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Found 43 results

  1. Until recently, I knew very little about how YouTube deals with copyright violators. Sure…I’d heard stories from friends & colleagues, but I’d never actually dealt with it firsthand. Now I have! For those who aren’t aware, I’m a long-time YouTuber. I set up my first channel back in January of 2010 & currently administrate a total of five. Even with 5 channels, I’d never had occasion to post work I didn’t own, or have permission to use. A few weeks back, I decided to try something new.….a playlist series called “Play Along”. The videos consist of me playing drums to a prerecorded song. Not exactly a revolutionary concept! You’ll find countless examples this type of thing already on YouTube. But….it was new for me & it sounded like fun! My original intent was to post each video without the play-along song. That would have avoided the whole copyright quagmire, but it also had an unintended consequence. It made the finished product much less interesting! After some deliberation, I decided to roll the dice. If nothing else, it could serve as a learning experience. When I formatted my video, I used an mp3 iTunes version of the audio (song). Typically, mp3s of this type contain tagging which allows the track to be detected on platforms like YouTube. I uploaded my project & classified it as an “unlisted” video. This is standard practice for me. Once I view the upload & verify that it’s intact, I change the classification to “public”. It was late, so I put that final review off till the next morning. By the time I logged back on the next day…. The legal owner had already detected my use of his song Reported the violation to YouTube Decided what options to offer me Tagged & set up my video for AD monetization Keep in mind, at this point, my video was still classified as “unlisted”. I hadn’t even checked the upload yet! It seems the wheels of progress turn quickly when there’s revenue at stake! Fortunately for me, this was the outcome I had hoped for. Most of those 2nd hand stories I mentioned earlier had described a similar process. Below is a copy of the actual notice that YouTube/Google attached to my video….. Your video has been blocked in some countries. Copyrighted content was found in your video. Because of the claimant's policy, this video can't be played in some countries. VIEWING RESTRICTIONS · Video blocked in 1 country · Unavailable on some devices MONETIZATION · Monetized by claimant If you agree with these conditions, you don't have to do anything. Learn More Copyright details CONTENT CLAIMANT POLICY · Look Away (Album Version) - The Ozark Mountain Daredevils · Sound recording · 0:02 - 3:29 play match · UMG · Blocked in some countries · Remove Song · File a Dispute Additional details about original version of the notice: When you hover over the “Video blocked in 1 country” statement, it tells you which country…in this case - Germany. When you hover over the “Monetized by claimant” statement, this notice appears – “You can use the copyrighted content in your video, but ads might appear on your video.” As you can see, the poster is given 3 basic choices: 1. Do nothing, indicating that you agree with the arrangements already negotiated. 2. Remove the copyrighted song 3. File a dispute over the ownership of contested material, in this case the play-along audio track. Clicking on the “Learn More” link took me to a page containing this statement – “Am I in trouble? · In most cases, getting a Content ID claim isn’t a bad thing for your YouTube channel. It just means, “Hey, we found some material in your video that’s owned by someone else.” · It’s up to copyright owners to decide whether or not others can reuse their original material. In many cases, copyright owners allow the use of their content in YouTube videos in exchange for putting ads on those videos.” In the spirit of full disclosure, that page also contains information pertaining to other potential outcomes. Occasionally, the owner of rights can strongly object. In some of those cases, your standing as a YouTube member can be affected….both negatively & permanently. So, the bottom line seems to be this….doing what I did is a bit of a crap-shoot! There is a chance it could affect your standing on YouTube and more. BUT….the majority of the time, you’ll probably get an outcome similar to what I got here. For me it was win-win. They’re allowing me to use the audio and I gained first-hand knowledge of YouTube’s procedures for handling breach of copyright. When I changed the video classification to “public”, I added this statement in the liner notes…… ***The ADs you see here are not mine. The registered owner of "Look Away" chose to allow use of their audio content in exchange for placing ads in my video. Since I had no commercial aspirations for this project anyway, I thought that arrangement was more than fair! For anyone interested, here’s the video that brought about this learning experience - https://youtu.be/VRdqL_UCQz0 Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profilehttp://www.tune-smith.comhttp://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  2. In this day and age of FREE advice, suggestions & tutorials on the web....how does one go about determining what's valid and what should be disregarded? I can't tell you how many times I've heard......"The internet is full of bad advice and information". Unfortunately, it's true! There is an incredible amount of misdirection & incompetence....some deliberate, some not. So what's the answer? What's a poor site surfing seeker of information to do? The answer is simple. We need to become more discriminating consumers. We have to force ourselves to examine & evaluate our sources of information. The biggest obstacle to validation is also one of the biggest advantages to operating online.....anonymity! The internet offers the perfect opportunity to pretend, or to function in relative obscurity. As long as we talk a good game, we can masquerade as whoever or whatever we chose. While there are valid reasons for wishing to hide one's online identity, there are at least as many questionable ones. That being the case, internet trust should be earned, not given indiscriminately. For musician/songwriters, the internet can be an incredibly useful tool. Sites like Songstuff.com provide an environment for people with similar interests to learn and interact. They also serve as a breeding ground for posers. Over the past 7+ years, I've gotten to know some great people! Unfortunately, not everyone fits into that category. Some choose to present themselves as more than they actually are. Often, it takes a while to figure out who's who, but that's a necessary part of the process. So, how does one go about verifying online credibility? Well hopefully, the individual in question has made that a simple task. I'll use myself as an example. I have little need or desire to mask my internet persona. In a nutshell, what you see is what you get! My name is Tom Hoffman.....I chose the Songstuff member name "tunesmithth" because my primary website is tune-smith.com and my initials are TH. I deliberately avoid exaggerating my musical credentials. What credentials I do claim, are easily verified. The "About Me" section of my Songstuff member profile is detailed, historically accurate & publically available. It refers to me by actual name and