“Slow Down” was my very first song.
(*Song title is an mp3 link. You're welcome to listen as you read.)
Originally written/arranged/recorded in 1995, it was rerecorded 3 years later.
Although copyright is considered valid from the date of creation (1995), the song wasn’t officially registered with the Library of Congress until 1998.
Typically, my songs evolve from one of 4 starting points:
- a chord progression
- a riff/pattern
- a section of melody
- a central theme
This particular song grew out of a progression. While experimenting with combinations of 2 & 3 note intervals, an interesting pattern emerged.
It utilizes traditional I-IV-V framework, but layered changes within the framework give it a unique flavor.
The song is set in Mixolydian mode. For those not familiar with the term, it’s essentially a diatonic major scale/key, with the 7th note flattened.
The flattening of that single note alters the step pattern, dramatically changing the feel of the resulting composition.
Although it’s common practice to utilize notes not contained in the primary scale (key), I chose not to do that.
Every note played or sung in this song falls within the confines of A mixolydian.
Three separate guitar tracks were written for this arrangement.
- The primary guitar plays the progression depicted in that earlier tab chart.
- The secondary guitar part is all 2-note intervals.
- Guitar track #3 is comprised of single-note leads and fills.
Introduction (8 sec.) / 8 Bar Musical Interlude / Verse-Refrain / 4 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Bridge (Middle-8) / 8 Bar Interlude / Verse-Refrain / Ending w. fade
Because of the feel established by that primary guitar progression, this song wouldn’t have worked with an uplifting lyric.
Serious, dark subject matter was called for & substance abuse (specifically alcoholism) was my final choice.
I wrote it from the perspective of the alcoholic (first person), in this case male.
It depicts the abuser’s downward spiral, revealing his changing mind-set as the addiction progresses & the relationship disintegrates.
Melody & meter were written before the lyric, as is the case with most of my songs.
The downside of this particular structure was that it didn’t allow for many words.
I had to rely on subtle changes in person, tense & tone to convey my lyrical message.
Personally, I enjoy the challenge that comes with that style of writing, but it does present obstacles:
- The message/meaning isn’t as obvious.
- A greater burden is placed upon the listener to listen intently.
- If you try to cherry-pick key words & phrases from this lyric, as happens with more popular forms of music, you’re likely to miss the point.
I smile and start another day
You smile and tell me it’s OK
We should have known we would get through it
You’d think we’d know by now
I promise I…won’t drink much tonight
I know I blame my life on you
You tell me I don’t have a clue
You should have known not to back-talk me
I’d think you’d know by now
I know that I..said I would slow down
Should slow down
Must slow down
Will slow down
Next week swear I’ll slow down!
I get up & start another day
You’re not here to tell me it’s OK
I should have known you didn’t love me
You’d think I’d know by now
I don’t care if…I ever slow down!
Final Production Notes
Both the 1995 and 98 recordings of this were done on a Tascam 424 (4-track analog cassette recording deck).
Some years later, when I converted to a digital setup, those original analog tracks were transferred to the new digital system, cleaned up, compressed & remixed.
That digital remix is the version you’re listening to now.
- The drum track was recorded all at once. No overdubs were possible, because it was done using a freestanding electronic metronome. With old analog decks, if you tried to record a standard click-track, you’d end up with ghosts of it bleeding through to other tracks. Even after the click track was erased, remnants of it remained & would be audible on the final recording.
- Drums & bass guitar shared a single-mono track. Drums were recorded first, then primary guitar, then bass. At that point in the process, a premix of drums & bass was bounced over to the remaining open track. That premix-bounce allowed the original recordings of each to be erased. Additional guitar was recorded onto 1 of those newly vacated tracks…lead vocal onto the other. Final lead licks were recorded last, squeezed onto whatever track space remained.
- All guitar parts were recorded through a mic'd amp, with effects already applied.
- EQ & effects for the drum track were added pre-tape.
Compared to modern standards, this was like working with stone knives & bearskins, but it got the job done!
- Drums, Guitars, Bass guitar & Vocal – Tom Hoffman
Supplemental Video (1 min. 9 sec. demonstration / primary guitar progression) – https://youtu.be/x5dzZMNeVlk
"About Me" Muse Member pg.
*BTW that MP3 link at the top is set-up as free download.
If you'd like a copy for your personal use, you have my permission.