Day 7 — Track Breakdown
Hope everyone is enjoying their Wednesday!
Before I jump into the breakdown, I’m going to set a little rule for myself. If I didn’t make the music the day before, I probably won’t talk about it. It makes it a bit harder to remember why I did the things I did, and also I want to keep looking forward.
It actually stressed me out a bit having to break down older things and realizing how bad it was.
Also, I know I said I’d talk about my first two tracks, so I’ll meet myself halfway and just post it right at the top with the one I’m breaking down.
So with that being said, let’s jump right in!
For pretty much every track that I’ve made, arrangement is an afterthought. I’ve been finding it super difficult to wrap my head around the whole track because it tends to change and evolve.
The way that I’ve made music lately is from the intro to the end. Trying to give the song whatever I feel it needs, not letting it get stale, and just hoping it sounds better than my last one.
I haven’t done a ton of research on improving arrangement. One tip I haven’t tried is thinking of an emotion, or thinking about the emotional trip you want to take the listener, and do your best to create that.
Say you want a song that goes from happy, to sad, to happy. That’s when you can use your music theory and, for example, start the song with C Major, then go to Aminor (the relative minor to C Major), then back to C Major or another major scale.
This would then provide me with a sort of road map. It takes the thinking out of the song and then let’s me just feel my way through the process.
I think I’ll give this a try at some point in the next week!
Also, since I’m learning more about arrangement, instead of saying verse1, verse2, etc, I’m going to talk about the song using terms like A section and B section. This helps me understand the arrangement a bit more.
This song is:
One thing that I wanted to try with this track, is having an intro that gives nothing away. I’m sure you’ve all heard a song that has 4 to 8 bars in the beginning of the song, then the shit just goes in a very different direction. I’ve never tried it so I figured it would be cool.
The only thing that the intro has in relation to the rest of the song, is that it is in the same key, and it is actually the same synth sound, but with parameter changes.
The whole song uses the same sound because I felt that if I did that, there would be a bit of harmony between the different sounds, while also sounding different because one has more reverb or whatever.
Looking back on it, I could see why this would create a flat sound instead of something with a lot of character. It’s beating the listener over the head with the same sound.
The A Section — Piano
So I actually think this is pretty cool. This isn’t something that I made up, but it’s actually a piano exercise. For anyone who has seriously practiced piano, you might notice that this is just Hanon #5.
There are a bunch of piano exercises created by a man named Charles Louis Hanon. Hanon lived in the 1800’s and his exercises are meant to give your playing speed, dexterity, strength, and accuracy.
Here’s a link to a site all about him and his exercises. Hanon Online
So I played this with varying velocity, and pretty much called it a day.
A Section — Drums
So I’m really excited about these drums. This is the first track that I’ve ever made in it’s entirety where I didn’t use a step sequencer and just played everything myself.
What a step sequencer is, is drawing in and picking where in a grid your sound will play. This leads to your drums sounding very robotic.
You might notice that the drums might be a bit off time since I’m not a drummer, but this will get better over time.
The drums in the A section include an 808 kick, two snares, and a high hat.
The 808 comes in on every 1 and 3, and the snare comes in on every 4. I threw in some variations to spice it up a bit, but the pattern is pretty basic.
The high hat comes in from bars 5 to 8 and is there to just keep time and create a sort of build up for the remainder of the song.
That woodpecker type snare is there because I thought it sounded cool. I don’t know how I feel about it, but it sounded better there than taking it out.
The B section — Piano
I cut up the Hanon on this section and copied the section that I cut and pushed it over. I did this to give it that sort of choppy sound.
This was all for the purpose of variation. I probably could have made some tweaks to this, but I was more focused on moving forward.
This is the biggest addition to the B section. To be honest, there wasn’t much though to this. I let that cut up section of the Hanon play on repeat and just played whatever came to mind. Here is what it looks like from a theory standpoint.
C chord-G-G5 chord-A-A5 chord-F(octave)-A-F(octave)-A-F(octave).
So I played this, had the Hanon over it, but something still felt off. So I just duplicated the exact sound as the Hanon, went to the high end of the keyboard, and played this.
I used this to really kick off the drums again. I stuck with the main theme of C here. Here is what it looks like from a theory perspective.
C, D-C, D-E-D-C, G-E-C
I want to apologize if this isn’t the correct way to write these by the way. If anyone knows, let me know and I’ll change this moving forward.
The drums for this section don’t vary too much from the A section but the high hats are there to send you off into the break.
There isn’t anything flashy going on there. I just kept this little freestyle that I did and added a regular kick underneath. At the end, I used some hats again to segue into the next section.
That’s pretty much it for this one! This one took about two hours to make. I may not be too happy with the final result, but I did love how painless it was. I think I’m going to just start shutting my brain off and cranking them out. I’ve noticed that when I think too much about sound selection and shit like that, it just gets in the way.
I hope you all enjoy your Wednesday, and talk to you guys tomorrow!