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Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 6 of 28

Defining a Riff with Todd Jones

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

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Lesson Info

6. Defining a Riff with Todd Jones

Lesson Info

Defining a Riff with Todd Jones

for anyone who doesn't know This is Todd Jones from the awesome Band Nails that I feel like, um, I feel like I, uh no, your catalog really well, but I don't. But it's the kind of stuff where ah, here. And it's like, Yeah, that's cool. Um What? It's good. No. In a really good way. It's like, man, uh, how How is that? Not just like a really, really well known riff so obvious in a good way. Like where's Yeah? Uh, so anyways, I'm really glad that you're here. And, um, I wanted Teoh. I wanted to include you in this class because a lot of I guess a lot of what I've seen in the way of education about writing, I think is 100% wrong, cause it's, like, theory based and, um, technique based. And, um, I know that you're not a theory dude at all. Uh, Muirfield dude and people really like your music. And so I wanted to kind of dissect it with you somewhat so that people at home who might be focusing way too much on scales and theory and all that can get their head out of their ass. and focus on what...

's actually important and especially, uh, toe add some contrast toe. You know what some of the other guests they're gonna be talking about? I think it's really awesome that you could be here, Teoh represent because the other side of the spectrum, but not really cause good songs or good songs. Yeah, thanks for having me really excited. It's something I love talking about. So pretty good stuff. Yeah, it's I think we're, ah, encountering the problem of more content than time. But that's Ah, that's not a bad problem to have. So I'm going Teoh Skip forward to Todd. Cool. So we talked a lot while we were getting this ready to again so that we wouldn't just be rambling forever and one of things that we kind of came to, which I think is really interesting about nails and about how you write is how you define yourself as, ah riff writer or not a riff writer, And, uh, they wanted to kind of to find for the audience what we came to the conclusion of what a riff actually is. Um, I think you said to me that you consider yourself more of a dude who plays percussive rhythms on guitar riffs. I agree. Yeah, I'm not really necessarily a You know, there's a difference between a risk and just a simple part, you know, into the void by Black Sabbath. That's a riff. Yeah, or Iron Man or smoke on the Water like That's Ah, that's a riff That's a head crushing rift where I was like, you know, the opening chords to like a minor threat song. It's not necessarily riff. It's just done on another one. And then, uh, you know, I mean, I don't necessarily think of myself is like a person who writes these big elaborate riffs. But, you know, I don't necessarily think of myself as a person. It just writes salt small, simple parts. I think I'm like, halfway in between both of Well, I think one of the things that I guess, one of the defining points of a rift that way that you were just describing it like a rift with a Capital R, as opposed Teoh in band practice and being like you got a rift, which I guess it has two definitions riff. The way I think we're talking about is more like a melody toe where if you were a vocalist, you could sing it. And it's almost serves the function of being another vocalist. I think like a classic riff like that Cancer's ref you were playing earlier something that's a vocal melody you could play it on or is just a good Melayu could played on any instrument, and it would still be catchy. And I think that, Ah, I think what you're describing yourself is doing. What I think is the guitar element of nails, which is really, really cool is as more. It's more like a rhythm instrument, Um, and the catching This is in the patterns and in the variation, you know, situated patterns it's actually want, you know, we were talking about before, which is the rhythm being. I think, at the top of the my hierarchy, at least for what makes good music is it doesn't need to be a melody or anything. Uh, if the pattern is really, really catchy, Um, I think that that's actually one of things that people work on the least. Did you actually consciously developed like your rhythm playing or said just something that happened? You know, I think a lot of my rhythm playing came from one of the master of puppets by Metallica, the whole album. It's a good one, but, you know, that's that was a foundation. Me playing guitar was learning Metallica songs and Nirvana songs. It's definitely something like I've expanded on is a growing older, but only through my own practicing and writing my own songs. And Did you like, uh, did you actually, like, consciously try to play tight like really tart? We're just trying to learn cool songs and play them as best you could. When I started playing guitar, I tried to learn songs, and once I learned them, I really focused on playing them as good as I could with the album. Because the albums right there, if you can hear it, you could hear everything in the album now played as good as that. Yeah, and as memorably as they played it. Yeah, yeah, I think I think there's something to be said for certain performances, a certain songs being way more important than actually playing the risks in perfect time or whatever, cause you could go see a cover band or whatever play the same songs note for no, maybe better than the original bands. And they just sound like total garbage because the feel is missing. Getting the feel is it is not everything, but it's certainly a lot of it. And, uh, that's cool. I wanted Teoh talk to you about how if you're not like focusing on stuff like being technical or learning theory or stuff that people use Teoh, I guess, categorize how they play. Then how are you? Value yourself where Using a Would you like, say, to people who our field based players about actually being critical of themselves? Well, you simply you know what feels good. You know what sounds good? You know what touches your soul? You know, when you play a riff or you play a part in part A and part B, If it makes you feel good, you know, if it doesn't make you feel good, why would it make anybody else feel good? So it basically they got to stay aware of feels I don't actually know of any way to really work on that besides doing it, um, which I wish there was, whether you could be like step one, fill the riff step to feel the riff or something like that. But, um, I think, really you need Teoh. You need to be looking for MAWR Subtle things like how it effects that we talked about earlier, how it actually effects listeners like if they're getting bored by a certain point in time or starting distracted like Arm Bob. And a longer there's a part where the crowd stops moving. I just There's definite things you can pay attention to that. I think you guys music, and there's some things where it's like you have this week. We were talking earlier about you write a song around a raw idea like if I have, like, a raw idea of a bridge or a slow mosh part or something like that, and I know that's gonna be the apex of the song, but before it, you know, it's not like I'm gonna put a necessarily a part that hits hard before it, but I have to put attention. You were talking about tension release. You put attention part before it, so when that comes in, it just hits as hard as it can. You don't mean so. It's not like every single part has to be like, Well, it will lose its impacted right. It was all of 100%. So I guess even if even if you're not like focusing on, uh, cord functions and stupid shit like that, you're still focusing on the essentials and priorities. The goal of the song? Yeah, exactly how the listener reacts, I guess. Ah, that brings me to the next thing I want to ask you about, which is, if you're going by feel and buy gold The song If you're just writing without any other way of categorizing Like how you told me that I guess you put your wrists into certain tears Like, how do you go about like, actually formalising that So you have You know, you have those moments of inspiration where you talk about you think you just have to go play guitar now because I have this idea. So you make this riff If you make this riff and it's like I love this riff, I know that this riff is gonna be the focus around a song and I see you have the wide open wound. Number two the course of that song thing. Play it off of the album as well. Just that people can get context. Um, should play the intro first in here. Short into it. Sure. So that was super hard. Yeah, and I And when we made that riff, I thought that's that has a hell of a lot of impact to it. And I could in my head I could envision the drums playing that I'm like, we're gonna We're gonna make it. This is the raw idea for the song that we're gonna make. And so I visited my head with the drums. I knew we I knew that was that was like, the apex of the song we're gonna focus on around that. So I just in my head I'm like, we're gonna make this the chorus and, um and I just I just knew it. Some of those riffs You just know that they're there for you, for your ability, their a plus riffs. And for my ability, that was in for the structure of nails. That was an A plus riff it fit. And to me, that was a tier one room. It was gonna get used, no matter what that was gonna be on our next album So weird How like, uh, you just know. But I know exactly what you're talking about. Like it's undisputable. You know, it's like, this is this this This is Naples. This is a nails riff, and it's great. And I have a lot of, uh I have a lot of emotional attachment to it Makes me want to move, Makes me want to physically, you know, headbanger, whatever. You know, when we play that song live, that's one of our most well received songs. And I could just see that from when we started playing it. And I guess that brings me to the I guess the exact officer like, have you ever been wrong with that feeling? Oh, yeah, where you like? You think this is it? And I don't know. Yeah, I mean absolutely in your slide. I think we had an example of We have a song called Abandoned All Life, which is from our last album. It's the title track of our album, and before we record the album, we wrote that song off, obviously before we recorded it, and we all thought very highly of the song, and after we recorded the song, it was just like songs pretty good, But it didn't end up being what we thought it would be, or at least what I thought it would be. And I'll play it and then maybe, like, tell us how reality and fantasy were different. What I really like about this song is the chorus. It's It's a triple it guitar riff over a blast. Beat that to me that was the hook of the song and that, but did that part turnout. How you want that part? I really like that part. I think it's awesome. I just think this song is the whole Maybe didn't work out that well, and it's not necessarily anybody's fault. I think all the parts are good. I think they were performed well. And I think the song is mixed. Well, just you know, it's just that human emotion inside, You know, I can't explain, and I just I just didn't end up being the big song that I wanted it to be. It's Ah, it's interesting a place I'll tell you guys. Something about that still hits pretty hard, though. Um, I've noticed, though, that Ah, I guess in my time, making songs and recording people songs that there's some that no matter what, you think it's gonna be in pre pro. It just doesn't come out the way you think it will. And that doesn't mean it's bad or good. It just you just predictions are off sometimes. And, uh, um, I haven't been able to figure out what it is about a song that comes out different than what you imagine. But I think that the the thing for upcoming writers Teoh gain from that is to not be too attached to their songs, but they're imagining isn't exactly what what's really there. But I guess it that said you did totally know about the other side. Yeah, the song ended up being, oh, with wide open wound. Yeah, I knew. I don't know how or why, but I just I knew that was gonna That was gonna be awesome. How you recommend, like, uh, I guess refining that awareness. Just do it a lot. You know, it's it's just, uh it's just something you feel you know, you can't You can't just sit down and write an awesome parties, sit down and write an awesome song. It comes to you at random times and as faras defining the awareness it's you know you have a now album. We're talking about these songs, but really they going context of an album in a 10 12 14 song album and a lot of people talk about when they write albums. They don't necessarily way don't think about what we're gonna do. We just go in and do it. And then we have an album. I don't work that way, and I don't believe that bans really work that way. I think that's a lie. I think that bands go in with a mission. They're gonna write a an album of this style, or they're going to write an album that makes somebody feel a certain emotion, and at least that's how we do it. And so all right parts and in context of our our goal or huge goal, if it may, if I feel it makes sense, it's just something you just need to think about in your head, like nails were gonna run a crushing album. It's gonna be really fast. The fast parts are gonna be incredibly fast in extreme slow parts will be really slow and maybe atmospheric or just maybe completely crushing. And so I knew that riff it was crushing. It's undeniably crushing. Nobody could listen that and tell me it's not crushing. So basically, even if, uh, you're going by feel, there's still, like, basically, like some sort of a mission statement Not to sound like like, you know, there is a mismatch. There absolutely is a mission statement. No, there. Yes, I don't think that's cheesy. I don't think it's arrogant. It's just you have a goal. You want to complete it. How do you come to it like by lots of salt awareness? Yeah, practices awareness. So it's it. It's interesting because it sounds to me like, um, it's a combination of feel and and I guess intellectualizing what the goal is for the album. I think that it's seriously important, too, because who wants to listen? Like we said earlier to just rambling nonsense. Now I could I could tell you something. As far as being self aware, every band has piers, Okay, whether there piers from, you know, the eighties, their peers from history, or appears from President Piers, you have these bands that you necessarily you know, you shouldn't start a band with the intention of at least I don't feel you should start being with the intention of sounding exactly like a band. But you have influences, and you have bands that as far a sound that you could get something out of and make it your own. Now, when you listen to your own vanity, listen to your own riff you could think of. How does this stand up in context of them? Yeah, absolutely. I actually think that that's a really good way Thio Thio gauge. It is to be totally honest with yourself when you listen to professionally done records. I think this is actually something that a lot of amateur mixers do wrong. Um, we're talking during the break about how mixing and writing have a lot of parallels. But a lot of amateur mixers don't a b their work to other stuff because they're afraid of getting crushed. Um, and I know that feeling like you know, sucks if you play your stuff next to somebody else's and you just get annihilated. But you got to do it because you have to know where you stand. And I think the same is true for songwriting. If you have a great song, it'll stand up against your competition or whatever. And if not, you'll know right away when you hear somebody else's song and production doesn't matter. Yeah, that's a good way to actually bypass your friends lying to you. Uh, you know, parents lying to you and all that stuff is toe listen critically against against other people's music, I guess. The same style. Sure it And that's and I just want to clarify. That doesn't mean like you have to think. Would this band play this riff or is this something they would write? Because I only want to play music like they would right? It's just simply kind of comparing. Contrast. Yeah, I think it's just good to have standards. Yeah, that's yeah, it's not us. It's not that you want to copy them or whatever. It's just know the bar that it's music. So it's hard to talk about that. The bar is definitely in a in an actual place. You have to have standards, absolutely have tea to definitely reach the bar. You said earlier that, um, you used a tension building devices and stuff, and I wanted to talk about that? Because that's Ah, I mean, that causes feel based reaction. But that's not really, uh I think using attention Released tricks isn't, um is not something that has to be totally feel base that you can actually do it. Calculates? Yeah, that's scientific. Absolutely. I mean, the reaction isn't but almost is. In a way, yeah.

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

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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.