Learn and map out a bunch of basic song structures. Drag your favorite song into your DAW and mark the sections.
Then, when writing, pick a structure and write to this. You can always get fancy later.
If the above feels too restrictive consider the alternative is the hard way. (Maybe you do not know your structures enough. I didn’t but thought I did.)
100% of the time it’s easier to break the rules when you know them in the first place.
Even if you just have 4-bars, stretch out the song idea over a whole structure immediately, no mater how pitifully thin some parts seem. If the spark is real and you actually have something, your seed/ idea will more than survive. In fact, there will more than likely be more to it than you initially thought.
Remember, it’s easier to take away then to add after your initial burst of inspiration.
The dark magic may be in your initial writing, but the money is in the re-writing. Anyone can come up with an idea, but hardly anyone produces finished work.
Set a time of day to re-write. An appointment.
When at a this writing appointment give yourself 2 options: write or do nothing; not internet nothing. Absolutely nothing; just sit there. (This is advice is from Neil Gaiman, and he knows.)
Always better to have too many words and verses.
Then, the more medieval you are about chopping words the better.
Keep it simple. Play to about 50% of your top-end ability.
Had a fantastic Saturday night, pool-side set. Beautiful vibes all around. I am at my level best @ this kind of gig.
Actually hanging up the solo electronic/ acoustic spurs for a bit to concentrate on these DJ sets.
Gives me a greater opportunity to share music I love, keeps me so current — searching for new cuts, and I can mix in my own electronic stuff (that fits). -jd
Walking on the Moon – The Police A classic, ushering in the right feel.
All I Want to Do – UB40 Deep cut from my favorite album of theirs. Such a great groove. Amazing drum machine and bass (machine) too.
Natty Dread – Bob Marley All time favorite Bob track. So chill.
T’aint What You Do – Fun Boy 3 So weird and great.
Non Stop – Kraftwerk One of the greats. This is a newer remix. Absolutely love the mood here.
Verona – Lastlings Nice, close song. I think I heard it in passing on Apple Music.
Rat in Mi Kitchen – UB40 Couldn’t help myself. Had to go back to the well.
Fems Pay Douces – Raphael Toiné Heard this via Paris’ Le Mellotron. Shows up in a lot of folks sets. How could you not love this guy?
I Fell it Coming – The Weekend/ Daft Punk Such a jam. Chorus is repeated a lot. Not sure the kids know what he’s talking about, luckily.
Sentimental Street – Night Ranger Again, I can not help myself sometimes with the 80’s.
Paradise (live) – Sade Thee deepest of grooves. Love this whole record too.
Wouldn’t it Be Good – Danny Hutton Hitters A classic. Good break-the-sounds-up song. A bit cheesy, version-wise.
A Message to You Rudy – The Specials Perfect pool-side music. Drunken horns on a Saturday after noon are perfection.
Down Under – Men at Work Always sounds great loud. You wouldn’t think, but it’s true.
Brother’s Cup – Red Hot Chili Peppers Wasn’t sure about this one. Kept waiting for an errant blue word. Never came!
Matadjem Yinmixan – Tinarwian I love this song so much. Perfect chill afternoon vibe.
Cruel Summer – Bananarama Ditto. Love this too. Sounds so wooly and perfectly of its time.
Where Angels Fear to Tread – Disclosure Amazing. The whole thing; every facet. Made me a fan of these guys.
Meditate – INXS Weird, but it worked. Forget how it even got on the playlist.
Oguo – Lakou Mizik & Joseph Ray I almost misted-up when this started. Such amazing work here combining the rural, very real island life with the modern. Breathtaking. Watch the video. Reminds you what an amazing world we live in.
Secrets – The Weekend The most modern way to cover songs ever. Genius.
Adventure of a Lifetime – Coldplay No apologies for loving theses guys. This record changed the course of my life.
Crazy – Gnarls Barkley Classic. Everybody loves it. Period.
Bad Dream – Cannons How cool is this? Love these guys.
Love is Not Enough – Above & Beyond ft. Zoë Johnson Beautiful remix. And that voice. Wow.
Chameleon – Panu Happiest song ever? I could listen to it over-and-over-and-over.
Warning Signs – Alan Fitzpatrick & Lawrence Hart This has been playing in the car a lot. Like a lot.
One More Time – Daft Punk I can still remember the first time I heard this. Fell right in love.
Sailing – Chicane Cool idea and execution. Prefect for the Country Club afternoon set. Tailor made.
Beyond Beliefs – Ben Böhmer The summer song of 2021. For sure.
The Telephone Call – Kraftwerk Yes! Current favorite Kraftwerk song.
What’s Good? Favorite DJ resource on the Internet (a/k/a Youtube) is Digital DJ Tips. Honerable mention to DJ Tech Tools as well.
Can I stream? No you cannot stream form Apple music or Spotify. You have to to sign up for Tidal, but I am not using streaming this time around.
How to Setlist? Per Digital DJ Tips’ advice, I have twice as much music ready as I need packed neatly into a Serato, in order of BPM, which is probably how I will play it. Organization has been the best digital tip (of many). I’ve watched a ton of Phil’s content on repeat, and his patience is saintly.
What’s your thing? Know what you’re after. I mix like a vinyl DJ, and that’s making the first outing easy: emphasis on vibe and mood, not non-stop dancing. Making this distinction–figuring out the what and how, will save heartache down the road.
What’s been the best? The internet (Youtube) is filled with some really amazing feats of curation an dexterity from DJ’s all over. A lot of great Brazilian action out there right now. As a closeted sp-404 guy, I found LeMellotron in Paris, and their DJ sets are second to none. I love all of their programing.
Hopefully you did not come here for advice, but I bet you may be looking for new ideas.
Spend a week with a synth. (A month in my case.)
Which synth does not matter and is the wrong kind of detail! If you have an iPad you have acres to a world of them under $10.00, and you also have all YouTube to get you going in the right direction.
What did I find out, learn, or reinforce in a week/ in week one?
1. Make new sounds from existing ones. You do not have to start from a basic patch. (This is how you make a basic patch.) Think of presets as a springboard.
2. I am not the player I could be, but I’m not as bad as I thought. In fact, I may play a song live this weekend (typically only perform w/ guitar).
3. All synths sound the same to the general public.
4. In the context of a mix, effects may be more important than the synth patch/ tone.
5. I really do love my first true synth love, this Alpha Juno. (Yes my site and record label are named after the AJ series.)
6. I am a writer first player and player next, but I still need to be able to get my ideas across as fast, efficiently, and as accurately as I possibly can. A/K/A I need a practice routine. [Austin Kleon has already said how succinctly.]
Patches matter less I thought they did, but they still matter a lot. Better general keyboarding will speed up the demo process for me. Committing to the journey and work of #programertoplayer will pay-up huge. I have a much better ear than I used to.
Knowing this synth well will also save me real money. I think we all know that going out and buying a synth or spending time researching/ SHOPPING for new models—for the “sound in your head”—is wasting energy as compared to practical application, never minding that “sound in your head” is probably just lazy journalist writing that we’ve all come to accept as true.
Imagine not shopping as much. Or imagine the habit of going to your synth when you have something in mind.
For me, my key here and to my writing is this: the process is my reward.
The end-of-the-line song is fine, but if you do not love the journey and keep faith that it will end somewhat victoriously, you may need to rethink things. Out of everything, reenforcement of these is the true one synth lesson for me.
This week’s challenge in my electronic music Song Game Group is to use just one synth for the whole track. Even the drums!
The idea here is that there is so much gear out there, and there are plug-ins on top of plug-ins, and sample packs galore that, instead of helping, these gum-up the works, stopping all creativeness in its tracks.
It’s a dirty room or a sink full of dishes. A diner table piled high with plates and old food. A bed full of people at a party and all you want to do is go to sleep (if this happens).
A good chunk of YouTube seems dedicated to the pursuit of of learning how to use all this gear, or how to acquire it, or how some other idiot acquired it, or why it is the greatest, or why is sounds like a cat being _____, or how to take it out of it’s box …
It’ll make you ‘effing crazy. Real Crazy.
So with this sorry state of affairs that’s maybe a by-product of our consumer economy, you must do things like pretend you only have one synth to shake loose of it all.
Given all of this, I monogamlly committed to my favorite synth–the Roland Alpha Juno–for not a week, but for a whole month. A MONTH! My first analog poly was an Alpha Juno, but embarrassingly I still have not really plumed the depths here. Like A LOT of others, I got distracted by the this-one-does-this and that-one-does that of other synths. I mean, that’s how I got the AJ in the first place.
I do think my music would be better, and I would be slightly happier if I would have only stuck with this and the Minitaur, and my shadow motivation is to, after all of this is said and done, go down to just a few synths I know very well. (target list: Alpha Juno, Grandmother, OP-1).
I am preparing for a show on the 12th, and I am also finishing a couple of tracks for pre-studio, tracking. I am not 100% sure if only using this guy will make all of this easier or harder, but it’s already making it simpler.
I believe the Juno series has a categorical sound akin to what the Stratocaster/ Les Paul/ Rickenbacker all have to guitars. A differentiating, know-it-when-you-hear-it thing. Crucially, pop music would not sound the way it sounds without Juno series. So, can a modern musician survive a summer month with just one synth?
A few things to think about: The manual is really great, as is the above pamphlet/ book. I use an iPod touch for arps and sequences, and this works better than a phone for a lot of reasons. Related to this, having no sequencer or arpeggiator on a synth like this can be a real plus. This helps a lot. Ableton works really well with Alpha Juno (native External Instrument plug-in). Connect 2 things with this (iPhone runs op-1 and AJ).