Author Topic: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc  (Read 5553 times)

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Offline digger72

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Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« on: February 24, 2013, 12:04:19 pm »
Hi all,

First up; i'm not very good at this sort of thing, so apologies if it makes no sense whatsoever.

Second: hopefully I don't come across as some dodgy salesman when i write that I've gone from nothing to where i am now using Justin's lessons, Ustream show, and the kind help of members of the forum. Sometimes i read - "Justin - do more rock lessons, etc." The basics you need for most forms of music are already within the site. Take the basics - listen to the types of music you like, then apply them.

Theory: if you know some - great. If you don't - don't worry - you've got ears. I know a little, but if i use i, it is subconsciously - i don't think, hmm, this chord resolves to the next because... I think hmm, that sounds nice with that. Not saying it's unimportant - just saying you don't need to have encyclopedic knowledge. Music by numbers - paint by numbers? Just a thought. (that will probably get me in trouble with the theory aficionados.)

Collaborations: the key to this is finding people who first of all genuinely want to record songs. Second that they are willing to be flexible. Third, that you get on. Obviously, it helps if you like similar types of music, but it can throw up some interesting stuff if you have differing tastes. I like Depeche Mode, and some keyboard stuff - Endureth doesn't care for it at all. He likes tambourines and triangles and recorders - I tend not to. Don't limit your creativity.

In another thread it was suggested that someone put up some wavs/stems from a song so that others could see how a track was put together, and if they wanted, so that they could mix that track themselves; so here's the complete files for one of mine.

http://www.4shared.com/rar/bDH2x9AJ/new_lover_mix_your_own.html


This was my mix:
   
You'll need "winrar" or something to unzip them. Just extract all to a folder, then you can import them in to your daw. Depending on your daw, you may need to "warp" them or something to make all the timings correct.
I use Ableton. For those who also do - if you double left click on the wav file it should bring up details of that sample in the browser box at the bottom. You'll see "warp" highlighted in yellow. Just click this and it will return the file to its original timing.

The files hopefully have all come through in mono.

I'd set myself the challenge of writing three quick and easy songs in three days - each under three minutes. This was the third.

In this case i actually started out with just a tempo. I wanted to write something more upempo than my usual stuff. This is at 160. I use addictive drums, so i put that in my daw and just synced a basic drum beat to the daw tempo. If you don't have a drum programme, your daw will probably have a built in metronome - just set this to the tempo you want.
It's really important to try and play in time - it makes the whole recording process much simpler.
There are lessons within the site. Probably with Justin nodding his head or something.

If you want to see him really going for it - check this out; the first minute is brilliant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCJwzwrK8tk

Anyway, i digress. Timing - get as tight as you can. Feel the groove.  Just nod along or tap your feet to the beat to start with so that you're in that rhythm. Then start playing.

In this case i just started jamming ideas along to the beat - recording all the time. If you hear something you like, stop and play it back. If you still like it, you can then start developing the idea.
I try to get as much of the rhythm down first - although ideas for different parts may come along later. But, if you've been playing in time, you can fit these in to your track when necessary.

Lyrics/vocals: I just tend to sing any old random words over the rhythm to start (unless, the lyrics/vocal melody had come first - in which case I would record this in time to the beat - then start jamming chords around it) Once i've got a melody down, i then try to form one verse and the chorus. If you're lucky, you may just have a surge of words, if not just try and get one verse down. Then you can use the framework of that verse to write the others - how many lines, how many syllables, rhyming couplets, etc. There are no rules as such - but some things can make it easier when you are starting out. You can expand the boundaries as you get more confident in what you're trying to do.

I'll try and record the vocals and rhythm guitar with some basic drums, then send it to Endureth who will start working on the bass line. If I've had ideas for a bit of lead work, I might wait till i'd put that in, but if I'm stuck, i'll send it as is.

He will post a few initial comments - bits he likes, or doesn't - ideas it may have spurred in him. Any we both feel are a goer, we'll explore further. Sometimes we end up dumping them, sometimes we keep them, sometimes they generate new ideas completely. Don't discard anything, and always keep the bits you discard - they may be useful in another track.

Endureth will send anything from one to a million bass lines over the span of a recording. Different tones, or bits he's put in or taken out. Sometimes, I haven't had the chance to put one in before the next arrives! Usually we settle on one (even if he may send a slightly amended one a little later).

With this in the track, i'll re-record any bits i need to, and either Endureth or myself will start filling out the drums.

In most cases the final lead will come when this basic track is down (unless, i'd already got something i really liked - in which case Endureth would have done is bass line with this in place.)
I'm not particularly good at them. I tend towards slower melodies, rather than the quickfire stuff. But do what you can. Learn some scales (major and pentatonic is all i know) so you have a basic understanding of how the notes work together, but also some of the techniques of bending and sliding, etc. Don't get hung up on it. We can't all be some great rock god. Just jam over your track - recording all the time, then listen back. Any bits you like the sound of just trim out of the track and put to one side in your daw. Before you know it you may have five or six little bits which you can then try and join up. You can then try and play the whole solo or as much as you can when you've got your idea down. Gilmour does it this way - i'm sure most do. Good on you if you can rip something great from your fingers in one take.

