Making Your Own Music: Songwriting Basics

Whether you are a teenager or are well into your golden years, it is never too late to explore your creative side, especially if you are interested in music. Songwriting is an excellent way to express your thoughts and feelings and to communicate them to your friends and family, even if you have no aspirations of musical fame or fortune. If you are interested in selling or performing your songs, however, you should be aware that it is a hard road and that very few songwriters achieve great fame or fortune, and especially not instantly. Nonetheless, if you have realistic expectations, you will find that writing music is a worthwhile experience whether it is a hobby or a profession.

People write songs in many different ways. Some writers compose the music first, while others first write the words. For some, the words and the melody come to them at the same time, while others write the melodies first and write the words last. No matter what order you are comfortable with, you will eventually have to decide what the song is about. There are a variety of different types of songs ranging from songs that tell fictional stories to songs that communicate deep personal feelings.

If you decide to write a story song, a good first exercise is to write about a news story or about something you’ve read in the newspaper. That way you can use your first song to hone your word choosing skills without the pressure of coming up with your own story. However, if you already have an idea for a story to tell, you can write it out in poem form and try to make appropriate rhymes and structures that help communicate what happens in the song.

Because music is so expressive, many songwriters use their compositions to express how they feel, whether it be about a person or a situation or even geographic location. Writing these types of songs can be highly personal, so every person does it differently. When you have a strong feeling about something, write it down in a notebook and come back to it later. You might think of a good line that expresses an emotion really well, and if you remember it you might be able to build an entire song around it. Having quiet time to think is always helpful when you are trying to write a song.

Writing the actual music for a song can be done in many different ways depending on your musical prowess and your focus. If you write mostly to communicate words, then a few well-chosen guitar chords might be all of the accompaniment you need. However, if you a instrumental virtuoso, your approach to writing music will be quite different. Many people think of a musical idea and play it over and over again until they think of a melody. Often times, songwriters will construct whole pieces, melody and all, without even knowing what the song is going to be about. Once the melody is complete, the writer will sit down and think about lyrics that fit the feeling behind the music and will go from there.

Once you have put together your words and music, you might feel the need to perform your new song. It is always a good idea to play for friends and family first before trying to play to a crowd. When you feel comfortable enough playing your song, you should consider visiting an open mic night at a local coffeehouse or bar. At open mic nights, songwriters can play one or more of their songs to an appreciative and attentive audience. Performers can discuss their craft with other writers, making it a fun way to learn more about the writing process.

Student Loan Options For Financing Your Education

When you begin applying for colleges, you will find that tuition and boarding fees are extremely expensive. Unless they are independently wealthy, few people can pay for college outright. If you do not qualify for scholarships, financing your education can seem virtually impossible, even with the help of regular financial aid grants. However, there are many low interest student loans available for students that qualify for them. Rather than putting off your education, you can borrow money and defer payment until your have graduated and have found a full-time job with which you can pay back what you owe.

The first step toward applying for student loans is to fill out a financial aid application form called the Federal Application for Student Financial Aid. Once you have been accepted to a college or university, you will be sent a packet of financial aid information. You will be asked to provide your own and your parents financial information so the aid agency can assess your need and your ability to pay. There are many government based grants, like the Pell Grant, that give money to low-income students and their families with no obligation to ever pay it back. However, grants can only pay for so much, and you will most likely require student loans to finance the rest of your educational expenses.

If the free financial aid you qualify for is not enough to cover your expenses, student loans can help you make it through college to get the degree you need to be financially successful later in life. There are many different types of student loans available for both conventional and nontraditional students. Federal education loans like Perkins and Stafford Loans can be funded by either the school, your bank, or by the U.S. Department of Education. Private education loans are not sponsored by the government and draw funds from a variety of different sources. If you are still considered a dependent, either you or your parents can apply for student loans to finance your education.

