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Toontrack presents: Studio Pass

Lesson 4 of 26

Songwriting Q&A

Ulrich Wild, Brendon Small

Toontrack presents: Studio Pass

Ulrich Wild, Brendon Small

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Lesson Info

4. Songwriting Q&A


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:06:20
4 Songwriting Q&A Duration:26:32
5 Tracking and Comping Drums Duration:27:24
6 Editing Drums Duration:16:25
7 Drums Q&A Duration:31:15
8 Micing an Amplifier Duration:25:09
9 Rhythm Guitar Tones Duration:18:52
10 Tracking Rhythm Guitars Duration:34:13
11 Tracking Bass Guitar Duration:23:34
12 Bass Q&A Duration:21:45
13 General Q&A Duration:16:30
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Tracking Vocals Duration:18:27
3 Vocal Mixing on Galaktikon Duration:24:37
4 Vocals Q&A Duration:17:50
5 Mix Prep Duration:34:45
6 Mixing in Logic Pro Duration:42:03
7 Mixing Blazing Star Part I Duration:27:14
10 Mixing Blazing Star Part 2 Duration:19:34
11 Mixing Blazing Star with EQ Duration:30:09
12 Final Q&A Duration:24:12
13 Closing Thoughts Duration:11:22

Lesson Info

Songwriting Q&A

Do we have any questions from anyone? We do have some questions do okay when you're writing for tv john wants to know when you're writing for tv how long is a standard song that's really interesting okay, so this is longer sometimes I will record this much for because this doesn't sound like this, you know, now that I finish this, this doesn't really sound like a death clock song I mean, this could be something else or this could just be score I could turn this all into strings and turn that melody into something else as long as I've got something though, so this is longer than what I would normally do what I need in on episode of mental lock lips I usually come up with, you know, a minute or two minutes of music with enough sections to suggest that entire song, so any adverse bridge chorus, maybe a solo first bridge chorus I like that and sometimes I just have verse and chorus or sometimes I want to cram a thousand different changes into one thing, but normally I'll get like, a minute...

