03 – Starting a new track

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you my process for starting a new track, which is something I do every day – I’ll do a video on my daily ‘Splurging’ at a later date. The idea is to have as little ‘designing the track’ input as possible but to allow the track to develop in the way it wants to. I know, it sounds ridiculous but let me explain.

If you’re anything like me, you have probably experienced this many times in the past. You know, where you have the start of an idea down and you spend the next 30-40 minutes trying to work out (design) the best possible guitar/keyboard/bass/etc. part to fit with the track. And inevitably what happens is the initial idea, which you were really excited about, becomes dull, boring and the worst thing you’ve ever done. So you bin the idea and in the worst-case, decide you can’t ‘do’ music, you just have no ‘creativity’… Familiar?

So, what’s changed? The track certainly hasn’t. It must be your perception of it that’s changed. And that change has come about by the continual listening to the track while you’re figuring out (designing) the ‘perfect’ guitar/keyboard/bass/etc. part.

I struggled with this for 15 or 20 years and in that time hardly ever finished a track. Less than a handful, seriously. I’d have folders full of 4, 8, or 16 bar loops with names like ‘great groove’, ‘slow number Cm’ and ‘funky 6’ but nothing finished. I loved the idea of being a ‘composer’ or ‘music producer’ but how could I be if I hadn’t any finished tracks?

A few years later (around 2009) I, fortunately, stumbled upon a book called ‘Guerilla Home Recording‘ by Karl Coryat, which is a fab book for cutting through the BS of expensive gear and looks at methods of making the equipment you have work. Through reading that I found another book by Karl Coryat called ‘The Frustrated Songwriters Handbook’ and that blew my mind. The main idea behind the book is a thing called the ‘Immersion Music Method’ where you spend an entire day trying to write 20 songs. I know, bonkers. Now, I have never tried the 20 Song Game but the general philosophy of the book is to get your finger outta your nose and get on with it, write quickly, do whatever comes up and, most importantly, don’t worry about it! Perfect!

So, how does this help? Read on!

The basic rules:

  1. Spend little to no time thinking about musical parts and go with the first thing you think of (where possible); a gut feeling if you will.
  2. Stop playing back what you’ve just recorded.
  3. No judgement on quality – don’t worry whether the track is any good or not just let it be.
  4. Work very quickly. Try and be done in 15 – 20 minutes.
  5. Don’t force a second section, however, if something comes to mind while you working, go for it.
  6. Bounce it down to stereo when you’ve finished the session.
  7. Get on with yopur day!

The story doesn’t end there but this video gives a glimpse of how I use this carefree (couldn’t care less!) attitude rather than the design methodology to produce finished tracks.

Thanks for watching and if you have any questions or ideas for further videos please let me know at: andrem@set2records.com

 

If you like what I do please consider supporting me or buying me a beer!

Cheers, Andy x

02 – Creating And Using Templates

Anything that allows you to dive headlong into the art of creation, or discovery, rather than thinking about all the technical stuff that goes along with using a DAW is going to be beneficial to your creative process no end. With that in mind, this tutorial is geared up to demonstrate how to create and use templates.

Templates are extraordinarily useful. Firstly, they take away the need to think about instrumentation and anyone that has been producing music for even a short while will be well aware of the rabbit-hole that is choosing the ‘right’ bass sound for your current project! Also, your most-used FX and processors will be already in place, which will negate the need to painfully considering the merits of every single plugin in your over-stocked FX arsenal – another well-explored rabbit-hole!

As a bonus, due to the limited number of timbres, you’ll be using, templates may well eventually help create ‘your sound’. I for one have been using the same template, which is not unlike the one in the video, for at least 18 months and while I’m not sure I can claim to have a sound yet, I know it is helping move me in that direction.

My example chiefly uses audio tracks and what could be called ‘real’ instruments (i.e. Bass, guitar, organ, percussion, etc.) however, the use of templates is just as useful for electronic producers. Perhaps even more so as they have an entire world of sounds at their fingertips what with all the cheap, overloaded soft-synths now readily available.

Unfortunately, this is quite a lengthy video (around 30 mins, I think) but it will hopefully show you the way forward. But, once the template is in place it can be used forever saving you hours of technical thinking time!

Thanks for watching and if you have any questions or ideas for further videos please let me know at: andrem@set2records.com

 

If you like what I do please consider supporting me or buying me a beer!

