Show 167 – Song Structure and more DIY

This week we discuss song structure and songwriting then chat with Eric about various DIY gear projects.
Our guest this week is Eric Beam.

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21 thoughts on “Show 167 – Song Structure and more DIY

  1. Hey guys, just wanted to weigh in on the virtual amp discussion. I, like many, am an apartment dwelling guitarist and while I’ve got a nice hot tube amp for gigging and use in the band practice space, if I want to do anything at home tube amps are pretty much out of the question. So I’ve gotten some experience with the digital stuff.

    for the best experience follow these rules.
    1. don’t monitor using a plugin, the latency will pull your playing off as you naturally try and compensate. Monitor using a microcube, or one of those headphone amps, or anything but a plugin. The A->D->sim->D->A conversion will always take time and can ruin a great track.

    2. if you’re using amp models, don’t run it into a tube amp, because a lot of the tube sound is in the slightly slower attack rate which takes some of the nastyness off the picking noise and when you emulate that then do it for real you end up sounding sloggy and loose. Sims -> solid state or monitors, effects -> tube amp

    3. When recording using sims, take a DI of your guitar and apply the amp sim after the fact. It’s great to be able to re-set the amp values to better match the mix and with the right treatment you can get a fairly decent guitar sound.

    3a. if this track ends up being a “hit” you can always send it off to a pro-engineer later (like our intrepid hosts) and have all your DIs re-amped and re-mixed to take it from “great bedroom recording” up to “great pro recording”. DIs with amp models applied = good. Recording an amp sim sound = bad.

    Thanks for the killer show,

  2. Was nice to have music that structure/theory discussed, It’s so easy to just get caught up on the Tech side of things.
    Good suggestions, This topic is often discussed.
    With your DAW It’s always a compromise between mixing power & real-time performance. I prefer to keep the role of the DAW as a mix/recording tool. Not a real-time guitar processor/instrument. For a small investment you can get a rock solid guitar/DI recording solution.
    For those that don’t have the luxury of micing up a cab, Get yourself a quality DI with a guitar THRU. (The Radial DI’s for example).
    Record the clean DI signal for later “Amp SIMing”, & run the THRU output into a practice amp or POD equivalent. This gives you unparalleled real-time play interaction.
    You might as well record the practice amp/POD signal as well. You never know what will “make the take”.

    This message brought to you by – (Poultry – the smart transportation for today & the future)

  3. O.C. And Stiggs,

    Great show. I tend to focus more of my time on the songwriting end of things than the technical recording end, even though i love the recording part, so this show was definitely for me. It’s great to see you guys focus on what is arguably the most important part of making music. Overall the songwriting segment was a bit basic, but touched on alot of great stuff that people can work on in more depth on their own.
    @ sven, My take on amp sims is that they suck. I’ve used them and one of my bandmates uses them alot, but to me they sound very sterile and very stale. They may be better for certain styles of music, but for what i play, (garage/psychedelic, fuzzed out rock ‘n roll) they sound douche baggy at best. I live in an apartment also and i use a vox ac4 that i modded with the mercury magnetics upgrade kit. What a great little amp. It’s quiet enough to keep the neighbors happy and has a tone that is great for recording. I pretty much use this amp and a silverface princeton to record all my guitar stuff. The princeton’s better for cleans, but the vox is perfect for vintage crunch and lead tones, and it sounds like a monster when run through a 4×12 cab. Not everyone would jump on the idea of spending $400 to modify a $200 amp, but it was worth it and really fun to do. The kit is $299 and I installed a celestion alnico blue speaker as well. The upgrade is pretty much a complete overhaul of the amp circuit, replacing the power and output transformers, adding a choke, and beefing up the rest of the circuit to give you an amp with way more headroom and articulation. I highly recommend it as a diy project. There are some similar projects for other small tube amps like the fender champ, marshall class5, and whatever that little epiphone tube amp is called. I would rather build a champ from the ground up or from a kit than modify the champion 600, but there are some great reviews of that mercury kit also.

    Go Team Ryan
    (Yeah, that’s right. I pretty much stopped listening to John when he said he would autotune Bob Dylan.)

    Ride the bomb Dr. Strangelove style.

    Lil’ Don’t

  4. Hey guys, TFAGS for the T-RAKS (Team Ron Ass Kicking Show!!).

    I just wanted to drop you a line to say, Wow!
    I’m just finishing the most recent episode; and Ryan knocked it out of the effing park with your segment! 10 pts Team Ryan.

    I grew up in a classical background where theory and structure were highly valued (and highly forced upon me). So I have a good appreciation for all the knowledge/analytics that went into that segment.

    Seriously, well done.

    Chickens… lightning, eh whatever.



