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“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. The Idea 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. Fundamentals 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. Song Structure 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 Subject Matter 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. Lyric 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. Recording process: 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! Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass guitar & Vocal – Tom Hoffman Supplemental Video (1 min. 9 sec. demonstration / primary guitar progression) – https://youtu.be/x5dzZMNeVlk Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube *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.
tunesmithth posted a blog entry in "Tips & Tidbits" (Tom Hoffman)“Don’t Lie To Yourself" was written & recorded in 2002. (*Song title is an mp3 link. You're welcome to listen as you read.) The Idea When I began the writing process, there wasn't much to work with. · A simple chord progression, which evolved into my chorus section. · The hook (title) – “Don’t Lie To Yourself” with a tentative melody for those 4 words. That was it! Subject Matter Titles like this one paint a clear picture of the intended message. Simply put, it’s lyrical advice – “be honest with yourself”. Typically, lyrics with a ‘telling” tone are discouraged in songwriting circles. It seems that people don’t enjoy being told what to do…even in a song. Regardless, I decided to make an exception. In my mind, the title’s strengths outweighed its weaknesses. It was memorable, flowed nicely & would contribute to the mood I was hoping to achieve. Since the title was my central message, chorus sections were used to re-enforce that message & expand upon the “whys”. Verse sections were written last. They were used to set the stage…creatively describing why the chorus message (lyrical hook) was important. Lyrical message … in a nutshell Verses Regardless of what we’re taught as children, lying is one of the undesirable realities of life. The older we get, the clearer that becomes. It goes by many names in polite society…fabrication, mis-speaking, embellishment, selective omission, spin & stretching the truth. But once you strip away the niceties, it boils down to varying degrees of one thing – "something other-than the absolute truth". Choruses Although lying is an ingrained part of our existence, we need to be honest with ourselves. Self-delusion benefits no one…least of all “you”. Lyric Spend our lives…tellin’ tales Stretch and bend…the truth Learned that when…reality fails A lie may do But don’t lie to yourself You’re the only one to lose Don’t lie to yourself A lie only a fool would choose Life demands…shaded truths Hype & spin…abound As we grow…beyond our youth Truth is rarely found But don’t lie to yourself You’re the only one to lose Don’t lie to yourself A lie only a fool would choose Don’t lie to yourself You’re the only one to lose Don’t lie to yourself A lie only a fool would choose Copyright 2002- Tom Hoffman Song Structure Introduction / Verse / Chorus / Instrumental Verse (guitar solo) / Verse / Double-Chorus / Brief Ending Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of E minor. BPM 116 Unusual as it seems, the “introduction” was the last thing added to this arrangement. What can I tell ya’? It happens! Fortunately, I recalled a guitar didi that I’d stumbled upon the year before. It fit the texture of the song, but I needed something to merge it with the first verse. My solution was a single bass note, sounded on the last count of the intro. In the final mix, that note begins quietly, then grows into the verse…gradually becoming louder. That intro guitar didi consists of 2 separate acoustic guitar tracks. The first plays nothing but 2-note intervals. The 2nd is comprised of open string harmonics, which generate an eerie texture. The guitar arrangement for this song was a bit of an experiment. Other than bass, there are no electric guitars. It contains 3 separate acoustic guitar tracks, each performed on my trusty Yamaha & recorded through an MXL condenser mic. The simulated strings you hear weren’t part of my original version. I had no keyboard capability back then. They were added to the existing 2-track master a few years later. Real drums were used. The part itself employs both half-time & full-time beat structures. Half time is used exclusively until the 2nd chorus section. Both the 2nd & 3rd chorus sections are set in full-time. Finally, it switches back to half-time for the ending. Final Production Notes The recording was done on a Tascam PortaStudio 788. It’s an 8-track digital deck, consisting of 6 mono & 1 stereo channels. - Drums were recorded to the only stereo pair of tracks (7 &8) - Everything else went to single mono tracks....no doubling of any parts Performance Credits Drums, Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Keyboard Strings – Tom Hoffman Vocals – Tom Hoffman Supplemental Video (50 sec. clip of guitar solo portion) - https://youtu.be/vHfuWSaYYYI Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube *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.