That’s not to say that your writing will automatically sound better overnight as a result of opening a book by one of the greats, but so much of songwriting is about “borrowing.” Whether that’s taking a direct phrase and setting it to a new context, or borrowing some syntax and ideas to open up new pathways for approaching a song, having an influential reference provides a great place to start.
Jason Cerf works with musical artists, producers, managers, writers, labels, publishers, and distributors at a global scale. Working with clients at all levels and from so many different countries, styles, and backgrounds has given Jason the opportunity to learn about how individuals and businesses find success in such a mercurial market. From hitting ‘record’ to managing thousands of copyrights, Jason is dedicated to helping others navigate and enjoy the world of music.
You don’t have to be a strict minimalist when it comes to gear. If you’re keeping something just because you like it, that’s no problem! At least you have a connection to it!
So let’s do it. Let’s make a tuning system out of the harmonics of the C string. First, we should find the C, G, and E whose frequencies are as close to each other as possible. We’ve already got C at 1 Hz. We can bring our G at 3 Hz down an octave by dividing its frequency in half. This gives us a G at 3/2 Hz. We can also bring our E at 5 Hz down two octaves by dividing its frequency in half twice. This gives us an E at 5/4 Hz. When you play 1 Hz, 5/4 Hz and 3/2 Hz at the same time, you get a lovely sound called a C major triad. Cool!
We look at Ligeti’s famous composition in order to decide how much, or how little, the use of music’s foundational parameters really matter in composing.
A fifth in 12-TET is defined as seven semitones. Instead of multiplying your frequency by 3/2, you multiply by the 12th root of two seven times, which is about 1.498. That’s close, but not quite on the nose. Major thirds are worse in 12-TET. Instead of multiplying your frequency by 5/4, you multiply by the 12th root of two four times. That gives you 1.25992, which is not very close to 5/4 at all. Nevertheless, we as a civilization have collectively decided that we should just suck it up and live with everything sounding a little wrong. There are plenty of good reasons to!
With so much new music available at our fingertips and ears, it’s easy to forget about bands we used to love and listen to like they were their own form of religion. At ten years old, I was obsessed with neo-soul — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was one of the first CDs I purchased with my own money. Now, at 30 years old, I get 300 artists thrown at me every day in the form of playlists, social media, paid advertising, etc.
Similarly, if you tour or play live a lot, you can consider investing in a nice amp head, so you don’t have to lug a giant amp with you everywhere. If you want to buy a great amp to play classic rock, look for something lightly used and durable. Here are some of my favorite choices for making classic rock music:
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Automation can bring a mix to life — it can make your mix growl and breathe in time with the music. Automation can be used to change any parameter over time, including things like volume, panning, plug-in parameters, and more. Simple things like increasing the volume in the chorus, bringing the panning on the guitars in a little for the verses, or boosting the bass in the bridge can make a huge impact and provide listeners with enough ear candy to keep them listening for days.
+ Learn more on Soundfly: Deepen your production and composition relationship with Ableton Live in our various courses that use the software, such as Beat Making in Ableton Live, Making Realistic MIDI Strings, Live Clicks and Backing Tracks, and Any Sound Will Do (sampling and stitching). Check out our full course offerings here.
Open mics make lofty promises about what they’re able to offer songwriters of all levels. I’m here to tell you that they’re still a waste of your time.
I’d like to see if you have [dates] available for a show I’m putting together. I’ve reached out to [band 1], [band 2], and [band 3] to headline, and I can lock at least one of them down once we have the venue and date confirmed. I’ve included links to all of the artists’ music and their bios below.
This song is a great example of how music theory and psychology can help the songwriting process. In essence, you want to try to structure how listeners bring their sense of joy through the song, with the ultimate high point being in the chorus where lyrics and melodies are all repeated for better recall. Now you’ve got a tonal hierarchy to work with to make that section, and the others leading up to it, even stronger.