Running Your Own Recording Studio

General Stalin

Crow
Gold Member
^ I personally think mixing a subwoofer into your monitoring setup is no good. Most any half-decent monitor will be bass-y enough, and a specified low-frequency speaker in your setup is just going to confuse your ears. that's just my personal take.

My cheapo $150/pair M-audio's have a satisfying amount of of frequency range response and plenty of low-end punch for my monitoring purposes - and I record a lot of metal with super punchy kick drum, bass-y snare, chunky bass guitar, and low-tuned electric guitar.

RedPillUK said:
It got me thinking into what is the best way to write music? Clearly writing music in a band situation is unnecesarily complicated and democratic. However I like to bounce ideas of other people, so I think writing music with one other person might be ideal. It would be even better if they had completely different skills to you, so I am thinking someone with more experience in the technology side of the things rather than the musical side. In addition I would like to work with a singer and lyricist as well, these are also things I'm not good at. That's why I mention the collaboration idea.

Song writing has a lot to do with the genre and the dynamic of your group - or lack thereof if you are a solo artist.

One of my favorite metal bands of all time is Meshuggah. 5 guys, and the drummer writes all the music, even the lyrics. He will put together a rough idea for a song, show it to the guitarists who might make some tweaks and/or throw in some input, and he hands the lyrics to the singer who makes it fit to the song. They've been doing it that way for almost 30 years as far as I know.

There is more than one school of thought when it comes to how you write music. You can play to your own strengths and collaborate with others to pick up the slack of the other parts of the composition, or you work on your craft and diversify your skillset to become a sort of jack-of-all.

My greatest skill is screaming metal vocals. Sounds silly to most people, but it is indeed a skill that not a lot of people can be great at. Second to that is composing guitar. Below that is drums, and below that is bass. I have practically no ear for composing good hooks for clean/classical singing, writing piano, and am very basic at putting together synth/techno/hip-hop beats.

I would like to be more of a "jack-of-all" and get stronger in those weak areas, especially since I have made a shift from artist to engineer and it would behoove me to have a better trained ear in more areas.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
RedPillUK said:
It got me thinking into what is the best way to write music? Clearly writing music in a band situation is unnecesarily complicated and democratic. However I like to bounce ideas of other people, so I think writing music with one other person might be ideal. It would be even better if they had completely different skills to you, so I am thinking someone with more experience in the technology side of the things rather than the musical side. In addition I would like to work with a singer and lyricist as well, these are also things I'm not good at. That's why I mention the collaboration idea.

I'm not so interested in collaboration, let me brutal. Also, let me explain: I am pretty self sufficient with this stuff. Been doing it a long time. Had chart success with my band in the UK - Top 20 stuff. But none of that counts for shit.

You asked a good question RedPillUK, I will try to answer it.

"What is the best way to write music?"

It's quite simple, but a little painful. You have to go outside of yourself. You have to have a 'safe space' (j/k), but no really, you do have to have a very comfortable space where you can make some noise. I'm not talking about volume, I'm talking about singing out of tune, about you getting outside of your comfort zone.

You need to pick your weapon of choice. Mine is an acoustic guitar. Tuned down a whole tone. What is yours? Do you have a favourite instrument? A trusty steed? A weapon for battle that you know will not let you down? If not, get one. It could be anything. A banjo, a ukelele, a skiffle board. Just get one. You get the point.

So, you have your weapon of choice, your trusty steed. You have your 'safe space' (sorry), and you feel comfortable about making a twat of yourself, not to others, but, and here is the kicker, to yourself. That is the biggest obstacle you can ever overcome.

To get to the level I'm at, I had to work day in day out, constantly making a total idiot of myself, just to get that little bit of edge. Sure, I could write a song. A decent song. But they weren't international no.1 best sellers. Until, after too many days I care to remember, it finally came good.

My personal humiliation made me numb to myself. I expected it. I became one with it. I probably even wallowed in it a bit. Until the day, the breakthrough came. Like all breakthroughs, it came unexpected, despite myself. Despite my best and my worst efforts.

You know, you just know. You do a double head turn and check yourself in the mirror. WTF. Did I just do that. Let me do it again to prove it. Damn, can't do it again.

Back to the drawing board. Was it all an illusion? The product of a diseased mind that has lost its perspective. Exactly what am I trying to achieve here> that's right> writing a great song.

Now, though you may be a great singer, it don't make you a great song writer. And a great song writer is not necessarily a great singer. I'm a pain in the arse to myself. I'm constantly writing great songs that I can't sing. I sound like a complete and utter twat trying to reach female vocal registers (I write for female perspective very often - sorry, I'm no Kris Kristoferson ;-)). I sing falsetto if I have to, I don't care.

So I am constantly writing songs I can not sing. But some one else can. That is your objective as a songwriter. If you are just writing songs that only fit the register of your voice, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. You are not letting go into the mystic.

Most of my songs are shit. Why? Not just because I can't sing them (I have a limited octave span), just because they aren't very good. But they are nice songs, little ditties, and I cannnabilise them for later.

When you tap in to the muse, you too, will find that your songs don't have much to do with you. You become a seer. An antenna. You let it go through you, picking up the bits best you can. And maybe, maybe, if you are lucky, and you work hard enough, 10 percent of that is good enough to go away and work on, to share with others.

You don't need nothing else but a new guitar (or an old guitar) and a nice quiet place to let go without inhibitions. In that place, without inhibitions, you will meet yourself, and that is where the battle starts. You soldier on. You learn to laugh at your terrible voice. You learn to laugh at the little nursery rhymes you just made up. You play about with the form, like Picasso.

Then you get it peer reviewed if you can take it. And that peer review might shake you to your depths. Be prepared for that. Be among friends for this, for those who are envious of your work will tell you it is no good. A friend will tell you when it is bad.

I can collaborate. I can write/produce/engineer/master.

But I love to draw out that seed, that talent that lurks within. If I produce your music, there is only one marker - you! If I can't make you feel like a million dollars, if I can't make you feel as if you just reached a new personal height, if I can't make you see the new perspective that you had in yourself all along, then I have failed in my mission to produce you and bring out your deepest musical abilities.

I would not be adverse to meeting up sometime and just kicking it about. Perhaps with my Zoom digi recorder. Perhaps with some other portable recording equipment. Perhaps, just two men and their guitars for fun.

If you have a desire to write music and write songs, and that desire is strong enough, no matter how untalented you are, you can make it good. And that is not snake oil. I'm proof. It took me decades to just reach that point. And before it I was shit. Really shit. Chart success be damned, I was still shit.

Now, birds come and sing at my window when I play.

:)
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
Mr. D said:
General Stalin said:
Studio Monitors + Headphones
You want to hear what you are recording right? Studio monitors (speakers) can be a real sticking point for a lot of gear fags, but it doesn't need to be that complicated. Studio monitors are different than just normal computer desktop speakers in that they are designed to voice "true sound" and any decent monitor will be self-powered, un-EQ'd, and takes balanced cable inputs. You do not need to spend shit loads of money on monitors... though you certainly can. I use these cheapos:

http://www.m-audio.com/products/view/bx5-d2#.Vzyg7zdriUk

Even cheap monitors aren't cheap - these ones are about $150/each, but they are important.

Another important element is headphones. Your clients will need these as will you - I recommend getting a couple pairs. The biggest thing I can stress about headphones is make sure they are durable. Headphones get tugged on, dropped, etc. Something with a long thick cord, and sturdy construction is good.

