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I'm constantly seeking out songs I used to enjoy way back when. Recently I wanted to perform a cover of Poco's Call It Love

I've got a good but not great ear when it comes to transcription. It was pretty easy for me to figure out the guitar parts however it fell apart when I tried to sing and hold onto one of the guitars. It didn't fall apart because of my singing or choosing a single guitar to isolate and play through. It fell apart because there wasn't enough going on to support the song.

In days gone by I'd say no problem. I'll break it all down and suss out parts to my band mates....or I'll break it all down to individual parts and record them. I neither have band nor patience for that now.

I'm curious on the level of dedication others bring to the larger craft of songwriting. I see many dedicated lyric writers who aren't afraid to take several drafts before moving on to the recording process. Elsewhere I'm somewhat disheartened at the lack of dedication going into the actual arrangement. It's like they have the belief that it's a one shot and either hit or miss. Which I think is a terrible way to treat a song. They set themselves up for disaster rather then success.

So my question is how dedicated are you to the entire process including the arrangement? Do you go the extra mile and set up a strong backing arrangement with proper fills or do you try to cram it all into one instrument?

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I personally try to add as much as possible to the first production. Main reason being I rarely get to play at all and when I do I like to play as much as possible. I'll say I agree with Dave above about production being an art in itself. The current song I'm working on I spent about an hour tops doing the music (i.e. guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and vocals.) I've spent about 12 hours trying to get it to sound good. What really sucks is I STILL haven't made it sound good.

On the other hand, if your actually talking about just playing one guitar by yourself and singing, I keep it about as simple as I can only adding a riff here and there. I will say whenever I hear a band play a popular song and it doesn't have all those little riffs and parts in it that I'm expecting, I always feel like they didn't do enough and I miss those parts. Which is reason #2 I try to add as much in as possible. The little things.

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Getting one track (especially the drums) down first is always key to me. Even if you don't want drums as part of the final song. The reason is it gives you head space for the rest of the song. If it's a folk rock type song then I'll lay down the rhythm guitar next.

If you try to put everything into each instrument It's going to come out...not as well as it could because it sounds like none of the musicians are listening to one another. I try to leave holes to be filled up by other instruments and I remember what fills I did so when I add tracks I don't step on the fills. In folk and folk rock the bass comes next. When playing a bass in a folk setting you want to add it only as a mild flavoring. Not a hiphop production or a rock steady performance. Usually it sounds best when one uses "Connect the dots" simple and | one to guide the progression along nice and on the 'easy' beat.

For rock blues jazz I'll still start with the drum patterns first then I'll lay down the bass then the rest of the rhythm section and finally the melody/solo parts.

Believe it or not the more you practice before you hit the big red button the more you can make concrete decisions on where you want to go. I usually have better success if I start with the song form first and stick to the form. Then lay out the progressions either on paper or band in a box. Then I start practicing. Then I start recording.

People spend too much time recording because they are too busy trying to keep a handle on everything. Watching the daw remembering the song, thinking of changes, trying to add stuff. When you record it should be ...zen. The only thing you should concern yourself with is performing the song. That's where practice and arrangement came in. You've already done that stuff you don't have to rethink it.

Editing, mixdown and mastering come after you are done recording. I use live and I know a lot of ableton live users. People who have a lot of fun with the product and...produce nothing because they are playing with it too much and not thinking ahead. Jamming isn't songwriting/arranging/recording. Jamming/improvising can be a great way to have fun and expand your creativity and somethings you can apply to what you are writing but it should only be used as a starting point not an end point.

One thing that the masters of motown taught me while I was studying audio engineering was dedication. They and we would spend twice to three times as long mixing and mastering as it took to record. Remember these are big league pro's where by the song is already written and it takes about an hour to read the music and put it in the can. If you are doing every that is a lot of wieght on your shoulders and it's easy to get tired sick of the song and the song recording process. I actually like doing editing/mixdown mastering when it's not my song so I don't have to hear it again. I don't like having to go through those parts of the process but...There is no one to do it for me but me. I've tried to farm out my work to others and have been not impressed especially with the techno/acid/dubstep would be producers.

It's about pride and going the extra mile. This is your song. It's about you even if it's not about you. You want to polish the song so you put your best foot foreward when looking for artists to perform the song or record labels or the general public. People often think that the software will do it all for them. Just get the most expensive brand daw you can and then press the magic fairy dust button and out will come a hit. It doesn't work that way. Nor are online courses in recording engineering that useful or effective.

Now just for the sake of example listen to this song once for the arrangement aspect and again for the engineering aspect.


Notice how the riffs that run through the background match specific melodic lines and are used to compliment the singer rather then simply some lick that sounds good for the key. Also notice how the guitar while very rarely playing a rhythm in the background is mostly for fill work And when it does the guitar and the keys match close to the same lick while not stepping on each other. The beat carries the band. And as a result the band isn't acting like a bunch of individuals trying to fill in as much space as possible.

Now listen to it for the recording aspect. Because it's primarily a "folk" song where the main focus is on the storytelling the singer's voice sits way above the rest of the mix. While Bonnie Raitt's voice has close mic'ing going on a lexicon reverb is added to give it some more 'brilliance' and depth. However the rest of the band does not get the lexicon treatment. The guitar amp is mic'd off access with an additional ribbon mic set back for "air" it's less bright/more warm then you would hear if you were standing next to the amp or electric guitars in general. Yet still bright enough to cut through the mix when needed without having to resort to increasing the gain. Also pay special attention to the drums. They come in just bright and loud enough but they aren't manually mixed down when the rest of the instruments enter. They don't need to be reduced because all mixers act as "Summing" mixers meaning it will push down elements aside from those set to the highest levels when other instruments are introduced. A common failing of new producers is to ride the faders too much. Your job as an engineer is not to destroy someone else's work for the sake your ego but to preserve the work in the best possible light for listeners.

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Sorry all,

After re-reading my response I can see where it is a little rough.

I know it's hard to carry the ball that far from concept to creation to final polishing. Even when I get done recording I don't want to listed to it anymore I just want to through it out there and have someone love it in the raw.


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