ok so last time i left off with having a basic idea -chords, melody, rhythm, etc.
now were to go from there?
for me, it’s usually time to lay down some basic drum beats play a little bass guitar. because it’s just me making all the music, i have to wear all the “hats” in my one man band. and the first hat i put on is the drummer hat. while i do play a little drums, i don’t actually own a drum kit (yet!) so i use one of the myriad of drum synth programs out there to help me get the job done. i load up the synth in my digital workstation of choice (cakewalk sonar) and go tune my bass.
in tune and ready to go, i then start playing around w/the chords or melody or whatever i started out with, recording them all and seeing what i like best (BTW, always record any idea snippets you may have! don’t just wait till you’ve got a finished product in your head!). once i’ve settled on a basic progression and bass line that works, i start listening to different beats, trying to find the one that works best w/that set of ideas. once i’ve got that, it’s time to get down to business.
i load the drum beats that work best into a track of their own and tweak the hits, feel, tempo as needed. then i start laying down the bass.
an aside – for years i’ve used a sansamp for tracking bass guitar and scratch/temporary tracks for lead guitar, but recently i’ve started using a digital amp emulator for bass. it’s fast and i can make adjustments to the sound on the fly without ever needing to re-record things. i’ve tried digital for lead guitar and while i do like the sound, the feel just isn’t there for me. for me and my hands the digital simulations seem to work best for cleaner tones, like bass guitar and clean rhythm guitar.
back to it then… i spend a lot of time making sure the drums and bass sound good together and provide the kind of feel i’m after. speaking of feel – what kind of song is it? what kind of feel? is it fast, slow, medium tempo? rock, funk, jazz, country, blues, hip hop, reggae? it all depends on the idea you started with. you have to tailor the rhythm section to fit the particular style you’re doing and work accordingly. an insightful bit of advice from songwriter/musician/bassist me’shell ndegeocello that i read years ago “a band is only as good as it’s rhythm section.” and it’s served me well. once you’ve laid a solid foundation, almost anything you put on top it bound to stand up and shine. i focus on getting the parts to lock and to carry the weight and momentum of the song in preparation for the rest of the band.
which i’ll talk about next time…