Review written by Millie T. Martin

Dr. Richard Niles was ASMAC’s first guest of 2018 for their First WEDNESDAYS Series on January 3rd at Valley College. As a composer, songwriter and educator Dr. Niles discussed his latest publication, SONGWRITING- THE 11 POINT PLAN.

Dr. Niles talked about how each step served in the process of creation and idea gathering to compose songs. The goal is to help you define your target and audience, what kind a theme you would use, and how you implement it. His books poses questions like “how will your piece fit in the genre?”, it’s form and what can you bring to the table thru use of contrast and detail to find your niche within it.

Each section in the journey of the 11 steps poses questions which serve the process of composition in a creative yet structured manner. He spoke as to why the order of each step was important. You end up with not just one result but the possibility for several different approaches to your piece. Through using this 11 step method in addition to the technical exercises listed in the back you are giving yourself structure and technique, which gives fertile soil for the ideas to grow. He then used one of his compositions as an example of the process he uses. I especially liked how he addressed not wasting time, being purposeful and having a system which allows your choices to be thoughtful, researched and creative. Many of these steps take care of issues like being blocked or having a good or bad day. You end up with a result, and that is what every great teacher desires to impart in their pedagogy. I would like to think any professional and creative thinker, regardless of their field of expertise uses a plan to get a result that is tangible and also what your client or the situation calls for.

This book provides such a plan. I also greatly appreciated Dr. Niles’ other publications, POLYMETRICS and his amazing anthology of modern songs which resulted from his Doctoral thesis. In POLYMETRICS I loved that Dr. Niles provided a user friendly way to find the least common denominator for figuring out the juxtapositions of groupings of equal and unequal numbers within the bar or series of bars. He then composed musical lines with the different mathematical groupings for examples. Usually when result rhythms are explained in texts you get a single and very mathematically dry explanation often not helping the performer or composer find a musical way to tie it to composition and ease of performance. This is the kind of text which compliments classes of rhythmic study and motion like Dalcroze Eurhythmics.

Finally, Dr. Niles anthology of songs is an amazing resource of popular songs. It includes analysations, lists of artists/composers and important details related to the songs. Great chapters cover things like the “Philadelphia sound” and the indexes and list of resources provide the reader with substance and show how much work and study Dr. Niles put forth to give the industry such a great anthology. It was a wonderfully thoughtful evening and at our ASMAC lecture break, Dr. Niles and his band performed music for our pleasure 🙂

ASMAC thanks, Greg Rom: drums, Garrett Wolfe: bass for a fantastic performance!

ASMAC also sends thanks to guitarist Don Peake who provided an exciting pre-event introduction of Dr. Richard Niles.

Dr. Niles’ books and weblinks:

The Pat Metheny Interviews,
The Invisible Artist,
From Dreaming To Gigging

Songwriting – The 11-Point Plan,
The Bandzilla Songbook

Dr. Niles’ latest CD/recording Links:

Bandzilla Rises on ITunes
Bandzilla Rises on Amazon


Bandzilla website: