So, stupid story first: RJQ and I did a re-shoot of the video on songwriting, and well, it still didn’t work out. The first take was me hogging camera time so we did a second, and for whatever reason the second take just didn’t bother to save itself. Eventually you will get the video I’ve been promising, or maybe not. Nobody knows.
I also told you I would offer more insight and tips for songwriting, and thankfully I can deliver on that. In addition, I will cover a little bit of the recording process because the two subjects do go hand in hand. If you’ve been working on your songwriting lately, we may be able to capitalize on your progress.
Let’s go over the four easy steps I laid out for the beginners. Study your favorite artists, figure out how to tell your story, try to write the song, and my favorite step: repeat. If you’ve reached the final step and are now writing songs that make some decent sense, then you are ready to take your songwriting to the next level. Just like you did before, you can learn a lot by studying your favorite artists. I’ll talk about a few things I noticed about my favorite artists that helped me along the way.
DON’T RHYME TOO MUCH
Nas is a masterful storyteller, we all know that. Do you know what else makes Nas an excellent artist? He is able to get his point across no matter the subject, but he keeps the listener interested by being unpredictable in his rhyming pattern. It isn’t just his delivery, it is where and how he rhymes words. Sometimes he doesn’t rhyme at all, and that’s the cool part—you don’t have to rhyme all the fucking time. If you become too predictable over the course of a song, let alone an album, the listener will start screwing around with their phone or look out the window. It doesn’t matter. The important part is they won’t pay attention. If you can’t keep someone’s attention, they won’t be showing their friends.
DON’T DO THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER
I definitely learned this one the hard way. I had a song called “Hush”, written and re-written about five times. That wasn’t enough. I recorded that bullshit thrice times and never could quite get it right. What can I say, I’m a slow learner. The takeaway here is mostly for when you are compiling songs to build an album. Just like a song has a beginning, middle, and end, your album should as well. I wasted my time working on a song that went nowhere when I could’ve been working on material that had real potential and fit the story of the album better. Meh.
EXPERIMENT. ALL THE TIME.
Trying insane shit that will 99% not work in the studio is a good way to stop everything you write from becoming monotonous, especially if you are working on multiple songs. Remember, if your listeners start looking out windows and drifting off that means they aren’t showing their friends. It also helps you to stave off writers block. My go-to experiment is to try writing to beats I would normally stay away from. If you are experienced with the recording process, you can try to write in some complicated dubs and background vocals. I tried that for years and was never happy with the results, but when I was in the studio for the Ko-Prezidential album “The Edge” it worked like a charm. The vocals for the song “Drive” were actually written to be recorded by odd bars first, followed by even bars, one track a piece. Once they were in place, I put like 3 layers of ad libs on them to fill out the mix. I was so proud of the sound it made that I’m sure my friends got sick of me talking about it.
STUDIO, STUDIO, STUDIO
Getting into the studio to record is the absolute best way to sharpen your skills. In episode three of the Hip Hop Hideaway Show we spoke with local audio engineer and hip hop artist “Just Jordan” to help us talk about how important this stuff is if you are serious about building a project. Each time you leave the studio, you are leaving with a CD of your recording that you can study for flaws in delivery and songwriting. Over the course of months (or years in my case) you can hear your own progression and it is amazing. There’s one catch: you are studying your material as a critic, not just riding around like you just recorded “The Chronic”. One of the best things you can do for your music is to find an engineer you like (and also likes you back) and stick with them. I’ve been working with the same guy for around 5 years, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. (www.vicariousstudios.com if you’re interested!)
The studio is a pretty detailed subject to talk about in a tiny little blog, but there are some basics worth mentioning. I usually check my mixes for consistency first. If I was spazzing out in the first verse but the second was laid back, I’ll probably figure out which one needs to be deleted and re-record it. Secondly, I listen to the delivery. If words are slurred or ad libs don’t match up, I go back in and fix them. Lastly, I check the mix as a whole. It’s important to ensure that the song actually gets your point across. If you get bored listening to it, chances are your fans will as well. I’ll probably do a blog entry about the studio itself but that is enough to get you started.
I want to thank Just Jordan for helping us out with episode three as well. He is renting out studio time if you have material you would like to record, and just like RJQ and I he also records a metric shit ton of music. You can check him out here:
Cold Country, out.