Archive for the ‘nitten’ Category

Lyrics: rhyme and reason Part 1

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Way back in January last year, i wrote a blog called Lyrics – A prime. Said blog was suppose to lead to a larger blog or perhaps multiple blogs later with more in-depth discussion and exploration of lyrics. This kinda fell to the wayside due to me putting it off, why?

Primarily because I was very insecure at the time about my actual skills as a lyricist. However in the 1 and 3 quarters of a year it has taken me to follow up this primer, i have gain some confident, and while i certainly don’t claim to be on level with Freddie  Mercury or KRS-one, i feel that i can talk with some authority on the topic.

Secondly, lyrics is a big topic to try to cover, there is content, rhyme, rhythm, melody (although that argueably should be consider part of the vocals, not lyrics them self) , context in terms of the accompanying instrumental, context in terms of the next and previous song on the album ect. (okay i admit, few people probably care about that one, but nothing is more jarring then going from remorseful lost love song, to a pumped up party anthem in the space between two tracks on a CD). Add to that the many diffferent schools of thouht as to lyrics significance and meaning in terms of the overall song and then ongoing debate of fun vs. serious or fun and serious, message or delivery as prime focus and all the other discussion that are about just about every aspect of culture, entainment and media. A book report on every book ever all of a sudden seems a lot more achieve-able then a comprehensive deep and thought provoking blog on the subject of lyrics.

As such i have been in no particular hurry to try to write a follow-up to my primer, because at the end of day, i like to at least try to be thought provoking when i write these blogs. However i recently complied a list of things i need to stop putting on the back-burn and just do already and this blog is on it. I am at time of writing not sure whether or not i’ll do this all in one blog or split it up into bits, but it will be done, because i said i would do it and i need to stop procrastinating.

However i’m not a superhuman so before i get really into it, here’s a bit of a disclaimer: This is NOT a complete guide to lyrics or writing lyrics, this is a complete a blog about lyrics that i’m capable of writing in a somewhat limited time-span, with the intend of raising certain points of discussing on the topic of lyrics. It’s less a guide then say my blog on groove and more an attempt to say something somewhat intelligent about lyrics and the process of writing them, that maybe can help you write lyrics in the future.

Also as a final note before we get really into this, most of my examples will be coming from various forms of hiphop, this is not because i consider this a hiphop-specific topic or because i don’t think there is valid examples outside of this genre. It’s simple a case of hiphop being the genre i’m most familiar with, and since i already got a giant task ahead of me, i’m gonna save some time in return by using examples that i can find on the back of my hand more or less.

Okay that out of the way, let’s get started.

For this first part, we are gonna focus on things that i personally think is way to often overlooked, narrative and the narrative tropes. I’ll argue for why i think these matters and how you can use them.

Narrative

Narrative, the describing of events, is more or less the core of lyrics as well as most vocal mediums, at least in terms of content. For the purpose of this blog i like to divide the term into explicit and implicit narratives.

An explicit narrative is more or less a direct retelling of an event, like the theme of the Fresh prince of bel air. Where as an implicit narrative is the implied events leading up to an situation, that is not completely explained.

This one get’s a bit trickier then the explicit narrative, because it’s hard to pin-point the exact difference, in most cases even songs that are mostly implicit in their narrative will have some explicit narration in them. One of the best examples of this, has got to be Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but that further complicates the matter, by arguably being more then just one narrative and story. Basically an implicit narrative is to present a emotional state or more-or-less single moment in time, without retelling the events that lead to the state or moment.

Implicit narrative is generally not something you hear a lot, this, i think, is largely due to the fact that we generally doesn’t talk alot about narrative in terms of music, but that it’s most commonly used in other mediums, ie. books, movies and games, mostly. One of the fundamental differences between movies, games etc. and music, is that music is severely limited in terms of it’s run time. Most songs is somewhere between two and half to five minutes in lenghts, yes there is some exceptions, including my example above of Bohemian Rhapsody, but even some of the longest songs aren’t even near the length of even short movies, books or game.

Therefore a lot of songs generally don’t have the time to tell you all about their characters, back stories or subplot. Therefore a lot of what generally considered part of a narrative is nonexistent in most lyrics, since you generally can’t get people to listen to a song with the run time of a movie, and actually i thinks it’s good. It have set music free of certain narrative traditions a bit and allowed it to form it’s own way to tell the stories it tells, including leaving a large part of the story behind and focusing on the important bit.

Using implicit narratives when writing lyrics is probably something we all have done, it’s a natural solutions to problems that, i’m willing to bet most of songwriters have had, that they wanted to focus on certain emotions or a certain event, without having to spend most the song leading up to where and why.

By the same token, explicit narrative is the age old solution to telling a story. By and large both methods are most likely something you have used dozens of times before. One could therefore be forgiven for think that you don’t really need to consider what narrative to use when and where, an argument i have heard before (especially in terms of rhyming more on that later), and while i’m willing to agree with the notion that sometimes things just comes naturally, i never believe the idea that it was somehow better not to think about something, just because it seems natural.  Think about it, you don’t have to write a thesis on the narrative nature of every song, but sitting back (usually during the editing phase) and think about it for a few seconds, and it can help you out a lot.

Tropes

Tropes are generally not used a lot in music. Sure you here tropes thrown around a lot, usually in genre cliches, like the pop love song, the rock anthem or the electronic party track. Some times these cliches even evolve into sub-genre, like G-funk in hiphop. The other ways that tropes are often used in relation to (but always not strictly in) music is tropes of the people in it, like the video chick in almost every god damn rap video (seriously, it’s getting way overboard, if i wanna check some girl in almost none or no clothes out, i got other places to go), or the gangsta rapper, the rock god on the guitar or even the age old stereotype of stupid drummer or in lyrical tropes concerning wordplays, rhyming schemes and speech patterns. However for reasons unknown to me, narrative and character tropes really appear in the discussion.

For those that might not be familiar with the word trope, here is the definition from tvtropes.org, a wiki on various tropes and a database on works that use them:

“Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means “stereotyped and trite.” In other words, dull and uninteresting.”

I mostly agree with this definition, although i would add that stereotypes and other cliches certain are in some tropes, it just not all tropes, that is stereotypes and cliches.

Also i like to add that most of, if not all, the tropes that i’m gonna be talking about here, have their background in media with a visual medium, like movies or game. As such their definition might be a bit different to the sense i use them and include other elements, that is irrelevant to a songwriter. I still recommend looking up, especially since i’m not going to go into huge detail describing them, but just know that this is more my interpretation of their definition, fitted for suiting the medium of music, rather then their craved in stone actual definition.

Generally we don’t tend to think about tropes in lyrics, and this is really a shame. Listen to a song like Ja Rule’s and Charlie Baltimore’s “Down Ass Bitch”, more specifically, listen to Chalie’s parts. Here we find a pretty classic example of the Action Girl trope, just as strong as the guys and willing to go through all of the stuff that they endure and not relying on her sexuality to get boys to do the dirt for her. More so this define the relationship of her and Ja Rule in the song as being on of equals and likes, they are equal because, with the exception of physical factors, their are pretty much the same kind of person; Gangsters if you will. Now imagine rewritting her parts of a song into a more Femme Fatale role. Perhaps instead of not snitching on her man, she tricks people into think some other guy did it, using her sexuality. Instead of using the insult “Those gats to your backs for my boy/ What part of the game is that, huh?” She would use charm and flirting to clear “her boy” of whatever suspicions there might be.

All of a sudden she is no longer an Action Girl, but a Femme Fatale, a woman using her femininity as weapon, instead of dismissing it. More over the relationship in the song between her and Ja Rule change from something more a kind to a friendship with benefits, to one of actual romance. And their implied Bonnie and Clyde business of crime all of sudden move from being uninteresting, since the women might as well have been a man or vice versa for that matter, to a lot more interesting affair of man and women using their combined skills to get ahead in this world. Finally and perhaps most importantly, it would fit Ja Rule’s parts much more. When he is rapping, the lyrics are very much directed at a traditional female, that is lacking the masculine qualities of the mans strenght (and arguably willpower), but makes up for it in smarts (and emotional investment), and while this can work with many female tropes, it doesn’t flow well with the Action Girl tropes. This is perhaps the most important thing to learn about tropes them self, what does and doesn’t work, and it require a working understanding of which tropes means what and which ones of them go together.

Once again the fact is, you are most likely using tropes already, like narrative techniques, it’s something that has been with us for a long time and it’s build into our everyday life through all sorts of media. That said, unlike narrative technique, not paying attention to the tropes you are using are not only missing an chance for improvement, it can actually make your work worse.

Chances are, Charlie and Ja both knew what they where writting, she knew all the elements that she was writing into her verse and he knew his. Trouble most likely was, they didn’t know that what she was writing was basically a textbook case of an Action Girl and even though she never puts anything into her lyrics that in and of it self goes against what he is writing (especially in his second verse), the fact that she write a Action Girl does goes against what he is writing. Why?

Because the fact that tropes are so ingrained into our mind makes it so easy for us to make up the rest of her personality, from relating what she actually says with the trope of an Action Girl, even if we don’t acknowledge it as the work of a trope ourself.

Other reasons not to ignore tropes is subversion, lampshading and aversion.

To subvert a trope is to make it seem like you are playing up to the conventions of a trope, right up to the point where you are not. The trick here is making a set-up that doesn’t clash with the reveal, that the trope the audience think is at work, really isn’t. This is best don’t by keeping the set-up as limited as possible.

For example, if i where to subvert the action girl trope in the example above, i would have kept some of the parts of Charlie’s lyrics, but instead of dedicating the entire verse to depicting her is this light i would dedicate a few lines to highlight her feelings for Ja, as implied by his lyrics. While the set-up and reveal don’t clash direct with each other, the set-up still hints at an archetypical Action Girl, but the reveal breaks this connect, since the archetypical Action Girl doesn’t harbor deep feelings for anybody. In a case like this example, such a subversion would work well.

Another interesting trick is lampshading, this is where a trope is played straight, but you explicitly express that you understand that you are playing to a trope, usually down for comedic effect and usually when dealing with very stereotypical tropes. A very good example of how one can use lampshading in music is Nas and Busta Rhymes song “Fried Chicken” from the album “Untitled”, here they play to the trope that African-American men loves fried chicken, but they never try to make it any more then a funny play at a stereotype and you can almost hear that the song was recorded with a grin on their faces. A lot of comedy songs and parodies (there will be more on writing a parody song later) uses lampshading, but i don’t think lampshading is exclusive to comedy song. In my opinion it’s a great tool for those times where you want to write a song about something, but you feel the topic has been done to death. Remember humour does not exclude you from having a serious point, in fact i would dare say it can add to it in many cases.

Aversion is the final way of using tropes i will talk about here, there is more, but i have to stop at some point and i think that i have covered the most important tools of tropes. If you want to know about other ways to use tropes, like downplaying and inverting, you can read more here. To avert a trope is trickier then to subvert it, in aversion all the parts required to play a trope is present, but the trope it self is never so much as hinted at. One example would be a action film with the hero walking calmly away from the explosion. Aversion is very tricky to do with anything but stereotypical tropes, because it relies solely on the audience expecting the trope to be played, without anything in the actually work hinting at it. I haven’t found any real good examples of this in music, but one could argue that a rap song without swearing would be one. Most people would expect swearing if they listen to rap, it’s so common that a song without swearing would unavoidably stand out.

A very important note is that tropes are tools, even the stereotypical ones. You should use them as they fit, in the way that they fit, sometimes they should be played straight, sometimes they should be subverted, sometimes averted etc. In short, you should always be aware of tropes, chances are you are using them in some way, and spend just a couple of minutes thinking about how and why you are using these tropes can make a great difference in the quality of your lyric.

This is where i’ll end it this time, next time i’m going to talk about conceptualization and context.

-Nitten

Random ramblings vaguely connected to the making of my album

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

So it’s the end of my summer vacation and my next semester starts in a bit over a week.

I always get like this at this time, maybe i’m just not good at long breaks from the routine, maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s because my days get flipped, point is around this time my head is spinning and i question everything i do.

But this time is a bit different, my solo album, which is a 5 year old project by now, is finally looking like it’s gonna be done some time before i drop dead.

One of the ideas i been kicking around for this album is a retrospect of the last 5 years and in doing something i realized that i changed a lot in the last five years.

In five years i gone from hanging around the corner with beers and smokes, sleeping in classes and partying everyday, to doing pretty decent (albeit not perfect) at university. I can’t help but be a bit proud especially when i think about my old music teach who told me that i would be in jail or homeless.

I can see or rather hear the change in my music, a lot of my old lyrics where about sex drinking and fighting, a lot of attitude, a lot of don’t fuck with us and a hell of a lot of  stupid bullshit.

My lyrics now still contain some of that, i am after all the same person and while i have changed, parts of the old me (for lack of a better term) is still in me. One major change is that my lyrics is becoming more about me and less about the world around me, i’m no longer rapping as much about my block or hood, nor about my chick. It’s more about me, my life and my problems.

The title of the album is Gadedreng og Gentleman, a title that roughly translate into Streetkid and Gentleman.

See streetkid is something we used to label our self as, sort of a way of identifying if you where one of us, if you where you where a streetkid. As for what a streetkid was to us, it basically meant that we hanged together and that we sticked together, if you picked a fight with one streetkid, the rest of us would jump in and if somebody needed money, the rest of us would help him out. This kind of camaraderie was the good side of being a streetkid, the bad side was that we basically didn’t give a fuck about anything, we would get drunk at school, start fights and a bunch of other stupid stuff.

As the title may hint at i now consider myself a bit of both a Gentleman and a Streetkid and sometimes trapped between the two, unsure of where i am or rather what i am.

I’m sure it’s sounds a lot more drastic then it really is, but it’s my best way of putting it.

Basically the concept, as far as it is a concept, for the album is trying to show my entire person, all sides of me, from the remaining bits of streetkid in me, to the Gentleman in me and all in between.

The title track is pretty much the epitome of this idea three verses, one describing me as a streetkid in full, bad and good, the second as a Gentleman again in full and the last underline the fact that neither of those two is me, but i’m somewhere in between. As for the rest of tracks, they all deal with the same theme, trying to cover all bases.

It have been suggested to me that this introspective is a mark of becoming older and more mature, while i certainly don’t disagree that i am getting older (i’m finding arguing against the passing of time very hard to do),  i’m not entirely sure that it’s maturity that makes me introspective.

