Good-bye ChristmasDedication.com

It was a nice run. The song “Hey Sophie” [The Christmas Dedication Song] was one of those things I wouldn’t give up on. Now it’s time to let it go. In 2013, I left my full-time corporate career to re-launch this song (and 1000 alternate versions of it) as an e-card. I made a walkthrough video of the website that was designed for that effort. It was fun to build and manage, and I learned a lot. I recorded this ad-hoc video in 2015, but am posting it now at the end 2016 as closure and as a formal record of what I accomplished. It’s a bit geeky, but if you like stories behind web designs, then there might be something in it for you. 🙂


ILEA – A Custom Theme Song Explained

Creating a Custom Theme Song for ILEA (The International Live Events Association) was a pleasure. It took longer than usual to release because after the original production was completed, the organization decided to change their name. Their original name / acronym was ISES, which of course sounds like ISIS (the terrorist organization). ISES had used their name happily for many years until recently, when ISIS appeared in the Middle East. It was a good idea for ISES to re-brand as ILEA.

When ILEA declared their new name in May 2016, I had to re-write the chorus and bridge of the Custom Theme Song which I had completed previously. Since they liked the original version so much (but we refrained from releasing it due to the name change), I kept the chords, melodies and production.

It’s not always “cool” to mention the name of an organization literally in its song (an overlying theme or image that represents them can sometimes be better), but this was for re-branding, so it was appropriate. Of course, literally singing The International Live Events Association would have been too long, while pronouncing their acronym (ILEA) would not have rhymed with much. Rhymes are not necessary to have in a song, but they do help with a song’s catchiness.

That said, I decided to pronounce every letter in their acronym: I.L.E.A. It would make their name clear and unforgettable. Rhyming the last letter (“A”) with words like “say” or “day” didn’t lead to useful lines in the lyrics, so I re-used some of the rhymes from the letter “S” in the original I.S.E.S. version. It worked out pretty well. Since ILEA is an international association, using directions in the lyrics (East, West, North, Compass) would emphasize their world-wide membership.

If you watch the YouTube lyric video above, you’ll get the gist of what the association is about, so I won’t deep-dive into the lyrics. The short story is that the lyrics are written from the perspective of an event planner who is admiring her helpful ILEA network at her event. This is something most ILEA members can relate to.

That brings us to the music itself. The decision to make the song mostly mid-tempo electronica was easy. The target market for ILEA is very broad age-wise and interest-wise, so it wasn’t necessary to make a pure rock or pure hip-hop or dance-dominant (those are just examples) production. However, since many of the ILEA members are event planners, a production that was modern and classy was a must because those same elements are what event planners try to produce at their events. Going with some mid-tempo electronica did the trick. That said, I did include a few modern “real” instruments like acoustic guitars and horns in the background. These can please the ears of slightly older listeners and fans of all music genres which might leverage such instruments (adult contemporary, country, etc.). The music also needed to be comfortably upbeat to suit the celebratory nature of the organization, versus being at the other ends of the tempo and melodic spectrum.

My goal in every song is to have a strong and catchy and memorable chorus, and I think this one delivers.

After hearing the nearly final version, one of the ILEA Vice Presidents envisioned adding various sound effects to emphasize their members’ presence at live events, parties, weddings, celebrations and so on. He had a number of good ideas, but most of them I knew would be too “quiet” to be heard above the music itself. If you didn’t already know, it’s difficult to take sounds that are “quiet” in the real world and make them “loud” in a full music production. Have you ever heard something like the sound of bed sheets rustling over a rock song? Probably not. But something like a cowbell has a very loud character and can be easily heard in the densest mixes.

The solution was to add relatively “loud” sounds like glasses chiming up close and crowds cheering. Even so, to make both of those sounds heard above the music, I had to blend many types of glasses and different crowd recordings together, while treating them with aggressive equalization and compression. Can you hear them at the very beginning and end of the song?

The last interesting thing I’ll note here is the appearance of many spoken voices in the middle bridge of the song. A couple of years ago, I began integrating audiences into my live shows and recorded music. Most people get a real kick out of it, so I decided to interview ILEA members at one of their internal events. My question to attendees was, “What do you like most about ILEA?” I recorded their responses into my iPhone with a high-quality microphone, then brought the results to my studio and edited them into the music. It added a lot of life to the middle of the song instead of hearing the usual guitar solo.

This song took around 70 hours to write, record, mix, master and deliver. It was worth it.

