First things, first: An introduction
Hi everybody! If you've ever interacted with me online you probably know that talking shop gives me great joy! You also definitely know that I'm a very vocal advocate of musical education. Anyone can put a simple song together but making art is about making choices. Yes, you can choose to use just a couple of chords, and yes, they might produce something nice, but if those chords are the only ones you know, it's not much of a choice, is it?
For a while now I've been meaning to start an series of tutorial videos on various aspects of music composition & production covering things I've learned during the years I've been a student of both disciplines. Now, I'm not a scholar, and I'm definitely not done with learning—that is literally impossible—but sharing the few things I know might inspire some of you to keep on learning, which is the best possible outcome of this whole experiment!
It took a few failed attempts, and a couple of awkward first videos, but I'm happy to announce that the "Let's Play Music" series is now a thing! Keep in mind that this is not an endeavor of regular frequency by any means. Videos will go up completely at random and I have zero plans of keeping any sort of schedule. That said, the more feedback and interest I get from you, the more likely I am to keep at it.
The topics will probably have a slight bias towards in-the-box* music making, since this is how I work. But I'm happy to take suggestions and talk about anything music-related, as long as I feel I have something to say about it.
For some of the videos, I will be posting additional text here, especially when I feel it's meaningful to sum up a technique & tools in simple and discreet steps so that people don't always need to go back to the entire video. Other times (like the first couple of videos about drum programming) that might be pointless so I will mostly leave this space blank, with just a few basic notes on what the video covers. (By the way, you can subscribe to this blog's RSS but I will also be posting these on twitter and facebook if you prefer).
* if you're not familiar with the term, it refers to music production using primarily software, commonly abbreviated ITB. As opposed to "out-of-the-box", or OTB, referring to music produced using external hardware equipment (mixers, effect units, etc.).
Let's Play Drums (part's I & II)
But enough with the reading; let's get a-watching! In this first post I give you the first two videos of the series, in which I talk about MIDI drums. In Part I, I tackle routing settings so you can use your DAW's mixer on your drums (instead of the plugin's internal one) and in part II, I talk about programming a realistic MIDI performance. (This is something I have spent a lot of thought and time on. Even though the video is rather long, I still feel I barely touch on the subject and will likely revisit it in the future. Hopefully there's still some good insight in the video to get the basic philosophy of it.)
DISCLAIMER: I apologize in advance for the non-existent amount of polish in the videos! As I've mentioned, the first few are awkward and I'm obviously finding my way through this: the mic sound is awful (I used the camera mic...) and there are several edits because I wasn't really prepared... I promise the next videos are getting better! I hope you will still find them interesting and get something useful out of it! Enjoy, and if you like it, why not subscribe for more and share it with your friends! ;)
If there's anything in the video you don't understand, please leave a comment on YouTube and I will try to explain it in simpler terms. Also, don't forget to suggest topics for upcoming videos!
Thanks for watching!
I was listening to the ELP album "Black Moon" last night and made some observations that I'd like to share with you. Some are about form, some are about symbolism but they all have to do with damn fine songwriting and are worthy of notice however small and detailed.
The song under scrutiny: Affairs of the Heart (Geoff Downes, Greg Lake) from the album Black Moon (1992) by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
A brief overview of the song's structure:
*I have decided to merge the pre-chorus and chorus since the latter is basically just the titular lyrics on the song's main chords. Think not too much of it, titles are just word-symbols, as long as were all on the same page.
This is pretty typical song structure. But there are two things about this track that work great:
A. Musical economy: With the exception of a bass and a few synths showing up in verse B, this is basically an acoustic guitar track. The first percussion only come in at the Bridge and they are still very sparse. The final Verse (C) has some drums—again no more than the bare minimum—but because of the previous sparseness, the (softly mixed) drum hit that comes in the fourth beat of Verse C communicates the exact amount of subtle power that the song needs. At the end of the Verse, the snare roll introducing the Pre-chorus is a truly cherishable moment. Meanwhile the synths are keeping the perfect balance between melodic and harmonic fills at just the right places to make the song uplifting but never grandiose.
Am I making too much of this? Well, think for a moment how would you produce such a song? It's very tempting to go big: think full string explosion (perhaps even live orchestra) and larger than life drums. But the song is not about that, despite the music surely being able to carry such grand gestures. The song is about watching your step, being unsure. In such situations you'd probably want to tread lightly.
The lesson here: be economical, always keep an overview of your material, don't get carried away by the music; a song is also about the lyrics.
B. The transposition in the bridge, particularly, where to this transposition leads us.
The harmonically-inclined among you might have noticed the transposition takes as from the major key to the homonymous minor, namely from E to Em. While this may not go down in the music history books, it is nonetheless rather symbolic. Can you guess why?
Remember what I said before about lyrics? No one is too smart in affairs of the heart, every affair has its ups and downs. The minor key symbolises those downs but it's within the same one affair with the same one person, ergo one key.
Am I making too much out of this too? Could be. Does it work like a motherf***er? It sure does. And given the artistry on the rest of the album I'm willing to bet this is no happy accident. There's some thought behind these tracks, that's why I'll write about another one of them next.