Inspiration Pt. 1

The other day I thought I’d sit down and talk about all the music I’ve listened to or appreciated throughout the years. I know it’s a long list, so we’ll just start from the beginning and go from there. The first song I can remember ever liking was “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Segar. I remember dancing around the house to it when I was like probably 5 or so.

I grew up when cassettes still existed and CDs were just getting popular. It still blows my mind to think I live to see the advent of the iPod. More on that later. I remember my dad had a cassette of Metallica’s black album that I listened to a lot when I was younger. My mom listened to a lot of 80’s pop and arena rock sort of stuff. So I was always around stuff like Prince, Madonna, Journey, and Whitesnake. My dad was a Motley Crue fan too. So plenty of “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Dr. Feelgood” growing up.

I didn’t really explore a lot of the classics until I was older. But I still have a spot in my heart for Black Sabbath, Boston, Queen, Rush, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Guns and Roses. To name a few. Every once in a while when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic I go back and listen to some of the top hits. But I typically stick to newer artists when I’m listening these days.

Of course, being born in 1992, there was tons of great stuff getting radio play through my childhood too. One that stands out the most is Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind. It’s my favorite song about crystal meth. I always picture some studio executive with that look of, “Wait, what?” when he heard the lyrics. But I remember a lot of other good stuff from these times, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead. The list goes on and I know there are tons that I haven’t mentioned. But all of that stuff, I grew up with it, of course I love it.

I’m realizing now how much I will probably write about all of this. I may even dedicate an entire post to the 90’s alone. So I’m going to turn this into a short series. I know nobody has the attention span to read more than 140 characters these days. I like writing since I can just sit and listen to music while I type. Feels natural. Anyways, until next time.

Workflow – Recording

In my last post, I gave my thoughts on the songwriting process and what I think about while I’m arranging. In this post I’m going to talk about recording parts. Also known as tracking.

Recording:

So, as I mentioned before, I work directly in Ableton, everything is DI into my audio interface. Early in the process I’m mainly just trying to get ideas down. Even if I’m not at my DAW I’ll pull out my phone and record whatever ideas I’ve come up with at the time. It’s good to capture the ideas whenever you have them, because there’s no guarantee you’ll remember anything. You’ll lose a badass idea one time before realizing that it’s just easier to get things down asap.

During the arranging process you’ll want to create a scratch track of everything. Just to capture the ideas in their natural form. Once you have that together, you’re ready to start tracking. This is the point where you want to be sure you’ve practiced the parts. Especially if they’re particularly challenging. You want to get the best possible takes. If necessary you can comp them together or punch in and out to fix any errors or blunders. I also make a habit out of listening to the parts in solo to make sure they’re clean before committing them to the final project.

I tend to break this up by instrument. Guitar is my native language, so I typically start there when I’m recording. It’s worth noting, right now I’ve been using programmed drums since I don’t exactly have the environment to set up and mic my acoustic kit. I start with simple parts then will come back and detail them with fills and variation later into the recording process.

An Important Note: Change your strings before tracking! Seriously fresh strings are absolutely necessary for good tone. This is partly why the bass sounds so bad on Permanent Press. I was admittedly pretty lazy when tracking bass throughout.

Once the guitar is tracked, I’ll make some basic timing edits to make sure everything sounds good. If you don’t know how to play to a metronome you should probably start there. It’s essentially mandatory. Otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time just cleaning up your timing. It’s easier to just get it right to begin with.

Once the rhythm guitar is tracked, I’ll track any overdubs or lead parts. I usually save any solos for last since they tend to take more care and attention to detail than other parts throughout. It’s also important to conserve your energy throughout this process. If you’re feeling drained take a break, do something else for a while and come back. You don’t want music to feel like a chore, it’ll show in your playing. Once guitar is all sorted out, I’ll come back in and record bass parts. You don’t have to follow this order either. Do whatever feels best to you.