I have a pair of shitty cheap Shure headphones that I will be replacing with something better soon. Again, you don't need to be paying buku bucks for a set of studio headphones. You can get an adequate pair for around $150 or even less.

As far as monitors go, I've personally used the cheaper stuff like Behringers Truth B2031A monitors.
(Basically, they're Genelec-clones, so at about 200$ a pair, you really get your bang for the buck.)
Pro-tip: Skip on the subwoofer. Some people rely too much on the sub when mixing, which in turn gives a weird sound on a regular 2.0 speaker setup.
Instead, go for a pair of monitors with as wide a frequency range as possible.

Headphone-wise, I highly recommend Samson SR-850 cans. Great balanced sound, open-back construction (á la AKG 240) for 50-60$ for a pair.

As for testing the sound of the monitors/headphones (frequencies, separation etc.), to each their own,
although I personally recommend bands like Steely Dan, Toto, Lady Antebellum or anyone with an affinity for hi-fi sounding records.
And a bit of hip-hop to check the low-end. (Warren G's "Regulators" is a personal favorite.)

My personal rule of thumb being: If it sounds full at any volume, it's good.

Really, if you hang around the major audio forums long enough, they all say the same thing: Learn your equipment. Learn your speakers. Learn your room.

But you need external places to play your mixes to really learn. You might have the best set up in the world with acoustically treated walls and near field/close field monitoring, but if you don't get out there and see how those mixes translate then it is all for nothing.

You need to play it back in a car. That provides challenges in itself.
You need to get it played back in a club that probably has a mono system (most do) - did you check it for phase compatibility?
You need to play it back on really bad stereos.
You need to play it back on really good stereos.

That is four systems off the top of my head.

A great mix, or rather, a well mastered mix of a great mix, will see a good compromise between all those places. Sure, some might lack a bit, but none will be glaringly bad. If even one of those is glaringly bad. It's fail. Fail for everyone involved - musicians, engineers, mixers. Go home, start again. This shit is brutal.

So, I could say: Don't get the 8" speakers - too much bass, get the 6" with the sub-woofer - more controllable, but hopefully you see now, that it is not about your playback system, it's about how it plays back on others systems.

I'd really like for this discussion to not lose focus on the smaller details of production. Sure, by all means mention what works for you, tell us what you think, that's great, and adds something. But, there are many forums for that. I do it day in day out with many of them. It adds nothing.

I don't want this thread to be a pale imitation wannabee of commonly held or disputed knowledge, like those forums. I'd like it to be a place where we can go 'meta' and really share something special among ourselves. Technical stuff so often leads to bickering. It's fun for a while, but is not the bigger picture.

Just my humble thoughts on the matter. I hope I did not come across as too haughty about it all.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
Mr. D said:
My personal rule of thumb being: If it sounds full at any volume, it's good.

I think I see where you are coming from with that, but that only applies to music that has been finally mastered and is 'out there'. End product. The opposite is true when music is being made and 'produced' in the studio. Not all volumes are equal.

When you are monitoring, you have to take into consideration the non-linearity of human hearing. You have to know what a Fletcher-Munson curve is.

The vast majority of mixing is done at a level where people talking among themselves is audible within the control room. There is a reason for that. And it's not just because the people in the studio don't want to go deaf. Though fatigue is definitely a factor.

A solid foundation in psycho-acoustics is called for.

Mixes need to sound full at low volume, at high volume, in stereo, in mono, on unbalanced systems like cars where the bass may be disproportionately high, and most tellingly of all, on a good system where everything else sounds wonderful, so why does your shit sound like crap? ;-)

Then we have mixing on headphones. There is a major school of thought that says this should never ever be done under any circumstances. And then there is the other school of thought that says it is possible with programs like TB-Isone-Pro and all the other speaker simulation software. Professional mixers use it, and it obviously does work for them. So where does the truth lie?

I think I may be guilty of the very thing I am railing against: Becoming too technical for its sake. It's a rabbit hole. Perhaps another thread is in order for us to just knock this stuff about.

Apologies once again GS, if I took your thread too off-track.

And apologies Mr. D, if I took your quote out of context.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
AboveAverageJoe said:
MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
^^^Some would argue that the producer of the track should NOT necessarily be the person turning the nobs on the mix down.

Having a different set of ear helps; which is why the engineer is so important in the mastering process

Two totally different skillsets.

Co-sign. Originally Producer, Recording Engineer, Mixing Engineer, and Mastering Engineer were all different, individual veterans, with decades of experience in their individual fields. The digital revolution has caused everybody to think that if they can make a beat or run the DAW software, they can also wear all of the previous mentioned caps. It doesnt work that way. Different ears are needed on the project as well as listening to the final tracks from different sources before mastering.

I want to co-sign this as well. Ideally, you want to be working with people who are committed to the knowledge and manipulation as sound as you are to the knowledge and manipulation of music. Unless it's a dual obsession for you, don't be afraid to give up control.

For me, letting go of the production side of things was liberating. I was always a journeyman producer, at best, but now, working with a much older guy who knows sound backwards and handles production and post-engineering duties, no matter what device I'm listening to the mixes on, the tracks sound fantastic, and leap out of the speakers to hold the listener's attention. Audience engagement has shot up because of it, and very talented people now wanted to be involved.

He's dealing with very complex mixes - sometimes 80 tracks deep. My mix would sound OK, if mushy. He somehow sculpts out EQ ranges that let every competing part be heard.

That doesn't mean you still can't influence things: he was was completely against a technique I wanted at the beginning of the process, but, a couple of years later, he's come to realise just how powerful an emotional effect it is.

What letting go did was allow me to concentrate on the act of creation itself, and I've never experienced such an incredible burst of high-quality songwriting. I ended up with enough music for four albums, and no-one has been able to single out any dud tracks, bar the last one recorded, where I kind of sensed myself that I'd gone off the boil.

It's that kind of weightless zone every artist hopes to be in one day, and I purely put it down to knowing just how good a producer / engineer I had that I knew I had to step up my game to match his talent.

The other epiphany I had was simply this: I'm a Creator, not a refiner. I don't have the passion or real interest to mix a song perfectly, because I'm already writing the next one.

It's worth experimenting with producers for someone who might inspire this reaction in you. If you do find one you click with this way, cultivate your artistic relationship because this kind of bond is rare and precious.
 

germanico

Hummingbird
Gold Member
General Stalin said:
Vaun said:
Would you consider stocking the studio with instruments, or is that totally on the client to bring their own?

It's a good idea. Obviously a musician coming to record is going to have his/her own instrument(s) and will tend to prefer to play and record with that, but you have no idea of the condition of said instruments. It's smart to have your own stuff that you know is in good working order, and sounds great recorded. A couple years ago I was recording a friend of mine's album and he was using this beat up Epiphone SG where the neck was warped and would not hold tuning properly (you would tune it open but when fretted the notes would be wrong). You don't want that to be your only option.

I do effect pedals. Id say keep a few of those around too if you are going to keep a few decent instruments. Sometimes musicians have little experience playing live and have just no idea how their set up really sounds. Sometimes their pedals just dont record right, or have loopy settings that are difficult to replicate. And sometimes they just sound like shit.

A couple of fuzzes, a medium gain distortion/overdrive, tremolo, delay and a phaser and you are set up. Get what you use and set a small collection of the ones that just sound great.

I know most simply record the guitars clean and do the effects in editing, but for some things analog sounds just right.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
RedPillUK said:
It got me thinking into what is the best way to write music? [snip]

Rigsby said:
Also, let me explain: I am pretty self sufficient with this stuff. Been doing it a long time. Had chart success with my band in the UK - Top 20 stuff. But none of that counts for shit.

RedPillUK: I've been at this long enough to recognise Rigsby as an advanced talent from his observations alone. His advice is solid.

I'll add a few thoughts on creativity, artistry, collaboration and ego.

It's quite simple, but a little painful. You have to go outside of yourself. You have to have a 'safe space' (j/k), but no really, you do have to have a very comfortable space where you can make some noise. I'm not talking about volume, I'm talking about singing out of tune, about you getting outside of your comfort zone.

This comfortable space might be entirely-internal. I do some of my best writing simply by going for a walk, no matter the weather, and singing in my head. Again and again, I've seen the great songwriters I admire talk about how they were 'taking the dog for a walk and came back with this song.'

If there's a brain / body connection component to creativity, I suspect a firm awareness of place, (the weather, the seasons), and passing time, (decay and passage), takes your mind to a more naturally-reflective place, grounded in a recognisable human reality.

Another good 'safe space' is a Car. Put down some instrumental ideas, get in your car, drive and sing. Experiment, refine.

You need to pick your weapon of choice. Mine is an acoustic guitar.

I write in a variety of ways. Maybe I'm jamming on an instrument. Maybe I come up with a fully-arranged backing track and find the melody later, though I'm usually sure of what the main hook will be. Maybe I'm working around the house and the melody comes first and I find the harmonic backing later. Sometimes, but not often, I'll write the lyric first and come up with the music based on it.

As such, I'm not tied to one working process and one instrument, and the songs vary as a result, and I'd suggest trying this yourself.

If I'm structuring a song, I prefer to work on Piano or Acoustic Guitar. I picked up a cheap acoustic a few years ago which, for some reason, is simply the most comfortable guitar I've ever played - as I've never been much of a guitarist. I sat down to figure out "Well, what can I do on this?" and songs ended up just falling out of it. The thing is blessed. A couple of years later, and, huh, I can sort of play guitar in such a unique way that no-one really notices that I can't really play guitar, if that makes sense, (and it's funny that now I can recognise some very famous guitarists with obvious-limitations).

As such, step outside your comfort zone as much as possible. My producer, complimented me on a bizarre key change into a breakdown on one song 'that technically shouldn't work but is genius'. That's because I only knew four chords on the mandolin at the time, and they were all in that key.

Never be afraid to pick up an unfamiliar instrument, because you might be able to ornate the idea you come up with on an instrument you can play.

When you've structured the song, play it repeatedly. If your melody holds up with such a bare piano or guitar arrangement, you have a solid song, and then it's a matter of finding the right interpretation of it in the arrangement. If you're working with a band, you can either take this basic acoustic arrangement to them and build it together, or do a full arrangement yourself first that the band might choose to refine or discard entirely.

To get to the level I'm at, I had to work day in day out, constantly making a total idiot of myself, just to get that little bit of edge. Sure, I could write a song. A decent song. But they weren't international no.1 best sellers. Until, after too many days I care to remember, it finally came good.

This is the harsh, uncomfortable truth of the matter, and why, like Rigsby, I'm wary of collaboration with others. Songwriting is work. Damn hard work. It's taken me years to get on a level I'd consider as matching my heroes, and to the stage where I can work really hard on a song, spend hours recording it, and am quite happy to mentally-file it away for 'the box set' if I think it's a good, but not a great, song, (though this can cause issues with my collaborators if its one of their favourites).

One of the guys I work was saying how my songs are always 'So great', and I said "You only think that because you didn't hear the 35 years of fucking terrible songs I wrote to get here."

I've been writing since I was 9 or 10. You have to write and write to get the crap out of your system, to follow dead ends and experiment in ways that only guarantee failure, but never get discouraged by this and learn from each mistake. My personal mantra: maybe this song sucks, but the next song will be better.

Now, the other harsh reality is that most musicians get into the field to avoid work entirely, and this has been the frustration of working with every band I've ever been in: I'm the hardest working member, by far. A few bands failed on the verge of finally breaking because the band saw the record company attention as signs they were now 'big rock stars' and egos got out of control, and they became 'too important' to both with things like rehearsals or songwriting sessions.

I remember fronting a band with two songwriters where one of them got such a big ego after being signed, he drove the other one out during the recording process, and told me I could chose to leave too. This is how he discovered the record company had only originally signed the band because they thought the other guy's songs were good enough to break America with, and the company scaled the project back to an EP that was never released.

It's been the same story again and again. If you're aiming to make a piece of music great, you don't want to be hamstrung by people who are aiming for good enough. Why just jam into the intro when that guitar lead could define the song and become Iconic? Why just repeat the chorus to fade instead of writing a killer outro? Music is for the ages.

You either get this instinct or you don't, and this is why I now choose to do as much as I can myself, because I'm the only one reliable and committed enough to not accept mediocrity.

How committed? Here's something I only vaguely mentioned on here in passing:

About two years back, you'll see me vanish from the forum for a couple of months. I'd taken a blow with a stick to the eye socket during an acting role when my partner in the scene didn't hit his mark correctly. Soon after, I was having serious periods of headaches and extreme dizziness, bad enough that the room would spin and I'd have no choice but throw up. The Indian Specialist here did some tests and told me the most likely explanation was that I had a brain tumour, handed me some steroids to stop the swelling and booked me in for a MRI in a couple of days so they could figure out where they'd be targetting the radiation treatments. Meanwhile, I'm two songs from finishing an album great enough that I'd consider it my life's work as a songwriter.

I realise I'm carrying a few people in this band, and we've worked so damn hard on this so far, that, well, a fucking brain tumour isn't going to stop me.

I usually record on a high stool. I find a low chair, set up the mics, grab the acoustic and a bucket, and start recording. The room spins, the fretboard goes in and out of focus, and I throw up between takes, but I get the acoustic rhythm track down in about 20 minutes. It's not complex - just strumming - but it needs powerful energy to drive the song.

Then I double it. Throw up.
And triple it. Running with sweat. Throw up some more.
And quadruple it. I always lay down four passes to be able to bring them up for dynamic purposes.

I move to the keyboard that I've lowered right down, and start putting on the piano whilst singing the melody in my head.

That's when I realise I've fucked up, and I've taken it ever-so-slightly too fast, (only about 4 bpm, which sounds like nothing but it is too hard to sing). I try timestretching it as I shake with fever, feeling like I'm going to die. The resulting audio artifacting on the track offends my standards.

I realise I have to start all over, and, as sick as I am, do so.

I get both tracks completed before my MRI. They're killer songs. I was even sicker during the second one, and it came out drugged and lethargic, but so beautifully-suited the lyric that I realise now I couldn't have picked a better feel.

The MRI showed the Specialist was full of shit, the steroids were the worst possible thing he couldn't have given me, and showed what the real problem was, which was easily-fixed, though I now have a regular routine of vision exercises I do each morning to stem off any issues.

Can you see why I prefer to work alone? Who else could I find to match my level of dedication to art? When a collaborator pusses out and tells me to just 'cut and paste' a bit he played because it's too much effort spending five minutes doubling it, you can see why I don't have much sustained interest in working with lazy people.

