Pro Audio Files

Here’s Why Music Doesn’t Have to be Gridded

Transcript
Hello, lovely people. I hope you’re doing marvelously well.

Please, as ever subscribe. You can go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list, you’ll get a whole bunch of free gifts, and of course you can try out the 14 day free trial of The Academy.

Anyway, what do I have for you here? I just finished a little acoustic EP with Chase K, and if you’ve been following me over the last couple of years since I’ve been doing YouTube, I’ve done a whole bunch of songs with him. He’s an artist I continually work with, he’s a really talented singer/songwriter, and you know what, he’s just a lot of fun to work with.

This one is a very simple three day EP. Start to finish, recorded the EP and mixed it, the whole shenanigan. So what’d we do? We kept it really simple.

So I just wanted to talk about a couple of things in simple production ideas. Number one, we started off with pre-production in the room. So Chase would sit on the couch playing acoustic, I would play acoustic, we’d run the song down, we’d find a tempo that suited his vocal. Mostly, his arrangements are fantastic. He’s a very good pop writer. I don’t have to do a huge amount of work to his arrangements. The stuff I did was pretty minor. After years of working together, he really does know how to arrange a song really, really well, but we’ve done lots of different levels of production with him, this one we wanted to keep super simple.

We wanted it to be essentially acoustic guitar driven, with just a vocal and some simple ideas. So once we got the tempo sorted out, I gave him a click. He went into the live room, and we usually run one live vocal acoustic, and then we tracked that. Now, this groove, I’ll play it for you. With no groove whatsoever, just vocal and acoustic.

[vocals and acoustic]

As you can feel, it’s a really nice song. Very simplistic. It’s got a beautiful, open sounding vocal. Okay, but one thing you’ll notice about it is that groove, [emulates groove], it’s a tough…

[music]

It’s a thing to play and double. You’ll see this in editing here. Essentially, most of it is unedited, but I edited it in places. But listen to that groove. And you’ll notice that I hit it quite hard going in. Decent amount of compression on here. I’ve got the 1176. Yeah. You know. Up to 3dBs worth of compression. It’s also then going through a master buss of the acoustic where there’s some high mids, and some top end boost. Some low rolloff at 90, some low-mid cut at 350, and another 1176.

[acoustic]

So I’m limiting the dynamic range, but when he went in there and played the vocal and acoustic, he didn’t really feel like he could make it dance to that, [emulates music]. It just wasn’t feeling good, so what’d I do? I went and found a loop, and here it is.

[loop]

And if I zoom in on this loop, we can get really close to it. It’s not really that in time. It’s kind of — it’s very loose. I’ve found, you know, a two bar sequence.

[loop]

It was in a much faster tempo, and I just squashed it to this.

[compressed loop]

Now typically, when you do that, unless you’re going in there on the beat, and it’s then locking, you know, the elastic to the grid, if you’re doing it like that, it will lock back to the grid, but I didn’t, I did a quick two bar thing, and I found it was kind of sloppy.

[drum loop]

But it feels good! Totally accidental, it was time stretched coming up that — maybe come up at 10 or 20 beats? But he was inspired to play along with it. He’s like, dancing around. Look, you can see if you zoom in on the acoustic down here, it’s not tight. But it doesn’t matter, it feels good. It feels summer-y, it feels fun. I think the point here is on the creativity aspect is to get something that’s kind of loose, and just sort of feels really good, and then look. We added a kick. This is a goat kick. The reason I say it’s a goat kick is because this one is actually from a calfskin or a goatskin drum that Victor Indrizzo had, and I use it on a Chris Allen song, oh I don’t know, in maybe 2008, 2009 when he won American Idol?

It was the kick sound that I used, so if we hear just the goat, it’s this.

[goat kick]

And I used the Pultec on it just to get some extra oom, but you can hear it.

[kick]

I put that against this quickly done loop…

[loop with goatskin kick]

And I did actually put that on the grid so everything else is breathing around it. Then I added a live shaker. Which is grooving. It’s not perfect. I mean, look at it, if you look at it on the grid, it’s moving around a bit. Almost feels like a triplet. Wasn’t supposed to be. I think the point is, it’s like, things are grooving. They’re feeling loose. It’s a kind of song that’s okay if it’s just a little — everything is just kind of pushing and pulling a little bit.

I will say that everything is laying back a bit. There’s nothing here that’s like, super, super on top, except for the bass. A little bit of all instruments is a little ahead in places.

[bass and drums]

Slightly ahead there. That’s totally on. Add the acoustic.

[acoustic, bass, drums]

And then we put in some other guitar parts. In fact, we’ll just play them all so you can hear them. So I wanted a baritone guitar, but I didn’t have a baritone guitar. Foolishly, in all these years of recording, I’ve always relied on guitar players to bring baritones, so I didn’t have a baritone. So what did I use? This!

Just a Jazz Bass.

[bass]

A lot of the time, just using the D string. It’s got some weight to it. And put that through the guitar amp. So it’s just a bass guitar on the D string, through the guitar amp.

So that’s my baritone. Just a bass.

[bass]

It’s just simple creativity. Find a loop, and the reality was, and the funny thing was, we weren’t going to put a loop on it. The loop was purely there to provide something loose to groove to, so when he was playing this finger picking part, you didn’t feel like you had to be locked to this [mimics click], like this rigid click. So it’s a good lesson. Take a loop. Time stretch it. If it just happens to be a little loose, a little pushy and pully, leave it that way. Especially if you’ve got a click playing at the same time, or a kick in this aspect. You’ve got something solid, and you’ve got things moving around.

You know what it does? It takes away the pressure for the acoustic guitarist. It takes away the instrumentalist having to feel like they have to play like a fricking machine. The stuff that we grew up listening to, the great great music of the past that we still name check on a daily basis, breathed. It breathed!

So this track feels good. It’s a great performance, he did an awesome job.

[mix]

Nothing feels like it’s out of time, but nothing is locked perfectly to the grid. And that might sound really obvious, but most of the pop music I hear doesn’t do that. There’s some bass editing here for the performance, but in general it’s pretty darn simple. Through the chorus, I just added another baritone part, which is again…

[bass/baritone]

It’s a nice little sliding part. There it is. So the lesson for me is this. It’s that it doesn’t always have to be perfectly in time, especially if it’s a loop that’s just kind of providing some movement. If it was really gridded, it would just reinforce that with the click, and with that kick, it would just make it even feel even more rigid. I wanted Chase to be able to play you an acoustic part that breathed with the song, it had kind of a loose summary feel.

[mix]

It feels relaxed, it doesn’t feel uptight, and like I was saying, the lesson was that loop was just there to do acoustic. It was chosen within just a couple of minutes of going through a couple of sounds, and it stuck! And now it’s the loop in the song. And sometimes, there’s that happy accident.

I feel like the energy that you bring to a recording is really important. If you bring in this rigid idea with your artist that everything has got to be absolutely perfectly in time, it’s going to sound like that. Yes, it might be really in time, and maybe you’ll edit it super tight to the grid, but you’ll also lose that feeling here. This kind of summer-y, warm, inviting song.

So that was gained from a quick decision of just taking a loop that sounded pretty cool, time stretching it, it being roughly in time, but enough to relax the recording process.

So please, as ever, go to producelikeapro.com. You can sign up for the email list, and of course, you can try the 14 day free trial of The Academy, or we have a monthly, there’s tons of fun things. Either way, if you sign up for free, you’re going to get a whole bunch of free stuff, you get free drum samples, there’s some free videos, The Academy is growing really fast. Everything is really wonderful in there. We just did a masterclass at Sunset Sound with 12 Academy members that flew in from all over the world. It was amazing.

Anyway, have a marvelous time recording and mixing. Thank you ever so much for watching, or I get told that you have to hit the bell if you want to know when we’re doing a new video. Alright, have a marvelous time. I’ll speak to you all again very soon!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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