A post by Robbie Dwyer. Robbie Dwyer is a Producer, Online mixer and educator for over 15 years. He has helped develop and nurture bands and artists, taking their demos and turning them into fully fledged productions. In addition, he is a supporter of musicians who write and record their own music at home and has helped take those recordings to the next level. For more information visit www.robbiedwyermusic.com
What is your key?
Songwriting is a magical process and is an incredibly rewarding once it has been created. However, the process shouldn’t stop there because now the song needs to be develop in terms of its arrangement. In addition, you may consider the key of the song too, as this can change the whole performance and delivery.
A great example of this is the classic Motown song ‘Bernadette’ by the Fourtops. The choice of the songs key is critical in Levi Stubbs’s delivery as the writers Holland-Dozier and Holland had Stubbs singing right at the edge of his range, in doing so, his performance has a heartfelt urgency to it.
https://youtu.be/1g_TVRGWcfk (Bernadette by the Fourtops)
It is important that before you go in to a studio to record, that you have explored different angles and really find the right key to unlock the best song you can. This is a process called Pre-production and it is this at this stage where you as a band or artist really hone into the details, that way when you go to record the song, the process will be a fun and creative time, because you put the work in.
Here is a Chapter from my free downloadable eBook ‘7 Steps To Get GREAT Home Recordings’ which can be downloaded at https://robbiedwyermusic.com/7-steps-to-get-great-home-recordings/
Step One: Pre-Production and Preparation
This is something that should be dealt with before entering the recording stage, this is where the song takes shape. By addressing these 3 areas first, it will really help you achieve greater results in not only your recordings but writing too.
Tempo: Discuss as a band whether you need to play to a click or not. This can also depend on whether your drummer is comfortable with this, as they’re the engine room to the song.
Not all songs need to be recorded to a click. However, during rehearsals, try playing the song to a click at various tempos and make a note of them to find the speed that feels most comfortable. Then practice as a band to that tempo, so as that you feel comfortable and it will make you tighter as a band. In addition, it will help for when you get to recording, because you can use the click as a starting point, that way your song won’t start too fast or too slow.
Are you planning to use the click?
If you are planning to record to the click, you need to work on tempos and find the right speed that suits everyone, because the music might feel good, but it could impact the singer’s delivery because they’re having to rush to get the words in, or notes are being dropped from the guitar riff.
This is easy to achieve now as it’s possible to have an app on your smartphone with a Tap Tempo to find the right speed and groove for your song. I can recommend http://www.frozenape.com/tempo-metronome.html as a great app.
Tempo Mapping: Does the song’s chorus need a lift? By lift, I mean increasing the tempo by a couple of bpm. This can add more excitement to the song and in most instances, this is what happens live anyway. In which case, work out the arrangement of the song and input a tempo map.
Arrangement: Make sure that your song is the best it can be. Try recording the song on the phone and try to listen back from a fan’s point of view. Ask yourself whether you’d be excited or bored by the 45 second intro, or do you think it would be better to start straight from a chorus and hit your audience from the first moment the song starts.
You also want to check that the song lifts and work on ways of making the choruses sound big, this could be down to individual parts played and the use of backing vocals and how they’re arranged.
The beauty of using a daw
The beauty of using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is that you can now ‘shake and bake’, and by this, I mean chop and change the arrangement around really quickly. Allowing you to be able to rearrange the song after the recording to see whether you need a double chorus, or lose that third verse.
The possibilities are endless and now we are able to save alternatives too, so nothing is lost within the project.
Sounds: Working on sounds in rehearsals is a key element as it can be the sonic signature of the band. It is worth spending time to make sure you have the right sounds for the songs, specifically the tones for the various sections making sure that everything in the song serves a purpose.
- Do both guitarists both need to play the chords in the same place? Could there be alternative inversions of the chords to develop the sonic sound.
- Maybe one of the guitars could play an arpeggiated version of the chords?
- What about adding acoustic guitars for texture and rhythm to build the basis of the track?
- Does the Bass player use pick or fingers to get the right attack and sound sonically within the song?
- Does the Bass line need to sit with the drums or does it have more freedom musically?
- Drums sounds are also crucial with regards the tuning as they can play a big impact of the sonic signature too. Making sure that they resonate with the song, especially the Toms.
- Do you need keyboard and synth parts? If there is a keyboard/piano player, how are they fitting in with band and are the sounds working with song?
There are lots of things to consider and it’s always worth seeking out opinions from those who you respect such as, other musicians, studio engineer and producers. Even if it’s a demo recording, they might give you something to take away and help move the song on again musically.
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