Jump to content


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


tunesmithth last won the day on April 24

tunesmithth had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

63 Excellent


About tunesmithth

  • Rank
    Active Muse

Contact Methods

  • Website URL
  • Blog
  • YouTube

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
    St. Louis, MO

Previous Fields

  • Lyricist, Composer or Both?
  • Musical Influences?
    Goo Goo Dolls, Bonnie Raitt, Clapton, Allman Brothers, Doors, Springsteen & many, many more

Recent Profile Visitors

9,384 profile views
  1. Can't Be Bothered

    Good point...and one I neglected to mention! I have both open & closed back headphones, but always use the open-back style (AKG 400s) for recording vocals. Many times I'll move one the earpieces to the side of my head (behind the ear). That's allows me to monitor target pitch (previously recorded tracks) through one ear, while hearing my vocal delivery via the open air. Kind of a reverse version of what you see singers do live when they're having difficulty hearing monitors. They hold their finger on one ear, closing it off to outside sound...allowing them to hear their own vocal part more clearly. Best advice I can give ya' is to experiment & figure out what works best for you. Tom
  2. Can't Be Bothered

    Towards that end, I have a couple of suggestions. IMHO this type of bare bones track does NOT benefit from vocal doubling, regardless of the singer. Were I you, I'd think in baby steps...at least for now. Spend as much time as it takes to come up with a single vocal that's true to pitch & effective in expressing whatever you're trying to convey. Best I can tell, you're either overdriving the mic or the input levels on your DAW. The end result is an unnecessarily distorted vocal. This is something you need to correct before going any further. If you're singing right on top of the mic, try backing off a bit. Test your input levels BEFORE doing an actual take. Make sure you're not driving the level beyond that zero mark (clipping). Then playback what you've recorded, listen to it, see if's sounding clean. Try positioning your mic in a way that allows you to see the channel input meter while you're singing the part. These things need to be right before you even attempt an actual take. When you record your vocal, are you recording it bare-bones? By that I mean, EQ, reverb or any type of effect added to it. If you're not, you should be! Too often folks who aren't comfortable with their vocal ability try to fool their brains into thinking it sounds better than it does while recording it. Bottom line - you don't want to do that...ever! Whatever it sounds like, good or bad, that's what you want to be hearing when you play it back. You want to hear it as it is...no embellishment! Once you're certain it sounds OK, THEN you can add embellishments. Hope some of ssuggestions help. Good luck & try to enjoy the process! Tom
  3. Driving

    Ah yes, but you and I aren't ... I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of folks I've known who aren't, focus on the vocal...& the delivery of it. I've always attributed that to the fact that human beings are drawn toward things they understand & are capable of personally identify with. Since it's tough for non-musicians to comprehend what's going on musically, they gravitate toward voice, perceived lyrical message & melody. None of that means I'm right, just opinionated. Gotta go...Have a good one! Tom
  4. Driving

    Enjoyed the llisten...I'll give you the good news first. You've picked up 3 new subscribers for your YouTube channel...all me. As luck would have it, I have thoughts on both. Song structure Let me begin by being completely honest...when I pulled your song up the first time, I listened for a little over 1 minute, heard nothing except sporadic acoustic guitar & background traffic noise, became quickly bored & turned it off. Several hours passed, I got home from work, saw that several others had left comments pertaining to vocals & additional instrumentation...so I figured I'd give it another shot & listen to it all the way through. I've now done that, but I gotta tell ya'...my best guess is that many, many ordinary non-musician listeners are going to do exactly as I did...turn it off early. Why you ask? Simple! Because typical listeners focus on "the vocal"! The structure you chose waits until the 1:27 mark to even bring a 2nd instrument into the mix. At that point, there's still no hint of a vocal, but at least we know there will be more to the song than a single acoustic guitar. At the 2 minute mark, your vocal enters for the first time letting the listener know that the song isn't an instrumental. MHO that's, far too long...'nuf said. Tempo Change Yep...it occurs right around the 3:10 mark...after your first minute of vocals. I have only one question. Why? Best I could tell, it's wasn't part of a larger shift (modulation, time signature, etc..). You simply continued playing the same thing s l o w e d d o w n. To be brutally honest, it didn't sound cool, it didn't sound creative...it sounded random & it sounded incorrect. Once again, IMHO your song would be far better off without it. I've always believed that the objective of the critique process was to assist the poster in their efforts to improve what they already have. When you boil it all down, that's what I'm doing...sharing my qualified opinions about how your song might be improved. The decision about how much weight to give my opinions is entirely yours! If you chose to disregard everything I've said, no harm done. The only other thing I wanted to mention has to do with the presentation of your vocal. Again, IMHO that is the most important part of your song. Bottom line - my impression was that you didn't spend much time on the structuring of it, or the final performance (recording). Many of the lines sounded awkwardly phrased. You'd be better served to focus a little more on the best way to comfortably fit each line of lyric into the space allowed for it. Try to make your lines flow more naturally, rather than sounding forced. Tjhey shouldn't sound like youforced them into the allotted space. And when you double a vocal, the fact that you've done it should be barely noticeable. In many spots your doubling is poorly timed & pitchy. Again, it's simply a matter of how you assign your priorities. I'm suggesting that your vocals be priority #1. OK, I'm all done...hopefully you find something I've said here useful. If not, no harm done & good luck with your material & musical efforts. Tom Sorry, I do one more question. Out of curiosity, were your drums recorded last...after everything else? If the answer is "yes", a simple way to correct that tightness issue others mentioned is to record them "first". For the areas of the song containing no drums, leave a click track in their place. THEN record all the other tracks, using that previously established percussion track as a timing center.
  5. Where Were You?

    Where Were You? - "When The Hammer Came Down" (House of Freaks) Tom
  6. Books?

    Yep, I've had several editions of the Songwriter's Market over the years...the most recent being a 2003 edition.. God only knows why I hung onto it, for posterity I guess Used to own a copy of "The Business of Music"...still have a hardbound version of Rolling Stone's "Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll". Tom
  7. - Understanding the Thought Process Behind Drum-Part Creation - Whether you compose through electronic means or utilize an actual drum kit, it’s helpful to know what works best, what doesn’t & why. Regardless of method, the thought process behind creation is the same. Brief audio snippets (green text) are scattered throughout this article. Opening the links as “new tabs” allows you to hear the example while you’re reading the corresponding description. As a starting point, I’ve put together a short-list of variables. These are things I take into consideration when structuring drum parts for a new song. What’s the genre of the song? For a multitude of reasons, I don't begin structuring a final drum part until song-basics are pretty well set. By basics, I mean: Melody A rough idea of lyrical content & subject matter Backing chord patterns (basics of the song's musical movement) Tentative song structure (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) Those basic components tell me what type of song I'm dealing with. Regardless of personal preference, the drum part you craft should be an appropriate match for song & genre. For example, a typical metal drum line probably won't fit well in a country/pop song. By itself, the part may sound cool & impressive. More-so, if you happen to be a fan of metal. The thing is, no one will ever hear it by itself! It’ll only be heard within the context of the song. Bottom line - writing new parts is always about how they affect the song as a whole, NOT about the part itself. As a drummer, I was slow to learn that lesson. As a songwriter, it was immediately obvious. Perspective is an amazing thing! Genre is a vague concept. Because of that, it's not unusual for a song to straddle several. Proper arrangement choices (including drum parts) can help push that song in one direction or another. Let’s look at a specific example (audio snippet #1 - “I Hope To Be”) …say your song straddles country & pop. You could push it in the direction of country by employing twangy guitars and a country sounding drum part. How is the movement of the melody structured (meter, flow, rhythm)? Remember…melody is the single most important part of any song! Whether it's sung or played instrumentally, that melody & its appeal have a huge effect on the song's likability. If you're the songwriter, this is your money-maker. Protect it at all costs! If you're the drummer, you need to recognize & accept a harsh reality. Your drum part will NOT be the reason that listeners like the song! It can certainly be a contributing factor, but it will NOT the big reason. I was a drummer long before I became a songwriter, so I've stood on both sides of this argument. Drummers prefer challenging parts…songwriters want parts appropriate for the song. And while I do empathize, it all boils down to this…“arrangements are created as support for songs”, not the other way around. What matters most is how your part effects the song as a whole. Moving right along, try to craft something that compliments the melodic movement of the song. Once you have a specific part in mind, try playing it along with the melody. If others are involved in the project, ask for their input. If you’re working alone, songwriter/musician forums can be useful for obtaining outside perspectives. What type of arrangement do you have in mind? I'm not suggesting the whole arrangement be set-in-stone before starting the drum part, but it’s helpful to have at least a rough idea. Do you plan to use piano? Are you thinking of multiple guitar tracks? Might additional percussion be a good fit (congas, tambourine, shaker, etc.)? What I’m getting at is this…whatever ideas you do have for the arrangement, factor those into the creation of your drum part. I’ll list a few more in-depth examples: A) If you plan a busy arrangement…with lots of instrumental movement, a simpler drum part may be better. A song isn't a contest for dominance! If you have cool ideas for intricate piano parts & a tasteful signature guitar track, your drum part should allow those parts to shine through. No, the drums don’t have to be boring! Just build the complexities into simpler song sections. Those piano & guitar parts I referred to…let's say they’re intended for the verses & bridge. That means your chorus sections can employ a more sophisticated drum part. Varying the dominant instrument from section to section adds variety to an arrangement. It also makes the dominant instrument more noticeable. When that chorus section rolls around & the drums start kicking butt, that change immediately grabs the listeners’ attention. B Sometimes arrangements are sparse. It’s not unheard of to strip instrumentation down, utilizing only bass & drums for the verse sections. This type of arrangement presents the perfect opportunity for creative drum parts. You can experiment with intricate syncopation, polyrhythms…really flex those creative muscles. Limited, simple instrumentation = fewer potential conflicts. C) If some parts of your arrangement are already fixed (final), do those parts heavily accent specific counts? Do several parts accent the same counts? I ask these questions because it is possible to over-do accents. Too much duplication can make an arrangement sound stiff. D) What impact, if any, would you like drums to have on the songs’ development.... beginning-to-end? I’ll clarify that question a bit by breaking it into smaller parts: a) Would you like the song to build as it progresses? If you do, drums are an easy way to achieve that end. It's not uncommon to bring them in gradually, layering in additional complexity & momentum as the song progresses. b Would you like a specific section of the song to jump out & grab the listener’s attention? (snippet #2 - “The Real World”) One way to achieve that is to hold back much of the instrumentation (including all the drums). The song you hear playing in the background does exactly that. "The Real World" begins with a verse comprised of a single guitar & vocal, adds an organ around the half-way point, then smacks you all at once with the entry of drums, bass, piano, a second guitar & doubled vocal. c) Would you prefer drums to play a minimal part in the songs’ development? One way to achieve that is with a consistent sounding drum track. Something with the same feel start-to-finish. "Rain King" by Counting Crows is a great example of consistency. d) Would a change in drum tempo, from half time - to full time be useful? (snippet #3 - “Don’t Lie To Yourself”) It’s a common method for varying the feel of a song. Say your song is set at 120 BPM. The beat used for your verse sections can be made to feel as if it's being played at 60 BPM, while the choruses are played full-time (120 BPM). Selecting Beat Patterns Have you ever heard a song on the radio & been instantly being drawn to it? For years I accepted that experience at face value, never bothering to ask myself why. Then I began writing songs. As a writer, I discovered it was in my best interest to explore those whys. Why am I attracted to some songs more than others? For me, the answer has a lot to do with the feel & flow of a song. Both of which depend upon beat & rhythmic choices. You may have noticed that the subtitle for this section is plural - ”patterns”. Ideally, you will select MORE THAN ONE. It's not uncommon to use 2 or 3 variations of a basic pattern for the verses of a song, then select something entirely different for the choruses. Bridge sections are often assigned unique patterns, to help set them apart from the rest of the song. Before leaving this section, I’ll share a few commonly used methods for building in variation. (*All examples assume a right-handed drummer.) 1) You can vary the specific part of the drum set being played by the right hand from section-to-section. (snippet #4 - "Someday") For example - hi-hat for the verses, ride cymbal for the chorus sections. It's a small change, but the impact on the overall texture of the song can be quite dramatic. For additional variety, you can sprinkle in a few hi-hat openings, as this example does in the verse sections. 2) You can vary hi-hat technique within a given song section. Playing it tightly-closed produces a very crisp, structured sound. Playing it semi-opened gives you a looser, free-floating feel. It's common for harder-driving songs to use the 2nd option. Pop rock & country tend to employ the tightly closed version, but often combine the 2 techniques. For example - tightly closed most of the verse, then semi-opened for the final measure or two. That small change produces a shift in texture just prior to entry of the chorus. The variance also serves to announce the coming of a change. It often precedes a cymbal crash, which punctuates the actual change in sections. 3) You can employ a basic right-hand rhythm, then utilize misc. percussion to embellish the feel of the pattern. For example - a quiet 1/4 note right-hand hi-hat (1-2-3 & 4 counts), then on a separate track record a tambourine or soft-shake to fill-in the straight 1/8 note feel. That gives it a busier, more constant overall texture. It also adds variety & depth to the rhythmic feel. 4) It’s common in metal & hard rock genres for the right hand to play a straight pattern on the edge of a crash-ride cymbal. This technique produces an effect comparable to a prolonged crash. When it’s combined with the heavy rates of compression that are commonly used in those genres, it adds a blurred, heavy edge to the song. I have one final piece of beat-pattern advice to pass on to non-drummer songwriters. Please…when you put together a song demo, DON’T select a single mechanical beat & use it beginning-to-end. IMHO nothing makes a demo sound more amateurish! It doesn’t have to sound like Neil Peart, but it does need some variation. Remember…every part of an arrangement impacts the listener’s impression. That includes your drum track! The Story on Rolls (Fills) You’ll find that opinions vary on…. · when to use a roll · what type is most appropriate · how complex they should be For drummers, many of those decisions are determined by personal style. Since most non-drummer songwriters lack percussive expertise, they tend to be guided by listening experience. For this tutorial, I’m going to stick to basics & allow plenty of room for personal discretion. Beats serve primarily to establish rhythmic feel, but rolls are used for a variety of functions: 1) Prevent monotony - In other words, to break up the consistent flow established by your beats, making the overall rhythm track more interesting. 2) Serve as fills… much as lead licks, keyboard or bass riffs do. Rolls are frequently placed between lyric/melody lines to help fill gaps & maintain the momentum. 3) Indicate (announce) a coming change, as demonstrated by the next audio clip. (snippet #5 -"Pentatonic Playground"-vs./ch) Some examples being…. the start of a new vocal sequence a change from verse to chorus a shift in dynamics…quiet to loud, or visa-versa Rolls are also used in combination with lead licks, or other fill elements. (snippet #6 - “Pentatonic Playground”-ending) When they’re employed in this way, caution should be exercised. You want to avoid timing conflicts between fill instruments. Bottom line – it’s harder to pull-off, but very cool when it’s done cleanly! It’s common to alternate fill instruments. You can use a drum roll this time, a guitar lick next time, keyboard run, and so on. This will get you even more variety, with the added benefit of making each fill instrument more prominent. Listeners notice them more because they’re the only instrument presenting variation at that particular moment. To Crash or Not-To Crash Cymbal crashes are useful tools when employed tastefully. Here are a few examples of common applications: - to accent, or call attention to a specific count within a measure - to add dynamics to a section of music by boosting the high-end frequencies & overall volume of that specific section - to mark a change in the structure of the song (for example, moving from the verse to chorus) - in combination with rolls, particularly longer, more elaborate ones…to break them up, reinforce accents and add color, as shown in the brief demonstration below Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube
  8. Either flat or sharp of the intended pitch, but not dead-on. For the sake of full disclosure, I've never heard the Prince version of this, so my comments were strictly based on what I heard in your version. Unfortunately, the system I'm on right now won't allow access to the link you included, so I'll have to check it out later. Tom
  9. Where Were You?

    OK, 1 more... Where Were You? - "Texas" (Chris Rea) Tom
  10. Just to be clear, when I referred to minor timing discrepancies in my earlier comment, I was talking about points at which instrument timing sounded less-than-perfect. They were not big issues, but my brain picks up those types of things, so I figured I'd mention 'em. Tom
  11. V e r y cool ! Were it not for Alistair's earlier comments I wouldn't have brought this up, but I can't help wondering how it might sound with... a slightly shorter decay rate on the snare...I'm wondering if that same wide decay is creating minor timing discrepancies in a few spots. the addition of a subtle, off-time high-hat on the "&" counts (8th note counts), 4-per-measure...really quiet, almost to the post of ghosting Other than those insignificant curiousities, The entry line of vocal sounded a tad bit pitchy When the additional instrumentation enters at the 1:45 mark, your vocals lost their dominant position in the mix. At least it sounded that way on my monitors ...perhaps other will chime & add their perspectives. Overall, really nice job ! Enjoyed it very much! Tom
  12. Where Were You?

    As you can tell, I'm a sucker for games like this 3 more that share a common theme... "Brooklyn" (Steely Dan) "Woodstock" (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) "New York, New York"
  13. Where Were You?

    2 more quick ones with a shared theme - "Hot 'Lanta" (Allman Brothers) "Doraville" (Atlanta Rhythm Section) Tom
  14. Where Were You?

    This one even contains the name of the contest - "Where Were You When I Needed You" (The Grass Roots) Tom
  15. The original version of “Middle Class Blues” was written / copyrighted back in 1998. (*Song title is a SoundCloud mp3 link. You're welcome to open it in a 2nd browser window & listen as you read.) As is sometimes the case, I liked the song, but not the arrangement. In 2001 I remedied that situation with a partial rewrite. The revised version incorporated several new elements: a 40 second introduction a 2nd guitar part (rhythm) This new arrangement was re-recorded & that’s the version you’re hearing now. The Idea The song evolved from a guitar progression, set in minor pentatonic block form. I stumbled upon the pattern while practicing scales Built a song & melody around it Chose a topic that worked well with the music Created a lyric Subject Matter In a nutshell, it’s about the plight of middle-class America. As you might expect, it’s written from my perspective & based primarily on personal observations & experiences. Completely appropriate since songwriting is a means of creative self-expression. Lyric Got those middle class blues Well when I look at my economic state With what I make I ought to be livin’ great You gotta know my heart gets to feelin’ down When tax time comes around I pay for schools that I don’t even use I fund a war on drugs that we’re bound to lose You got know that I keep-a-waitin’ for Some way to even the score Got those middle class blues! Well now I know that I need to pay my share But while suppliers get rich from Medicare I’ve got to ask myself what it’s all about I just can’t figure it out ! The wealthy don’t pay much, cause they know the game The underprivileged can’t, the end result’s the same That leaves the middle class to pay & pay Hope we get our someday! Got the middle class blues! Copyright 1998 – Tom Hoffman Over the years, the timeless nature of this lyric has been mentioned more than once. Sadly enough, it’s as relevant now as it was in 98. Purchasing power of the middle class hasn’t improved. Middle class tax burden hasn’t decreased. I still pay into a tax base for schools that I’ve never used. NO, I’m not advocating a school voucher alternative! I simply have no children. No children = no use of schools. Our “war on drugs” has been an utter failure, yet we continue funding it with tax dollars year after year. Pharmaceutical profits continue to grow, since our government is no longer allowed to negotiate the cost of Medicare drugs. Thank you G.B.! More tax loopholes exist for the wealthy today. The poor are no more able to contribute to our tax base than they were in 98. Leaving the middle class to shoulder the lions’ share of the tax burden. The end result being – “We’ve got the Middle-Class Blues!” None of those areas has shown improvement in the past 20 years. I’m sure there are conclusions to be drawn from that, but I leave those to you. I am but a humble songwriter stating the obvious. Song Structure Introduction / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Guitar Based Verse-Refrain Section / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Ends on Repeat of Musical Refrain Musical Fundamentals “Middle Class Blues” is a guitar-based arrangement…key of A# minor. If I do say so myself, some of my more creative guitar work. When I made the decision to add that 40 second musical introduction, I doomed the song to commercial failure. If you weren’t aware, long introductions are frowned upon in the world of commercial songwriting. Since the average listener tends to focus on vocal, delaying its’ entry is tempting fate. Attention spans being what they are, your listener may go elsewhere. BUT…since I’m not a professional songwriter, my focus was on creating a well written song, not a commercially viable one! When you make your living elsewhere, you can afford to base decisions on personal preference, rather than industry norms. That being said, I did build in a little something to help with damage control...“Got those Middle Class Blues”! That single line of vocal at the beginning of the song: 1. Tells the listener that there WILL BE vocals in the song. Why does that matter? Because some people, including my wife, won't listen to instrumentals. If she thinks it’s an instrumental, she will simply turn it off. 2. Re-enforces the lyrical hook…that catchy phrase you want to stick in your listeners’ head after the song has ended. BTW in this song, it’s also the last line heard. Final Production Notes This was one of the first songs I recorded after upgrading to the digital realm. My Tascam PortaStudio 788 had a total of 8 recordable tracks…6 mono & one stereo pair (tracks 7 & 8). 4 tracks were used for guitar, all done with my SG 1 track for bass guitar 1 for vocal Drums were recorded in stereo (7/8) Performance Credits Guitars, Bass, Drums & Vocal – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube