Archive for January, 2011

Breaking Boundaries pt. 3

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Not a lot have happened since the last entry in terms of sound really, the most drastic change have been transposing the Piano to a higher octave, partly to make sure i got room for a big bass sound (Zitto’s no. 1 complaint is that i’m to stenchy when it comes to bass), personally i liked the other better, but this is not my personal project. The track is now a 4 bar intro, which is basically what you heard last time, except the higher piano, a 8 bar chorus and a 8 bar verse.

The first trouble i ran into was with the bass, now don’t get me wrong i like bass as much as the next guy, but i’m very conservative with it, stuff kills you know. I knew from the start what i wanted, a real bass player either mic’ed up with amp and all or if necessary DI’ed and runned through an amp sim. Zitto wanted a synth bassline ala the kind you hear in House and Trance. I chose the most diplomatic route i could and found a standard House bass loop, he quickly heard that it was wrong. I then ran into more trouble with my idea, since the only bass player, i know, is a metal kind of guy and had no way of making a good bassline for this track. We where at an crossroad i been at many times before, do i go for my loop library and find a suiting loop or do i go from my soft samplers and synth and start hunting for a patch and then work out an bassline. I did what i thought best and called it quits for the day, this might sound stupid, but we had been working hard and the bass was not worked out to a point where there was anything that could fade.  When work resumed i started by trying to lay down a RnB bassline myself, didn’t work, so i did something i normally try to avoid and went into my loop library and found a bass i really liked. I also by a happy accident stumbled upon a cymbal loop that was just awesome, at least to me ears as it didn’t sound like any cymbal i had heard, at least not enough to know the sound (i also made sure to cut a sample of it for my drum library). It along with a hihat loop (which was used in the verse instead) was also pulled in.  I laid down some hihats for the chorus and moved on.

The verse was somewhat easy i had found two loops begging to be part of the track, an EP and a Flute, i chose to mute the piano from the chorus and keep the bass, that along with the hihat has made the verse so far. I plan to add a synth pad to it and perhaps also the chorus, but have chosen that it can wait.

Of course none of these things are sure, since Zitto haven’t heard it yet, so it could all change tomorrow or he could love it so much.

Sadly this project is taking a direction towards being more assembling loops then play it in myself, something that i always dislike, but especially here, since i want to learn the most i can from this project and thus impart it onto you. However this isn’t a teaching project, it was never meant to be.  It’s first and foremost Zitto’s track, it’s main job is giving him something he can expose his soul over, not teach me how to make RnB style hiphop and sadly nor to let me impart any knowledge at all, this blog only exist because Zitto allowed me to write it and for that i owe him at least not to sacrifice it in the name of learning.

Here is an Audio Preview as it is, i haven’t done much, if anything in terms of clarifying the different instrument, so it’s a bit mushy i know.


Breaking Boundaries pt. 2

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Lot of stuff been happening since the last entry.  A lot of it had nothing to do with this project, except taking my time away from it. When i finally got a moment to work on it, guess what. Yeah the project file had corrupted and i couldn’t get it to load the back-up neither. Imagine the pain I felt as i concluded there was no saving what little effort i had done. Of course being used to set-backs, like anybody else in music, i started over. I could somewhat remember what i had done on the project and had a recreation ready pretty quick, and then it happen again. Total block, no idea what to do, no clue as to how it should sound. I started a massive research session, reading up on relevant music theory and played LL Cool J for hours. After some time i got an idea for the bass, however as everything else on this project, that took me about an hour to get right, for just a four bar loop. Today i showed Zitto my progress, he liked the bass and the drums, but felt it was a bit to “funny” as a whole, don’t ask me what he meant, i sure as hell wasn’t laughing. So we began something we have done on many projects discussing how it should sound, and like all the other times we did this, it was a very circular discussion, he said he wanted a bit of Ludacris in it, i pointed out that, it was limited how much Ludacris one could include in a LL type track, without changing the feel. Then he showed me some examples of synth leads he liked, i tried to incorporate them, but it sounded awfull. I suggested that we kept stuff somewhat limited to either Funk or Electro style RnB, he agreed and said he felt that what we had wasn’t smooth enough.

After about an hour and a half of this, we agree to start from scratch, i deleted my hard work with no mercy or remorse. As much as it may sound counterproductive, sometimes you need to kill things off, before they get out of hand.

