A revelation (for me, at least!)

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Jamie

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« on: May 16, 2020, 10:00:07 AM »
This morning whilst lying in bed I had a revelation.....steady ;). I am reading a book called Beyond and Before by Paul Heggarty and Martin Helliwell (University professors). It's a very geeky academic book about the Prog rock genre. It's roots, history, inspirations etc, so not for the casual reader. BUT, in reading this very thought provoking book it made me think about how I write and record my songs,AND I had the aforementioned revelation!
From the beginning, which is only a few years ago, I had the notion of writing songs and recording them myself, without really knowing what that entailed, even though I've been a musician and in bands over the years. I started writing songs and it followed what I guess to be a relatively well worn road. I get ideas for chord structures, riffs, and lyrics, which by a process of assimilation/trial and error, mystical input, I pull together a 'song'. I play this song on the instrument I've written it on and play it till I am satisfied with the structure, etc. As I said before I had no knowledge of the recording process before I wrote my first songs, and so the imperative was to find an 'easy' way to record them with what might be termed an arrangement using different instruments to create what would normally be called a 'song'. And this would allow me to listen to my fully fledged songs and marvel at my artistry and musical talent.....So, to cut a long story short it was about capturing the song and creating what I now would call a demo of a song. How little I knew.
Again, to cut a long story short over the last  couple of years I've improved my general song writing capabilities  (at least compared to earlier) and to some degree my production/recording processes and knowledge.Until recently (weeks) when I wrote a song I would basically record the entire part for let's say this was a piano song from the beginning to the end knowing in my head what I wanted the song structure to be, what the instruments would be and roughly what each part would play in the arrangement. So often I'd get to the end with all the parts and it would be a reasonable interpretation of what I'd set out to create.BUT, if there was something I was unhappy about, eg the length of the song, or a piece of the song it was too time consuming to go back and recreate from the start every instrument and vocal part after spending a lot of time getting those parts 'right'.Now I'm guessing a lot of people will be rolling their eyes by now, but it's my experience and if it helps anyone then it's worth holding myself up for public ridicule (again lol).
A few weeks ago I was putting together a rather complex jazz/rock piece and it was impossible to do a one take recording of the parts, mainly due to my musical inability, so I recorded individual parts and edited them together......eureka! That allowed me to structure and restructure the song easily at any time without the anguish of re recording every element. I have since used this process for every recent song, and hence, IMHO, my songs have become punchier, tighter and more coherent.
BUT, here's the real revelation....I have written a song for the first time where I didn't know any parts, chords, structures, lyrics at the beginning.....nothing, and I'm really pleased with it (It'll be on the forum when my next time slot comes up). It started with me noodling on my guitar and Liked it but it wasn't a basis for a song, so I recorded said noodle, then tried to add harmonic and melodic intensity to it against a tempo I was happy with.In a band this would be termed a improvisation, but as a solo writer I have never had this option. Again, to cut (a not so)long story short I recorded it all in short sections on different tracks, including the vocal and this allowed me to finish a song I'd never even heard in my head......FFS! The opportunities to amend, structure, create and record using this has (I think) possibly revolutionised my potential to write and record new songs in a way I'd not even thought of. So, as in many things in my life despite the lack of a conscious decision I have arrived at a revelatory part of my musical path.
As I said, the book wasn't the inspiration for me realising that by accident I'd found a new and better way of working and potentially artistically more open, but the fact I was educating myself in an academic way to think about process, relationships, emotions, artistry etc has made me realise I now have a huge opportunity to radically change my whole writing and recording process which until today I hadn't realised .. I am sure I will still try to write songs in a 'traditional' way but there are new unrealised options and opportunities to expand my writing, recording and musical dexterity.
So, there we have it......it's taken me years to realise what I'm sure many if not all of you already know......I am often reminded by @Boydie that education in eg reading musical notation, listening to different genres, learning other admired peoples songs, etc are all giving you the opportunity to expand your horizons, and in my case not in a linear way as the book had nothing to do with writing and recoding, but still in a parallel way made me think in an innovative way about my own way of working.

Anyway hope it's of use to someone.........

Cheers

Jamie

Boydie

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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2020, 10:37:49 AM »
@Jamie that is a great story

It just goes to show that regardless of knowledge of theory or not - the key is to do whatever gives you that creative “spark” and to take whatever approach you want to without feeling like you are cheating - whether that is recording a complex part in stages or tuning a vocal - it is the end result that counts
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cowparsleyman

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Neil C

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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2020, 07:09:50 AM »
@jamie, looking forward to the 'cut and shut' now song. I agree its kind of freeing to not have to write the whole thing sometimes and allow the tech to help both write and recording.
:-)
Neil
songwriter of no repute..

PaulAds

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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2020, 07:16:12 AM »
Great post, Jamie.

Just the ability to cut and paste sections has been invaluable to me when working on arrangements.



MichaelA

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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2020, 07:52:42 AM »
Hi Jamie, very interesting to read about your musical journey with recording. I suppose most of us on here are self taught recording wise and will have various tales to tell on developing pains. The only thing I try to do in one take, all the way through, is vocals, so the sound is consistent from start to finish. However, I never manage a single perfect take, so there are always patched in bits and edits.

I think your songs are showing more discipline these days. This happened for me, at my level, when I started being prepared to edit more. E.g., with cut and paste I recently changed a song's intro to be a chorus outro, replacing the custom intro I had originally done, but didn't feel enmeshed in the song by the end. I also completely removed and rewrote a middle 8 section on my last song to keep the length down. So now you are using this technique I think you'll enjoy loads of possibilities in the future. Good luck with it.  ;)

pompeyjazz

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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2020, 08:38:29 AM »
Fascinating read Jamie. I am very much in the "write as you record" camp. I can only think of a few songs that I have recorded where I know the complete structure before I start. Cut and paste are indeed invaluable

adamfarr

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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2020, 11:57:08 AM »
Cool to hear your experiences, Jamie. Perhaps similarly, I started off thinking it was somehow impure to record in parts - then reality and the sheer possibilities took over.

I think the key is keeping an open mind regarding all ways of working - I know for sure in a lot of music they only play or sing a section once and cut and paste. Which may be totally fine or not totally fine if you want a different feel for each section.

Perhaps because I tend to start off with lyrics I've never really "written" in a DAW - I've definitely arranged there so maybe the next step is to do it all "in the box".

shadowfax

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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2020, 06:50:28 AM »
Anything goes in songwriting Jamie..use whatever you can to get the song out there...the listener is not interested in how the song was made, if they like it they'll listen, if they don't like it..they won't..

Jamie

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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2020, 09:43:06 AM »
Hi all thanks for commenting, I'm pleased this was not one of those posts that dies of shame as it heads for the second page without comment ;D

@Boydie @cowparsleyman @NeilC @PaulAds @MichaelA  @pompeyjazz @adamfarr @shadowfax

Interesting comments as ever! Just to clarify, I may have given an impression that somehow finding this new way of working is 'impure' or a dirty secret' :o. I have no qualms about using everything and anything available to improve my songs, my performance and recording of them.My point was that because of my auto didactic approach to writing and recording I had missed years of enlightenment by not educating myself in the varied and time efficient methods of writing and recording. Maybe I'm just a slow learner :P. As many of you have pointed out it is perfectly acceptable use current technology and knowledge to develop your skills and outputs. Otherwise we'd still be living, painting murals and singing in caves to get the natural reverb ;).
Thanks for listening to my rant, now you can hear the output and judge whether I have actually learned anything, the song 'Trapped" is posted ;).

Cheers guys thanks for reading and responding.

Jamie