Be Self Critical


Mastering Metal Songwriting


Lesson Info

Be Self Critical

I'm gonna be coming back, teo 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 our true of any style and is going to keep coming back to that and, uh, that's why I have guests from, you know, such a wide spectrum of heavy music from, you know, nails or demon hunter monuments, radically different ends of the spectrum, all arguably awesome bands eso wanted to talk teo people behind those bands because said right there, good songwriting is shauna agnostic the things that make a good song in progressive or death metal good is the same anywhere, so catchy, catchy piece of music is a catchy piece of music, so it doesn't really matter what you play. I think as long as you're focusing on the right things, more on the other things I think is super important is that you are super self critical anger and talk about that quite a bit is always had to be self evaluating. Most really good writers I know are b...

orderline 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 head space 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 going to 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 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 teo working you've got to figure out what works for you and stick to it on definitely tried to find that stuff it's not it's, not as open ended as it might sound in 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 we're all right for ourselves, but ultimately we're not the best judges of whether our music is effective or not and also the people closest to us are you liars? Um we can't trust what are best friends say where parents, girlfriends anybody says your best I guess your best ah gage for whether or not your music is working is the reaction of a complete stranger so you gotta learn tio read these things and watch the signs basically, um it 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 were great till you get done um I guess uh when the other things going talk about a lot is ah themed variation and again that's ah, regardless of what style you're in, this is especially true and metal 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 when the problems you see in metal is that song starts on rift eh? Then it ends on ribs e and nothing has anything to do with anything else in between it just basically goes from one to do started writing toe on the dude stop writing or ah started writing one day and then I decided to write the next day and whatever happened happened and then sir wrote two weeks later whatever happened happened and because those were the ideas he came up with it's a song and uh 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 and riffs l m and n and replace them with b, c and d and you weren't be able to tell the difference there's no define herbal anything when you get rich south happening and I think that one of the main things that defines a song because that's got a unique identity and so yeah again theory or no theory your songs had tow have ah unique identity and one of the ways that you create that is through structure and you know, like for instance that that I've got below a b c d a prime beef prime e d prime a b c d a prime beef 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, uh those are sections in a song and I guess prime you see the primes prime symbol what that means is it's a variation off of the same thing. So that's that's kind of a structure that you see a lot in ah good songs that thing's come back and repeat a little differently but still based on the same thing and that that works a lot more because you have something too findable in 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 I guess brought your awareness to the point where suddenly like oh, I need a structure stuff to be honest, I don't feel like I've ever really written in like the word salad format just like stuff flowing and just getting ideas yeah, I think even when I was like fourteen fifteen when I really started to write I was I 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 changes transitions and such overtime I mean that's something that you just the more you do it you you get better at it so definitely gotten better but I mean, if anything when I started out I would just stick to like, really safe formulas, you know, like universe chorus verse chorus, bridge chorus done, you know, and just do something really that works but it's kind of been done a million times before, so yeah, that's kind of my thought yeah, I think and you bring out something good, which I think is worth mentioning in the and a touch on a lot is that structure doesn't mean that you have to do verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus done that's like the most basic derivative structure you can possibly think of good structuring is way, way deeper than that involves risk 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 ah third riff 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 whatever like is just spend a lot of time like being critical like you said of your own stuff and spent 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 his 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 like you said 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 thiss works we'll just tack these two together and now we have a song you know like really get in in depth with it and the one thing I will say though and I agree wholeheartedly is uh it really is possible, teo process it line to where you're just harping on the wrong ship for way too long and, ah, case in point is ah lot of mohr 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 rose something great five years ago, just never got it recorded properly, but odds are that you're probably better now than you were five years ago. So why are you living in the past most good songwriters and it's, not everybody. They're 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 everyone's different what what specifically pointing to is being bad are when a band does not write more than five, eight songs every five to eight years and it's still tweaking wrists from five to eight, years ago. That's what the song go, you know, absolutely because your taste will change you'll hear some some band some new out will come along that you'd be really into you and then all of a sudden you'll notice something that that band doesn't this 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'll never end, you know? Yeah and like you said you'd be five years later there you 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 mc 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 well has no song, no mixture ever actually finished? Yeah, just there just you just have to 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's right? But you know, like you don't get better unless you part ways of songs and move on to other ones I think like you it's almost 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 even greater extent you can always be you know, 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 it in the music case throwing it onto a record on with 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 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 teo like think about objectively it's not like 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 since I was just hard to know what it is and people just think that they can t control you control you can trick and tweak and that's going to get better by version seventy nine that's just not is just better than ditch like sometimes like the idea you have in your head like you have this great idea that totally in your head and then when you put it that you play with the bandit just doesn't turn out as well either on anything I want to touch on about your about your slide is that, uh riff salads generally no good but great songs have been written with like seventeen parts with only two parts repeating absolutely like and that's that's really hard especially in the music like metal where everybody has a d d like I can't focus I kind of can't even think about write a song that had more than like six or seven parts to it but there is that a that converge song to sadist a don't know if you're familiar with it I mean in the late nineties it was like there 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 it's it's ah it's back to what you said before it's it's your heart you know what I mean? You gotta like it either sounds good to you and sound inspiring to you or it doesn't but generally results good well, I mean there's also outside of metal some really, really classic songs that you know go all the way through like I mean, you know, sin guitar center but stairway to heaven or bohemian rhapsody come to mind is like songs that start at 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 them is that they're very 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 random shit together it happens to work I mean yeah he's gotta hear there are certain points like real hard yeah like just like you said bohemian rhapsody when those damned and um but they didn't dampen when that rich comes in that it's hard as hell yeah, absolutely your 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 just limp you know um so yeah, I think wear your pointing out again is uh um why why this is a tough topic is because you think things are 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've 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 it 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's not there than the tension release has to be there or like, you know what I mean? Like the dynamics have to be like, perfectly done if you're not going to like repeat parts or whatever you're going to do is build up song, then you've gotto you gotta like, pull up the off it's ah it's not like I don't think that these air like rules like one you're going to find airplane, you go down a checklist and if you're not a complete with the checklist and taken off like it's just not happening and actually some more modern airplanes like airbus is like the plan will physically not take off until check us 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 of work and you know, every song is different like a seventeen different part riff salads only you could make that actually worked pretty well if if you have some repetitive things going on like you just like to say a b c and d where 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 on tio I j k l you know, like you can you can you can make that kind of dynamic flow to annie you could make the song work even though every section would be like it's own thing well it's what your trick diving is theme and variations like that 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 generally I think generally something's gotta be tying them together and actually we're uh touch on that a lot is how tio take one idea and stretch it out as much as you possibly can get as many different versions of it and variations and whatnot it's possible system but yeah, I think a 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 the theme and variation is when you're it's something that you just came up with on your own because that's one way that song could be riff salad if you're like trying to challenge yourself as a songwriter and all I'm going to make this super complex thing it's going to be you know, the my first ten minute song and it does I'm going to fill it with stuff and then when you go and you try to teach the song to the rest of 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 I have got in a few bands over the years that come in with the ten minute song just because they think they need a ten minute song because metallica did it it's like, well, you're not metallica, but the's classic bands have a ten 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 bands definitely try to fit the square peg into a round hole with their song writing and that's uh, 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 wanted stick to that? Because they feel like they put so much effort into it and they feel like yes, yeah, um, I think the harder the harder people work on something, the more likely it is that they're going to 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 something else is going to be talking about is, uh, doing this a lot the more you right, um 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 is probably a low percentage of your ideas that are great uh ah higher percentage to 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 I get too many bands doing that only have like two or three good songs but I want to record ten what are you doing um so yeah definitely I with you on that as we were just talking about structure quite a bit um this I think that one thing I just got to say is that you're going to 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 you know you see 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 teo writing so um you're gonna have to bear with me on the on the topics anyways 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 going to make a great book um not necessarily going to make a great song um most people don't want here and well, some people might either stoned 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 sailor orchestral music which is uh much broader form theme and development style where the pieces khun last forty two fifty two sixty minutes and only have like four main ideas that is so much more ah randomly style but uh and I think in metal that's not really all that cool tends to get kind of boring and uh also really important point that I want teo 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 could 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 you should just keep that in mind at all times. It's really, really important thing not to get too wrapped up in your own bullshit. 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 going to 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.


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!