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> New Song "spartan"
Ben Higgins
post Aug 23 2015, 09:13 AM
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Hi all. I want to share my latest track with you, called Spartan. This one was particularly fun to write and put together. I thought I'd run through some compositional and practical features of the track.



STRUCTURE:

One of the most interesting things about it is the rhythm accents throughout. One could imagine that there's some odd time signatures going on but t's actually just 4/4 all the way through. The drum patterns played by Andrea give the illusion of odd meter and the kick and snare often work together to match the rhythm of the riffs themselves.

Outlining certain accents in a riff and varying the place where a snare hit occurs is a good way of making something sound more complex than it is. You don't have to be a prog band to make something that sounds a bit different to the norm.

The dynamic variation between heavy main riffs and clean verses is as old as metal itself. Having a distorted section butting up against a clean section never usually fails to produce a dynamic result, unless someone mercilessly crushes the hell out of the track during the mixing and mastering. See: Death Magnetic

Other bands that use a soft/sparse verse and a heavy chorus to good effect include Rammstein, who often leave out the guitars altogether during a verse in order to let Till's exceptionally low vocals cut through. Not only does it have a great musical effect but it possibly arose from practical reasons too. So a dynamic between verses and choruses can be an effective song writing tool.

After the second chorus there's a mid section where it goes clean again. There's synth now which can be used to warm up the sound and add width and atmosphere, seeing as a lot of weight has been taken out now that there's no distorted guitar. The chord progression changes here which is a great way of adding an interesting diversion which will see an eventual return to the heaviness.

As the clean mid section reaches its climax (ooh, matron) from 3:13 - 3:22 the main pedal tone of A occurs whilst the chord voicings move around it. The chords become almost uncomfortable before they resolve at 3:22.

Then its time for the solo. For the rhythm track I've kept a close reference to the main riff, with its single note lines and minor 2nd / root structure. Having a reference to an earlier part which is different yet is another effective tool you can use. Allowing one idea to expand and inspire more licks or riffs is great when it happens so make the most of it.

The solo is just... a guitar solo. It starts, some more notes happen and then it's over. wink.gif

The final section is a harmonised guitar fest. I'm harmonised using 3rds, which is one of the most common ways and for good reason. They're very harmonically pleasing to the ear. The structure remains the same until the end but the synth is the instrument that changes in pitch to raise the intensity. It's not a dominating feature of the mix but it's there just enough to add background ambience.

TECHNICAL:

In terms of gear, I wasn't lazy and actually mic'd the JVM up for the first time since.. well, a long time ago. I've only got cheap instrument mics that I bought for micing drums during live gigs but they do the trick. I just wack one mic centre on into the top left speaker cone, touching the black mesh. Turn the sensitivity up on the audio interface and back off if I see clipping. I did minimal EQing. I think I cut a notch out around 2-300Hz and again at 500hz to get rid of muddy mids. The tone of the JVM comes through better when mic'd than it does when using DI. Muddiness is a problem when using the DI but it's much easier to manage when getting the speaker tone.

You can see the amp EQ here. I use the lower channel, OD2.

Attached Image

Here it is, mic'd up, complete with crappy stand that doesn't stay in position.

Attached Image

For the lead guitar I used the same plugin setup that I've been using for most of my recent lessons. It has a more synthetic tone than the Marshall but I like the sharpness and the strings are getting old so I could do with the icy bite that the digital sound provides. I feel you can get more of an 80's Satch tone using digital sounds. Overall I much prefer the JVM's tone but I'd already recorded the lead and was loath to change it. When you capture something good you can never recreate it as it was.

For the clean sections I just ran two clean tracks and then two acoustic tracks, replicating the same riff. For the mid section I just had one acoustic, panned centre.

For the drums, I feel like I charlatan admitting it, but I wanted to mess around with EZ Mix, which our very own WeePee got me into. The drum and bass sounds on this track are all courtesy of EZ Mix so, whether you like it or not, it gives you an idea of what it can do.

The last thing I'd like to mention is the exotic modal activity during the verses. It's mostly a mixture of natural minor and Lydian Dominant, which is a lovely mode that manages to mix the Lydian and half / whole diminished sound. You may think it has a Middle Eastern sound, which I guess it does but the name Lydian comes from Lydia in ancient Anatolia (modern Turkey) which, of course, borders the Aegean sea and hosted numerous Greek settlements so using modes from the Aegean region in a song called Spartan is probably quite appropriate smile.gif

Anyway, that's all I can think of to say about it but if you've got any composing Q's I enjoy answering them!

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Aug 23 2015, 09:20 AM


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bleez
post Aug 23 2015, 10:04 AM
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damn dude, that's immense ohmy.gif the acoustic parts are so 'spartany' and when the heavy parts kick in its like being pole-axed by a pagan warlord biggrin.gif
sounds great, makes me wish I could play guitar!


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Ben Higgins
post Aug 23 2015, 03:52 PM
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QUOTE (bleez @ Aug 23 2015, 09:04 AM) *
damn dude, that's immense ohmy.gif the acoustic parts are so 'spartany' and when the heavy parts kick in its like being pole-axed by a pagan warlord biggrin.gif
sounds great, makes me wish I could play guitar!


Hehe thanks man - glad you like it!! biggrin.gif


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fzalfa
post Aug 23 2015, 04:36 PM
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Hi Ben

very nice track !!! i really love the idea , and thkx to share the how to cook smile.gif

Laurent


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Ben Higgins
post Aug 23 2015, 04:45 PM
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QUOTE (fzalfa @ Aug 23 2015, 03:36 PM) *
Hi Ben

very nice track !!! i really love the idea , and thkx to share the how to cook smile.gif

Laurent


I'm glad you enjoyed Ben's Cooking Tips cool.gif


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fzalfa
post Aug 23 2015, 05:22 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Aug 23 2015, 04:45 PM) *
I'm glad you enjoyed Ben's Cooking Tips cool.gif


of course !!!!
every good cook'in lesson is good for me smile.gif and for other GMCer

Laurent


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Todd Simpson
post Aug 23 2015, 05:42 PM
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Killer composition, killer playing, killer tones, all around I'd say KILLER!!!!!!!


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Ben Higgins
post Aug 24 2015, 09:54 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Aug 23 2015, 04:42 PM) *
Killer composition, killer playing, killer tones, all around I'd say KILLER!!!!!!!


Cheers, T-Master!!


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mad
post Aug 24 2015, 08:33 PM
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Man! That song kicked the hell out of my car stereo today cool.gif Awesome!!
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Ben Higgins
post Aug 25 2015, 09:08 AM
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QUOTE (mad @ Aug 24 2015, 07:33 PM) *
Man! That song kicked the hell out of my car stereo today cool.gif Awesome!!


That's what I like to hear! biggrin.gif


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