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Thread: evolution of a song

  1. #1
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    I've noticed something since I have started recording regularly and I am wondering how many of you have experienced the same thing.

    I've been playing guitar for years; sometimes jamming with others, but for the most part just playing for my own personal enjoyment. I have come up with many guitar-based riffs and song ideas during this time that have stuck with me through the years.

    Now that I am recording, I am beginning to develop these riffs into songs. First I lay down a drum track and then lay down the guitar track. Once these tracks are down, I usually develop a bass line that suits the basic idea and feel of the song-this is where thing start to change.

    Once the bass line is down, I then go back and layer a 2nd guitar part to complement the first. What I am finding is that my 2nd guitar parts often blow away (in the context of the song anyway) the original riff that the song was based on to begin with.

    Then, quite often, I'll go back and redo the bass to better fit the 2nd guitar part. By this time the original guitar track has been muted and is soon to be dropped from the song altogether. The end result is the final song is far removed from the original idea.

    It just seems strange to me how creativity ebbs and flows, twists and turns, flips and flops, and ultimately leaves you in a place a long way away from where you began...kinda like shrooms.

    Anyone care to comment?

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    Cool

    I've not only re-done parts of songs, I've re-done entire songs (like I did 2 days ago) because the tempo was too slow or I just plain didn't like it. I know I'll have it right when it hits the top 40 and the royalty checks start rolling in!! (Okay, wake me up, I'm dreaming again)

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    Well, I've never tried 'shrooms. Actually, I pride myself of getting stupid with drugs for only a month before deciding that clean really was better. But as for song development I find that a great riff is one that lets you hear things that aren't really there. As you start to put those ideas on tape, the great riffs loose there imprtance and the song starts to come to life. I often listen to folks like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Led Zepplin, the Beatles and I wonder how songs like that come about. If you ever look at the chord progressions in SRV songs they are these really funky jazz chords. But the tablature doesn't look like what the chord diagram in a jazz book would look. I finally dicovered its the bass riff on top of one or two guitar parts that start to make the song sound like it does. Or look at the Anthology albums by the Beatles and how different the songs were at first compared to released versions. Blows my mind. But then again, that doesn't take too much to do. I guess that the introduction of a great producer might have a bit to do with a songs progress, too. So try getting someone elses opinion when working on a song.

    Peace, Jim

    [This message has been edited by Jim Marquard (edited 11-17-1999).]

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    I've run into the very problems you describe, and I've discovered that markedly changing the guitar sound on the second track makes a world of difference. If you play the lead and backing tracks with the same effect mix and volume, it starts to sound as if the same guitar is mixed up and mumbling to itself.

    However, if you change effects, volume, gain, etc., and alter the character of sound, it begins to come across more as interaction.

    Since I've started doing this, I've become aware of it on some of my favorite songs by everyone from the Foo Fighters to Metallica. Dave Grohl layers his guitars so well that you don't notice some guitar parts, unless you really listen for them. Kind of an ambience thing, rather than riffing.

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    Audioforgery,
    A little off the original topic but what the hell, Funny thing is I happen to be listening to "The Colour and the Shape" while reading your response to my post. Dave Grohl's guitar sound is incredible; it has mucho presence in relation to the other instuments and vocals without going overboard or including the annoying (personal opinion) upper midrange sound that pollutes so many of my guitar recordings.

    thanks to all for your replies

    dmc

    Oh by the way, Jim, you are correct clean is definitely better. I've used certain "enhancers" (as one particularly unfriendly law dog once referred to them) to open certain doors, but once you're through those doors, the experience is best with 100% control of your senses.

    [This message has been edited by dmcsilva (edited 11-17-1999).]

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    Exclamation

    Man, I know exactly what you mean! I'm finding this is happening to me all the time. For example, a song that I originally wrote on the acoustic to be played on the acoustic, after I lay down the drums & a guide guitar track and then lay down the bass track, mutates into a song played entirely on electric guitars, with a different bridge, and a main guitar solo in the middle and an outro solo, when I hadn't even planned on a solo at all! And the song has a completely different vibe and feel than the original. Now it's becoming real exciting to start a new project just because it's an adventure and I don't know how much my original idea is going to evolve and change. I think this probably happens all the time...I'm a huge Led Zeppelin fan and I've got some bootleg tapes of studio outtakes and work-in-progress versions of their songs, and many of them sound quite a bit different than what eventually made it onto the albums.

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    Tell ya what, this computer has been the best thing to every happen to me musically. I never thought I'd say that. It seems that my professional choices are mixing with my love of music....kind of a "you got chocolate in my peanut butter" thing. hmm.

    Anyway, the point is that in the past I could never FULLY write any songs except for a few acoustic jingles here and there. I could write "most" of a song and a boatload of cool riffs....but I was never able to tie everything together and write a complete song until I started recording. I don't have a head that can mesh music well...I need to hear it.

    When I start to "write" a song I'm usually sitting around with an acoustic...bored out of my friggin mind or just tired. And I'll start noodlin around and every now and then something just catches my ear and I take off with it.

    And then there are times when I force myself to write a melody in my head....usually when there's no guitar handy and I'm bored.

    Regardless, I usually get a guitar or vocal part in my head that I want to work with. That's where the cigarettes come in. Smoke breaks at work or home are amazing sometimes. I'll think up variations on what I've already got or even create new parts. In fact about most of my bass, drum, and vocal parts come around thanks to these smokey treats. (kids at home, please don't smoke. only cool people smoke and you're not cool. Thanks, Joe Camel.)

    And that's where the computer comes in. I can't really mix sounds together in my head very well so I just plug the damn guitar in and start recording. I'll lay down what I know I like and then experiment over the top with my new ideas...often times coming up with new ones at this point.

    It's like everything starts to rollercoaster after that. Things fit in naturally and easily. I usually do the drums AFTER I know what the rhythm guitars are going to do. Then I re-record the guitars and add the bass and finally add solos and shit on top...oh and vocals of course.

    What I'd like to know is how many people find themselves mixing seperate ideas? Like that Hindsight tune that I posted a while back was a mixture of two completely different ideas. I was like, "hmm, this riff and that progression are both in A...let's see what they sound like together." And it worked. I find myself doing this a lot...especially with things that I've been mulling over for years. Kind of feels like cheating. Anyone else do this?

    Slackmaster 2000

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    S2K,

    Glad you mentioned that at the end of your post 'cause that is another thing that happens to me all of the time. I, like you, "write" an idea, usually just a part of song, and then store it away. Later, without even thinking of the first song idea(consciously, at least) , I come up with another one. Then, after going back and listening to some of these portions, I realize, WHOA, song fragment A fits with song fragment B. And with a little work and TLC a song is felched from the recesses of my mind....and my hard disk. Mutation can be beautiful.

    dmc

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    Cool

    It's a useful technique to create new tracks based on other tracks, whether or not the "inspirational" tracks end up in the final mix. I use this system alot when composing on MIDI synth and sometimes on the guitar.

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    Well it is after all just a sign of growth and developement. I have a tune that my girl calls the "20 year song" It is basically the first real progression I ever learned. and it stuck, each month, year...evolving to what it is today. It has changed dramatically, the only commonality to it now is the key. And even that has leaped from prime to relative minor and parallel majors a few times. Its like my baby <fighting a tear> and I hesitate to record it seriously. That would be allowing it to be done...

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