#1
Well, I was just wondering, when taking an older song and attempting to revise it a bit, to make it sound more modern, or to fit your particular musical tastes, where is a good place to start? Should you start with just chords? Or maybe try to take elements from other songs and attempt to add them to it?

Would the same process need to be taken when trying to adapt a song from one genre to another?
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#2
As someone who enjoys doing so himself, I can make a few recommendations. Individual aspects of the music, such as a chord progression, are by themselves subordinate to the overall theme, which is usually (but not necessarily) embodied by the melody. Pay attention to how the composer develops the theme over the course of the work and consider other ways that the theme could be developed.

Take the first movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony as an example. The work opens with a four note theme that is not only melodic (da-da-da-DUM), but also rhythmic (short-short-short-long). Both aspects of the theme are revisited numerous times over the course of the work. The movement immediately re-envisions the melody by having the strings reinterpret it in a much softer and more peaceful light, and the short-short-short-long pattern reappears throughout the rest of the work, even when the melody is entirely different.
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#3
That's a very good point. Another question though: When covering and revising songs in this manner, is it normally a taboo to change the key of the song?

Also, what do you do when the song is fairly bland music-wise? Are there lines that you do and do not cross when writing newer, more complex and deep parts?
Art is Vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it...
-Edgar Degas
#4
Quote by Tone Deaf
That's a very good point. Another question though: When covering and revising songs in this manner, is it normally a taboo to change the key of the song?

Also, what do you do when the song is fairly bland music-wise? Are there lines that you do and do not cross when writing newer, more complex and deep parts?


With the exception of certain specific works (e.g. Some of Beethoven's works, in which C minor is commonly thought to play special significance), I can't imagine anyone having a problem with changing the key.

As for the second question: Some people would no doubt argue yes, but my personal position is that as long as you credit the source of the theme and don't attempt to pass it off as your own, you are free to do with it as you please (artistically, that is. Legally...it's an entirely different manner).
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#5
Well, it's not like I'm trying to claim this as my own song. I'm simply trying to make a very creative cover of it. It's a song that i've always liked, but it's not from the genre of music that I typically like to listen to or play, so I thought I would solve that little inconvenience with a re-write, but it's proving harder than I though.

Suggestions on how to give a song a darker, more gritty, frightening tone?

It's a slow song, but I still want the chorus to have a punch.
Art is Vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it...
-Edgar Degas
#6
what's the song? i might be able to be helpful if I know exactly what song you're working on.

generally the easiest way to give something some bite is to add distortion, drop the key a a couple steps, play with the tone on the guitar.

as far as rewriting, as I said, I can't really help if I don't know what you're dealing with.
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Mar 14, 2009,
#7
Compare NIN's "Hurt" to "Hurt" by Johnny Cash. Completely different interpretations of the same material.

A good way to look at a cover is to look at the song as a whole and ask yourself "If I'd have written this, what would be different?", and work those concepts into your interpretation. Consider altering rhythm, key, scale, timbre, tempo, and harmonic progression. Every aspect of the song. I've literally done covers where the only thing in common with the original song is the lyrics, and I've completely gutted the rest of the structure.
#8
Quote by KenjiBeast
A good way to look at a cover is to look at the song as a whole and ask yourself "If I'd have written this, what would be different?", and work those concepts into your interpretation.
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#9
Thanks for all the help. And I think I'll keep the actual song to myself for now, seeing as it might very well change. I just wanted to know the general process for doing something like this.

I think I'm going to be getting rid of the song's intro. It's not that it's bad, but I want to start out the first verse really slow, with only either the bass or guitar playing a single chord. So that it's different from the original, but people immediatly recognize it. The power will come in with the prechorus. I just need a riff that's not so upbeat.

If the song's in the key of C, I can use pretty much anything that's in a C scale, right?
Art is Vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it...
-Edgar Degas
#10
You need, (but not necessarily) and understanding of keys and how to extend harmonies.

Of course if you just want simplistic changes in arrangement then this is not needed, but it works greatly to add inner voice leading or add harmonies on top, or perhaps subtitute chords.

It also helps you to understand what harmonies would "Work" as in act as an ornamentation, instead of altering where the melody/harmony is going. Although even this is possible, but you need some arrangement experience to know what "works".

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#11
All good advice. My band normally goes about this a little differently, mainly because we're a 7 piece ska/reggae band. I normally take the chord progression and make it off beats. A lot of the time we'll take non-vocal melody lines like lead guitar or keyboard etc. and have the horns play it