tunesmithth

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  1. This is the first installment of a blog series. The series is intended is to provide a peek behind the creative curtain, taking an in-depth look at the process itself. For this installment, I'm going all the way back to the beginning. "Slow Down" was my very first song. Originally written/arranged & recorded in 1995, it was re-recorded in 98. The Idea In past articles, I've pointed out that my songs typically evolve from one of 4 starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme In this case, the idea was a basic progression I stumbled upon. Not really a chord progression in the strictest sense, but never-the-less a progression. While experimenting with combinations of 2 and 3 note intervals, an interesting pattern began to emerge. It's built upon traditional I-IV-V framework, but layered changes within that framework give it a unique flavor. Rather than try to explain it, I'll show you in a brief video which...... Shows a tablature rendering of the primary pattern positions Demonstrates the actual progression http://youtu.be/yxWZMHQy10c Fundamentals The song is set in Mixolydian mode. For those unfamiliar with the term, Mixolydian mode is essentially a diatonic major scale/key, with the 7th flattened. The flattening of that one note alters the fundamental step pattern of the key. That single change in structure has a huge impact on the flavor of the resulting composition. It's common practice for songwriters to step outside of strict key structure. In other words, it would have been OK for me to employ notes not contained within the basic 7-note scale (A mixolydian). That being said, I chose to remain within the confines of that scale! The vocal melody, bass guitar, 2nd & 3rd guitars were set in A mixolydian, as was the entire arrangement for the bridge section. The secondary guitar part is comprised of 2-note intervals. Guitar #3 is single-note leads and fills. The 3-note combinations played at the outset of each A, D & E section, are the only things vaguely resembling traditional chords. Each combination is comprised of a root (tonic), a 5th and a 9th. Definitely chords, but by no means traditional. Structure Introduction (8 sec.) / 8 Bar Musical Interlude / Verse-Refrain / 4 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Bridge (Middle- / 8 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Ending w. fade Subject Matter Because of the feel established by that primary guitar progression, the song wouldn't have worked with an uplifting lyric. Serious, darker subject matter was called for. Substance abuse (specifically alcoholism) was my final choice. The lyric was written from the perspective of the alcoholic, in this case a male. It's intended to depict the typical downward spiral of both the substance abuser and the relationship. The idea was to reveal the changing mind-set of the abuser as the addiction progressed & the relationship disintegrated. As is the case with most of my songs, the melody was written before the lyric. I also had a specific meter structure in mind. The downside of this particular structure was that it wouldn't allow for a wordy lyric. I had to rely heavily on subtle changes in the person, tense & exact wording to get the lyrical message across. Personally, I enjoy the challenge that comes with this style of writing, but it does present obstacles. The message/meaning isn't as obvious as it is with other styles. A greater burden is placed upon the listener to listen intently. Unlike more popular lyrical styles, the listener can't cherry-pick key words and phrases. The lyric needs to be taken as a whole for the message to come through as intended. Lyric I smile and start another day You smile and tell me it's OK We should have known we would get through it You'd think we'd know by now I promise I....won't drink much tonight I know I blame my life on you You tell me I don't have a clue You should have known not to back-talk me I'd think you'd know by now I know that I....said I would slow down Should slow down Must slow down Will slow down Next week swear I'll slow down! I get up & start another day You're not here to tell me it's OK I should have known you didn't love me You'd think I'd know by now I don't care if....I ever slow down! Final Production Notes Both the 1995 and 98 recordings of this were done on a Tascam 424....4-track analog cassette recorder. Some years later, when I upgraded to a digital recording setup, I dumped the original 4 analog tracks onto 4 empty digital tracks, cleaned them up a bit, compressed & remixed the song. To give you an idea of what I was working with...... The drum track was recorded all at once. No overdubs were possible, because it was done using a freestanding electronic metronome. With the old analog decks, if you tried to record a standard click-track, you'd get ghosts of it bleeding through to other tracks. Even after the click track was erased, remnants of it remained and would be heard on the final recording. The drums & bass guitar shared a single-mono track on the cassette recorder. Drums were recorded first, then primary guitar, then bass. At that point in the process, a combined premix of drums and bass were bounced over to the only remaining track. That allowed the original recordings of each to be erased....opening up two additional tracks. The 2nd guitar was recorded on one of those, lead vocal on the other. The final lead guitar bits were recorded last, wherever open track space remained. All the guitar parts were recorded through a mic'd amp, with effects already applied. Drums had to be recorded with individual EQ adjustments & effect already applied. Compared to current standards, this was the equivalent of working with stone knives & bearskins. Honestly.....given the limitations of the process, I'm amazed that it sounds as decent as it does. Overall, it's a bit muddy, the vocal could sit a little higher in the mix and there are several predominant "s" sounds in the first verse vocal. Hopefully, you're able to overlook the production shortcomings and enjoy the song. YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/RCk-QW_smaw Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1
  2. Hey Jeff....appreciate the intro! BTW I checked out your website...nice! Rich arrangements on the couple tunes that I had time to listened to. Enjoy the site! Tom
  3. Color me pretentious I guess I don't use them in everything, but I've always viewed them as another tool in the writing/arranging arsenal. If they seem an appropriate choice, I use them...like here - 05 - Don't Lie To Yourself 128 ringtone.mp3