Let me create a song for you for a big meeting, a wedding, a celebration, any event or for a marketing campaign.

Like a diamond, a song is forever!

ILEA ISES custom theme song

Review: The Song Machine (a book about making music hits)

This book was written in a way that I loved. It was current (relatively speaking), researched, topical and clear. Songwriting and music production are my specialties, so I hungered to get through it. There simply aren’t enough detailed accounts of great songs married to great music production.

The first couple of chapters worried me because I thought, I already know all of this stuff. However, I was thereafter schooled in tier-1 music industry practices and given some contextual stories which I either had no knowledge of or had only known the surfaces of.

For example, in any industry, there are always specialists who are go-to people for particular needs. Even in the music industry in my hometown of Toronto, I know many folks who have one strength among broad musical skill sets. If I need a guitarist, who’s great at lead, who has great tone and a particular style of making melodies that I like, then that’s who I call instead of the general guitarist next door.

Therefore, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that at the top 1% of the songwriting and music production world, there are top liners — people whose only role is to make a melodic hook on top of established chords, arrangements or beats.

What? I first thought. Aren’t there songwriters or producers who can just do it all? Yes, of course there are. I’ve been “doing it all” for years. But often, as is the case at the top of any business, a final ounce of competitive advantage is sought to win. A funny case of the same tracks sent to two top liners ended up in the releases of the below two very similar-sounding songs. They came out around the same time:

This, of course, can be disheartening if you thought that the two above artists wrote these songs for themselves. You would have had an unpleasant experience reading this book if you wanted to avoid truths about the whole manufactured music stars concept.

The pursuit of song hits was outlined nicely. Successes and failures were found through top performing artists’ stories, such as Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Kesha, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and the very un-Western K-Pop phenomenon. They were highly enjoyable to uncover.

The book’s ultimate essence, however, focused on names that would be less familiar to an average human: Denniz Pop, Dr. Luke, Max Martin or The Matrix. Such individuals or teams are key hit makers. It was enjoyable to get into their businesses and personalities. The original hit factory known as The Brill Building in New York City was discussed to give us some history and context. Hit making as an intentional group business practice has been around since the 1930s.

A section was devoted to Spotify and its effect, which was far deeper than most of the opinion or statistics pieces I’ve read to date regarding streaming radio.

It looked like the author got some of his info through personal experience and from articles published online. Everything was well documented and fairly low on speculation.

My only criticism? A teeny one: The concept of digital compression was used so loosely or poorly that I might go so far as to say it was used incorrectly.

In general, a must-read for songwriters and music producers. It’s inspired me somewhat to up my game.

the song machine john seabrook

A Dead Music Stars Discussion

This blog post was delayed longer than I would have liked (from being published) because one of my family members has been lying on his deathbed.  I wanted to minimize the whole, y’know, death thing.  So, here it is, tardy after the early-mid January 2016 hype around the frequency of music star deaths.

dead music stars bowie lemmy cole frey weiland

In the last short while, we’ve lost music stars such as Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), Natalie Cole, Lemmy (Motorhead) and David Bowie.  As I began writing this blog post, Glenn Frey (Eagles) appeared in my social media feed as another one gone.  For a growing 2016 current list, click on this labour of love.

As part of the music networking group Balanced Breakfast (Toronto chapter), a small group of us were compelled to talk about Dead Rock Stars.  Questions:  What made these particular music stars stand out?  Why might the public acknowledge them more than other types of celebrities?  Why was there arguably more attention after their death, rather than when they were alive?

This is the re-cap of the discussion.

A tweet that received much attention after David Bowie’s death and has been re-posted through numerous sources:

During our group discussion, we came to see it as truth.

“What they said [during their careers] affected me,” said Veronica Kutt, an independent booking agent in Toronto.  The lyrics in the artists’ songs or the words they spoke on stage or through interviews was something that all of us acknowledged.  For some reason, the artists said things that we ourselves might not have been able to convey on our own.  Maybe we were living with a certain thought or emotion that couldn’t be translated, or perhaps we wanted to express something through speech that wouldn’t come out of our mouth.  These artists were able to refine and state what we couldn’t.  And we liked it.

“The expected trajectories of music’s evolution might be different if they had lived.  And today would be different if they hadn’t already contributed,” said Alborz Mohtashami (a.k.a. Crossword) in reference to hip-hop artists like 2Pac and J Dilla.  We all wondered about the templates that Dead Music Stars made for us.  They would be forever-references for anybody involved with music.

