If the mastering step begins after mixing is done, but my song is not really “done” until it has been mastered, then how do I know when I’m done with mixing and ready to have my music mastered?
Music composition, in its most basic sense, is sound and silence organized over time. Producers are creating music just as much as the traditional songwriter, if not more. If you created an original piece of music and it is to be released to Spotify, Apple Music, etc., then you will generate publishing royalties. If you understand your ownership of that release, then you can register your percentage of publishing ownership and collect recurring royalties for the rest of your life.
And while this is a solid piece of advice for any type of composer, it’s especially important here. If you can adequately identify the audience for whom you’re writing, you can make them feel nostalgic by using the scale degrees and instruments that they would have heard when they were younger. We’ll get back to this in a moment.
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Whether you’re a vocalist learning to sight sing from sheet music or an instrumentalist working on transcribing songs, arranging for an ensemble, or even composing new musical material, learning to identify intervals by ear can be useful across almost any situation. Plus, if you can identify intervals by ear, who needs perfect pitch?
I tend to use a medium-to-fast release setting. I’ve heard a lot of famous mixers say they set the release with the tempo of the song. So they would watch the gain reduction needle and have it release on beat with the song. I try my best to use this method.
Key-wise, I feel like there’s almost too much tonal information for everyone to hear it the same. If it was just up to the melody, I’d say hands down G major because the melody starts and ends on G the majority of the time (where has that pun been all my life?). However, there’s a clear E in the bass under the G at certain cadence points, making for a v chord (Em11) leading us back to Am, which comes on the strong beat. These are two good reasons to hear it in A Dorian.
“Nonstop”: Talk about restraint, this one only has four notes: just F#, A, D, and then D♭ shows up at 1:26 sounding like a ghost. There might even be a hint of an F# major chord sometimes, but that’s probably just the harmonic overtones of the synth-patch poking through… or a ghost.
Funnily, his music also set off debates across Europe about the new “trend” towards effeminate, sentimental, and “cowardly” music! Despite its popularity, people were worried composers were taking the modern opera in feminine directions. And perhaps to make matters worse, Queen Marie Antoinette rather loved his work and invited him to Paris to compose for the Academie Royale de Musique. We won’t go into the competitive “compose off” between he and Christof Gluck, but it is rather humorous that he had half of Paris up in arms about whether they’d support his music or his rival’s and declare themselves as either a Piccinnist or a Gluckist.
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In several interviews, Sandison and Eoin reveal how they love using old reel-to-reel, four-track, and cassette tape machines as pseudo-preamps to impart a certain sound. The aim was to drive the inputs on this old tech and harness its audio downsampling, imprinting a sense of nostalgia and decay right into the tracking process of the recording.
A common distortion pedal for shoegaze is the fuzz, and there’s almost none more famous than the Big Muff Pi. It’s famous for a reason. It creates a high quality, juicy, fat sounding distortion for a comparatively low price and is sought after for its sustain as well. The Big Muff is really quite perfect for creating those colorful walls of noise, but there’s such a huge range of overdrive and distortion pedals out there, you really need to find what fits your personal taste.
From an artist’s perspective, countless hours go into creating music, perfecting a set, and bringing it to the stage — and that should speak for itself, right? It might be nice to fantasize about a world where musicians just show up to play and crowds miraculously appear, but that obviously isn’t how things work. Venues need bands to do much more than just show up and play great music, and all that starts with getting your foot in the door in the first place!
The key is to link up a singer’s already incredible ear with what they see on the page — and, use a more robust knowledge of harmony to anticipate what comes next. Learning key signatures, intervals, scales, chord progressions, and function help singers be one step ahead. And, become the kind of colleagues that get hired back again and again.
Robinson McClellan is a composer, writer, and teacher. His music has been performed, commissioned, and published widely. He has done artist residencies at MacDowell and Yaddo and earned his doctorate in composition from Yale. He works in product development, user care/feeding, and instructional design for music and education companies. He founded and directs ComposerCraft, a workshop for young composers.