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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Keeping Songs Fresh

If you've been keeping an eye on this blog then you would have noticed that I've been dabbling in music production of late. This is part of something that I've been working on, on and off now while I've been learning more about the craft.


This is a playlist that I've created to upload such things.


Clearly, the track sample outlined above is fairly early in it's inception but it gives you an idea of some of the stuff that I am likely to produce in future.

As to the purpose of this particular post, it's basically about how to keep a song fresh by altering various aspects of it. For instance, think about the following:
  • alter tempo (don't restrict yourself to a single tempo throughout. Listen to grid music specialists (such as 'Jeremy Ellis', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdFlFxJFnfY) and finger drummers (such as 'Mad Zach', http://www.madzach.com/, https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mad+zach) and you'll see that the sound is a lot more natural re is a lot to be gained by not adhering to stringently to tr
  • change key/scales (if you're aware of enough music theory you'll be aware that by altering 'modes/scales' you can change the entire feel of songs through that alone. Also remember that in the world of artificial sounds such as that produced by synthesisers scales can sometimes mean very little. Just go by ear in such cases...)
  • alter instruments for the same section (it's astonishing how much variety in software and ourboard gear you can get. Even if you just work with free stuff you'll have more than enough to build quality songs). While we're at it, give each and every instrument a chance. An example of this 'Doctor Rockit' in 'Cafe De Flore', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFDyalRZbfY
  • the human voice (even when re-modulated/synthesised) can completely alter the feel of a song. The timbre itself can sort of be reproduced by artificial means but not quite yet which means you lose out on a lot by rejecting it. Listen to 'Kayne West's' version of 'Harder, Better, Faster Stronger', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CgkWmKJLuE as opposed to the original version and you'll understand what I mean, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDpmVUEjagg
  • if you have difficulty in finding an vocalist try specific social networks for this such as, http://vocalizr.com/ and https://blend.io/
  • else just become really good with instruments such as 'Chicane' in 'Offshore', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltpCS5P0zCw
  • alter phase/time between tracks (slight changes in phase can have quite a different effect)
  • alter notes and their sequence (sounds obvious but doesn't seem to be sound obvious at times particularly when listening to heaps of club/dance music).
  • which leads us to the following point, learn to improvise and harmonise. I grew up on a lot of RnB and Hip Hop but ended up brancing out. Without this basis you'll find it very difficult to make something that doesn't sound overly repetitive. Examples of great harmony include, 'Boyz II Men' in 'End of The Road', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDKO6XYXioc, 'Four Seasons of Loneliness', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUSOZAgl95A, and 'I'll Make Love to You', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV8vB1BB2qc
  • play around with the usual effects mid sound such as envelopes, modulation, LFO's, phasing, flanging, etc... A good example of this is with 'Flume', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpyDJWxCep8&list=PLfk_Bv3x7xZLaDTrnJwvsJwQD_qJ2PmZ-
  • use of polyrhythms. Can be a little bit confusing to work with but can also achieve good results, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyrhythm
  • use of effects such as panning, reverb, delay, EQ, etc... (be careful though. If you plan on deploying to clubs remember that their systems are often monophonic so some of your work may be for nothing. Also, a lot of people's standard stereo systems just don't have the range/ability to be able to do what you may want.)
  • use of automation in order to change relative volume of tracks/instruments in relation to one another
  • production and mixing techniques such as side-chain ducking, parallel processing, etc... Note, that sometimes you can go overboard and it can lose a lot of it's body though
  • split, explode, change sequence, ghost, reverse MIDI sections and/or audio samples
  • 'layering' sounds by having instruments play the same MIDI notes/sequences
  • think about push/pull aspects when dealing with 'fills'. Hear this in parts of Groove Aramda's, 'Lovebox', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izMBLSEt16o
  • add random file samples/sounds into the mixture every once in a while. A good example and common user of this technique is 'Daft Punk' in 'Around the World', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nApiS9UTvc
  • gradually build into sections. Keeps it sounding like a song rather than a bunch of clips that have been assembled together. Also, creates a sense of fluidity. An example of this is 'Bob Sinclair' in 'World, Hold On', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzlE7w9wRQk
  • this takes me to my next point, take your time when it comes to building a song. I've been dealing with this problem constantly. It's not just a bunch of clips put together. It's like a story. It's composed of words, phrases, pages, and ultimately a book. Tell the story completely. An example of this is 'Tom Novy's' song ' Take It', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8ddq2NsjjU
  • that said when pushing/pulling/building into different sections one technique you can use to add a bit of 'freshness' is just giving them a hint here and there before hitting them with the complete section
  • think about utilising the entire frequency range. I've heard heaps of songs just cramp their frequency range into too small a range and it ends up losing some expressiveness
  • think about extending notes in breakdowns. A good example of this is 'When the Light's Go Out' by 'Five, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpdcKmaHk_s
  • good songs start with a solid base. Even if they aren't electronic they start with a solid base/beat and build there way up into something great. Listen to 'Kaskade's' song 'This Rhythm' for an example of this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGRiFhIeWHM as well 'Mousse T' in 'Horny', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGkHc11kSKs
  • use silence to your advantage. If you're just starting out you think you need to just fill every single moment in time with sound. Silence in the right places can change the entire feel of that particular section
  • don't think that pure digital or analogue is best. Fusing the two can produce wonderful results even if they are emulated via software. An example of this is using 'saturation', 'distortion', whitenoise effects to cut through the artificial/pure nature of the sounds that would otherwise be on show
  • use different sounds as well as effects during section transition. A good example of this by 'Doctor Rockit' in 'Cafe De Flore', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFDyalRZbfY
  • listen to heaps of different artists and read a lot. A lot of what I've learnt has actually been from 'Computer Music Magazine' (a lot of content is actually duplicated by other music magazine publishers and articles are often superficially updated by the magazine and re-published. You can save a bit of money by being watchful for these things, http://www.musicradar.com/computermusic). Don't limit yourself to keep yourself interested as well as your listeners interested

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