Skip to main content

music & audio

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 3 of 28

Be Self Critical

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

3. Be Self Critical

Lesson Info

Be Self Critical

I'm gonna be coming back to, ah, few big ideas throughout the entire class. And I think that making sense out of all this, uh, it basically comes back to just a few things that are true of any style on there's gonna keep coming back to that. And, uh, that's why I have guests from, you know, such a wide spectrum of heavy music from your nails or demon hunter monuments. Um, radically different ends of the spectrum. All arguably awesome bands. Eso wanted to talk Teoh people behind those bands because, uh, I said right there, Good song writing is Shauna agnostic? Um, the things that make a good song in progressive or death metal Good, uh, is the same anywhere. So catchy, catchy piece of music is a catchy piece of music. So doesn't really matter what you play, I think as long as you're focusing on the right things, um, one of the other things I think is super important is that you are super self critical injury and talk about that quite a bit. Is always had to be self evaluating. Most reall...

y good writers I know are borderline suicidal because they're always critiquing themselves and nobody nobody in the world can possibly could take them as much as they critique yourself. And it's kind of, ah, rough headspace to be in if you're a true writer. But that's the gig. If you don't really have that part of your brain, you probably aren't a good writer and probably aren't gonna be a good writer, So maybe go back to sleep or something. But, you know, if if you're super self critical, there's still hope. Everything I'm going to talk about a lot is what I just talked about. So you really don't need to know theory. But what I'm gonna impose is that whether you know, theory or don't know theory, what I do think is important is a disciplined approach to, ah, toe working. You got to figure out what works for you and stick to it and definitely tried to find that stuff. It's not. It's not as open ended as it might sound in a the intro to this whole thing. Um, and one of the other things I think it's super important is, uh, you might be writing for yourself. I mean, we all right for ourselves, but ultimately, um were not the best, Ah, judges of whether our music is effective or not and and also the people closest to us, sir. Liars. Um, we can't trust what are best friends. Say what? Our parents, girlfriends? Anybody says, Ah, your best. I guess your best ah gauge for whether or not your music is working is the reaction of a complete stranger. So you gotta learn, Teoh, read these things and watch the signs. Basically, um doesn't matter what your girlfriend says. She's lying. She'll think you suck the minute she dumps you. Um, it's true. You're great till you get dumped. Um, I guess, um when the other things going talk about a lot is, ah, theme and variation. And again, that's ah regardless of what style you're in. Um, and this is especially true and metal. Uh, I don't really know how is gonna highlight this without going into notation or something that so we just decided to use the alphabet. And, um, when the problems you see in metal is that song starts on Rift A and it ends on ribs E. And nothing has anything to do with anything else in between. It just basically goes from when the dude started writing toe on the dude Stop writing or ah started writing one day and then decided to write the next day, and whatever happened, happened. And then certain wrote two weeks later, whatever happened, happened. And, uh, because those were the ideas he came up with its a song, and that's not really a song. It's just, uh, just gibberish, in my opinion, because normally when that happens, you could basically take sections of what happens, I guess, in riffs l m and n and replace them with B, C and D, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. There's no define herbal anything when you get rich salad happening. And, uh, I think that one of the main things that defines a song is that's got a unique identity. And so again, theory or no theory, your songs had toe have, ah, unique identity and one of the ways that you create that is through structure. And, uh, you know, like, for instance, that that I've got below a B c d a prime B Prime e d Prime a B C d a prime b prime e c F B prime. Uh, everyone follow what I mean by that, Just Yeah, okay. I mean, I think it's self explanatory, but some there might not think so. Um, just ah, those are sections in a song And I guess prime when you see the primes prime symbol, What that means is it's a variation off of the same thing, so that that's kind of a structure that you see a lot in, ah, good songs that things come back and repeat a little differently, but still based on the same thing that that works a lot more because you have something to findable and recognizable. So we are definitely going to encourage you to get away from riff salad, which is again one of the biggest problems and metal on. I just want to ask you guys in the room, uh, if you ever remember writing like that and, uh, kind of if and when you got over it, what was it that Ah, I guess brought your awareness to the point where suddenly, right. Oh, I need a structure stuff. To be honest, I don't feel like I have ever really written in, like the word salad format, just like stuff