So, if you're looking for serious collaborators to work with, understand that you should be offering them a deep level of commitment. It's simply artistic respect. Life's too short to be mediocre, you know?

My expectations aren't as unrealistic as they sound: two producer friends in California started an album two years ago that was interrupted by one of them being diagnosed with cancer. The bastard recorded his remaining lead vocals lying on his back in bed, in between his chemo treatments. He's in remission, for now. The album's out soon. Respect.

So I am constantly writing songs I can not sing. But some one else can. That is your objective as a songwriter. If you are just writing songs that only fit the register of your voice, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. You are not letting go into the mystic.

You really get it, mate. I always fronted hard rock and punk bands. I've only had singing lessons to learn how to sing properly the last few years. Along the way, I realised my songs were for everyone to sing so started taking more chances with the writing. If I end up breaking outside my indie cult audience, I expect covers, particularly in the country market, though my sound isn't remotely country.

Then you get it peer reviewed if you can take it. And that peer review might shake you to your depths. Be prepared for that. Be among friends for this, for those who are envious of your work will tell you it is no good. A friend will tell you when it is bad.

It's hard, but you learn to weigh how seriously you should criticism based upon recognising who possesses the talent to offer valid criticism. The majority of people aren't on my level, and most criticism is a form of restriction and resentment: how dare you make me look mediocre? I can't even begin to estimate the amount of people who have never written or performed one song in their life tell me all the vaguely-described, yet drastic-sounding changes I should make to a song that would make it 'so much better'.

Meanwhile, my producer handed back one song back to me, that he loved the backing for, once he heard the intended melody and lyric: "You can do better."

Did i think "You bastard? Why don't you recognise my genius?"

No. This guy knows his stuff. So, no ego, no resentment. Just: "How can I make this better?" Problem solving mode. I threw out a very 'clever' lyric and a complex melody, and worked and worked in the car on it for a week or so, driving around, listening to it. I ended up with an entirely-different melody and a completely-new lyric, laid down a sketch vocal in a 'how about this, smartarse?' manner - (ok, maybe there was a little bit of resentment) - and waited.

His response. "Genius. What did I tell you?"

Learn to recognise who is pushing you to excel, and who is trying to hold you back.

If you have a desire to write music and write songs, and that desire is strong enough, no matter how untalented you are, you can make it good. And that is not snake oil. I'm proof. It took me decades to just reach that point. And before it I was shit. Really shit. Chart success be damned, I was still shit.

Beautifully put, mate. Like I said, I'm the product of years of work. Even now, people praise me, and, well, I have this overwhelming urge to say "Don't you hear how shit this is? I promise the next song will be better."
 

MY DETROIT PLAYAS

Ostrich
Gold Member
@AB I appreciate the honesty of that post.

I have been writing and performing since I was 8 or 9 as well. Music is a humbling thing, just when we feel we have it mastered, we fall flat on our face and have to be made aware (again) that it is a discipline where there are no real shortcuts.

I have toiled in groups who were on the verge of being signed only to have egos, uneven work habits and immaturity sabotage years of hard work. At one point I was using the group dynamic as a crutch; as much I love the camradarie and brotherhood I knew my true path was as a soloist. I found the most satisfaction when I can labor over a song, wrestle with a lyric or nitpick over phrasing.

The payoff was a fully formed chorus that express EXACTLY how I was feeling in the moment and space. Eventually every artist has to become as self-sufficient as possible as to not allow their vision to be compromised or totally muted. As an independent artist your soul is all that have left that hasn't been coopted. At the same time, I agree you have to have an impartial sounding board made up of people who know their stuff and respect you enough to tell you to head back to the drawing board. It not only helps pull the needed creativity out of you but works to keep the stubborn ego in check.

My collaborators have often get upset at me because my brain won't allow me to linger to much on one song or project. There was time that after penning a song, doing the publishing for it and memorizng it for a performance, I would stash it away for posterity. As was mentioned, I had no time for the refinery process; I wanted to create. As a songwriter you have to get "it" up out of you. A new song can come in an instant when I'm moving around, surrounding but new people or stimuli. It's only when I'm stagnant and in one place too long that it becomes like constipation taking months to finish. I've had some songs that resonated with people, but in my mind every new song is a challenge and that universally accepted song is still in my pen waiting to be written.

Being able to read about other guys' experience, expertise and hard-earned knowledge is inspiring and I find myself geeking out anytime I come across a discussion of the music creation process. My next personal goal is to master the drums.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
I haven't read any posts since my last one, and I'm going to go back and do that in a bit, but I just wanted to post this first.

I just took a dose of my own medicine, when I was giving a bit of a 'masterclass' to whoever with regard to songwriting. I also hope that General Stalin doesn't mind me using his thread as a bit of a vehicle for my own thoughts. It's a great thread, so I'm just going with it.

I just got a new guitar. Well, I got a couple of new guitars actually. One of them pretty expensive. Today I was just playing my new cheap Telecaster. You can pick them up for a 150 Bucks, so they don't cost much and they play great, and they are perfect for songwriting coz the Telecaster is probably the most acoustic of all electric guitars, imho.

The thing is, I have a deepish voice. Well, not deep deep, but a tone or so down from the average. When you start writing songs, learning your range and your octaves is absolutely crucial. I learned what worked for me, and having a bit of a background in music theory, I get by with tunings and whatnot.

The things is, even though I tune down a tone and a half to C# on the E string, that only tends to work when playing acoustic, which has thicker strings and therefore that holds its tuning better. The guitar I just got was fitted with 0.9s and even I play .10s when I play electric guitar. So, tuning this guitar down a tone and a half, really did not work at all. So I tuned it back up to concert pitch and had at it, like the advice I gave earlier - go outside of your comfort zone, experiment, sing things that are very obviously outside your range.

Oh, it was awful. I sounded drunk and all over the place. Then, something wondrous happened. I really was pushing it, voice cracking, but I went with it, and then it came good. All of a sudden, I'm singing like bloody Michael McDonald! WTF? Where did that shit come from. I'm not a soul boy. Well, I guess I am now. eh eh.

This is what I love. This is what saves me. What heals me. The magic that happens when you just give in to it all.

I must say, the songs I sang have been hard won. I wrote them myself but it is only in the last year or two where I can say that I am a songwriter now. Before that, I wasn't very good. Don't get me wrong. All present and correct, but I was still a faker. Well fake it to make it bros, coz that shit is for realz. Ahem...

When I put my producer hat on, I will get you to do one thing. And this one thing is the most important thing. I don't work with people whose music I don't respect, so you will be good if you get to work with me. And your music being good, you will probably be able to play it on some kind of instrument, probably a guitar. Most people can play guitar, it's the great leveler. So, what I will ask you to do, is to take your song and on your guitar, tune it down a whole tone, or maybe a semitone (whatever), and then tune it up a whole tone or whatever. So you are singing a song that you are familiar with, but there will be a radical change in timbre and feel just by exploring those two options - tone up, tone down.

You may find that the song actually works better at a higher register, or lower. If not, it might inform you that the key you have chosen is the correct one, but that little push you needed to do in the chorus on the tone up version is interesting and can be reworked and incorporated in to your normal tone version. This gets singers out of their comfort zone. They are usually a bit reluctant to start with, but it gives me a great opportunity to see how 'game' you are for exploring your own work, and is a good marker of how well we will probably get along in the confines of a studio. If you can't humour me on this point, there's no way you're going to let me push you for a 30th vocal take. It builds trust and is a good icebreaker. It shows you are thinking about things at a deeper level.

