Refine Your Writing with Pat Lukens
Share wants to know what are your general thoughts of cord inversions on base so like I assume that means if you're using easy keys to write a inverted baseline does he mean like using a different note in the route than the reward? I think so that's uh that's really easy let me just explain that real quick that was something I did want to get to um I'm just put in a minor in the cord will you see this right here uh to the right of the inversion that controls the what the left hand would be doing so you have your cord on one side and say I wanna have f under a runner you know that's how you do it I think that that's what the person was asking but that's a pretty common thing to have a a route I mean the lowest note in the in the base not be the actual root of the cord and that's how that's how you do it right here so super useful cool awesome or gaylor alright I think we can bring uh bring pat in on skype. You ready to go? Yes, sir. There is. Hello, sir. What was up? You know, just hang...
ing out so want to ah introduce my buddy pat lukins uh I brought him in and committed the keynote for one second uh I brought him in because it's actually a professional writer in the pop world, which is not the metal world but one of the things that I kind of want teo bring across in this class is that good songs are good songs and techniques for writing are the same no matter what, there might be some specifics to the genre or an arrangement wise but you know, a catchy melodies, a catchy melody and ah, one of the things about pat that's cool is that he's a metal guitars it comes from the metal world too. So making the transition from metal to pop this is something I want to talk about, and also I mean, you still play medals figure you've got you've got something teo, add to this class, so thanks for being with us, dude. Well, thanks for having my pleasure. I guess I just wantto first just I ask you a few questions about yourself just so that people get to know exactly why you're here besides what I said and then let's get into music but is what? What are your primary instruments or instrument? I'd say about equal parts piano and guitar and how long you been playing for, uh, piano? I've been playing since up floor and guitar playing since I'm about a second grade, so a really really long time and a lot of us, yeah, and I guess on guitar when you started that what style of music do you start playing? Was that medal right out the gate? My brother gave me the first van halen home so yeah cool like pretty pretty hard rock metal when did you start the solos? So you started shredding and stuff I mean that's that's like what I wanted to do is just be eddie van halen basically that's pretty cool so were you like I guess when you were a lot younger was like all technique and soloing and guitar no noodle was just it was just noodle best off like all day every day I mean I practiced a little bit like every once in a while I would, you know, sit down drill scales but I just like playing I don't really like practicing, so I basically just noodle like a little bit every day I think that that's actually a really common trait among writers is that they cannot stand practicing I can't I can't I can't either I think it takes a certain type to be ableto practice for like six hours a day and become a virtuoso and we were talking about yesterday if you make the choice to do that, you're probably not going to be a great writer because you know, you don't have so many hours in the day, so I think there there's something to be said about a lot of the best writers out there not not being the guy that can handle drilling scales for two hours and arpeggios for an hour and then whatever to a metre known for another hour but yeah sounds horrible, right? I definitely did that for a while, but I think I maybe did that for a combined total of maybe two hours in my life but like only is like ten minute intervals so like harmonic minor, I got it like, okay, well, I guess the moral of story is though that sounds to me like you still got good enough on the instrument to be able teo pull off what you wanted to pull off or at least right where you wanted to write yeah, I mean that's always how it's been for me is that, like, all listen to music and I'll hear something like I won't immediately understand it and I'll try to, like, learn whatever it is is going on in the song and then just like learning enough to where I'm like, okay that's with that court is or oh that's what that skill that's like now, how can I use this in my own stuff? So I mean, like even though you're not like busting out scales to metro, I'm all day long there's still something that you're actively working on to get it better at music and understanding music does yeah sure yeah so it doesn't just sound like aimless noodling for yeah I'm not going to hear is that exercising you know that's actually a really good point I think a lot of guitar players who are who worked too hard on technical issues or scales end up sounding like they're playing scales everywhere and it's because that's what they're working on the most I think what you work on the most is what's going to come out and you're writing so if you drill if you drill scales all the time and you get really awesome at playing scales really fast will that's what that's what you're writing is going to be a semi scales really fast and cool I guess but I mean still you told me that you took lessons from rusty coolly and stuff I did I mean not cool