So I've been a bit quiet as of late due to school setting back in. But now that I'm back in the groove of things, I'm hoping to start updating here frequently again. Ive just recently posted a new track title "Back Down Again" which is the result of screwing around on the Kaossilator and whatnot. I can't say it's the best thing of all time, and I haven't really had a chance to finish it. But if anyone has the time, give it a listen and tell me what you guys think!
Now that I've gotten a little bit of recording underway, I have to say that knowing the tools you use whether for recording, composition, or any thing else in between is paramount. Case in point: I decided to try and record demos of the songs and then take what poetry I have and convert it to lyrics, then I'll try to shape the demo based on vocals and record a drum track from these basic demos. While doing this, I'm ever thankful for Mixcraft 6 and my GT-100 pedal board. However, there are problems with recording using the pedal board: random peaking. This doesn't register in the DAW as a peak, but it's very audible and there's some high-frequency fuzz that seems to come out when using it for bass. Again, know your tools people and they can help you! My failing here is that I probably haven't figured out the right on-board levels to keep it from peaking. This doesn't bother me as much because I intend to half-ass these demos only so I can get an overall idea of the sound and how it's going to change when I do this or that. But I plan on fixing this when I sit down to actually work everything out with the drum track. Bottom line: if there's a problem, consult the manual or find a book/forum, the solution is out there!
With that said, I would now like to take a moment and plug a very good tool for composition: Band in a Box. This tool is great for generating ideas, however my suggestion would be not to overtly copy anything from it as it has a tendency to produce very generic results. All the same though it's a great little tool with tons of styles and components I have yet to even break into. The earlier versions aren't too expensive either and seem to give very similar results to later versions (as far as I can see).
On to the next bit: rhythm. I know I've stated quite a few times that rhythm is king in the process of writing a song, but even then I have understated its value. Rhythm (along with other factors pertaining to the style) can turn just three chords into something bluesy or jazzy or funky or punk rock or whatever! This is great news, because by just changing the rhythm of something, even to a small degree, you can add a different feel to things. However rhythm can also be a curse when you get locked into certain patterns. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but similar rhythms can contribute to your material sounding the same. Yeah sure you take a band like the White Stripes and you hear Meg playing just about the same rhythm everywhere, but we could just as well say that that's an element of their style. Whatever it is, if you're having problems coming up with something interesting or something "new" try a change of rhythm here and there. Instead of a half note, hold the chord out for a whole note, or just play the chord on a quarter or eighth note. You'd be surprised how much room this frees up to add something in! You'd also be surprised how much better something might sound if you took a few things out and made it more simple! Either way, this is a problem I experience and I hope to overcome, so I wish the same to any of you also experiencing this problem.
As usual, good luck to all your endeavors, any and all anonymous readers and thank you for tuning in.
Another thing that's been on my mind in regards to the writing process is how songs like Lowdown by Boz Scaggs can be so simple. I recommend this song to anyone because this song is not only just a great song but it has a treasure trove of things to learn from. First off, it's a perfect example of how a song doesn't need much to be great. It's literally two chords for the most part: a Gmaj7 (some also say Em9, but that's basically the same thing) to an A13. So you get this creamy maj7 chord and then a little bit of tension with the 13 chord, resolving back down to the maj7. If you were to analyze this as just a basic triad on the guitar, you end up with B D F# with the D moving simply to Db and then back to D, so literally just one note changes!
Now why do I find this so interesting? Because the whole song is built from just these two! And then it gets even better. It adds dynamics by having a section that starts with Dmaj7, and then has a chromatic walk down through C# to C to B. And then there's just a part where it changes the key up a whole a step from D major to E major, or if you want to get modal, G lydian to A lydian.
So after going over this song a great deal, I realized another important part that I can't go without talking about: dynamics. I honestly feel like this is something that can really make a song shine. Again, this may be a somewhat obvious thing, but I feel it's less obvious than the process of writing a song because even if you finish a song, no one can tell you how the final product should sound. What can you do to make the song sound less like a simple repetition of all the elements? I think it might go something like this:
Layering<Musical Dynamics<Modulation<Melodic Variation<Rhythmic Variation<Combination of any of the preceding.
Layering is cool because you can add new elements like a keyboard, backing vocals, a guitar solo, whatever. This can add a lot of power to a section, I think, by filling out the sound. However, layering can also seem like a cheap way to vary a section by simply adding a new sound to fill out the mix.
