012 R&D – Album Progress Update | Discussing East Coast and West Coast Hip-Hop Styles

Guitar

In this episode, Dice and I chat about our progress on the album, specifically how we want to incorporate the different styles of West and East Coast Hip-Hop.

Below are some of the songs we mention in the podcast.

 

 

 

011 R&D – Internet Recording Strategy | Real-Time VOIP Recording vs Sharing Project Files Via Dropbox


Internet

We wanted to consider every option for recording over the Internet while we are on opposite sides of the country. As you may know, I live in California and Dice lives in NH. We developed our Dropbox strategy of sharing .WAV files, but wanted to see if we could do some quality live recording and Dice brought up the fact that his sound quality on the podcast could be better as well.

Obviously, we couldn’t get high quality real-time audio just over the phone because of all the compression and sound degradation and because of the small microphone in Dice’s Android so we began to think about upgrading the whole thing all together by incorporating Voice Over IP or VOIP for all our sessions. We figured this would allow us to connect Dice to monitor the same sound as me as well as upgrade his mic in order to have an actual session. Sounds cool right?

In theory this would work because it would be like we we’re right next to each other in real life having a legit session. I figured out how to set up the auxiliary send through a mixer and Pro Tools where I could send my voice and whatever else I wanted back to Dice. This set up is also known as a mix minus. Ray Ortega from thepodcastersstudio.com has and excellent video that explains this set up. For more information on mix minus visit:

http://thepodcastersstudio.com/how-to-setup-a-mix-minus/

Skype and FaceTime

So we got it all set up and tested Skype and FaceTime and actually got some pretty good results for sound quality. However, we did experience delay and couldn’t seem to get the synchronization quite right which isn’t necessarily good for musical collaboration where timing is everything.

What would happen is I would send my voice and a beat and Millie (who was engineering) and Dice heard my voice and the beat a few seconds after it had actually happened. This caused monitoring issues on my side because Dice’s voice was delayed. We couldn’t do any complicated wordplay like we want to for this album. Rehearsing seems to be tough while 3,000 miles apart.

So not only was the delay an issue, but there were drop outs. This was to be expected though and we determined that this could still work just using similar manual sync techniques as we use in our Dropbox strategy as long as I wasn’t monitoring Dice while recording and we weren’t doing any back and forth wordplay rhymes that required us to hear one another.

The other issue that arose was what Millie mentioned how the tempo sped up and slowed down randomly on their side causing Dice’s performance to be inconsistent with the actual track. This wouldn’t work. We could only assume these tempo changes were caused by bandwidth limitations or network dropouts or something internet related.

The strange thing was that this tempo fluctuations only occurred with Skype and not FaceTime. Everything else was constant; the networks, the hardware. We determined that each service had it’s own quirk. For example, audio quality seemed great with FaceTime, but when overloads of audio information went through, it seemed to drop out as opposed to Skype which compensated by speeding and slowing tempo.

Conclusion

So all in all we liked the sound quality in FaceTime and felt we could better deal with dropouts in FaceTime as opposed to the tempo shifts in Skype. Possibly, there are solutions for the podcast that wouldn’t necessarily work for our recording sessions and visa versa which we are still exploring. For example, in the coming episodes, we are going to experiment with upgrading the microphone on Dice’s Android with an iRig PRE that will enable us to plug his Shure SM58 into his phone while we talk. We’ll report on how that goes.

Additionally, I’ve read a bit about ISDN which is an older radio technology that allows for simultaneous digital transmission of voice. That technology is dying because of the emergence of higher-end VOIP services taking over. These high-end types of VOIP services are certainly not cheap, but I believe will become more and more accessible as time goes on. Also, its worth it to note that these types of services require very robust internet connections and stable computing systems.

In conclusion, for general speaking purposes, connecting via VOIP with a standard consumer internet connection seems to have its ups and downs. Phone calls over an Andriod or iPhone certainly comes with its own faults for quality sake. When tracking, the old Dropbox strategy seems to prevail as it is simply transferring data and doesn’t have to rely on internet connection in real time.

Hopefully you enjoyed the episode and see you next time!

Songwriting 101: 4 Essential Elements Of Songwriting

Songwriting

Introduction

Songs can be elusive when you’re trying to write one. However, if you’re like me, you probably come up with ideas all the time in the car or shower or while you’re sitting down for dinner at a restaurant. To capture the fickle song idea at her best, a good thing to do is record a quick sample on your phone or device using the voice recorder app or whatever recording program you use. Always write down the line that you come up immediately so you don’t forget. Once you have come up with this part of the composition, use it as foundation to build upon. There are several elements of songwriting, but in this post, I will focus on the following:

  1. Coming Up With Lyrics
  2. Song Structure
  3. Choosing Ensembles
  4. Arrangement

Use the flow chart below to get a quick overview.

rollzanddiceflowchart

1. Coming Up With Lyrics

If you have already written down or recorded your inspired idea that you thought of while sitting down for dinner at Olive Garden, then you find yourself here. You have an idea. A chorus line. A word? Or maybe you have nothing but a blank piece of paper. Either way,  you can come up with the rest of the song by thinking about the following:

  • Are you telling a story?
  • Are you expressing yourself?

I’m Telling A Story

If it helps, separate your writing into events. Here is one way to think of possible song sections while presenting a story:

  1. Verse: This happens.
  2. Pre-Chorus: Causing this to happen.
  3. Chorus: As a result, this happens.
  4. Bridge: However, this happens.

Example: Rollz McGuyver found an unscratched lottery ticket CAUSING him to drive to the store to see if he won. AS A RESULT, he won $10. HOWEVER, when he got back to his car, he had a parking ticket for $10.

Obviously, you want to expand on the story and phrase the words to the rhythm and melody of your song, but having a general idea helps. You can adjust the formula any way to make it work for a song. Maybe one verse contains it all or maybe half is in the verses and half in the bridge. Whatever combination works for the song is best.

I’m Expressing Myself

If you are expressing yourself, you can ask the following questions and answer them in the form of verse, chorus, pre-chorus, and bridge. Here’s how:

  • Verse – How are you feeling? How are you handling it?
    • “I am so excited…”
  • Pre-Chorus – What do you need?
    • “I just need…”
  • Chorus – What’s going on? How are you going to respond?
    • “It’s time for me to…”
  • Bridge – What have you learned and taken from the experience as a result?
    • “Now I see…”

If you want get tricky and combine the two, tell a story by presenting emotions or perspectives of characters within the story. Mix and match perspectives and use metaphors.

It’s good to write 12-16 bars of verse, 4 bars of chorus, and 4 of bridge. You can break it up later into verse 1, verse 2, verse 3, etc… Check out the Songwriting Template PDF, print a copy, and see if it works for you!

Click here to join our email list and we’ll send you the Songwriting Template which includes guides for lyric writing and song arranging!

2. Song Structure

The structure of the song can vary depending on many things: chord flow, story line, instruments, etc… but you can put together the story any way it works. Think of how each part is supposed to flow togeth er using the examples below as a guide.

Song Structure

3. Choosing Ensembles

The same goes for choosing ensembles and instrumentation. Just pick what works best for the song. Look at the screenshot below to see some example ensembles.

Choosing Ensembles and Instrumentation

4. Arrangement

A song isn’t only structured, but is also arranged. What this means is while the first verse of a song might consist of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals; the second verse might only consist of acoustic guitar and vocals. This can change from section to section.

Referring to the Song Structure and Ensemble examples from the screenshots above, arrange your song as follows: Say we want to use Example Structure 2 in combination with Ensemble Example 1, your song could look like this:

  • ChorusRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Synth | Lead: Vocals
  • VerseRhythm: Drums, Bass | Lead: Vocals
  • Pre ChorusRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar | Lead: Lead Synth
  • Verse 2Rhythm: Drums, Guitar | Lead: Vocals
  • BridgeRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Synth | Lead: Lead Guitar
  • ChorusRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Synth | Lead: Vocals
  • OutroRhythm: Guitar | Lead: Vocals

It’s all up to you! Take a look at the Songwriting Template as a guide to help you set up your own arrangement!

Click here to join our email list and we’ll send you the Songwriting Template which includes guides for lyric writing and song arranging!

 

Conclusion 

These tools are useful if you are just learning or if you are in a writers block. Sometimes, totally ditching structure all together works too, but sticking to the elements of songwriting mentioned here can be a great way to get it done! Try some of the techniques mentioned in this post and see if they work for you! What are some techniques you use to help your songwriting process? Let us know by commenting below!

Want more on songwriting? Listen to Rollz and Dice talk about songwriting in podcast episode 010 R&D – Songwriting.

009 R&D – Concept Albums

Concept Albums

Concept albums have been around for awhile. They are more than just groups of songs. They are elongated pieces of music with recurring themes and motifs not only lyrically, but musically as well. I like to think of them like movies – a single piece of work to be consumed in one sitting. Here are some popular examples:

  • Tommy by The Who
  • Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
  • The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie

Making a Concept Album

Dice and I set out to write our own concept album. The general theme is working the daily grind at a 9-5 job and then getting home to go to a studio recording session. Here is a general outline of the album broken up into 12 tracks:

  1. Rollz picks up Dice on the drive into work
  2. Rollz and Dice enter the warehouse – boss is always grinding
  3. Daily grind – at least it’s Friday
  4. Lunch break – last day of the week, what a relief
  5. Afternoon lull – much needed coffee break
  6. Home stretch – almost time for the bell
  7. 5 o clock – Yeah buddy!!! Get ready for the show
  8. Studio session
  9. The show – The R&D Show
  10. The Party
  11. The After Party
  12. Rinse and repeat – Wake up and do it again..