one and a half because we'll compile all these things. This will be something we're going to talk about later on to is we will compile all this stuff and based on audience reaction in the past and or our own personal reaction or sometimes, like I'll play something and maybe like brian beller who's going to play bass and I'll say, oh, I hope you do this song please do this long I listened I like that episode I want to hear that or jean holding that is the song that's my favorite song off the thing um, like I had a demo off the first thing that was an early stage song that would have been something that pickles the drummer would have had from his previous band, like I will write for different parts of their history or something, and sometimes someone will latch on to that and that'll end up being a song, but minute sometimes maybe a little longer than a minute, but but it ends up being whittled down to maybe forty five seconds if aiken sneak it in, but then every four because I'm in charge of every single up that is the executive producer of the show I have to if I'm going to make room for music, I have to cut dialogue, and sometimes I'll say, screw it, cut the dialogue that joke's not that funny and and we'll just get rid of that and then that's where the music and then that'll determine how much music we get and and that's, part of the show's personality, is making sure that there is a piece of music and every episode and that's kind of again that's kind of like I said it has to be distorted guitar has to have two b and c after have violence we have to have this ghidorah vocal over it it also asked it there has to be music in every episode from the band most of it is music has nothing to do with death clock it's a ton of score or really pretty stuff or whatever just hopefully contradict this one moment of heavier music having said that again this this isn't that heavy this is more melodic this would be something I would probably do on a solo record just because it's a little softer a little prettier um but yeah so I hope that answers the question it does and I want to let anybody know that's watching the way that you ask questions is by clicking on the little asked button on the top right side of the video player we have a couple more questions sure if you want to take those um michael wants to know can you explain your process for getting the drum results that you initially have in your head the drummer what's the drum results that you for the concept that you have in your head initially is ok just literally clicking through those playlists on it really starts out with where I'm hearing you know and this is the conversation will have the gene hogan is the same conversation I'm having with a drum machine, but but jean does this himself because he is a very creative and very musical drummer because he plays to the rift, which is the most important thing you can do is a drummer is listen to the other band members and played to the accented parts. Now none of these parts were accented. What I would do is I would write the rift first to a click track or to just something very standard, which is where I hear the partitioning of the snare drums, where the snare hits, you know, um, like a and then and then later switch this near its but it's all about where the snare is and then kick patterns there's so many different things you can do because you've got this sixteenth note grid in front of you where you can shuffle up these ideas and take away, and sometimes what I'll do is I'll sit here with the middie file, so so I double click on this and I get the whole mini file and zoom in a little bit on it so I can see what I'm doing well here, and this is what that pattern looks like, so let me play this for you back to this we'll take my pre roll off, you have to hear that. So if I wanted to you here's like uh here's something we've done before field so if I double click on that and get rid of that if I wanted to make this a little bit more personal I could do this this is the, uh very hit the thing with my arm that's how that happened, eh? So if you check this out this is the that's like did that? Did it? Is that the mermaid er kind of sounding thing from old death clock songs but that can sound really cool and if I want to make sure that these air turn as loud as they possibly can be volume wise and now I just made that song sound different because I messed with a kick drums and I left the snares where they were and maybe I but I like the sound of open hats I like rock n roll open hats and I usually go to open house and then sometimes there can be a syncopated high hat thing but it's really tricky because I played how I think jean hogan's kit would be like if we were to record this because he has a his both of his feet are on the kicks so he's doing that and most the time he doesn't have a closed hat he has that he leaves it open and keeps it open because this fear doing all these other things and almost any band that he's in through testament through death or dark angel he's pretty much that's that's set up now before everyone's live, I've come up with a a are all suggest a high hat pattern is kind of like often on kind of like a sixteenth note pattern and he has to do something where he's got two feet doing this and then using his he'll he'll open and close like an octopus like just like every single appendage that he has is on a drum somewhere and he's done it before and the results are really cool, but I don't have what I'll have in mind is where the snares are in a tempo like I'll get excited by a slayer son and I just think that it's none of the riffs none of the keys, none of that stuff I just know that song is cooking at this tempo, so I'll sit there even with my phone that same the same thing this ah guitar tool kit thing that's what it's called so I'll sit here with the metrodome and I go that's so I'll sit there and I just try to beat out of tempo that's two thirty eight I don't know if I like