exploring the creative and compositional process of everything

Change

The Song
Change communicates one’s frustration with the monotony that can arise in a romantic relationship, and the static nature of characteristics or habits inone’s partner. Change is a desire for new experiences, new inspirations, stimuli, and independence.

Change combines seemingly opposite music elements by bringing together electronic and folk music motifs. A drum machine kick, a Casio CS-80 synth pad, and the swirl of white noise from a Korg MS10 are intertwined with a banjo-sounding plucked viola, mandolin, bowed strings, and a variety of overdubbed percussion including a glockenspiel, human hand claps, tambourine, and snare drums.

The Process
The original track began with a straight 4/4 Roland TR707 kick drum and the Casio CS-80 synth pad. I then wrote the bassline to reflect the key change of the pad melody, and added a simple yet complimentary piano part.

Change: Starting Sequence

Guitars
Once this sequence was written, I could hear the sound of a variation of the “train beat” layered on top of the kick drum. I could also hear the sound of staccato guitar chords. Ryan Rooney was brought in to record the the staccato guitar part, and we recorded two versions of it. One in a higher octave and another in a lower octave to create a fuller sound. We then did a few passes over the entire song as Ryan improvised a variety of different melodic guitar parts. This produced an additional guitar melody including one with a bell-tone quality, which would eventually be used in the song’s chorus section.

Change: Guitar Layers

Drums & Percussion
I originally attempted to capture the “train beat” with a high tom drum I found in the basement of my building. I used a drumstick and a brush to try to capture the shuffling sound. This produced a nice additional percussion element with a shuffle and rimshot quality, but it didn’t get the full effect I was looking for. Later on in the arrangement process, I brought Mike Lamantia Jr. of makeupbreakup into the studio to capture the full train beat using a snare and a hi-hat.  This would eventually lead to Mike contributing a number of drum tracks to <tfo> material.  I also recorded a number of other percussion overdubs including human handclaps, egg shaker, and tambourine.

Change: Drum Section – drum kit/drum machine kick/tambourine/human handclaps/

Matt Everett was brought into the studio to listen and see what elements he could add.  I knew I wanted him to record a bowed viola part with the chorus. Matt often experimented with plucking his viola, producing a range of sounds that can sound like, well… a plucked viola or a number of obscure rare string instruments someone might discover while traveling through various parts of Asia.  Always a lovely additional sonic element when it clicks with the track’s other instrumentation.  On Change, Matt’s plucking lead to strumming and produced an almost banjo-like sound.  A sound that complimented the other folkish sounds on the song, and rounded out the overall sound.

Change: Strummed Viola & Mandolin

I then took these elements and began to develop the song’s arrangement along with the song’s lyrics.  This process usually takes longer than I want it to, as I constantly work through the elements in my mind, developing words and melodies that work, and have moments where everything clicks and words come to me.  As the track developed, it was being pulled in two different distinct directions. One being a more “electronic” sounding track, while the other being a more “folk” indie feel. My goal was to find the best mix of these elements, and to make it them work in a complimentary way with one another instead of the final song sounding the two opposite sounds being forced together.

After developing the verses, a chorus and what I call a “post-chorus” was developed.  This allowed me to form the song’s basic structure.  Matt and I experimented with a variety of overdubs including mandolin.  The mandolin track was chopped up into little melodic pieces that complimented Changes’ folk elements and arrangement structure.

At this point in the production process, the track lost some of its electronic feel.  I cleared all the track levels and slowly mixed the track from scratch, balancing the drum machine kick, shuffle drums, synth bass, synth pad, percussion, guitars, vocals, and strings.  I made sure the kick and bassline cut through the mix creating a strong foundation, and throughout the mixing process I made minor touches to the arrangement.

Once the existing tracks were mixed, I added two additional elements including white noise sweeps to transitional points in the arrangement using a Korg MS10.  The other final element was a glockenspiel melody line that fit perfectly with the chorus.  I mixed these elements in after finding the right takes, and the track was complete.

Change: Glockenspiel with Guitars and Viola

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