So, yeah, I took a taste of my own medicine and was working songs a whole tone and a half higher! That is a lot for someone with such a limited range as me. I'm also not a very good singer. I get by, but I was only graced so much in the vocal department. You work with what you have. The great thing about songwriting is that you can write for other people, so you don't need to be able to sing in tune or key, just the key that your intended target does. That's the theory.

In practice, you find some songs that are 'yours'. These songs you will know exactly what key is needed and what you can and can't do with them. You work around those parameters.

That is why I was so surprised that these songs took on a new life in these new keys. Also, the guitar that I'm playing now, I am absolutely smitten with. It was love at first sight, and it's only got better. I love everything about 'her' - the way she looks, the way she plays, the way she sounds. This is a 150 bucks guitar remember. You don't need to spend more to get into playing and songwriting.

What I'd really like is to get a few people like myself together and form a super group in the vein of Crosby, Stills and Nash. I'm big on Country at the moment. Well, Country Rock kind of thing. It's new and exciting to me, though I've dillied and dallied with it since I first started writing.

People laugh at you when you say you write Country music. Especially when you say you produce Hip-Hop as well. They really do think you are taking the piss. Until they hear the music. That is what being a producer is all about. It's about a deep seated respect for many types of music, with an ability to 'make records' that really bring out the best that people have to offer. It worked for Rick Rubin (who I don't identify with at all except for respect for what he has achieved). Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys etc. - so it is possible.

Writing is a totally different discipline to producing. These days, producing will involve audio engineering to an extent. You still have a discrete, dedicated engineer working for you (Producer is the Boss in the studio) and you will gain his respect by giving him respect for his art and craft (and science).

I'll let you in on a little secret: Audio Engineering is more difficult than producing. With producing, you either have it or you don't, with engineering, it is long hard hours of study. You really need to know your shit - people's lives are on the line with this! Don't believe me? Well, you get up on stage then in a thunder storm with an electric guitar strapped to your body, playing through an amp that is hopefully earthed. A dozen musicians die every year, live on stage like this. Be nice to your engineer!

When you give them respect and take them aside and say to them 'look, I really admire what you do. I'm really hoping you can help me out here and make this recording the best it can be before the mix engineers get their grubby mits on it - can we work together?' - that right there will set the tone and the bar of you both working together. He's either on board by that point or he's not. He might see it as a sign of weakness, but that is very doubtful. Too many engineers ended up producing whole albums, and weren't credited. There are loads of examples of that, some I know personally.

Anyway, this has gone from Songwriting 101, to Producing 101, all in General Stalin's thread. GS has been a pretty good sport so far, so hopefully he won't mind my latest 'train of thought' outburst. I'm going to go back and read the replies after my last post now. Just seemed easier to do it this way, after being on a bit of a buzz with my latest practice session. This is why I love to share and teach what I know. It always comes back to me tenfold.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
AboveAverageJoe said:
MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
^^^Some would argue that the producer of the track should NOT necessarily be the person turning the nobs on the mix down.

Having a different set of ear helps; which is why the engineer is so important in the mastering process

Two totally different skillsets.

Co-sign. Originally Producer, Recording Engineer, Mixing Engineer, and Mastering Engineer were all different, individual veterans, with decades of experience in their individual fields. The digital revolution has caused everybody to think that if they can make a beat or run the DAW software, they can also wear all of the previous mentioned caps. It doesnt work that way. Different ears are needed on the project as well as listening to the final tracks from different sources before mastering.

I want to co-sign this as well. Ideally, you want to be working with people who are committed to the knowledge and manipulation as sound as you are to the knowledge and manipulation of music. Unless it's a dual obsession for you, don't be afraid to give up control.

For me, letting go of the production side of things was liberating. I was always a journeyman producer, at best, but now, working with a much older guy who knows sound backwards and handles production and post-engineering duties, no matter what device I'm listening to the mixes on, the tracks sound fantastic, and leap out of the speakers to hold the listener's attention. Audience engagement has shot up because of it, and very talented people now wanted to be involved.

He's dealing with very complex mixes - sometimes 80 tracks deep. My mix would sound OK, if mushy. He somehow sculpts out EQ ranges that let every competing part be heard.

That doesn't mean you still can't influence things: he was was completely against a technique I wanted at the beginning of the process, but, a couple of years later, he's come to realise just how powerful an emotional effect it is.

What letting go did was allow me to concentrate on the act of creation itself, and I've never experienced such an incredible burst of high-quality songwriting. I ended up with enough music for four albums, and no-one has been able to single out any dud tracks, bar the last one recorded, where I kind of sensed myself that I'd gone off the boil.

It's that kind of weightless zone every artist hopes to be in one day, and I purely put it down to knowing just how good a producer / engineer I had that I knew I had to step up my game to match his talent.

The other epiphany I had was simply this: I'm a Creator, not a refiner. I don't have the passion or real interest to mix a song perfectly, because I'm already writing the next one.

It's worth experimenting with producers for someone who might inspire this reaction in you. If you do find one you click with this way, cultivate your artistic relationship because this kind of bond is rare and precious.

This is Gold!

I've yet to find someone to produce my most treasured and greatest songs. I could do it myself, but this is one area where I really don't want to fuck up!

That maybe sounds as if I don't have faith in my production abilities. Oh, but I do. In spades. But as AB has noted here and many other great songwriters have noted, it really can give you a bit of a leap, to let someone else handle technical duties (who you trust) and so you can concentrate on what you do best.

Yeah, yeah, Me ah a Producer (remember that reggae track?).

Producers are ten a penny. People who can write good songs are rare.

Let me share with you some of my musical theory on this matter.

Gentlemen, I present to you: LKS.

Now you don't want to have LKS, if you can help it. What is LKS? It is
quite simply this: Lenny Kravitz Syndrome.

Now, Lenny is a lovely chap. He is also extremely talented. So much so, he plays several instruments, very well. He also looks great, of that I'm sure we can agree. He's a bit of a dreadlocked God when he wants to be. He also is an exceptionally good singer.

(Bleedin' get to the point FFS Rigsby I hear you crying at the back.)

So, what is LKS? It is simply this: The worst curse any musician could ever have. You have it all, except for one fundamental thing: You can NOT write a decent tune. Finished. Goodnight. Over.

Lenny has it all, but the reason he is not taken seriously, is because he is putting himself out there as a songwriter, and he is mediocre at best in that department. Writing songs is hard. The pain curve you have to go through is more emotionally upsetting than many can take. A streak of masochism doesn't hurt here, or just the good old fashioned ability to ride through hardship, focusing on further rewards down the line.

So, of course, if you have good songs, you want a good producer/engineer to bring them to fruition.

Producers love working with people like you AB, and hate working with those whose egos have not been relinquished for the higher cause of better song productions. It takes a while to marry the two (producer and songwriter) but when done, then the sparks can fly. Then you need a great engineer. Usually the producer will know someone.

It's a team. Everyone knows their place.

What you come up with might never be heard, might be heard but never get anywhere. So be it. We are in the business of nurturing and recording great works, great songs. That is all.

This is the highest of art. Through the appliance of science.