Once you've got all your bits you can start mixing. And this is where some real fun starts. You think you've got it sounding good through your headphones, or monitors, or speakers, then you play it on something else and it sounds like a pile of doo-doo.
I'm probably only 1% on the road to learning about this stuff, so i follow a simple process at the moment.

First of all i check each track for background noise - hiss, amp buzz, daughter's making noise in her bedroom, wife taking a bath, etc. I then use a noise removal plug-in within my daw to get rid of as much of this as possible without colouring the track too much. Basically you are identifying and removing some offending frequencies, but these will also be within the sound you want to keep - so if you over do it... well try it - turn up the noise removal on full and hear what happens.

Then i listen to the track to see what is overlapping what, e.g. is the guitar masking the vocal; are the drums drowning everything, etc. What you're trying for is to create a space between the instruments so you can pick them out, but that they still sound part of the same track (unless you're going for the wall of sound, or some weird and wonderful experimental stuff.)
So the first thing i do is pan (move) things around. Main vocals, bass, kick drum I keep dead centre, everything else gets moved around left or right till i get what sounds ok to me. I will then adjust the volumes on each of these tracks to try and get a nice balance. If the tracks still seem to blur together, or something seems "muddy", i apply some Eq. Now this to me is a pain, so i try to do as little as possible. Basically you try to cut, or sometimes boost some frequencies so they aren't all fighting for the same space. Some frequencies you can cut all together as they can't be heard. Why cut them? I guess they are taking up room, if even just in the background.
e.g. If each part of your song is a box, and each of these boxes were overlapping, you'd try and cut the corners of the boxes so that they each have their own bit of space. Someone else will have to take up the baton here.

I used to put individual reverb on all tracks, but now, unless i want a specific sound, i put one reverb plug-in on a send/return track (A or B or whatever in Ableton). I set this at 100% wet. The individual tracks within the daw pass through this and i can set a level for each track of how much i want it to use. this saves processor power on your computer, and you're using the same reverb, which can help gel the track.

Compression is another beasty used to help gel tracks together. I just tend to use the presets within the plug-in if i use it. Which tends to be mainly on vocals. I do put a "buss compressor" on the master buss of my mix - this is just some soft compression to bring the loud and quiet parts a little closer together.  Again, probably better if someone with some technical knowledge helps out here.

That is pretty much it.

I export the final master wav. Listen on several different devices, as does Endureth. We then apply any tweaks we feel necessary - altering levels of this that or the other, etc.

I do have a final process that i put this "master wav" through. It's just a final "multiband compressor" and "limiter" which again just polishes the track up.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you do all these things. Not everyone will have the time, patience, possibly tools, to do everything. Do what you can, what you want and above all, enjoy doing it. If it becomes a complete chore - you're probably overdoing it. (I've been there when mixing)

Don't know if this has helped anyone. Please post your mixes - will be interesting to hear what folks come up with.

If i can help in any way I will try.

All the best,

Digger

Tempo is 160bpm.

Chords. (all power chords) Just vary the strumming and muting. I bend the strings when playing the C#
It's the same sequence for both guitars - just play different ways under the solo.

Verse 1:
C# - B - G#- F#  - G# ( X4)

Chorus:
F# - G# ( X4)
C#

Verse 2:
C# - G# - F# - G# (X4)

Chorus:
F# - G# (X4)
C#

Solo:
F# - G# - B - G# (X3)
F# - G# - C#

Verse 3:
C# - B - G# - F#  - G# ( X2)

Chorus:
F# - G# (X8)
C#

« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 04:28:24 pm by digger72 »

Offline Endureth

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2013, 02:06:49 pm »
Here's a video Digger and I both watched in it's entirety that really cleared up a lot of questions about mixing.  Warning, this video is 2 and a half hours long and just FULL of great stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEjOdqZFvhY

Well worth the watch if you're at least semi-serious about producing your own songs.

And don't forget it's all suppose to be fun.  They say You've got to write a million words before you can write your first book.

And feel free to replace something with your own.  Don't like the bass, put your own in, want to record yourself singing, with different lyrics perhaps, go for it.  Think you can play a better solo, do it.  Have fun, make it your own!
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 02:53:40 pm by Endureth »

Offline TB-AV

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2013, 03:18:23 pm »
Digger can you write a chord chart for that mix please.
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Offline Endureth

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 03:27:26 pm »
Digger can you write a chord chart for that mix please.

