Tempo and Composition issues

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by neurosis, Apr 30, 2016.

  1. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    Not sure if this is a case more suited for the music theory section. But I have been having this problem more because of my OCD and my use of the DAW rather than playing per se so I thought it´lll be ok here.

    My question is how you guys plan your song structures and tempo. I have realized that I can record my guitar parts on a track disregarding anything else and have a decent foundation fro a song but then it comes time to write the drums to it for example and I can´t for the life of me get the tempo and time signatures to fit so the midi works out. On the contrary if I start with my drum tracks they are constrained to the tempo in the DAW and I can´t seem to naturally come up with parts that flow well wight that.

    So I was wondering how you go about this. I´d like to stick to recording my guitars first but then I can´t figure out a way to build a drum part in time with the guitar around it. How do you count it? Total music theory noob here. I always play it from hearing and feel. But then the numbers mean nothing to me so I don´t know how to set up the daw and my recordings turn into a lot of riff demos and no real songs.
     
  2. Crescendo

    Crescendo 크레센도

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    What?

    If I start with recording a guitar track then it doesn't matter what the drums are like, often at this point it's just kickdrum notes if I don't already have a decent drum idea. It feels better recording to some kind of beat, how stripped it may be, than just the clicker alone. Theory has nothing to do with this. And finding the right tempo takes two seconds.
     
  3. shnizzle

    shnizzle johnny

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    i think you´re taking a wrong approach. just recording the guitars without any idea of the
    tempo you´re playing in will makes it impossible for you to write the drums. and basically
    the whole song will fall apart because the tempo is probably the most fundamental
    element to a song. without that no instrument will be able to play in unity.

    when i have a riff in my head i first figure out the tempo by simply looping a couple of
    empty measures with a metronome and set the tempo till it matches the riff. then i make
    a basic drum beat for it to record to. the rest of the song builds from there. when i come
    up with another riff that´s a totally different tempo, i won´t use it in that song, but
    rather leave it for another one. just forcing riffs together is bad songwriting. than after
    i´m done recording i work on the drum midi in more detail.
     
  4. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    I am by no means a pro, but here's the process I do, considering all of my projects typically begin with a guitar riff idea(s):

    Play and record a basic track of the whole song. It doesn't have to be perfect, because you'll be replacing it with better takes later.

    Next, start adding drum ideas according to how it "needs" to sound with your riffs.

    Analyze how they work together. Now is the time to decide if the tempo needs to be faster or slower. Once you're ready, go ahead and start perfecting the drum tracks (don't worry about EQ or effects yet -- just timing).

    Next, go back and re-record your guitar parts in sync with the drums until you've got the riffs and drums perfectly in sync and you're satisfied with how everything sounds. I add bass last, typically.

    After that, it's down to mixing and effects. Hope that makes sense and helps!
     
  5. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    What Shnizzle said.
    Prettymuch the first thing you should do is count the tempo and record to a click track
     
  6. jasonsansburn

    jasonsansburn Bleep Blerp Bleep

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    I know what you are talking about. When you are just jamming around not necessarily "writing" but you come up with ideas you like. You aren't playing to a metronome or anything and you just come up with something that sounds nice. When you have one of these riffs, you need to realize that they are subject to change, because a lot of the time it won't fit correctly, unless you are a time signature wizard. Open up your daw, find your tempo, and add the kicks for every note you play, so you can see where they sit in the measures. Usually when I do this, I realize I'm like a couple notes short of having a time signature I'm comfortable with, so I sit with the riff and add a couple. I actually enjoy this part because you get to add a little extra somethin' to it. Or on the opposite end, you can take away some. Then it will be easy to line up your drums. Don't know if this even makes sense to anyone but it happens to me a lot, and that's kinda how I deal with it. Good luck. Stick with it. Nobody ever learned anything from giving up! :shred::shred::shred::hbang::hbang::hbang:
     
  7. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    This sounds a lot like what I am trying to do. I basically noodle around on the guitar and when I have an idea of a song go to logic and record a track. Now, Logic is set to a tempo by default so I just turn off the clicker/metronome thing and play it by feel the way it came to me, which is usually what makes me notice that I find something cool to begin with. The problem is when I have the track in there I need to figure out what the best tempo for it is. And that´s what I was asking. I am currently just tapping on my table while the track plays trying to determine the tempo. Then I can change it in Logic and program midi accordingly, then rerecord the guitar to be in synch with the drums.

    I like to do it that way over having the drum tracks first because I know little about drumming and EZ drummer kinda locks me in from the start because I choose drum parts I find cool but feel little inspired and sometimes challenged to play guitar to.

    So my question sort of remains the same. How do you analyze (maybe there is a tool in the DAW?) what you have sketched with the guitar to figure out the tempo that will command all the other instruments you add to the sketch.

    And another thing that has been mentioned here is the kicks. DO the kicks generally count out the tempo in full? So, in a 4/4 do they go 1,2,3,4 at whatever bpm? I am curious about this because I figure that depends completely on the feel you are going for. Can´t imagine the kick always marking out the full 4 bars.

    Hope this makes sense. I am just trying to sketch out more than guitar ideas for songs but have been struggling to find an approach.
     
  8. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    Sounds good! But how do you find the tempo? That´s I guess my main block right now.
     
  9. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

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    I think you're overthinking it.

    Got you riff down? Nice. Can you tap your foot to it? Sure you can. So that's your BPM tempo.
    Got a metronome? Sure you do. Get those BPM in. Record in the DAW. Done.

    My problem as well is that I usually can't decide on a tempo, so I'll just play around with the riff at a random speed when I get the idea. Bad thing, since you want a steady tempo when you'll be recording. So just practice your stuff to a metronome until you find the tempo that matches the feel you're going for in your head.

    That's the first part. Want to lay down drums? Lay down the groove first (basic kick-snare relation pattern, then elaborate on that). Not being able to write drums has nothing to do with theory or knowing your exact time signatures on the spot. Well, at least learn to count to 4 but still.
    Maybe you just have to learn to better "think as a drummer". Take your time and listen to a lot of music!
    If you have the chance to sit and play to any drums, that would be the best.

    A thing that loosened by "drum problem solving" is thinking less of the time signature by itself and more of the actual drum line. You don't determine the part by the signature, but the signature by the part. Let me rephrase. I don't think drummers go like "oh yeah, I want an 11\16 groove there, it would fit so well!" on the spot. More like, they think of something, jam it, and when they rationalize \ transcribe it, it turns out that it's in some sort of time signature. They obviously should and do know what they're doing on the spot already, but you get my point.

    AKA I'm not saying "you shouldn't care about theory". I'm saying "theory is called theory for a reason". It's a mean, not an end. Additionally, time signatures and rhythm notation, figures and patterns are just our theoretical way to measure time as humans and musicians. There's no "wrong" or "right" as long as the music makes sense to you at the end of the day. 4\4 just means "four movements of 1 quarter note each". It's not a cage to thrive in, get my point?

    Let me rephrase that again. I mean for instance, rock music has a history of placing snares on beat 2 and 4. Instead, jazz has an history of displacing accents like crazy. It doesn't mean that a snare should always hit on 2 and 4 or "be wrong". If you want it to hit on the second-to-last sixteen note of the first beat instead on the 1 of the second, it's up to you as long as your music makes sense.

    Back to you point: would I have kicks playing on every straight quarter note? Probably not, since I don't like that idea. But does it makes sense to you? Go for it.
    I mean, feel free to use music as a mean. There is no right or wrong. Theory is just a set of common sense rules we derived from trial and error to make music more efficiently. I mean, it's written in the stone but it's "also not". If everyone had to respect classical music theory, we wouldn't have had any jazz for instance. Or serialism. Etc. etc.
    Rhythm notation is just a paper transcription of sounds allocated in time. Get fascinated by the possibilities. Have fun. Period.

    Enough babbling, hope I was clear enough :)
     
  10. shnizzle

    shnizzle johnny

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    nope. you just gotta learn your tempos and get a feel for it. when you can
    tap your foot to the riff, match the tempo in the DAW to what your foot is
    doing. it´s not hard. just practice a little. then record to that. again,
    recording just by feel without any metronome you´ll make it way too difficult
    for yourself. and recording without a metronome, can you be sure you play
    steadily without any slight tempo changes? because if you do and you want
    the drums to follow that it´ll be instantly noticeable. sorry to be so blunt, but
    that´s just bad recording technique what you´re doing.

    and the reason i´m being so blunt is i had the most horrible job a while back
    because of this same issue. the guy recorded guitars and wanted me to do
    the drums for him. i just accepted and when he sent me the tracks i noticed
    he didn´t record to any metronome and he wasn´t a very good guitarist,
    either. it was nearly impossible to make drum beats based on those tracks.
    worst job ever. and i want to safe you from that grief and frustration :lol:
     