Particularly youthful deaths like those of Janice Joplin or Amy Winehouse stand out because we think of what might have been.  Would they have had more hits?  How would they have influenced the music landscape later in their lives?  Imagine if Jim Morrison was at the Grammys last year.  Would he have made a canned joke for us to giggle at?  It’s thinking about the unknown that we get uncomfortable over.

“The interest in these deaths might stem from the hopes we put on them, which they never had to live up to.  It’s a bit of a fantasy,” said Ryan Cameron-Clark, a Toronto promoter, DJ and curator of dark electronica sub-genres.  Indeed, fantasy was a key discussion point.  Most of us have fantasized what it would be like to be a music star — loved by the public for showing their particular style of creativity.  As well, some of us have even fantasized about having an artist’s (supposed) lifestyle, image or good looks.  Could that be me?

“In my case, I don’t usually get emotionally attached to an artist because I tend to separate the music from the person,” said Josh Bowman, a Toronto-based audio engineer and music producer.  Our perceptions of music stars could decidedly change due to one comment, one photo, one video or one live performance.  The living band Metric was mentioned by someone as ruining their image for him by having a (faux?) big ego on stage.  The living artist Joan Jett was mentioned by someone as impressing them unexpectedly by “owning” an audience of 40,000 attendees.  In both of these examples, the listeners had preconceived notions of who / what they were, but it all changed.  The point is that we are very sensitive to what a music star does across their entire careers.

“I felt very sad after learning of certain music stars’ deaths,” said Richard Leko of punk-based melodic alternative band Broomfiller.  Indeed, just talking about the topic of Dead Music Stars in our group created a high-tension, high-emotion environment that was unusual (and probably unpleasant) for folks who were otherwise upbeat.  Eyes welled up and our talk had that serious tone that usually comes with a universal reflection of death.

We threw around a few names of current living music stars that could garner much attention when they pass away:  Kanye, Dave Grohl, Taylor Swift, Beck, Justin Bieber, Bono, Andre 3000.  Certainly this is the sort of list that many people would expand or disagree with because numerous ticket or music sales might not launch them into “legend” status at death.  In addition, we wondered if the impacts would be smaller than those of yesteryear because music these days is so much more fragmented.  There will never be another event as massive as Live Aid, for example.  That’s merely one of many indicators of society supporting more music performers holding smaller portions of the proverbial pie.

As more music stars die in the future (everybody dies eventually), certainly those that will affect us emotionally should trigger our gratitude, too.  A music star is a music star because he or she stimulated us in a meaningful way.

Dyniss is a singer-songwriter from Toronto who also manages Balanced Breakfast, a music industry networking group.  Also present in this meeting was Ryan VanDrie, rock singer-songwriter.

balanced breakfast toronto butler's pantry music

Our Balanced Breakfast chat talking about Dead Music Stars at local eatery Butler’s Pantry.

Middle Heaven – A Custom Song Explained

I’ve never written a full songwriting and production breakdown before, so here it is! This blog post will explain why one of my Custom Songs sounds the way it does. If you happen to already know a lot about songwriting and production, then at a minimum after reading this you’ll know how I approached those disciplines.

Toward the end of last year, I created a song called Middle Heaven for a client. The client was writing a novel that had similarities to the Harry Potter universe, i.e. it contained elements of youth, magic and adventure. Although the client had not yet finished writing the novel, she loved the idea of having a song ready ahead of time to help sell it. The novel’s completion would be followed by pitching for a screenplay and an animated trailer. The trailer would use this song as the backing soundtrack.

The Interview

Before I met the client, I wanted to ensure that I could learn as much as possible about her idea, so she let me read six unreleased chapters of the novel. Afterward, I met her in person for coffee for an hour with my notebook in hand. We talked about what she wanted in the song, who the target market (listeners) would be and how we could make the song work with her story. She liked my immediate ideas, so I wrote for about 20 hours (a song takes me anywhere from 8 hours to 50 hours to write), then played a skeletal version for her on my guitar “unplugged” a few weeks later to get her initial approval before proceeding with a Deluxe Production.

The Lyrics

You can listen to the song and read along with the lyrics in the video linked above.