Guaranteed Student Loans, or Stafford Loans, typically have lower interest rates than private loans. These loans are guaranteed by the federal government, and they can be subsidized or unsubsidized. If you have a subsidized loan, the government pays your interest while you are in school. With an unsubsidized loan, you begin accruing interest while you are in school, but you do not have to pay it back until you have graduated. You must show financial need to obtain a subsidized loan, whereas unsubsidized loans are available to anyone who applies.

Often times, Direct Student Loans are the loan of choice for many students. Direct loans are handled directly by the school you are attending. These types of loans typically have lower interest rates than most others. Your college or university may obtain the funds from a variety of sources, but all of the payments are generally made to the school itself. Once you are finished with school, you typically have anywhere from six to nine months to begin paying back your accrued debt.

If you finish school and cannot afford to pay back your student loans, they may be placed in default. This affects your credit rating and can keep you from getting other loans in the future. You can be granted a deferment on your loans if you decide to continue your schooling in graduate studies, or if you are unemployed. Deferment, however, does not last forever. If you have many different student loans, you can often consolidate them using a consolidation service, or, if you have direct loans, you can consolidate through your schools lender.

Making Hotel Reservations Online

When you begin planning a vacation, one of the most important steps is to book a hotel room for your stay. After you have made your arrangements to take off work and get to your destination, you will have to figure out an affordable place to stay. There are many ways to approach hotel booking, the most tried and true being purchasing a vacation package through a travel agent. However, travel agents are becoming more expensive and less practical as Internet travel booking becomes the norm.

Rather than paying a middleman to book your flights and hotels, online travel websites make it easy to compare rates, research locations and check on availability. Most hotels have their own websites where you can enter your needed dates and get a quote for your stay. You do not have to enter credit card information to research rates at most hotels, so it makes do-it-yourself comparison shopping convenient for anyone with an internet connection. Some hotels even post layouts of their buildings, so you can choose exactly which room you want, rather than taking a chance on being right next to a pool full of screaming children when you are trying to get some much-needed rest and relaxation.

There are also some websites that will do your comparison-shopping for you. Sites like Hotwire and Expedia search their databases for hotels available on your needed dates, and they list the best deals for you. You can choose to search according to location, rate range, hotel chain or room size. When using sites like Hotwire, the more flexible your dates are, the greater your chances are of getting an inexpensive rate. However, even if your dates are set in stone, you may still be able to find a cheaper hotel rate using these sites than you would on your own.

One way to use the Internet to find low hotel prices is to join a travel club. Many airlines and car rental companies offer deals for repeat customers. Through these programs, frequent travelers can arrange car rentals and flights at discount prices, and they often thrown in hotel stays for a minimal charge. Some car rental companies have partnerships with particular hotel chains, giving discounts to customers who use both companies on their trips. You can sometimes use your airline frequent flier miles to pay for hotel stays, as well. Be sure to check with your airline of choice to see if they offer special hotel rates with their frequent flier programs.

Because making reservations online is a do-it-yourself endeavor, hotels save money of staffing. This allows them to offer special online rates for those who book their stays via the Internet. Most hotel chain websites have links to special Internet deals that can save you a lot of money on your vacation lodging. If you are Internet savvy, you can sometimes even qualify for free nights when you book a week at the same hotel.

When you are ready to make your online hotel reservation, be sure to have your credit card handy. Because of high security practices, you often have to enter the three-digit code on the back of your credit card to confirm your reservation. Though some people are wary of entering credit card numbers over the Internet, most sites take great care in securing and encoding the information, making identity theft virtually impossible. However, if you are not comfortable completing your transaction online, many hotels allow you to reserve the nights and to call and complete the booking over the phone. Unfortunately, sometimes completing a transaction this way disqualifies you from receiving special Internet rates.

London Travel Plans

Local Authorities now require that a Travel Plan (otherwise known as a Green Travel Plan) be submitted with a planning application for many types of development in order to ensure that the new business or facility actively looks at ways of minimising traffic impact.

This will usually aim to reduce single occupancy car journeys by staff travelling to work. In some cases a customer travel is also included within the document.

London Travel Plans required by Local Authorities within the Greater London Area must be written in accordance with Transport for London and the Mayor of London’s specific Travel Plan Guidance.

There are also a group of west London Boroughs who deal with Travel Planning together under an umbrella organisation called Westtrans and Travel Plans in those Boroughs are dealt with by Westtrans officers.

All London Boroughs are aiming for the same result’ to cut traffic and congestion within the city and reduce the need for parking by encouraging staff (and sometimes customers) to use public transport, walk or cycle. The art when writing a Travel Plan is to demonstrate you are helping to achieve these goals without committing your client to expensive measures both short and long term.

This requirement has been in place for a number of years now and the content and quality of Travel Plans, particularly in London, are now given much more scrutiny than in the past. Often within London, a developer is seeking to reduce parking on their site or in some cases provide no parking at all and in these situations a bespoke, practical and well written plan can be key to achieving planning permission.

The challenge in all cases is to balance the commercial demands of the business whilst formulating a robust and detailed plan which is frequently key to securing planning permission. For example I recently dealt with a new hotel with zero on-site parking. This meant that both staff and guest travel to the site needed to be actively addressed through a range of specific measures to discourage car travel.

In contrast I recently dealt with a hotel which had free on site parking. In this instance I had to devise a travel plan which demonstrated active steps to reduce the demand for those parking spaces over the initial period of 5 years.

Both sites were covered by the same overall London-wide policies but the individual site issues dictated that the plans were very different. In both instance I managed to reach a solution which met my client’s commercial needs and satisfied the Local Authorities’ requirements.

The different approach and requirements in each case demonstrates that a template is a misnomer. In my opinion the templates that are available are likely to result in clients being signed up to costly and impractical measures. In terms of cost, as the plans are monitored for at least 5 years, the management costs going forward can also be significant if not considered at an early stage.

In my experience travel plans prepared at the application stage are all too often a standardised document which is not fully considered, with the result that developers inadvertently agree to a range of measures in order to get planning approval. Those measures may be inappropriate, expensive to implement and difficult or costly to monitor.

The examples cited above demonstrate the importance of producing a plan which is specific to the site and to the end user, not least to prevent the added cost of having to re-writing the document. In both of these cases the original developer obtained agreement to a draft which, if implemented, would have resulted in significant costs for the end-user.

In order to meet the requirements of the client and to satisfy the Local Authorities it was necessary to re-write the documents in a way which delivered practical and value for money measures for my client but also satisfied the requirements of the Local Authorities. I like to think that my experience in this area helped to achieve a result which all were happy with.

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Green Travel Plan Advice

A Green Travel Plan should deliver economic, practical and easy to manage measures both now and in the future. The majority of individuals that usually require a green travel plan are commercial developers and businesses. A plan should typically be:

economic to implement ‘day one’
cost effective for future management
include practical, well thought out measures that work

What’s the difference between Green and Workplace travel plans?

A Green Travel Plan (also typically known as a Workplace Travel Plan) is an obligation imposed by local authorities through the planning process typically by way of panning condition attached to a planning consent or by a S.106 agreement. It may also be introduced as a requirement during the application process.

In addition a Travel Plan is often a requirement of a BREEAM assessment process.

The Green Travel Plan sets out a suite of actions and measures intended to promote travel to the site by sustainable transport methods such as bicycle, bus or train rather than private car.

So I have a Green Travel Plan, what happens if I don’t follow it?

Most local authorities will require occupiers to monitor the effectiveness of the plan to ensure measures are being implemented and targets set in the plan are being met. The aim should be to demonstrate ongoing improvement.

Some local authorities now have sustainable travel officers whose sole duty is to promote sustainable travel and to monitor plans to ensure compliance.

