Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Refining the arrangement

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged about it but I wanted to continue with documenting the progress through the production of Radio Silence.

Below is my final demo of the track. I hope you’ll agree that it’s a much slicker number following a few subtle changes to the arrangement.

I made the following changes:
  • Refined the drums, including simplifying the drums in the verses a little – the three tracks I identified for my critical listening were very helpful in working out what to do in the choruses
  • I kept elements that I liked and moved the tom hits to preceding verse 2 where they work really nicely
  • I got rid of the things that didn’t work - as much as I liked the feel of the drumming in the old 2nd verse, it just wasn’t working so it had to go
  • Rearranging the building blocks of the song can make a massive difference to the feel and momentum of a track. I reduced the 1st chorus to half length and inserted a small break before we hit the verse again. The 3rd and 4th verses get split up with another chorus stuck between them. The final chorus starts nice and pared down, has a nice fill in the middle and thunders through to the outro which has been tidied up so that it flows much better
  • There’s still work to be done; the guitar in verse 4 needs to be revised as it’s not really working. The track also needs a proper bass line and a couple of interesting guitar lines to add a little sparkle
I’m happy now that this will form the template for the final version which will be on my EP to be released later in the year.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

I wish I'd made this - #3 Private Eye by Alkaline Trio

It's very rare for me to listen to a song on repeat - the exceptions being when I'm scrutinising a track or reviewing my own work - but when I got my hands on the album From Here to Infirmary I just couldn't help myself. It took me a couple of weeks to wean myself off of prolonged periods spent listening to just this one song.

Alkaline Trio start the album as they mean to go on; there's no build up, no long intro, the track launches straight in with an urgency that just sucked me in.

The hook hits us straight away, a six-note guitar riff played in octaves. The beat is strong and the crash cymbals add to the momentum. The bass locks in tightly with the drums cementing that driving feeling with a simple variation the third time through the riff that adds enough interest without over-complicating matters.

The lyrics paint a bleak picture that gives me a real sense for the washed-out alcoholic that is our protagonist. I don't know whether this song is about a detective and his relationship with his work or a lover or if our supposed Private Eye is in fact a stalker. I opt for the first interpretation but, whoever he is, he reminds me of Jack Caffery, the Detective Inspector in Mo Hayder's gruesome crime novels.

My highlight is the start of the second half of the second verse. We get our alternative bass line, a subtle change to the hi-hats and a couple of punchy guitar chords. It's just two bars but it provides a perfect punctuation to our story.

There's nothing complicated about this track, it's all about the execution - a perfect combination of a great hook, evocative lyrics and a flawless arrangement.