flowing and just going with the ideas. Yeah, I think Even when I was like 14 15 when I really started to write, I was was pretty aware of, like, structuring and stuff like that. I mean, I've definitely gotten better at writing songs and making more interesting structures and train just transitions in such over time. I mean, that's something that you just the more you do it, you get better at it. So it's really gotten better. But I mean, if anything, when I started out, I would just stick to, like, really safe formulas. You know, like you've never scores verse, chorus, bridge chorus done, you know, and just do something. Really, that works. But it's kind of a done a 1,000, times before. Um, so yeah, that's kind of my thought. Yeah, I think. And you bring up something good, which I think is ah, worth mentioning in the Anna touch on a lot is that structure doesn't mean that you have to do verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge. Yeah, chorus Done. That's like the most basic derivative structure you can possibly think of. Good structuring is well, way deeper than that. Involves riffs. Ah, being variations of each other and intertwining and working together. It's not just riff a glued onto some random other riff and then repeated again and then glued on. And then 1/3 rift. Because that's what you think you need. And then Outro done totally. I would say, like my number one thing that I would request Clients do like before coming to the studio like if you're out there like writing songs and you want to record them with a producer or whatever, like is just I spend a lot of time like being critical, like you said of your own stuff, and spend a lot of time like really trying to make the song writing and the structure interesting. And because it's almost impossible to like, spend too much time on that stuff. You know, at a certain point, maybe you'll start to, like Spiral into, like, this is own mentally where you were, don't know good from bad anymore. So maybe then, like, take a step back from it for a bit. But otherwise, like really like it would be self critical. Like everything you're saying so far is great, you know, just just don't settle too quickly. Unlike Oh, yeah, You know, this is cool. This this, this works. I'll just tackle these two together. And now we have a song really getting in depth with it. And the one thing I will say, though, and I agree wholeheartedly is it really is possible to across that line to where you're just harping on the wrong ship for way too long. And, ah, case in point is ah, lot of, ah, more amateur level bands who will come in and be working on the same songs they've had for, like, five years. It's like, I mean, you know something? Maybe you wrote something great five years ago, Just never got it recorded properly. But odds are that you're probably better now than you work five years ago. So why are you living in the past? Um, most good songwriters. And it's not everybody. Um, there some songwriters who just make their albums when their banners and make an album, and that's all they write for a year or two. And that's cool if that works. But you know, runs different. What? What I was specifically pointing to is being bad are when a band does not write more than 5 to 8 songs every 5 to 8 years, and it's still tweaking risk from 5 to 8 years ago. That's go, you know, absolutely, because your taste will change. You'll hear some some van, some new album will come along that you be really into you. And then all of a sudden you'll notice something that that band doesn't have song writing that you like. So then you're like, Oh, what if I kind of did that to my song? And so if you never, like, really create that definitive, like final version of something you like, it will never end, you know? Yeah, like you said, you'll be five years later. There you'd be tweaking on something and you're still not happy with it. Like, Okay, just finish your song, move on and write a new song. It's the same with mixing, too, if you if you like, mix something for too long and you don't let it go. At a certain point, you just you know, you end up chasing your own tail around, and it's not really worth worth it at all. What has no song? No mixer ever actually finished? Yeah, They're just just basically part ways with and say This is what it is, you know? Now we move on to the next song, Finished. It's not ever that right, But you know, like you don't get better on this you part ways of songs and move on to other ones. I think like you, it's almost Ah, it's almost like you get better in the off time. In between writing songs, I don't know that's true. I don't have any evidence to back that up, but, um well, yeah, I mean, the software industry we have, there's a similar thing to an even greater extent. You can always be measurably making something better and improving on the stuff you have. But at a certain point, it's just so dragging and you just have to throw out what you have and go with something more. Sometimes that means throwing in the music case, throwing it onto a record, and moving on to something else doesn't mean you can't play those songs. I mean, certainly you should, unless they suck. Um, but, um, if you're not moving for, if you don't just let the things be, you're not going to keep looking for things that are better. Oh, yeah, definitely. Definitely. Agree. If, uh, I just have, ah, opinion that if the song wasn't working a few years ago, there's probably