Creating & Recording a Song (Part One)
In this Blog, I'd like to share a little of my process for starting and completing my music projects.
My new music release, Vehicles, is my 8th music project (CD) to date. My first CD project, Secret Obsession - was released in 2003: that works out to roughly one CD every two years. Whew!
One CD every two years may not seem very productive, especially when compared to say, the Beatles in their early years when they'd release almost two albums a year. Still, one CD project every two years is quite a lot for one person, especially when that one person is doing all the composing, arranging, recording, mixing, mastering, and designing all of the CD artwork. Hey, I'm not bragging or complaining, I totally love the whole songwriting/recording process because the greatest gift of finally releasing your hard work is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
A song's beginnings
Songwriting for me usually always begins with either a catchy guitar riff or a simple phrase or word.
Flushing out a melody
Adding a melody to my catchy riff is basically a process of elimination. Most times, I'll record a few bars of my guitar riff and, while playing back the recording, I'll hum or skat melody ideas from the top of my head. In fact, I may record several different takes of my hummed ideas, listen to them back, and then decide if any of them are working for me. As my catchy riff is always built around chord tones (notes that are part of the chord), my selection of melody notes is already pre-determined by the chord my catchy riff is built around. Ultimately, my final melody is the product of chord tones / notes and the timing I decide for each of them.
Lyrics: The difficult task (for me, anyway)
Maybe this is true for most songwriters, but lyrics tends to be the most difficult part of the songwriting process for me. To be truthful, I usually begin creating lyrics by just mumbling gibberish to my semi-established melody. Funny enough, those incoherent mumbles can often provide me with a subject matter that suits the melody. From there, I'll start building on the subject - constantly writing and rewriting until the song makes sense and conveys a message. Other times, I'll start creating my song lyrics based upon a subject word or phrase. There's really no set formula for me on this part of the songwriting process. However, whatever works for you is probably the best process.
Arrangement is crucial
With my basic music structure established (melody, and lyrics), I will then start recording sections of my song to my computer's DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I won't try to get too fancy with my arrangement or recording at this early recording stage, instead, I'm just trying to get everything to work together within a tempo and rhythmic structure - always thinking, "keep it simple." As I record each instrument I try to get the best recording quality and performance I can - knowing I may use all or parts of these initial recordings.
Only after I've established a solid arrangement do I work on adding transitional elements between the sections (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.), while experimenting with various instrumentation that may help compliment my song. My ultimate goal is to keep the song interesting for the listener: I may not always accomplish this task but it's an important goal for me.
My DAW plays a big part in assisting me with my arrangement. The DAW I use (Apple's Logic Pro X), allows me to easily move and rearrange entire sections to suit. The luxury of this feature is that it gives you the flexibility to experiment with your arrangements. At this point, I really don't worry too much about the overall mix. If I'm arranging my goal is to get the best arrangement - when mixing, my goal is to get the best mix. A well-thoughtout arrangement will make the mixing process that much easier.
Stay tuned for part two of this Blog where I'll discuss mixing, mastering, and package design.
Thank you for taking the time to read my Blog. Please feel free to share or comment.
Sincerely, Bob McCarroll.