who identifies as a songwriter, it was difficult to stave off an identity crisis.

IMG_7230The first six months or so were easy. I was busy, I’d gone through some life changes. I’d had little songless stretches before. No big deal. At the end of a year I looked back and thought, “That’s kind of strange.” By the end of year two I knew something was wrong, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no songs to write, and I was getting far enough away from the process that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to find it again. Read More →

Android Users: Pandora is Now Available on Your Pebble Watch!

Last month, we announced that you could download Pandora in the Pebble app store for iOS.  We’ve already seen a great response to the first “wearable” technology device that Pandora is available on, so we’re thrilled to share that the Pebble app is now available for Android smartphone users as well.

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Just like on iOS, Android users can now view and change stations, thumb songs up and down, skip, play and pause tracks using your Pebble.  If you already have a Pebble that is paired to your mobile device, you should get a notification that you can install the Pandora for Pebble app, or you can start the install process at any time from the Pebble Settings Page. Read More →

Inside Song: Genre Through the Lens of a Songwriter

It happens, without fail, every time I carry an instrument in public. I’m usually at the airport. I’ll have a saxophone or a guitar strapped to my back because it’s too fragile to check underneath the plane. I ease it into the overhead bin and as I settle into my chair, the person seated next to me asks, with genuine warmth and curiosity, what type of music I play.

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What type of music do I play? I’ve encountered this enough times that you would think I’d be prepared with a quick, easy answer. After all, people only ask out of interest and kindness, they are not expecting a discussion of aesthetic philosophy and music theory. I should just politely say, “rock” or “jazz” and ask them what they do. But the problem is, I (and most songwriters I know) don’t think of the music we make in terms of genre. Read More →

Enjoy Pandora on Your Pebble Watch for iOS!

pebble_app_storeThe Pebble Smartwatch began its life with a simple question: what if a watch could pair with your phone and run apps right from your wrist?  We’re happy to announce that Pandora is now one of the apps that can be controlled from only an arm’s length away.  Starting today, you can download Pandora in the Pebble app store for iOS.  This is the first “wearable” technology device that Pandora is available on, so we’re excited to provide yet another way to take Pandora with you wherever you go.

Using the Pebble, you can view and change stations, thumb songs up and down, skip, play and pause tracks – all from your wrist!   If you already have a Pebble that is paired to your mobile device, you should get a notification that you can install Pandora, or you can start the install process at any time from the Pebble Settings Page. Read More →

Inside Song: Searching For A Perfect Song

As a musician and songwriter I understand the hard work, the agonizing over detail and second-guessing that goes into creating music. I respect anyone that rises to the challenge of wrestling with songs. But a third of the way into my workday as a music analyst, after closely listening to hours of music, my ears and brain can get tired. Songs can start to blend into each other. It’s amazing that my job involves spending the day with the thing I love most – music – but like a mid-afternoon cup of coffee, it can really help to have a pick-me-up, a surprise, something that perks up my ears.

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I prefer to have as few pre-associations with new music as possible. Promotional photos, Facebook pages, album art, can color my perception of a band – actually affect how I hear the music – so I try to listen as “blind” as possible. I’ve already piled on enough baggage just from the band name alone. I’ll bet you have some general idea of what you’d imagine Sküll Krüshr might sound like, or Lil’ Ca$h. Read More →

It’s The Most Musical Time of the Year: SXSW 2014

SXSW imageIf you have ever been to South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival, you know that 6th Street is like a musical pulse running through the heart of Austin.  Live music comes pouring out from every direction as attendees file down the closed off street, their ears guiding their next move.  For music lovers, it’s a magical experience.  At Pandora, we love getting to bring the thrill of discovering an artist to life through live performances, but we also don’t want you to miss out if you can’t make it to Austin for SXSW.  That’s why we’ll be live streaming all four days of our third annual Pandora Discovery Den. Read More →

Tablet Listeners: Fall Asleep and Wake Up to Your Favorite Music with Pandora!

In the past few months, we’ve launched two new listener-requested features on mobile that have received overwhelmingly positive responses: our Sleep Timer and Alarm Clock.  Today I’m happy to share that we released version 5.2 for Android, allowing listeners to fall asleep and wake up to their favorite Pandora music on their Android tablets in addition to their smartphones.

Just like on Android smartphones, the functionality of Sleep Timer and Alarm Clock will work the same across tablets (including Kindle Fire) that have updated to the latest version of the Pandora app.  You can find the Sleep Timer and Alarm Clock options in your settings drawer, located in the upper right corner of your Pandora app screen.

Settings w Alarm Sleep Timer Read More →

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