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  1. Hey, I am an aspiring singer, songwriter in the Pop/R&B Genre! I've posted 2 new topics in the "Cover's Corner" and the "Original Song Critique Section"! Here are my links! facebook.com/iamsamad youtube.com/itssamadbeta souncloud.com/iamsamad Quote MultiQuote
  2. I'm going to try something different here....a dual format, 3-part blog series. Each of these 3 installments will include: - A 1080p video version, complete with audio & video examples - A text-only version Readers can select the format they're most comfortable with, or utilize both. Some who view the videos may find the text useful for review & quick reference. The intent of the series is to deal with the thought process behind the composition. It's meant for songwriters & drummers alike. All comments are welcome. YouTube Video Link - https://youtu.be/F1IDKRjpmAc Part 1 Text While I enjoy writing these drum tutorials, I'm always on the lookout for ways to incorporate my singer/songwriter side into them. This topic presented the opportunity to do exactly that. I've structured this series in such a way, that both drummers and non-drumming-songwriters should find it useful. Whether you compose through electronic means or utilize an actual drum kit, it's helpful to know what works best, what doesn't....and why. The thought process is the same, regardless of how the end result is achieved. As a starting point, I thought it would be useful to come up with a short-list of variables. These are things I take into consideration when structuring drum parts for a new song. 1. What's the genre of the song? For a multitude of reasons, I don't begin structuring a final drum part until the basics of a song are pretty well set. By basics, I mean: Melody At least a rough idea of lyrical content & subject matter Backing chord patterns (basics of the song's musical movement) Tentative song structure (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc) Once I have those basic components, I can tell what type of song I'm working with. That matters! Regardless of personal preference, the drum part you craft should be an appropriate match for the song & genre. For example, a typical metal drum line probably won't fit very well in a country/pop song. By itself, it may seem like a cool, impressive part. More so, if you happen to be a big fan of metal. The thing is.....no one will ever hear it by itself. It'll only be heard within the context of the song. Bottom line - writing new parts is always about how they affect the song as a whole, NOT about the part itself. As a drummer, I was slow to learn that lesson. As a songwriter, it was immediately obvious. It's simply a matter of perspective. Genre is a vague concept. Because of that, it's not unusual for a song to straddle several. Proper arrangement choices can help push it in one direction or another. For example, say your song straddles country & pop. You could push it in the direction of country by employing twangy guitars and a country sounding drum part. For that to work, you need to know what a typical country drum part sounds like. So....regardless of your own music preference, make sure you're familiar with whatever style you're writing in. 2. How is the movement of the melody structured (meter, flow, rhythm)? Remember...the melody is the single most important part of any song! Whether it's sung or played instrumentally, that melody & its appeal to the listener have a huge effect on the song's overall likability. If you're the songwriter, this is your money-maker. Protect it at all costs. If you're the drummer, you need to recognize & accept a harsh reality. Your drum part will NOT be the reason that listeners like the song! It can certainly be a contributing factor, but NOT the big reason. I know, I know....it's not fair! What can I tell you though.....it-is-what-it-is! I was a drummer long before I became a songwriter, so I've been on both sides of this argument. Drummers want to write challenging parts that their musician friends will find impressive. After all....we're drummers, that's what we do! Once again, I empathize with your plight, but my advice is to focus on how your part impacts the song as a whole. It's simply a question of the big picture. That big picture is made up of many small facets, the melody being one. Be sure you have a clear understanding of how that melody moves, so you can craft a drum part that compliments that movement. Once you have something specific in mind, try playing it along with the melody. That'll give everyone involved the opportunity to evaluate how well they function together. Trial & error is a big part of this process. Keep working with it until you have a part that compliments the melody, not one that competes with it. Remember, in the end it's all about THE SONG! 3. What type of arrangement do you have in mind for the song? I'm not suggesting that you have the whole arrangement set-in-stone before starting the drum part. Chances are though, you'll have at least a rough idea of what may work. Are you thinking of using piano? Are you picturing more than one guitar track? Might additional percussion be a good fit (congas, tambourine, shaker, etc)? The point I'm getting to is this....if you have definite ideas for your arrangement, factor those into the writing of your drum part. Again, in the end, everything needs to work well with everything else. Here are a few specific examples: A. If you're planning a busy arrangement with lots of instrumental movement, a simpler drum part may be better. A song isn't a contest for dominance! Ideally, parts of your arrangement work together....towards a common goal. For instance, if you have cool ideas for intricate piano parts & a tasteful signature guitar track, your drum part should allow those to shine through. No....the drums don't have to be boring! Just build the drum complexities into song sections that allow more room for them. Those piano & guitar parts I referred to.....let's say those are only for the verses & bridge. That means your chorus sections could employ dominant, driving drums. When you vary the dominant instrument from section to section, it builds variety into an arrangement. It also makes that dominant instrument much more noticeable to the average listener. When that chorus section rolls around & those drums start kicking butt, the change immediately grabs the listeners' attention. This type of approach not only works well for the song, but gives the poor drummer some well-deserved attention. *If you're interested in specific examples of simpler drum beats, you're welcome to check out one of my previous tutorials - "Essential Drum Beats". It contains a number of basic patterns, with charts & video demonstrations of each. B. Sometimes arrangements are very sparse. For instance, many songs employ sustained chords, struck primarily on major counts. Sometimes a writer will utilize just bass & drums for the verses of a song....really strip it down. Situations like these offer the opportunity to get really creative with the drum track. You can experiment with intricate or syncopated parts......really flex those creative muscles. Limited, simple instrumentation = fewer potential conflicts. C. If some instrument parts are already written, do those parts heavily accent specific counts? Do several of those parts accent the same counts? I ask these questions because it is possible to over-do accents. Typically, it's not good to have every instrument emphasizing identical counts. That can result in a very stiff feeling song arrangement. But, as with any other guideline, there are exceptions. You will hear the occasional song that actually benefits from an overly-rigid feel. D. What impact, if any, would you like the drums to have on the songs' development....beginning-to-end? In an effort to clarify that question a bit, I'll break it down into more specific questions: a ) Do you want the song to build as it progresses? If you do, you may want to utilize the drums to aid in that process. It's not uncommon to bring them in gradually, layering in complexity & momentum a little at a time. b ) Do you intend for one specific section of the song to jump out & grab the listeners' attention? One way to achieve that, is to hold much of the instrumentation (including all the drums) back, until that specific section. c ) Would you prefer the drums play a minimal part in the songs' development? That can be accomplished by utilizing a consistent sounding drum track. Something with virtually the same feel start-to-finish. If you're looking for a reference point, "Rain King" by Counting Crows should serve nicely. d ) Would a change in the drum tempo, from half time - to full time be useful? It's a common method for varying the feel of a song, from section-to-section. Let's look at specific example. Say your basic song runs at a rate of 120 BPM. The beat used in the verse sections can be made to feel as if it's being played at 60 BPM, while the choruses are played as full-time 120 BPM. It's that shifting from one to the other that generates the noticeable variety. Part 1 Summary Most of part 1 shared a common theme. None of these variables are even worth considering unless the basics for the song have already been established! Hence my earlier statement that to that effect. I'm not trying to tell you that this is the only way to do things. I simply feel that it's the best way! Part 1 dealt with some of the general concepts, questions & variables. Part 2 will deal with specifics of actually building (structuring) the drum parts. I'll try to give you a clearer picture of what works best, where & why. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  3. Time for the final installment of this 3-part series. As with the previous installments, it's provided in 2 formats - hi-def video and text. Unlike the previous installments, part 3 depends heavily on video demonstrations & charts. Bottom line....you won't find those in the text version. For this 3rd installment, I strongly advise viewing the video, then utilizing the text as supplemental review. Video Link - https://youtu.be/Y_R7SLHzsLA Overview Parts 1 and 2 of this series dealt primarily with the theory & thought process behind crafting drum parts. Now it's time to dissect a specific example. "Pentatonic Playground", an instrumental of mine, will be the example used here. I've chosen one of my songs for a specific reason. Since I made every decision for every part of this arrangement, I have the best possible insight into why those choices were made. Hopefully, that insight makes for a better, more informative tutorial. Choosing A Direction "Pentatonic Playground" is a rock-alternative instrumental. It was never intended to have mainstream appeal. I'm telling you this because, as a writer or a drummer, it's important to understand where you're trying to go with an arrangement. Simply put.....you can't accomplish a goal, without first having one. Knowing that I was striving for uniqueness, provided me with a basic direction. Even though I didn't have specific drum parts in mind yet, I understood that I probably wasn't going to achieve uniqueness by utilizing cookie-cutter drum parts. I would have to stretch my creative muscles a bit. About The Song 1) The structure of the song is pretty basic. verse / chorus / bridge / verse / double- chorus / ending 2) My songs generally evolve from one of the following starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme This particular song grew from a riff that I stumbled upon while practicing stretch scale patterns. Major pentatonic patterns to be exact.....hence the title of the song. All of the verse & chorus guitar parts are based upon variations of that pattern, in the key of G. 3) Even though "unique" was the overall goal, a contrast in feel & flow from section-to-section often makes for a more interesting song. Some song sections (the verses) would have a decidedly unique feel, while others would employ a more comfortable feel & flow. The Breakdown OK! I've given you some background information on the song and a general overview of what I intended. Now it's time to break it down into specifics.....section-by-section. I'll try to provide you with insights into what decisions were made and why. The Verses - Rather than construct a separate introduction for this song, I started it with the distinctive guitar riff/pattern that inspired it. The pattern does a nice job of setting up the unusual feel I wanted. - I was interested in establishing a fairly consistent flow throughout the verses, so the drums don't build. They simply begin, along with the riff, then remain constant throughout the entire verse sections. - I decided on a 2-measure beat, set in 4/4 time. I'll talk a bit more about the characteristics of this beat after the demonstration. It utilizes cymbal bell, snare & bass drum. Snare & bass drum were components from the start, but I did consider other options for the right-hand element. I tried high-hat, but it seemed overly staccato. Ride cymbal was too ringy and lacked the high-end clarity I desired. Cymbal bell seemed the best choice. It sounded crisp & distinctive, yet subtle. As promised, I'd like to talk a bit more about the characteristics of this 2 measure pattern. Unlike more traditional beats..... a ) there is no snare on primary counts 2 & 4, except at the end of each 2-measure sequence b ) the bell line is mostly 1/4 notes, but is sprinkled with groupings of 16th notes. The end result is a pattern with a half-time feel. When played in combination with the verse guitar riff, it creates the impression of circular flow. This effect is a direct result of its unusual structure. Let's look at it from a slightly different perspective. Even though I wrote it as 2 - 4/4 measures, it could also be viewed as 2 - 3/4 measures.........followed by 1 - 2/4 measure. Those consecutive 3/4 measures give it that circular (revolving) characteristic. The final 2/4 measure adds a resolved/finalized feel to it every 8 counts. However we chose to view it, the bottom line is this. It contributes to the song in a positive way and works nicely with the other verse elements. When constructing parts for new songs, your top priority should always be .........how the individual element impacts the song as a whole. In this particular case, it's win-win. The pattern is cool & it works well within the context of the song. In addition to what's shown on the chart, 3 cymbal crashes were used..... - one marks the entry of a lead guitar melody - a 2nd marks the exit - and a 3rd is combined with a roll & utilized at the end of the verse section. The roll fills an intentionally vacant musical space and also serves to announce the coming change into the chorus section. The final crash, following the roll, marks/accents the actual point of that change. As you can see, each element is there for a reason. The Chorus My intent was for the overall momentum of the song to pick up at the choruses. They're meant to represent the high point of the song's energy. In part, I accomplished that by shifting the drum track into a more traditional sounding, straight-time structure. The primary guitar parts also change. The chorus guitars create a smoother, more traditionally melodic flow. They lack that busy, dysfunctional feel generated by the verse guitar arrangement. The chorus section drums are essentially made-up of two, 2-measure beat patterns........sprinkled with roll/crash combinations. Coming up next, I'll list some of the specific choices made & connect them to the various concepts discussed back in parts 1 & 2 of this tutorial. - The 1st roll/crash combination fills a space, adds variety to the drum line and announces entry into the second half of the chorus section. - The 2nd roll/crash combination fills a space, adds variety and announces/marks the beginning of a new song section - the bridge. - Overall, crashes are used more frequently in the chorus sections. They re-enforce accents, add color and assist in raising the energy level & volume of the sections. The Bridge Because this tutorial's already a bit lengthy, I'll briefly summarize the final song sections. After that, I'll provide you with a direct link to the actual song - "Pentatonic Playground". That'll allow you to hear the finished drum track within the context of completed arrangement. The bridge section enters immediately following the first chorus. The drum part consists of variations on the chorus patterns. There's not a dramatic change in the feel of the drums.......only a subtle one. This is the only section of the song that was intended to have a melodic, flowing, pretty feel to it. For the most part, that's accomplished by means of the surrounding instruments (strings, chord-based guitar, etc.). The bridge drums weren't supposed to stand out. They simply needed to blend into the background & work well with everything else. Summary of 2nd Verse / Final Choruses & Ending - The basic beat patterns are almost identical to that of their earlier counterparts. - Since I didn't add much variation with the patterns themselves, I got it done in other ways. Several new elements were introduced in these final sections, allowing me to achieve the variety, color & additional momentum I wanted. 1) Intermittent breaths were introduced in the final verse section. 2) A tambourine track was added at the beginning of the final chorus. Once introduced, both the tambourine & breath elements remained in for the duration of the song. 3) The final choruses & ending are interlaced with additional rolls & crashes, which assist in raising the overall momentum of the sections. The Finished Song As promised, here's the direct link to "Pentatonic Playground" http://www.tune-smith.com/Pentatonic_Playground.mp3 Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH