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Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 20 of 28

Rhythmic Variations Exercise

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

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Lesson Info

20. Rhythmic Variations Exercise

Lesson Info

Rhythmic Variations Exercise

these exercises, we're gonna go over a bunch of, like, different, different things like you're having a problem. Try this on one thing that I want to keep in mind or because keep in mind that I'm not talking about art right now, and, uh, the these exercises aren't even that complicated at all. Like one comment that, uh, that I saw yesterday feedback wise on the air net was that weren't really getting into stuff that's too deep. But Thea, the thing that I think the audience for this and the upcoming writers need to kind of realizes that none of this stuff is too deep on the surface. If you get to mathematical about this stuff, you get away from what's important about music, which is how you hit the audience in a visceral way. Like about eliciting an emotional reaction and making the most out of simple elements is super deep that that's where the real talent is. Most people can sit there and, uh, add notes and add notes and add notes and had notes and study complex harmony and and make a...

super super complex but meaningless piece. It takes ah, truly skilled on an amazing writer to take four simple ideas and write something that sticks up around through the ages and resonates, uh, with people from all walks of life. And I think that that's the goal of writing. So anyways, these exercises, they're gonna be somewhat simple. But don't don't be an apple. Try them. Uh, on, especially if you're finding that you're having problems with your stuff sounding the same too much, which is the biggest problems of metal, everything sounding exactly the same. Or if you find that you're having trouble structuring parts or coming of with motifs, just try these again. These exercises are not, uh, not art. These are just little things to get your brain going. And, uh, one other distinction that I want to make about these is, um, What you actually write when you're doing these exercises is probably gonna be a total load of crap. Uh, it's not what you're right when you're doing these isn't the point. The point is basically what you said training your brain. Um, if you do a bunch of variation exercises and you just try to see how many different ways you can present a different rhythm pattern Well, maybe the rhythm patterns sucked in the first place, but that's not the point. The point is that your brain is already in the habit of doing that. So, um, let's ah, talk about first thing, which is, um, inspired writing versus wrangling Inspired, um, we touched on it yesterday, but, uh, this is super important. Todd talked about this quite a bit. But when, uh, when you're not feeling like writing and nothing is happening, uh, this is probably the best time to be trying these out. Uh, don't Don't be bothering with ease when your light bulb is on, and that's that's, ah, super important. And like Pat was saying, you put in maybe the 10 or 15 minutes on exercises before is ready to write. Don't spend too long on shit like pick one. Do it for 10 minutes and, uh, or too. And the goal is that by the time you get through them, you should be already into your own writing. So what's a motif? Um, basically, uh, lots of people. Confused motifs and themes and motif is a much smaller musical fragment. Uh, that can be put together to make a theme, but It's just basically a NY idea in its ah, smallest state. So I think that the best way to illustrate this is to show some super famous examples of motifs being used to basically define a piece of music. So let's first take a look at the Michigan song bleed for anyone that follows me, Sugar, This is Sonic popular not too long ago, but, um see if, uh, you guys can spot the motif. I'm gonna ask you guys, and once we hear this, if, uh, you guys know what I'm saying? Yeah. So what do you guys think? The motif is there, Erin? Uh, I don't know if I've never really thought of the word motif before. Considered it. So if What If what I understand is correct. You're saying it's like, little That's a little repetitive thing that you build with. So I don't know how small you would break it down. Is it just a little trip kind of pattern that sort of That's a really grow up that same pattern that goes Freeman throughout the whole song. And it's just repeated and then inverted and showing every which way. That's it. The motif is not how that pattern has changed. It's just that one little spark environment. One thing I love about this song to is that, like if you're listening really casually, you think it's just kind of like minutes and minutes of the same thing, you know, But it's totally not a little thing that kind of gets like, We'll get skewed a little bit the second time through and then, like, it's really, really cool if you're actually paying attention. That's why this is a perfect example to illustrate what that is, because everybody does think on casual Listen, it's just one little thing, and it's a variation of one little thing but that za perfect example of what a motif is. And here's another one that everybody should know. See if you has come spot this one. I ask you for you on the spot for this one way. Yeah, so what do you think the motif is in that will The Every everything is, there's, there's a higher note, and there's a lower note, and there's a higher note, and there's lower no, depending. So the the kind of pivot point or the index might move. But there's always something kind of going down and then jumping to another high place than going going down, jumping to another high place. Um, yeah, uh, there's had sitting in sets of four eso, uh, I guess harmonically or tonic. Lee. That's what it's doing. I think you're overthinking it you want. I think it's just that rhythm pattern. Is that a Yeah? Because regardless of what's going on harmonically or melodically, that rhythm pattern is pretty much what defines that entire theme and listen to it again. It's that rhythm pattern is what's happening just just like in the machine a song, um, you know, at least five years apart from when they were written thing thing. Then I say it's the rhythm pattern because you see right there when they start doing the call in response s So when they were going up. So it's not that the melodic motion goes down, I think it's the just the simple pattern. Yeah, like just like in the Myth Sugar Song. It's just that tiny little fragment that masters in their own respective time periods and genres took and turned into music that people really, really love. One just a brutal last metal song that is basically it a metal hit if you want to call it that And others one of the most famous classical pieces of all time but literally there just ah, the same little fragment developed over and over and over and over and over and over and again. Uh, this stuff may not seem deep, but it try doing it. Um, anyone who thinks that this stuff's not deep and is writing stuff on the level of the sugar Beethoven probably doesn't need to be watching this class anyway. Probably should be giving the class, um so stock about rhythmic variations. And if I could have the keynote, that would be cool. Um, so basically, this is showing is that you can take a seemingly mundane pattern. Dented, uh, whatever. I can't sing the machine No one. But, you know, it turns that turned whatever. You could take a seemingly mundane pattern and have you very it enough. And if it if you develop it enough, you can have a really cool piece of music. And that's all it takes is ah, starting with that little fragment, you don't need a 1,000, different ideas. One idea done a 1,000,000 different ways. Um, so here's a few different rhythmic variations. I'm made. Um, basically, the idea is this You just set a very tight constraint. Like, say, you make four bars of eighth notes and quarter notes Dunton on, uh, Dentyne. Whatever. Dun Dun, Dun, Dun Dun. That doesn't matter. Uh, just decide what it's gonna be and make make a few bars of it. So I made this. That's it, Andi, if I was doing this exercise, I would just figure out 10 different ways to do that. And that's it. Um, as you can see from those musical examples, that's all you need Now, I was trying to write something more badass. Maybe I would set the constraints a little differently, like, uh, go 16 nose or something, but still doing this exercise, I would I would stick on Lee to the constraints that I said So 16 Sendai's. Maybe that could turn into something. Um, and the more of these you make, obviously, the higher uh I guess the higher chance that you're going to come up with something cool. So get the keynote back, please. Um uh, Another thing to try basically is Ah, you should go through as many different rhythmical subdivisions as possible. And don't forget to throw in Rests. Um, was another thing that metal dudes need toe realizes that rests her. A good thing I made another one, uh, and again, I don't know, turned it into a song or not. But that's not exactly the point of the exercise. So whatever, um, not redefined the wheel there, but basically, I've got 33 somewhat different rhythmic motifs that are all just based on some constraints that I came up with, which I could then use to get started with something. And to come up with that you don't need to be feeling inspired or awesome are anything like that. You can just say I am going to come up with something with 1000 quarters and but eighth nose and quarters until you have something that sounds somewhat decent, Really. You're gonna take it to the next level. Um, any questions on that one? All right. So, specifically, let's keep crazy and cool. Just, uh, you're seeing a little further. So, uh, basically to pick the pattern, you like, uh, this This goes back to preceding. Kind of like we're talking about with Ryan yesterday. Uh, once you pick the pattern that you like then trying to come over Aziz many, uh, variations of it as possible. So, um, say that the idea was I want to get better at rhythmic variations. And eventually, I would like Teoh, right? Something as cool is that Michigan saw. And, uh, I don't really write that kind of music, so I'm not interested in that, but really bringing that up because they are pretty cool And because so many people these days try to write like them seems appropriate. Uh, I think just about every new band I hear these days is some sort of a rip off of Michela in some way, shape or form stuff here, try to synthesize a little bit of what? What I think they do. Because a lot of people think that they're space aliens because they're so good. So, um yeah, and try to come up with, uh, many different versions as possible. And so here I've got rhythm example for which is just a variation off of example. One show us one and right here. And I'm gonna put you guys on the spot to see if you can spot what the motif is. This is number one. All right, here's number four. Either of you think you know what it is. Any chance, I think. But it just sounds like Dun Dun. Dun Dun. Duh. Get done. I can't came in what the rhythm was exactly. But it's just a short little you know. That's it. Yeah, but then you repeat the little digger done decadent twice every now that so. Yeah, But that's variation, though. That's that. That's a variation. It's all just based off. This was the little motif I came up with a cool stuff. Quarter quarter, a faith, or that's it. Uh, and just how many different ways can you take and do something with it and that, And, uh, it's not exactly that. This rhythm example is the, uh, the rhythm example that's going to redefine metal or anything like that. But it's about getting to the discipline of taking a fragment like that and building a section out of it. So again, just so you guys here, it's just this done a few ways, all right, so basically, if you write a little tiny motif like that and then paste it around to make it riff and then send it off to be mixed. Makes you actually play it as a complete thing instead of a low. Yeah, Hackneyed. That happens a lot. I actually played those, Thea Yeah, it sounds like garbage when people do that. And thanks for actually saying that because I think that, um, that constructing constructing patterns, uh, through copy paste like this defeats the purpose of the exercise. Because the purpose of the exercise again isn't to write a song. It's to train your brain, Teoh, start thinking of variations. So if you just come up with the motif and you copy paste it into a 1,000,000 different things you're not training your brain on and it's possible you might come up with something cool. But, uh, it's also entirely possible that you're gonna be no better than you were when you first wrote your motif and urine Pistor mixer off because they have a really hard time getting a good guitar sound because it is going to sound like a copy, pasted many notes, um, so the way that I would ah take this further and, uh, basically, if I could have the keynote back. Um, is take a look at music that you like that? Ah, that already does this. This goes back to the song analysis that we talked about before. Like, say, you want to get good at this particular skill? Well, then maybe analyzed the Beethoven Symphony or the, uh, the Michigan Song. So this wasn't in the sugar song again after going through that exercise? Don't. Why? Yeah, um, this anything What I'm sure is going to be tough to actually figure out how to play. But it's not that tough to analyze. And, for instance, if I was doing an analysis of this, I would point out that right here on this break, it's still that motif just kind of turned around just in different order. Nothing. It's not different to say. It's the exact same thing. Very tight constraints. Very uh, it's a very simple pattern. Just played backwards. Um, and I would do an analysis of this song, and ah, literally figure out how many different which ways that one tiny idea gets developed. And, uh, you know, see how many different versions of your own motif you can come up with and uh, I would, at the very least, once you, uh once you get to the point of having a bunch of them do your best to come up with a song based on the idea. And, uh, I would definitely differentiate between ah, good song and exercise, so but I would still do it if playing this style of metals. Not your thing, though. Uh, you're not in a band. This influence by me should and you're not. You're not looking to do a 1,000, little rhythm patterns like this, and I would take a look at something more like the Beethoven example where the rhythm is a little bit more simple, but it's still the same a san little fragment developed over over a long period of time. We'll check it out one more time. After having gone through all that tried Teoh, try to see how many different ways this one ideas used back to back to back to back to back to back in succession. I think thing I failed to just mention is for those of you who are more melodic based writers, I would out hunt for an example that you like where arithmetic motif is used to develop melody and analyze that, uh, just to make that distinction between a someone that's just writing, you know, brutal ass risks that aren't very melodic way through exercise here. The analysis of this would take much longer, I think. But to figure out every which way that that happens melodically, um or harmonically, it would take a while, but I'm sure that you guys will get much better at it and then try to write your own thing for it. Um, that right there will take you a long time. So I think the thing that covers that any questions from anybody cool. We have a question on, uh, accenting words. It's not really right on motifs, but accenting words J. P. K. Wants to know how big of a role our lyrics and accenting words in metal songwriting is that play a big role. Like for a vocalist to be accenting words. And is that ever used in like, a motif? Absolutely. That was, uh, that was something that I think we touched on yesterday with, Like, psychosocial. Yeah, for instance. Um, the rhythm that and I'm assuming that this person knows what the um was psychosocial is. But the way that that hook happens has a lot to do with the rhythm of the hook and how it repeats exactly the same way every time. And if the lyrics were different, it's and they changed every time. For instance, it's arguable that that wouldn't be the part that everyone remembers. Now some people may disagree with me because, um, metal vocalists are often terrible lyricists, and a lot of bands was really bad. Lyrics have gone really far, but I think it's you could make a point that the best bands always have lyrics that at least fit, um, on a musical rhythmic motif level with, uh with the arrangements. So I do think it's important. I think it's absolutely important. One distinction I want to make about lyrics. Uh, you know, since that question came up, is that lyric writers, people trying to write lyrics should keep in mind that they're not Poets and lyrics and poetry are completely different things. And when you're working on lyrics, you are you're basically combining a musical idea with a word that conveys the feeling, or it's supposed to list it a feeling it's very different than just reading words on a page so you could have something that, if you read it on a page, would be six grade level. But the rhythm and the emotion behind it is what makes all the difference. Just a little side note about a lyrics.

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.