Producing Your Songs (Part 3)

In the last post, I went over how to write a A section and B section of a song using Ableton Live. In this post, I would like to expand our song a bit and get into adding some more instruments.

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Assuming that we have a main vocal melody and an instrument that has the chord progression under it, we can now add more instruments. The basis for adding more instruments is first forming the ‘groove’. Groove is a term that originates from African music, where the rhythm repeats itself over and over in cycles. The repetition of the pattern creates the rhythm of a song. As humans, we love repetition and patterns. So, we love when songs repeat the same rhythm over and over again, which is why we dance, jump or give other somatic reactions to music.

To make it a bit more clear, groove is the union of our rhythm instruments, which in this case are bass and drums. In order to have a song with a solid groove, we need to have a good groove, which means that our bass lines and drum lines have to work together seamlessly. The good news is, making drums and bass work together is not so hard. We just have to keep both lines simple. But before we go further, I want to look into what I mean by simple. Let’s take a step back and listen to one of the biggest groove masters of all time, James Brown. Listen to the main drum and bass parts in ‘The Payback’:

Notice how the drummer is playing the same pattern over and over. So is the bass player. The guitar and vocalist is doing their variations, but the bassist and drummer hold it down. Here’s another classic example by Michael Jackson with ‘Billie Jean’:

The main drum pattern runs over 4/4 rhyhtm: 1, 2, 3, 4. The drummer plays the kick on 1 and 3, and snare drum on 2 and 4. The bassist plays a walking bass line over this pattern. Then synthesizer and Michael Jackson do their thing over it. Another great groove with a simple set up.

So, just like these two songs, we can create a simple drum line at Ableton. First we create a MIDI track and select a drum kit. Then we have the kick on 1 and 3, and snare on 2 and 4. Next step, we create another MIDI track and add a bass line. Then we play two notes on 1 and 3. That way, the kick of the drum will line up with the bass line of bass. Super simple way of creating a solid groove.

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If you would like, you can create a bass line with more variety, given that you play the main notes on 1 and 3. You can add 8th or 16th notes and at certain points drop out, create anticipation and bring the bass back in. The same goes with drums. Creating variety keeps your song cool and keeps your listeners interested in what you play!

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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website


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