Monthly Archives: August 2013

SONGWRITING: Online tools

I don’t visit these sites as often as I should, but there are several REALLY cool websites that offer online tools for songwriters. What do I mean by online tools?

Chord progression generators (in any key you specify), melody rhythm generators, lyric and title generators, etc… and more!

Here are just a few to check out (and please do! You’ll dig ’em, even if you’re a very experienced songwriter!):

 

Random Rhythm Motif Generator

this thing is really, really useful for coming up with rhythms for motifs, such as vocal melodies. You’ll need to provide the words and the notes, of course… but, a great starting point! It spans across 2 bars.

Random Song Title Generator

It generates a LOT of titles at once (like 20). Sure, a lot of them might be lame. But there are some great generated… I just tried it right now and it generated the following: Nobody Cancel The Dance, Allow Tomorrow, and Destroyer of the Noise.

Muse.Fawm.Org

Weird title, but has four really useful tools: a song title generator, a lyrical plot idea suggester, song structure maker, and “Lyricloud” which is random words that are related in some way (Though I don’t know how) and if you click on one word, it generates a whole set of new words that supposedly fit the one you clicked on. Useful for quick lyrical bit ideas. Lots of cool stuff!

Audiotool

This is insanely awesome and involved. It’s like an online version of Propellerhead’s “Reason” software. Click the “Launch App” button at the top of the link to get started if you want to get started right away. Believe me, this is insanely powerful. AND fun.

 

I’ll post more cool ones as I find them… in the meantime, enjoy, and keep writing!

 

 

 

 

 

RECORDING: Simple acoustic panel construction

There are a lot of videos on YouTube showing exactly how to make acoustic panels for your studio room. Here’s how I did it (with little money):

First, find a local insulation place that sells either Owens Corning 703 (typical insulation) or “Rockwool” (technical name Roxul). I found a place that had packs of 6 (16″ by 48″) for about $16 each. Online, they usually sell for $35 and up, before shipping.

Second, grab a bunch of 2x3s from your local hardware store (they come in 8′ lengths). Have the store cut each into a 4 foot piece, and then a 21″ piece, and you can do whatever you want with the scraps. Two of these 2x3s (cut) will make one 4′ by 2′ panel. They’re cheap, so buy a lot.
While you’re at the hardware store, pick up the following:

– picture frame hanging wire (you can get a good length plus the mounting hardware for pretty cheap)
– the “star” top wood screws (I use the brown-ish ones, about 2.5″ long). These are for screwing your frame together
– those things that keep a picture hanging AWAY from the wall (they nail into the frame, and have felt feet that keep the panels not flush against the wall). I forget what they’re called.
– staples and a staple gun (if you don’t already have one)

Third, go to Joann Fabrics (or hit up their website) and pick up unbleached muslin (if you don’t mind the color, I don’t), and get about 45 yards of it (36″ wide). You can make about 15 acoustic panels with this amount of fabric, if you use it for the front, and the back of your panel.

Bring all the stuff home, and carefully put your frames together (there’s really no easy way to do this– well, for a dork like me). The shorter pieces go between the longer lengths, to make the outer frame exactly 2×4 feet. Try to brace each piece of wood against a wall or something, so when you’re screwing it together, you can keep a perfect rectangle…. although again, this isn’t easy (for a dork like me).

Cut your fabric a little bigger than your frame (for each frame)… staple the back first (make sure the fabric is tight), and then cut off the excess.

Lay your roxul/insulation in (wear gloves), and then staple the front fabric to the frame. Cut off the excess and you’re good to go.

I just made 7 of these last night, and they look/work great. Easy builds.

Next batch, I’ll take some photos. In the meantime, just search YouTube and find “DIY acoustic panels” or “rockwool home studio” or something like that.

This is pretty much essential to do, for any home studio. Reflections suck, and make recordings sound like ass. Don’t be like the people who don’t research. Your room is 50% of your recording quality.  The performance/quality of the performer & song is 40% of the recording quality, and the mic and preamps and all that other crap is the other 10%. Start with a well-treated room, and man, you will really appreciate your investment and hard work, down the line when you release more and more recordings.

SONGWRITING: Get out of the rhythm rut

Usually when I’m working song ideas out on acoustic guitar, I tend to play in the same damn tempo and rhythm, all the time. Typical strumming… around 90bpm. I’m a big fan of 90bpm, because I love producing instrumental hip-hop beats, and 90 is pretty much the tempo of most good hip-hop.

But for guitar strumming and stuff, it gets old, fast.

So get out of the rhythm rut. Stop strumming 8th notes up & down all the time! Chances are, if you haven’t been writing songs much, you might be overusing 8th note strumming patterns. And if you’re a pianist, you might be overusing that “Hey Jude” rhythm pattern (8th notes in left hand, quarter notes in the right). God knows, we all have.

Here are some indie acoustic guitar and piano songs of varying tempos/feels that all have interesting rhythms and grooves… it’s a Spotify playlist… so get Spotify if you don’t have it (it really kicks ass):

 

Some examples in the playlist above:

Jets to Brazil “All Things Good And Nice” (half notes on piano)

Matt Costa “Vienna” (Bossa Nova-style strumming pattern on guitar)

Fun “The Gambler” (piano arpeggio in 6/8 time)

Jack Johnson “Taylor” (lots of funky single-string picking, and fast strumming over a slow feel)

and lots of examples of fingerpicking in various rhythms