Monday, 28 February 2011

Finding the words

I've just written an entire song (working title Radio Silence) without picking up an instrument. It's not like I have a formula for writing, but this was a first for me. I've written music to lyrics before, but this time I knew exactly how the song would sound as I was writing.

Lyrics have always been a big challenge for me and many projects get abandoned due to my struggle to find the right words. I finally decided last week that I needed to address my approach to lyric writing and adopt some new tactics. I had a good chat with Mrs Dog who suggested that I should carry a notebook with me at all times and write down any ideas I get about subjects and interesting words and phrases that I come across. In hindsight it seems foolish that I'd not adopted a similar approach before.

By the end of the first evening I had a good collection of ideas and was already brainstorming on a couple of topics. I then came up with the first line You've got the perfect face for radio and the whole idea just grew from there.

Hopefully I'll get into the kennel this week and knock up a quick demo once I've worked out how to play it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Snip, snip, snip - making a radio edit

My band writes music with the primary goal of playing live shows. So, with this in mind, when we recorded our recent EP, we played pretty much as we would do live. The only potential downside with this is that our tracks tend to turn out a little on the long side when compared to commercial ideals.

So I got out my hatchet and hacked out 1'45" from the original mix, bringing it down to a more radio-friendly 3'48". In essence all I've done is remove a few bars from the intro, between the first two verses and then removed the bridge and third chorus before closing with a truncated outro.

In the digital age it's almost as simple as that, however, in order to keep the track fluid it takes a little bit of effort to make the edits seamless. If I would have just stuck the outro on the end of the second chorus then I would have lost the bass run that leads into the solo, drum fills would have been out of context and the decay from cymbal crashes would have been lost.

This is the first time I've ever done a remix of a completed track and it was a very useful educational experience. I got to where I wanted to in the end, but not in the most efficient manner. What I mean to say is that if I were to do this again, I'd do it differently and I have learned from my mistakes!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I wish I'd made this - #2 Who's Got A Match? by Biffy Clyro

I'm sure I wasn't the only person who's ears pricked up instantly on hearing the quirky riff in this track. It demands attention and I still find it very hard to concentrate on anything else whilst it's playing (which is making writing this blog rather tricky as I listen on repeat). But it's not the riff alone that makes this a great track.

By keeping everything stripped back each instrument is given the space to work. The bass is kept very simple, providing just a little underpinning. For a large proportion the guitar plays single notes and where the guitars double up everything is still kept straightforward.

And then there's that riff. I think it was a brave and very wise decision not to throw it right in at the very start of the song. By holding it back it's allowed to introduce a further dimension to the track rather than setting the tone from the start.

This gives the drums a little more breathing room to provide all of the rhythmical interest in the track - take a listen ignoring everything but the drums; they're really rather good!

Things get a little bit louder and looser in the bridge, but you really feel the impact because of the dynamic contrast to the rest of the track.

I think Who's Got A Match? is a textbook example of a minimalist rock arrangement and was one of my reference tracks whilst recording my band's EP. It proves that you don't have to throw the kitchen sink at a song in order for it to come alive. Too many people think you have to create layers and layers of guitars, reverb and delays to make a big rock song. I'm not saying that it can't work that way, just that it's not always necessary.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Long Distance

At last, here it is, my new track Long Distance.

I wrote this song for Mrs Dog back in 2002 when we'd been together for just under a year. We'd just finished university and were living apart for a couple of months before going to spend a year living in New Zealand. Mrs Dog is a massive pop punk fan and I wanted to write her a song in this style.

Long Distance was written on the acoustic guitar but I've never made a proper recording of this song until now. Whilst working on the arrangement and recording I listened to lots of New Found Glory, Elemeno P, Fenix TX and Simple Plan to try and find the elements that are used in making a song fit the genre.

I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Good. Better. Right.

Oh dear, I can't believe that a whole two weeks have elapsed since my last blog post. This new venture was supposed to be something to be maintained and not recklessly abandoned within a month.

But fear not, my blog is not abandoned, I've just been terribly distracted trying to make Long Distance sound good. Sound better. Sound right!

The hint of optimism at the end of my last post was warranted as I tweaked the arrangement, recorded some new vocals and now have a track that I think works really well. I'm struggling with mixing and keep edging it towards being finished but I just can't get there right now.

I think it sounds good, I really do. I listen to it in isolation and it's doing pretty much everything I want it to, but then I play it after listening to the tracks I want it to sound like and it just sounds muddy, dull and lifeless in comparison. I know where I want the track to be and I have a vague idea of how to get there but I'm expending a lot of effort in fighting against my inexperience and what might just be a lack of talent.

The current mix is good. And it is better (far better) than it was.

It's just not right.