I guess we forgot those.  Digger will have the chords, here's the bass score.

http://www.4shared.com/office/-8xdmScw/New_Lover.html

Offline TB-AV

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2013, 03:36:04 pm »
Your name is Johnny Walker..?  Red, Black or Blue?

That's a nice looking tab what did you do that in?
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Offline Endureth

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2013, 03:39:48 pm »
Your name is Johnny Walker..?  Red, Black or Blue?

That's a nice looking tab what did you do that in?


Yeah, I'm the 4th, my son is the 5th, so he gets to grow up a 5th of Johnny Walker all his life.  He'll have it much worse than me, bwaahahaha

I use Guitar Pro 6 for scoring them.  I bought it when Digger and I would go back to songs we hadn't worked on for a couple weeks and I had forgotten them.  It's been a big help.

Offline TB-AV

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2013, 03:41:54 pm »
LOL...that's funny as hell.

So it looks like this thing is in Ab?
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Offline Endureth

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2013, 03:43:53 pm »
LOL...that's funny as hell.

So it looks like this thing is in Ab?

Sounds about right.

Offline artonsafari

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2013, 03:56:40 pm »
Quote
In most cases the final lead will come when this basic track is down (unless, i'd already got something i really liked - in which case Endureth would have done is bass line with this in place.)
I'm not particularly good at them. I tend towards slower melodies, rather than the quickfire stuff. But do what you can. Learn some scales (major and pentatonic is all i know) so you have a basic understanding of how the notes work together, but also some of the techniques of bending and sliding, etc. Don't get hung up on it. We can't all be some great rock god. Just jam over your track - recording all the time, then listen back. Any bits you like the sound of just trim out of the track and put to one side in your daw. Before you know it you may have five or six little bits which you can then try and join up. Gilmour does it this way - i'm sure most do. Good on you if you can rip something great from your fingers in one take.

I kind of knew this was how it was done but it still feels like cheating. Playing over jam tracks and trying to keep it interesting for 5 min is tough but you get a few things that work then string them together. TBH, I prefer more melodic stuff than super fast.
The correct amount of guitars is one more than you currently own

Offline TB-AV

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2013, 03:59:46 pm »
Also Digger if you can post exactly what your project tempo is. I know sometimes that get a little off round numbers.
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Offline digger72

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2013, 04:36:43 pm »
Hi TB,

I've amended the original post. Sorry, it's nothing like Endureth's - I don't tend to write stuff down - just scribbles of lyrics, etc. I really am super lazy.

It's a simple song - pretty badly played. It was just a quick blast. I'm happy to post other stuff if people get interested in the recording side of things. Some of them are about 30 tracks though.

Arton, when i said he pieces them together, i meant he pieces the bits together then plays it through till he gets it sounding how he wants - not that he just plays little bits then sticks them all together - but who knows, maybe he does. He was talking about writing solos. It was on youtube, but i can't for the life of me remember which clip.

Cheers,

Digger

Offline Endureth

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2013, 04:47:41 pm »
If the final version sounds clean and the way you want it, who cares how much you've chopped it or how many shortcuts you had to take.  Underneath Picasso paintings, they've discovered earlier versions of the same painting.  The end justifies the means.

Now, if we were an actual band, the next step would be to sit in a rehearsal room and practice these songs for a month or two until we could play them the whole way through confidently.  It's not too far off from what professionals do, but they are better at almost every step so it doesn't take them as long and they perhaps do less cutting and pasting.  And they have the benefit of knowing way more theory.  But when it's finished, listen to the song.  Does it sound good?  Success.


Offline artonsafari

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2013, 04:52:56 pm »
Yeah, being able to play it through is the trick. I remember hearing Steve Vai talking about doing a take and things were going downhill fast so they shut down in the middle of It. When they went back and listened to it they decided to use the power down in the solo.

I remember Queensryche talking about having to learn to play the tunes off Rage for Order.

My buddy in the Rush tribute band said he read  a Geddy interview about piecing stuff together and learning it.

It was a very different experience than just plain jamming or learning a song and recording it live which was the only thing I'd ever done when we were using a 4 track.
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Offline TB-AV

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2013, 06:07:36 pm »
After you comp a track together ( when is a widely used method ) then you learn to play the comped track. That' usually how it's done. Even then though, you will still use your comped track o0n the cd because it represents your best effort and will be there for years. But it's common practice to play many takes and comp a line together only then to sit down and learn that line as a whole ( if you can, because sometimes you play things that you never really do again )

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Offline shadowscott007

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Re: Songwriting - working in collaborations, etc
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2013, 06:13:32 pm »
I read an interview with David Gilmore that said that is how he did his solo's.  He would basically sit down and jam over the progression and the listen to it and take out all the cool bits and put them together into what became the solo.

Now I do not know if this was how the "real" song was recorded in the studio.  He very well may have been doing this for himself to compose the solo, then "learn" it for the recording session.  Conceptually it sounds like a very similar approach.

Shadow
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