member name, as does my "Tips & Tidbits" blog. It also provides a link to the Metro St. Louis Historical Site http://www.stlmusicyesterdays.com/Nickels.htm. You'll find my name listed near the top. My Songstuff member signature, which displays at the bottom of every post I make, includes 6 links.....3 Youtube channels, my Facebook personal profile, tune-smith.com and "Tips & Tidbits". All clickable & readily available for examination. Provided on those sites are 20+ original mp3s, ringtones, drum tutorials / demonstrations, guitar demonstrations, music videos, published articles, photos, etc. The Library of Congress website is searchable by song title, or registrant name. Either will yield a history of copyright registrations for Tom Hoffman. They're a matter of public record. What I never list on the internet is my exact date of birth, where I went to school, political preference, religious affiliation, etc. Identity thieves, data collection entities & special interest groups are the primary beneficiaries of details like that. So....given that I've provided all the resources necessary to make an assessment of my musical qualifications, does that mean you should trust my online advice? In a word, NO! But it does mean that I've done my part. All I can do is make it available. It's your responsibility to research, evaluate and decide who to place your trust in! No one can do that for you and you shouldn't want them to. After all, you're the one who will pay the price for being wrong. When it comes to my own online interactions, I operate by a simple rule. Unless you've done your part, I'll probably disregard your advice. Sorry, but if I can't verify that you're qualified to offer me the advice, I won't be taking it seriously! I'll respond courteously, thanking you for your insights. I simply won't act on them! Why would I? If you're a relative stranger and you haven't bothered to provide some sort of qualifying credentials, how would you expect anyone to take you seriously? In fact....shame on anyone who does! So where does that leave the individual who's bound and determined to maintain online anonymity? As I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate reasons for choosing to do so. Unfortunately, those reasons don't outweigh our need to verify. Bottom line....if people aren't in a position to supply something, they can't be taken seriously! Life's a trade-off. People who truly have the need to operate anonymously should be willing to recognize the limitations imposed by that. Fair or not, it's impossible to "consider the source" when that source is a nameless, faceless internet entity Do yourself a favor.....take the time to learn something about folks who offer you online advice & information. If you don't, there's a pretty good chance it'll be worth exactly what you paid for it ........NOTHING! As always, comments and feedback are welcome. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  3. 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
  4. “Middle Class Blues” was originally written & copyrighted back in 1998. As is often the case, I liked the song, but felt that the arrangement was lacking. In 2001 I did a partial rewrite of the song, adding….. a 40 second introduction a 2nd guitar part (rhythm) The song was then re-recorded, in 8 track digital format. The Idea The song evolved from a guitar progression, set in minor pentatonic block form. I stumbled upon the pattern while practicing scales Eventually built a song around it Chose a subject that was an appropriate match for the music Created a lyric *Video Demonstration & Tab of Primary Guitar Progression - https://youtu.be/PcbYFyIM39o Subject Matter In a nutshell – it’s about the plight of the middle class in America. As you might expect, it’s written from my perspective & based largely on personal observations & experiences. Completely appropriate, since songwriting is a means of creative self-expression. Over the years, the timeless nature of this lyric has been brought to my attention more than once. Simply put…..it’s as relevant now as it was when it written back 98. The purchasing power of the middle class hasn’t improved. Middle class tax burden hasn’t decreased. I still pay into a tax base for schools I’ve never used. NO, I’m not advocating a school voucher alternative, or promoting a specific political agenda! I simply have no children. No children = no use of the school system. It’s an indisputable fact that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, yet we continue funding it with tax dollars year after year. Pharmaceutical companies are ABSOLUTELY getting rich from supplying our Medicare program. Again…now more than ever, since our government is no longer allowed to negotiate the cost of Medicare drugs. More tax loopholes exist for the wealthy today, than in 98. The poor are no more able to contribute to the tax base than they were back then. Leaving the middle class to shoulder the lions’ share of the tax burden. The end result being – “We’ve got the Middle Class Blues!” Not a single one of those areas has shown improvement in almost 20 years. I’m sure there are conclusions to be drawn from that, but I leave those to you. I’m just a songwriter stating the obvious. Lyric Got those middle class blues Well when I look at my economic state With what I make I ought to be livin’ great You gotta know my heart gets to feelin’ down When tax time comes around I pay for schools that I don’t even use I fund a war on drugs that we’re bound to lose You got know that I keep-a-waitin’ for Some way to even the score Got those middle class blues! Well now I know that I need to pay my share But while suppliers get rich from Medicare I’ve got to ask myself what it’s all about I just can’t figure it out ! The wealthy don’t pay much, cause they know the game The underprivileged can’t, the end result’s the same That leaves the middle class to pay & pay Hope we get our someday! Got the middle class blues! Copyright 1998 – Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Guitar Based Verse-Refrain Section / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Ends on Repeat of Musical Refrain Musical Fundamentals The song is set in A# minor. For whatever reason, I find it easier to craft interesting melodies in minor keys. Consequently, many of my songs share that characteristic. Back in 2001, when I made the decision to add a 40 second musical introduction to this song, I also doomed it to commercial failure. For those who aren’t aware, long introductions are strongly discouraged in commercial songwriting circles. The average listener tends to focus on the vocal, so delaying its’ entry into a song is tempting fate. Industry folks will tell you that anything over 20 seconds is viewed negatively. Attention spans being what they are, you run the risk of the listener going elsewhere. Since I’m not a professional songwriter, my focus was on creating a well written song….not a commercially viable one. When you make your living elsewhere, you can afford to make decisions based on personal preference, rather than industry norms. That being said, I did build in something to help with damage control. The song begins with a single vocal line, which happens to include the hook (title) of the song. “Got those Middle Class Blues”! By doing that, I accomplished several things: 1. Immediately announced to the listener that there WOULD BE vocals in the song. Long instrumental intos leave listeners wondering. “Is there a vocal coming?” Some get bored & won’t stick around to find out. A single line of vocals up front removes that uncertainty. Listeners know that eventually……it’s coming! 