Ultimately the local authority does have the power to take Enforcement action against you if you are not implementing and monitoring your plan. The council has the power to issue of a breach of condition notice to require you to comply with the requirements which could ultimately lead to prosecution and fine if you still fail to comply.

What Actions and Measures do the plans typically include?

They are sometimes produced to include high cost and complicated measures such as staff showers, public transport information and ticketing systems, subsidised public transport, cycle parking and staff loan schemes. Whilst it’s important to be mindful of the commercial necessity to obtain a consent, more simpler and cost effective measures should be considered as well, such as; free internet access to travel guides; website links to local travel information; car sharing schemes and on site maps of bus and train stations.

A plan should be produced to minimise the cost to the clients of delivering their plan whilst balancing this against the local planning policy requirements and need for a consent in a timely manner.

What will my Green Travel Plan cost?

Every plan is different based on the local policy requirements, the site constraints and the commercial pressures. Each should ideally be produced on a site specific basis. It is important to appreciate that a well considered and written plan allied to skilled consultants negotiating terms with the local authority will save you more money than you will ever spend on preparing it. Conversely, one poorly written will cost you money ‘day one’ and for many years to come as you continue to spend money and management time on costly and unwieldy measures.

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Jumia Travel bolsters Afro Tourism booking site

Jumia Travel has rejuvenated its partnerships with travel and tourism promotion company, Afro Tourism, which promotes travel to and within Africa through a series of travel literature and an intuitive website.
Rohan_Reddy via – Zanzibar
Rohan_Reddy via pixabay – Zanzibar
This booking solution from Jumia Travel had always existed on the Afro Tourism website but is now richer with more hotel options and discounts for travellers to and within Africa.

“With the economic crisis in the world today, travel companies like ours have to promote and encourage pan-African travel through the ease of technology,” Kushal Dutta, managing director of Jumia Travel said.

“We want Afro Tourism to be a one-stop website for information and hotel bookings for the African traveller,” said Funsho Peters, chief operating officer at Afro Tourism. Whether travellers are looking for a quick resource or information towards their travel plans, or for a holistic travel planning solution, Jumia Travel’s partnership with Afro Tourism will ensure that travellers get a good bounce for their ounce. Users can enjoy an additional discount with hotels in Africa using Jumia Travel on the Afro Tourism website while getting expert advice on where to cast their travel oars.

“Jumia Travel is all about putting the customer first,” said Dutta. “Together with Afro Tourism, we are creating avenues for the average traveller to easily find hotels across Africa and even beyond.”

Peters also added, “We are happy to partner with Jumia Travel as a means of providing visitors to Africa access to various kinds of hotel accommodation. Incorporating their booking engine into our website empowers the traveller to take actionable decisions regarding where to stay, anywhere on the continent that we offer invaluable information on or make recommendations to visit via our trip ideas or travelogue.”

New Protea Hotels campaign showcases the fun in travel planning

Protea Hotels by Marriott is launching a series of videos which showcases travel and the excitement that goes with planning it – viewers may even pick up a new travel tip, or two.
Nicholas Barenblatt
Nicholas Barenblatt
Nicholas Barenblatt, the group marketing manager of Protea Hotels by Marriott and African Pride Hotels, explains: “Our previous promo venture involved the input of bloggers who wrote about their favourite spots and activities in their cities – Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town – for the summer period. The blogs were uploaded to the Protea Hotels website as part of our on-going content marketing campaigns. Based on the response to them, we know that people enjoyed hearing from influencers worth listening to, and they liked the fun elements of the blogs.”

Protea Hotels by Marriott is using content marketing to drive long-term customer engagement. “In the hospitality space, it’s often helpful information about an area or activities in the area that one can do when on holiday. Considering that research shows that people retain far more information if there’s a visual element, we’ve decided to do this in a different way with this campaign. Our approach involves visual content marketing and through the visuals, we also refer to other ways of communicating, like the popular use of WhatsApp messaging,” Barenblatt explains.

This time, the focus is on travel and taking a break, and we do this via three videos. “We focus, in the videos, on brief stories, each of which concentrates on a different theme that we know will resonate with our different audiences,” Barenblatt continues. The first video reflects the process of planning a holiday through the story of one young man who initiates the idea of taking a weekend break with friends. The excitement of planning a holiday – people discussing, sharing ideas – using social media and online tools, he communicates with friends, does the necessary research, gathers opinions from peers and fellow travellers and makes his bookings.

According to Barenblatt: “The story accurately reflects what we do in our daily lives – the use of apps and various sites to talk to one another on a one-on-one or on a group basis, for recommendations about accommodation. In social media, destination hashtags on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are useful.” The videos also reflect the shift towards people making their own reservations online via service providers’ websites, instead of using the more conventional booking services that hotels traditionally relied on.

“We take seriously what research shows us about how our target audiences want to be spoken to. It’s clear that video, coupled with social media, is a particularly powerful tool. So, our video campaign ties in with this. We’ll be maximising the impact by promoting the videos and engaging with the audience via social media,” Barenblatt concludes.

How to remain relevant for the African traveller

As smartphone penetration across the continent increases, African travellers are increasingly looking for agents offering online and mobile services. This according to an independent research study commissioned by Amadeus and run by strategy consultancy, Inquisition.
How to remain relevant for the African traveller
©fabio formaggio via 123RF
The Africa mobile travel research explored existing mobile usage behaviour within the travel experience across the African continent. Over 2,500 people were surveyed through mobile phones across seven countries: Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. These were people who had travelled up to 12 months prior to the study and in the 18 to 44 age bracket.

Travel in the digital era

Key findings of this research revealed that African travellers are booking online and directly with service providers like hotels and airlines. If travel agencies want to remain relevant for the African traveller, they will need to offer online booking and management services.

In the digital era, buyers are increasingly shopping through their laptops, desktops and mobile devices and travel is no exception. Travel agents who embrace this trend and evolve by ramping up their omnichannel retail technology will, therefore, benefit greatly.

Andrew Shaw, online manager, Africa, Amadeus says: “Mobile phones provide near ubiquitous access to internet across much of the continent and data collected across all markets show that African travellers are ready and willing to transact on mobile and online platforms.”

Key findings from the report have shown:

Travellers increasingly take control of their bookings using online tools

• 16% of travellers book with online travel agencies
• 34% still prefer the High Street travel agent
• 36% of travellers book directly with the service provider, such as the airline or the hotel

Travel Management Booking shows geographical and demographic differences

• In Ghana, 41% of travellers book through an agency that has a website
• In Nigeria, 25% of travellers opt to book through travel agencies who are operating exclusively online
• 49% of South African travellers book directly with the provider

Travel planning happens in a relatively short time

• 61% of male travellers book less than one month in advance, as opposed to 52% of female travellers.
• 36% of female travellers prefer to book between one and three months in advance
• South African travellers plan further ahead as compared to their Ivory Coast and Kenyan counterparts
• 38% of South African travellers book between one and three months in advance, as compared to 9% of Kenyan travellers and 8% of Ivory Coast travellers

Travellers want to manage travel themselves

• Move towards self-management of travel services across the travel experience: pre-booking travel research, through to booking, and managing a travel experience.
• 46% of those polled say they would go online to book and confirm their hotel
• 47% would happily change their hotel booking
• 55% would share their trip on social media
• 45% would rate and review a hotel, activity, airline or travel agency.

Travel app usage

• African travellers share similar requirements from mobile travel apps, with demand across the board for itinerary management, booking management, social network integration and rating and review services.

Preferred payment methods

• Mobile payments still represent a small proportion of payment for travel services booked, with direct deposits to a travel agency still the bulk at 36% of those polled, and 25% directly with the supplier.
• Compared with other African markets, Angola, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Senegal lag in terms of paying for services with a smartphone.
• 46% of travellers who have not paid for services using a smartphone cite security concerns as the main barrier for adoption.

