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Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 23 of 28

Theme and Variations: Intro and Chorus

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

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Lesson Info

23. Theme and Variations: Intro and Chorus

Lesson Info

Theme and Variations: Intro and Chorus

thanks for being here. Um, in case you guys don't know, um, you just played download fest, right? So, yeah, um, John plays guitar in monuments, and they just played download fest, which, for those you don't know is a pretty big festival in England. And then what? You just, uh, literally got on a plane and flew to Seattle. Pretty this, you know, you're flying right back is more, uh uh to get back on toe insanity. Yeah. So, uh, came a long way to, uh, Teoh do this for you guys. How long is the flight think about 13 14 hours? No, thanks. So I don't see And thanks for being here, but those of you who may not be familiar with what he's done, uh, I'm sure you've heard of his. Bander had banned that he's been in like it's ah, it's actually really thing. We've talked about this before. Um, just between you guys periphery and Tester act, which your kind of like almost the I don't know. I feel like the founding fathers of the style of music. You guys play like how how so many people were like in...

all three bands. It's a pretty interesting at all times in the same place. But, um, we got a slowed of material to cover and not that much time, so we should just get right into it. Um well, the main things that were going to basically try toe, uh, I guess, show in this entire thing, the big picture is going to be that even if you play progressive metal like John does, a good song is a good song. And it's it's the same thing is, if is writing for nails or what we heard from Pat earlier about writing for pop of same techniques are there for the writing. It's just You might have harder parts to play or something more notes, but it's not like you have a 1,000,000 mawr, unrelated sections and just the difference in expression. Absolutely. And, uh, I think once we take this apart for people, other will hear that it might not be stuff that casual listener will pick up on first. Listen now, I guess the first thing we talk about is how you catalog your risk because you told me that some of some of your albums you end up with, like, seven hours worth of music for, like you get seven hours down to, like, 40 or 50 minutes. That's pretty intense. I basically label up green, red and yellow. Yellow means potentially could be a good rough needs some work, the reddest No go generally. But sometimes I just keep them there just toe, see if something pops up later. And green is general something that I want to use, and I need to find a place for it. Well, and, uh, I guess this is similar to ah, what we've been we've been talking about with, like, setting up templates or being willing to ditch, I guess you don't technically ditch anything cause you leave all in a session, but, um, but you still obviously are are being very, very careful to not use stuff if it's not on the level. If if you have to cut out six hours worth of material Obviously you're making a lot of a lot of detail choices in order to leave stuff behind. Um, did you always used to write, wait too much and then cut it down? Or did you use to write like just enough? Is that like, always in part of your thing the first record. No, sis. I definitely wrote too much material. It was mainly variations of other riffs, Okay, but the new album I managed to condense it down without was much filler riffs Speak. It's, you know, that like, um, that whole I don't know. It's almost like a cliche, but it's It's a good one where, um, talk about pop artists and big rock bands. Write 50 songs, get in and choosing 10 a doubt they actually write 50 songs yet. But even if they write 20 songs and shoes 10 Best thing, that's a good a good habit to get into making more than you actually need and picking the best. But one thing that, um, one thing that I think is really important is that when you are writing way too much, you need to definitely have a super detailed and organized way staying on top of it. Or you can imagine, especially with the kind of stuff that you guys do that you would get a you get lost. Yeah, but one thing I want to bring up, though, uh, and we kind of talked about this earlier is that you might one thing that happens, and it's just important to develop your awareness for this is just like with any sort of, like, musical rule, like it might be one way 90% of the time like structure works like this and this and this and this and then some exception of the rule will come up to and be, like, totally different than everything else you've been working on or any other rule you paying attention to. And, uh, I think you need to be aware of that because you might be throwing a waste of this worth it. So like, we were actually, um, just going through a few riffs from monuments that you were telling me that you almost ditched. And, ah, Street has a couple of Dauth riffs that I almost ditched, and they ended up being some of the best parts that we had. So, as the moral of the story is while yes, always be willing and ready, Teoh, get rid of stuff that successive and doesn't fit. You still need Teoh. Keep