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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Music Making Techniques, Volume 1

There are lots of cool hints and techniques I've wanted to share, but I couldn't think of a good context in which to deliver them. So decided to just put them together in a series of articles. Enjoy!

Stealth Chords:
So you have an interesting chord progression in your song. Instead of just leaving your chords as basic triads or whatever, try to change them up a little to make them unique. Take out some of the notes, or arppegiate it occasionally. This may help make the chords blend better with the rest of the music, and it will keep surprising the listener.

Many folks hate fadeouts. I think they're pretty cool, if done well. If you're doing a fadeout at the end of your song, try introducing a new element just seconds before the song fades out completely. Something like a new melody or maybe a new melody played by a new instrument. This makes the fade out more interesting and will make the song feel like its part of something larger.

Hard Panning:
If you have an element in your song that's in the center channel but you want it to have a nice, big presence, try doubling the track and then panning one hard left and one hard right. Sometimes this can give the sound a large enveloping feel.

Key Changes:
You've seen Jeopardy right? You know the Jeopardy song? Halfway through it they do a key change, but they don't change anything in the song! It's the exact same music, just transposed up a few steps. I hate this with the fire of a thousand suns. I call that 'technique' artificial lengthening. There's nothing wrong with key changes; they can add so much life to your piece, but for the love of Mike, at least change the melody, if not everything else. Okay, rant over.

Orchestras Play in Concert Halls:
remember that if you are making orchestral/symphonic sounding stuff, reverb is very important! Listen to any orchestral recording and you'll hear lots of beautiful reverberation. Spend a lot of time tweaking your settings until it sounds like a real concert hall, and consider simply putting a reverb effect over the entire mix. Whichever works best.

Radio Voice:
When recording vocals, for whatever purpose, I've found that a lot of amateurs won't mess with equalization much and leave the voice as is. It's a good idea to play around with the vocals, for instance try cutting out some of the low end. This will often give it a more realistic sound, allow it to mix better, and avoid that deep, booming 'radio voice'. Pay attention to some of your favorite albums and you'll see that the singer doesn't have a lot of deep low-end in his or her voice.

That's all for this edition! Feel free to add your own writing or production techniques in the comments section.

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