a good reason for it, just probably just something internally flawed with it. And because this stuff is hard to talk about and, you know, hard Teoh like think about objectively. It's not like, uh, you know, people say it's math, but it's not on math. It's just it's hard to really define this stuff. If there's something wrong with a song, sometimes it's just hard to know what it is. And people just think that they can tweak and tweak and tweak and tweak and tweak, and it's gonna get better by version 79. But just not is just better than ditch like sometimes, like the idea you have in your head like you have this grand idea, the total in your head and then when you put it that you play with the bandit just doesn't turn out as well, either. Another thing I want to touch on about your about your slide is that a rift Salads generally no good, but great songs have been written with, like, 17 parts, with only two parts repeating absolutely like, uh, and that's that's really hard, especially in a music like metal where everybody has a d. D like I can't focus. I I couldn't I can't even think about right and saw that had more than, like, six or seven parts to it. But there's that. Ah, that converge song. The saddest day. I don't know if you're familiar with it. I mean it at the in the late nineties. It was like their biggest song at the time, but it's like all these parts and it flowed very well together. I think only two or three part repeat, maybe once each. But ah, it's Ah, it's back to what you said before it's It's your heart, you know? I mean, you got totally like it. Either sounds good to you and sound inspiring to you or doesn't but generally result No good. Well, I mean, there's also outside of metals. Some really, really classic songs that, you know, go all the way through like I mean, you know, Guitar Center. But steroid having or bohemian Rhapsody come to mind is like songs that started one place and end in a completely different place. They're absolutely classic. It's not that it doesn't happen. But the thing about it them is that they're very, uh, other parts are intertwined, like they make sense, There's a progression, and there's a attention build and release and all those other elements air there. It's not just random shit. And, you know, I'm sure that there's been bands that do throw some, renders it together. It happens to work. I mean, yeah, yeah, it's gotta Here we are at certain points, Like, real hard. Yeah, like just like you said. Bahamian rap. See when those Dan doomed. But that didn't dampen When that riff comes in that it's hard as hell. Yeah, absolutely. Uh, it's exactly the part that needs to happen After all that buildup. I think of that part wasn't there. Maybe the song wouldn't be all that cool, huh? Just limp, you know, Um, so, yeah, I think what you're pointing out again is, uh um why, why This is a tough topic is cause you think things were one way. And then along comes a song that totally defies everything you're talking about. And it is just awesome. And everybody agrees that it is. But the thing the thing that I'm noticed about that is that usually it's not. It's not that, Like all these things have to be true in a good song. It's not that everything has to be catchy and everything has to be well structured and everything has to be well arranged and all the dynamics have to be there and not all that has to be true at all times and all songs. But I think there's, like, a minimum requirement, like if the structure is not there, then the tension release has to be there or let you know what I mean. Like, the dynamics have to be, like, perfectly done. If you're not gonna like repeat parts or whatever, you're gonna do it build up song, then you gotta you gotta pull it off. Um, it's ah, it's not like I don't think that these air like rules like when you're gonna fly an airplane, you go down a checklist and if you're not complete with the checklist and taken off like it's just not happening, Um, and actually, some more modern airplanes like Airbus is like the plan will physically not take off until Chepas complete. I don't think it's the same thing. I think there's some. I think some of these things need to be happening in order for the song, the work and every songs different. A 17 different part riffs Al it's on. You could make That actually worked pretty well. If if you have some repetitive things going on like you said, like, say, A, B, C and D were maybe like in this one key and had a certain tempo to it or a certain you know, in certain drumbeat. And the e f G H is kind of a different mood altogether with four different parts. And then maybe you come back to something similar to a B C. D. When you get onto Ah, I J k l you know, like you can you can you can make that kind of dynamic flow to and you can make the song work even though every section would be like its own thing. But what will your trip driving is theme and variation, though exactly, you know, it doesn't need. It doesn't Parts don't need to come back like this is the chorus like big copy paste parts and come back in a different way, but still sound familiar and work or be or be completely new. But generally I think generally something's got to be tying them together and actually were, uh, touch on that a lot is how Teoh take one idea and stretch it out as much as you possibly can get as many different versions of it in variations and whatnot, it's possible that this is something. Yeah, I