  4. Extremely difficult question, but off the top of my head I'd have to go with "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel. As for the "whys"... the strength of the melody the complexity & variety of the song structure serves as a fine example of how to incorporate mood changes & movements into a popular music piece excellent, diverse arrangement great example of a nostalgic, story-themed lyric great use of lyrical imagery, artistic & contemporary at the same time and finally, because I've always believed Billy Joel to be one hell of a songwriter/performer. In my humble opinion, anyone out there who's not acquainted with his work, should be! That song would serve as a good starting point. Tom
  5. “Middle Class Blues” was originally written & copyrighted back in 1998. As is often the case, I liked the song, but felt that the arrangement was lacking. In 2001 I did a partial rewrite of the song, adding….. a 40 second introduction a 2nd guitar part (rhythm) The song was then re-recorded, in 8 track digital format. The Idea The song evolved from a guitar progression, set in minor pentatonic block form. I stumbled upon the pattern while practicing scales Eventually built a song around it Chose a subject that was an appropriate match for the music Created a lyric *Video Demonstration & Tab of Primary Guitar Progression - https://youtu.be/PcbYFyIM39o Subject Matter In a nutshell – it’s about the plight of the middle class in America. As you might expect, it’s written from my perspective & based largely on personal observations & experiences. Completely appropriate, since songwriting is a means of creative self-expression. Over the years, the timeless nature of this lyric has been brought to my attention more than once. Simply put…..it’s as relevant now as it was when it written back 98. The purchasing power of the middle class hasn’t improved. Middle class tax burden hasn’t decreased. I still pay into a tax base for schools I’ve never used. NO, I’m not advocating a school voucher alternative, or promoting a specific political agenda! I simply have no children. No children = no use of the school system. It’s an indisputable fact that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, yet we continue funding it with tax dollars year after year. Pharmaceutical companies are ABSOLUTELY getting rich from supplying our Medicare program. Again…now more than ever, since our government is no longer allowed to negotiate the cost of Medicare drugs. More tax loopholes exist for the wealthy today, than in 98. The poor are no more able to contribute to the tax base than they were back then. Leaving the middle class to shoulder the lions’ share of the tax burden. The end result being – “We’ve got the Middle Class Blues!” Not a single one of those areas has shown improvement in almost 20 years. I’m sure there are conclusions to be drawn from that, but I leave those to you. I’m just a songwriter stating the obvious. Lyric Got those middle class blues Well when I look at my economic state With what I make I ought to be livin’ great You gotta know my heart gets to feelin’ down When tax time comes around I pay for schools that I don’t even use I fund a war on drugs that we’re bound to lose You got know that I keep-a-waitin’ for Some way to even the score Got those middle class blues! Well now I know that I need to pay my share But while suppliers get rich from Medicare I’ve got to ask myself what it’s all about I just can’t figure it out ! The wealthy don’t pay much, cause they know the game The underprivileged can’t, the end result’s the same That leaves the middle class to pay & pay Hope we get our someday! Got the middle class blues! Copyright 1998 – Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Guitar Based Verse-Refrain Section / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Ends on Repeat of Musical Refrain Musical Fundamentals The song is set in A# minor. For whatever reason, I find it easier to craft interesting melodies in minor keys. Consequently, many of my songs share that characteristic. Back in 2001, when I made the decision to add a 40 second musical introduction to this song, I also doomed it to commercial failure. For those who aren’t aware, long introductions are strongly discouraged in commercial songwriting circles. The average listener tends to focus on the vocal, so delaying its’ entry into a song is tempting fate. Industry folks will tell you that anything over 20 seconds is viewed negatively. Attention spans being what they are, you run the risk of the listener going elsewhere. Since I’m not a professional songwriter, my focus was on creating a well written song….not a commercially viable one. When you make your living elsewhere, you can afford to make decisions based on personal preference, rather than industry norms. That being said, I did build in something to help with damage control. The song begins with a single vocal line, which happens to include the hook (title) of the song. “Got those Middle Class Blues”! By doing that, I accomplished several things: 1. Immediately announced to the listener that there WOULD BE vocals in the song. Long instrumental intos leave listeners wondering. “Is there a vocal coming?” Some get bored & won’t stick around to find out. A single line of vocals up front removes that uncertainty. Listeners know that eventually……it’s coming! 2. It re-enforced the song’s lyrical hook….the thing you want to stick in the listeners’ head after the song has ended. “Middle Class Blues” is a guitar-based arrangement. If I do say so myself, some of my more creative guitar work! 4 individual tracks were used for guitar….all done with my SG 1 track for bass guitar 1 for vocal The only stereo pair of tracks was used for the drums Final Production Notes This was one of the first songs I recorded after upgrading to the digital realm. My Tascam PortaStudio 788 had a total of 8 recordable tracks….6 mono & one stereo pair (tracks 7 & 8 ). Overall, I wish the production quality of this final version was a little better. That being said, the song itself remains among my favorites! Performance Credits Guitars, Bass & Drums – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/fQDOSaXpmsc Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  6. As a participant in several online musician/songwriter forums, I can attest to the fact that the "lessons" question, is a fairly common one. It's natural to be curious about how others acquired their knowledge & skills. Many players are self-taught, but many take the formal lessons route. I actually recommend a combination of both. I'll spend the remainder of this blog elaborating on my preference & sharing some tips on how to get the most out of formal lessons. Let me begin by giving you a bit of background. I was a drum student 44 years ago, followed by several years as drum instructor. I became a novice guitar student 17 years ago and in recent years, have done some basic