yeah, I mean pretty much pretty litigate right, master yeah yeah. So did you actually do what he gave you? I mean, every lesson would be like he would have some crazy exercise and I mean I would do my my best which is like a solid two minutes of trying to play it and then of course like, you know, I learned how to kind of play it and then it would work in tow my style and I mean the most valuable thing was just like uh the core concepts that he taught me like I would use those but I would make up my own stuff for them that kind of suited more what I was doing because I didn't just want to be ableto play everything he played, I wanted it like I'd always come to his lessons and you give me these lakes and I'd be like, yeah, but like, can you, like, show me some lake? Some were scales or, like, how do you make the choices that you make? And it would kind of be like, so basically like a starting point for you? Yeah, exactly, which is also something that we talked about yesterday was something that I think writers should do is have some sort of warm up for their brains and for their hands if they write at an instrument because writing cold sucks, and I think one of the best ways to kinda just get going is to try to learn something new. But one of the key things that I think people need to do and not and not let themselves get carried away is when they're learning something new or warming up or whatever, whether it tastes seem minister thirty minutes or however long the minute there a d d kicks and and they start getting creative, stop working on that thing and start writing, you know, follow that don't if you're learning some new scale concept and within fifteen minutes you're bored and ah writing your own version of it don't stop yourself from writing it just because you said you wanted to practice it for thirty minutes uh actually stop practising and start writing she sounds to me like is what you do question uh how's your theory knowledge uh it's it's okay like I'm I'm no uh I always have these like nightmares about being asked to sit in with like a really big band jazz band because if I was handed a chart I would have no zero idea like you would take I know what everything is I just don't know it like quickly enough to kind of play it on the fly but I know my minor sevenths from major seventh dominant sevens but most of what I do is just kind of bite year and when I have a right I took a college theory of course and when every time I learn theory it's always just kind of confirmed like stuff but I was already hearing like when I learned that the five cord goes to the one chord usually I was like yeah like I've heard that like before that makes sense it wasn't like whoa really like I never knew that it just kind of it was kind of just a new language for stuff piratey could sort of sense and feel well something interesting that john brown he's my guest in about an hour and a half told me it on dh I don't know this is true or not but seems true and I say and if someone in the chat room knows that it's not true, please say so but he said that originally theory was what was used tio better catalogue people's ideas so it wasn't to make rules out of thin air, but it was too basically create a language out of people were are things that people were ari making so yeah, those those tendencies like five to the one and all that but it's also it's also important to remember that modern music theory is like it's like a western european thing and other parts of the world have like different systems just the one that we all use this kind of most used one like there are a lot of african music can only be like like I probably don't know this for sure, but like I've heard that likes lots of the tribes have different drum beats that they passed down aurally basically and you can't you there literally so subtle that you can't write them down it's like you just have someone just has to show you and you pass it down to the next generation that's actually pretty interesting I wonder if it's passing me how much it changes so could be box of I'm I'm not a psychologist but I heard that I think the point though is that you know enough teo get around and work but doesn't sound like you wasted enough time with it maybe be a professor of it but like yeah well I can work my whole thing is that if it feels good and sounds good then like I don't need to look up in a book I don't need like mr music very man to tell me that the thing that I already know sounds good sounds good yeah well I guess ah guess developing your your confidence as a writer is super important oh yeah you have to be the most confident person ever when you're writing because the minute that little wasting your head starts when all this is a very good like it's not gonna work you gotta you gotta pump yourself up yes this is amazing. Yeah. That's ah that's something that we talked about with uh todd from nails yesterday with uh think arguably some of his best riffs he was talking about how when he would write them he knew exactly that that like that was going to be the most popular spot on the record like they're uh best riff ever or whatever with full confidence and I know that feeling too and I know that I've written something insanely badass just you just know and there's not really much that you can I really know how to quantify that besides just saying you just know but let's say it's like when your head starts moving around in the studio where you look around and people you're writing there we're doing that like I did