How to Submit your Compositions
Composers may submit a recording of their work through this site for consideration in Today's Jazz Book.
There are two ways of doing this:
1. Send us your email through the Contact Us form on this page. Provide a link to the song you want considered. We can also respond to your message via an email address to which you can send MP3 files.
2. Register here at the discussion forum. While logged in you should go to the Control Panel button, and select Private messages from the menu. Send a private message to Brent Ward with a recording of your composition attached.
Our reviewers will consider the song under a curated, double blind peer review process. Within 7 days, or sooner, we'll let you know the outcome of the review. If your work is accepted, you will need to agree to license the work under a Creative Commons license. You can read about such licenses here https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
At that time, we will advise you about next steps in getting your composition published in Today's Jazz Book.
Song Selection Criteria
As Esperanza Spalding, the renowned upright bass player and vocalist indicated, taste in music is a lot like taste in food -- preferences are diverse. As composing is a creative effort, and thinking out of the box is respected, we hesitate to give hard and fast rules about what makes a good song. However, long hard experience performing live, and with other musicians lead to a few general and practical considerations. This is for the composer who wants the satisfaction of seeing other musicians perform their music and inclusion in Today's Jazz Book.
1. Memorable melody and lyrics.
Many of the compositions we reviewed before we launched this site had melodies that fit the harmonic structure of the song, but didn't "stick" in the mind after repeated, concerted listens by multiple people. Memorable melodies are the core of many good songs.
Some of the best lyrics we've experienced have certain characteristics -- some are clever. Although not jazz, the lyric "I feel like I win when I lose" in the Abba song Waterloo fits that criterion. Other lyrics have a rhythm to them that is percussive and fits the melody of the song. Still others touch the heart in some way, either evoking memories, highlighting aspects of the human condition we all experience, or otherwise moving people.
2. Interesting chord changes.
A poll on a discussion forum for musicians revealed that although interesting chord changes aren't always critical, they do contribute to the quality of a song in certain compositions. They can also inspire interesting solos and melodies. Of course, many oft-played songs use minor blues, or simple chord changes. Therefore, this is not a hard and fast rule. But the more interesting chord changes are, the greater the probability the song will be found interesting, all other things being equal.
3. Playable in a variety of common situations
Some compositions seem to rely on highly specialized sounds or instruments that don't translate well to situations in which many local or even renowned musicians perform. The songs, in our experience, that musicians play over and over again ("standards", to use the term loosely) seem to work whether in a duo, trio, or a combo fronted with a wind or stringed instrument.
4. Accessible to a wide variety of musicians.
In the jazz genre, it's not uncommon for a group of musicians who don't know each other to show up at a gig (a pickup band) and perform tunes a band leader calls from a fake book. This means the typical musician needs to be able to sight read the song when someone calls it.
In our experience, band leaders in these situations tend not to call songs that have "movements" in them, orchestral parts, or a lot of feel changes that require extensive rehearsal. In fact, Pat Metheny, in the preface to his Pat Metheny Real Book indicated that he took out many of these orchestral developments in certain songs. Presumably this was to make his songs playable in typical settings. He even commented that the test of a good song is whether it can stand up to a performance of its stripped down version.
5. No longer than 1 or 2 pages
Jazz musicians are often expected to sight read charts or play jazz gigs on short notice. In these cases, musicians need the chart on a music stand or electronic device. Songs that are longer than 2 pages are hard to play live because you have to flip pages if in hard copy. And for newer electronic music readers that display only one page at at time, one page songs are ideal. Even newer, foot operated page changers for electronic readers create an additional step (no pun intended) when performing live. Try to minimize page turning!
6. The Wildcard. Because creativity often breaks rules and crosses boundaries, we leave ourselves open to accept songs that defy our own guidelines. Just make sure it's good :)
The recording should give the introduction, melody and structure of the song (such as AABA components). Solos are optional. The recording can be in any format accepted by this discussion forum platform. This can range from an MP3, a Youtube Video link, Soundcloud link, or a file on your website, social media or other formats accepted by email or our private messaging system in the forum.
Lead Sheet Guidelines
We appreciate it if composers whose work is accepted in Today's Jazz Book provide a lead sheet of their work. Although this is not a hard and fast rule, it helps us because we are all volunteers.
Therefore, we have the following means, in order of declining preference to us, for you to submit your chart. The higher up the list your composition is, the faster we can include it in the book, if accepted.
1. A Finale *.mus file.
We use Finale for any touch-up work. However, since this is a volunteer effort, we appreciate a Finale *.mus file.
2. A Music XML File and PDF file.
MusicXML is portable file format, readable by a variety of music notation software applications. We can import a MusicXML file into Finale for formatting. This saves our volunteers much time. However, it is useful to also have the original PDF file so we can see how the chart was originally constructed.
3. A PDF file generated within notation software.
Most notation software applications can create a PDF file of your composition. If your notation software won't export your song as MusicXML, we encourage you to export it as a PDF file from your notation software.
4. A scanned hardcopy, in PDF format of the composition.
This differs from a PDF generated within a notation editor application. It is simply a scan of the hard copy document. This is not ideal, as it means re-writing the composition if it is not formatted properly. There are applications available that can convert these PDF's to MusicXML, but they are expensive.
5. A Scan of a Chord Chart
You might have a chord chart written out, in Band in a Box, Garage Band or other accompaniment software print-out, but the melody not transcribed. In rare event this happens, we can create a lead sheet from this. This make take a while, but we can expedite the transcription with a low-cost, paid transcription service that has signed on to our project. You can make a donation of $10 to $15 at the Donate link at the top of this site. This is considerably below the rates most transcribers charge. You can also donate more if you like; the excess will go to furthering the aims of this project.
6. No Chart -- The Recording Alone
You may submit a recording for consideration. If accepted, we can transcribe it, but it may take a while depending on the availability of our volunteer, professional transcriber. Alternatively, you can make a donation to have the work transcribed -- see point #5 above.