Cheers, Andy x

 

01 – Creating Arrangement Maps

Here’s the first of a series of tutorials I’ve developed to help you get the most out of your DAW and music production. In this video, I’ll show how to map-out the arrangement, or form (order of verses and choruses etc.) before you even think about what your actual music will sound like.

The more you can get into the ‘flow’ of making, or as I prefer, discovering your music, the better it will be in the long-run and having your mind distracted by the order of musical sections can only hinder this process.

Once you’ve been through this video it’s a great idea to analyse the order of sections in some of the music you listen to and, if you can be bothered, write these down to form a usable resource. If you do this for more than a few tracks you’ll begin to notice similarities between their arrangements. In reality, there are only a few ways to arrange your verses and choruses, etc. There’s very little need to reinvent the wheel.

There’s a little more info on arrangement, although this article is perhaps a little too stuffy and academic. This article about song structure may be useful.

Please let me know what you think about the video and be sure to let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to cover in future tutorials. Email me at: andrem@set2records.com

 

If you like what I do or you find my tutorials helpful, please consider supporting me or buying me a beer.


Cheers – Andy (André M) x

 

The Belgium Connection.

 

I’d not long finished playing with what I believe was the UK’s first tribute to The Blues Brothers. I’d had an amazing time with the band playing gigs around the country and a few in Europe and the Middle-East but I was getting a bit fed up with chugging up and down the M1 (not to Oman obviously!) three or four times a week and as I recall the ‘big time’ was calling me – Yep, I was still chasing the fame game at this point…

I’d just hooked up with a drummer in Derby, where I was now located, and he had a couple of mates that were chasing the dream in London. Well, I say chasing, it’s probably more accurate to say the dream was sneaking upon them. You see they’d just dropped for a management deal and a few record companies were talking to them. It turns out their management team also looked after Rozalla – The Queen Of Rave – who had just had the hit “Everybody’s Free” so any act on their books was clearly fair game and hotter than a hot thing. Pretty soon they’d signed to a record company in Belgium – Private Life Records.

‘Nice for them’, I thought as my drummer buddy was telling me about it while playing their demo on number eleven at silly o’clock on a Summer’s night with the windows and doors wide open – poor neighbours. Ok for him too as it turned out; they’d asked him to go to Brussels with them to play the drums on their debut album. I wasn’t bothered… honest.

After a couple of days where I wasn’t sulking, (I wasn’t!) The Drummer came around to my house (no mob phones back then and even a landline was a luxury I couldn’t afford) and told me the Dynamic Duo in Londinium wanted a bass player to go to Belgium and do the album and he’d recommended me! Whoop, whoop!

The Drummer and I got down to daily rehearsals using The London chap’s demo cassette as a guide and after a few weeks of this, we eventually got the dates through to go do the album. Great! But then a week later we got the news that Rozalla had got the support on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous tour and my two new best mates down The Smoke had been drafted into her band. And yep, the recording had to be put back while they went and played in front of thousands of people and met and got photographed with just about every rock and pop star that ever lived. A hard life, eh! But I wasn’t in the slightest bit envious… Honest!

Not to worry. We eventually got to go to Belgium to record the album. The London Connection was already there with The Producer and laying down the guide tracks and The Drummer and myself were to drive over there in a week to do our bit. So it was left to me to sort transport and go pick up The Drummer, who when in the car proceeded to open and drink can after can of Ireland’s Finest. He did this all the way down to Dover, at the terminal while we waited to board, all the time we were on the ferry and then all the way from Ostend to Brussels. It wouldn’t have been so bad but after the third can he was wanting a ‘pit stop’ every half hour! On top of this, he was no help at all in negotiating the narrow and dimly lit back streets of the Brussels suburbs while trying to locate the well-hidden recording studio. Drummers, eh!

Anyway, we both did our things in the studio but one of my takes was unceremoniously disturbed when The Queen Of Rave made an appearance. Everything had to stop while she held court for an hour. She was nice enough and everything but I seem to recall I got right p*ssed off about it. I mean, I was halfway through a good take of a song, who does she thinks she is, eh? Spoiling my creative flow… Sheesh!

A week later The Drummer and I had finished our recording duties so we left the others to finish their masterpiece and drove back home – without the Guinness!