2. It re-enforced the song’s lyrical hook….the thing you want to stick in the listeners’ head after the song has ended. “Middle Class Blues” is a guitar-based arrangement. If I do say so myself, some of my more creative guitar work! 4 individual tracks were used for guitar….all done with my SG 1 track for bass guitar 1 for vocal The only stereo pair of tracks was used for the drums Final Production Notes This was one of the first songs I recorded after upgrading to the digital realm. My Tascam PortaStudio 788 had a total of 8 recordable tracks….6 mono & one stereo pair (tracks 7 & 8 ). Overall, I wish the production quality of this final version was a little better. That being said, the song itself remains among my favorites! Performance Credits Guitars, Bass & Drums – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/fQDOSaXpmsc Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  5. As a participant in several online musician/songwriter forums, I can attest to the fact that the "lessons" question, is a fairly common one. It's natural to be curious about how others acquired their knowledge & skills. Many players are self-taught, but many take the formal lessons route. I actually recommend a combination of both. I'll spend the remainder of this blog elaborating on my preference & sharing some tips on how to get the most out of formal lessons. Let me begin by giving you a bit of background. I was a drum student 44 years ago, followed by several years as drum instructor. I became a novice guitar student 17 years ago and in recent years, have done some basic instruction in that capacity. My point is........I've seen the pros & cons of lessons from both sides, several times, with various instruments. Bottom line.........I speak from experience! Freelance music instructors are an extremely diverse group. When I say freelance, I'm referring to teachers who either: - teach from home or - teach in conjunction with a music store or some other type of retail entity (on or off-line) In the US at least, these are the most common, readily available type of instructors! Their skill levels, knowledge & basic qualifications run the gamut from virtually unqualified to extremely gifted. There is no certification process and no standardized list of requirements. In most cases, instructors are completely unregulated. What I'm getting at here, is that the responsibility for choosing a decent teacher rests entirely upon the student. Buyer beware, or in this case....student beware! Unfortunately...this model, which makes the student, or student's parent responsible for selecting the teacher, has one serious flaw. It assumes that the student (or parent) is qualified to make the selection....that they know what to look for. In many cases, they don't! Hopefully, I can offer a little assistance in that area. Here's a short-list of qualities that I look for in a teacher/instructor: 1) Reasonable competence as a player - They don't have to be great, but they should come across as being at least comfortable with their instrument. 2) They should seem more concerned about your learning, than about feeding their own ego by dazzling you with their ability & brilliance. 3) They should not only allow, but encourage questions from you. As a student, I never walked into a lesson without having at least 1 or 2 pre-prepared, written questions! Don't trust yourself to remember. Write them down! Typical lessons are only a 1/2 hour long. It's easy to get rushed, busy with something else, or simply forget....write them down! Always remember that the instructor is only half of the equation here. The other half is you! You're paying this person. Make sure you're getting your money's worth! This is the area in which a combination of self teaching & formal instruction can be most beneficial. Trust your instructor to guide the direction of the lessons, but don't hesitate to do extra reading & research on your own. This is where many of your weekly questions can come from. Use your teacher's knowledge to help you gain a better understanding of how all these musical concepts work together. Show initiative, be inquisitive & get them to share as much of that knowledge with you as possible. In doing so, believe it or not, you're probably making their job a little more interesting. *One quick caution about on-your-own reading & research. Try and stick to concepts that you're already somewhat familiar with. When it comes to music theory, skipping too far ahead isn't a good idea. Chances are.....if you've ventured into material you're not yet ready for, you'll know it. It won't make any sense to you! Whatever the subject is...don't panic. You're just not prepared to deal with it yet. Yes, this too...is on my list of past mistakes. The funny thing is though, when the time is right....and you're able to place that information in the proper context, it'll make perfect sense to you. The trick is that the fundamentals always need to precede the more advanced concepts. Fundamentals are the building blocks. Skipping over them would be like trying to learn how to read, without first knowing the alphabet. 4) This final quality is a little hard to describe, but it's also the most critical for an instructor to possess. They need to be capable of remembering what it was like to be a student! If they can't, it's unlikely that they'll be able to explain things to you in an understandable way. If your teacher has forgotten what it was like not to know, you'll begin to see that within the first few lessons. Even though it not their intent, teachers like this tend to frustrate students. Too many times, frustrated students become ex-students. They walk away, assuming that their inability to understand is somehow their fault........and they never pick up the instrument again. Obviously, that's not the end result you want! Always remember that a teacher is there to be of benefit to YOU......not the other way around. Regardless of how brilliant & talented they may be, if they can't find a way to pass some of what they possess...onto you, it's a waste of your time and money! With this type of situation, my advice is simple......find yourself a different teacher! I did! When I first decided to take up guitar, I did what many folks do. I walked into the closest music store & signed up with an available instructor for lessons. Many times, new students don't even have the opportunity to meet the instructor before signing up. I didn't. However, I did have an advantage over many new students. I'd already spent time on both sides of this student-teacher equation and I knew what to look for! So.....my first lesson rolled around and I met with my instructor. He was a 21 year old, 4.0 GPA, pre-med student at a prominent local university. I'd played with enough good guitarists in my day, to recognize that this guy had skills! Anyway, if I had any doubts, he was only to happy to remind me of it....often . In his defense though, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy & appeared to have nothing but good intentions. Unfortunately, as an instructor, he did have one pretty big problem. He didn't have a clue how to teach beginner or intermediate students! Apparently, his own knowledge had evolved to the point where everything seemed simple to him. Rather than bore his beginner students with fundamentals, he decided to dig right into subjects that he considered more interesting. As part of my 2nd lesson, he proceeded to explain to me how a diatonic major scale & it's relative natural minor scale, are essentially identical. The only real differences being the starting & ending points of each....