the possibility in your mind that you might be wrong. So which was the first thing we were talking about? Didn't first referred by the destroyer. All right, so I'm going to just play it if you want to play along to its you in the tuning Very cool. So I'm play it. And, uh, is this happened by accident earlier in your checking us A. Man, that is a cool riff. And, uh, it's interesting to me that you would even have considered not using it. But let us hear it like that's a really cool part. Like why, Like, why would you have wanted to get rid of that? It's important to identify that. I think sometimes because I'm mostly guitarist vocalist, I expect play. All these notes have it really complex. But sometimes leaving space with vocals is a good thing to Yeah, I think lots of the time. I, uh oh, sure you guys a doctor if that almost digits is a very similar thing. I was playing it by myself, and I love it. I don't know. They just thought that it was crappy and first idea of the day and just sucked and could do way better. And the guitarist side of me overtook the writer side of me, and I'm gonna ditch it. And then when my drummer came in, made fun of me and made us keep it and turned out to be one of the coolest things we did on the entire record. And it almost didn't happen because I was letting the technical side of my brain take a take control much like that refuges play, which I think is one of the coolest rests on your new album. So just pull it up from a song called Double Tap, Sue says, the the heavy part that comes in after the summer clean part and that's a riff. It's definitely one of the coolest, hard hitting parts of the whole thing. And definitely I was ready. Let it go, because when he's saying there's a guitarist, it might not be that cool and one other one that I almost got rid of, which turned out to be one of people's favorite song. I mean songs and riffs is this one, And the reason I was gonna ditch it was thought, maybe just a little too much like morbid angel or whatever. Maybe I could do better is too simple, like whatever like the stupid side of my head was in charge of Luckily somebody, somebody son later What I was going to have a second set of. It's absolutely, absolutely. Anyways, um pretty cool riff. Anyways, I just think that there's no riel technical exercise you can do to develop that awareness. But you should always keep in mind that you might be hungry. It's about whether or not a riff is cool or not. So it was good to have a system. Well, let's talk about for one more second you have, like anyone that you work with in the band. That's like, basically like your conscience or whatever. Like if you're gonna dish something that's not worth ditching that will stop you. Definitely. Swanee, let's say, helps helps structure the songs as well, so that that's your basis. Yes, Uh, yeah, I think I think it can't be said enough that people should try to have a good collaborator. We haven't talked about that at all in the past two days, but I've actually I've had a lot of guys and Banzai recorded who are the main writers? Not be open to other people's input, and those tend to be the worst bans. Even if there's one guy that writes 90% of everything. I think that extra 10% from a trusted collaborator. It can be the difference between suck and not so definitely. Um, So, yeah, all you want, right? I definitely have a problem with letting go. Sometimes they're I think everyone does. But it's important. Yeah, yeah, you have to be able to You still like Of what? Like six hours worth of music from the first record? Yeah, it's a lot less on this in recent one that's coming out on Monday. Yeah, I mean, let it, I think, letting go of riffs that you really likely worked hard on her songs. It's not ever like a fun thing, but it's unnecessary. It's definitely necessary. Just a button as well. There's one of the riffs from either Destroy was actually a rift that we wrote on the first record and confined anywhere to put it. Which one? It's the crazy last one, which I'm in the wrong tune in for us that that pretended that super cool. Yeah, so very another example. So let's let's move on. Because I got, like, 80 more things to cover. Have the keynote, please. Um all right, so in the earlier section started to talk about motifs quite a bit. Um, and you know, we showed that Miss Sugar Song Bleed and Beethoven's fifth to kind of like explain what a motif is. But that's from what I understand about monuments. That's basically your secret weapon. That's kind of what guides you through all your time signatures through everything and keeps your song sounding like one. You know, one creation, not just a bunch of just a bunch of disjointed. Yeah, Have you always running like that? It kind of started around probably 10 4011. I was subliminally doing It's your point. And then my friend Paul Lot easy place in Chimp Spanner kind of told me to try an idea. One of the songs Denial That's like a subgroup to make it into a riff on. So, yeah, he kind of helped with, like, doing two parts from one roof. So is that like how, like what? What would you say? It was like, uh, and there was there something that you did specifically to develop your ability to read a motif and develop it or is just like a mental thing. I think just a mental thing. I think Paul just opened up a little bit more than what I had seen