Where do you start when you want to write and record a new song? Sometimes the hardest part is simply knowing where to begin. Let’s be honest, making a song from scratch can be an overwhelming task, especially since you are using creativity alongside technology, it can feel like you’re always hitting a brick wall. In this series of articles, we will be looking at various ways to approach the song making process and how Pro Tools can help you make your creativity come to life. We will be discussing the various phases of song production and the relevant technology you should be aware of.
The best thing to do is be honest with ourselves about our own strengths, and admit that there are multiple approaches to making music. For example, you might get together with your band mates and start writing a new song while everyone in the band works on their individual parts. Another example would be a solo performer such as a singer, guitarist, keyboardist, DJ, producer, etc…, that doesn’t have a band of musicians to work with and might instead use loops and MIDI sequencing to make a song. There are so many starting points it really comes down to what you feel the most comfortable with. In order to help you make a better record, we will take a look at the challenges you will face along your creative path.
First, let’s talk about the tried and true band methodology. For centuries, humans have played music in groups, sometimes small, sometimes enormous, but no matter how large the band, each individual plays their instrument within the ensemble, adding parts that make up the entire composition. To start recording, you’re either going to play your song all together as one live performance, or record the parts in one at a time. This would require the use of some sort of recording space or studio, multiple microphones, and engineers to help facilitate the recording process. Most everything in the recording world has been geared toward this type of record making process, but within the last 10 years we have seen a huge surge in the amount of people making music on their own without the presence of a band. Technology has gotten us to a point where one person can produce, record, and mix a record or album in their bedroom/home studio. Even an iPad is a viable music production tool! GORILLAZ put out and album this year “The Fall” that was entirely done on an iPad. Think about that for a moment, a major band on a major record label put out an album they did on their iPad. Amazing! This was not possible 20 years ago because of the huge expense at the time. One great benefit of current technology is how inexpensive it is compared to the past. This allows people like you and me to have fun and make music without having to break the bank. Another great thing about technology is that it has leveled the playing field. You can use the same plug-ins and equipment the pro’s use to make records. There are no more secrets and technology that are out of reach to us just because we don’t have a large studio full of equipment. With this series of articles, we will be primarily focusing on making music in the home environment. Many of you are musicians with great ideas, but you don’t always have a “band” to help you get those ideas across. We will be discussing different techniques that will help you make music and understand the role technology will play in helping you with your creativity.
Where do you begin? That question is hard to answer because of the diversity of music. Some of you might be guitar players, or piano players, etc… and your preferred starting point is going to be different than a songwriter who doesn’t play an instrument. I think the first thing to do is be clear as to where your strength’s lie. If you are a guitar player, start by using your guitar and allow your natural strength to guide you. If you are a producer you might be more comfortable using loops as a starting point to help shape your idea. Whatever makes the most sense to you, go with it. Don’t try to force yourself to work in a manner that makes you feel uncomfortable; it will hamper your creativity and workflow.
I have a challenge for everyone this week: figure out what makes the most sense to you. If you realize you want to start by using audio loops, go get some. (use the internet, but don’t steal anything) there are plenty of resources to find free audio loops. Pro Tools comes with 8 gigs of audio loops spanning different styles and tempo. If you are a singer, start writing new lyrics and figuring out a general direction for your song. You will also find that using loops might help your songwriting process. If you are a guitar player, start using your guitar to come up with a new idea. In our next article we will look at how to begin a session using the most fundamental principles in Pro Tools so that you can start having fun.
Have fun exploring your creativity, I’ll see you next week so we can start our session work.