One of the easiest things you can do to support an idea / a person’s name / a brand / a company / a theme / etc. is to make the title of the song refer to that. I made it happen in the chorus (literally singing, “Middle Heaven,” which is the title of the novel) so it would anchor the listener and ideally help them to remember the title. I kept the chorus lyrics as simple as possible, while singing about Middle Heaven as a place that I wanted to go to. Hopefully, that would make the imaginary physical location of Middle Heaven somewhere a listener would also like to visit, which would further add to listener engagement.

As I built the writing, I played ideas over and over again into my iPhone with guitar, then listened, then adjusted, then re-recorded until I was happy with the result. I usually forego writing lyrics on paper these days since I have so many revisions and want to clearly see old ideas in case I want to retrieve them.

Story-wise for the verses, in this case I chose to focus on the three main characters of the novel, whose names were identical to the idealistic values that they also represented: faith, hope, love. Since many songs do well with three verses, I thought it would be effective to dedicate a single verse to each character. I decided to mention their values and play with the novel’s details by declaring the magic items the characters carry: a magic staff of power, a magic harp and a magic flute. It all added up to a descriptive, artistic and pleasing summary of the Middle Heaven concept, without giving away too much information (think, “no spoilers”). 🙂

To add some dynamics, when I sang about the harp and flute, I momentarily added actual harp and flute to the music. Listen to the song again if you missed those subtleties and the end of the second and third verses. Little things like that can really help the entertainment factor.

The Music

The client was of an age group (and likely so too would be her first contacts for pitches / promotion) that would enjoy hearing modern contemporary instruments, rather than electronic sounds or primary classical instruments. Such instruments would also create the “vibe” she was looking for regarding her expected audience. Instruments you can hear in the song in addition to the harp and flute include drums, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, horns, string orchestra, bells and tambourine. A few backup vocals finish it off.

Of special note are the horns. It’s always a good idea (if possible) to associate instruments that will emphasize your message. Horns have always been a well-used association with Heaven, clouds, a higher power, etc. They also have an uplifting quality in most productions, so why not add them to each chorus? Listen for them if you haven’t already identified them.

The Production

The recording / mixing / mastering process took about 45 hours (a full production can take me anywhere from 30 hours to 100 hours). The songwriting itself, as I often notice during production, needed to be modified a little bit (lyric and melody changes, plus their timing) as the production came to life. I always want every note of every instrument (including vocals) to weave in and out of the arrangement perfectly. It can be fun and it can sometimes be challenging to do this, meanwhile going through sound / instrument options until I reach my end goal. I programmed some instruments, played some instruments live and sang the lyrics myself. I’m always open to having another singer or session player take over, but the client was thrilled with what she got. I was pretty happy with the end result, too. It sounds up to my usual standards and filled the client’s needs. Working solo for a long time on a song like this is a normal experience for a musicpreneur — but the result still always comes out being worth it.

I hoped you enjoyed this little “behind the scenes” blog post. Check out the Custom Songs page if you want your own song.
headphones music albums listening

A Song about Depression – Mirrors and Smoke

When I play my song Mirrors and Smoke — a song about depression — applause at the end is usually sparse. Most folks prefer uplifting feelings over introspection when it comes to entertainment, songs and/or music. Here is a new bootstrapped and slightly artsy music video to support the song:

#SorryNotSorry, folks — I believe that a dark song from time to time (not all the time — see below) can be good for mind and spirit if it gives you something to relate to. Additionally, if art (i.e. a song) is supposed to be an expression of the human condition, then it should also be okay to express something that isn’t all rainbows and flowers.

One great thing about being a performing songwriter is being able to have discussions with folks who are pleased to discover that you think a little bit like them (and vice versa). If you’ve ever felt alone in your thoughts or mental struggles, then maybe you can relate to Mirrors and Smoke, whose lyric outlines how professionals like doctors and engineers looked down on my music career. Their pessimism negatively affected my self-confidence, which I subsequently faked.

It’s generally uncool to talk about mood depression. Socially, it makes us appear weak. Although I was a sufferer, I admit that I have “unfollowed” several people in my social networks over the last few years who posted about their own suffering frequently. It’s not that I didn’t care or wanted to avoid commenting on it — it’s that I can be negatively influenced by receiving too much of that type of information. These days, I use several disciplines to ensure that I keep my spirits high. You can listen to the audio speakquel (a spoken prequel to Mirrors and Smoke found on my current album) linked below regarding this topic, which says more than I have written here:

All said, I believe that there is a time and a place to talk comfortably about depression or other dark topics. Balance is the key. In my daily personal life, I choose to limit my complaining and focus on the positives as much as possible because it contributes to a sense of well-being. It’s also easy to see that people want to be around me more when I’m in that mode.

I’m releasing this video and blog post immediately before the holiday season because statistics say that mood depression increases around this time period. My hope is that those who might be suffering can see that there are others who have the condition, which can actually make a person feel better for the short run. For the long run, there are ways to get out — I offer some neutral advice within the speakquel above.

Happy Holidays. 😉

depressed depression sad struggle

Depression can be treated and/or defeated.

Custom Songs Press Release November 2015

(Copied from Muddy Paw PR)


Like a Diamond, a Song is Forever: DYNISS Launches Custom Songs Campaign

Toronto, ON: There’s nothing quite like the care and dedication that goes into a personalized song. Whether you’re telling someone you love them for the first time, or creating a rally cry for your next team meeting, there’s a song for every beautiful moment. That’s where Toronto based singer-songwriter Dyniss comes in. Drawing from over 30 years of music industry experience, Dyniss creates Custom Songs for any occasion.

“Like a diamond, a song is forever,” explains Dyniss. “A song can create an emotional connection like no other media. It can tell a story about someone you love or share a message regarding your business. From weddings and celebrations to advertising and meeting kickoffs, a Custom Song can bring joy and connection to listeners.”

Taking the time to get to know every person that comes his way, Dyniss ensures that each song is 100% handcrafted to fit your needs, vision and budget. When you share an original track by Dyniss, you share a unique experience that you have helped crystallize.

Previous clients have included the Green Party of Canada. Dyniss has also produced over one thousand personalized Christmas songs and released four of his own albums.

Speaker-singer-songwriter Dyniss (rhymes with “slyness”) writes custom songs and engages audiences with cell phones and microphones. He transcends the live audience relationship by asking audience members questions about interesting things before integrating their responses into each song. It’s like seeing a talk show host use music to ask questions. Based in Toronto (Canada), Dyniss spends most of his time with medium- to large organizations to inspire their employees with his songs — loaded with stories, messages or lessons. Learn more about the organizational work at dyniss.com/keynotes.

Official Website I Facebook I Twitter I Youtube I Instagram

The Song Creation Formula

Authorsong songwriting music book review creation formula Signe Miranda is one of my music industry peers in Toronto, Canada.  We share an affinity for songwriting, musicianship and personal success.  I jumped at the opportunity to read her book, The Song Creation Formula, because songwriting — more than any other activity — allows me to feel in flow.  As such, I wanted to learn about Miranda’s process, learn about the songwriters she interviewed and learn about contributing author Taylor Abrahamse’s chord patterns framework.

Miranda and Abrahamse, in parallel with their clear love of songwriting, host a Toronto-based songwriting workshop, whose introductory class I attended before reading this book.  The experience gave me some in-person reference material.  It was an organized and thoughtful workshop which highlighted the songwriting ability of both authors.  Their friendliness and desire to share their knowledge was as obvious in the class as it is in their book.

The Song Creation Formula is highly Canadian in terms of Miranda’s personal references and in terms of the 7 songwriters she interviewed.  This made it easy for me (a Canadian) to relate to most of the songs, people and places mentioned.  For any reader who is unfamiliar with Canada’s music scene, certainly many of the references can be found via web search.

The relatively short read (133 pages) is split approximately as 10% Miranda’s Song Creation Formula, 50% interviews with 7 songwriters and 25% Abrahamse’s chord progressions framework.  The rest is Miranda’s commentary or resources.

I thought this book had the potential to be 3 separate and longer books.  Miranda’s personal story was enjoyable to read, so much that I would have liked to learn more about her recent years as a songwriter and enjoy smaller stories like finishing songs for an album.  The 7 songwriter interviews were delicious enough for me to hunger for more.  Each songwriter had their unique perspective and made me feel like I was one of their artistic comrades.  The interviews were short-ish but interesting — there aren’t many such interviews.  And finally, Abrahamse’s chord progressions framework was excellent because it offered digestible generalizations for song chord patterns.  The song examples he refers to at the end of each pattern are popular and stylistically varied enough to make you think, “I know what he’s talking about thanks to that song.”  The section did make me pine for more info, especially on the behalf of ultra-beginners.

I would have loved to hear an audiobook version of this book because hearing is believing.  For now, an enjoyable text reading will have to do.  I recommend this book for aspiring and experienced songwriters, or for anybody who would enjoy reading short interviews from some talented Canadians.

Personality Tests and Frameworks

personality analysis test framework creative commons
This blog post was triggered by completing Sally Hogshead’s How the World Sees You. Since it’s the fifth personality test / framework that I’ve completed, it’s hopefully allowed me to also create something here for you to learn about the book and personality tests in general. I completed the book (plus its 28-question test) as part of my ongoing pursuit of self-improvement and to become a better keynote facilitator.

If you have ever taken a personality test for How the World Sees You, Myers & Briggs, StrengthsFinder, VIA Character Strengths or The Leadership Wheel, then you’ll know some of what to expect here. I’ve completed all of those frameworks and in particular spent time in office group settings that facilitated each of Myers & Briggs and Strengthsfinder. I went furthest with Strengthsfinder with a business team for many months and enjoyed the results.

I’m curious about (but never participated in) True Colors, INSIGHT and DiSC. There are decent histories and summaries for some personality tests here and the Wikipedia page for the overall topic is here. But in this blog post, for the ones I’ve been through, I’ll list a few similarities and differences, then summarize Hogshead’s book. You can decide if any of them might be for you.

A good reason in my opinion to participate in any personality test is to learn more about how one’s particular personality compares to other people’s personalities. I don’t think most personality frameworks were designed to make us change our existing traits, but rather improve our interactions with other people.

As a fact-focused / scientific individual, I approached this topic with a healthy skepticism, but took what I could of value out of the information found within each framework. My short summary of the five frameworks I have participated in is this: There is something valuable in every one, but each one is not highly scientific.

The worst first: I very lightly parallel these personality frameworks with astrology. Astrology is also a type of personality framework, but it’s based on astronomical phenomena and our birth date/time, rather than on multiple-choice tests. A personality (astrological sign) is usually broad enough (in my opinion) to allow most of us to say, “Yes, I am somewhat like that!” This acknowledgement is part of making certain people believe firmly in astrology. Meanwhile, astrology keeps believers glued with event-dependent guidelines on how to navigate through life or work, such as how to handle an intimate relationship at a particular point in time.

For the record: I barely believe in astrology. I say “barely” because I cannot deny that I have experienced moments of wonder at what a couple of semi-professional astrologists have said about myself, my past and my current circumstances. I do realize that this could be similar to being fooled and impressed by magic or illusion.

Unlike astrology, all of the personality frameworks I mentioned at the beginning of this post are driven by question-and-answer analyses, which to me is a better way to determine what’s going on in somebody’s brain.

If you do decide to try (or have tried) to participate in any of the non-astrological personality frameworks, I highly recommend that you complete more than one. Yes, that’s more work and more cost, but some like VIA are totally free. The frameworks seem to have different purposes or areas of interest or areas of expertise. I liken this to using different lenses for a camera. Your camera can look at one image, but the image will appear differently based on the lens used.

Across the five frameworks I completed, I was evaluated as a “Teacher”-type personality, while being somebody who values beauty, while being somebody who achieves goals through excellence, while being somebody who is highly analytical, while being somebody who is introverted. That’s one quality from each of the five frameworks I participated in. I left lots out for simplicity’s sake. So my first question is: is it possible that all of these things could be true at the same time? Yes, I think it’s possible. Is it also possible that somebody could use any or all of these qualities to better navigate one’s personal or professional life? Yes, I think that’s also possible.

After taking Sally Hogshead’s online test, the automated analysis concluded that I was a personality archetype (designed by Hogshead) called, The Avant Garde. In short, I supposedly achieve success in my work and life by using the strengths of Prestige and Innovation (the strengths that make up an archetype are also of Hogshead’s design). I agreed with the variables that were listed under the Avant Garde archetype to be aligned with my self-perception and proceeded to read the book enthusiastically, imagining that there would be some keys to using my default personality traits more effectively.

But then, for fun, I started reading the other archetype headlines. I put my mind into an, “Am I mostly like this archetype?” state. Sadly, like astrology draws somebody in, I had to say, “Yes, my dominant traits are somewhat like that!” to a bunch of them.

I can imagine that Hogshead or any of the creators of the other frameworks would say that such an experience is not unusual. After all, can our personalities really be boiled down to just a few words? There could be testing issues like one’s state of mind during the test or choosing “ideal” responses because we don’t like to admit certain things to ourselves.

On the other hand, there were definitely some archetypes that made me think, “No way, I’m not like that,” even as I mentally pushed myself past my self-perception comfort zone. So there should be some substance to the general realms of Hogshead’s archetypes. And upon review, I believe that the same goes for the other personality frameworks that I went through.

A personality framework can be valuable if it recommends how to use the results of your test. Hogshead’s framework does just this – with an interesting angle. Rather than declaring how you look at other people, the results show how people likely look at you. And the recommendation is to emphasize the identified strengths so you are more able to “fascinate” others. Hogshead’s approach is in the realm of personal branding. In my case, I should present myself as somebody who achieves excellence in everything they do, while being a highly creative individual for everything from new ideas to problem-solving. If I try, on the other hand, to focus on showing more restraint (for example) in every situation, then I won’t be as successful at being a “fascinating” individual even though restraint is just as powerful a strength. Restraint should only be emphasized by somebody who is already good at restraint.

Hogshead does acknowledge in her appendix (which was a very strong and short ending to her book) that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t focus on any of our weaknesses. Rather, spend our time and energy refining what we already naturally do best. This, I believe, is much easier while not necessarily being less effective. It’s the same approach as the StrengthsFinder framework, of which I became a big fan.

If I tried to identify only one consistently useful element across all personality frameworks, it would be that of creating empathy. I remember doing Myers & Briggs 12 years ago. At the time, I believed that a few of my co-worker participants were blinded daily by their own thinking. But late on the Myers & Briggs day, they all showed signs of having “aha” moments, i.e. self-reflection and understanding that there is something valuable in every person and every person’s way of doing things. A fairly thorough blog article on empathy in general can be found here.

True, we might not jive with somebody else. True, we might be a better person than somebody else to do a particular job. A strong leader would be wise to recognize these differences and put the right people in the right positions. A strong individual (that means you!) would be wise to empathize with others and know that everybody has their own way of looking at things and doing things.

Contact me (Dyniss) if you ever need a Custom Song or a Keynote for yourself, for a loved one, for your event or for your organization.

July 2015 Newsletter – New album, music video, more!


One of the greatest challenges and most satisfying pursuits for a music artist is completing a collection of professional-level song recordings. My new album The Second Fistful is finished. It has two unique qualities: First, each song is preceded by a “speakquel” (a spoken prequel describing what each song is about). Second, forty-three people were interviewed regarding the lyrical theme of each song. Their answers were edited directly into the music. Five songs plus six “speakquels” are available for your listening pleasure and download here.

dyniss the second fistful new album cover

PS my grandfather did the artwork (etching into wood plus acrylic).


I don’t make tons of electronic music, but that might change in the future based on the amazing feedback received so far for this particular song. The message of Iguanas is: If you can accept a strange iguana, you can accept more humans. I asked forty-three people what they would say to themselves to be more accepting of others. Their whispered responses are part of the song and music video production. I would love to hear what you think through this song if you ever attend one of my live shows. Visually, the music video is reminiscent of David Bowie. Click here to watch the music video on YouTube.
iguanas music video new album
Direct link to video — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3Trs0gz0lg


If you’ve seen one of my live shows in the last year, you’ve seen me walk into the audience with my microphone to elicit responses regarding the song themes I have spoken or sung about. In the last few months, I experimented with audiences by asking attendees to use their cell phones instead. “Wow!” The audience response rate has been much higher. Cell phone responses allow people to remain anonymous — and I think folks like pounding on their cell phones in general. For large shows, I will likely use software to project live curated responses on screen. Perhaps that will be the future of the live show.


Here is a new album review from Infectious Magazine.
Here is a new audio interview (podcast) where I talk about the pros and cons of recording your own album with Toronto producer Harrison Fine.
Here are some new images from a photo shoot with Toronto photographer Mondo Lulu.
Here is a blog entry about the three reasons that keep us from finishing things (like an album or a project).
Here is a blog entry about the importance of interviews. Here is the video interview with me on YouTube that triggered the blog entry.


1. “Thinkertain” the audience at your event with inspiring speaking and songs. The audience is engaged with cell phones and microphones.
2. Write and record a world-class song for you, your loved one, or your business. The song can be performed live exclusively at your event or meeting.

647.870.8733 (cell)
contact[at]dyniss[dot]com (email)
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[This blog entry was mostly duplication of the email newsletter. You can sign up for email updates here.]