Musical dynamics are more important than layering because this varies the overall sound that the listener is used to hearing. Going from loud to soft or vice versa is a very effective way to change the context of a certain section. Going quiet may mean the vocalist or instrument is going to say or play something that's very sentimental or important, etc. depending on the context of it. The same could be said for a part being loud. This all just depends on the context, I think.
After musical dynamics, there is a more important and more profound method of shaping song dynamics: modulation. Moving to a different key has a very jarring sound, especially if it's unexpected. And if you play something like Jazz, then you can evoke this same feeling using wholetone scales/diminished scales/bebop scales and what have you to introduce "outside" elements. I would even say that the latter method can sometimes be more satisfying since part of the music moves outside of the expected chord changes, and eventually resolves after producing so much tension. In fact, I would just group with modulation the idea of producing tension in the music anyway since the methods you can use to produce more tension can also allow you to modulate (secondary dominants, etc.).
The last three I mentioned are interesting ways to vary a song, no doubt. But if you imagine a song being structured with the rhythm and melody at its core, the chord changes being the layer surrounding it, and the final layer around that being the way a song sounds altogether with all of its elements, then the last three only really change those first two layers. The core of the song remains the same. So what would happen if you changed the melody of the whole thing and used a new riff or melody as your main theme for a new section? This would definitely be interesting since the listener may have been surprised by the other things, but a new melody would create an entirely new context for the song to operate in, surprising the listener even more.
Finally, rhythmic variation could literally change the entire scope of things. Granted, rhythmic and melodic variation should probably be present in some small amounts just to keep the song lively, but what I mean here is an entire overhaul of the rhythm or melody. To me, rhythmic variation can be more effective than melodic variation because the melody depends on the rhythm and if you change the rhythm, not only have you changed the feel and general theme of the song, but you will have forced the melody to vary itself in order to fit the new rhythm.
With all that, the final method would be to combine the other elements in clever ways to produce entirely new sections for your music. Any one of these methods used by themselves could be effective, but taken together, you could produce some very satisfying twists to the music. Of course the point isn't to make the song an entirely different song. You'll still probably need elements of repetition to drive home the melody and sound of the song, but these things can definitely help spice it up and much like with real spices, too much could spoil things.
That's really all I had to say for now, so, as usual, to any of you reading, good luck in all your endeavors. I hope that maybe some of this is helpful, because I know figuring this kind of stuff out (however inaccurate I may find it to be in the future) is helping me.
As promised, I'm going to try and keep a somewhat half-assed progress log of thoughts and work done in regards to my music. With that in mind, I figure that in this first post I should probably talk about what I think is the most important part of the whole process of music making: writing.
Throughout the last five or so years I've been making or helping make music with a few bands. Sometimes songs would already be written and I would just add something here or there either vocally or with my keyboard. Other times, I would attempt to write the whole thing using my guitar. For the last two bands I was in, I did most if not all of the songwriting and now that it's just me I've realized some very important things about the process itself.
One, the process of writing a song is very personal and is usually different from person to person. Even with that said, the same person might employ multiple different methods for writing a song.
Two, jams don't necessarily make a song. I remember reading some great advice from a few articles online that said that the vocal melody or guitar melody/riff should probably be singable to make it more likeable. If you can't hum the melody, then you probably won't remember it and neither will anybody else. Because of the nature of jams, they don't always have a main melody and most of the jams I have had involved vocals probably 2% of the time. These jams were just endless solos and melodic phrases thrown over two, three, or four chord riff loops while a drummer happily chugs along helping to fuel the groove. This leads me to my next point-
Three, jams should probably provide you with ideas but nothing more until a main melody is identified. Why? Well, it appears to me that in the kingdom of song, rhythm is king, and the melody is queen. The rhythm will set the feel and tone of a song, whereas the melody will give the song its actual content. Seeing as how the king will do anything to make his queen happy, usually the rhythm helps to serve the melody. Basically without that melody, it's much harder to actually create a song. The rhythm however is a great starting place for figuring out this melody.
I know all of this is ultra basic and even beginning songwriters might think, "Well, duh". But this is powerful information because if a song does not have a strong melody, then it might not be that great. Hell, it might not even work out as a song. These realizations have helped me analyze the main crux of the writing/recording process I've been through in these aforementioned bands.
Songs that had a main melody and were built to serve that main melody usually were not only easy to prepare and record, but they also didn't sound half bad! However, every other song that didn't have a strong melody and was really just a mish-mash of jam bits didn't come out quite as well. In fact, those songs are still to this day unfinished! But why? Because the songs did not actually have a main melody and were not built around it. And they sucked.