previously because I had always done. It's just not to the level that he saw. Okay, so that doesn't aware in this thing. Yep. Yeah, I think a lot of writing is just an awareness kind of hard thing to talk about. A good second set of this. Yeah, absolutely. But, um, I think I think it's interesting to know that again. Your stuff is really, really crazy. But it's really not like your songs are actual songs with actual song structures and choruses that happen, like course should. It's just that you have motifs and develop them and use variations a lot, and that's where the complexity comes from. But again, it's not from a bunch of different things, and that brings me to the next thing. You guys do it at multiple levels, which I think is really, really cool. Um, using it from Song Song were, you know, developing a motif across various songs that you think a lot of progressive bands do, or using the same ot from section to section or within a riff. Even so, and we're gonna we're gonna go. We're and take apart quite a few those. So if you're ready, let's start talking about alchemist. Yep. Um, maybe I should play some of the song just off here of young play along. Um, just the people can kind of get this in their years and unless take it apart. So I mean, just close up, and this is off of your new? Yep. Well, I know it's awful, but all right, here goes. I think we should play like, uh, play through a chorus for now and then, uh, and then we'll take it apart up there. There's a lot of stuff, but not really. Not really. Not really. And, uh, I think the fact that it's seems like a lot of stuff is why this is so interesting. So let's get that keynote of starting this apart. So start with the intro. I think this is a, uh, a super super cool example of using something from another song in a brand new way. So could you show us what what that is? Because it's actually it. A few things from yes. So the first thing a is Thea Arpeggio version of 1/4 mile trail, which is found in the chorus and all the craters that Ah, real quick. In the previous section, I spent a little while talking about how people should not only learn their cords, but learn out to or vegetative and everything. And there's on a sample of it being done in real life. It's same exact chord. Just hey, and play it both ways real quick. Yeah, all right. You know what I'm gonna do? Real quick. Yep. Is, um, bring up the chorus from other creator. Uh, just so you can hear it in the context of another song. Um okay, So basically, Teoh recap. This, uh, this part in alchemist is a combination of on our page e ated version of score that you use in this course in another song. Probably further forward a little bit. Yeah, all right. And what else is there anything else from this song? Um, yeah, there's a tapping section that I should That's in, I think in the bridge first. All right, but so you took a cord from the chorus who, basically from either creator, he took a tapping section of the bridge and accord from the chorus. It kind of put it together, which made the intro of a whole other song yet on the intro also has a variation on that tapping that as well, which is a longer variation. So let's I gonna how about this? I'm gonna play the chorus and the bridge for my The creator took up Tennessee of people can then see how you put those together And, uh, I guess also, if this is too many notes for people toe like process in real time or too many ideas, I think what you should focus on is the big idea yet that you took two ideas from another song on the album from two separate sections and you combine them into something. You started another song, and that's Ah, for Writer's block or for people who don't know what to do next. I can't think of anything. I mean, there's a very simple trick that you could do. So there are things while albums concept that was constantly trying to keep the music like it was a thing. Yeah, a couple of parts that repeat. Cool. Yeah, we'll go through that in a bit. That's ah, a lot of progressive bands do that, I think is recycling themes. Now, all the way back to Pink Floyd. Classic trick. Okay, so here is the, um, chorus for other creators. Make sure in the right spot what else did Could you play that chord progression now, just by yourself? Yep. I'm a tone lower sounds a bit word, even in the alchemist that uses the same kind of the same progression as well, just in a different way. And also across the arrangement he did in the vocals as well, which is pretty cool. So which is a chord that you picked? All right, So pick that for whatever reason, and, uh, combined it with this. Get to it a little bit. Later on, there's the tiniest little fragment. Yeah, just that little tiny little fragment from that little tapping linked with the tiniest fragment from the course Put together. Teoh, make the intro of a whole other song and let's let's no check out the intro again and see if people could spot how you use those together creation. But it's interesting to note that like, it doesn't sound like the originals. So it's not like but one thing that I think sucks about some records is if you cut out. If you take, like, all 10 songs and you cut out different parts and different songs and, like, pasted them all together, you still won't be able to identify that. They were different songs. It all just kind of blend together. But