Our new start did help, after showing each other a couple of reference tracks, we agreed on one very crucial thing. We both wanted it to sound like a mix of LL cool J and Big Pun’s “Still Not A Player” with the latter suppling the base of the track, more specific, we both wanted the piano line (Which is originally sampled from Brenda Russel’s “A Little Bit Of Love” after listening to it for a couple of time, i worked out a similar, but not exact copy of the part Pun had sampled, so i laid it down, it’s basic, but great. We also got to work on some basic drums, while he wanted to go with a more complex groove, i did convince him to base it of a simple Boom Bap groove, this is how most of the reference tracks was done and it’s the base of almost all grooves i know, from old school rap, to crunk,  even some rock songs are based on this. Next job was finding the right drums, this was a breeze, with a library of drum samples like mine, it didn’t take long to find a set of nice RnB style drums. We layed down a simple boom bap, we did hit a bit of a snag getting it as dynamic as we wanted, but it was only a matter of doing a couple of takes before we got it.

The biggest development was however not done on the instrumental side, but on the vocals. I have successfully convinced Zitto to rap instead of singing. Now i love Zitto, he’s my brother, i lived with him for months and every time something have blown up in my face, he been there for me, but regardless of my feelings, dude just can’t sing. Where he to sing, he would be at the mercy of my abilities with Cubase’s pitch correction plug-in, and that’s just not good enough to do the track justice, even if he managed to keep it somewhat in key, any small mistake, would be a hit or miss deal as far as correcting them. I want this track to be at it’s best, i know it means a lot to him, so i had been trying from day one to get him to rap. The crazy thing is, that while he can’t hold a tune well enough to sing, he is great at achieving a nice smooth flow that would make LL Cool J jealous, so why he originally wanted to sing is beyond me.

That’s basically the progress for this time, i realize that it might seem like i have taken over the project, not letting Zitto get his will at times, but i’m functioning as the producer of this track as well. It’s my job to lead the track in the creative direction, that i feel is most appropriate. Under normal circumstances, i would let him do a lot of hit-and-misses, letting him come to conclusions, which most often have been i was right, not because i’m better at it then him, but he is vested in the process, i can look from the outside in, i got nothing wasted, at most some time on a never going to be finished beat, but that’s just raw material for another project. However this is not normal, he had never been so focused on one project and while the focus have done away with many problems we normal have (dude has never been good at deadlines or keeping up with appointments and schedules, this is not a problem on this project). However being more focused, he is also more vested in the project and more ignorant to other angles.

Now here is the four bar loop that’s going to make the base of the song, I have only moved the piano a bit right and done some quick balancing, so it’s not at it’s full potential, it is however illustrative of our work so far.
Maria Preview

Hope you have enjoyed this


Breaking Boundaries or “ya want me to make whaat??” Pt 1

Friday, January 14th, 2011

I was approached by my partner in rhyme a couple of days ago, he looked me straight in the eye and said “Can you make me a RnB style joint, like some LL Cool J or Nelly type of thing”. Now if you aren’t as shocked as i was, let me tell you, that this cat grew up with me and on the same music as i did, the closest we ever got to Nelly and LL was a Game line about forgetting a LL line and using “girl give me some head” instead, so it was pretty crazy that he all of a sudden wanted to do RnB. Still our band contract states that any member are allowed to do whatever solo project they want, as long as it’s not hurting the group as a whole, which i don’t think we can bust him on in this case (after all he didn’t say he wanted to make elevator muzak).

I asked him a bit about why, turns out he want to make a song to his girl, can’t say i blame him, they been together a couple of years and are talking marriage, which of course is the bud of a lot of jokes. I agreed to give it a go, having never done something like this before, i never made anything but hiphop tracks, i have taking inspiration from other genres (like everybody else in hiphop), but there is still a lot of ground between that and actually making a track in another genre. We started out by finding a nice loop in Soul Treasure to get something to start on, then he split, i tried out some rhodes, but gave up.

Today i got down to business again, i started working some drums bass and acoustic guitars, i’m really out where i can’t swim here, it’s about 4 in the morning, i been working for about 3 hours on the track, and got about as much done as i normally do in a half hour.

So basically i got the idea to make a series of blogs following the progress (or lack off) during this particular project. I hope that i can show you a few do’s and probably a lot of don’t when out of your comfort zone, something that i think is important to do.

I will upload audio in the next part, for now you are just going to take my word, that it isn’t worth hearing at this point.

Wish me luck.


A Primer – Lyrics

Friday, January 7th, 2011

I been putting of writing about lyrics, first off because of the enormous contribution to the topic made by Doug Shaw on Studio-Central, a contribution i can’t even begin to match. Secondly my original idea was to write a long essay on the topic, based on the many things i use when writing lyrics. I still plan on doing that, but it’s too big a task for me now, i plan on do it in the summer after my exams. For now you get a bit of basic stuff, kind of a primer on what’s in store when i get the big one done. Hope you enjoy it.

The angle

I have and always will believe, that any topic can be come a great piece of lyric, even something as basic and ordinary as a traffic jam. The thing about it is hitting the right angle, naturally there is now universal right or wrong here, so first thing first:

What do you want to achieve? Don’t answer write a great lyric about [insert the topic at hand], you need to know first of how you want people to feel or do; do you want them to think, laugh, respect you, fear you, love you or want you. This is your goal, achieve it and the lyrics will be good (how to write great lyrics is a bit more complicated, be patient). So write it down.

Okay now we got a goal and a topic, these to are the base of you lyrics. The angle you use depends on the goal, you want people to laugh, use a funny angle, want them think about it, use a descriptive angle leaving the conclusion up to them, you get the picture.

Now once you got your goal topic and angle outlined, you got all you need to write good lyrics. You don’t need to have everything specified into details, these will come along as you progess.

Now lets look at great lyrics.

Know your audience

It’s impossible to write lyrics everybody will see as great, as with anything else, therefore it’s very important that you get to know your audience.

Let’s for a second forget about music and talk communication in general.

I spend almost three years studying this, and the first thing you learn is this model of communication.

Sender–>Message–> Receiver.

That’s the most basic model of communication there is. It’s important to note that the sender (you) means the receivers image of you, not the reality, if they think you are a gangster, you are a gangster in this connection, even if you never broken a law.

You however got control how the receivers see you, the way you form your message, the pics and bio on your myspace, how you act and what you say is what create this image and while you don’t have total control, you are in control of the biggest factors in this connection.

The message is in this connection your lyrics, or rather the topic and the goal of them. You form it in verses and choruses lines and words, here you are totally in control.

The receivers are the factor you got the least control over, while you can target certain groups of people, you can never actual now whether or not you actually succeeded before the song is out, there for it’s important not only to know the people you want, but also what other groups might contribute with some listeners and how they think, this is crazy some times, and can be almost impossible to do effective, but try to learn who listens to your music in general and how they relate to your message, take this into consideration when forming the message.

Form and content

First thing first, you need to find a matching form, to your content (Topic, and goal), your already got the base of your form, that’s the angle, build upon it, a fun angle should lead to a fun form. Using multiple rhymes wordplays etc. and putting them in focus is one way to work towards this, while these may still exist in more serious lyrics, they are often understated and/or less in focus. How you phase things, metaphors and similarities are also parts of the form

Making the form your own

This is the same principal as presented by Tweak in his article about inspiration, naturally you probably already do this in terms of taking parts of other people’s style when you write lyrics and when you rap/sing them, however few people realize how they can use literature and the genre’s within it. Let me show you an example.

Lyric in symbolism (which has nothing to do with musical lyric as such) is a certain style of writing poems, this is a style of writing that deals with beauty in a whole new way at the times (around the end of the 1800s). Instead of dealing with high society, the golden literature is washed out in the gutter, it’s has it’s roots in Paris and Baudelaire’s writings. Baudelaire deals with the lowest classes of society, the prostitutes, drunks and homeless, and considered the artist a prostitute in it self. He finds beauty in the ugly. This lyric portraits the world as cold, shut and dark, while in glints reveal the beauty and light within, it often contains a animal-like lust. The style is erotic without being vulgar, it’s teasing, but never really reveals the true content, that is for the reader to find. I’ll be honest, yeah i love this genre.

Now the most obvious example is to take something similar in content, like a song about the groupie you slept with last night. Now instead of the usual we fucked for three hours and then her friend joined style lyrics, learn from the symbolists, this is not an easy way to write, you need to get into the head of your audience and figure out how to hint what happened, without letting it out.

That’s the simple version, but the great thing is you can apply the same principal to any kind of lyrics, even about a traffic jam if you want to.

I hope you can use this, even though it’s a not a lot. I will write the big one, but you’ll have to wait.

One last thing i want to say: Don’t overthink it, you don’t have to follow the rules here everytime, you don’t have to write like the symbolists or any other genre, but i hope i somehow have written something you can use.