think. Ah, good litmus test for for Is it for if a song is to riff salad or if it has, you know, good structure that uses a theme and variation is when you're if it's something that you just came up with on your own, because that's one way that song could be ripped salad. If you're like trying to challenge yourself as a songwriter and all, I'm gonna make this super complex thing, it's gonna be, you know, the my 1st 10 minute song and it does. I was gonna fill it with stuff, and then when you go and you try to teach the song to the rest, the guys in the band they're just exhausted and dumbfounded by like the fifth riff. It's like if it's failing with your band, if it's failing to stick in like your your fellow bandmates brain, it's not going to stick in anyone else's brains and not even stick in terms of being catchy and, you know, not even be memorable. Just not even gonna be able to be listenable. So I mean, that's something I personally probably should have listened to in certain cases. Actually, it's interesting that you bring that up. Uh, I have got in a few bands over the years that come in with the 10 Minutes song just because they think they need a 10 minute song because Metallica did it. Um, it's like, Well, you're not Metallica, Um, but the's classic bands have a 10 minute song each, so we have to do it. Even though our song really is a three minute song that we extended for what way past the expiration date. Some bends definitely try to fit Thea Square peg into a round hole with their song writing in tow. That's Ah, that's never good. That's not to say that you shouldn't try to get better, but I think there's a fine line. Do you get the sense that bans still want us stick to that because they feel like they put so much effort into it. And they feel like that. Yes. Yeah. Um, I think the harder the harder people work on something, the more likely it is that they're gonna be attached to it and not willing to part ways with it, which is not good, Absolutely. Who willing to ditch? I think, Um, just cause you worked a long time on something doesn't mean it's good. Um, need to be ready to accept that. One thing that I've noticed is the more you right, and that's something else I'm going to be talking about is doing this a lot. The more you write, the more ideas that you bring to reality, the less each individual idea matters. And the more likely you are to be comfortable with ditching things, which is good, very, very good. Should be comfortable with letting your ideas go. Um, is probably a low percentage of your ideas that are great. Ah, higher percentage of them that air Pretty good. Um, uneven. Higher percentage of them that are mediocre. And then, you know, down the bell curve, but your ideas that are actually really, really great or probably the smallest fraction. So the more you write, the more you're going to get to those ideas. And there's no reason to keep the crap and get to many bands doing that only have, like, two or three good songs, but want to record 10. What are you doing? Um, so yeah, definitely I with you on that, Um, as we were just talking about structure quite a bit. Um, this Ah, I think that one thing I just got to say is that you're gonna notice a lot with the slides that we'll talk about something and we'll get ahead of the we'll get ahead of the keynote. But that's Ah, that's the game. When it comes to writing, everything's intertwined. This isn't like tuning a snare drum, like in my other class where ah, you know, you seat the head, you tune it, um, you Mike it and then you tweak it. It doesn't really work that way. Everything kind of works with everything else when it comes Teoh writing. So, um, you're gonna have to bear with me on the on the topics anyways. Um we're just talking about structure. And though we did come up with some examples of when, uh, I guess going from start to finish with no repeats is cool. Generally, it's just rambling. It's not that different than if you just kind of sat down and started writing all your thoughts down. You know, like freeform writing, stream of consciousness. I mean, cool. Some people do that, but that's not necessarily gonna make a great book. Um, not necessarily gonna make a great song. Um, most people don't want to hear, and, well, some people might have their stone or something. But in general, I think one thing to be aware of is, if you're rambling musically, I think songs. I think there's a big, big difference between song based medium and sailing orchestral music, which is, uh, much broader form, theme and development style where the pieces can last 40 to 50 to 60 minutes and only have, like, four main ideas that is so much more. Ah, rambling style. But ah, in ah, thinking metal. That's not really all that cool tends to get kind of boring and also really important point that I want Teoh bring up is that nobody cares. Um, you care. And, uh, your girlfriend pretends like she cares, but nobody really cares unless they have a gut reaction to your music. Uh, and there's nothing you can do to really bring that out of somebody. Either they like it or they don't, and that's when they give a shit. And until then, they're lying. And, ah, you should just keep that in mind at all times. It's really, really important, I think not to get too wrapped up in your own boat when it comes to writing and thinking you're too good. That self critical mindset needs to always be at the forefront if you're gonna keep on getting better.