I rather think that it’s a byproduct of what has happened to me, especially during the last year or so, the short recap, as it stand is:

  • One depression.
  • One brother by choice becoming a dad, the other moving to other side of the country.
  • Two semester projects one with a great group and one with a terrible one.
  • Two failed relationships with the same chick (yeah i’ll a bit the second one wasn’t a bright idea to being with).
  • Moving out on my own.

While all of these experiences, some more positive then others (clearly) has left me with experiences that have had impact on my life and i was been trying, with varying success to write about them, it was a wild goose chase for a long time, i would write a couple of lines and then trash them, then write some completely unrelated lines and trash them, i could see the idea i was looking for, quite clearly, i just couldn’t see what it exactly was. Like looking at something you never seen before, i could describe it, in great detail even, but if you asked me what i was, i couldn’t tell you.

The turning point came a couple of weeks after i moved out and a week after the second relationship hit the fan, the idea wasn’t in any of these experiences on their own, but in the whole, the dealings of life as me.

While i don’t claim to live a life worth covering in every detail, like some reality stars seems to think they do, i do think that i can offer some perspectives and insight into, if nothing else, what made me the guy i am, and i like to think that at least somebody else finds this interesting.

While i’m still up in the air about a lot of things, i still have a lot of unresolved issues i have to deal with and i still loose sleep and wake up late at night drenched in sweat in the fear that i somehow has wasted my chance, i’m a lot more at peace with myself then i where a year ago and a hell of a lot more then five years ago.

Back around the time i started the idea for this album, those five years ago, back when i was a fuck up with nothing but a bad attitude, i wrote a story, it was pretty much just a recap of a party i been to with some added content to give the meaning i wanted. It was called “Behind the Mirror” and basically what i was trying to say back then was that i was scared of myself, what i could do and what i couldn’t.

I don’t think it’s something special, the story itself was pretty much garbage and i think every teenager goes through a period of self doubt and fear, not unlike what i was going through.

The guy behind the mirror has since then become my personification of all the self doubt and fear that i still occasionally get, i don’t think he’ll ever disappear entirely, nor do i think that there is anything special about, other then the fact that i decided to personify these thoughts, that i’m sure many people struggle with.

Basically my album is more or less about my struggle against him and where it have gotten me, both the good and the bad, the times i won and done things i thought i never would and the times he won.

Back when i wrote my last blog i was still coming to terms with the fact that i in a relatively early age (at least it seemed so at the time) had to deal with my plans being completely screwed over. I was bitter and truth be told i have been bitter for a long time. It seemed so unfair that my plans didn’t work out, when i had spend so much time making them, especially based on something as trivial as a job.

I’m not going to lie and say that i’m not still a bit bitter and sad about it, who wouldn’t be, nor am i gonna claim that it doesn’t scare me a little bit that things can change so drastically based on something you have so little control over as the job situation, but i have come somewhat to terms with it, while i may not be walking the roads that i thought and hoped i would, i’m still moving and i’m still moving forward.

In the end working on this album again after a year of more or less nothing is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing that i’m able to do something i love again, but it’s a curse that it forces me to realize that things didn’t turn out the way i planned and that whatever i plan to do, it might not happen.

That said, every story gotta end sometimes, and in the end i just hope mine will have a happy ending, until then i’m gonna keep writing it.

Peace

Nitten

Sorry i’m late (and a book report)

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Okay first of sorry i’m late, i had a very busy week last week and while i HAD planned a time to write a blog, a slight confrontation (which i don’t now the reason for) basically cut a evening out of my schedule.

So for this blog i’m going to do something i haven’t done since grade school, a book report.

The book in question is Book of Rhymes The Poetics of Hiphop by Adam Bradley. It’s a look at hiphop from a strictly poetic viewpoint, with a few comments toward other aspects of the music.

The books is split in two parts each with 3 chapters. As i see it, the two parts can be view as part 1 being about form in a superficial sense (rhythm rhyme and wordplay) and part 2 about shaping the content creatively (signifying, story and style).

This book is not written as a how to rap or write hiphop lyrics book in any aspect, it is, like i said a poetic view on hiphop written by a Ph. D. in english. Bradley says at one point in the book, that it encourages reading rap on the page. Basically like a poem, not as music. That said he does in the introduction (called Rap Poetry 101) explians that none of the two aspects take away from the other. To quote him:

“There’s no need to disparage one to respect the other. In fact, perhaps more than any other lyrical form, rap demands that we acknowledge its dual identity as word and song”

With that in mind, some might think that it’s more for the literature classes then the music classes. The point certainly got some merit, the book is strictly aimed at hiphops audience, not makers and i do actually know that the book is used in some modern culture and English classes.

The thing is that how to books, especially in terms of creative dealings, are often either very focused on one or two theories, school of thought or methods and completely ignoring any other method, or the complete opposite, giving you some very basic information, but no real means of pursuing anything. While the first one got some merit if you are a complete beginner, it’s actually what i would prefer as a complete beginner, but any sort of guide for people with some experience in the field is hard to make and sadly very hard to find as well.

