Happy Wednesday once more, readers and music video lovers. Today we’re celebrating “Underrated Drummers Month” and wishing Rick Buckler, drummer of British trio The Jam, a happy 62nd birthday! Who are The Jam? Only one of the finest rock outfits to come out of the 1977-82 UK punk/Brit-pop era, (if you ask this editor, anyhow). If you’re less familiar, dive into The Jam’s wonderful discography AFTER you enjoy these wonderful TuneCore Artist videos.
In 2017, the playlist has become an integral part of not just music but our culture at large. While radioplay and the blogosphere still have the power to bring attention to an artist, playlists are becoming a steadfast way for more and more listeners to discover and consume music. This isn’t exactly breaking news for those readers who’ve been making serious music over the past decade, but the fact is that playlists are shaping the musical landscape more than ever before, and if you don’t release your music with that in mind and plan accordingly, you’ll risk missing out on some potentially huge opportunities.
The New Listening Landscape
Remember that snobby record store clerk you used to get your music recommendations from? Or maybe it was your cool older sister. Well, either way, playlists featuring every genre of music you can conceive of are introducing listeners to new artists in way measured by literally billions of songs, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
But probably more important than the way listeners are discovering music is the way they’re now listening to it. Listeners are now relying on playlists big and small to guide their unique listening experiences. Why?
Put yourself in the shoes of a non-musician for a second. Unless you’re particularly interested in discovering and listening to new and interesting music, you most likely won’t have the time or patience to wade through hours of music to find songs that actually resonate with you. Enter an army of new expertly curated playlists, specifically designed to convey an array of nuanced moods that cater to a wide variety of different music fans.
Like indie rap? There’s tens of thousands of playlists out there for you. Looking for electronic jazz/rock fusion for stepdads? Actually, I have no idea if that playlist exists or not, but you get what I mean.
Engaging new and old listeners on this relatively new playing field is becoming more and more important for career musicians, but don’t take my word for it.
Let’s look at the data.
The Data Behind Playlists
On average, Spotify’s 4,500 curated playlists generate over a billion streams per week. Their Discover Weekly feature has connected well over 40 million music listeners to about 5 billion new songs. Love it or loathe it, Spotify is doing something massively important for new artists, and figuring out how to get your music featured on Spotify is worth looking into, even if the chances of your music being selected by one of Spotify’s notoriously picky playlist curators is slim.
But while Spotify is a major resource for listeners when it comes to finding and consuming music, YouTube is an even bigger player. Though the stats are controversial, complicated and difficult to understand, some music industry analysts believe YouTube accounts for 40% of all music listening.
I released a single recently and was surprised to learn that a dude with a playlist I’d never heard of had shared my new song on a YouTube playlist with over 188,000 subscribers. My release performed pretty well on Spotify, but the numbers were nothing compared to the exposure I got from being featured on that one Youtube playlist.
Make music regularly enough and you’ll sometimes get lucky and have your songs featured on decent-sized playlists, but reaching out to playlist curators and asking for your songs to be considered is vital if you’re just starting out and new to the playlist game.
Pitching Your Music to Playlist Curators and Digital Music Stores
Taking the time to submit your music through TuneCore’s feature submission form is an easy way to pitch your music to digital music retailers like iTunes, but if you’re interested in getting playlist curators to consider your songs, you’ll have to do some research.
Take some time to find out what playlists are out there that feature music that’s similar to yours. Rather than gunning for the big, heavily followed tastemakers, I recommend starting small and pitching your music to playlists with smaller followings.
Similar to how you’d pitch your music to blogs, take some time following different playlists and getting a feel for the kind of music their curators like to feature.
Craft a short email explaining who you are, what your music sounds like and why you think it fits on the playlist you’re inquiring about. Yes, you’ll most likely get your fair share of no’s and unanswered emails, but with how much potential there is out there for finding new fans through playlists, getting serious about playlists is becoming a mandatory task if you’re intent on being a successful musician.
[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]
How many of you are completely terrified of doing anything to the mix buss, aka “stereo buss” “2 buss”?
It is real easy to mess up an entire mix with too much processing, in particular, mix buss compression.
Over the years of searching the internet creeping on my favorite mixers (Jaquire King, Dave Pensado, Chris Lord Alge, and many more) mix buss compression settings I’ve found that a little goes a long way.
Mix Buss Compression Glue
Have you ever heard the term “glue” in a conversation of recording and mixing?
No, I’m not talking about the kind you used to put on your hands in elementary so you could peel it off when it dried.