that, so I'll go down to something else whatever, so I'll just try to find out what that is and like I said the easiest way normally is is finding a tempo and in this particular case it was one twenty p m and you can find stuff on the first one that I started going ok I'm not going to do that even though it is a comfortable there's something that cruz about the amount of you know how time goes by how we actually measure time well it's a disco it is it is it is eight thiss right it is a good dance one ten one twenty but that is our bodies move at that temple in a really good way there's some things like a logical that happens this is not a dance song not yet not until I put those high hats and their team put on the watch yeah anyway so that's what I'll do so you see in a very simple way I'll go in teo where the drums are or trying to add drums or like like what some kind of a tom here maybe I don't want to do that put that on where the twos and fours are me to get a lower lower tom I'll usually put really low tom's in this stuff and so that's something else I can do to make it sound cool to get a lower more cavernous sounding kid happen but it's basically using what you have for now to get yourself excited by the piece that you're doing because if you're not excited no one's going to be excited and that's all that goes for everything if you're running a script if you're not interested in writing your reading your script no one's going to be if you're doing stand up if you're not having a good time nobody's having a good time that's the way it works so I hope that answers that question did yeah for sure johnson more questions I could doom or I can talk about the next stage of what we could do here but if anyone has anything that pertains to what I have done already now would be a not a terrible time you ask that question I think this one's a quick or neither one more okay john wants to know how far do you get into the rift writing process before you decide to keep her scrap it um usually like like um well let's take that second riff again I don't think that's a cool I don't think that's the most exciting riff but if I'm seeing a melody on that it doesn't really matter it can not be a rift that needs to draw attention to itself sometimes a rifkin lay back and let the vocal or the melody to all the work it doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting um but if I were in a band where every roof had to be complicated I would probably um probably re examine this river probably a cool way whatever I could do something like that and then the other part of rift playing is that when you write a complicated rift like I didn't know what I was doing with my hands my brain doesn't gotten that whatever pattern that I was inventing memorized yet so you have to sit there and learn how to play it and that's half the time like even with e couldn't play that when I first like I can hardly play right now but I couldn't play when I started out I have to sit there and learn all that stuff but I think if you got a dead spot in a song what I will do now this is another important part of song writing when this will tell you what you need to know about your riffs about what needs work what does and it's almost like a painter paint something and they keep standing back and they keep looking at the pain they see how everything relates to each other on all the shapes in the dimension and everything and they go and they touch something and keep standing back and they keep looking at the whole thing listen to your song listen the whole thing and I seriously from early stages I'll put it on I'll take the whole thing and I'll put it on a loop and I'll just sit there els maybe I'll check my email I'll just do whatever I have to do but I want to hear that normally normally I'm excited by something just because it's new but after a while this song starts revealing itself and you start hearing who I could do something cool there this section I'm not sure about this feels like a dead spot this feels like I'm just wasting time here I'm wasting the listeners time how do I how do I make this more interesting or how do I build with that? How do I get from one section to the next? Not usually that's the next part of the song writing too is arranging from one session to the next making each change feel exciting emotionally too because there's a really different process that happens because I do a lot of different stuff song writing is one of the things I do the other thing is script writing a story telling and having a strong understanding of, um, of the story underneath everything and the characters wants and needs and all that stuff, but and then and then on top of that you write a bunch of joe ox and stuff that hopefully is funny to people around you in the audience, but something happens with jokes where they wear off after a while they're not surprising to us we kind of know that that's going because we were sitting there in front of this timeline when we're watching it a million times, we're accountable for every single frame of it but something with music, it doesn't happen it's new to you every time when one change, if you go back and listen to hey jude, you're going to have an emotional response to it because it's a great song and it's pulling you the story, it's telling the story and musically it has a big finish, that huge epic out, true and all that stuff in the end, you can play it back to back and you can feel something unless you really overdo it. But for the most part, when I'm in this stage of song writing, I just want to listen, I want to stand back from the painting and look and play it seriously, like fifty times and when I'm in, when I go into the actual real recording of this and then I get all the sessions back because we're going to talk about the whole process, the my next see, I do this, I go in with all rick, we're going to talk about all that stuff, we kind of re examine all the songs I forget how the play, the rift, I reimagine it cause I don't remember how to play it the first time that I think of a cooler way to play it or or something new, or I add any note to it or something. But I go away from this I come back to it after a long amount of time and I have a fresh take on it too, because it's it's new to me again later on we'll go into the drums were going to the drum editing will go into the rhythm guitars and then I take all those sessions back to my home studio again and I, um I re examine the song again and I had overdubs I try to clean up all this guitar parts and make sure there is well played as I can play them in that amount of time. Um, and uh and then I'll add bells and whistles in little things and I'll add too much. I'll had too much stuff knowing that some of that stuff will be cut away or ducked underneath in the mix, but then I listen to the song another life eight hundred to three hundred times you know it's like acting, they say you have to just you have to know your lines, you have to read them like out loud, like three hundred times before you know it before you can speak them in this case, listening to a song three hundred times tells me if the song is finished, if it needs something if there's a section but I need the lop out, we'll get into that like editing post recording like being huge as it at its where the song is still alive we can do whatever we want it's our song we could change it in any way so so I don't know if I've answered the rift question but I trashed a lot of stuff but I don't trash it and move it in this huge disorganized clump where the I'm sure some people are looking at my pro tools this is exactly how I work there's this little window and I'm trying to find my way through and I don't know where I am is going around and what's all this other garbage oh I don't know but then I'll move like a thousand riffs over here just so there there you know that's the cool thing about modern technology is that you don't have to really trash anything you could move it somewhere else and maybe it it can find a better life elsewhere in another song but I don't know I don't know what the amount of time is I'll trash huge sections were huge songs that no one will ever hear yeah so so this is in essence what the first part is just to reiterate the next section that we're going we're going to go to will be with is going to be where um well okay let me let me get to the next gap before we involve alright what usually happens? I'll go from here I'll use I'll personalize the drums, I'll personalize personalize the guitar riff. Oh, you know, I will add harmonies to the guitar, sometimes trying to make it sound. Biggers sounds more impressive or epic if I can with death clock um, I will um ah, and and that's pretty much it just make sure everything's well played that I'll add vocals, which is not this stage at all because what happens in the tv shows they normally need something that has a tempo that they can like an enemy too, so I can give them this. I can say here's my thing, it's two minutes and forty seconds start from zero or maybe start from the last year for the first thing and whatever, and we'll move that around the time line of the tv show, and we'll look at it go okay, weaken tell. Now we know we've got about forty five seconds out of this song to use and how much visual story can we tell over that amount of time and that's? Usually what we try to do is we try to make sure the audio is cool on its own, that that would be just interesting enough on its own and then turn all the audio off and look at the visual and make sure our visual is telling a story. That is understandable, like if someone needs to get from this point to that point, but they need to get this thing first so they can cook it on that thing and swing over there. Whatever it is, we need to be able to telegraph visually what's going on and hopefully musically that will just support the energy and everything so that's something I'll do, then this all this stuff stays on my hard drive somewhere, stays in the computer than out, then about like a month and a half later when the animation is close to being finished, we'll do our final sound mix for the tv show this is pre record, so I have all these forty five seconds, so I have to clean up forty five seconds and polish everything up, do the vocals and do all the splits and normally I don't do too many splits. I have my own mix that I like because I don't want to screw it up anywhere else or let anybody else like, you know, nudge something like I don't want to hear that instrument that loud and I'll do a separate vocal split and just a stereo split and that's what I put together for the tv show because they want the vocals on their own just in case they have bad words and they can censor them or if they want to air it in japan or something they can redo the vocals of for themselves or well that's out of my hands of that but but that's what we'll do and after a season once I got all that stuff done um well uh oh and then we'll put sound effects on top of this stuff to sometimes but I usually try to clean up this unless it's a really important story point there has to be room for sound effects on top of this music like you know somebody's getting their head kicked off for some kind of weird thing um but ah that's another thing will do in the mix and we do that all in in los angeles at a place called margarita mix and or they'd serve margaritas believe it or not well, next thing it's not a good idea, by the way it's not a good idea to drink margaritas while you're mixing because it gets really weird mixes, but but that's what that that part is and then later on so that's that's the tv show so the tv shows wrapped and finished and then I've got these kind of stereo mixes of somewhat polished um and and all this superior drummer stuff that goes on tv so all my tv stuff it's very rare that I get to record real drums on tv because we don't have the time we don't have the budget and I've got a really great really got something fantastic that's really easy for me to use through the tune track stuff and and and most nine times out of ten no one knows is that real drums and a lot of metal deaf mental stuff is program drums anyways, even on albums from where no, you know there's really not that big of a discrepancy? There isn't, yeah, but but when you do get a real drummer and we'll talk about this on the next section, you find out that it's really nice to have one of these things with a brain attached to it. He really, really likes music and really knows in his listen to music their whole life and really can add like him can basically the whole idea that whenever I do anything on here or writing, or um or if I'm directing an episode or directing from the script, I'll have a sequence written out or I'll have, like, a baseline written out here or whatever it is or a drum part my whole idea, my whole philosophy is here is something to start the conversation your your job is to beat this with a cooler idea and that's, what I want everyone to do is beat all these ideas with cooler ideas like, what can you do that advances this and makes it makes it more again unique personal and and still, you know, lives within this world you can't do something totally contradictory because that's not beating it that's changing it a one hundred percent. But how do you beat this? How do you make this a little bit cooler in jean hoagland accepts those challenges and does that answer? Passes it and exactly he's a he's a drummer who's been doing this like all the life long and I'm like a type player could clicks and dragged yeah, there's a difference and I was like, if you had a drummer playing guitar the worst but, you know, you become an expert in your field and it's easy when a private not easy, but it's your it's your job to surpass yeah, lehman you know exactly your professional, which is, you know, and but jean oftentimes now jean is having to beat his own patterns. They have a couple of switches and I'm like, you know, like you, that thing I brought up, that would be, like, one example of a very small switch that we've already heard and other songs but how do I make you know, how do I make that pattern interesting? And sometimes you use, like, fills as entire patterns, yeah, has done that on yesterday like come up with a way to play a pattern out of what used to be just fills I will take like a part of the fill in the thing and turn that into like what death support was on death album too and he had to find a way to make that work reason like this doesn't make any sense at all and it's in nine or seven I don't know what it is anymore or eleven some on time signature but but that's that's the idea is beat everything please I won't be offended if you come in fact I welcome in anything if you have a funny joke if you have a different take whoever I'm working with if it's an actor or an animator or aboard artist or whatever it is the ideas my job is to come up with the idea and then and then we start getting excited about how to beat this idea with something cooler that's still hopefully doesn't take it all into left field or get to idea crazy and there's a way you know and you'll see I get to idea crazy and the and ah and overcast to deal with that stuff yeah, you definitely do you sometimes I yeah, I've grown too much fruit but that's when some of that needs to be thrown into the garbage that's ok because it's better to have it and taking away that go like well what are we going to do here is I was going to come up with something. You know, they say that with the same with acting too it's, really easy to bring an over actor down too conversational than to bring someone who's like, quiet and were out so it's better to have too much and rein it in a way we don't it down. Yeah, as opposed to somebody does something. So that is the first. So I think I feel safe saying that unless there's another question that this is probably segment one that we've gone through this idea of this so I can play you out with us on how about that play you out? This will be exciting with my new song. That is just, I think it's gonna hit number one in the charts. Um, but it's ah, this is pretty much what I will say is my beginning. Part of the process. It doesn't look pretty it's not played perfectly there some clams in there. But this is what it sounds like for better for worse. But I did it here and I did in front of you. And I think that takes a lot of courage, so I think

Class Description

Adult Swim's Metalocalypse is a cheeky parody of metal culture — featuring the shenanigans of a cartoon band called Dethklok. In Toontrack Presents: Studio Pass, you'll get a closer look at the creative process behind this mesmerizing metal powerhouse-turned-TV-series.

Brendon Small is the creator and primary musician driving Dethklok’s music, including its four full-length albums. In this installment of Studio Pass, Brendon and producer Ulrich Wild (Pantera, White Zombie, Slipknot, Deftones) will show how they compose, engineer, and mix the music of Metalocalypse – explaining the recording techniques used for Dethklok’s drums, bass, guitars, vocals and effects.

The music behind the hilarious spectacle that is Metalocalypse is no joke. Join Brendon and Ulrich for Studio Pass and learn about the unique creative process behind the music of Dethklok.


John Thaxton

I love Brendon. He has always treated fans super well. There's so much wisdom to be gained from listening to him about workflow and music in general. Great class!

Aaron Thurtell

Being someone new and looking into recording songs, I found this class very informative and in a way essential, the idea of recording seemed over whelming and I had no idea where to start, being a fan of Brendon small and Ulrich Wilds work on Dethklok and Galaktikon I found it very enjoyable and must for any fans of Brendon small looking into how he goes about making a record