Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Songwriting Part 2

Lyrical Rewriting 
Once you have your ideas recorded and solidified, it's time to take another look at the lyrics. Most larger cities have some sort of songwriters group where you can share your ideas and get some constructive feedback.
Be sure all your lines support the theme of the song. Each idea should support the chorus in telling the story.
A good lyric should read like a good poem, it should just flow. Read your lyrics out loud to yourself. If anything sounds or feels awkward, change it. Don't just make it good, make it great.

Attention Getters 
After your lyrics are out of the way and you have your arrangement finished, it's time to make the song exciting. This can be done in a number of ways. One way is to use harmony in the chorus. This can help the chorus stand out as the theme of the song. Another way to add flair and excitement is to modulate up for the last chorus. This keeps the song building to the end, and adds excitement.
Don't make your intro too long. Studies have shown, that the average listener loses attention after about 10 seconds. If nothing interesting has happened, most people will skip it and move on.

We have teamed up with SonicBids to offer you with a chance to win FREE drum tracks. Just follow the link and submit your entries before June 30.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Songwriting 101

Songwriting Basics
Many musicians get into the habit of never keeping a pencil and paper around, but having something to write with is crucial in getting your ideas down on paper so you don't forget them. Then when it comes time to record your ideas, it's all there in front of you.
Many people start with the lyrics and then develop a melody from there. If you are new to songwriting, then this is a great way to start. Usually, working from the smallest element in the song to the largest, gets the job done.
For example, start with lyrics, then melody, then chord structure, then form, then arrangement. It's not easy to do the later steps without having laid the groundwork for it.

Recording Ideas
When it comes time to record your ideas, don't fuss over the details of your performance. Get it down quickly so you can keep the creative juices flowing. Then you can go back and refine your performance, make edits, ad instruments, and tweak the arrangement.
Before you get too far, it's a good idea to try the song out on a few friends and other musicians. They can give you feedback and ideas for making your song better.

Congratulations to Ash Slater from Australia, winner of last month's SonicBids contest. He received a free drum track for one of his songs.

We have teamed up with SonicBids to offer you with a chance to win FREE drum tracks. Just follow the link and submit your entries before June 30.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Acoustic Guitars

One of the more difficult instruments to get sounding good in our recordings is the acoustic guitar. One reason is that acoustic guitar is a very tonally complex instrument. Another, is that unlike an electric guitar where the sound comes out in front of the amp, an acoustic has sound coming out of every side and angle. Most guitarists only hear their instrument from above, but conventional mic placement is always in front. This leads to many guitarists not liking how the recording sounds, but unsure exactly why.
A simple technique for a good sounding recording is to start with a single condenser mic about 12 inches in front of the guitar pointing at the edge of the hole and fretboard. Be careful of too much low-midrange as you get close to the sound hole. If you want stereo, use one mic pointing at the hole, and another pointing at the middle of the fretboard.
In addition to using mics in front of the guitar, a mic or 2 can be placed near the players head, pointing down at the guitar. Experiment with placement and always use your ears as a guide. Try recording each mic onto a separate track and then soloing each one to decide what you like or don't like about the sound.

Now that you've got all your tracks recorded, you've got a few options. One is to mix all the mics and process the tracks gently to produce a clean, single guitar track. Another option is to process each mic completely different from the others and use effects to produce some new and wild textures.
Starting with the stereo mics in front, pan one hard left and the other hard right. If your mic placement and room are good, this usually produces a clean stereo image. However, if the recording room is not the greatest, try panning them 50-70% to each side instead of 100%.
With the over-the-shoulder mics, solo each track, and if you find a frequency that you like, boost it a bit. If there is a problem frequency, cut it a little. This way you can get the best of each mic and mix them to make the best sound.
For that 'army-of-guitars' type of sound, try using some effects such as delay, drastic EQ, and distortion on a few of the tracks. Pan some hard left and hard right. Leave at least one track dry and unaffected to give some solidity and ground to the sound. Another way to get a thick sound is to double or triple track the same guitar part. Each performance will be slightly different and provide a great cohesive sound when mixed together.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Building a Great Mix

Mix Foundations
Depending on the arrangement of your song, the mix can start with different instruments. Sometimes you may start with drums, other times the vocal. One way I found is to decide what the song could not do without, then start there. Many songs could do without background vocals, so that may not be a good place to begin. However, if the song is a heavy, driving rhythm, the drums provide a lot of that feel, so that may be a good place.
Once a solid and unobtrusive foundation is laid, other instruments can be dialed in and fit in the mix. One thing not to do is leave the vocal till the end. You may find that there is no room left in the mix. When working with the other tracks, be sure to check the mix with the vocal so you are never surprised. Often times, instruments can be left out of parts of the mix or it may get too cluttered.

Finishing Up
Once you get your mix built and sounding good, it's time to really make it shine. Often, the vocal is where this will happen. Too many people spend too little time on the vocal. This is what most listeners will pay attention to. Nobody is going to care about the .5db boost you put on the snare at 1.4 kHz.

Get the vocal right, and the rest of the mix will work better for it. Make the mix work for the vocal, not the other way around. Try automating the vocal EQ for different parts of the song. The chorus may need a different sound than the verses. Also depending on the vocal range, EQ that works for some notes may not work for others. This can be a tedious process, but will make the vocal sound professional.

No two songs are the same, and no two mixes should be the same. Spend time and make your songs as good as they can be.