songwriting

Nick Troop – The Song Doctor

Nick Troop is a British doctor in psychology doing research on the effect of songwriting on human emotions. How cool is that? In his latest project he constructs the ideal David Bowie song by analyzing hundreds of songs. Obviously, he has no pretension of out doing Bowie using science and technology but the result is quite pleasant.

On his web site, you’ll find interesting statistical facts about Bowie’s lyrics. For example, it turns out that the words Bowie uses also seem to be related to how long his albums stay in the charts. Mhhmm, OK.

For his next project, the good doctor is looking for volunteer songwriters. Visit his research page to learn what it’s all about and maybe do your bit in the name of science.

Standard
songwriting

Naturally 7: No Instrument Required

blog_photo_band_naturally7

Naturally 7 is a vocal “band” from New-York where every member plays an instrument with their mouth: mouth beat box, vocal bass, even an aural electric guitar. The amazing thing is that after a while, you forget that they have no instruments and you start getting into the songs.

Take a look at this impromptu performance of Phil Collins’ “In the air tonight” in the Paris subway:

For some reason, they have yet to make it big in the states, but they already have a couple of hits in Europe and are signed to a German record company.

Songwriting-wise, all they need is a multi-track recorder and something to write the lyrics. Right? Well, technically, they are playing vocal harmonies, which require some planning to work well. Basically, every band member plays one note in a chord, thereby producing the same effect as a keyboard or guitar.

Standard
songwriting

Before The Music Dies

Not sure how long this will last, but Google Video is now playing the entire 2006 documentary Before The Music Dies. This film takes a look at today’s music business and provides some answers to the following burning questions:

  • Why radio sucks.
  • Why there’s more teen acts than before.
  • What artist should do to have a solid career.

Probably the most chilling moment comes when the film’s producers take a 18-year-old female model who can’t sing and give her a trashy teen song written in 5 minutes. They then proceed to correct her vocals to give the impression that she has talent and film a polished music video that shows her…hum…assets. The results are painfully similar to what Ashley Simpson, Britney Spears or Miley Cirrus have been producing in the past five years. Scary stuff.

The film does end on a positive note and artists are encouraged to do it on their own or band together to form artist-friendly record companies such as ATO Records and Tunecore.

Standard
songwriting

Butch Vig’s Recording Secrets

blog_people_ButchVig

Super-producer Butch Vig is currently fielding technical and artistic questions over at Gearslutz. Vig is the acclaimed songwriter, drummer and producer behind seminal albums such as Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” and all the Garbage studio albums.

Vig is was one of the first producers to use the ProTools “sound” to his advantage. One characteristic of his sound is the inventive use of rhythm based mixing . This is where several types of drums (live drums, programmed beats & mastered rhythm sections) are playing back in parallel, all occupying their own pocket in the frequency range.

Vig on recording Garbage:

A lot of the Garbage songs had multiple drum sounds…live drums (usually looped and mixed down to stereo, sometimes mono), programmed beats (usually run through an amp or stomp box) and sometimes we would make our own “record”…which means taking a beat, maybe with a bass line, guitar line, or some sound effect, and running all of them through the same stereo effect to give it a “mastered” feel…almost like we were sampling off an old album.

Also, he gave some information on recording the first Garbage album:

In fact, the 1st Garbage album was done in a sort of lofi chain:
We recorded into a 24 track Otari MX80 (I think!) and almost all the tracks except for vocals were run through either an Akai S1000 sampler or Kurzweil K2500…then we mixed the whole thing through the Harrison w Flying Faders.
It wasn’t until Garbage’s V 2.0 that we jumped into Pro Tools!

This explains the constant pulsating rhythm in the first album. These days, the same sound could be achieved by running all my guitar tracks trough a sampling synthesizer like the Korg M3. The M3 has rocking compressor that makes everything sound “pre-mastered” and of course an incredibly rich palette of BPM-synched filters and modulators.

Try it, this may inspire a brand new batch of songs.

Standard