instruction in that capacity. My point is........I've seen the pros & cons of lessons from both sides, several times, with various instruments. Bottom line.........I speak from experience! Freelance music instructors are an extremely diverse group. When I say freelance, I'm referring to teachers who either: - teach from home or - teach in conjunction with a music store or some other type of retail entity (on or off-line) In the US at least, these are the most common, readily available type of instructors! Their skill levels, knowledge & basic qualifications run the gamut from virtually unqualified to extremely gifted. There is no certification process and no standardized list of requirements. In most cases, instructors are completely unregulated. What I'm getting at here, is that the responsibility for choosing a decent teacher rests entirely upon the student. Buyer beware, or in this case....student beware! Unfortunately...this model, which makes the student, or student's parent responsible for selecting the teacher, has one serious flaw. It assumes that the student (or parent) is qualified to make the selection....that they know what to look for. In many cases, they don't! Hopefully, I can offer a little assistance in that area. Here's a short-list of qualities that I look for in a teacher/instructor: 1) Reasonable competence as a player - They don't have to be great, but they should come across as being at least comfortable with their instrument. 2) They should seem more concerned about your learning, than about feeding their own ego by dazzling you with their ability & brilliance. 3) They should not only allow, but encourage questions from you. As a student, I never walked into a lesson without having at least 1 or 2 pre-prepared, written questions! Don't trust yourself to remember. Write them down! Typical lessons are only a 1/2 hour long. It's easy to get rushed, busy with something else, or simply forget....write them down! Always remember that the instructor is only half of the equation here. The other half is you! You're paying this person. Make sure you're getting your money's worth! This is the area in which a combination of self teaching & formal instruction can be most beneficial. Trust your instructor to guide the direction of the lessons, but don't hesitate to do extra reading & research on your own. This is where many of your weekly questions can come from. Use your teacher's knowledge to help you gain a better understanding of how all these musical concepts work together. Show initiative, be inquisitive & get them to share as much of that knowledge with you as possible. In doing so, believe it or not, you're probably making their job a little more interesting. *One quick caution about on-your-own reading & research. Try and stick to concepts that you're already somewhat familiar with. When it comes to music theory, skipping too far ahead isn't a good idea. Chances are.....if you've ventured into material you're not yet ready for, you'll know it. It won't make any sense to you! Whatever the subject is...don't panic. You're just not prepared to deal with it yet. Yes, this too...is on my list of past mistakes. The funny thing is though, when the time is right....and you're able to place that information in the proper context, it'll make perfect sense to you. The trick is that the fundamentals always need to precede the more advanced concepts. Fundamentals are the building blocks. Skipping over them would be like trying to learn how to read, without first knowing the alphabet. 4) This final quality is a little hard to describe, but it's also the most critical for an instructor to possess. They need to be capable of remembering what it was like to be a student! If they can't, it's unlikely that they'll be able to explain things to you in an understandable way. If your teacher has forgotten what it was like not to know, you'll begin to see that within the first few lessons. Even though it not their intent, teachers like this tend to frustrate students. Too many times, frustrated students become ex-students. They walk away, assuming that their inability to understand is somehow their fault........and they never pick up the instrument again. Obviously, that's not the end result you want! Always remember that a teacher is there to be of benefit to YOU......not the other way around. Regardless of how brilliant & talented they may be, if they can't find a way to pass some of what they possess...onto you, it's a waste of your time and money! With this type of situation, my advice is simple......find yourself a different teacher! I did! When I first decided to take up guitar, I did what many folks do. I walked into the closest music store & signed up with an available instructor for lessons. Many times, new students don't even have the opportunity to meet the instructor before signing up. I didn't. However, I did have an advantage over many new students. I'd already spent time on both sides of this student-teacher equation and I knew what to look for! So.....my first lesson rolled around and I met with my instructor. He was a 21 year old, 4.0 GPA, pre-med student at a prominent local university. I'd played with enough good guitarists in my day, to recognize that this guy had skills! Anyway, if I had any doubts, he was only to happy to remind me of it....often . In his defense though, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy & appeared to have nothing but good intentions. Unfortunately, as an instructor, he did have one pretty big problem. He didn't have a clue how to teach beginner or intermediate students! Apparently, his own knowledge had evolved to the point where everything seemed simple to him. Rather than bore his beginner students with fundamentals, he decided to dig right into subjects that he considered more interesting. As part of my 2nd lesson, he proceeded to explain to me how a diatonic major scale & it's relative natural minor scale, are essentially identical. The only real differences being the starting & ending points of each....