I think that this book is a great tool for people that are writing lyrics and have been for some time. First and most simply by showing you a way of thinking, that you might not have thought about as well as not generally thought of.  Secondly and perhaps more interesting, they give you tools to analyse your lyrics and reflect on them and how to change and evolve them.

In terms of actually using the book as a tool for lyrics writing, i think that you should read this and look at what of the elements that are in your lyrics as a whole, while some of these elements often varies a lot from song to song (especially in terms of storytelling), experience tells me that often some elements while be more or less persistent in your lyrics. Start by looking at them, what are they. If you see a certain rhyme structure that is coherent in your writings, ask yourself what qualities does it give your lyrics and can it be expanded upon?

The second thing i think you need to do is actually listen to the examples that he gives, now granted that many of these songs will be well known for any true hiphop head, however i don’t think that only rappers can use this book, but anybody writing lyrics. So if you are writing in another genre and wanting to read this book, use it as tool for songwriting, get ready to listen to some hiphop.

That’s it for this time.

Nitten

Hard drive dead

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

So my harddrive died.

It’s not to bad, i got a new one cheap and it was my system drive, not my music drive.

However i was lucky, course if it went totally dead a week ago i would have lost quit a bit of stuff.

This is because while i had all audio on another drive (as you should have), but a lot of photos, lyrics etc. was for a long time on my system drive and not even backed up in ages.

All in all i could probably have lost a good 75 % of my lyrics, all pictures music related and not as well as a couple of old videos i did with the guys that may not have much value, but are fun to watch from time to time.

In short always remember to back up and keep all stuff of your system drive, that way you can access it even if the system screw up (like my did entirely).

Like i said i got a new drive for cheap, a western digital caviar blue 360 GB 7200 RPM. It’s a bit larger and quicker then my old drive, which is nice.

That’s it for this week, i have been very busy, so it’s a bit short i know.

Nitten

Album and Word of mouth

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

So far i’m keeping up with my one a week blogging schedule.

Album

I started my first solo album (and first real album to some extend), second overall counting the EP and actually third counting the horrible demo. I got a certain fondness for the format, in the context of a collection of tracks that have been put together with a consideration for continuity. Album sells may be coming to somewhat of an end (or not, depending on who you listen to), but all stats for my own music shows that this is a very good format for providing your music.

No doubt this is in part due to Bandcamp’s wonderful system, where you can set the focus on albums, not singles. I have nowhere near enough data to actual say anything conclusive in terms of albums on the grander level of things, but in the end my experience shows that the format at least doesn’t damage your chance to cast peoples eyes, more so otherwise.

Enough of me promoting the format, what really interest me is that this is a lot different then how most my music is made. Long story short my DAW is dead right now, so i can’t make the beats for the songs, in stead all time goes into the lyrics for now, it’s how i started before i made my own beats and i have always maintained that i’m a lyricist first and it’s somewhat liberating to get back to just writing rhymes, not having to worry about making the beats.

Aside from lyrics most of the work so far have been administration and organization, i managed to get access to all my stuff by booting Ubuntu for a USB (Ubuntu is BTW great for general purpose pc) so i was able to gather the lyrics and few beats i had, other then i’m discussing concept, no it’s not a concept album as such, but still aiming for a bit of a red thread, so a bit of concept is involved. I have a couple of people lined up in terms of cover art and of course i’m working on promotion as well. It really feels great to work for real again, with an end goal in mind, in the end i think that’s what i really enjoy about the album format, it gives sense of end goal.

Rumors

So this is a bit of a funny story. At Aalborg University almost all work is done in our project groups, which is around 6 people each, also all social science students study together (which this year is a bit over 1000). Depending on what exactly is going on i’m around 200 to 1000 students everyday.

Now of course we are all still meeting new people and of course on of first thing i tell people is that i rap. This has had a crazy effect, a lot more people know me at the university, then i know there, apparently the relative few that i have directed towards my music have really spread the word, so much that doing this mini-intro trip we had, i was actually asked by two very pretty girls, if they could get an autograph, admittedly they where drunk. very drunk, but still the fact that they knew me, without me ever spoken a word to them, tells of this effect, all stats as well show big increases since around the time i started at the university.

Now i don’t tell you this just to brag, although i admit that i’m proud people seem to like my music, why shouldn’t i be? While i always maintain that i don’t create to please “the public”, what i choose to put out is governed by what i want the world to hear and i’m very glad.

What’s however really the point of this is to prove the concept, that three years of studying communication have ingrain as an unsolvable riddle in my head. I know a lot about promoting stuff and can promote stuff pretty good, if i do say so myself, but nothing seems to have a bigger effect then a good amount of word of mouth and while you can try to stimulate word of mouth, in fact i think that should be the main goal of any promotion, it’s never predicable. I seen cases (as part of my study) where almost endless amounts of effort, energy and money have been put into a campaign, only to have it fall flat on it’s ass. Then there are cases like this where little or none promotion have given a ton of publicity, after all it wasn’t my intend to promote my music when i told people that i was a rapper, it’s was pure let’s get to know each other since we are going to spend a lot of time working together during this project. In most cases i didn’t give them any links just the name of my group and my own alias, in some i didn’t even do that.

