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> How I Composed My New Song
Ben Higgins
post Feb 8 2015, 07:25 PM
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This morning I was experimenting with altering the tone of my drum software. I was going for a kind of industrial sounding, metallic snare and a fat, dirty kick. So I put together a beat, looped it and starting EQing and messing about.

The beat I came up with was this.

Attached File  Shadowman_drums.mp3 ( 215.7K ) Number of downloads: 51

Nice and simple. You can hear the hi-hat counting 8th notes but the key is to not have the same velocity for all the hits. Each offbeat is lowered in velocity so it's barely audible. As a listener, you might think the hi-hat is just going 1, 2, 3, 4 and you don't necessarily need to be aware that the hi-hat is going 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 but the notes in between just keep the momentum with this constant 'hiss' in between the accented notes.

I quite liked the beat I came up with and fancied chucking some guitar down to see if I could get some sort of electro / industrial thing going on. I'm not sure if I succeeded at the end of it but I don't mind. Whatever genre it is, it was fun. So I got the guitar out. I didn't have any riffs in mind and after tinkering about with some unsatisfactory note combinations I decided just to follow the kick drum with the open B string and then go from there. So that gave me this:

Attached File  Shadowman_guitar_1.mp3 ( 215.29K ) Number of downloads: 35

So, I had a beat and a repeating note of B. I intuitively knew that I wanted to put some lingering chords over the top of it and make use of the pitch axis approach. Pitch axis is where you have a note occuring which does not dictate a major or minor tonality. So you are free to use the root note as a base to explore all modal possibilities. Joe Satriani is known for this approach and, as luck would have it, our very own maestro Guido Bungenstock has recently done a LESSON on this very subject.

So, not being constrained by any modal structure I chucked some power chords together. B5, C#5, D5.. those 3 chords follow a typical natural minor pattern (if you ignore the G# in the C#5 chord) but the next 2 chords break out of that natural minor zone by moving a minor 3rd above to an F5 chord, then moving a minor 3rd above to G#5 chord. So those last 2 power chords suggested a diminished interval there. Not true diminished, but it hinted at it. Basically, regardless of the theory, and mine is quite dodgy, you could put any chord sequence over it that you wanted as long as it sounded good. So, we've got drums, one rhythm guitar giving us a pedal tone of E and a 2nd rhythm guitar bashing out some chords:

Attached File  Shadowman_guitar_2.mp3 ( 422.95K ) Number of downloads: 26

My next step was to add some bass. Keeping with the electronic type theme I decided that MIDI bass was the natural choice. I wanted something synthetic that I could distort. I also wanted to keep the backbone of this track very tight and simple. So the kick, bass and guitar in the right channel are all playing the same accents:

Attached File  Shadowman_bass.mp3 ( 423.25K ) Number of downloads: 36

That gave me the basis of the track. For the lead guitar sections I left out the rhythm guitar. I wanted to give myself a blank canvas to take advantage of that pitch axis thingy again. Mostly, though, I used the half / whole diminished scale. To me it sounds a lot darker and less predictable than something like the Phrygian Dominant mode. There's a darkness in this scale that I love. Like a barren windswept desert at night. Eerie as hell. It's not an easy scale to memorise but I really enjoy using it. There's one point during the first 'verse' where I climb up higher and go out of the scale before resolving it again just before the rhythm kicks back in. I'm not sure what I did in terms of theory but I went somewhere else for sure.. see if you can spot it in the video and tell me where you think it is:

I certainly wasn't expecting to come up with this piece, let alone record it all, video it and share it in only a few hours. Sometimes the inspiration hits and you've got to go with it. I hope you found it interesting in how I put it together and that it might give you some ideas of your own !

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Feb 8 2015, 07:27 PM

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