Class Description

It’s easy for musicians to get so caught up in the latest gear, plugins, and presets, and forget that ultimately, it’s all about the music. Join Eyal Levi and special guests Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter), Todd Jones (Nails, Terror), and John Browne (Monuments) for an in-depth exploration of what it takes to craft great songs.

Eyal will share the tricks of the songwriting trade he’s learned over years of experience as a producer at Audiohammer Studios (The Black Dahlia Murder, August Burns Red, Whitechapel) and guitarist for Century Media/Roadrunner artists Daath. Throughout this two-day course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the three core components of metal/rock songwriting. You’ll learn about basic song structure and riff-writing; melodies, leads, and vocals; and fine-tuning the arrangement to take your song from good to great. Eyal will be joined by special guests -- from musicians to producers and more -- who will empower you to take your songwriting to new heights.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 1

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 2

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


user 6f3d0a

Eyal and all the guests are awesome here and really provide a solid education on Songwriting and writing within the Metal genre. One thing that Eyal said that really struck a chord with me, was how Songwriting was being taught at the music school he dropped out of and how it was uninspiring. I completely and thoroughly agree. I own many, many books and videos on Songwriting and I cannot get past the first few pages because it doesn't speak to me and my needs as a Songwriter who is focused on writing Metal. I've been playing Guitar for 25 years now and this is the very first course I've seen that takes Metal songwriting seriously and as a subject worth studying. I would like to commend CreativeLive on having the guts to feature heavy music so prominently in their courses and thank them for helping us establish Metal as a more serious genre. One that is worthy of awards, praise, distinction and honor. In Metal and Strength, R. Ross Strength Keeper Songwriting/Guitars/Vocals/Arranging

Mike Lamb

This was a massively inspirational and incredibly helpful course. By the end of it I had a notebook full of incredibly useful tips and tricks, and I definitely plan a rewatch as soon as possible. I've been in bands writing songs for the better part of 15 years, but this has put a lot of focus on some of the corners I've cut or the areas where I've been lazy with the smaller details. No matter where you are in your songwriting you'll definitely benefit from this, and Eyal articulates everything in an engaging way and positive way. Even if you think you're a good songwriter, there's a tonne here you can benefit from. 10/10 - Thanks Eyal!

Marco Ramírez

Great course, I have enjoyed it a lot and I'm sure I will come back to reinforce many of the concepts shown through the videos. Right now I'm good to go with ideas to apply to my songwriting skills and reinforce several concepts I already had developed prior to this course. This is a great lesson series... even for advanced musicians, anyone can get stuck in this wonderful world of writing and this course shows you tools to get out the best of this process.