Anyway that’s that for this week, hopefully i keep up next week as well, i’m really enjoying this.

Nitten

Treating it as a business

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

One of the first advice i got when i got into music (and a lot of my friends with similar creative hobbies got the same); “don’t treat it as a business!”

Being a bit more experience now, i can say that i don’t think that’s completely true. Thing is you need to treat parts of it as a business, in order to make the creative side of things flow smoothly. A prime example is sessions with other people (writing, record, etc.) nothing kills it easier then the other guy thinking it’s okay to show up late and drunk, because it’s just for fun.

I personally do a lot of non-creative stuff as part of my music (used as a broad term), i administrate everything my band do, i write reviews and offer critique on marketing/promo/communication for other hobbyists and semi-pros (BTW just drop me a line if you are interested), all this stuff is treated as a business, that way, when i go into creative mode, i don’t have to worry about other engagements or people not taking it seriously.

I found that the best way to get people to act professionally  is to do so yourself and that is another point of treating it as a business. If i where to run a “real” business, i would be professional and i try to be as professional as i can be when working with music. Part of it is pure show, again if i want other people to act professionally, i need to convince them that i’m professional. A few example, i got a business calender, i never needed it nor used it as a calender, but it’s a great way to show that you are professional. Of course you need to have good skills in terms of what you are to do and no amount of show is ever going to rival true professionalism, but when making first impressions, it’s hard to show any meaningful skill level, so a little bit of show can often help getting people to trust that you are serious about what you do.

Of course any type of creative outlet is supposed to be some sort of fun and you still have to laugh and mess around when working with other people, but i find that this is a lot easier to do when all involved is acting like this where their business.

That’s it for this week, i’ll do a new blog on something else new week.

Nitten

Meta content and my new plan.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

This may be a shorter blog then i usual due, the reason for this that i decided to approach this with a new method, a new plan so to speak.

I decided to blog more now, i’m hoping for one a week, maybe every other week.

This is plan is to due to me having an idea of doing more meta content and i’m planning to mainly use the blog for this (although i’m thinking i might do a video or audio podcast a long the way).

So what’s meta content, i’ll admit i kinda stole the term from my counselor at university, basically it’s content about  your content. So what’s my content, well it’s basically my music in this case.

You see i like to think that i know a little bit about home recording now (at least in a minimalistic set-up), i consider myself a pretty decent songwriter (at least in terms of hiphop) and i like to think that i got a deep understanding of the culture of hiphop. I always enjoy discussion this points and the methods i use in these various areas and teaching, to whatever extend i can, people about this stuff. I like that a lot, but i have been too much of a perfectionist and in some cases lazy to do that efficiently.

When i first got this blog i had an idea of long article, arguing points of both sides and going into long perspectively based conclusions, i’m had no interest in doing much of series and continuing articles, i wanted to finish stuff up.

I have later learned, that this is a very annoying way for me to work, i would end up writing a blog form just after dinner to 4 in morning and even then occasionally come out with what i consider substandard content. I was never good at starting writing the day before posting, because i would get sucked in, so the great idea i had of using a week to write, was never going to happen.

So here’s the solution, i’ll write smaller easier to comprehend and quicker to write articles, i’ll go even more into meta content and perhaps do whole blogs or series on theories.

I’ll go more into the deep of this later, i’m keeping it short this time.

Goodnight

Nitten

The strange path of life (I’m rambling in this one)

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

This portion of the text was written immediately after my graduation:

So for those that still don’t know, i graduated my Secondary Higher Education last week.

At the least in Denmark two things are certain; one you are gonna spend about a week in a constant haze of intoxication, second you are gonna spend the next week curing hangovers and freaking out about the choices you’ll have to make. I done one and are starting the second.

I’m seriously freaking out over the slight possibility that i have reached my peak, that i’m somehow burn out at 19. I know that if anybody at 25+ is reading this, they are probably laughing their ass off right now.

So what happened?

Well at first something incredibly nice happened, i got a full time gig at a sandwich joint and it all looked like i actually could do what i wanted to do, take a year of saving up some money and go to a music boarding-type of school, for once in my life, i had no complains everything worked just fine for me.

Then what always happens happened, i got screwed over. After two weeks working, my boss called me and told me that despite i was promised 30 hours a week, they couldn’t give me that, they in fact didn’t need me at all. She told me that i could get a place as a replacement, but chances where i wouldn’t get more then a couple of shifts every other month. Now i had two choices the hell of the Danish unemployment program or my back up study, it was both an easy and the hardest choice i ever made. Easy because there where no way in hell i was going to the unemployment line if it could be avoid, that system bout as broke as it gets.

