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  1. Hello! I'm a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist based near Washington, DC. I enjoy most styles of music...good music is good music, right?...but will admit to a particular weakness for melodic rock and indie pop. I have been writing songs for as long as I can remember and have recently set up a project studio to record my music. One of my songs, "California (She's Leaving)" was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Show Me The Music songwriting contest. Another song, "Fallen" received an honorable mention in The SongDoor 2015 International Songwriting Contest. I'm currently working on my first studio album. Glad to be a part of this community and I hope to learn a lot! Don
  2. 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
  3. “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
  4. This is my latest song - "Without You Here" - really looking for ideas about what to put behind the track i.e. instruments, percussion, added vocals, and also criticism on the song itself (i.e. flow/melody/harmony/structure/repetitiveness/memorability etc). Thanks in advance Lyrics: You're the real deal You're the one I didn’t tell you when you were around But I should have done It’s not like I need you and I’ll be okay They say you’ll find another one soon But I still miss you everyday (And now I'm) Sitting in a parked car hiding from the rain Screaming out the songs as the radio plays but It’s not the same without you here Dancing round the kitchen before we go to bed Laughing at my jokes they sound funny in my head You said it’s something bout the way she smiles that makes you want to love with her and not me You said there’s something bout the way she laughs but I know she won’t make you laugh like I did It’s not like I miss you It’s not like I care But I see you in every face and I can’t help but stare [Chorus]
  5. New song -> "Every Step" -> looking for critique on lyrics, melody, catchiness, structure, instruments, sound, voice etc - anything really! Thanks Emerald eyes like the ocean Tempest rise from the sea Waves crash down all around me Currents pulling me in So will you hold me, tightly so I know that I’ll be alright There’s nothing we’ve left say Everything now in its place And If I dive in I’m never resurfacing But there’s nothing that I’d like more And we will grow old But I will not love you less I’ll always look at you this way And I’ll make mistakes but I will do my best to be there every step of the way Crimson lips whisper too me Softest touch at my skin Still the waves crash into me Swirling tide starts to spin Will you tell me stories so I know that I’ll sleep tonight But I can feel trouble it’s rising Darkness lurks on our horizon I should known It would end like this I know I know nothing perfect nothin's bliss uh oh we'll be fine x4 [chorus]
  6. Hi, This is my original song, "Make you stay". I only joined Soundcloud two days ago and am not very skilled at recording/mixing but would love any feedback you can give (Lyrics, melody, structure, quality, catchi-ness, instruments, arrangement, tempo, voice etc). Thank you in advance https://soundcloud.com/alexxxiii/make-you-stay Lyrics: So this is how the story ends Decided we were better off as friends The way you look tonight with your sorry eyes and your goodbye smile Nothing I can do to make you stay Same old you and same old me Beginning to see things differently From the moment that we met you were saying things that I won't forget There's nothing I can do to love you less Am I wasting time trying to make you feel the same So I'll try and try change my mind cause I can't change the rules of your game but I'll still try Can we go back To when we were more than friends Can I be the one you love again Cause I can't bear to watch you walk away Darling I would do anything to make you stay Such a feeling such a rush It started off as little more than a crush and it's the way you look tonight with your sorry eyes and your goodbye smile there's nothing I can do to change your mind Am I wasting time trying to make you feel the same So I'll have to change my mind cause I can't change the rules of your game but I'll try So can we go back to when we were more than friends can I be the one you love again cause I can't bear to watch you walk away darling I would do anything to make you stay Back to when we were more than friends can I be the one you love again cause I can't bear to watch you walk away darling I would do anything darling I would do I would do I would do anything I would do I would do anything to make you stay
  7. ---> 08/FEB/2017 <---- Song Title: Let Something Beautiful Happen(LSBH) - 2nd Draft Hey guys, we present to you the 2nd Draft. I finally got used to the guitar picking...sort of: I played sections and faded them into each other, a new audio recording technique I learned on youtube We made changes to the song according to some of the feedback we got from you's and every single feedback we get is important to us so we thank you all very much for that! Off the top of my head, these are the major updates we made: - There's an intro, now. - The bridge is quite new; both, lyrics and melody. - There's an instrumental break. - Verse 3 is no more. The final verse is the latter half of verse 1, which begins with "A strange dance but..." - There's an outro thing going on and I went high on the final, "Happen." We welcome any and all feedback and we understand that second rounds can get pretty critical so don't bother holding back Thanks everyone, Ken/Andy https://soundcloud.com/imken-2/let-something-beautiful-happen_2nd-draft/s-oorJW (Lyrics included) *************************************Old version/1st draft:****************************************** https://soundcloud.com/imken-2/let-something-beautiful-happen_1st-draft/s-HDYh9 (Lyrics included) _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ---> 27/Jan/2017 <---- Hey guys, thanks for all the feedback so far - it is much appreciated. We're currently working on the 2nd Draft so an up-dated version will be posted here in a few days. Thank you, Ken/Andy ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ---> 17/Jan/2017 <---- Here's a new song Im working on with Andy. I think this the first time we worked on a VVBV song format... It's the first draft and we would really appreciate your feedback/critiques on the lyrics and vocal melody. The guitar picking is a little meh but it's the best I can do at this time; Im hoping that my coordination will catch up as this song develops(fingers crossed)! Thank you, Ken/Andy
  8. A 3-part series in multiple formats....full video or text-only. Links to both sets are listed below: YouTube Video Versions - Part 1 - https://youtu.be/F1IDKRjpmAc Part 2 - https://youtu.be/sgsYxI2cImg Part 3 - https://youtu.be/Y_R7SLHzsLA Tom
  9. For this installment, we’re looking back at 2008. “Not-For-Profit Life” was the first of my songs to be played on internet radio. Back when Jango.com was kicking off their “Artist Airplay” program for unsigned artists, they contacted me about adding this to their playlist. The Idea As sometimes occurs, this song began with a Hook (title) and evolved from there. Subject Matter My intended message was a simple one…..Life is about much more than “the pursuit of money”! It’s never been a driving force in my life and with any luck, it never will be. No child was ever born thinking about it. We don’t come out of the womb that with dollar signs in our eyes. The importance of financial success is systematically sold to us. Don’t get me wrong, having “enough” money allows us to live financially responsible lives. But…beyond the point of “enough”, it becomes a non-essential & a matter of contention. As Sly and the Family Stone so famously said, “Different strokes for different folks”. Lyrical Structure Simply put, it's different! All 3 verse sections, the first pre-chorus & first chorus are written in 3rd person narrative form. The final pre-chorus & chorus shift to first person perspective, thereby taking ownership of the thoughts being expressed. Lyrics Voices of children enjoying the sunshine Laughing & playing with friends Livin’ out days as if each was a lifetime & Losing themselves in pretend No plan for riches No thirst for fame Young lives so simple Less greed, less pain They’re livin’ not-for-profit lives No sleepless nights, no worries or fears They live it one day at a time Livin’….not-for-profit…..lives Then come the years of bigger & better The quest for success at all costs Convincing themselves they’ve gotta keep pace with The neighbors, the times & their boss Squandering life for the sake of achievement More money, more stuff, but no time Chasin’ the dream, the one they bought into The one with no reason or rhyme No thanks, you keep it! That’s not for me! Things I hold dearest Mostly come free I’ll take a not-for-profit life! No sleepless nights, no worries or fears I’ll live it one day at a time Livin’…a not-for-profit…life Copyright 2008- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Pre-Chorus (Rise) / Chorus / Musical Interlude / Double-Verse / Pre-Chorus (Rise) / Chorus- Brief Ending Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of E minor. By the time 2008 rolled around, keyboards had been added to my musical arsenal. This particular arrangement contains both organ & piano tracks. Since I've never been a MIDI user and haven’t utilized software patches or VSTs, the keyboard tracks were played on my Yamaha P-80 Electronic Piano. The guitar part is a mixture of picking & chords. With its single coil pickup textures, my Fender Stratocaster (Strat) was the natural choice. It's rare for me to create an arrangement with a single guitar track, but that was the case here. Just the one Strat track. Additional Instrumentation...... - Harmonica (intro-only) - Bass Guitar - *Congas - *Drums *The core drum & conga tracks were creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. After 13 years of recording with "real drums", I converted to a drum machine in 2007. Being a drummer, I had mixed feelings about the decision. But the additional control, flexibility & convenience offered by the machine sold me on the change. Unfortunately, the Boss decay rate made crashes cymbals sound VERY artificial. So… crashes were overdubbed, using live cymbals. It was an inconvenient method, but it improved the sound quality significantly. Vocal Details In each of the chorus sections, the phrase “Not-For-Profit Life” employs what’s known as vocal doubling. Simply put, the part is sung twice on separate recorded tracks. When both takes are played together, the small differences in pitch & timing produce a thicker sounding vocal texture. It’s a common recording technique....widely used for decades. A single harmony vocal track was used for: - the entire 3rd verse - the final line of each chorus section Final Production Notes By 2008, I had traded up to a 24 track system. Another Tascam, but this time a PortaStudio 2488. Having 24 available tracks opened up a whole new world of arrangement possibilities. Performance Credits - Guitar, Bass guitar, piano, organ, harmonica & Soft Shake – TomHoffman - Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/wB-yIHfg0NA Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  10. “I Hope To Be" was written & recorded back in 2004. Despite its’ simplistic melody & country-pop textures, it’s played a lot ! That partial slide was taken from statistical tracking data on my primary website (www.tune-smith.com). It lists the 5 most-played songs in the month of March, 2014. As you can see, “I Hope To Be” was played 922 times…in its’ entirety. Just goes to show…..writers are often the last to know what others will like. This song has NEVER been one of my favorites, yet listeners seem to prefer it. Go figure! Don’t get me wrong….I’m delighted when someone likes any of my songs! I’ve simply given up trying to predict which ones. Overview Over the years, I’ve experimented in a variety of genres. Back in the early 2000’s, I was dabbling in country. Of the 6 songs that dabbling produced, “I Hope To Be” is the only one I’d call county-pop. Songs in that genre are typically…. Up-tempo Written in a major key Positive in tone & message “Twangy” sounding This songs qualifies in all 4 categories, which may have something to do with its’ overall appeal. The title probably doesn’t hurt either! “I Hope To Be”….short, sweet, positive & lyrically descriptive. Subject Matter While the title & hook line have a very positive tone, the overall lyrical message is a mixed bag. I probably should have called it – “I Hope To Be, BUT…” Yes….it’s a relationship-based song, BUT…a deliberately different one! The lyric is tentative and full of contrast. For instance…… “Love’s left its’ mark / Still life’s not a walk in the park” - In other words, as great as love it is, it does NOT conquer all. “Life” presents challenges of its’ own. “Hopin’ that things go our way / But I know, that if they don’t, we’ll still be OK” – hope contrasted by realism & the importance of rolling with the punches. To summarize my intended lyric message… “I realize you have goals for us, I hope to help you achieve those, but it’s important to recognize the unpredictability of life because sometimes sh** happens!” Lyric Love’s left its’ mark Still life’s not a walk in the park You’ve planned each step that we make Tryin’ to help me down the path you’d like me to take I hope to be Everything you want me to be But, we need to see How it works out eventually Whatever life you’re dreamin’ for me Life can turn out so differently Still, I hope to be ! Your hand in mine We reach for the life you designed Hopin’ that things go our way But I know, that if they don’t, we’ll still be OK Sometimes…even the best plans Don’t quite come to be Sometimes…your life’ll take ya’ Somewhere you never planned to see Still…I hope to be Everything you want me to be But, we need to see How things work out eventually Whatever life you’re dreamin’ for me Life can turn out so differently Still, I hope to be ! Copyright 2004- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Bridge / Chorus Length of song - 3 min. 20 seconds Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of E major….BPM 126 The arrangement consists of 7 total tracks, 6 mono & one stereo pair. Mono Tracks assignments - 3 separate guitar parts, bass guitar, keyboard strings, single vocal Stereo Pair – live drums My Yamaha acoustic was used for the primary guitar. Aside from the intro section, this part is made up entirely of strummed chords. When the song was written, this part & the vocal melody were created first. Lyrics were added later, which is typical of my process. Together, these 3 elements represent the core of the song. The musical structure of this primary guitar is unusual in a number of ways. All 3 song sections (verse, chorus, bridge) end on the same chord…an E. Both verse & chorus sections begin on the same chord….an A. The chorus sections contain a generous helping of sus 4ths The acoustic guitar for the intro section consists of muted 2-note intervals (alternating 4th & 5ths). Both secondary guitar tracks were done with my Fender Strat. One track is entirely lead guitar licks, while the other is a combination of strummed chords & single picked notes. Final Production Notes The recording was done on a Tascam PortaStudio 788. It’s an 8-track digital recording deck. Performance Credits Drums, Guitars (acoustic & electric), Bass, Keyboard Strings – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman You Tube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/owSCMudfMao Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  11. 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
  12. Time for the 2nd installment of this 3-part blog series, dealing with the thought process behind the composition. As stated previously, each installment includes: - 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. Those who opt for the video version may find the text useful for quick reference. Video Link - https://youtu.be/sgsYxI2cImg Part 2 Text Part 1 of this tutorial dealt with many of the general concepts, questions & variables involved in constructing drum parts for original songs. Part 2 deals more with specifics. I'll break down the individual components of a typical drum part, discuss them at length & explore options for each. By the end of this installment you should have a much clearer picture of the thought process involved. Selecting Beat Patterns Have you ever heard a new song on the radio and been instantly being drawn to it? Most of us probably have! For years I simply accepted that at face value....never bothering to ask myself why. Then I began to write songs. As a writer, I found that it's in my best interest to explore the "whys". Why am I attracted to specific songs? I'm inclined to believe there's no universal answer to that question. But for me, the overall feel & flow of the song has a lot to do with its immediate appeal. It's safe to say that the choice of beat patterns plays a large part in establishing that feel & flow. You may have noticed that the subtitle for this section is plural.......patterns. Ideally, you're going to select more than just one. It's not uncommon to utilize 2 or 3 variations of a basic pattern for the verses of a song, then select an entirely different pattern for the choruses. Many times a bridge section is given yet another pattern.....something with a completely different feel. After all, one of the main functions of a bridge is to break the monotony of a song by introducing something unique. There are some fairly common tricks-of-the-trade that I haven't covered previously. Now's a good time to talk about them. BTW - All of these examples assume a right-handed drummer. 1) You can vary the specific part of the drum set being played by the right hand, from song section to song section. For example, hi-hat for the bridge, ride cymbal for the chorus sections. It's a fairly small change, but the impact on the overall texture of the song can be quite dramatic. 2) You can vary the hi-hat technique within a given song section. Playing it tightly-closed produces a very crisp, structured sound. Whereas playing it semi-opened gives you a looser, free-floating feel. It's common for heavier, harder-driving songs to go with the 2nd option. Lighter-edge pop, rock & country employ a lot of the tightly closed version, but will often combine the 2 techniques. For example - tightly closed through the majority of a verse, then semi-opened for the last measure or 2. That produces a slight change in feel just prior to the entry of the chorus section. The variance also serves as an announcement to the listener that a change is about to take place. Many times it will be employed as a prelude to a cymbal crash, punctuating the actual change. 3) You can employ a very basic right hand rhythm, then utilize a misc. percussion instrument to embellish the feel of the pattern. For example - a quiet 1/4 note right-hand hi-hat (1-2-3 & 4 counts), then on a separate track record a tambourine or soft-shake to fill-in the straight 1/8 note feel. That gives it a busier, more constant texture. It also adds variety & depth to the songs' rhythmic feel. 4) It's fairly common in the metal & hard rock genres, to hear the right hand playing a straight pattern on the edge of a crash-ride cymbal. This technique produces an effect that essentially sounds like one-prolonged crash. When it's combined with the heavy rates of compression that are commonly used in those genres, it tends to add a blurred, heavy edge to the song. Before leaving this section, I have one final piece of advice to pass on to non-drummer songwriters. Please do everyone a favor.....especially yourselves. When you put together a song demo, DON'T select a single mechanical beat pattern, then utilize that pattern all the way through. It kills me to hear people do that! In my humble opinion, nothing makes a demo sound more amateurish! Spend a little time & effort on it. It doesn't have to sound like Neil Peart, but it does need some variety. Every part of an arrangement impacts a listener's impression of the final song. That includes the drum track! The Story on Rolls (fills) You'll find that opinions vary widely on..... when to use a roll what type is most appropriate how complex they should be For drummers, many of these decisions are determined by personal style. Since most non-drummer songwriters lack a drummers' expertise, they tend to be guided by their years of listening experience. For the purpose of this tutorial, I'm going to stick to basics and allow everyone plenty of room to exercise personal discretion. Beats serve primarily to establish fundamental rhythmic feel, but rolls can be used to perform a number of functions: 1) Add variety / prevent monotony - In other words, break up the consistent flow established by your beats....making the overall rhythm track a bit more interesting. 2) Serve as fills...much as lead licks, keyboard or bass riffs do. It's not the only common application, but rolls are frequently placed between lyric/melody lines to help fill gaps & maintain the overall momentum. 3) Indicate (announce) a coming change. Some examples would be.... the start of a new vocal sequence a change from verse to chorus a shift in dynamics from quiet to loud, or visa-versa Rolls can also be used in combination with lead licks, or other fill elements. When they're employed in this way, caution should be exercised. You want to avoid timing conflicts between the various fill parts. Bottom line - it's harder to pull-off cleanly, but very cool when it's done right! It's also common to alternate fill instruments. You can use a drum roll this time, a guitar lick next time, followed by a keyboard run, and so on. This will get you even more variety, with the added benefit of making each fill instrument more prominent. Listeners notice them more because they're the only thing presenting a variation at that particular moment. To Crash or Not-To Crash Cymbal crashes are useful tools when employed tastefully. Here are some examples of common applications: - to accent, or call attention to a specific count within a measure - to add dynamics to a section of music by boosting the high-end frequencies & overall volume of that specific section - to mark a change in the structure of the song (for example, moving from the verse to chorus) - in combination with rolls, particularly longer, more elaborate ones.........to break them up, reinforce accents and add color Recap & Preview Congratulations....you've now reached the end of the theoretical portion! Parts 1 & 2 of this tutorial were intended to give you a grasp of the thought process. Going forward, we'll dissect an actual song....part-by-part. We'll look at what specific decisions were made...and why. Unlike these first 2 installments, the 3rd will be heavy on video examples & light on text. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  13. Hi! I posted this song here in its rough form and got some great critiques from some musical minds. You guys gave me some great advice on the kick, the excessive EQ scooping, the vox level, and the song structure. About two years later, here it is in its almost-finished form, thanks greatly to your help. I wanted to give it one more pass here since you all gave me such great tips the first time around. Thank you! When You're Bad You're beautiful when you're bad You push me to the edge You have it all when you're bad Your lipstick left on a cigarette You dance on the table, dressed like a lady, Drinking and driving me crazy You're beautiful Vodka In a shot cup With the sound up And the Do Not Disturb us on the door You're an artist In the darkness I am breathless And the bedsheets beg me, beg for more You're beautiful when you're bad You push me to the edge You have it all when you're bad Leave your lipstick red on a cigarette You dance on the table, dressed like a lady, Drinking and driving me crazy You're beautiful When you're bad In a second We're suspended As she dances With her French Connection on the floor We leapt in To the deep end She's a legend And I'm letting her think that she's in control, you're in control
  14. 1. Do you sing, play an instrument or instruments? I play my voice, guitar, sometimes violin, and synth. k h ō r h å j is the name of my band. 2. Are you in a band or bands? Always. 3. Do you write songs? I write lyrics, compose music, and perform everything I write. 4. Do you record your music? I do. My bedroom is my studio. I use Ableton Live 9 Suite mostly. 5. What other roles do you perform in the music business? Currently I produce, distribute, promote and manage my own music. I also make my own music videos/ images. I managed an Asia tour for a fellow musician once. And I was a general manager/ international contactsperson for a big music festival/conference last year. I'd prefer to focus on making my own music for the time being, though. 6. Are you a tech head? Definitely yes. Technology is what makes us human, and so is music. Put the two together and... M A G I C. 7. What country do you live in? South Korea at the moment. But I move around a lot. 8. What are your ambitions? To leave behind something bigger than my poorly formed physical body. 9. Do you draw/paint/write stories/computer art/dance or other creative pursuit? I do. I am a 'multimedia artist', whatever that means. I write and I work with visual media as well. 10. What would you like to get out of Songstuff? I'd love to meet people that I can respect musically, people that are passionate about music and what they put into the music. Maybe a collaborator or two, who knows. Here's a music video I made for my recently released single: And links to my music/ websites etc., that might interest you: http://khorhaj.bandcamp.com/ http://khorhaj.tumblr.com/ http://twitter.com/khorhaj/ http://facebook.com/khorhaj http://soundcloud.com/khorhaj Hope you enjoy it! Looking forward to getting to know all you wonderful people. And have a lovely day everybody.
  15. This is the 2nd in a series of new videos/articles, intended to give a glimpse behind the creative curtain at the how’s & why's of songwriting. For this installment, we’re flashing back to 2002. “Not Quite The Same” was my attempt at a different kind of 9-11 song. It's one of several tracks that were written & recorded, but never promoted or made available online. 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 In this case, the starting point was a combination of 2 elements. • a central theme – 9/11 and a different approach to the topic • a basic chord progression, which seemed a good fit for the subject matter Subject Matter Long before this track was finished, the onslaught of 9-11 songs from major artists had begun. Typically, they were overtly patriotic....cliché ridden attempts to take commercial advantage of our national tragedy. At least that's how I saw them. Don't get me wrong....I recognize that artists need to make a living. But attempting to profit from tragedy is right near the top on my list of unacceptable behaviors. Depending on the genre & artist, they evoked feelings of sorrow & pity, or testosterone & anger. Songs about "why us" or "how dare you"! Both attempting to cash in on existing emotions ....neither striving for anything productive. Bottom line - If I was going to write a 9-11 song, it wouldn't be like that! My messages would be different! More like............ - Nothing here was quite the same after 9-11. We shouldn't expect it to be. - We'd allowed ourselves to believe that it couldn't happen to us. Other counties....yes, but not us! That was a flawed assumption. - Freedom isn't free....it has a cost. Hopefully those thoughts come across in the song. Lyrics Something's changed Kind of strange Lots of talk.....speculation & doubt Can we find comfort when....life feels inside out? History's shown Safety at home We've assumed it would always be so Life has no guarantees....guess we never know On we go! (Refrain) Just not quite......the same Until we realized It could be us that died We never recognized....it could happen here! Buildings fell September Hell We know now...what we didn't know then Freedom comes at a cost...and payment never ends! (Refrains) Just not quite.....the same! (repeat) copyright 2002-Tom Hoffman. Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Verse / Refrain / Bridge / Verse / Refrain / Ends with variation on a 2nd refrain Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of G minor. At its core, a basic rock arrangement ....single rhythm guitar, lead guitar, drums, bass guitar, lead vocal and a single harmony vocal on the refrain sections. BPM – 138 The rhythm guitar part consists of "power chords". For those who don't know, power chords are 2-note intervals....possessing neither major nor minor characteristics. Strictly a root note with a 5th on top. The bare-bones framework of this song is a I-IV-V progression. That being the case, I did what I could to make it my own. Unusually timed chord changes & slides help to set it apart from similar progressions. At least, that was my intent! The intro, verse & refrains sections are strictly power chords. The bridge section is not. Since bridges are meant to sound different, the rhythm guitar part shifts to full chord forms. My trusty Gibson SG was used for all the guitar work A number of elements contribute to the unique feel of that bridge section. I've already mentioned the change in chord structure, but there are others. - The drum part shifts to a half-time feel. - Both the emotion of the vocal & the lyrical meter change. Final Production Notes By the time 2002 rolled around, I had converted to a digital setup. A Tascam PortaStudio 788 was my tool of choice. Performance Credits Drums, Guitars & Bass guitar – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  16. “Pentatonic Playground” was originally called “Romantic Guy”. It had a vocal melody, lyrics and told a tongue-in-cheek tale of a dysfunctional relationship masquerading as romantic behavior. If you’re curious, those original lyrics are listed at the bottom of this article. “Romantic Guy” was written & recorded back in 1998. Honestly…I liked portions of the arrangement, but the song as a whole didn’t work. In May of 2009, I began work on this instrumental version (“Pentatonic Playground”). With this new format, came structural changes. The original verse sections were cut in half, making this instrumental version 48 seconds shorter than it’s’ predecessor. The 2 versions were copyrighted…separately. About The Song Structurally, “Pentatonic Playground” is pretty basic. verse / chorus / bridge / verse / double- chorus / ending It’s one of four instrumentals in my entire catalog. Of those four, two began as lyrical works, eventually becoming instrumentals. My songs generally evolve from one of the following: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme This one grew from a riff that I stumbled on while practicing stretch scale patterns. Major pentatonic patterns to be exact.....hence my choice of song titles. Both verse & chorus guitar parts are variations of that pattern, played in the key of G. Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of G….BPM 116 Alternative genre Total run time - 2 minutes 42 seconds It’s a guitar-based arrangement, built around that primary progression mentioned earlier. Guitar #1 plays the primary riff (progression) for both verse & chorus sections. For the bridge, it changes to picking single notes within chord forms. Guitar part #2 is made up of 5ths (2-note intervals) played throughout the verse & chorus sections. It switches to strumming full chords during the bridge. The 3rd guitar part plays what was originally the vocal verse melody. For the most part, the chorus sections double guitar #1. Guitar #3 drops out for the bridge section, allowing simulated strings to take over performance of the melody. My trusty Gibson SG was used for all the guitar work. The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. I converted to synthetic drums in 2007, after 13 years of fighting with live drums in a home studio setting. Suffice to say that it’s a tedious process! Despite my use of the machine, the drum parts are still written the old way….sitting behind an actual drum kit. Crash cymbals are overdubbed live, on separate stereo tracks. Unfortunately, the Boss decay rate made the machine versions sound VERY artificial. Try as I might, I was unable to live the results, so I continue recording those the old way. Final Production Notes The recording, editing & mixing were done on a *PortaStudio 2488….a 24 track Tascam system. (*top-center of photo) Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Tambourine, Keyboard Strings & Breaths – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song “Romantic Guy” (Lyric) Verse Came home again late…third time this week Smelled like a barroom…too drunk to speak Next day he’s sorry…what a surprise! Sends her some roses…Romantic Guy Chorus Romance...is a temporary patch on a bleeding life! Good chance….that it fills the vacant place in her heart, for just one… Bridge …Night He’ll make her feel like she’s a queen He’ll be her slave for a night He know…tomorrow brings Time enough…to spread his wings They’ll pretend for now that things are alright Verse Lost his whole paycheck…out at the track Borrowed more money…to win it back Next day he’s sorry…what a surprise! Sends her some roses…Romantic Guy Double Chorus Copyright 1998- Tom Hoffman
  17. Hello everyone, I'm new to this forum and I'm curious about what is going to bring me and what I can give back to others. Here's a song I recorded, and I'm hoping you could critique it. And I hope you like it of course! https://soundcloud.com/kwintmusic/blossom
  18. (Sorry for the double post. I did not realize there was a specific forum for critiques) Hi everyone, I was hoping to get some feedback on this song. I don't think I have ever written a song so quickly. I guess the muse just hit me. When I have others listen to my music they almost never comment on this song but I think it is the best one of the four on my self made EP. Am I just too emotionally connected to this song to hear its problems? “Love was a Mystery” Love was a mystery You could never break. You could never give, But damn, how you could take. Was it that you never learned Or did you just not care? Now that I’m grown I wish I had known The pain you chose to bare. I know that demons haunt you, In the middle of the night. And you will never shake them, While you believe they’re right. We tried to make you listen. Shouting from the megaphone. But our words got caught on excuses you brought, And now you’re all alone. And I’ll continue to pretend that I don’t lose sleep, Thinking of you rotting there, With your gin and your grin as you remember when, The light wasn’t too hard to bare. Was it guilt or denial that led to your spiral, Down where you thought you could hide? But the beasts came down with you And fed on what virtue You had dying inside. © 2016 William Vaughn Craft
  19. For those of you who've never been part of a band, there are some fundamental guidelines that most bands adhere to. One of those guidelines is that the drummer should always serve as the band's rhythmic center! Much like the function of the conductor in an orchestral setting, the drummer is responsible for setting the pace. No.....I'm not trying to worsen the clash of egos that's an inevitable part of the band experience. This is simply the way it works! If anything, hearing it from someone outside of your immediate group should reduce the potential for disagreement amongst yourselves. If you're a drummer, accept this as one of your responsibilities. If you're a guitarist, keyboard player, singer, etc....for everyone's sake, please recognize that this is the way it needs to be. Have you ever wondered why so many bands locate the drummer near the center of the stage? One fundamental reason is ease of access. The other band members can more easily see and hear them in that center position. Everyone plays toward that same rhythmic center....not to one another. While there are other elements involved in accomplishing a tight sound, without adhering to that one basic principle, you can't get there! Regardless of individual proficiency levels, if the keyboard player is playing to the guitarist, the guitarist is playing to the bass player and the singer is taking his timing cues from the keyboard player.......you'll hear that in the end result. It will not sound tight! This principle also applies when recording final tracks. For you non-drummers......if at some point in your future, you hope to write & record fully arranged versions of your own material, you need to be aware. As a general rule, when recording the final version of a song, that final drum track is recorded first. This is done because it's not possible to center every other instrument around the drums, if there are no drums. Seriously....even if you work alone like I do, that drum track is used as the rhythmic center for every additional instrument track laid down. When I record the guitar tracks, bass track, keyboard track, or misc. percussion tracks to a new song.......I'm playing along with that previously recorded drum track. It's my foundation! For the sake of clarity, I'm not a user of MIDI technology. This "drums first" rule may not apply as strictly for MIDI users. That's outside my area of expertise. My next blog entry will be called "What Comes Around, Goes Around".....the yin & yang of drumming in a band. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  20. As a musician and a songwriter, I'm very aware of the fact that I don't hear music in the same way that regular folks hear it. I'm not an isolated example of this phenomenon. Generally speaking, it's a shared trait among writer/musicians. Because of this difference, I can't help but wonder if we writers truly understand what our focus (priorities) should be? In other words, are we always concerned about the things that actually matter? Anyway, the topic seems extremely blog-worthy and I rarely see it discussed on songwriter forums. So here we go! If you happen to fall into that regular folks category, this concept of differences in listening may be news to you. After all, how could you know? We musician/songwriters on the other hand, were once regular folks. None of us exit the womb playing instruments & writing songs. At some point in our lives, we listened as you listen. Unfortunately, many of us tend to forget what that was like. Forgetting simply isn't a luxury we can afford! After all, it's regular folks who make up the vast majority of the listening audience! Even if we're hesitant to admit it sometimes, most songwriters would prefer to write material that's liked & appreciated by a variety of people. That being the case, how can we expect to write a song that appeals to regular folks, without first recognizing & accounting for the fact that they listen differently? In my humble opinion, we can't...except maybe by accident! With each new instrument I've taken up over the years, I've gained a greater understanding of how it moves & how it typically sounds. I think most musicians would back me up on that claim. It's sort of a package deal. Anyway...as a result of that, when I listen to a song, my ears tend to hone-in on that specific instrument. It's not so much a conscious process anymore, as it is a reflex action. Because my ears & brain react to the sound in that manner...even though I'm listening to a song, what I'm hearing is more like a collection of the individual parts. Most musicians hear the continual interaction of those separate parts, along with the song itself. Our listening process tends to be a bit more analytical. Generally speaking, regular folks (non-musicians) lack the detailed knowledge & training needed to understand much of what goes on within the context of a song. Their ears tend to take more of a holistic approach to listening. They hear the song as whole, rather than as an infinite collection of bits & pieces occurring simultaneously! Because most listeners have a voice, have some basic understanding of rhythm and are emotional by nature, those 3 song elements seem to be the ones that garner their attention. My experience has been, that typical listeners focus on elements they're able to personally identify with...voice, rhythm & emotional feel! In an effort to support that theory, let's consider the massive success of rap music. If I understand correctly, rap's initial success happened without much, if any, support from the major record labels. There was no big money behind it, no credible advertising, yet it grew & grew until it became too big a force to ignore. What 3 primary song elements does rap typically consist of? You guessed it...voice, rhythm & emotion! So....rap music was built entirely upon the 3 song elements that most people find easy to identify with. Gee...no wonder it succeeded! As the music industry has known for a long time, hooks also work well to grab the attention of regular listeners. Basically, a hook is anything within a song, that the listener remembers long after the song has ended. That just goes to show...if something is cool & catchy, it doesn't need to be understood to be liked & remembered! So with those listening differences in mind, why is it that I see so many writers focusing great amounts of time & energy on issues like: - real sounding drum tracks - technical difficulty & complexity in instrumentation - meticulously chosen tones & effects - massive amounts of compression & volume on final tracks? In a nutshell, I think we do it because those are elements that we appreciate & are drawn to. That's great, as long as we're the only one's listening to our music! Sometimes, if it's our own song, we allow ourselves to get hung up on perfecting facets of it that bother us. I can't help wondering though, if some of that time couldn't be better spent focusing on what the average listener hears? After all, if the average listener's not even capable of detecting many of those minor nuances, how important can they really be? Notice my use of the word "we". I'm not excluding myself here! My guess is that most writers wrestle with this issue to some degree. But the first step in addressing any issue is to become aware of it. That's why I chose this specific blog topic. I'd really like to see this subject discussed more than it is. In addition to rap, one more pertinent example comes to mind. "Disco at its peak, was absolutely huge! I was still a gigging musician back when it was coming into its own. Most drummers I knew at that time, felt like disco was the devil incarnate! We all hated those incredibly artificial, cheesy sounding drum tracks! The thing is...I don't think I've ever heard a single non-musician complain about that cheesy sound. Musicians were the only people on the face of the earth who seemed bothered by it! When I look back on that now, I realize that...not only didn't normal listeners find it objectionable...they never even realized that they were supposed-to! It didn't even show up on their radar! So why were all of us so put-off by it, when normal listeners didn't care? Who knows? But we were! So at this point, you may be asking yourself...what am I supposed to do with this information? After all, we writer/musicians hear all these intricacies in music. Are we supposed to simply ignore them? NO, not at all! I'm merely suggesting that we could do a better job of maintaining perspective. After all, there's no harm in addressing these things that regular listeners don't hear. But too many times, I feel as if writers allow those issues to become the priorities! When that occurs, I'm not sure it serves anyone's interests well. It's useful to remind ourselves occasionally, that not everyone hears what we hear! In closing, I'd like to offer one more question for you to ponder. Ask yourself if you can think of another craft or product, in which the entire focus of the process is anything except the end-user? I can't! Even the more creative ones tend to create with the end-user & potential market segment in mind. My best advice is this - be honest with yourself about your motives for writing. If you truly don't care whether any other human being on the face of the earth likes what you write, then I'm sorry for having wasted your time here. For the rest of us though....it may be helpful going forward, if we remember to consider who's listening. As always, I appreciate your interest in these blogs. Please feel free to comment! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1
  21. People sometimes know me for years, before finding out that I'm an amateur singer/songwriter. It's not that I'm particularly secretive about it. It's just not something that fits easily into day-to-day conversation. Occasionally, if a discussion is already headed in a musical or technical direction, I'll bring it up. Experience has taught me though, not to be surprised if the news draws a strange or uncomfortable reaction. I've come to believe that many folks are simply thrown a bit off-balance by my hobby. Unless they happen to know someone else who writes, I guess they're a little unsure about how to process the news. A few years back, I made a 20+ year acquaintance aware of my musical pastime. Her reaction was the kind I always hope to get...one of seemingly genuine interest & curiosity. Anyway, as a result of our conversation, I left her a computer burn CD containing some of my better-quality demos. I ran into her again a few weeks later...and she made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed it. She seemed amazed & impressed by the fact that one person could do everything she'd heard on the recordings. Then she laughed & said that her husband had a slightly different reaction. He was absolutely certain that I was being less than truthful with her! Naturally, I couldn't just leave it at that. My curiosity was killing me! I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here, but basically, it turned out that he was laboring under a life-long musical misconception......hence the title of this article. As we continued talking, I discovered a little more about her husband's reasoning. Basically, it boiled down to this: - He knew nothing about the concept of multi-track recording - He was under the impression that all recordings resulted from everyone involved (musicians, singers, etc.) gathering together in a recording studio, performing the song similar to the way they would do it live...and recording that performance. The bottom line was this....he wasn't questioning my personal integrity. He simply believed it was impossible for me to do what I had claimed! The thing is though, he was very mistaken! Afterward, I was thinking to myself...."here's a reasonably well educated man, in his mid-50s, who's been an avid fan of music throughout his life, but has absolutely no idea of how it all works! Gee! I wonder how many other folks are walking around thinking something similar?" At the very least, that might help explain some of those strange & uncomfortable reactions I mentioned earlier. So here's my take-away from this experience: 1) We songwriter/musicians tend to assume a lot. Much of the time, we take for granted that the general public has some understanding of how our musical world functions. Many times, they don't! 2) For any non-musicians reading this article, recording is generally not done in the way this gentleman envisioned. For many years, commercial recording has been achieved through the use of multi-track technology. Even though multi-tracking has evolved dramatically & continues to do so, the concept itself is not new. As a matter of fact, The Beatles utilized multi-track recording! That should give you some idea of how long it's been in existence. Basically, the technology allows for the recording of different sounds, onto different tracks. Typically, each instrument and vocal part is recorded to a separate track. This allows for separate control of each part. It also allows the parts to be recorded one-at-a-time, if desired. A musician or singer has the ability to listen to the previously recorded parts, while playing or singing along with them and recording their new part onto an unused track....all by itself. Pretty cool, huh? Most commercial recordings are not the result of everyone playing & singing in the studio together. The version that becomes available for public consumption is generally the result of many, many individual tracks, which are blended (mixed) together into one pair of stereo tracks. Sometimes, 100 or more individual tracks go into the making of that final stereo recording that you hear. As you might guess, there's much more to it than what I've briefly described here. But hopefully, this serves to give you a basic understanding of the process. That's about it for this time. With any luck, if you're a musician & were already familiar with most of this, you found it amusing food-for-thought. If you're not a musician and much of this was new to you, I hope you found it informative. Thanks...and as always, your feedback is welcome & appreciated! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1
  22. Musical forums like Songstuff draw more than their share of songwriting questions. Topics range from technically related software questions to structure & theory. Being one of the more experienced members, I try to assist these posters wherever I can. In the course of doing that, I've noticed something. Many of the inquiring members lack the musical knowledge necessary to understand the answers to their own questions. For the sake of clarity, here's a sample, fictitious question.... Let's say a new member makes a post, inquiring about how to write a specific type of chorus section. The member sites several examples of popular songs with choruses of the type they prefer. It seems that, no matter what they try, they're unable to duplicate what they're hearing in those examples. They'd really love to be able to create chorus sections like those. What should they do? Well..my first advice would be to take those popular song examples, break them down into specifics and analyze exactly what's happening. The poster knows their end-game. They want chorus sections that sound more like the examples. Simple enough! So, figure out how the examples did it. One way to accomplish that is by answering questions like: Where does the melodic structure go....does the chorus melody ascend, or descend from the previous sections? How does the backing musical (chord) structure compare to that of the previous sections? What did the writer change for the chorus? What else is occurring? Are there extensive vocal harmonies being used....did they bring in additional instrumentation....does the emotional feel, or timing of the vocal change dramatically? Is there a shift in timing...say from half-time to full-time? In my humble opinion....a greater, more thorough understanding of what they already like is the shortest route to the answers they seek. Problem is....for that suggestion to work, the poster must already possess some knowledge of: Basic key structure & melody Chords & how they relate to key structure Vocal harmony and what it consists of Basic timing concepts....straight time, half-time, syncopation, lyrical meter, etc. If they don't, my proposed solution would be no help at all. Honestly, nothing will. What they actually have is a knowledge gap, not a question about songwriting. They've been attempting to create, what they lack the knowledge to understand. That's gotta be tough! Would you be able to write a cohesive book without a firm grasp of your chosen language? Of course not! Unfortunately, that doesn't stop folks from trying to write songs before they truly understand what a song is. Essentially, music is the language of songwriting. There is a direct correlation between creating music (song) and possessing the knowledge to comprehend it. That brings us full circle, back to the title of this article "To Write, Or Not To Write". Simply put, many people attempt to write before they should. I can speculate a couple of reasons for this..... We're living in a short-cut society. Everyone, particularly young people, crave a quicker means to their desired end....in this case songwriting. Learning about theory, structure & your instrument aren't nearly as enjoyable as experimenting with creation. Fact is, they're tedious endeavors requiring repetition & personal discipline. The creative process can be more loosely structured and honestly...a lot more fun. I get that because I've been there...done that! Perhaps that statement will make more sense if I share a little about myself. Rather than bore you to death with redundant info, I'll refer you to my Songstuff member profile. It's brief and the first 2 paragraphs contain most of the pertinent information. I was fortunate! Because of my youthful involvement, I knew enough to understand what I lacked. So my first goal was to fill in those knowledge and ability gaps. I did not allow myself to begin writing until I had accomplished that goal. I knew that I'd be tempted to stray from that commitment, so I devised a simple, but firm plan: Time is a limited commodity. Given that, I could see that consistent focus & structure was vital. Bottom line....I needed to limit my initial efforts to learning & structured practice. I decided that I would not begin writing until I'd acquired a grasp of all the basics and had become competent on my chosen instruments. My goals never included becoming a stand-out player, or an absolute theory-head. I was simply interested in achieving competency in both. Once I'd reached that goal, I'd continue learning & practicing, but I'd spend much less time on both. That would free up enough time to begin writing. From day one, I set myself up with notebook paper, tablature paper and a means by which to record impromptu ideas. Just because I wasn't going to write, didn't mean I should keep track of any and all viable ideas that came my way. For 2 years, as I came across riffs I liked....juicy chord combinations....catchy song titles or concepts....bits & pieces of memorable lyrics, I kept organized records. Once I was finally ready to begin writing, those notebooks & brief recordings were the first things I reached for. I'd simply chose an idea and run with it. Honestly, I had so many backlogged by the time I began writing, it was years before I worked through them all. Trust me...as a writer, too many ideas isn't a bad problem to have! Although I spent 2 full years in the initial learning/practicing phase, that's NOT the norm. If you read those 2 paragraphs of bio I referred you to, you know that I took on 2 brand new instruments (guitar & bass guitar), had to re-learn a third (drums), began music theory pretty much from scratch and knew nothing about current home recording equipment or techniques. My goals were lofty, but I was positioning myself to function alone. Most folks don't go that route. They take a more reasonable approach, such as basic theory & a single instrument. Congratulations....you've reached the end of this article! I'm all done making recommendations. Obviously, I can't control how seriously you take them, but I will leave you with one final thought. Everything I've said here is based 100% on personal experience. I didn't hear it from anyone...I didn't read about it in a book...it wasn't taught to me. I lived it! Because of that, I can absolutely guarantee you that it worked! Tackling the basics BEFORE I started writing worked! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  23. In this age of seemingly endless technological advancements, a question has occurred to me. Is it possible that the production/technical side of our modern music industry and the end-user side, have been moving in contradictory directions? In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no formal expertise in either side. But my knowledge of...and continued exposure to both sides has caused me to wonder. By absolute coincidence, the digital age was beginning to take hold right about the time I made the decision to re-involve myself musically. For the past 17 years, I've watched as both the creation & end-user sides of this business have evolved. The business (creative) side has continued to develop its technical capabilities. The multimillion dollar recording studios of today are capable of amazing things! They'd likely be the first to tell you that they're an indispensable part of the creative process. From what I understand, the industry's position is....that without their sophisticated equipment & technical expertise, the virtually flawless recordings of today wouldn't be possible. I don't dispute that claim! But, along with that capability, comes increased cost of production. As you might imagine, this increased cost has to be passed on to the consumer. So, the bottom line is that you & I end-up paying more for our music. Proving once again...that there's no such thing as a free lunch!-LOL Seriously, I can understand that! After all, if their cost is higher, they have to reflect that in the end price of the product. But, here's what I do question. Despite the industry's claims that we need this modern level of quality....do we really? Given the recent direction of the end-user (listener) market, is it necessary, or has the music industry simply chosen to ignore current trends in listening technology? Back-in-the-day, small/portable/low-quality listening was the trend. To be more specific...mono AM-only transistor radios. Fifty years ago, that was our version of a personal listening device. By the time I was into my mid-teens, stereo sound had become the new standard. Thank God! With that change, came an increased desire for high quality listening capability. Virtually everyone I knew at that time wanted a good quality receiver, turntable & speakers. The speakers had to be 3-ways, the receiver had to be low noise...low distortion and the turntable had to be state of the art & capable of tracking at 1 gram or less. Lighter tracking was thought to aid in preserving the quality of the vinyl albums. We had finally become picky about our sound! We were concerned with things like frequency response range, so that we'd be able to hear extreme highs & lows as they were intended to be heard. These systems didn't come cheap, but we were willing to pay more for the quality we wanted. Now....let's flash forward to the digital 2000's! Essentially, we've returned to an age of less expensive - highly portable listening devices. Grant-it, today's versions are much better quality than our transistor radios were. They're also capable of doing much more. But the overall market trend is similar! Isn't it? The average listener today: - buys, or somehow acquires, music in a128 kbps mp3 format - hears much of their music through ear buds, pc bar speakers or lap top speakers Bottom line...today's listeners hear most of their music in a format that's well below the quality of a wav-form recording, through speakers with limited frequency response capability. So, refresh my memory again! Why was it that we needed that virtually flawless quality at that elevated cost? Tom Hoffman http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1 http://forums.songstuff.com/user/1454-tunesmithth/
  24. Hi guys, it's been a long long time since I posted here. This is a new project, first track completed yesterday. I co-wrote this with Jay Brown. It is performed by Jay Brown & Lewis Rumney, produced & mixed by Mattie Foulds at Caribou Recording. https://soundcloud.com/user-497945870/say-the-right-words
  25. Hi, I'm a singer-songwriter from Finland. My main instrument is acoustic guitar, but I also enjoy playing piano and percussions. Besides my studies I like to improve my musical skills. I built a little home studio last summer, so my next challenge is learn how to record, mix and master songs. I use Reaper for recording. This is the first track I wrote, recorded and mixed and I would like to hear some opinions and advice about the song and the mix. Best, Michael