& the fact that the same note holds a different numeric position, depending on whether it's part of the major or minor version. If I've just lost some of you, I apologize. For those of you who do understand the concept, so did I.............one year later! I'm one of those people who still has every note, from every lesson he's ever taken. A year after that 2nd lesson, I pulled out my notes...looked them over and the light bulb went off in my head. After an additional year of guitar method & theory, it actually made sense to me! I understood exactly what he was trying to tell me. I also understood how completely insane it was for him to think it was appropriate to teach that in a 2nd lesson. But there-in lies the problem. In his mind, the concept was no longer difficult. Because he understood it so well, he'd come to believe that everyone would. He had simply forgotten what it was like not-to-know. Needless to say, he didn't remain my teacher for very long........3 lessons to be exact. I went to a different shop & got myself another teacher. My second teacher was also my last. He was very good at what he did. I wasn't unkind about leaving the first guy, but I did leave. In closing, I'd like to offer one last suggestion. Before you decide to change instructors, take a good, hard look at your part of the student/teacher partnership. - are you actually practicing regularly? - are you asking questions? - are you genuinely interested in learning & improving? If you're not, the best instructor in the world can't help you! A good teacher can make an immense difference, but even the best can't teach someone who's not interested in learning! Be honest with yourself because there's nothing to be gained by placing blame where it doesn't belong. If it's you, fix that! If it's them, try a different teacher. Thanks once again for your interest! HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com
  7. Welcome to the site Don...appreciate the intro! Tom
  8. While that's certainly True Jenn, with few exceptions the instrumentation (arrangement) isn't covered by copyright...melody is. You can change the arrangement as much as you want, but if the overall melody's the same...or remarkably similar, you've likely infringed. Tom
  9. Melody should always be assessed In context, so my short answer would be yes. Unless that single line of melody is incredibly distinctive, I wouldn't hesitate to use it. Given that a musical key only contains 7 notes + the octave, it would be virtually impossible not repeat at least portions of previously used melodies. Seriously...just do the math...7 total notes = millions upon millions of melodies? Welcome to the site BTW! Tom
  10. Welcome back ! I get what you're sayin' about your version of Christian Rock. The only semi-religious tune I ever wrote fits into that vein ("Sunday Christian"). I never even considered it "Christian" music, till I explored the genre a bit more. Definitely doesn't qualify as "praise"! Anyway...glad to have you back! Tom
  11. Sorry Nelson, Songstuff was never intended to be a hosting platform. Typically members upload to one of the many platforms that do specialize in that (YouTube, SoundCloud, Reverbnation, etc.), then share the link here. Apologize for any misunderstanding. Tom
  12. Put Up or Shut Up / Ted Nugent
  13. Nice job with the intro...welcome to the site Ken ! Tom
  14. When I recommended "playing around with various roll combinations", I was referring to the mixing of elements. Drummers typically construct rolls using combinations of elements (rudiments)....double-strokes, single strokes, triplets, paradiddles, ruffs, flams, etc. This brief vid may give a little clearer idea of what I'm suggesting. It randomly mixes...... - Open-stroke five stroke rolls - double-stroke & single-stroke fills - Paradiddles - 16th note (double-time) triplets You won't be able to utilize anything here as-is. It's intended as a skills development drill for drummers, so there's no breathing room allowed between elements. Bottom line...drummers like variety! If you wish to emulate one, you need to think in multiples/combinations...not single skills. Tom
  15. Sorry, I don't have anything in my reference arsenal that'll be much help with that. I wasn't familiar with "Stay", so I pulled it up on YouTube and took a quick listen so I'd have a point of reference. That drum part is fairly simple, but you won't get there by employing a single rudiment (paradiddles). The feel he's generating with his hands is more random than that. It's as much about where he's choosing NOT to play (rests) as it is what he's playing. The bass drum running underneath is a steady 1-2-3-4...straight quarter notes. If my heads on straight, his hand action is based around one fundamental sequence, with appropriately placed variations mixed in. There's no single tip I can give you to get you where you want to go. Much of your process will be trial & error. Play around with various roll combinations, spacing & accent patterns until you come up with something that works for you. Forget about variations right now (intermixing of toms, high hat & cymbals)...concentrate on coming up with that single fundamental sequence that you like. Once you have that, it should be simple to built around it & mix in variations as you see fit. Hope this helps...good luck with it! Tom
  16. Based on that 18 seconds, ditto what Randy said. Put me down as undecided
  17. I created these a few years ago Eliott. You may find the information here useful....it deals with many of the nuances you inquired about. I'll leave you the links to the 3-part text version in my blog. They're also available in video format on my YouTube channel...direct share links are provided in the blog articles. Good luck...hope you find them helpful. Tom
  18. “Too Small To Save" was written & arranged in 2008….recorded & mixed in early 2009. Those original recorded tracks were edited & remixed in 2014. That 2014 version is the used for this SBtS video. The Idea My songs typically evolve from…. - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme In this case, it was 2 of those elements combined. 1) A guitar progression (riff/pattern) 2) A central theme, which was also served as the title (hook) In songwriting, it’s essential for the subject matter to blend with the musical feel. In other words, one should complement the other. In my humble opinion, that is the case here. Subject Matter This particular lyric hit pretty close to home. It was loosely based on my wife’s employer, who shall remain nameless. The lyrical message was inspired-by…and based-upon changing conditions following the financial collapse of 2008. Simply put, none of those changes benefited the employees & most didn't bode too well for the financial future of the company. Much to my surprise, the company survived. The employees however, were a different story. Most of what they lost was never returned. The financial recovery that followed did little to benefit them. The title “Too Small To Save” was applicable to both employer & employee. At the time this song was written, both fit the description…seeming doomed to failure. As you may have guessed, the title was also a tongue & cheek play on that infamous 2008 headline - “Too Big To Fail”. While banks & auto manufacturers were too big to fail, small companies & employees were “Too Small To Save”. Essentially, the yin & yang of monetary policy. Structurally, the lyric is brief…with a generous dose of repetition. The message is heavily reliant on imagery & metaphors, which is not typical of my lyrics. Because the subject matter was both current & dismal, I chose an artsy lyrical format. Lyric Too small…too small to save Just another business crushed by the wave One more tiny fish…too small to save A victim…of the economy No golden parachute waits for me Almost 80 years business don’t count these days No friends in high places…too small to save Last call…for 401Ks Get ‘em while you can…they’re fadin’ away It’s closin’ time cause we’re…too small to save Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse-Refrain / Instrumental Verse-Refrain (guitar solo) / Bridge / Verse-Refrain / Ending Musical Fundamentals Musically, “Too Small To Save” was built around a single guitar progression. It’s the one you hear being played throughout the intro & verse-refrain sections. The song is set in the key of Aminor….BPM 100 Genre-wise, I’d have to call it blues-rock. This arrangement is guitar-based, utilizing 3 separate mono tracks. My Gibson SG was used for two of those. The 3rd was a mixture of Strat & SG…with Strat being chosen for the bridge section. Its’ single coil pickups were useful in creating thinner sounding guitar textures. - One of those 3 tracks contains intermittent lead guitar. - The other 2 are the primaries, heard throughout the song. The verse/refrain sections consist of 1 guitar playing the primary progression, while a 2nd guitar plays 3-note power chords (I-V-octave). The bridge was intended to have a unique feel, so both guitar parts change dramatically. The SG picks single notes within standard open chord forms, while the Strat strums triads (3-note chord forms…I-III-V). The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to the Boss unit in 2007. Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about using synthetic drums. But the additional control, flexibility & convenience of the machine method sold me on the change. Suffice to say that recording live drums in a single-person home studio setup is a tedious process! Regardless, the marching snare used for the bridge section was an actual drum. Unfortunately, the machine decay rate makes crash cymbals sound VERY artificial. So… all crashes were overdubbed onto separate tracks, using actual cymbals. Final Production Notes The recording, editing & mixing were done on a PortaStudio 2488….a 24 track Tascam system. Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/8A6W4OarAWY Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  19. Tip #1 - The music industry is a business. That's important to understand because....if you deal with it as anything other than a business, you will almost certainly fail. If you've had very little business experience or lack a basic understanding of how they operate, you need to learn. Why? As I said above, you cannot succeed in something without first possessing a basic understanding of what it is. Talent, musical proficiency dedication to your goals & self-confidence are prerequisites, not your ticket to stardom. Think of them in as you would a college degree. The degree itself guarantees you nothing....other than the opportunity to compete for what you want. Intangibles such as "creative integrity" may have value to you & your peers, but NOT to a business. As a general rule, businesses care about 2 things - making money & saving money. When you present yourself to industry representatives, keep that in mind. If you can convince them of your ability to accomplish one or both of those goals, that should get their attention. If you're unclear about how someone might "save" a record label money, I'll leave you with 2 examples: Think about the huge growth of the pop, rap & hip-hop genres in recent years. The bulk of the music & arrangements for those genres is created via software & sampling. That means fewer session musicians, less studio time and lower overall cost of production. They're able to sell those CDs & downloads at a competitive price, but the profit margin is higher because of the lower production cost. Do you really believe that change in public buying habits was a lucky accident? If you happen to be an artist with a huge online fanbase/following (Justin Bieber), that's tangible selling point. A huge ready-made fanbase means lower promotional cost for the label....again, saving them money. Tip #2 - Beware of the "Scamortunity" As you might guess, the term is meant to describe a scam disguised as an opportunity. What does a scamortunity look like? Not an easy question to answer, since they come in many forms. As a general rule, the more unbelievable the opportunity looks..... the more skeptical you should be the more extensively it should be researched the more reluctant you should be to participate In other words, if it seems too good to be true, it almost always is! Most cons (scams) are designed to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities. In the case of songwriter/musicians, those vulnerabilities are well known & numerous. Don't allow belief in yourself, belief in the uniqueness of your creations & desire for recognition to become liabilities in your quest for success. Remember....the music industry is a business & should be dealt with as such. In business, opportunities rarely come looking for you. Don't expect them to seek you out in this industry either. With very few exceptions, they won't! Tip #3 - Nothing is owed to you. Many in this business develop the attitude that the world/industry owes them something. Simply put, that is not a productive mindset & will do nothing to further your career. Countless hours of dedication to your craft, skills, talent & creative ability are prerequisites....not entitlements! Virtually every one of your competitors (fellow musician/songwriters) has worked as hard as you have....sometimes harder. Those prerequisites earn you the right to compete, nothing more. View them as you would a high school diploma. That diploma doesn't earn you money, it does get you a job & it won't guarantee admission to the college of your choice. But without it, you don't even qualify to compete for those things, because the majority of your competitors have one. Forget about concepts like fairness. The world of business is based on many rules, but fairness is not one of them. Tangible results rule the day. Tip #4 - For God sake, spend a couple dollars & get your finished material properly copyrighted. We're only too happy to spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone that'll be obsolete next year. ATM fees, wireless streaming fees, credit card interest, bank overdraft fees, apps....all things that we've come to accept as unavoidable expenses. BUT....when it comes to spending $35 to legally protect our own artistic creations, we'd rather not. Seriously....