It was a hard choice, because for the first time since i “found out” what i wanted to, i had to actively postpone it. I tell you, i haven’t felt worse in my life, it even hurts a bit to put this in word, it felt and still feels like i was one step away from the prize and then all of a sudden it was all taken away from me. Now i know that that’s not the truth, it’s still entirely possible for me to do all this later, but none-the-less it felt like that.

At the time of writing i’m started at collage, it’s not bad, i actually like it quite a bit. It’s quite an environmental change for me, i went from talking about drinking, smoking and women most of the time, to discussing policy, politics and sociology. I always been a political guy (for most of you, that’s probably not a big surprise), but i never been around so many guys and girls that actually care about all of this stuff.

Now for it all to be good now would be a bit to much of a movie ending for being real and it isn’t, the story sadly doesn’t end there.

See in the middle of all this, my parents decided to split up, they grew apart and i’m just glad they can part as friends. All in all i think interesting is a good word to describe this summer, it’s not been hell like the last time, i been working through, doing a lot of stuff and now i got tons of stuff to keep me busy (40+ pages of reading for a lecture, we had one night, the same night that there was a starter party).

I’m still a bit in recovery, but all in all i think i’m okay, i mean of course it still hurts like hell when i think about what i’m gonna do, but as long as i keep focus on today and tomorrow i get by, once i get a bit more control of the situation i may be able to work on what to do about all my dreams and get a bit back to music, but for now you’ll find my with a book about practical statistics and problem based learning (yeah it’s as boring as it sounds) and a large cup of coffee.

Anyway what do i want with this post, well not sure, i really just started writing this because i needed to write and for whatever reason i chose to write here, but if i where to point out what i learned by this, it would be not to get ahead of yourself, you may think you are only a step from the prize, but be prepared stuff change fast and we are rarely the master of it, don’t do what i did when i got that job, prepare for the worse, it suck ain’t gonna lie, but in the end it sucks a hell of a lot more to feel like you been cheated out of your dream because you got screwed over.

In the end life isn’t a straight path, who knows maybe in 10 years i’ll be cutting tracks for a living and looking back on this moment and see that this was in fact the right way to go, maybe i be working in some organisation and just cut tracks in the weekend and still love it, maybe i be on the bench in the park with a pack of smokes and a six pack of beer. I don’t know, i don’t care, all i know i’m not done, ca 2 months ago i asked myself if had peaked already, now i know i haven’t i’m not even halfway, will i reach the top? Yes. The thing is that you don’t know what the top is, maybe your dreams will change, maybe you will give in and find another way of life then you think, maybe you will become a star, maybe you won’t. All i can say is that i’m 100 % sure that i’m gonna keep at it, i haven’t peaked yet, but i will.

On that happy little note i will now leave you with a link to a new free mixtape from one of my favorite rappers, it’s really good, i at least like it.

Nitten

Random Stuff

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Relative advantages

I talked to a friend of mine yesterday, he is into making small videos for youtube and the like, he told me that he thought about quitting. At first i was a bit like, well sure bad day and all, but he did seem to mean it. I asked him why and he told me that he just couldn’t take the disappointment when he saw what all the other video guys had to work with. I gave him the old don’t compare your stuff to others speech and told him that it’s all about having fun doing it, after all if you are in it for the money, the fame or the groupies you should go for IT or something like that, not arts.

He did got me thinking though, i knew how he felt, i been there. I used to hate finishing a track, absolutely dread it. Why? well my set-up is very err let’s called limited. However i have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter, see it’s all relative. No it’s not just a line, i mean it, when we discuss possible upgrades we always starts with looking at what’s already there, so why not apply the same thinking to our music, in other word, when you look at your problems.

Let me give you an example, if you got a pair of weak monitors in an untreated room and a zero budget, then there is pretty much nothing you can do to solve the problem, but there is stuff you can do to give yourself a few advantages over the current situation. First off you need to get to know you monitors, this involved taking a track that you know really well, as well as a track that you have done. Next you need a crapload of playback systems, of any kind you can get, ipod, headphones, inears, old radios, car stereos, home stereo, home theater and anything else you can plug into. Playback both tracks on each system and take notes comparing them to your monitors, this should give you an idea of what general translations issues your monitors got.

There is a lot more to this then just what i mentions above, however i’m gonna stop here, since this isn’t really about your critical listening skills or monitor system. What i want to highlight is the mindset, instead of thinking about all the stuff you can’t do anything about look at what you can do something about.

If you approach every aspect of making music with a “i’ll do what i can do” attitude, you’ll be much happier then if you approach it with a “i can’t do anything to compete with the pros” or similar attitude, you’ll know that you went as far as you could and you should be prude that you did everything you could to ensure quality.

Growth

Okay so i found one of my old (about 3 month) verses while digging through my notes. It was about parties and one-night stands in a sort of love the life way. At first i just thought, “well damn i was stupid”, but it got me thinking about how much i grown. When text was written i was sleeping off hangovers in school, i was drinking to much and generally living bad, now i got a great girlfriend and i haven’t touched alcohol in almost a month, not because i’m trying to quit or anything, i just don’t party as much. To top all that off, i’m actually starting to enjoy being more relaxed.