& the fact that the same note holds a different numeric position, depending on whether it's part of the major or minor version. If I've just lost some of you, I apologize. For those of you who do understand the concept, so did I.............one year later! I'm one of those people who still has every note, from every lesson he's ever taken. A year after that 2nd lesson, I pulled out my notes...looked them over and the light bulb went off in my head. After an additional year of guitar method & theory, it actually made sense to me! I understood exactly what he was trying to tell me. I also understood how completely insane it was for him to think it was appropriate to teach that in a 2nd lesson. But there-in lies the problem. In his mind, the concept was no longer difficult. Because he understood it so well, he'd come to believe that everyone would. He had simply forgotten what it was like not-to-know. Needless to say, he didn't remain my teacher for very long........3 lessons to be exact. I went to a different shop & got myself another teacher. My second teacher was also my last. He was very good at what he did. I wasn't unkind about leaving the first guy, but I did leave. In closing, I'd like to offer one last suggestion. Before you decide to change instructors, take a good, hard look at your part of the student/teacher partnership. - are you actually practicing regularly? - are you asking questions? - are you genuinely interested in learning & improving? If you're not, the best instructor in the world can't help you! A good teacher can make an immense difference, but even the best can't teach someone who's not interested in learning! Be honest with yourself because there's nothing to be gained by placing blame where it doesn't belong. If it's you, fix that! If it's them, try a different teacher. Thanks once again for your interest! HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com
  6. “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
  7. “Love Will Find Me” was originally written & recorded in 1997, using a Tascam 424 analog cassette deck. Revisions were made in 2005........ - The original 4 analog tracks were transferred to an 8-track digital deck (Tascam 788, shown below). - Keyboard strings & organ were added to the arrangement. - Some of the secondary guitar work was re-recorded & the song was remixed. In 2014, some minor editing was done on the 2-track master & the ending was shortened. That final effort yielded the version you’re hearing now. In recent years, I’ve come to view all my songs as works-in-progress. “Finished” means…”Finished for now”. Truth be told, change is NOT the enemy of artistic integrity! Subject Matter This is one of my few "relationship" themed songs. It's not that I dislike the subject. Commercial music is simply overrun with it! Since life is about much than the emotional roller coaster ride of 2 star-crossed lovers, my songs tend to focus on other aspects of it. That being said, “Love Will Find Me” was an exception. The lyric is set in first person narrative, so the story’s being told by the individual experiencing the loss. Essentially, it’s a look back at his recently failed relationship…a new version of the unrequited love theme. It covers an array of emotions…. The grief-stricken pain of loving someone who doesn't love you. A fleeting glimpse of self-pity Then finally, the realization that life goes on, coupled with a belief that eventually….love will find him. Most songs of this type have a commonality. They describe a universally understood experience. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone beyond the age of puberty who hasn't dealt with similar feelings, including me. That’s why it’s such a common songwriting theme…because listeners easily identify with it. Lyric Can’t believe you’ve left me all alone All alone, no one to care Wish you’d learned to love me so I would Have someone with whom to share Why should I….even try When you’ve already said goodbye? Life goes on….so will I Someday….some way….love will find me! Tried so hard to grant your every wish Every wish was my command Thought in time you’d learn to love me too Guess you’ll never understand Wonder what….I did wrong Wanted you….for so long Maybe I….pushed too hard Just not….sure anymore Why should I….even try When you’ve already said goodbye? Life goes on….so will I Someday….some way….love will find me! *Repeat Chorus Section Copyright 1997 Song Structure Brief Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Bridge / Double Chorus / Ending & Fade Track Length - 3:05 Musical Fundamentals The song is set in D# minor. Since most of my songs aren’t relationship-based, I go the extra mile to make the few I have unique. I see little point in creating new versions of “the same old thing”. Unlike much of my material, “Love Will Find Me” was built around a syncopated chord progression…played on my Strat. The chords are all 5th & 6th string Barre forms Much of the progression is played staccato, which is why barre chords were chosen. They can be muted by simply relaxing pressure on the frets. Secondary guitar parts were done with my SG. They consist of 2-note intervals (primarily 4ths), single note patterns and licks. While the primary guitar chords are the songs’ foundation, these secondary parts were created to fill, add color & support the vocal melody. Keyboard strings & organ helped to fill out the arrangement. Since there was no secondary guitar part written for the chorus sections, something additional was needed. Both were played on a Yamaha P-80 electric piano. As was the case with all my earlier songs, live drums were used. If I do say so myself, this serves as a great example of how to get creative with a drum track! It’s syncopated, generates a unique rhythmic feel and works nicely with the other song components. Because the drums were part of my original 4 track recording, they share a single mono track with the bass guitar. Shame it had to be that way, but compromises of that sort were common back-in-the-day. Performance Credits Guitars, Bass, Drums & Keyboards – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman You Tube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/7Y8ycXZY4gI Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com The Story Behind The Song
  8. Norfolk & Westerne

    From the album Back-in-the-day

    An old band buddy of mine ran across this cleaning out his practice/storage facility. Norfolk & Westerne was the original name for the band that became "Nickels". Steve Madison & Paul Tassler of Continental Ent. asked us to change it because everyone thought we were a country western band. We were not! The name was taken from a famous railroad. This was an early publicity shot done for Continental...circa 1973. That's me 2nd from the left. Honestly, I had no idea any remnants from this stage of the band survived. Leave it to Frank...he never throws anything away...thank God!