  11. CelestialWishDTC

    CelestialWishDTC SS.org Regular

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    Honestly, you practice. It might be harder for you, with me, I never 'noodle', I've never written that way in my life, so for me, tempo and key signature has always come first before I put pen to paper. I'd recommend you do the same, to be honest, as soon as you find a guitar part you like, don't record it. Find out the tempo. There should be a tap tempo button that shows you vaguely what tempo you should be at, I'd recommend rounding it up or down to the nearest ten if/when you start getting tempos like 158 etc coming up. Then, if you're tight with a metronome, record to it.

    Ideally, you'd want a drum beat in there, but if you're not that good with drums, that's something to practice too. I'd recommend watching drum covers/videos on Youtube of songs you like and seeing what they do, how the beats are constructed, and eventually, with practice, your ears and knowledge will be good enough to write decent drum parts.

    If you want more experience writing for several instruments, I'd recommend trying something like Guitar Pro so that you can get an idea of what different tempos feel like, learn how to write drums from a drummers viewpoint, rather than thinking about it is dots on a MIDI item and understanding the rhythms that you're playing on guitar so that you can make a full song using your initial idea.
     
  12. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    I usually record a scratch playthrough with no metronome and simply follow my instincts on how the tempo should be in each section. Then I'll use a metronome app on my phone where I can tap in a tempo, and I'll use that to figure out approximately what each section's tempo is. Then I'll map it all out and re-record the scratch guitar track with the in-session click going. Sometimes I need to adjust the tempos and transitions a bit, but that gives me a pretty solid basis on which to build the rest of the session.
     
  13. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    I am going to try this and a mix of the other suggestions. D you find when using this approach you end up with a lot of changes? I need to look tinto how you make the clock change according to the sections I tap out in that case. if they change, that is.

    Thanks for the tips!
     
  14. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    It seems that getting the metronome running on tap is the best to get started. What I meant with noodling is that's how I come up with ideas I like. Then I have been recording those to remember them. But now I want to actually do something with them so I wanted to get a good start and record to a click instead of improvising the whole thing and realizing I am off in the end.

    Now I know there are apps to tap the tempo and get an idea of what the song has to be recorded in. That's all I really needed to start. But you raise great points. Will come back to this threat for pointers for sure.
     
  15. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    Hallo!

    I totally get what you mean. I should have been more specific perhaps. I play around feeling out ideas but now that I want to put actual songs together I know I need to set up the session with a proper tempo and record the guitars accordingly. I just wasn't sure how to go about that. How to count. But a tap feature like you all mention is just great. I do that on the table at home, just didn't know I could program it like that. I'll do some research.

    Can totally relate to what you say with the job thing. Not with audio but I have had a similar experience with photo-edits where people worked destructively and expected me to magically go back to steps that didn't exist anymore. Hahah.
     
  16. neurosis

    neurosis SS.org Regular

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    Fantastic write-up. I'll use this for sure. Thanks man!:hbang:
     
  17. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    I make A LOT of adjustments. My MIDI data is all mapped to the grid, so when I make those changes the drums require no additional tweaking; they simply adjust to the new tempo. But any guitar/bass/etc... parts have to be re-recorded, so I try to do all those changes with just 1 or 2 scratch tracks until it feels right beginning to end.
     
  18. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    Same here. I do drums via midi along with all my synth stuff. After that, I rehearse the daylights out of it, make any changes necessary, so by the time I track my guitar, I'm not just to the point that I play it correctly, but rather, to the point to where I can't make any mistakes.

    The art of rehearsal is something that has sadly departed from modern pre-production, in my opinion.
     
  19. bloodfiredoom

    bloodfiredoom DOOMED

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    I used to just jam with no real rhyme or reason, and I had similar problems to what you are experiencing. I think jam sessions must always start with setting a tempo on your metronome. Whatever your mood or desired feeling is, set the metronome accordingly and just start playing. This will save a lot of time when you come up with the monster riff you've been searching for and want to start laying down the bass and drums for it.
     
  20. thevisi0nary

    thevisi0nary SS.org Regular

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    Similar thing has been suggested, but what I often do is record my song idea in the daw or on a voice memo, then transcribe it into guitar pro then expand on it. That way it's incredibly easy for me to write drums in reference to the guitar.
     

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