It’s common knowledge that artists tend to get in close with their emotions and use life as an inspiration, but trouble is that while we with some ease tend to deal with the traditional topics of love, sex, friendship and all that, we seem to be unable to do the same with personal growth. Note that i say this based on trying to find tracks about this from different artist, in different genre, but with no luck.

Another problem that i think be based in personal growth is when you hear an artist and it doesn’t seem like they “feel” the track, i’m suspecting that this is, in some cases at least, due to the fact that they outgrown the song. I know that if i where to try and record the verse i found, i wouldn’t be able to put much emotion into it. Does this mean we should delete old ideas, well i wouldn’t, i might reach a point where it’s usable again.

Little Tip

I think i’m not wrong to call myself somewhat knowledge in the field of audio, i wouldn’t call me an expert or anything, just saying i’m not a complete amateur any more, and with that i want to give a little tip:

Get a good reference guide, especially for the technical stuff. I prefer a book, as you might need it while setting up cables and power lines, which probably mean sitting under the desk and keeping the computer shut off.

I recently got the SOS Smart Guide: Basics and Beyond, i got it mainly because it covered more technical stuff that aren’t covered as much in Tweak’s guide (http://www.tweakheadz.com/guide.htm)

I was actually not aware that it was lay out as a reference guide when i brought it, but i already had use of it, the color coding and mini content index for each section is great. I actually rewired everything the same day (due to a episode of home recording show, that i wished i could forget, and found that after the rewiring was done i had a ground loop. Normally i would check Tweaks guide, then turn of the PC, so i could replug stuff and realize that i forgot everything i was suppose to check for. With the Smart guide i just found the chapter on cables and wiring looked for something about ground loops, found it read it and went under the desk to fix it, when i realized i forgotten something, i just had to grab the guide and reread it.

I don’t know of any other reference guides of this type, but if you do, then let me know.

That’s all for this time around.

Nitten.

Reflective Analysis 101

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

I been away from active duty for quite a while, exams and stuff takes a lot of time, there for it’s been quite a while since i done anything in terms of music and sadly it’s not going to change very much before i’m done with school. I am however pretty happy, my girl and i have started our own little wellness program (good healthy breakfast and meditating) and it keeps me relaxed and keeps me from bouncing of the wall, since i’m spending most of my time in school, learning something i’m never gonna use (due to a weird system, that allows me to chose a class, but doesn’t nothing to secure that your choice matters).

Well enough of my ramblings on life, what i’m here to ramble about is music.

Let me take you back, till round the time i first started rapping. See one of the things i like about hiphop is the reflectiveness of the genre. Unlike other genres there are no real boundaries, no direct , the instrumental side draws off of all genres, due to the influence of sampling and the vocal presentation are actually the same there where used by the beatniks, just over different rhythms. What is crazy is that people often forget to apply this reflective analysis to the lyrics. It’s a simply concept, pick a poem, genre, or style of writing and analysis it’s qualities, then write “your” version. You analysis the characteristics and apply them to your lyrics. This is not easy, but it’s great fun. It may sound corny or nerdy, but it can really give you a fresh perspective.

However many people have reacted to this idea (when i have presented it to them) with a “but your lyrics are suppose to be unique and real”. While i agree with this, they don’t get it, fact is that everything have been done, it’s no longer shocking to rap about guns and crime or lap dances and one night stands, it’s been covered, as everything has been. So how do we stay fresh, well unless you are going to invente a new language to rap in, only way is to look back.

Try this exercise (Yeah school is in session now), take your favorite song, the one that makes you go crazy when it comes on, okay. Now listen to it, focus on the lyrics, write notes on how they are laid down, how they are phrased, any particular lingo used, accents, references, similarities, metaphors, wordplays, expressions or proverbs used, basically everything. Okay, you got it down, this is your base for an analysis, yes it’s hard work, but if you skip here, you can’t do this okay, don’t be lazy.

Okay now analyze the tracks, where does the metaphors come from, what do they do to the track, where does the proverbs come from, the expressions, what is associated with the lingo used what are the references referring and why? okay you get the picture, as a general a 3 minute song should be around two pages of bullet points, if you can get away with bullet points (i can most of the time, but not always), if it’s your first time, i suggest that you write a full analysis, consider it homework.

Now part two get that old song you never got right, look at your analysis, now reverse engineer the song, adding in the Proverbs and so on, no not the exact same (unless you want to), but in the same way, use the analysis to see what a metaphor should add, what a wordplay should, what an accent should add. To put it simple, you want to integrate the stuff in such a way that they add the same qualities to your track as they did to the track you analyzed, you shouldn’t change the topic, this is about the form not the content.

This is the simple version, this is the first version i drafted, tried and workout, i got a couple of more that i’ll share with you on a later date.

Nitten