  9. Crafting Drum Parts Tutorials

    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
  10. Subject Matter Written, recorded & copyrighted in 2003, "Borrowed Time" was inspired by an actual event…the death of my boss Fred Marshall. Several years prior, Fred had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Once traditional treatment had failed, Fred received the bad news. There was little more medical science could do for him. For all practical purposes, he was living on borrowed time. He knew the "what", but not the "when". Grant it, Fred wasn't the first to receive a terminal prognosis & he wouldn't be the last. But, I couldn't help wondering....how does someone come to grips with that? What's it like to live with that knowledge? Questions worthy of a song, don't you think? I did In the end, Fred lost his battle with cancer. The day of the funeral, our company closed so that everyone could attend. He was laid to rest in his hometown, several hours North of St. Louis. As you might expect, it was a very quiet drive back. Since I was a passenger...with the back seat to myself, I made good use of the time. I wrote the majority of this lyric. Given the circumstances, it seemed a fitting activity. Lyric Livin’ on borrowed time Not sure how he’s gonna use it Livin’ on borrowed time Knows he can’t afford to lose it When life gives you a surprise It can open up your eyes Should already be…part of history Dead & gone before his time, but he’s… Livin’ on borrowed time Not sure how he’s gonna use it Livin’ on borrowed time Knows he can’t afford to lose it Livin’ every day In a different way Cause he’s never sure How much longer he’ll survive Told him he’d be dead last year Doctors say the end’s still near Still he’s tryin’ to…use the time to do All the things he holds so dear, cause he’s… Livin’ on borrowed time Not sure how he’s gonna use it Livin’ on borrowed time Knows he can’t afford to lose it Livin’ on borrowed time Livin’ on borrowed time Copyright 2003 – Tom Hoffman Personal Insights Back-in-the-day, I participated in a number of songwriting competitions. The Billboard World, Song of the Year, American Songwriter, USA, UK & Great American to name a few. Out of all the songs I entered, “Borrowed Time” scored the highest ...one of 5 finalists. The most traditional, mainstream song I’ve ever created…and they liked it best? Go figure! Take from that, what you will. Musical Fundamentals Genre was an easy decision. Given the subject matter, traditional country was a perfect fit. It’s set in the key of G…a commonly used country key. BPM = 104 …a comfortable, easy-going pace for this type of song. Structurally, it is different. Following a brief introduction, it flows immediately into a chorus section. That’s not unheard of, but it’s certainly not the norm. For this particular song, I thought it was an excellent choice. It allowed one of the primary “hooks” (the song title) to be heard almost immediately. Instrumentation Choices Fender Strat Acoustic Bass + Harmonica (Hohner) & Keyboard Strings (Yamaha P-80 digital piano) Production: Tascam 788 Performance Credits: • Guitars, Bass, Drums, Harmonica, Keyboards – Tom Hoffman • Vocals – Tom Hoffman YouTube Video Version (*includes full song) - https://youtu.be/EbeVOh7m5FE Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profilehttp://www.tune-smith.comhttp://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  11. 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
  12. “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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. As a long-time participant in online musician/songwriter forums, I've seen countless references to the infamous phenomena known as writers block. The thing is.....I'm not certain it actually exists! At least not in the way we've come to think of it. Writers block is one of those catch-all terms. A shapeless, indefinable brain-fog held responsible for any & all blockages of creative or productive thought. Whatever the issue, be it..... lack of a viable idea absence of inspiration or personal motivation difficulty in finishing, or developing a specific project inability to find a creative way to phrase a lyric, or make point The tendency is to chalk it up to writers block. Like many other creative fields, we musical types tend to shroud our process with a bit of delusional mystique. Simply put, we don't want to be clearly understood by the general public. After all, what we do is special and we wouldn't want just anyone to think they could do it. Would we? Our use of deliberately vague terms such as "inspiration", "writers block", "talented", "gifted" and "emotion-filled" help us to maintain that shroud of mystery. Seriously....I dare you to try and explain to someone what "inspiration" is! Clearly define it in 10 words or less. I certainly can't. Our industry elites are often the worst offenders in this area. Most of us have had the pleasure of hearing a famous artist interviewed. Have you ever wondered about some of the stories and advice those interviews generate? It's a tough position to find yourself in, particularly when it's one of your favorite artists. You worship the ground this person walks on. You want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, you can't help wondering about some of what you just heard. One of my favorite stories is the tried & true "it came to me in a dream". Good luck explaining to an aspiring writer how to go about writing a song in their sleep! My nominee for favorite piece of misleading, useless advice is this one - "I never keep records of my new song ideas. If it's worth remembering, I'll remember it. If I don't, it probably wasn't very good to begin with". OMG....seriously? Unfortunately yes! As closely as I can recall, that's what the man said. It's so wrong....on so many levels, yet I'll bet there were listeners who took him seriously. So, what's the motivation behind these fabrications of fact? Simple! They want to make our creative process sound just a little cooler, a little less attainable and a little more mysterious than it actually is. Fact is, the tales they tell are more interesting than the truth! So is telling everyone that you have "writers block". Despite its lack of definable meaning..... everyone's familiar with the term using it implies artistry. After all, one must actually be a writer if one has "writers block"....mustn't one? Over the years, I've noticed a pattern. The term writers block is typically used by younger, less experienced writers. That being the case, I'd like to point out a rarely discussed songwriting fundamental. There are 2 basic steps involved in creating a new song. First comes the idea itself. Without the fundamental idea, there can be no writing. Development of that idea into an actual song. This is the lengthy, grueling part of the process....the actual writing. My fear is that far too many novices attempt to approach songwriting as a single step process. They schedule time to sit down and write, without having an idea.....hoping that one arrives, like a lightning bolt from the heavens. I have very simple advice for anyone employing this method. Stop!!! Scheduled writing time should never be spent trying to come up with new song ideas. Either have them beforehand, or don't sit down to write! If your difficulty is in coming up with viable ideas, you are not experiencing writers block. You simply don't have any good ideas. The two are not synonymous. Typically, ideas for songs don't arrive in a scheduled manner. They come when they come. In my case, they generally evolve from one of 4 starting points: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme Those 4 account for the majority of my step #1s. Many of these starting points (ideas) are discovered completely by accident. They come while practicing guitar, driving, watching TV, speaking to someone about a totally unrelated subject, listening to music, or