And when it works... Oh man, when it works... there is a thrill you get. Let's just say that thrill is comparable to sex and to cocaine (if that is your thing). It's addictive and you want to do it again. Coz it just feels so god damned good.

There's more to life than money. More to life than sex. More to life than drugs. This is one of those things. There aren't many of them.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
More Gold...

Yes, more Gold from AB. Thanks for sharing. I see we possibly have similar sensibilities.

Would it be possible for me to steal this line: "You bastard? Why don't you recognise my genius?", to have printed up on T-Shirts for the next band I produce? Hopefully they get the joke. Perhaps they will think that that catchy phrase is an extension of MY ego, and not theirs. Eh eh, that would be funny. In which case, my T-Shirt would read: "You bastardS? Why don't you recognise my genius?" - that would be even funnier, especially if I was the only one wearing the T-Shirt at the time.

Food for thought. Whatever it takes to get them going.

But seriously folks...

A lot of people want to play this part. Want to be in this game. It's the best game in the world when it works. It's being gifted the keys to the kingdom. Women that would not have pissed on you if you were on fire, stare at you, next to their boyfriends, who are also staring at you, so don't notice. It's just weird. Fame is a serious delusion. Really, women will fuck you just coz you're in the band. So everyone wants a bit of this, if they can.

By this point, you can trust no one. If you didn't have friends before, you never will again. You simply will not be able to take anyone at face value. You will assume that you are being used, if not outright abused, then reflected glory abused.

We are changing and mutating the conversation again.

I don't have much to add to AB's interesting and heartfelt post, except to say this: I know some people who were in some pretty famous bands for a while, way back when. And very soon the party was over for them. They still haven't come to terms with it. And I can relate to that. There for the grace of god, I didn't go. Thankfully.

These people often have drug/alcohol problems, but more than that, and these are the worst - they have attitude problems. By that I mean, they can not readjust to normal society. I sympathize, because very often they are known as 'that guy that used to be in that band' - it's a curse, and I would never judge them or look down on them. I've tried to help one or two of them, but got burned doing it, and I'm just out for myself now.

Apropos of nothing, or maybe it is...

I saw a one man band playing in London - mid nineties. Good looking chap. Charisma. Great voice. Great sound and ability. He programmed his drum machine with all the beats and breaks and he did it live, just him, his beatbox, his voice, and his guitar. He played covers mainly.

Then he did a few of his own songs. Chucked them in. Bit naughty, most landlords don't like you doing that. We are jumping clowns remember? But this guy got away with it coz his songs were so god damned good.

I went up to him afterwards, fighting through the female throng. Guy was a Kiwi, and had that attitude that only Kiwis have - laid back, clever, stoic, witty, sharp, enigmatic, straightforward - he was a super chap. I told him how much I loved his music and appreciated what he did. He was very happy about this.

Then it was time for him to pack all his equipment up. Might have had a mate/groupie helping him, but he was still grafting.

He didn't earn that much, and he went through all that shit, just so he could give his music, hard won as it was to others, often thanklessly.

The guy was the real deal.

He fought to get those gigs, I know.

And he had no ego. Could not afford one. If he had an ego, it would have been much more difficult for him...

I forget the words and the melodies and the chords now, but I do remember it was good, and that is why I'm still talking about it now, 20 years later. I wonder what became of him. I hope he's not fat, with a fat wife, getting his beer rationed by his 'better half', not having picked up his guitar for six months.

No more heroes anymore.

But young lads reading this thread, take heed: This world truly is your oyster, but you need to work at it. You need to really throw yourself into something and keep going. You will gain the respect of others, and most importantly, you will gain the respect of yourself. Something no one can take away from you, and will stand you in good stead.

I think what I'm trying to say, and what I took from AB's post, is, it's about integrity. Musical integrity or personal integrity, but have some kind of integrity in this life.

All the while singing songs about skinny chics, who really should know better, and even though you really do know better, you say fuck it, you'll make an exception in this case, coz, well, Francine...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v--dFfte8rs
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
@AB I appreciate the honesty of that post.

...


You sound like you're your own man MDP.

I am constantly coming into contact with people like you - people with natural talent - and they all make me feel so small with my very limited abilities. So I compensate.

My song writing is good, but my production is something else again. It's something totally outside of my self. When I work with people like you, I get a bit of the reflected glory, but I'm not happy until I get a bit of your love too. When I get that, then I know I've hit the point.

It's a shame there is no scene for us all to play this out.

Music is music. New things need to be done. Don't care about the past and what went before, even if I post Hank Williams videos. I'm sincere, but not serious.

I'm all about creating new worlds, new places, for this stuff to have an arena. No place for dreamers here. It's a mammoth task.

Anyway, this thread is shaping up to have some pretty good advice for those thinking about getting into the 'game'.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
He's dealing with very complex mixes - sometimes 80 tracks deep. My mix would sound OK, if mushy. He somehow sculpts out EQ ranges that let every competing part be heard.

Forgot to comment on this earlier.

If you have a producer that extends his knowledge into the audio engineering field, as you have here, then, of course, hold on to him, with both hands!

It's not uncommon, but rare when they have the artist handling sensibility as yours so obviously does (working you hard). It's more common these days with younger producers. Yours sounds old-school, but like he's learned his chops on the mixing board too. He's a keeper. You know that.

With the abilities that he has, he is essentially 'mix-engineering' as you go. And again, I'm sure you know this, but if this guy is getting you a good mix at the end of the session, then don't mess it up too much by having a 'professional mix engineer' come in and tamper with it.

I'm preaching to the converted I'm sure as you seem to know a good thing when you hear it. I'm not aware of any extraneous record company pressures. Just want to reinforce the fact, that the music you are making now, and how it's being mixed, is the music.

Then keep an eye out for the mastering engineer. He's the next bastard that will try to destroy all your hard work.

That EQ scooping thing he does is the highest of the art. That's probably why your mixes are sounding killer these days. Anyone can get louder with brickwall limiting, but to present a well-defined, coherent mix, with all instruments and voices represented, that takes a certain amount of talent.

That is one area I am still working on.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
germanico said:
A couple of fuzzes, a medium gain distortion/overdrive, tremolo, delay and a phaser and you are set up. Get what you use and set a small collection of the ones that just sound great.

I know most simply record the guitars clean and do the effects in editing, but for some things analog sounds just right.

Perhaps my theory on this is controversial:

Don't record guitars clean. Always record with the effects on the track, even if they're subtle.

It forces the artist to fully-commit to an idea during the initial 'creation high'.

I've simply seen too much time wasted by artists in the mixing process trying to find 'the perfect sound' after the fact. This is where artists chase phantasms of what they wish their music was, rather than the actuality of what it is. You end up in this situation where they become trapped in a hedge maze, looking for the exit, always thinking it might be around the next corner. Then the next. Then the next.

You're better off suggesting to potential clients to have their guitar sounds fully-sculpted out before they come into the studio, if possible. This way, they don't come to mentally-associate the sense of stagnation with you.

The more fully-formed the concept of what the song will be going into the mixing stage, the easier it will be to bring out its best qualities. That's not saying sometimes engineers / producers aren't capable of elevating material with a radical reworking of it, but I've noticed that sort of thing tends to happens when the songwriter hasn't delivered a strong, defined concept to start with.

