Hi Ken,

I wanted to say thanks for the great workshop you gave yesterday for the Houston Songwriters Association. The information you provided was on target with our mission, which is, to support and encourage the art and craft of songwriting. I heard all positive comments from those who attended. For each point you were making you provided good examples. You were also able to answer questions in a way that was open and encouraging. It was very clear to me that you enjoy doing this kind of thing and it comes across in your presentation style.

Personally, I took about three pages of notes. All things I can use to improve my own writing. As a paying attendee, I got more than my money’s worth. Thanks again for the workshop

Danny Liggett, President Houston Songwriters Association


Songwriting Seminars

Start With a Hook Line: While there are many ways to approach writing a song this seminar demonstrates one structured way to go about it. Basic elements of songwriting are described and discussed, and either one group song or several small-group songs are written in the process. This seminar is geared toward those just starting out in songwriting. (3–4 hours)

How To Get Out of Your Beautiful Rut: After a while we all tend to write the same "type" of song over and over. And, even if we are successful with them it becomes our "beautiful rut." This seminar takes the participants back to the basic music elements of songwriting and teaches a structured approach to bringing variety into newer songs, an approach that can be used for the rest of a writer's life. (3 hours)

The Power of Contrast: What would light be without shades of darkness? The same applies to any art or craft. This seminar is designed to make the participants aware of and learn how to build contrast into individual songs as well as their entire body of work. (3 hours)

The Molecular Structure of Melody:This seminar is designed to make the participants aware of the structure of melody beyond just a series of notes. It also shows how lyric choice becomes an integral part of that structure. If time allows the group may break up into smaller groups, write, and present their work to the entire group at the end. (2–5 hours depending on whether group songs are actually written in the process of the seminar.)

Songs Are Made by Human Beings Like You and Me: Music is one of the most human of all activities. Rather than just something that floats out of an iPod or from the television, music is created by human beings. This is a group seminar for children aged 8-13 designed to give them the experience of making up a group song and singing it together. (2 hours) Note: This seminar is based on 5 years of teaching kids of all ages at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas and the Kerrville Music Camp for Teens.

Performance Seminars

The Basics of Performance: Helping beginning performers become aware of how they present themselves as well as the technical basics of dealing with a sound system. Participants will repeatedly get up in front of the group both with a sound system and without to give them basic experience in making themselves understood in front of an audience. This can be of use for both singers and speakers. (1 ½–2 hours)

Producing a “Songwriters-In-The-Round”: After 20 years of booking, hosting, and producing the Thursday night Songwriters In The Round series at Houston's legendary Anderson Fair, I have quite a few insights into the successful production of this popular format. (1–2 hours)

Health Seminar

Ken Gaines Bites. Diet Tips for the Traveling Musician: It's way too easy to eat in an unhealthy way while traveling in the U.S. This effects the performers skills and stamina in the short run and overall health in the long run. After decades of touring solo I have worked up a method of thought about healthy eating on the road. (1– 1 ½ hours)

Performance Lectures

Lennon/ McCartney: Contrasting the writing styles of one of the most successful pair of writers in popular music. John Lennon and Paul McCartney met as teenagers and found a common interest in wanting to be musicians performing original material. Each had very strong ideas about songwriting and, after a few years of true collaborative writing, each went his own way bringing mostly completed songs to be arranged and recorded by the group. This performance lecture features a series of contrasting pairs of songs highlighting those different approaches. (1 hour)

Lazy Bones to Moon River, the Songs of Johnny Mercer: A 1 hour overview of Mercer's songs and a brief history of his substantial influence on popular music in the 20th century and beyond.

Inspirational Talks

Living a Creative Life: The 10 suggestions (give or take) of how to go about living creatively whether you're a songwriter, a scientist, a parent, or a shoe salesman. (30–45 minutes)

I Love: In a world full of stress and disharmony this is a talk about seeing your life and life experiences as an object of continuing and ever expanding love. (30 minutes)