Saturday, December 31, 2011

Songwriting & Production

Hey guys,

Here's my mumble on production and songwriting. 

I guess that the term “production” could mean different things to different bands and projects. To me, and as I refer to it with my good friend Sajid ‘Sarj’ Masood (Co-producer of Benevolent’s Divided EP), production is basically that part of the song’s life where the structure, the sounds, the textures, and all the “coloring” of the song happens.

It really is the most important aspect of a song’s life; it could take a song from being the most intuitive tune to being the most monotonous one. I find that for the most part we tend to enjoy songs because of their production more than anything. A true testament to that is the fact that so much pop music is based on similar chord progressions and what not, but the differentiating factor here is the choice of sounds, twists in structure, and the addition of an original ‘hook’ that ties the listener in to the song. (P.S: The whole ‘hook’ thing shouldn’t be taken as a must for every song; the songs that you intend to use as “promo” material for your band could use a memorable ‘hook’ but don’t fret on about making a Lady Gaga hit out of every song. I actually find songs with ‘hooks’ that catch on quick to have a short lifespan in your audience’s playlists. Easy come. Easy go)

How I approach songwriting and production

To give more info about how I approach the whole production process and it’s importance, here’s how I work (you’ll find that the entire songwriting process is built on the production aspect): Here are the steps in simple with explanation:

1. Get inspired

The first and most important step is to get inspired; what kind of song do you want to write? What sort of texture do you have in mind? What do you intend to have people feel when they listen to it? Do you have an existing lyric which could help inspire you?

Tips: Listen to a band that gets your creative juices flowing. Don’t be afraid that you might rip them off, the key word here is “CREATIVE JUICES” which means this music makes you want to create something of your own, in that similar feel.

2. Start up a recording session on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

What this step will allow you to do is to write songs instead of riffs, you have the recording software ready with all your plugins sitting right there in front of you and what you’re doing is writing a song from it’s very beginning to it’s very end.

I tried guitar tablatures before and they may work for many musicians, but I find them rather stale and often lead to writers block. The idea of having the ability to track and record your ideas down immediately is that you’ll be able to come up with the most organic feel to a song. And you’ll feel whether or not it’s working because you’re playing it as you go. PLUS, recording on a frequent level will keep you in shape as a musician, so come studio-time you’ll have the A game on.

3. Get to know your song

This is another crucial and interesting step. At this stage you’ve already got some riffs down; explore the feel of the song and just let it flow. I like to think that I’m letting the songs write themselves.

One more important thing, be ready to delete your most favorite riff in the song because sometimes we are under the illusion that some riffs are the IT factor in a song, when in reality they are causing more damage out of forced misplacement. It’s usually pretty difficult to delete a certain riff, BUT my indicator to doing that is when I try for days to continue a song off a certain riff and it’s not working, so I just lose the loose end that’s causing inspirational draught in the song.

4. Keep the structure inspiring

This part is straight to the point; don’t be afraid of trying things that you haven’t heard in other songs. Remember that the only limitation here is “Does it sound good?”

There’s no wrong or right; I even tend to forget all about the music theory I’ve learnt when writing songs (This works well for metal mostly, I’d be careful in other styles of letting go of theory).

5. Layers, textures, and colors

Add color to your song; listen to some of your favorite songs and tune into the sounds that you don’t necessarily listen to primarily but they are there in the song and subconsciously making you enjoy the song even more.

Those could be simple things like:

a. Guitar feedback crescendos leading to a heightened part

b. Drone effects in the background

c. Synths and pads

d. Orchestral sounds and choirs

e. Innovation in adding new guitar tones in repeated verses to add new elements for the listener to enjoy

f. ETC

6. Have fun, get it done, and write more songs

Once you’ve found your muse and a comfortable methodology of writing songs, recording them, and producing them, you’ll find yourself swimming in a sea of inspiration where you’re not sure how to start; the good news is, this inspiration is the most beautiful thing a musician can experience so make sure you are listening/watching bands (and even movies) that make you want to express something musically and don’t be afraid of discovering new things.

Most of all, make sure you’re having a good time writing songs. Your audience can hear your inspired organic take on your songs and will surely feel the connection that you have with your produced songs.

Feel free to shoot me a line if you’ve got some questions!

Happy writing!


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