Otherwise, well, I recently worked on a project where the band wasted half a day of expensive studio time trying to choose the 'perfect' kick drum sound on various drum machines. I knew if we just got the drummer to do a couple of bars and looped it, they could have focused recording the rest of the song and by the time the mix was done, they'd have forgotten the drum machine aspect entirely. Unfortunately, I wasn't in charge, so i was sitting there, bored out of my mind, posting on the forum whilst they fucked around, getting nowhere.

The lack of an ability to make a firm decision, to always be hedging bets, just in case will suck all the life and energy out of any project. Don't your your artistic muse be a basic bitch who can't choose where she wants to eat out that night. Tell her you're heading out and to grab her coat, because - realistically - she's going to say the food is 'amazing' either way.
 

germanico

Hummingbird
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
The lack of an ability to make a firm decision, to always be hedging bets, just in case will suck all the life and energy out of any project. Don't your your artistic muse be a basic bitch who can't choose where she wants to eat out that night. Tell her you're heading out and to grab her coat, because - realistically - she's going to say the food is 'amazing' either way.

:potd:

Applies to anything from artistic muses to basic bitches.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
One thing I might mention. Guys with limited space or who might get into doing live recording at venues might want to look into a completely self-contained recording unit like so:

main.jpg


I use one of these bastards and you can go from tracking to bouncing to mixing to mastering, and the older model I have even had the ability to a burn CD in the unit itself. Think it was about $499 back a few years ago.

Upsides: Up to 24 bit / 48k recording. No pc latency issues. 8 inputs. Phantom power. 12 tracks + 12 paired stereo tracks. Midi / Effect Chain Inputs. USB. Automation of the mixes. Extremely portable and durable. I've recorded in clubs, in backyards, in wool sheds, at an army base and in my bedroom. I've captured string quartets and brass sections on this, and part of me loves the hands on nature of the sliders. Files sizes are efficient.

Downsides: Small interface, but I'm from the days of old synths where that screen is actually big. Steep learning curve, DVD instructions available. Last 12 tracks are paired in stereo, so it's kind of really only 18 tracks. Really slow USB transfer - can take 30 minutes to dump 24 tracks to the Fat Partition so they can be accessed by USB to start with. You'll need a separate headphone chain if the performers all need to hear the track in isolation.

I often transfer out certain tracks and edit them on the pc and then transfer them back for the mix, so it can be slow at times. That being said, it's possible newer models by Tascam or other companies have better DAW or monitor connectivity by now.

Just checked, the new version is 32 track and solid state. No moving parts. Great feature list, a lot of the issues that annoy me about the old one like the USB and paired stereo tracks seem to have been resolved, and, shit, it's only $550 US from the people I bought it from last time. Sorry to sound like a commercial guys, but Would Bang.

http://tascam.com/product/dp-32sd/

One issue, looks like the SD Version lacks MIDI, which isn't something I ever use, but for guys who want to record electronic music, it would be an issue.

Whilst I can't justify the upgrade now, since the existing version is more than functional if I take into account its issues, it's good to know they're still making these.

< Started recording on a Tascam 4 track cassette portastudio I... err... 'accquired'... when I was 15 or so. Still got 100+ tapes of songs floating around, including punk, hardcore, full on robo-80's dance music and really, really trying to be Prince. Haven't listen to them for 12 years or more. Would hate to imagine.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
A lot being said in this thread, so I'm spacing out my replies. Maybe we should make a separate music creativity thread so as to not derail GS's original intention.

But briefly, great post, MDP.

MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
As an independent artist your soul is all that have left that hasn't been coopted.

It's great to hear you say that. I've noticed with many younger bands, they are ready to sell out out before they even start, and as such, there's no deeper commitment to the art, and, particularly to an artistic vision for the song. If someone tells them a drum loop or a guest rapper will make it 'more commercial', in it goes.

It not only helps pull the needed creativity out of you but works to keep the stubborn ego in check.

I work to tame my ego because I've seen believing your own hype destroy too many careers to count. I remember a photographer mate I knew back in the day once told me about doing two photo shoots with a band back in the early 90's, they were cool the first time, and diva rock starts the second time. Since they'd hadn't even put a record out between them he said "All that attitude was purely from their hype."

For the record: they were a notorious Next Big Thing that flopped so hard that they're still a punchline to this day.

As such, I don't care how hard I've worked on certain instrumental parts. It's about what serves the Song, not my ego. If it sounds better without it, remove it. Same with songs - particularly as an album takes shape you can identify what suits it and what doesn't, and if it doesn't fit the concept of the album that's forming, I file it away. I can often point to a line in one song and say "Oh yeah, that's this other unreleased song distilled down to short lyrical idea."

Sometimes if you have 15 songs and remove 7 of them that, as good as they aren't, aren't really on target or don't seem to flow anywhere in the running order, it will give you a clear vision of the remaining 3 songs you might have to write to complete the album. You can kind of hear it, and I can point to a discarded song and say, "we already have that." It's a great focus for my creativity.

As a songwriter you have to get "it" up out of you. A new song can come in an instant when I'm moving around, surrounding but new people or stimuli.

Isn't it great? Always keep your eyes and ears open. It's funny the connections that can spring up between vastly-different stimuli if you just learn to be a sponge and absorb everything that life spills in front of you.

This is why I've learnt to write in my head: I very rarely have an instrument handy when I'm inspired, because it's often mid-conversation.
 

AnonymousBosch

Crow
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
A lot being said in this thread, so I'm spacing out my replies. Maybe we should make a separate music creativity thread so as to not derail GS's original intention.

But briefly, great post, MDP.

MY DETROIT PLAYAS said:
As an independent artist your soul is all that have left that hasn't been coopted.

It's great to hear you say that. I've noticed with many younger bands, they are ready to sell out out before they even start, and as such, there's no deeper commitment to the art, and, particularly to an artistic vision for the song. If someone tells them a drum loop or a guest rapper will make it 'more commercial', in it goes. That's cool if it's hip hop, but when it's a rock band to begin with?

It not only helps pull the needed creativity out of you but works to keep the stubborn ego in check.

I work to tame my ego because I've seen believing your own hype destroy too many careers to count. I remember a photographer mate I knew back in the day once told me about doing two photo shoots with a band back in the early 90's, they were cool the first time, and diva rock starts the second time. Since they'd hadn't even put a record out between them he said "All that attitude was purely from their hype."

For the record: they were a notorious Next Big Thing that flopped so hard that they're still a punchline to this day.

Keep grounded. Your songs will resonate with people more if you're not in an ivory tower. Don't be an arsehole. Fight for the important parts of your songs, sure, but use your words. Lay out logically your reasons for the importance of a certain moment being a certain way. I've found if you do it when it really matters, rather than all the time, people pay far more attention to your observations.

As such, I don't care how hard I've worked on certain instrumental parts. It's about what serves the Song, not my ego. If it sounds better without it, remove it. Same with songs - particularly as an album takes shape you can identify what suits it and what doesn't, and if it doesn't fit the concept of the album that's forming, I file it away. I can often point to a line in one song and say "Oh yeah, that's this other unreleased song distilled down to short lyrical idea."

Sometimes if you have 15 songs and remove 7 of them that, as good as they aren't, aren't really on target or don't seem to flow anywhere in the running order, it will give you a clear vision of the remaining 3 songs you might have to write to complete the album. You can kind of hear it, and I can point to a discarded song and say, "we already have that." It's a great focus for my creativity.

