Welcome to Day 6 of producing my brand-new song “Please Don’t Come Home.”
If you’re just joining, I recommend you learn more about the overall songwriting project I’m working towards. Or, for more context you can read yesterday’s work or go back to the first day I started this song.
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Otherwise, let’s get started! Today was about slow and steady progress with a few minor breakthroughs…
Starting the Day: What’s the Song Need Most?
If you remember, the first few days of working on this song were spent searching for inspiring musical ideas. The next couple of days saw me finding some inspiration, but “diamonds in the rough.” I found ideas for a Bridge and a Chorus (I think), but a lot of parts and sections were missing to make a complete song.
But what are my current main problems today? Let’s try to limit myself to three:
- I’m don’t know what my Verses stories, music, or lyrics are.
- I want a bigger energy gap & difference in sound between Verses and Chorus.
- I need a tighter & clearer recorded loop for the Chorus section.
- (I also have uncertainty about transitions between the sections… but I’m just going to trust for now)
How I Got Myself Moving
Instead of focusing on any of these daunting issues, I set about cleaning up in my Ableton project.
I was going to make a second project completely fresh and copy over the best ideas from scratch, but that seems like overkill.
Instead, I’m deleting useless audio and MIDI clips and moving less-important ones out of sight. This simplifies what I have to look at (and think about).
A bit of organization and consolidation can help move me forward, creatively speaking. And in this case, it worked.
I started to do a few experiments with the Verse drums, leading into a minor rework of the whole section. The goal was to manipulate the energy level to be even lower, so that the Chorus feels like a come-up in energy.
Reworking & Detailing the Chorus Bassline
Then, after working on the Verse ideas, I got interested in the details of the Chorus - especially the Bassline.
I started manually rearranging MIDI notes: pitches, durations, and velocities. My intention with each change was to make the Chorus Bassline more interesting, dynamic, and unique. I also add little turnarounds and highlights, rests for the ends of phrases…
I am emphatically not doing “sound design” though, I’m still on the initial patch for the soft synth I’m using (D-VA). Instead, this is structural editing and improvement of the Chorus Bassline.
I’m really going down the rabbit hole on this. Listening dozens of times to these 16 bars, tweaking tiny little things, and bigger things also.
I feel like this stage of composition is necessary (in some way). Not every change is an improvement, but overall it’s becoming more interesting.
As I add more detail on certain parts of the Bassline, other sections start to stand out as “too plain.” So, I bounce around working on various parts. Am I overworking it? Perhaps, but I still have the original to compare to. I can always revert, if I want.
Building Up A Song Structure
Generally speaking, I’m in that semi-frustrating phase of songwriting where I feel like I’m slowly making progress towards a finished song, but it would be hard to demonstrate it to an outside observer.
I’ve tried adding some new vocal harmonies to the Chorus, in draft form. “Layered vocals” seem to be a developing theme for this song.
I’m still struggling with the energy levels, and transitions / differences between song sections (Verse, Chorus, Bridge). I also still have no ideas for what I’m saying in the verses.
But, as it gets really late at night, I test certain combos of sections and drums. And, almost despite my frustration and annoyance, I realize that there is an awesome way to get from the Middle Chorus, to the Bridge, and then to the Final choruses. It has to do with layering and removing different drum and vocal parts. Then I can fine-tune the transitions later, just like I did on the last song.
As I rearrange my Ableton Live work around this insight, I’m also realizing that I have more of the “big picture” filled out than I realized.
True, plenty of important details are missing. For example, will I use Piano at all during the Choruses? I think I should, at least near the end. But those are “color details” I think I can work out later, on top of the main song structure.
Getting Stuck, But Seeing the Big Picture
The biggest structural confusion for this song now definitely is around the *first* third of the song: Verses 1 & 2. Should I keep trying to generate new ideas that sound different from the material I currently have? Or should I mold, layer, and adapt the Verse idea I have at the moment?
My gut keeps saying ” Kill your darlings.. better ideas may come.” But, I don’t know if I should listen to that.
Looking back on the bullet points I listed at the top of this article, I didn’t make much progress on the first point. But, by focusing on the details of the Chorus and Song Structure I’ve definitely improved on Point #2, and at the same time I’ve improved somewhat on #3. So we can count today’s music production work as a modest success.
One Last Synth Before Sleep
One final note from early in the morning…
I’m losing coherence as my eyes struggle to stay awake to record this… my god i’ve stayed up another hour trying the MOTHER-32 to run the bassline,, YES awesome… so much control over the sound with the knobs, so RICH and ALIVE sound…… I’m worried that the bass is becoming TOO prominent in the chorus because it’s getting sooooo FUN, but maybe that’s ok… I’ve turned the Moog Low-Pass Filter into part of the riff itself!
This might sound like the rantings of a crazy person, but it’s actually really important. I discovered a neat “trick” I could do by combining Ableton, MIDI, and the Mother-32 analog synth. There are incredible sounds to be found by physically controlling the synth’s knobs by hand while the computer tells the synth what bassline to play via MIDI.
This was a minor game-changer, but there is a long way to go before this song is finished.
Keep Reading! Click here to go to the next day, where I spend more time using the Moog analog synth to create new song structure ideas…