Click the play head above to listen to this episode where we talk about writing a concept album among other things.

Calling All Writers!

Also, I’m curious if anybody has any ideas for lyrics or music that they would want to contribute to the album. Leave a comment below or get at @rollzanddice on the tweet land!

Music In This Episode

Here are the songs that we mentioned in this episode:

Thanks!

-Rollz McGuyver

008 R&D – How Do You Consume Music? | Rollz and Dice Wonder How To Present The Album To Listeners

Record

I narrowed it down. When I listen to music, I’m usually at work, in my car, at home, or at the gym using Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, my turntable, iPod, or a CD player.

At work
I’m generally wearing headphones and kickin’ it on Spotify. I’ll visit allmusic.com to reference bands’ discographies and set up my playlists in chronological order by album. I like to listen to an entire album from front to back to get the full idea of it. However, I shuffle once I’ve heard an entire album. The radio works sometimes but if I’m listening to the it’s generally sports radio. When it comes to my music preferences, I’d rather choose the music or have a friend choose it for me.

In my car
I use a 2nd generation iPod and an auxiliary cable into my auxiliary jack. I know people use Bluetooth connections to do the same thing. I also still make use of CDs in my car and still buy them occasionally. Remember mix CDs?  😉 Those were fun. I used to burn mix CDs for my friends all the time!

At home
I have a turntable with a bunch of inherited records and a handful of new records. I also blast Spotify from my desktop computer.

At the gym
Generally, I am holding on to my iPod listening to inspirational podcasts. However, sometimes I listen to jams that pump me up!

 

Conclusion
Anyways, I’m curious to know how most people consume music and audio in general. Be it music or talk radio or a podcast. How do you consume music? Take the Survey to let us know or comment below!

007 R&D – Equipment, Software, and Services We Use | Rollz and Dice Discuss Songs 4-6

Equipment

We added an email opt-in form to the website! The opt-in form is linked to the 6 (FREE) Audio/MIDI Recording Tools PDF! Click the link and confirm your email address to check out the PDF! At that point, we will send you email updates when we have something of value to send! I hope you are into what we are doing and join the email list! RAD!!!

Equipment Rollz and Dice Use

  • Mac mini 2.26 Ghz Intel Core Duo
  • 8 GB ram crucial memory
  • 1 TB External hard drive
  • Two 120 Gb external hard drive
  • Dual Display mini port to vga and mini dvi to vga adapters
  • Shure SM57
  • Sennheiser e609
  • RODE NT1000
  • Mogami XLR
  • PROLINE Boom stand
  • Harbinger 8 channel mixer
  • Zoom H5N
  • M Audio Profire 2626 Audio Interface
  • M Audio BX5a monitors
  • Swis MIDI Controller
  • Hohner B Bass
  • 1/8″ to dual 1/4″ cable

Software Rollz and Dice Use

  • Mountain Lion 10.8.5
  • Pro Tools 11
  • GarageBand
  • Izotope Ozone Mastering Software
  • Izotope RX 5
  • Native Instruments Kontact Komplete 10
  • Rob Papen – Blue 2
  • ID3 Tag Editor
  • Photoshop

Services Rollz and Dice Use

  • Libsyn
  • FaceTime
  • Dropbox

006 R&D – 6 Ways To Set Up A Seamless Workflow | Rollz & Dice Discuss Working Through A Rut

Bass

So many times I’ve had a great idea and then walked up to my computer, turned it on, and come across something that prevents me from getting any work done. Whether it be troubleshooting my audio interface or loading virtual instruments, the little things add up, and by the time I get everything set up, sometimes I have lost the original creative idea. Here are 6 things that I do to set up a seamless workflow:

  1. Set aside a time to go through new virtual instruments ahead of my session.
  2. Determine what the ensemble of instruments will be. If I know I want drums, bass, two different leads, and keys, I think  of parts for each instrument and I think about how I am going to spread the chords across those instruments. Remember, if you can’t decide which instruments you typically use, you can always change virtual instruments after the fact. Just get something down and change it later if you need to.
  3. Rehearse solos and parts ahead of time and be ready to lay it down first try.
  4. That brings up the next one. If the take is not right in the first 3 tries, I’m not ready and I go back to the practice room. Plus things generally sound the most authentic during the first few takes.
  5. Save templates! Most DAWs will allow you to save a template or many templates. This helps tremendously with work flow.
  6. Write your music ahead of time. Just use your home recording setup to get the recording done. Don’t do your writing on the computer. Use a guitar, piano, or your voice.

That’s it! Well, those are only a few things you can do to improve your workflow. There are many more, but at least you can try these!

Thanks for reading! If you dig us, leave a comment and let us know!

-Rollz