As a songwriter you have to get "it" up out of you. A new song can come in an instant when I'm moving around, surrounding but new people or stimuli.

Isn't it great? Always keep your eyes and ears open. It's funny the connections that can spring up between vastly-different stimuli if you just learn to be a sponge and absorb everything that life spills in front of you.

This is why I've learnt to write in my head: I very rarely have an instrument handy when I'm inspired, because it's often mid-conversation.
 

RedPillUK

Pelican
Yeah this is turning into a 'Musician's Lounge' type thread. There's so many things being said it's hard to keep up and reply to all of it.

I wasn't looking for songwriting advice, but it was a pretty interesting read. I'd be interested to hear your music AB and Rigsby, it makes talking about music and songwriting much more real and interesting. PM me about it if you have something you don't mind sharing.

I was just saying it occured to me recently that the way people form bands, get everyone together once a week for 3 hours, waste about 1 hour of it chatting, setting up and drinking, and then expect to write good music is an inefficent way of going about it. The drummer and bass player are sitting in the corner bored out of their mind while the guitarist(s) and singer try and come up with something there and then. Yet loads of bands do it. Working on your own as you do, or collaborating with one or two other people is a much better way.

I used to play drums in a thrash metal band that was fairly successful playing gigs around the country with a few of my favourite artists and getting signed to a couple terrible record labels, we never made any money.

However since I've started to play another type of music I love, jazz and with multiple bands on drums and piano. I've started to think in a more individualistic way. I develop my skills, my knowledge, my ability to improvise and bring that to the table wherever I go. I'm not so bothered about writing hit songs or forming an awesome band, I'm more about getting good at my instrument first. I'm more of an instrumentalist than a songwriter.

However, improvisation is just composition in real time. Studying that, composition, song structure, harmony, scales, melodies etc and having an understanding of how to play different styles of music on different instruments, has given me a huge arsenal of knowledge and ideas and I can always rework those ideas endlessly. Learning music theory really helps your creativity, it doesn't hamper it as some people believe.

Now the problem is more about deciding what is good or not, this is why I like working with someone else sometimes, for a second opinion. I also like adding my input into other people's songs, once you've studied and practised coming up with melodies over chord progressions, it is easy and like second nature, same with harmony, the 'jazz harmony' that people learn should really just be called 'harmony' and every musician should learn it in my opinion. People are amazed by some advanced chords at first, I always was, but once you learn it, you realise that there's a basic system behind it and it's not that complicated at all. I've been thinking about writing about this system of what chord extensions you can add to what chord, but it has been covered pretty well in stuff like 'The Jazz Piano Book'.

I agree with you that practise and experience is also necessary in becoming a good songwriter, just like anything else.
 

Rigsby

Pelican
Gold Member
AnonymousBosch said:
germanico said:
A couple of fuzzes, a medium gain distortion/overdrive, tremolo, delay and a phaser and you are set up. Get what you use and set a small collection of the ones that just sound great.

I know most simply record the guitars clean and do the effects in editing, but for some things analog sounds just right.

Perhaps my theory on this is controversial:

Don't record guitars clean. Always record with the effects on the track, even if they're subtle.

It forces the artist to fully-commit to an idea during the initial 'creation high'.

I've simply seen too much time wasted by artists in the mixing process trying to find 'the perfect sound' after the fact. This is where artists chase phantasms of what they wish their music was, rather than the actuality of what it is. You end up in this situation where they become trapped in a hedge maze, looking for the exit, always thinking it might be around the next corner. Then the next. Then the next.

You're better off suggesting to potential clients to have their guitar sounds fully-sculpted out before they come into the studio, if possible. This way, they don't come to mentally-associate the sense of stagnation with you.

The more fully-formed the concept of what the song will be going into the mixing stage, the easier it will be to bring out its best qualities. That's not saying sometimes engineers / producers aren't capable of elevating material with a radical reworking of it, but I've noticed that sort of thing tends to happens when the songwriter hasn't delivered a strong, defined concept to start with.

Otherwise, well, I recently worked on a project where the band wasted half a day of expensive studio time trying to choose the 'perfect' kick drum sound on various drum machines. I knew if we just got the drummer to do a couple of bars and looped it, they could have focused recording the rest of the song and by the time the mix was done, they'd have forgotten the drum machine aspect entirely. Unfortunately, I wasn't in charge, so i was sitting there, bored out of my mind, posting on the forum whilst they fucked around, getting nowhere.

The lack of an ability to make a firm decision, to always be hedging bets, just in case will suck all the life and energy out of any project. Don't your your artistic muse be a basic bitch who can't choose where she wants to eat out that night. Tell her you're heading out and to grab her coat, because - realistically - she's going to say the food is 'amazing' either way.

There is a lot to be said for this approach.

If an artist told me this was how he wished to proceed with the recording of his album, I would say 'fuck yeah, let's do it', and go that way.

I could give a hundred reasons why this approach is wrong. Or why it would be frowned upon by the record companies. But fuck it, they will never know. Because the beautiful music we make together will shut them all right up. That's the theory.

As for kick drums. Just don't !

I think the way things are going, it is all about capturing that moment. So yeah, get the best guitar sound you can, try to sing in tune best you can. If you are going to let you mate play the shakers then at least make sure he is semi-sober (totally sober is too on point, and pissed out of your head you are off it - so somewhere inbetween is ideal).

Know what it is you are trying to achieve. Who cares about great musicians or great recordings any more? Fuck that. Let's do some real shit. Simula and Simulacram my good man.

ACCORDING TO BAUDRILLARD, what has happened in postmodern culture is that our society has become so reliant on models and maps that we have lost all contact with the real world that preceded the map. Reality itself has begun merely to imitate the model, which now precedes and determines the real world: "The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory—precession of simulacra—that engenders the territory" ("The Precession of Simulacra" 1). According to Baudrillard, when it comes to postmodern simulation and simulacra, “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real” ("The Precession of Simulacra" 2). Baudrillard is not merely suggesting that postmodern culture is artificial, because the concept of artificiality still requires some sense of reality against which to recognize the artifice. His point, rather, is that we have lost all ability to make sense of the distinction between nature and artifice.


I love it rough.

I have the skills to take the output of the Moth and turn it into Silk. It's the only way. We polish as we go.

No one's fucking real any more, man. Their all just fucking faking it attitude is too common.

But yeah, kick drums, let me tell you, you could spend the rest of your life dealing in kick drums, and never come out the other side. Me, I got a dozen of them. As that is all I think anyone needs. With those dozen kick drums, I have every single form of music covered. Techno/DnB has about 3/4 of them at least. Real Rock music has another couple. Then there is Jazz and Polka and most of them all sound the same so that is only another few, maybe. Damn, we are running out of forms of music.

Ok, so I lied. I have a few dozen kick drums. Fuck it, no, I've actually got a Battery patch with about a hundred in. But that was where I drew the line. That was the breach between sanity and forever being lost in the world of the kick drum.

I'm glad you didn't mention anything about hi-hats, coz that is another can of worms again.

Really, you have to pull yourself back from the edge.

A Producer's job is to deal with people, first and foremost. So what if you have over a thousand different 909 kick drums?

Let go in to the insanity. Pull back. Be sensible again. Have a sense of perspective.

And stop fucking typing so much shit when you're drunk on a Sunday morning. (sorry, didn't mean to get meta on you)

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