Now, I bet you’re wondering what happened to that album. Did it chart? Did it outsell every major release of the time? Did we get to make a promo video or appear on Top Of The Pops? Did we get to do a sellout World tour? Nah, the Gruesome Twosome fell out with The Producer and the record company while the album was still being recorded. So that, as they say, was the end of that. Good fun while it lasted though. I just had to chalk it up to experience. The Drummer? Well, he ended up touring Australia with a band, falling in love over there and eventually living there. Alright for some, eh?

I think this whole thing possibly highlights the issue of record deals, record companies and producers; especially when they aren’t all singing from the same hymn-sheet, which I presume is what happened in Brussels. Obviously, as a ‘hired-hand’ I wasn’t party to the inner workings and politics of the record company, producer and artist trilogy – thankfully.

Nowadays, people can often be heard bemoaning the modern music industry claiming it’s just about dead and there’s no good music about. Well, I disagree. With the wonder that is the internet musicians, songwriters and artist no longer need the antiquated record company to release their music. And the added bonus is it can be done singlehandedly so no falling out with anyone unless you’re the type that can fall out with yourself of course!

Talking of which, don’t forget to check out my Shop, if you want too that is!

Thanks for your time.

Andy x

In The Beginning

 

It was around 1983, I still lived in my home town of Buxton, Derbyshire and I was getting towards the end of the bricklaying apprenticeship I’d always hated so much. I’d been playing bass for around a year (I moved from guitar to bass after seeing Mark King on TV and also hearing Simple Mind’s ’Someone Somewhere In Summertime’) and was doing a few gigs with a local originals band ‘Kamurii’. Even after these small local pub gigs I remember being so depressed the day after whilst putting one on top of two with the wind howling up my backside five scaffold lifts up. The reality of being a rock star, or just a full-time musician, seemed a far fetched dream that was totally unattainable. Add to this the constant advice to ‘just do you music as a hobby and work at a proper job’ from those that are supposed to care meant I was becoming more and more determined to do it.

After a couple of years, several line up changes and a name change, to ‘Kiss Of Shame’ our Peak District Super Group ended up with a new guitarist, Andy. To be honest he won’t be aware of this, but he and his twin brother Steve had a massive positive influence on me and my dream. You see, they were very much the ‘go for it’ type characters. Nothing was an issue and everything was achievable, which blew me away and made me realise that if I really want ‘it’ I just need to do ‘it’. So, I started to practice more and got myself lessons in music theory and what do you know? I started to improve especially in that (at the time) very fashionable slapping and popping thing. 

Another fortuitous thing about being buddies with Andy and Steve was their dad, Barry, was a fabulous guitarist and singer songwriter who had had some great success along the road (some stories say Shane Fenton wanted him in his band but Barry declined. There were also stories about him auditioning for the Rolling Stones but unfortunately I never got to ask him about that.). 

One night when we were rehearsing – in the damp, starchy, fish scented cellar of the singer’s parents’ Fish and Chip shop – Andy brought Barry along to check the band out. Unfortunately he wasn’t too impressed with Kiss Of Shame but he did take a bit of a shine to me, which I believe was due to my slapping prowess. Eventually, to cut a long story short, he asked me to play on some of the album tracks he was currently recording. WOW! 

I practiced the songs day in day out until my fingers hurt and eventually we went into the studio (The Cottage, Macclesfield with ‘Bald Eagle’ engineering) and ‘cut’ the tracks. That was it. I’d landed. I’d tasted what it was like to be a real musician. I had seen behind the door and felt firsthand what it was like to be amongst that special group of humans. Plus it didn’t stop there, within a short time a tour of the South Coast was organised and I got to indulge in that fantastic heady feeling of being ‘on the road’. Playing venues with a proper big P.A system, having your equipment carried, soundchecks, being looked after, great audiences, silly drunken games… Fantastic!  From then on I became even more single minded to get into this music thing and promptly left my job as a bricklayer (Much to the annoyance of my parents!) to follow the very rocky road of stardom…

Fast forward thirty years and after half a dozen albums, too many lost record deals and failed bands, thousands of venues and festivals, millions of miles travelled around bits of the world, gallons of alcohol and tonnes of junk food plus a very unstable relationship with music in general and I still get those same feelings. 

But none of it beats this part of my musical journey with the excitement I have now releasing my own material and I’m looking forward to the next and the next after that.

If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone click here to have a listen.

Thanks for your time.

Andy x