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Old 04-12-2013, 02:38 PM   #1
krm27
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How to write out / organize your complete song to help with recording or performing?

Realizing many of us guitarists do not read / write music, including me, I am looking for other ways to write out my music in an easy, clear way that will help me organize my thoughts and prepare a finished recording of a song.

I want to include different instruments (some synth lines, bass guitar, at least two guitars, drum machine, vocals, maybe some backing vocals).

I want to have a clear idea just how many measures / bars the different song parts will be and what instruments will be in each section, and what they'll be playing.

I'm wondering if there's anything out there in the way of a blank form / system for laying all this out without knowing how to write music, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel coming up with something from scratch.

Ken
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Old 04-12-2013, 02:46 PM   #2
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Oh, I said this was to help with recording / performing, but on further thought, it really seems to be something I need to finish my composing of songs to a finished state beyond having a basic idea of chords, melody, riffs, beats, bass line, chorus, verse, bridge, to the point where I nail down the sequencing, length of each section, any bridges I might want, if I'm going to have instrumental section and how long, how I'm going to intro / outro song, where I might want to go from a very full sounding instrumentation to maybe a single riff or just the bass line, or all that stuff. So I see this as a song-writing tool. Right now I'm trying to do this with notes on paper or writing it out on a word-processor, but I'm finding this cumbersome and it's not really helping me get to a "finished" write up of my song.

Ken
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Old 04-12-2013, 04:50 PM   #3
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First of all, don't forget that you can edit your first post and add to it.

Next... If you don't read or write music, another option is writing tab. The only problem with writing in tab form is, time signature and rhythm are not conveyed. Tab relies upon the musician having familiarity with the song - if you're the only one performing your songs, this may not be an issue for you. Are you familiar with writing in tab format?
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Old 04-12-2013, 05:47 PM   #4
mjones1992
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I like to write out a chart, with all of my instruments on the left (Guitar 1; Guitar 1 overdub; Guitar 2; Guitar 2 overdub; Vox; etc), and the song parts listed left to right across the top (Intro; Verse 1; interlude; bridge; chorus 1; etc.). If you need to include # of measures or whatever, go ahead.

Each part then has a corresponding page in my notebook with the proper amp, pedalboard, and instrument settings as well as any other notes I need for recording (mic distance from amp; things to remember about that specific part, etc). If I really can't remember how a part goes, I might tab it out (if it's complicated, GuitarPro. If it's simple, the lines of the notebook will do). I usually like to also keep a few bum tracks on the computer with each part recorded on a clean setting so I can listen to how I meant for the notes to sound. Having the drum track in the background is very important for those tracks.

Once I have all that planned out, I'll try to take a day and knock all the recording out, going through each individual box in the grid and recording the corresponding parts (usually a few takes to make sure I got it right/there was no mistakes in recording process such as feedback, or a car alarm going off outside, etc.). So at this point I have 2 grids, one in my notebook with the parts marked out with the corresponding pages for the sound settings/notes, and for the second, I copy the blank chart onto a whiteboard, black out the areas where each instrument ISNT playing, and therefore can mark down, as I go, which ones I have done.

Also, when recording, it's good to rename the recorded track to correspond with your chart (i.e. Guitar 1 - Intro - take 2, or Guitar 1 dub - Verse 2 - take 3)

THEN once that's done, I can spend another day or two putting all the tracks together in my recording software (I use Ableton), EQ them, layer them, etc, and then make an awful attempt at mastering.

Some people like to record each track in it's entirety (like the whole guitar track for the whole song at once). This has sometimes worked out for me, but I much rather prefer to record each part of the song separately, make sure they're in time and whatnot, and then put together the puzzle later.

Last edited by mjones1992 : 04-12-2013 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 04-12-2013, 09:28 PM   #5
ChemicalFire
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KG6_Steven
First of all, don't forget that you can edit your first post and add to it.

Next... If you don't read or write music, another option is writing tab. The only problem with writing in tab form is, time signature and rhythm are not conveyed. Tab relies upon the musician having familiarity with the song - if you're the only one performing your songs, this may not be an issue for you. Are you familiar with writing in tab format?


Nothing to stop you adding time signatures to tabs and if you're using guitar pro or similar then it conveys rhythm quite nicely by showing the notation along side the tab.
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:02 PM   #6
krm27
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mjones1992:

Thanks, that was very helpful. That sounds like the sort of thing I had a vague notion of doing, but wasn't sure exactly what to do. Somehow, I felt like I wanted my whole song summarized on one page, for idea about what sections I have, length, instrumentation, etc., but also the "whole" thing is beyond the scope of a single page when it comes to the specific notes, lyrics, etc. Your system seems to be a very good organizational system. I'm going to try to follow your advice / system.

Do you also come up with a score in musical notation at some point, or do you not bother with that at all?

Ken
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by krm27
mjones1992:

Thanks, that was very helpful. That sounds like the sort of thing I had a vague notion of doing, but wasn't sure exactly what to do. Somehow, I felt like I wanted my whole song summarized on one page, for idea about what sections I have, length, instrumentation, etc., but also the "whole" thing is beyond the scope of a single page when it comes to the specific notes, lyrics, etc. Your system seems to be a very good organizational system. I'm going to try to follow your advice / system.

Do you also come up with a score in musical notation at some point, or do you not bother with that at all?

Ken


Thanks for the compliment! It's seemed to be working out well for me.

To answer your question: Aside from the tablature for parts that are harder to remember, or maybe some chord charts if I use a strange chord, not really.

My scoring/notation skills are very limited. I know how it works and how to write it out, but the amount of time it takes me to actually do it (as I'm still at the level where I'm counting the lines up the staff and what-not), it's really just a waste of time in my case.

It of course can be good for when you're trying to show others how to play your song that know how to sight-read, but for me, it's easier to just skip it.

That's just me though. You may find it easier to write out the music on a grand staff. It's all personal preference. This system is just what's seemed to work best for me.
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