Debbie and Friends is working on our first-ever Christmas song called “Santa & Baby.” The song’s groove is inspired by the Spin Doctors and the song itself inspired by this picture of my friend’s dog named Baby.

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Baby! Photo by Beth Oram Photography.

Our friends at Planet Sunday are hard at work on the cartoon version while my producer, Michael Carrera and I finish up the production of the recording. Below is an “animation rough” also known as a storyboard. The finished version of this cartoon music video will be ready in time for Christmas 2011.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we always like to give our fan families an inside view as what’s in the works with Debbie and Friends!

Enjoy the (preproduction) story of “Santa & Baby”!

Today more than ever, video is an essential way to break through the noise and reach new fans with your music. For Debbie and Friends, cartoon music videos are a great vehicle for this.

I’m always pleasantly surprised to learn that families from all over the world discover Debbie and Friends music every day through our YouTube channel and various cable outlets.

Many of our songs are based on classic tales, and therefore well suited for visual presentation. Some of our songs, however, are not based on stories and I was always convinced those songs were not good candidates for video. “Wendell,” for example, is a cumulative movement song about a boy who finds a toy Robot. The Robot adds a new physical challenge with each verse. It’s fun, but I couldn’t imagine it as a video. My amazing animator, Goichi Hirata from Planet Sunday, had another idea. He suggested that we approach it differently than the others and tell the story from the perspective of Wendell’s imagination. For children, the Robot can represent hope and a doorway to, literally and figuratively, scaling walls and overcoming life’s obstacles. Needless to say, I was thrilled with Goichi’s idea and excited to move forward with the project!

To further fan engagement and help with some decisions about the piece, we even hosted a “pick Wendell’s hair color” poll on Facebook. (Purple won) Here are some initial images Goichi designed for the cartoon.

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Wendell finds the Toy Robot.
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Wendell and the Robot flying.
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Wendell and the Robot at the Toy Fair parade.

And, here’s the storyboard version of the animation.

The “Wendell” cartoon music video will be finished in June. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such talented and creative people as Goichi Hirata and Greg David at Planet Sunday.

How have you used video to expand the reach of your music-related projects?

I’m excited to share a brand new cartoon music video from my kids/family music project, Debbie and Friends. The song is based on the classic tale of Cinderella with a few twists including a focus on friendship and self esteem for girls.

From the onset of the project, I wanted to make sure our fan families were involved in the production. We launched a “fairy selection” vote via our Debbie and Friends Facebook page and asked our fan families to help shape our version of the Cinderella story song by voting on one of the following fairies.

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The fairy “Godfather” won by an overwhelming majority!

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So, my producer Michael Carrera and I worked on some dialog, and then he summoned his best “Brando” voice for the recording.

We launched the new cartoon on our YouTube channel yesterday and the response has been very strong. Our fan families feel a real connection to the piece having been involved in the storyline and character selection from the beginning.

Presenting “Cinderella” by Debbie and Friends. I hope you enjoy it!

Special thanks to Planet Sunday of Wales. They are brilliant animators and add so much creativity, humor, and quality to everything they do.

Happy Holidays!

I’m pleased to share a piano method booklet for children that I developed with my Grandfather, Marty Gold. Marty is a wonderful musician who has enjoyed an amazing career in music. In fact, he’s the reason I became a musician. Recently, he told me about a piano “tent” he created to help kids learn the names of notes on a music staff. The story goes that Nabisco was going to put one in every cereal box back in the 1950s, and then pulled the project for fear there were not enough pianos in US homes. We decided to do the project together and make it available to friends of “Debbie and Friends.”

The following widget has a download link for a free copy of the Learning to Play Piano book and piano tent PDF files. A printed version of the book will be available soon. In the meantime, please let me know how the tent and method book are for your children!

Special thanks to Robert Heath of Barkley Studios for designing the keyboard tent, Greg David of Planet Sunday for the cover art image, and Shawn Girsberger for the book layout and design. What a dream team!!!

And, for the adults out there interested in learning to play the piano, I highly recommend the Berklee Keyboard Method online. Classes start Jan. 8.

All the best,

-Debbie

It’s an exciting time to be a musician. There are so many new channels of distribution, new formats, and new delivery options that can help you expose your music to potential fans. I have found animated music videos to be an excellent platform for reaching new fans and reconnecting with existing ones.

The three main ingredients needed to produce an animated music video are:

1. A fully produced song that lends itself to visual representation. Although the example that follows is for children/family music, animation can work for any genre or age demographic.

2. A graphic designer to create compelling characters and imagery.

3. An animator who can storyboard the project and create the animation.

The entire process can take 6 to 12 weeks.

Start with a Song
All Debbie and Friends’ animated music videos are based on the original songs that we perform from our CD, Story Songs and Sing Alongs. The final mastered version of the song is used for preproduction planning purposes only. The audio mix is somewhat different in the animated feature to best support the visuals.

Our most recent animated music video was based on our “Jack and the Beanstalk” story song.

Jack and the Beanstalk by DebbieandFriends

Main Character Design
A creative brief is sent to the designer, Robert Heath at Barkley Studios who designs the main characters and elements of the story.

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“Jack and the Beanstalk” main characters by Rob Heath.

Backgrounds and Scenes
Next, the designers and animators at Planet Sunday create backgrounds and scenes to support the characters and the overall storyline.

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Jack and the cow.
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The Giant taking a nap.

Storyboard Sketch
Once the characters and background scenes are developed, a storyboard movie is created putting rough action sketches to music. We typically do two or three iterations of the storyboard movie before locking it down and going into production on the final movie.

“Easter Eggs”
Al Hirschfeld, the visual artist best known for his cartoon-like line renditions of musicians and actors, always hid his daughter’s name “Nina” in his artwork. Along this line, all Debbie and Friends’ music videos have a “Spider” that drops down and makes a brief cameo at some point during our cartoons. It’s become a fun activity for our fan families to “find the spider” and write to tell me where it is. This is another example of how the music videos help us stay connected with our fans.

Final Movie
The finished movie is uploaded to our You Tube channel and related children’s music video sites such as jitterbug.tv and totlol.com. They are promoted to our fan families via our Debbie and Friends email newsletter, Facebook posts, and blog posts, etc.

The animated music video becomes a viral marketing tool as our fan families share the links and embed codes with their friends. The videos have proven to be great market research tools as well. We are receiving lots of requests to turn the music videos into a DVD product that can be played at home or in the car. Individual music video downloads can be made available to purchase as well. And, the animated music videos can serve as licensing vehicles for film and TV placements.

Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be a musician!