  5. TFAGS for the TRAKS indeed!

    When we write song we rarely focus on structure. It shows up as a weakness with some of our material but we have never set out to write a particular style or feel. We kinda jam it out and put it together how ever it came out. Often we fall into one or two of the more common song structures in order to see a song through to completion but some of my favorite songs we have written are well of the beaten path of song structure. I will say this…. if you have a song that is basically the same part over and over again, all you need is one studio session editing that song to learn the true definition of monotony. 4 hours of the same riff will kill what ever joy you had for that song when you wrote it. 🙂

  6. Hi guys

    Regarding apartment recording and amps, I have been seriously looking at the Hughes&Kettner Tubemeister 18: .

    It’s an 18 watts tube head (also available as a combo). It has a built-in direct out, and a built-in power sink, which allows you to lower the output from 18 watts to 5, 1 or ZERO watts, without frying any circuitry or component. As far as I can tell, it’s gotten very nice reviews based on its sound too.

    The direct out has built-in cabinet simulation, which of course is not the real thing, but if you are gonna make compromises anyway, at least it’s driving both the pre and power tubes even when set in silent mode as I understand it.

    Seeing as it has cabinet simulation – I’m wondering how that would affect any later re-amping via just a regular loudspeaker? Does anyone know if it will degrade the sound or make it sound weird?

    And great show.
    It would be cool to hear what the creative workflows of some of the listeners are, from the “birth” of a new song. I know I have my “standard” way that works for me, and it’s far less structured at that point that what Ryan laid out. They were great points, but maybe they deal more with arrangement and preproduction based on an already existing song (or alternatively, a hopeless jangle of fragmented ideas…).

    Ride the wiccan

  7. Hey guys, this is more about last weeks show. Jon (and Ryan), I just wanted to share a link to a video cast that is all about music apps for touch pad devices, and primarily iPads/Phones, etc. It is a fairly new feature that is part of the folks. Its called SonicTouch. They review and discuss lots of apps and also demonstrate them. They often get input from developers and examples where they’re being used. Thought you might find it helpful in your new quest for info on making music on your iPhone.

    the link is to their archive to date, 11 episodes I believe. Enjoy!

  8. Guys, great show as always. (GSAA? … nah, forget it).

    Ryan, fantastic segment on song structure. I was entertaining doing a segment on chord selection and substitution. Perhaps a joint segment in the future? hmmm….

    Regarding your comments on a songwriter being able to take direction and suggestion from a producer: In the most general sense, I’ve found that the more experience a songwriter has, the more open they are to suggestions and trying new things.

    I was definitely guilty of being stubborn and not wanting anyone to do anything with my earlier “masterpieces” when I was beginning to put the songwriter hat on. Now it’s more of a … “sure, whatever, let’s rip it apart and try it out…”

    I had the pleasure of producing a couple of songs with a songwriter who grew up in the same era as I (he’s turned 39 a few times as well) and has quite a catalogue of songs under his bealt. We took a mellow singer-songwriter track of his and made it into a 150 bpm modern punk train-wreck. He was so open to trying so many new things – it was very refreshing.

    Keep it up guys!


  9. Oh yeah, I forgot…

    Enough with the Chickens riding things. In fact, can we just ixsnay any activities associated with poultry, fowl, capon, cockerel or the ilk? It makes me feel uncomfortable for some odd reason.


  10. Does anyone have any reccomendations for good tracking headphones for vocalists? I’m looking for something comfortable, durable, and isolating. I’m sick of hearing bleed on my tracks from the music in the headphones.

    Or maybe a good shootout idea…

  11. Hey guys, GSAA 🙂

    I recommend The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Composition (they’re on Amazon).

    For recording engineers who want to learn the basics, both books are really good. The first starts at the beginning: chords, rythms, progressions, etc. You then move on to the more classical notions of harmony and counterpoint, followed by arrangement techniques. In the second book, you get into how to understand and build melodies, how to create and release tension, etc. Finally, it goes into multivoice and longer compositions, orchestration and songwriting. It’s very readable, and the first book has an ear-training CD. I enjoyed them and I’m sure others will as well.

    Ride that thang!

  12. Hi there,

    I´m absolutely off topic for the fact, that I´m on listening all the previous shows from bottom to top right now (HRS-Diploma…here I come ;-), but something came up my mind, which I wanted to ask you:

    Can reamping, besides getting additional tone and color to use in a mix, be a good way to bring tracks out of phase back in phase by placing the mic(s) right (this time)?

    off-off topic: Now, that I found out, that Bobby Owsinsky´s Books are available in german translations, I neeeed to have some…thanks to your interview.

    to sven´s comment about amp sims:
    In Amplitube 3 there are 3 buttons for tonal quality (High, Low, and Eco). So, I monitor through the plugin and track guitars in Eco mode. That brings the latency down and leads to a quite immediate sound response. After tracking, I render it to a new audio track using the high quality setting.

    HRS is THE SOURCE! Never got tired listening to your shows…and never will…

    Do not ride the chicken!!! (for I read Dave´s comment 😉 )

  13. Looking for thoughts and/or recommendations on a LDD mic. I have an SM7B already and considered getting another. But I thought I would be better served getting something with a slightly different character for the sake of options and variety. I’ve somewhat narrowed it down to an EV RE20, EV RE320, and a Rode ProCaster.

    Obviously the RE20 is the standard here, but also cost quite a bit more than the others. The Rode, I would assume, is somewhat modelled after the RE20, but at half the price. On par for Rode in general. The biggest difference I could see was in the frequency repsonse as the Rode doesn’t get as deep. But given that the mic would be used almost exclusive with a high pass filter anyway(mostly podcasts and accoustic instruments), not the end of the world. The RE320 I don’t know anything about other than it’s considerably cheaper than the RE20.

    Was hoping you guys might have some experience or insight on these. Thanks in advance.

  14. Hey boyz…
    Great show about song writing, i’m not a “bridge” guy, maybe i should get on board with that seems like a pretty good way to add a different element to a track.

    Ryan, I’m often recording my own stuff and engineering at the same time trying to run between two rooms to start my recordings, then i decided to pick up a really slick wireless keyboard from Logitech from the local office supply big box store. Man, problem solved. This baby has a range of like 60′ so i can do any type of keyboard command from my live room without putting the guitar down or trying to work out from behind a fully mic’d kit!

    Maybe most people already have a wireless keyboard, but i never new the new ones had such fantastic range and are super responsive, very liberating to get away from behind the computer, makes me feel like a real musician again.

    Looking forward to the next show,

  15. Great show guys.

    I believe i’ve been bitten yet again by the diy bug. I just listened to peterson’s podcast on diy 500 series mic pre’s and i’ve gotta get in on that. I have a bit of experience with building small amplifiers, guitar pedals, etc, so a mic pre doesn’t seem that difficult. I’m debating on building a 51x rack psu or buying an api lunchbox or rack. Any thoughts on which would be better? I am mainly looking to fill it with preamps like the classic api stuff. I really only need about four, but the api lunchbox has six slots for just over 400 bucks while a rack that holds ten or more will be about 800 or more. I also don’t know if i would take advantage of the 24v from the 51x or just use 16v stuff. Seems like a pretty big expense on the psu, but after that, you can save a ton on pre’s. When you are looking at getting 6 or 8 high quality pre’s, youre looking at spending 6 or 8 thousand bucks. Building them yourself, you can realistically build pro quality pre’s for about $300 a channel, including the cost of the power supply.

    Team Ron Jeremy.

  16. DJ,

    Go check out Seventh Circle Audio. If you want a DIY mic pre project, that one has one of the best reviews from a TOP engineer (Andy Hong). He has the original versions and said he’d choose the DIY versions over the originals. Refers to it as “desert island” gear.

    I’m getting ready to pull the trigger.

  17. Ok, I don’t mean to beat the discussion of “amp sims suck!” “No they don’t, they are great for song writing!” to death but I had to throw something in.

    I haven’t used real amps and amp sims enough to have a strong opinion of one over the other. But to give amp sims (and great mixing) some credit you have to check out this artist who goes by Cloudkicker. This album was recorded all ITB. All guitars you hear are amp sims and the drums are EZ Drummer (I believe).

    I don’t know if his latest albums are all amp sims but I’m sure they are. With that being said I think that album sounds killer for being all sims. Just kind of shows you it IS possible to make great sounding mixes and music with sims. Just like how Drug Store Fanatics made a killer record with basic gear in a home studio.

    Great show again guys, thanks!

    Oh, and ride the chicken sim (they’re more comfortable than real chickens).

  18. Great show as always. It’s good to hear you guys addressing song structure. I think I’ve kind of taken this knowledge for granted. Great stuff for those starting out, and also some good bits for old songwriters like me.

    I totally agreed with Jon regarding pitch correction. In the past, I used to run melodyne on everything. Now, I’ll only fix something if it’s noticeably out of pitch, and then, usually just a small part. I’ll mostly just use Reaper’s built in media item pitch adjustments.

    Melodyne still get’s used here from time to time. I’ve found that it works exceptionally well for violin takes played poorly. I’ve recorded a few bands with violin players who can’t intonate to save their lives.

    I really hope that the era of pitch correcting things to death is coming to an end. As an engineer, I’m getting really tired of having to fix other people’s poorly tracked vocals. There’s one or two projects I’ve done where the original vocals were horrid, and I was able to make it sound like they were great singers. I really think I should have gotten a credit on those releases for vocals. Vocals by Doug McGee (Me) with source provided by John Doe (singer). 🙂

    Ride the iguana!

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