Am I the only one who did that?
I’m talking about the way compression can make tracks seem like they fit together a little better.
When set up correctly it makes the whole song feel like it’s glued together in the subtle ways which gives it a nice musical polished cohesive sound.
The goal with mix buss compression would be to just tame any transients that may spike up in volume just a little too much, and then bring the overall volume up of the rest of the tracks juuuuuust a bit.
We’re just trying to add a little more energy and fullness to the mix.
Mix Buss Compression Settings
The attack setting you use for mix buss compression is important just like using a compressor on any other track.
With a faster attack the compressor will clamp down sooner on the transients that tend to be a little louder than the rest of the audio coming through.
A slower attack will wait milliseconds before it clamps down on the audio and starts compressing.
I tend to use a faster attack, BUT I’m not crushing those transients with a ton of compression, so I still keep the dynamics in my mix.
If I found I was killing the transients too much and there was no excitement in my mix, I would probably make it a slower attack setting.
I tend to use a medium to fast release setting.
I’ve heard a lot of famous mixers say they set the release with the tempo of the song.
So they would watch the gain reduction needle and have it release on beat with the song.
I try my best to use this method.
I use a really small ratio of around 1.5 to 1.
This means that once my audio passes the threshold I’ve set that there is very little compression happening to that audio.
It’s just a little bit. I’m not trying to squash the life out of it.
You can experiment with a little bit higher of a ratio, but know that the lower the ratio the less compression (more dynamics), and the higher the ratio the more compression (less dynamics).
I dial the threshold to where I’m only getting about 1 to 3 dbs of gain reduction on the peaks of the audio.
I tend to keep it on the lower side of 1 to 2 dbs of gain reduction.
You just want to kiss the needle. You don’t want to have to much mix bus compression happening.
Remember, we are going for a subtle “glue” like affect.
Make up Gain:
Just like on any other compressor, I turn the make up gain to math the amount of gain reduction happening.
Be careful here. Don’t turn it up to loud and fool yourself that you like the result just because it’s louder.
Do your best to math the input volume with the output volume of the compressor.
We tend to think louder is better when it’s not really better, it’s just louder.
I’ve shot a video tutorial below to show all of this in action on a mix i’ve started. Check it out!
Mix buss compression is a great way to add a little bit of excitement and glue to your mix.
Some people like to slap it on the master buss AFTER they have mixed it (Ryan West who’s credits are Jay-Z, Eminem, Kid Cudi, Maroon 5, T.I, Rihanna and Kanye West)
And some engineers like to slap a little bit of compression on in the beginning and mix through it.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong way when it comes to when to put it on.
The key is to be subtle and don’t kill a good mix with too much mix buss compression.
Use your ears like always. They are your biggest weapons.
Good luck and happy mixing!
If you want to learn the 1st step to a successful mix even before you think about adding mix buss compression, check this post out about “The Static Mix”.
[Editors Note: This is blog was written by Scott Wiggins and it originally appeared on his site, The Recording Solution, which is dedicated to helping producers, engineers and artists make better music from their home studios.]
TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.
Is your hit next?
Follow Music Made Me – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!
Off My Feet
Giants In The Trees
Giants In The Trees
I Really Rap
Decade of Destruction
Five Finger Death Punch
The Minute You Get It
Icarus The Owl
The Way Forward
Instrumental, Heavy Metal
Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer
Under the Radar, Vol. 2
Courtesy of Half-a-Mil
Courtesy of Half-a-Mil
Something Foreign (feat. ScHoolBoy Q)
Something New (feat. Etta Bond)
We’re back! Another Wednesday, another line up of awesome music videos from a diverse array of TuneCore Artists. And keeping in the theme of including weird historical music facts, today marks the 37th anniversary of Swedish pop group ABBA’s last #1 hit, “Super Trouper“, making the charts. Their reign of terror, er, terrible infectious pop hits, came to an end in 1980 with a song that this editor has had an impossibly hard time deciphering/remembering the lyrics to no matter how many times he hears it. Now, on to those videos we spoke of…
Q Da Fool, “Real”
I want you to think of some of your favorite songs. You know, those choruses you could sing over and over for hours and still not be sick of them.
How do you think those songwriters stumbled upon something so seemingly perfect?
Was it a bolt of inspiration out of the blue?
Or did it stem from their understanding of music and countless hours of practice?
More likely than not, it was a combination of the two. In songwriting, it’s important to find a balance between chasing inspiration and developing your skills. Too much or too little focus on either could leave you in a frustrating writer’s block.