The Preferred Hotel Group rebrands

The Preferred Hotel Group, a global collection of independent luxury hotels, has introduced its move from a multi-brand portfolio to one master brand, Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
The Preferred Hotel Group rebrandsThe rebranding exercise will help travellers to identify the hotel that will provide them with a luxury experience that meets their life and style preferences for each occasion, more easily.

Guests can now browse and book stays at any of the 650 hotels, resorts, and luxury properties within the Preferred Hotels & Resorts portfolio via the new brand website,

“In a time when travellers are overwhelmed by the multitude of new hotel brands, we are going back to the foundation on which our company was built to provide clarity during the travel planning process,” said Lindsey Ueberroth, President and CEO. “As one brand, Preferred Hotels & Resorts will more effectively serve today’s travellers as the world’s most trusted resource for authentic, and memorable independent hotel experiences.”

Understanding that travellers have different objectives for each individual trip, each property within the new brand portfolio has been aligned with one of five collections: Legend, LVX, Lifestyle, Connect, and Preferred Residences. Addressing evolving consumer expectations and changing travel trends, the collections provide a more intuitive way for guests to research, select and book travel by defining hotels based on the type of luxury experience they offer. On the new website, guests can search for a hotel by collection or by other preferences such as hotel name, experience, location and price point.

New standards for traveling well

“Our new branding empowers today’s dynamic travellers to determine exactly what will make each trip feel luxurious, expanding the definition of luxury travel beyond the confines of traditional perceptions such as white gloves or stars,” said Ueberroth. “By doing so, Preferred Hotels & Resorts will set new standards for traveling well.”

Whether choosing an iconic destination resort for a family celebration or a well-located hotel with personalised service, all guests of Preferred Hotels & Resorts will experience high quality standards and unparalleled service. Every hotel in the portfolio is required to maintain by the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Integrated Quality Assurance Programme, which combines traditional on-site inspection scores with real-time social media reviews.

To enhance their independent hotel experience further, travellers can enrol in the iPrefer guest loyalty programme, which rewards members with points redeemable for free nights and other expenditures, elite status, and special benefits such as complimentary internet at more than 550 participating properties worldwide.

To experience the new Preferred Hotels & Resorts and to browse the brand’s worldwide portfolio, go to

Europe Tour Planning: The Best Way To Have A Descent And Memorable Trip

Why is that most of the people like about Europe? For some it is the rich cultural diversity and for others the grandeur of the man made structures along with scenic beauty in the background. The people are good and one can hardly face any problem. Moreover, it is easily accessible too. As Europe is such a vast continent, it is not that easy to accommodate all the places of interest. If you are running out of ideas, then it is time that you should approach professionals to help you out. This is what Europe tour planning is all about. rnrnThe best way is to prioritize the places of interest that you intent to visit. If you are intrigued with the man made structures and a history buff then you mention it clearly. If you are more interested in the scenic beauty then you mention it too. This way you can decide upon where you want to visit. Moreover, your budget is something which you must take in to account. rnrnWith the help of Europe tour planning, you will be able to get the best trip of your life, which will certainly enthrall you for the rest of your life. However, a lot depends on the planning stage, as it is only through a proper planning that you can have the Europe trip in a convenient and hassle free manner. Planning ensures you a good trip and that to with the best of prices; otherwise your trip may turn to be disastrous. rnrnA proper tour planning essentially covers the various aspects. Right from booking and reservation of hotels to taxis, everything is done in advance. This means you will hardly find any difficulty while making the trip. rnrnNowadays, there are lots of online sites available from where you can collect the information related to Europe. Accordingly, you will be assisted in planning the trip and that too in a way that covers all that you are interested in within a low budget. rnrnEurope tour planning is a way through which you can have the best trip of your life. This planning will help you get the best trip out of Europe within a limited budget.