my job yeah that's actually uh once again the reason I keep referencing what we talked about yesterday is because I'm trying to draw parallels between the genre you're in and metal writers and you're basically confirming everything that we talked about yesterday like another thing that we talked about was one of the best ways to know if you've written something good is to get the unbiased reactions like for instance of strangers or people that I don't know that you're checking out their reaction like their involuntary reactions or or whatever but not to actually listen to like your parents are oh yeah because music has a very visceral effect on people isn't like you know like people move naturally to music and you know when I was writing metal the entire point was like get people on the launch bit you know doing the circle pits and now it's kind of like get people in the club like dance with each other and like you you know I don't party too much but I make a point when I do go out to like the club or whatever so when certain songs come on I watch what people dio because it's like when you know in that new hot like we'll say deejay mustard track comes on whatever she's like the hot right now or like uh like yeah by usher when that track it's like people just go crazy and it's like there's no really explaining it just happens well it's no like sci fi that or anything but I think that's the work I think that there's a hierarchy to what's most important in writing and I honestly think that rhythm is at the very top I think it supersedes harmonies supersedes melodie everything like you can have a song of all rhythm and if it's banging and awesome you've got a good song it was you can have it with no cords even and oh yeah great don't dunk my soldier boy well no instruments just drums it's the hottest song ever I guess a lot of ah a lot of a lot of death metal and hard core like I mean might have power course we're in a real key that that music is in sometimes it's just, you know, just moving around but it's all about rhythm changes in the harder it hits basically the better it is but you know, I want to make sure that we don't run out of time so they move on to yeah, you are one of the most important things that you and I figured out that we both I have done and which I recommend that every writer out there do and ah that's ah keep active listening song journals oh yeah yeah so in the keynote there we are basically this is something that I've been doing since I was maybe thirteen years old and I've done this for tons of songs end for classical pieces and even movies it's basically you sit down and you do analysis of as many different elements as you can figure out and you try to get as detailed as possible like you see right there for instance song structure so and shows in an example but like what I would do is say that I'm picking a song and I was going through the structure I would map out exactly how many bars each section would go for and nowadays I would do it like on a date w and get the keynote for a second is actually made of a graphic for it like a like that for instance like that's stock on syndrome by muse basically made a structure matt for it uh and how that helps is if you take a song that you like or a piece of music that you like and you actually sit there and internalize what's going on structurally well it's always going to be with you and if you do that for fifty songs have a good idea for how structure should work without having to think about it too hard it'll just become a natural part of how you think and then you do the same thing for dynamics arrangement issues the mix lyrical analysis like as long as you can stand to listen to the song over and over and over and check out every differing element the better so like save looking at arrangement notes on going to relate this to song in a second but in the past when I would write it down on paper now kind of type it in are you screen shots or whatever you know whatever works the point is that you're actually doing this but you know saying this song uh starts with the solo guitar riff so assumes protests has to play uh we'll get to that so and I have in the arrangement note that uh the band comes in for and that the bar the phil foreshadows the verse beat and I'm goingto go back to you pat for second and ask you if you do anything differently when you do sol analysis serve it's basically the same kind of idea before I go too far into this song it's this definitely the same detective idea uh I definitely start with you know the thing that I am really focused on now is structure because that's always always felt like that's been a really big point for me because structure is not really one of those things people teach you and that's because you can't really it's just you just kind of do what every feel but, uh have some basis basic structures that there there are like structures but yeah, but the way I've learned is just by sitting down you guys, you said a piece of music you light that you feel is really strong and start up analyzing the structure and then after I get the structure all happening then all kind of go listen back for like, the arrangement well with what are the drums saying is there? Is there a sub bass part like stuff like that? I think the one of the keys is what you just said something that you feel is very strong and I actually think that that's a key distinction of why music school can ruin musicians and ruin writers is because you're working on music that you may not necessarily feel and whatever it's t feels exactly but that's what you're spending your life on at least for a few years and it becomes a big part of your style whether you like it or not. So if you don't like jazz but you're working on jazz or four years well, guess what it's going to be a part of your style or blues or whatever elevator music if you don't want elevator music tio infiltrate and ruin your music will don't study it whatever you work on is going to become a part of who you are, so I think it's super important to do the analysis and do as much of it is possible, but do it on lee on music that you want teo internalize how many songs have you done this for? Pretty much. I mean, I don't always write it out pretty much every song that comes out are like, man that's, a really great song. I'll go through and I'll listen to you, uh, all like every time it comes on the radio or whatever all try and pay attention to what's going on, I think, did you? I've done it so much at this point where it's like it's, second nature like music is like it's, almost borderline, not enjoyable for me. I mean, music enjoyable. I planned it. I did my brain every time I hear a song that I like, my brain starts working. What is that? What the drums doing? What is the basic like? Rarely do I listen to a song and I'm like, I'm just enjoying this is music well, I think that goes with the whole cliche there says about learning rules and then forgetting them it's the same sort of thing if you do a bunch of song analysis or uh peace analysis or mix analysis like and write it down after a while you're not going to need to write it down anymore because your branches going to naturally figure these things out and I think actually that the closer you get to do in this naturally the mohr that these cool things that you like about music are just going to natural come out and what you're right which I think is the end goal anyways s o I spent like three minutes or something going through the song real quick and then let's ah bust through our next topic is we'll make sure we don't run out of time but just a couple of things just for people who are not sure about how to go about doing this like say for instance that were looking at the, uh the drums or something or how how things are working together in the arrangement so have this intro all right? So right away one thing that I would write down there is um the drums go from a pretty slam and kind of be ellen go through the effort of writing out exactly what's happening in the drums because that would just take me too long but some sort of like slime and sort of beat that would get people jumping and then immediately as soon as the verse comes in it goes to a much more flowing straight sort of tom beat on the riff when that happens, the rift changes from a you know, just playing the main hooker for the song to just playing some octaves underneath the vocals and it's a complete it's just a complete shift and feel to bring in the vocals and then so I have that for a while, you know, write that all down and for how long it lasted now there's something interesting and basically I just played halfway through the verse it's a two part verse so one thing that a crappy band would have done if you have a long verse is play the whole drum be I mean the same drum be through the whole thing and just lose their crowd but one thing that they did right there is halfway through change the drumbeat to the intro drumbeat so it ties the verse to the intro but also picks up the field nothing else really changes you still got the same riff going on. Maybe the vocals are going at it a little harder but that it's a good thing to know because now that I've written it down and I consciously know that they took the intro drumbeat and they put it on the second half of the verse which is more intense in the first half and that the intro now ties to this well now that's a trick that I can that I can use and then something else way all right, so I think that that course is amazing, but if you glued this chorus onto this verse it might not really work that well or maybe it would but it's not as effective is in the song and so I would sit there and figure out why and ah there's a little pre course interlude I don't know if it's a pre course but just some sort of transition where it goes from the octave guitars to just that in san li heavy tone which I don't know what it is but it's the san li heavy tone for a minute and as soon as that's done it's almost like everything heavy drops out and goes to the arpeggio it'd courses like feels like the clouds part and that is basically what set up the chorus is all these elements basically contrast thing was the courses so once again and another thing that's interesting there about that course is there's no guitar normally when you go to of course you would expect the course of the biggest part of the song but it's not the arrangement is actually way more stripped down, but the way that it's set up is what makes it pop and ah, you know, if you want to get tricks like that under your belt a quick way to do it is just figure out what somebody else did so at least you know um I think I think that if I didn't sit here and actually I guess figure out that the guitar dropped out and it brought in the sense which was never there before that I may not have realized that this chorus is as good as it is because the pre chorus set it up the way it did so and those are things that you only figure out through analysing songs and pat like you said now that you've done that a bunch you just do it naturally so I think that that kind of thing will just start coming in you're riding the more you actually figure this out and I've got an analysis for the entire song but we're gonna run out of time I go through it uh is that kind of basically how you would go about it though yeah cool all right so let's move on to the next thing that we're going to talk about which is uh flow st um one yeah one of things that uh we talked about a lot was how getting in getting the best material comes from state of pure creative flow and uh that's not something that you couldn't really drill with an exercise or anything but uh I think that you can get into the habit of recognizing when you're there or you can figure out certain behaviours that you know trigger you to be in that state which you can you can recreate or do you have like a certain routine for getting there that you know works do I have a certain routine for getting into flow state yeah oh I guess my routine is we usually I lately I've been you know writing from scratch with like a one or two other writers so I mean at least good uh encouragement of close it for me is that there's under the personal room probably should you know make this from structure or but the waste of time but uh I don't know if I have any things that like get me in the flow state but I have definitely noticed that the more often the right could you write a little bit every day then it it it becomes easier to get in the flow state I actually I think that's true for anything you do with music actually read an interview with john patricia once who said that it's better to practice two hours every day than six hours every four days yes and I think a lot of people go wrong by trying to do these massive marathon sessions not that often anything is better like you said I do a little bit every day well if if if the stars and the planets align like I could do a song and about three or four hours like if that's if I'm on my a game and like nothing goes wrong and like I let it all happen but obviously, you know, stuff takes longer. Yeah, well, and, uh, I guess it, uh, if everything isn't going right, um, like ideas just aren't coming to you or whatever. What's ah, how do you get around that? Or like, what do you focus on to keep yourself going like, say either when you're blocked or when it's just one of those days when it's taking longer to get going or you're just I don't feel like doing it or whatever million different things could get in the way of of writing cool stuff? Uh, well, I read I I read an interesting quote from giorgio moroder once, and if you don't know, giorgio moroder is should probably with him about his amazing hey said that if you don't have something cool and three hours, then you should just move on to the next idea. So if you're if you're really struggling with whatever it is you're trying to right and nothing works, then just hit file new and like, you know, try something completely different and go with that phil for a little bit interesting say that I interrupt your real quick again. One thing we were talking about yesterday was local vans who come to the studio with the same five to eight songs that they've had for five to eight years and they know yeah, right makes you shudder, but a lot of people do that never move onto new material and one of the things that I think I can help you get better is to be willing to either ditch or move on you know, ruthlessly just be ready to hit delete, but I mean I one of my friends he's a really amazing producer I've sat there and watched him make beads on what this is the coolest ever and he'll be like as not they're cool and toto beat the session off what are you doing but like sometimes you have tio you have to do that sometimes you just have to do with the delete key if your stuff you know well, if that is it's you will you will always have the potential inside yourself to write something better than what you're working on right now, so you never have to feel super attached. So whatever you're working on, I think it takes a while to develop that, but I think that's one of the most important skills or writer can develop is, uh, detachment and I think that the more often you've right and the more content you come up with, the less each individual piece you're right means to you on the more willing you will be to ditch him and on exactly lost audio, by the way, that sucks all right, cool well I said that sucks but one thing that then I can say that I've noticed for instance when working with bands is typically you'll have one guy who's the shredder who writes three songs a year and then you have the one guy who's not the shredder who writes twenty songs a year and obviously the dew do rise to twenty songs is the better rider because he does it all the time but you can't really have twenty songs and albums so typically more than half of what they write get stitched and they're cool with it however, and I have noticed it's a lot uh the guy who writes the three songs you know uh is very attached to that stuff and it may not be is good, but we'll try to force it in because they because since I don't write as much each piece is that much closer to their heart and I don't think it's a very positive trait and I've seen it a lot so and the best way to get around being attached to just shitty music is right more abso absolutely and I want to bring up something I'm going to talk about later today but that is the same in progressive tech metal as it is in pop, which is that basically songs are made of like one, two, four, five or six different ideas and that's it and just variations of them not nineteen to fifty different ideas and one things that you were telling me that uh is basically one the most important skill sets and what you do is taking one idea and seeing how many different ways you can you can bring it across uh I was wondering you just touch on that a little bit more yeah I mean, a lot of what I do when I work on is very I mean my favorite producers of all time have sort of very like, minimal simple like you look at their session files and they're like the twenty tracks for the beat like pharrell is like an amazing example if you listen to his stuff like theirs but he often says like I give myself like ten tracks like that's it but everyone of the track it's like is constantly evolving over time so it's not that it's not like he has ten simple things it's like he has ten really well put together great elements and that's that's actually like the song I was just showing from use like for instance when you the intro drumbeat being used in the second half of the versus the same idea being recycled in a different context to make a new part more intense it's not a a brand new idea teo reuse that drumbeat is just shown in a different context and what it does exactly ties it all together but it also develops it and uh is wonder if you have any like go to tricks for that or ways to develop the ability to do that uh one think of well, one of my professors in college always said you should be able to solo each element in your track and make sure that like there's kind of like a little bit of a story going on let's say you uh like a a note that matter like every once in a while there should be like a little accent or something just so it's not like a static which like throughout the whole song because whether you like it or not the human ear register is really subtle changes like on a subconscious level so when you add like small little changes over time you may not think it's doing a lot but like in reality it's doing so much like keeps your song from getting forming and the other thing I do is when I'm working on a beat or whatever when my processing power like defy my tables in session because I'm able to go abel suspicion gets to like it run slow or like maybe it's crashing above through and like all what kind of look a bit like maybe some of the superfluous instruments and like we'll delete them and then I'll make the instruments that are that I really like I'll make them or interesting so I have less stuff and just to tie this into what we talked about with todd from nails, little changes throughout a song like the way that todd used his key changes which are not big key changes is going from something based on the first threat toe open toe make apart pup sent thing is what you were just talking about that high I had a small variations overtime or regardless of what genre you're in are what makes music not get old after the first fifteen listens to that's kind of the goals and like no matter what, you don't want people to listen to your stuffing me like a whore like you want to be like yes, this is the most exciting song and play ever, no matter what genre yeah, absolutely we'll do I think from what I can see, we're like out of time, so I just want to thank you yeah, we still just like every other thing that I think we're going to be covering today and we covered yesterday we've got about three times as much material is we have time, but we could be talking about songwriting for two months and not run out of stuff you gotta do part two yeah, absolutely man so thank you so much for being with us man is enlightening tohave somebody from what seemingly such a different world basically be saying the exact same things that death metal dudes and pop merit is interesting that one of these pop sellouts uses the same tool set you extremely skilled metal musicians. Yeah, exactly. And what we'll see later with john brown from monuments is that even in in progressive it's the exact same tool set, maybe just harder risk? Yeah, yeah, way harder, but that's not what's important isn't what makes a good song, so any questions from the internet or none specifically on topic, why not have a fat? What is just give us a sixty second view of like what your day looks like a za writer and a lot of people love to make a living as a songwriter. What does that look like for you? Well, it each week I have, um in about three or four different quote unquote writing sessions, which can either be with other people who are writers or artists that right? And then on my days off, since I'm the producer there, people like in the like writing scene, they call it like their track guys and their top liners. I'm a quote unquote track guy, so I make like the beat or whatever and then a writer or the artists will come and, like, sing and write the lyrics and melody, although there are people that do both, and I definitely help out with top line. But, yeah, like three or four days a week. I'm like making a song with, like, completely new people that I've never met before. And then the other my days off, I go back to vocals. And then I produced the song tto where, if let's, say, christina angular heard the demo, she would sing the vocal part that's there, and then I would send the file. They would mix it, and then it will come out. So, basically, I'm just making I'm trying to make, like, finished products all the time.