Once the instrumental arrangement is done, I come back and record vocals. Make sure you know how many takes you’ll need. It’s pretty common practice to double track vocals, even sometimes triple or quad tracking them, in addition to backing vocals and harmonies. Make sure you or your vocalist is in the right mindset for tracking vocals. You want to have a good energy going into it more than anything else, because the vocal is usually the star of the mix, you want it full of life. So be ready to capture an amazing performance. I’ll usually start with just a full run through of the song and then go back over it as needed.

Make sure everyone is comfortable. At this point you’ll want to be sure you’ve worked out the microphone you’ll be using as well as position. These are all important factors to getting a great vocal sound. I didn’t pay good regard to this when tracking Permanent Press, but I learned a lot about it. There are great guides out there. Factors are proximity between the mic and singer, height in relation to the singer’s mouth, and axis (left or right) of the singer. It recommend using a pop-filter. They’re relatively inexpensive, and really help reducing plosives, though they won’t eliminate them entirely. That also has a lot to do with vocal technique as well as the factors mentioned above.

What’s Next

As of right now I am trying to start building a community. I’m not exactly sure what that even entails at this point. But I’ll just keep talking and hopefully at some point people will start to listen. I really enjoy writing either way. So it’s not much of a concern. Once I released Permanent Press I made my next goal to develop a presence on social media and start networking over the course of the next few years.

Musically I’m always coming up with stuff. I’ll probably start making some smaller videos with some of them. But a lot have been piling up for ideas on my next album. I’m thinking I’ll call it Hidden Sunrise. I like the ring of that. It should be a full length record. I would also like to find myself some other band members so I can tour with my music.

I’m also in the process of figuring out the overall image or “brand” if you will for my musical venture. I’ve got some thoughts in mind for a new website header and should carry over a lot of that to the social media realm as well. I plan on getting a YouTube channel up at some point that I’ll use for video blogs, behind the scenes, and just general nonsense probably, knowing me.

Beyond that, I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting a live music stream for a while now. I really think it would be a great way to collaborate with other musicians both locally and abroad. But at this point it’s one thing at a time. I’m still working a day job to pay my bills at this point. Should probably set up a Patreon at some point too…

I’ve got all sorts of ideas. But at this point I’m just taking it one day at a time. There’s so much work to do. But I’m pretty happy to do it.

Workflow – Songwriting

Hello! In this post I’ll be breaking down my current workflow and providing some perspective into my process. I don’t expect it to be a comprehensive guide to music production, there are a lot of great resources out on the internet as it is, but it should provide some insight on songwriting and how to approach home production.

Songwriting:

Every song is a bit different, but the key starting place is familiar throughout. Inspiration. This can be different to everyone since it manifests in so many ways. Sometimes it’s just a matter of capturing an emotion or energy. Other times it begins with a lyric or theme. Then there are the more musical options either beginning with a melody, riff, rhythm or chord structure. It doesn’t so much matter where you begin, they’re all valid options.

It’s important to work with a vision of what you’re trying to achieve with the music. Once you have that in mind, start with what you’ve got and slowly work outward. I tend to build the overall structure pretty early in my process. It’s important to understand the context of each section. Bad arrangement will hurt a song throughout the entire process.

Verses should be “smaller” than your choruses. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Just playing softer, maybe using a different texture, even removing instruments entirely, or just stripping them down. You do this so that the chorus has a pay off when it arrives. It sounds bigger, which gives more weight to the idea you’re trying to convey. You should also try to keep an even pulse alive throughout the song. You don’t want to jar the listener too much. Unless that’s what you’re going for of course. It doesn’t hurt to sit down with a structure guide for reference. It’s often referred to as the addiction formula and for good reason.

Intro (4) Verse 1 (16) Pre-Chorus (4) Chorus (8) Verse 2 (8) Chorus (8) Bridge (8) Chorus (8 (x2))

This is of course just a guide, not a hard rule that must be followed. Ultimately do what you feel is right for your song. It’s also important to differentiate your final chorus a bit as well. Maybe add another instrument, or change the vocal a bit. Just add that extra kick of life into it to really drive the idea home. And of course, repeat it. Songs often end on the chorus so it sticks with the listener. That’s the theory at least.

If you’re interested in learning more about this, there a number of different resources on the internet. I really enjoy Holistic Songwriting on YouTube. It’s ran by a guy named Friedemann Findeisen. He does lots of interesting breakdowns of different artists and things that influence their sound. I also really recommend just listening to music. Both your favorite artists and things outside of your comfort zone. Listen to what they do with their arrangements and mixing.

Ideally you want to have your arrangement together before you start tracking. I personally work straight from my DAW even when I’m just jamming or messing around. So it’s pretty easy for me to go right into recording scratch tracks when I come across something I like. That being said, try to keep some degree of flexibility in mind when you’re further along in the process. Sometimes an arrangement change is just what’s needed to breathe life into a song if you’re not happy with it. But having it all together going into it is definitely more efficient.

I will likely write another article about music theory and its role in writing music. Up next is my recording process.

Who I Am

Musician, Mentor, Lover.

These are the three words I use to describe myself. My name is Landon and I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember. It comes naturally to me. I am always growing as an artist. There’s certainly a lot to learn, but I love it. So the work is always worth it. I am full of ideas and can’t wait to explore them.

I’ve lived in Michigan for a few years now. I grew up in Texas, lived in Oklahoma for a while. Though I have great friends in both of those places, I’ve always felt a bit odd for the culture there. Then again, I basically live on the internet anyways. Just now getting into social media, but I’ve been lurking since the early days of 4chan. End result, I’m kind of eccentric, but surprisingly social for someone who grew up online.

Free-spirited and adventurous. Typically more than people are ready for. Wisdom and Charisma haven’t failed me yet. I’m what you’d call a Protagonist. Definitely the chillest person I know. I care about those I keep close and live to share my experience with the world. Most importantly, I love to have fun. Life should be lived smiling as much as you can.

Been playing guitar for over a decade now. But at this point I dabble with just about any instrument I can get my hands on. Been building my mixing skills and working on my voice over the course of this last year. Grew up around a lot of 80’s music, pop and metal alike. I could go on forever about bands that have inspired me or what I’m listening to now. My tastes are pretty eclectic, but I always come back to pop-punk, post-hardcore, and prog. Then again, I’ll get on random coffeehouse or techno kicks. I’ve got a soft spot for Taylor Swift’s newer stuff too. The production is seriously on point. I also enjoy ambient and post-rock.

That’s about all I can come up with right now. Feel free to ask questions. I’m always open to conversation.

Thanks,

Landon

Permanent Press – About the Album

So this is my first EP I’ve ever written. I used it as a means of exploring different stylistic influences and honing my sound. All of the songs draw inspiration from different aspects of my life over the past few years. But overall I kept it pretty lighthearted and fun. I’ve only been singing for a little over a year. So a lot of my time went to writing lyrics and figuring out my voice. I definitely learned a lot as I worked on this album. I think I need to focus a bit more on consistency in the vocal tracking. Once I had the arrangements sorted out I really delved into mixing theory and spent a good deal of time getting more comfortable with that.

The artwork and title of the album came from a picture I took at my old apartment in Tulsa. I was pretty stoned at the time and thought it would make a great album cover. So when time came to write the EP, I figured, “Fuck it, why not?” Seemed fitting for an EP. I also love alliteration. So that too. No real deep meaning to it.

I may write some posts about individual songs. I know I plan on getting into the recording process and mixing approach down the road. I’ll probably post videos about that. I am eager to hear more feedback. I know some of you have already shared your thoughts. What did I do write, what could I do better? It’s all appreciated.

Thanks,

Landon