waiting to fall asleep. The trick is to keep good, organized records. That way....when you do schedule time to write, you actually have a starting point (idea). From there, you can develop an actual song. In my 18 years of songwriting, I never sat down to write without first having an idea. Not only have I never done it, it's difficult for me to imagine why anyone would. Think about it for a moment. Would you go out to change the oil in your car, without having a car? Of course not! Only an idiot would do that, right? Then why in the world would you sit down to develop & expand upon an idea without having one? The truth is, an experienced writer wouldn't! I'll make one final point in closing. Not everyone is a writer! The ability to..... begin with virtually nothing (a blank slate) conceive a viable new idea then develop that idea into a fully fledged song ....isn't something everyone can do. At least not by themselves. Fact is, I know knowledgeable musicians who by their own admission, couldn't write a song if someone held a gun to their head. Most would love to and many have tried. For whatever reason, they can't. If that last description sounded a bit like you, but you still crave involvement in the creative end of the process, try partnering up with someone. Figure out what your strong points are, then find someone who's strong where you're weak. If you're good at developing ideas, yet never seem to get any of your own, team up with someone who does! Last time I checked, 2 halves still make a whole. Topics like this are difficult to address on a music forum such as Songstuff. Were I to post something like this as a response to a question or problem, I'd run the risk of someone taking it personally. In my opinion, subjects like this are better dealt with as blog articles. Hopefully, someone finds this one useful. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  16. When I started writing percussion tutorials for Songstuff, that section of our site library consisted of 3 articles. My basic approach has been to: - Define what I felt were the fundamental components of trap set drumming - Cover the basics of each - Further develop each component with additional articles....beyond just the basics At this point, I don't see any huge holes in our coverage of the basics. There are however, small holes. This blog article is intended to plug one of those & serve as a supplement to the tutorials. Background & Purpose For 9 years of my life, I was a gigging drummer. Back then, there was no internet. Yes boys & girls, back in-the-day.....we beat our clothes on rocks to clean them, our primary possessions were stone-knives & bearskins and there was no internet! It was a barbaric existence! Anyway, prior to the existence of the internet, information & tips were harder to come by. Advice on subjects like "what extras gigging drummers should carry" was virtually nonexistent. Most of us learned from our mistakes....figuring it out as we went along. Kind of a learn as you earn process. That worked OK, but it did have one serious downside. The mistake always came before the learning. These few, simple recommendations may help with that. Specifics To perform (gig) with a band, two obvious things are required: Something to play with (sticks, brushes,etc.) And something to play on (drumset) It's the little things that are often overlooked. So here's my short-list of recommended necessities: 1. Always carry extra drumsticks....2-3 pair minimum. 2. At the very least, carry an extra top-snare head (batter) & bass drum head. If money's not a huge issue, it's really nice to have extra top heads for your entire set. But snare & bass drum are the most crucial. The extras can remain in your vehicle. Just be sure that wherever you've stored them, you have quick access if needed. 3. Carry an extra drum key. Keys are very small, hence very easy to lose or misplace. For no more than the cost of a drum key, why take the chance? 4. Your bass drum pedal is an indispensable part of your kit. I see 2 available options here: - Once again, if money's not a big issue, carry an extra pedal. If you do, make sure it's already adjusted & ready for use (mallet height, tension, etc.). - If money IS an issue, as it always seemed to be for me ,there is a practical option. Carry an extra mallet/shaft assembly & tension spring. These are the 2 parts most likely to create a problem. 5. Always carry a rug (mat) large enough to place your drum set on. Band performance areas are inconsistent, at best. I've set up on finished wood floors, flatbed truck trailers, asphalt parking lots, carpeted stages, marble floors, etc. You can never be certain what type of surface you'll get, how fragile it may be, how stable it is, or what acoustical properties it will possess. Have a rug! If you don't need it, don't use it, but always take it along. As always, I appreciate your interest in these articles. Please feel free to post comments. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile https://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  17. Nickels1973-StairwayToHeaven

    From the album Back-in-the-day

    One of the earliest known photo of the band, taken at an outdoor park concert. We know it was taken during "Stairway To Heaven" because of the dual-flutes (right & left). God....I used to hate doing this song! LOL Wish I still had that set of Ludwigs! The 3rd high-tom isn't visible...obscured by Chuck's 12 string. Set had dual floor-toms too. Tom
  18. If you're a musician/songwriter, the title of this article may remind you of a past nightmare. If you & I were playing a round of "Jeopardy"...and the answer I gave you was "practicing scales & writer's block", your response might be "what are 2 things we try to avoid"- LOL But what if I were to tell you that routinely practicing scales might help you avoid that dreaded writer's block? Would it be worthwhile then? Obviously, I can't answer for you. But my personal answer is a resounding YES! As a member of online musician forums, I've seen countless posts & conversations about both of these topics individually. Typically, posters complain about scales being mindlessly boring and inquire about how to fix supposed writer's block. From what I can tell, many people view writer's block and the absence of ideas & motivation as 2-ways of saying the same thing. Personally, I've never cared for the term writer's block, but I guess that's easy for me to say. You see...in over 15 years of songwriting, I've never had it! Seriously....never! I certainly have my share of other problems, just like everyone else. But, I've never had that one. My biggest obstacle has always been available time. Are all of my ideas brilliant? Absolutely not! But that's not my point. My point is that I'm never without at least one viable song idea. I can't attribute that continual flow of ideas to any single variable. But I can tell you that I've stumbled across a number of them while practicing basic scale patterns. "Too Small To Save", "Pentatonic Playground", "Reluctant Love", "Bottom Feeders" and "Middle Class Blues" are all examples of this accidental discovery process. Each sprang from a riff that I came across while doing my typical warm-up routine. I'd love to tell you that these riffs came to me in a dream...that I immediately woke up & wrote them down...& that I felt as if they were inspired by God himself. But that would be an absolute load-of-crap! Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has already bestowed enough of that upon us to last for several lifetimes. So I'll try not to add to the delusional mystique that is so commonly used to shroud the creative process. OK, back to the subject at hand! Let me try to connect-the-dots a little better by providing some detail about that typical warm-up routine I mentioned. Years ago, I got myself in the habit of using scales to warm-up on guitar. Generally, I'll pick 1 specific type of scale/mode (natural minor, diatonic major, mixolydian, etc.), pick a key & run a basic block pattern...6th string thru to 1st string then back again. Once I've started to loosen up: I'll allow myself to begin deviating a bit...within the confines of that same basic pattern eventually, I may shift to a pentatonic version in the same key then fiddle around a while by selecting different starting & stopping points, doubling back on various strings, incorporating hammers & pull-offs...basically farting around, but remaining within the structure of that same scale pattern. It's this final farting around (improvising) stage of the warm-up that's proved useful in generating riff ideas. Once I'm warmed-up, I allow myself the creative freedom to roam around inside the given scale structure, trying different combinations and free-forming. Since I'm already operating within the parameters of a set scale, I have the advantage of knowing that anything I come across will be theoretically sound. I don't have to consciously think about what notes I'm playing. I simply play & listen for any random combination that I like. I've always been of the opinion that creativity happens when we allow ourselves the opportunity to play around & experiment. That's become easier for me, because I routinely practice scales. That practice has helped me to develop finger memory. Finger memory means that my hands know the shapes of the scale patterns. Because of that, I'm able to allow my mind the freedom to play around & hopefully discover. Bottom line....if scales weren't already a routine thing for me, that simply wouldn't be possible! Will this work for you? There's only one way to find out! Do yourself a favor though....if you do decide to try it and you stumble across an idea, make an immediate record of it. Personally, I never trust a new idea to memory! I always make a quick recording or a written record of it. Most times, I do both! For quick recordings, I've typically used either a cassette-tape boom box or a hand-held digital recorder. My written versions are usually tablature. Once that's accomplished, I forget about it & move on to whatever I had originally intended to do. I'd be willing to bet, that right about now, someone is asking themselves -"what...you don't drop everything else & continue working on that new idea?" No! Almost never! I find that my life and my work flow in a more orderly fashion when I plan my work, then work my plan. And no, I didn't just make that up. It's an old adage in business. My life is less chaotic that way and my projects get finished! As with most other things in life, I do leave room for the occasional exception. But it doesn't happen often. If you can get yourself in the habit of keeping organized, detailed records of all your ideas, you may find that you begin to develop a surplus. Wouldn't it be nice if your biggest problem was finding time to develop your ideas, rather than not having any? I've always thought so! Since a picture is supposedly worth 1,000 words, I thought it might be a nice touch to include a video attachment with this article. It's a quick guitar demo of the primary riffs in "Middle Class Blues". http://youtu.be/25UoTx-mBfc Thanks...and as always, your feedback is welcome & appreciated! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/tomhoffman1 http://www.tune-smith.com
  19. 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
  20. In recent months, several of our Songstuff members have expressed an interest in learning drums. That's great...drums are a great instrument! For those who don't know me, I play drums as well as guitar, bass guitar & some keyboards. Playing those instruments has given me the opportunity to see the similarities & differences first-hand. Bottom line - drums are different in a number of ways. With these next several blog articles, I'll share some of those differences. Hopefully, I can offer you an advantage that I didn't have......information from someone who's already been through it. - Are you interested in becoming part of a band? Believe it or not, this is a vital question. Drums really don't have much melodic capability. Their primary function is rhythmic. The dedication & degree of difficulty involved in learning drums, is comparable to that of traditional melodic instruments like guitar or piano. The difference is, once you've become reasonably proficient, the more melodic instruments offer a wider array of application choices. Drums don't! With drums, once you've achieved a reasonable skill level, the next logical step is to combine your abilities with those of other musicians. Doing that helps you: 1) Continue progressing with your instrument. Playing with others gives you a specific reason to practice and further develop your skills. No one enjoys looking bad in front of others. That's a great motivator! 2) Remain interested in drumming. I hate to say it, but this is not a little thing! As much as I love drums..........by themselves, they're just not that interesting! I was lucky. I really wanted to be part of a band! For me, drums were a means to that end. Without the band setting though, I seriously doubt whether I would have remained a drummer more than a year or two. Don't let me confuse you. Knowing that you want to be in a band, doesn't mean that you need to have a band ready & waiting. It just means that you do have the desire at some point in the future. When I started taking lessons, I don't even think I knew another musician. As my skills began to progress, that issue pretty much took care of itself. Trust me.....when you're ready for a band, you'll figure that part out. No sweat! The next installment of the blog will add to this list of reasons. Till next time! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH
  21. As the title indicates, my next couple of blog entries will deal with what tools you need to begin learning drums, when you need them and why. If you happen to be the parent of an aspiring student, I think you may be pleasantly surprised. Unlike most instruments, you don't need a set of drums to begin learning. Many instructors advise waiting a few months before purchasing a drum set. My first teacher did & consequently, that's how I learned. I started with: -a pair of sticks -an instruction book -and a practice pad That was what I practiced with for the first 3 months. To this day, that's the same arrangement I recommend for anyone starting out. It's exactly what you need.....no more & no less. It offers other benefits too, but I'll deal with those in part 2. *This is probably a good place to mention that many instructors recommend starting out with heavy sticks. I agree! It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but learning with a heavier stick will build strength in your hands & wrists quickly. Once you've done that, it's a simple task to trade-down into a smaller, lighter size. You'll find that you instantly gain speed & agility when you do..........and that's the pay-off! Check back in a week or so for the next installment (part 2). I'll try my best to make you a believer in these recommendations. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  22. Back in part-1 of this blog, I made the statement that new drum students don't need an actual set of drums to begin the learning process. In fact, I went so far as to suggest that starting out with just a few tools offered some real benefits. I promised to supply you with some reasons, so and here they are: 1) The student finds out very quickly if their primary interest is in having a new toy, or actually learning to play an instrument. Sitting down at a table, with a pair of sticks & a practice pad isn't glamorous. It's simply the means to an end. 2) It gives the new drum student something to work towards and sets-up a connect-the-dots kind of thinking. It becomes immediately obvious that there will be no drumset, without practice & authentic-prolonged interest. In my case, I wanted to be a drummer, wanted drums, understood from the start what I needed to do to achieve those goals and did it. Basically, if you do the work & spend the time, you get the prize. It's simple, direct & it works. Whether you're the prospective drummer or the parent, there's simply no downside to handling it this way. At the end of the process, you'll still have the drums you wanted, but you've earned them. Knowing that feels good! 3) It establishes a starting point - your hands. Drums are a tricky instrument in that they utilize both hands and feet. That's a bit overwhelming to think about. The trick is.....don't try to master it all at once. You tackle it in smaller steps, beginning with your hands. Because you only have sticks, a pad and a book, you're not faced with the temptation of trying to do it all right away. For new drummers, the hands are always the first thing addressed. Once you've begun to develop a basic level of comfort in utilizing your hands, the feet slowly come into play. At that point, you'll need at least a basic drum kit. One last comment on this subject. If you are taking lessons in connection with a music store, beware of any instructor who tries to tell you that you have to buy a set before you begin. Chances are that instructor has a commissioned sales arrangement with the store & will personally profit from his advice. Not that I have anything against making money, but your instructor will need that money just as badly in a few months, as he does now. Trust me...I know! Next time I'll talk about utilizing your feet, some of the issues which spring from that and a few suggestions on how to deal with those issues. Once again, thanks for your continued interest! Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.tune-smith.com http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH Once you do get a set, here's a brief video tutorial covering essential beat patterns to get you moving in the right direction. http://youtu.be/tKKy-My6QYo
  23. A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who's an aspiring drummer (and will remain nameless.....for a price ). He got himself a full drum set a while back and began taking lessons. Long story short....after just a few lessons, he had to stop....at least temporarily. He was still playing and learning what he could on his own. Apparently, his hands were fine, but he was having a problem with his bass drum speed & general technique. I believe his exact words were - "my bass is so terrible it's not even funny". He did remember his drum instructor telling him to "always keep on his toes for the pedals", but not much beyond that. He asked if I had any tips or advice that might be helpful. Since helpful is my middle name, I elaborated a bit on what his teacher had already told him & gave him a list of things to try. Then it occurred to me...... there may be other folks out there experiencing this same issue this topic had all the makings of a good blog To begin with, there are several schools of thought on whether to play flat-footed or on your toes. For the most part, I'm in agreement with his teacher. I've always preferred playing on my toes. The disadvantage to that approach is that balance & weight distribution become big issues. To help offset those issues, here are a couple suggestions: 1) Stay with the "on your toes" approach for bass drum, but try playing off your heel for the high hat foot. If you keep that heel planted most of the time & only your bass drum heel is kept elevated, I think you'll find that many of your balance issues disappear. With that left heel down, you have much more stability & leverage to utilize on that bass drum side. You'll also find it very helpful when doing crash cymbal work or moving extensively around the set for fills. 2) Stool height & placement are possible issues. Again, this goes to balance. Experiment with various seat heights & with moving closer to....or further away from your set. Eventually you'll land on a position that seems most comfortable. Try that one for a while and see what you think. I'd love to tell you that there's only 1 correct place to sit, but that's simply not the case. Much of it has to do with your height, weight, overall fitness & personal preference. As you take your stool higher, more of the action fall on your upper leg & hip. A lower stool position tends to rely more on your ankle & knee. It's common to see drummers sitting so low that their knee ends up even-with or higher than their hip. Personally, I prefer a higher perch. My upper leg actually slopes down somewhat... toward the bass drum. But again...it's all in what you find comfortable. 3) Try adjusting the amount of tension on your bass drum pedal. I use more than a lot of folks. The more you increase the spring tension - the harder it will be to push the pedal down, but the more effortlessly it will return to the "up" position. You can also adjust the length of your mallet shaft....higher or lower. Unfortunately, there's no quick answer. Much of what I've suggested is simply trial & error. With the hands, things are at least a little simpler. There aren't nearly as many adjustment options or variables to deal with. Good luck, but most of all...try to have fun doing it! As supplements to this article, I put together a couple brief demonstration/drill videos. http://youtu.be/6ufQ6mkEwng http://youtu.be/SZtsoyu88Ik That's all till next time.....when the topic will be "Center of the Rhythmic Universe". I know it sounds a little pretentious, but hopefully it's useful. It deals with fundamentals that every gigging musician should know. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
  24. 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
  25. Unless you've played in a cover band, you're probably not aware of this little tidbit. Generally, the drummer will spend less time picking-out & learning parts than anyone else in the band. I played in bands for 8+ years of my life. When it came time to learn new material, I was the envy of every guitar, bass & keyboard player I ever played with!-LOL Those are the times it's particularly good to be a drummer! It's not that we're a lazy breed. It's simply the nature of the beast. Here are a few of the reasons: - drum parts are easier to hear & pick out in song, even in today's environment of over-produced studio cuts - our parts contain fewer unfamiliar components - in most cases, parts don't need to be learned as exactly as some of the more familiar, signature parts of a song - drummers don't have to deal with concepts like melody, pitch, harmony, chord voicing, achieving a similar tone & effect, where to position a lead on the guitar neck.....and how to make one guitarist sound like 3 or 4 on the CD. Alas, ours is a simpler task! On the other hand, when it comes to setting up & tearing down equipment, you'd rather be anyone but the drummer. The proverbial shoe is on the other foot. When the job is over, the guitar player wipes down his guitars, put them in the cases, unplugs his amp & pedal-board, covers or cases them......and he's off. Yes, it seems that what comes around, goes around! The time we save on learning parts, we spend on grunt work later. Go figure! Of course, if you're financially able to carry a road-crew, the work load isn't nearly as uneven. But, if you're doing it yourself, the drummer does get the short-end-of-the-drumstick (pun intended). Anyway......that's all I have for now. Hopefully you found this inside information interesting.....or at least amusing. Next time the subject will be "Dispelling Musical Myths". It's a bit of a departure for me, as it deals more with music in general, than drums & drumming specifically. Check back in a couple of weeks & I'll have it posted. Tom Hoffman Songstuff member profile http://www.youtube.com/user/DrumStuffTH http://www.tune-smith.com
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