But today I want to focus on the technical side of things. More specifically, I want to go through a few music theory techniques that you can use to spark killer chorus ideas and get your inspiration flowing.
Of course, these are only ideas to get you started. If inspiration strikes, follow your creativity and even break some music theory rules!
1. Simplify Things Down to a Motif
As songwriters we can sometimes get caught up in the big elaborate vision we have for a chorus. This top-down approach to songwriting can certainly work, but it’s very easy for the essence of the hook to get lost amidst everything else. And then you’ll end up with a non-descript chorus that falls flat compared to the initial vision you heard in your head.
In other words, the hook gets lost in translation.
An easy way to get past this is to simplify your idea, narrowing it down to one or two motifs – then build up from there.
In music theory, a motif is a short musical idea that is used to build phrases, melodies, riffs, and grooves. Typically, motifs are very short and simple. Think of them like small little Lego blocks that can be stuck together in multiple different ways to create larger things.
I can’t emphasize simple enough when it comes to motifs. Often it’s the songs that use the simplest motifs that really stick in our heads.
Blues songs are one of the easiest places to see motifs at work. Take a listen to Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and you’ll hear a motif in the first line of the lyrics, starting on A, going up to B♭ and C, and then back down to F. That motif is repeated with subtle variations and is answered by a second motif.
Another example is Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. I know – it’s not exactly modern music. But, it’s a great example of just how powerful simple motifs can be. Almost everything in the song is created and derived from that iconic four-note motif. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.
Next time you’re stuck on a chorus, try simplifying things down and really think about the motifs you’re using. Try making small changes or variations to those motifs and stringing them together in different orders. Starting from the core of your hook and working out from there will give your choruses a very strong and cohesive sound.
2. Play With Sequences
Expectation and anticipation is something every great chorus harnesses. You want the listener to be expecting and waiting for that hook to come around – the hook and the sections leading up to it should almost act like a magnet that draws the ear to the most important part of your song.
In music theory, one technique you can use to create expectation for your hook is a sequence. A sequence is a musical idea that is transposed and repeated to create a pattern.
A motivic sequence is made up of a motif that is transposed and repeated using specific interval pattern. (For example you could move the motif down by a 4th and up by a 2nd.)
A harmonic sequence is made up of a set of chords that follow a particular interval pattern.
Our ears latch onto musical patterns by nature, so as soon as you establish a sequence your listener will catch on and begin anticipating where the music will go next.
In songwriting, you can use this to really build things up before or during your chorus and draw the ear into your hook.
Alternatively, you could also create expectation with a sequence and not follow through by playing something completely unexpected to create tension.
3. Pull From the Notes in Your Chord Progression
The notes in a chord will always be the strongest, so they can be a great starting point when you’re writing a strong melody for a chorus.
You see this all the time in popular songs. The hook will pull out one or two notes from the chord(s) underneath it, or even outline all the notes in the chord. Using your melodies to drive home the key notes in your chord progressions can create an overall more cohesive sound and a much stronger composition.
Of course, you don’t need to only use notes from your chords. Try using them as a sort of outline for your hook.
If you write melody first, try going back and creating a chord progression that incorporates some of those main melody notes. If you write chords first, try pulling out key notes to create an outline for your melody.
If you want to expand on this idea even more, try looking into modes. If you’re playing in they key of C Major, use the G Mixolydian mode to create the melody line over the G Major chord and the F Lydian mode to create the melody line over the F Major chord. This just allows you to pull out those strong notes that will really get your hook to stand out.
4. Harness the Power of Repetition and Subtle Variations
Repetition is often the thing that really drives a strong hook home.
Think about songs like “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. The chorus is simple and it’s played over and over (and over) again. But despite all that repetition, it’s pretty tough to get sick of that song.
If you take a closer listen, you’ll notice that there are subtle variations in each chorus. Different instruments are added into the mix and small compositional changes help keep things fresh.
Once you have a great hook or chorus, experiment with it, see all the different ways you can subtly manipulate it, and use those variations in your song to really get that hook in your listeners’ heads.
It goes without saying that if you want to write hooks and choruses like the greats, you should study their work. Make a habit to try to really dissect some of the choruses from your favorite songs to see what’s going on.
We gave you a few examples in this article, but if you want more, you can download the ebook Inside the Hits: The Secrets Behind 10 Hit Songs for free here. In that book you’ll see what’s going on from a music theory perspective behind 10 big hits by artists like Rihanna, The Police, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, and more.