$35??? That's the current U.S. Library of Congress online filing rate for multiple works by a single author. To the best of my knowledge, a Library of Congress registration is the only universally recognized method for proving legal ownership of a work. There are viable legal reasons for choosing this method & I encourage you to verify that for yourselves. Here are a number of direct links you may find useful: United States Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/ Why Should I Register My Work? FAQ page http://copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#automatic Copyright FAQ - http://copyright.gov/help/faq/index.html Electronic Copyright Office tutorial - http://copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf Online Copyright Registration - http://copyright.gov/eco/ Tip #5 - Remember...it's all about the vocals ! It’s common for recording songwriters/bands to underestimate the importance of the primary vocal track. Bottom line….it’s "Priority #1" and should be treated as such. Why you ask? Simple! To the ordinary listener, it’s the single most important thing. Non-musician listeners focus the majority of their attention on the vocal (singer). Sure…everything else matters! Just not as much. Common Reasons for Substandard Vocals: · Internal Band Dynamics - every member of a band wants to feel like their part is essential to the success or failure of a project. Unfortunately, nothing outranks the melody & the singer's presentation of it. Yes…a strong vocal can benefit from a great musical arrangement. But, if the vocal’s substandard, the best arrangement/performance in the world won’t save it. · When recording demos or finished material, vocals are one of the last things to be dealt with. If you’re working in a pro studio, you’re probably paying an hourly rate. If that is the case, you should budget your session time carefully. You can’t afford to blow the majority of the budget on preliminary musical tracks. When that occurs, the natural tendency is to rush the vocal recordings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends make this mistake! Remember, if that vocal isn’t done reasonably well, everyone loses. Take whatever precautions are appropriate. When it’s all said & done, that vocal track will represent your song. Shoot for the highest quality you can reasonably achieve. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profilehttp://www.tune-smith.comhttp://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH *This article is the result of a question posed on the Songstuff boards. John Moxey asked the question, these were my responses.
  20. “Don’t Lie To Yourself" was written & recorded back in 2002. I filed the copyright as a single work, rather than a collection. Time was of the essence, since I was entering my very first songwriting contest. The "Billboard World Song Contest". Since the Billboard was one of the larger contests, I had no idea what to expect. While it didn't win, it didn't go completely un-noticed. The Idea My songs typically evolve from one of 4 starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme When I began writing “Don’t Lie To Yourself”, there wasn‘t much to work with. · A simple chord progression I liked, which evolved into my chorus section. · The hook (title) – “Don’t Lie To Yourself” and a tentative melody for that one line. That was about it! Subject Matter Titles like this one paint a clear picture of the intended message. Simply put, it’s lyrical advice – “be honest with yourself”. Typically, lyrics with a ‘telling” tone are discouraged in songwriting circles. Folks don’t enjoy being told what to do, or how to think….even in a song. Regardless, I decided to make an exception. The hook line…. · flowed nicely · was memorable · contributed to the overall mood I was hoping to achieve Since the title was my central message, the chorus sections were used to re-enforce that message and expand upon the “whys”. Both repetition & harmony proved useful in that process. The verse sections for this song were written last. The chorus was the message delivery vehicle, but something needed to set the stage for that message. That was the goal of the verses. They would be used to creatively describe the circumstances which gave that message importance. Video Demonstration - Lead Guitar / Instrumental Verse (34 seconds long) https://youtu.be/i3GuchS8Kgg So….back to that lyrical message! Here it is in a nutshell. Verses.......... Regardless of what we’re taught as children, lying is one of those undesirable realities of life. The older we get, the clearer that becomes. In polite society, it goes by many names…. fabrication, mis-speaking, embellishment, selective omission, spin, stretching the truth. But when you strip away all the niceties, it comes down to varying degrees of the same thing – "something other-than the absolute truth". Choruses........... Despite the fact that lying is such an ingrained part of our existence, we need to be honest with ourselves. The lie that you tell yourself is a sucker’s lie & YOU’RE the sucker! Lyric Spend our lives…tellin’ tales Stretch and bend…the truth Learned that when…reality fails A lie may do But don’t lie to yourself You’re the only one to lose Don’t lie to yourself A lie only a fool would choose Life demands…shaded truths Hype & spin…abound As we grow…beyond our youth Truth is rarely found But don’t lie to yourself You’re the only one to lose Don’t lie to yourself A lie only a fool would choose Don’t lie to yourself You’re the only one to lose Don’t lie to yourself A lie only a fool would choose Copyright 2002- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Instrumental Verse (guitar solo) / Verse / Double-Chorus / Brief Ending Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of E minor….BPM 116 Unusual as it seems, the “introduction” was the last part added to this arrangement. What can I tell ya’? It happens! Fortunately, I remembered a guitar didi I’d written the year before. It fit the song nicely, but I needed something to help merge it with the first verse. The solution was a single bass note, sounded on the last stroke of the intro section. In the final mix, that sustained note begins quietly, then gradually becomes louder. That intro guitar didi I referred to consists of 2 separate acoustic guitar tracks. The first plays nothing but 2-note intervals. The 2nd is comprised of open string harmonics, which generate an eerie texture. The guitar arrangement for this song was a bit of an experiment. Other than bass, there are no electric guitar tracks. It contains 3 separate acoustic guitar tracks, each performed on my trusty Yamaha…recorded through a condenser mic. The simulated string track you hear wasn't in the original version. Back in 2002, keyboards weren't part of my musical arsenal. Some years later, in an effort to add diversity to the arrangement, strings were added to the existing mix. Real drums were used for this recording. The part itself employs both half-time & full-time beat structures. - Half time is used exclusively until the 2nd chorus section. - Both the 2nd & 3rd chorus sections are set in full-time. - Finally, it switches back to half-time for the ending. Final Production Notes The recording was done on a Tascam PortaStudio 788. It’s an 8-track digital recording deck, consisting of 6 mono & 1 stereo channels. - Drums were recorded to the only stereo pair of tracks (7/8) - Everything else went to single mono tracks....no doubling of any parts Performance Credits Drums, Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Keyboard Strings – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman You Tube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/WcEvMjt3Ek0 Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  21. Ran across this on social media this morning....thought it might be fun for members here. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd set my future course according to these results, but it was harmless fun. If you decide to participate in this 10 question, multiple choice screening, please share the result. I should be a "Drummer" Good to know! http://www.playbuzz.com/scotto/what-role-should-you-play-in-a-band
  22. I was thinking about my early days as a songwriter. Reflecting back on the antiquated, tedious process I worked with for almost 6 years. Hard to believe what I went through every time I needed a drum track for a new song! That being said, when I listen to those old recordings, I’m amazed at how well some of them turned out. Hopefully the details of that process make for an interesting article. *Examples of those old recordings are available throughout the article. “Slow Down” - http://www.tune-smith.com/Slow_Down.mp3 My adventure as a songwriter & home studio aficionado began back in 1994. Digital home recording devices were starting to make their way onto the market, but analog was still the dominant force. It was also the more cost-effective of the two. That being the case, I opted for a 4-track analog cassette style recorder…a Tascam 424 PortaStudio. The PortaStudios were decent devices, but they had their limitations: No onboard effects or compression No phantom power Very few microphone inputs To overcome those limitations, I purchased a number of supplemental devices: An 8 channel Peavey analog mixer w. phantom power A Peavey DeltaFex effects processor A DBX analog compressor These were used in conjunction with the PortaStudio….providing me with reverb, compression, multiple microphone inputs & phantom power (overhead condenser mic.) Without getting overly technical, here’s an overview of that setup…. Drum set mics were fed into the Peavey mixer. Depending on the song, anywhere from 6-8 mics were used….Shure SM57’s with an EV condenser mic overhead. The Peavey EQ’d each channel individually, added a preset amount of reverb to each channel signal, combined all the incoming signals into one stereo signal, sent that 2-channel stereo signal out to its next destination. That next destination was the DBX compressor. It processed the signal, then sent it to the Tascam 424 recording deck. On its way to the Tascam, that 2-channel stereo signal was reverse-Y’d into a single mono feed, which was then recorded to high bias cassette tape. Unfortunately, with only 4 recording channels available, that final drum track had to be mono. Eventually, that mono track was bounced over (premixed) & combined with the bass guitar track. Fact is, the majority of my analog masters are set up that way. The final drum & bass guitar recordings share a single mono track. There were a multitude of issues associated with the process I’m describing: All drum mic adjustments had to be made pre-tape. That meant I had to balance each mic volume as best I could…accounting for bleed, make EQ adjustments per-channel at the mixer, set type & desired amount of reverb for each channel, adjust individual & master fader volumes to non-distorting levels. Needless to say, once these parameters were set, I made only minor adjustments from recording session to recording session. Essentially, I tried to improve whatever shortcomings existed in the previous recordings. Once a final drum track was recorded, it was set-in-stone. The BPM was locked in…mic volume, tone & effect were virtually fixed. If the ride cymbal was too loud or the snare sounded over-compressed, I had 2 options. The entire track could be re-recorded, or I live with the imperfections. Simple as that! The decision always hinged on 2 variables. How much imperfection was I willing to tolerate? How noticeable would those shortcomings be in the finished version of the song? Because of the need for premix bouncing, my bass guitar recordings were also fixed. I had to estimate what EQ settings might be best once the other tracks were recorded. Same was true for the volume of the bass in relation to the drum track. Once drums & bass were bounced over, the combined mono premix was fixed. Unlike digital systems, analog recorders didn’t offer virtual track storage. So….once a bounce was complete, both original tracks were erased. That opened up additional track space, allowing new instrumentation & vocals to be recorded. Since I worked alone, components that required monitoring were positioned close to the drum stool. In other words, I had to be able to see the meters while I was playing drums. Fortunately, once the initial parameters were set, the only thing I had to monitor was input signal to the mixer. That signal couldn’t venture too far into the red. The photo below shows where the Peavey was positioned. The recording deck meters were not in my line of sight, so I had to trust the accuracy of my preliminary settings. Playback was the only way to verify results. If something had gone wrong, the track was rerecorded. * “Love Will Find Me” - https://soundcloud.com/tom-hoffman/love-will-find-me-throwback-track As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there were other issues. Once a new song had been written, arranged & roughed-out…it was time to begin the final recording (keeper version). If the song had drums, they were always recorded first. As is the case with live performance, better results are achieved when everyone plays to the same rhythmic center…in this case drums. But getting them down first wasn’t a simple task. With the old cassette style recording decks, click tracks weren’t possible. Track bleed was so bad, that ghosts of the original click would remain audible even after complete erasure. That being the case, the logical alternative was to play to an electronic metronome. That gave me a timing center, but virtually eliminated the possibility of over dubs. Since the click was completely independent of the recorded drum track, there was no way to match the 2 for auto-punch patchwork. Bottom line…the vast majority of drum tracks were the result of start-to-finish takes. In other words, the entire part was played straight through. Another standard practice for drum-first recording is the use of a guide track. Guide tracks give drummers a basic outline to follow. That way they’re hearing a roughed out version of the music while playing along with the metronome (click track). It helps in remembering the feel of the song, where various sections begin & end, etc. Bottom line….I couldn’t use a guide track! The reason once again was track bleed. Ghosts of that roughed out guide were audible on the finished drum recording. So I became very good at memorizing new tunes, start-to-finish. By the time I was ready to record, I knew a song so well that I could hear it playing in my head all the way though. So….none of those analog tracks were played to music. The only thing playing besides the song in my head was the constant click of the metronome. 2 measure count-ins were recorded at the beginning of every song. This was an absolutely must! Since drums were recorded first, there had to be a way to accurately tell where the song started. How else would I know when to begin playing or singing as additional tracks were added? Obviously, that section of the tape was later erased. Since beginning sections were trimmed off in final production, track bleed really didn’t matter. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned thinking back on this whole process. The reason for my nostalgia was simple. A few months ago, I set up a new YouTube channel called “The Story Behind The Song”. Several of the songs used for the channel were early recordings. Some of those made passing reference to the fact that I had changed from real drums…to an electronic method of creation. The videos weren’t the proper format for an in-depth explanation of why. But I thought a blog article might be. If nothing else, it can serve as reminder of how much simpler things are for home recording enthusiasts today! * I’ve included links to several Video Examples of these early drum recordings below. https://youtu.be/s2Vr5wAPf1k https://youtu.be/6B9hzyxp1V0 Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  23. “Love Will Find Me” was originally written & recorded in 1997, using a Tascam 424 analog cassette deck. Revisions were made in 2005........ - The original 4 analog tracks were transferred to an 8-track digital deck (Tascam 788, shown below). - Keyboard strings & organ were added to the arrangement. - Some of the secondary guitar work was re-recorded & the song was remixed. In 2014, some minor editing was done on the 2-track master & the ending was shortened. That final effort yielded the version you’re hearing now. In recent years, I’ve come to view all my songs as works-in-progress. “Finished” means…”Finished for now”. Truth be told, change is NOT the enemy of artistic integrity! Subject Matter This is one of my few "relationship" themed songs. It's not that I dislike the subject. Commercial music is simply overrun with it! Since life is about much than the emotional roller coaster ride of 2 star-crossed lovers, my songs tend to focus on other aspects of it. That being said, “Love Will Find Me” was an exception. The lyric is set in first person narrative, so the story’s being told by the individual experiencing the loss. Essentially, it’s a look back at his recently failed relationship…a new version of the unrequited love theme. It covers an array of emotions…. The grief-stricken pain of loving someone who doesn't love you. A fleeting glimpse of self-pity Then finally, the realization that life goes on, coupled with a belief that eventually….love will find him. Most songs of this type have a commonality. They describe a universally understood experience. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone beyond the age of puberty who hasn't dealt with similar feelings, including me. That’s why it’s such a common songwriting theme…because listeners easily identify with it. Lyric Can’t believe you’ve left me all alone All alone, no one to care Wish you’d learned to love me so I would Have someone with whom to share Why should I….even try When you’ve already said goodbye? Life goes on….so will I Someday….some way….love will find me! Tried so hard to grant your every wish Every wish was my command Thought in time you’d learn to love me too Guess you’ll never understand Wonder what….I did wrong Wanted you….for so long Maybe I….pushed too hard Just not….sure anymore Why should I….even try When you’ve already said goodbye? Life goes on….so will I Someday….some way….love will find me! *Repeat Chorus Section Copyright 1997 Song Structure Brief Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Bridge / Double Chorus / Ending & Fade Track Length - 3:05 Musical Fundamentals The song is set in D# minor. Since most of my songs aren’t relationship-based, I go the extra mile to make the few I have unique. I see little point in creating new versions of “the same old thing”. Unlike much of my material, “Love Will Find Me” was built around a syncopated chord progression…played on my Strat. The chords are all 5th & 6th string Barre forms Much of the progression is played staccato, which is why barre chords were chosen. They can be muted by simply relaxing pressure on the frets. Secondary guitar parts were done with my SG. They consist of 2-note intervals (primarily 4ths), single note patterns and licks. While the primary guitar chords are the songs’ foundation, these secondary parts were created to fill, add color & support the vocal melody. Keyboard strings & organ helped to fill out the arrangement. Since there was no secondary guitar part written for the chorus sections, something additional was needed. Both were played on a Yamaha P-80 electric piano. As was the case with all my earlier songs, live drums were used. If I do say so myself, this serves as a great example of how to get creative with a drum track! It’s syncopated, generates a unique rhythmic feel and works nicely with the other song components. Because the drums were part of my original 4 track recording, they share a single mono track with the bass guitar. Shame it had to be that way, but compromises of that sort were common back-in-the-day. Performance Credits Guitars, Bass, Drums & Keyboards – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman You Tube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/7Y8ycXZY4gI Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  24. Very nice job with the intro...welcome to the site MacKenzi Tom
  25. Little Red Riding Hood / Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs