Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tim Cannon Producing In a Little More Detail

I thought I might talk in a little more detail about one of the songs on Tim Cannon's album and the changes that have been made to the song during the production process. The song which I think has undergone considerable change is 'High Hopes'. Originally, I considered this song to be a bit of an adult trapped in a childs body with refined melody and lyrics, with harmony that to me, didn't do them justice.
Below is a sample of the original recording made as a demo of the song.

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First thing we set about doing was removing the acoustic guitar and reharmonising the melody to emphasize the emotional rise and fall of the lyrics and melody. We separated the verse and chorus harmonically by making the verses quite static, removing the dominant chords from the demo and creating a rocking harmonic movement (backwards and forwards). The release comes with the chorus. Moving to the key of the relative major the chords have much more movement. We altered a few of the chords to give it more of a dramatic feel. For example, instead of repeating the first two chords of the chorus, we went to the minor iv chord (f minor) and then back to the relative major (c major). To me, this makes the chorus sound like it's heaving like someone taking deep breaths.
Below is a sample of the original band arrangement. It's worth noting that we used the vocals from the original acoustic guitar demo. Because this was not recorded with a click, I had to cut up each phrase and place it on the grid so that I could use sampled drum kits and midi instruments and edit sections much easier. The playing on the demo is very rough but it illustrates some of the changes that I have been talking about.

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Tim was pretty happy with the transformation at this stage, so we decided to workshop "High Hopes" as a band, using this as a reference point. If you listen to the recording below you'll hear the result of the band workshop. Players were: Tim Cannon: Bass, Stewart Taylor: Acoustic Guitar, Mark Leahy: Drums & myself on Piano.

Straight away you can hear that we have done away with the brushes idea from the demo above to give it more of a drive/groove. The tempo of the song is also slightly faster to make sure that it doesn't plod along too much.

Another arrangement change that was made is to this version was the rhythms in the chorus. In the previous version (above), the guitar was strumming in 1/8 notes (quavers), strings were playing 1/4 notes (crotchets) and the piano was playing ever 2 bars. This was re-arranged into the following: Piano to play in 1/8 notes (quavers) and guitar to play in 1/4 notes (crotchets) and no strings. We decided that the aesthetics of the album didn't allow for string ensembles and so arranged the other two instruments (piano and guitar) so that each part would contrast to the verse part. However, this creates an interesting effect because throughout the entire piece, you always have the 1/8th note pulse weather it's in the hi-hats, guitar or piano. This helps to both move the song along and to create intensity.

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So, now that you have had a little insight to some of the decision making process from initial idea/demo to pre-production, you can have a listen to the current album version of "High Hopes". This is unfinished, un-mixed and un-mastered but I hope you can see the progression of the song.

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- Andrew

Thanks to Mindy McAdams for her very helpful tutorial on how to use this flash audio player.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a really informative guide based on your own experience. I like how you write from your own perspective, rather than give advice on how others can achieve success in music. Overall, this blog is pretty slick, keep up the good work.

Andrew Rostas said...

Cheers mate.

How's that song of yours going?