Granted, I'm not saying this is the only way a song can operate, but look at many pieces of music. They all have identifiable riffs, themes, motifs, melodies and what-have-you's.
I think a large part of the problem I've been having with writing and the indecision that I experience when doing so is the lack of a vocal melody or a strong other melody. I specifically say vocal melody because I was in choir for quite some time and when I used to write music I would start with the vocals and add on to it. But then in eighth or ninth grade I picked up a guitar and no longer used the keyboard as much. Now after all these years, I start with riffs and licks and guitar stuff first. I feel like this has been the ultimate downfall of the music I've been making.
Simply put, songs usually have vocals (the word song originating from sing), thus it stands to reason that if vocals come first and a strong melody is identified, you can build things more easily around that. And who would have thought? When I made a joke song some weeks back and started with a melody, it easily came together. But when I sit down with my more "serious" material and try to insert a vocal melody, it's a great deal harder because the vocals now serve the instruments. The melody is now serving the accompaniment.
Of course if that's how you write songs and they come out just fine, that's great! Wonderful, in fact. I think it's more of an issue of needing practice more than anything on my part. But all the same, I think I've now identified a more reasonable approach. My plan is to take the music I have and save it as ideas to pick from for each respective song. After reading some advice from other articles online, I feel like it is paramount to always title these jams and ideas with something that fits the mood it evokes, maybe a theme that I feel needs to be expressed by this song. Then from there, generate some words, ideas, imagery that seem to fit it. After that, maybe make a simple rhythm track with a drum machine and then figure out the key of the song.
Once all of that is done, I'll write some lyrics and then try to use the key and rhythm track to figure out a melody. I've already decided that I'll know when the melody is right when I can't part with it. It'll be right when I love it so much I even consider ripping apart my dear children (jams and music ideas) just to properly serve it. Then the lyrics may end up with re-writes as well as minor alterations to the vocals until the ideas serve the melody and the melody is more refined. Once that is done, come up with more ideas for the song, rinse and repeat until the full song is written.
I know for some of you (if any) reading this, it might sound to you like I'm some over analytical dumbass. But for some reason I think too much about the stuff I really want to work on and end up being very indecisive about where to take it. Again, this is normally because, in my opinion, there's no vocal melody for the music to serve. Also, like I said, songwriting is a very personal process so the best any musician can do, I think, is to figure out which methods best help him/her to get it done and get it done well. My way might not work for other people and I have yet to see if I will actually profit from this backwards method. But it's a start and if it allows me to actually accomplish what I set out to do then that's all that matters.
For any of you reading, let me know your thoughts on my process and how you go about writing songs in the comments! And as always I wish you good luck in all your own endeavors.
Heyo there guys! This is my first time posting on here in a while. I decided to somewhat move away from my old account on here to dillonbroadus, and attempt to actually make some content with that account, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with keeping this account, with its ridiculous past in the forums, and using it for content. Y'see tylerghardin and I are great friends and we attempt to push ourselves to do our best and get some work out. Having been a part of five different failed bands (all throughout the years, not all at once! haha) I've decided to somewhat tackle music by myself and try to get out a collection of music on soundcloud/bandcamp, probably five songs for now.
I'm very excited to get to work on it and possibly put some other loose things on here. Maybe try to get into the game music scene on newgrounds. Either way, I've got that collection and another little thing I intend to put on here in the summer. I'm currently in college though so there will be times when I don't update for a while, but I'll try as best I can to produce content in a timely fashion.
I've been coming here for many years and sucking up lots of content, so I figure it's time to finally put some stuff on here and become an active participant in the community. That being said, the collection should be out in about a two months or so, depending on how long it takes to finish writing, sequence the jams/voice memos into workable demos, record and mix everything together. I'm also definitely down to collab at any point, so if you hear something you like, hit me up and let's make something! And with that, I wish you luck to all your endeavors, anonymous reader.
P.S. I've been reading a book called "Show Your Work". This book is absolutely fantastic, along with "How to Steal Like an Artist". I definitely recommend them. It's really making me consider posting about each song or writing about the process as it comes along. God knows I would love it if one of my favorite bands or musicians did that because it would be very helpful to me as a musician. So maybe if I update with each thing, it might somehow in some infinitesimally small way be helpful to somebody else. Who knows?
P.P.S. If you see me being an asshole to tylerghardin, don't mind it. It's all in good fun!