with this, even though you're recycling ideas and finding new ways, those two songs don't sound the same. So I think that's very interesting. Let's move on to the verse and get the he note. All right, So, uh, yeah. Um, well, let's, uh let's just jump into it. It's not really that may parts key play through it once. Cool. And basically, that's just a bunch of little ideas put together. Yeah, that was a the 1st 2 sets it was about that was halfway through the roof. Okay. And how different is it on the second time? The only thing that's different is the ending. Okay. Yep. All right. So, basically, for people who don't understand what that diagram is, basically the different, uh, little fragments of the rifts are labeled with different letters. And basically, if there's the prime symbol like you see a B C D. And then there's a prime B prime. That means that it's just a variation off of the same idea. So if you look at that, it's almost the same thing four times. It's just slight, different, different versions. But when you're hearing it all together, you know it's, uh it's cool and intimidating. But, uh, now would you say that this is harder to write or hurt way? I'd probably say it's harder to play because if you have all the parts right and just pick up my guitar and try and just organisms, that sounds right, one on play. It's not like anything I do on a computer. I don't copy and paste each bit. Until that, you know, putting Guitar Pro. I just I just jam it until it sounds right. Got, like all these little parts like you know, which is the motif that comes in quite few times as well. Is that you just a case until it feels right? I guess rather than you know anything else, it's ah, interesting that you bring up Guitar Pro because I think I think a lot of dudes use guitar proto put riffs together and, um, one of the really negative things that I've noticed about that is that people will come in with stuff that they cut up in it. Maybe it's this complicated or not when they arrived with studio with an Alvis right in this way. But the feel isn't in check. There is no way to know if this actually works in real life. If you sequence sitting guitar pro, you know there's no way to know if it is going to sound good is an arrangement or if it's even playable, everything just feels good on the guitar. Yeah, so you actually make sure that you can actually play this stuff? It's more about how it feels well done anything. Yeah, but definitely. I mean, it helps a playability and stuff like that. Definitely, I guess. Ah, that's another thing that seems super importance that no matter how much stuff is going on here, it still feels good. There's always a groove happening. Um, and do you Ah, do you make a point of keeping that like as a priority that the groove is it needs to basically needs to grief. Yeah, that's that's kind of my thing. Do you ever find with more technical, more technical stuff like this that the earlier versions don't groove? Quite definitely. Yeah. That's why I spend a lot time doing different variations of the truth. So it feels completely right. And so I guess that goes back to cataloging this stuff. So when your cataloging all this, um, you have this all in one massive session? Yeah. OK, so maybe walk us through How, Like, say that? Um, we're talking to some kid that looks up to what you do and, uh, has only been writing for, like, two or three years. And they want to kind of just get better at putting stuff together like this. How I would you were the first few steps you would recommend they could take record everything. Yeah. Sometimes you'll think an idea is initially bad, But then once you've actually put more time into it, thanks to turn into a good idea or the opposite, right? Well, they hold the opposite. Yeah, I think an idea is really good. And then, in reality, yeah, it's a day by day thing. So if it's if you write 19 then the next day you wake up and you still think it's good? That's the general rule that I take. Definitely. Do you? Ah, do you ever not record stuff and try to remember it sometimes and then I don't remember. Yeah, that's another thing. We talked about that yesterday with both Ryan and Todd, that if they don't record their ideas and, you know, again totally different styles and you know, arguably more simple styles. Probably easier to remember. Maybe. But they still record everything, and they don't let ideas just go to the ether. And I've noticed the same thing. If I don't record an idea how cool I think it is when I write it gone? Yeah, yeah. So All right. So step one is record everything. Where will you go after that? Um, I'd see which one, you know, fell or sounded right and just work on it until something else came out of it. And that's purely a feel thing. Not necessarily feel things like, for example, like a czar saying, I write a little motif, little sections on, I'll start. I'll just play that over and over and go toe to have a little jam, See what comes up. If another cool part comes up. I'll get that down. Well, okay, so So we're, like a loop on. No, I actually don't tend not to write with my computer anymore. Science. I find that the when you're stuck in a really annoying metro name sound, then sometimes it doesn't necessarily bring anything out. Sometimes it's better to, like, play it slow or play fast. And he would to the rift you got down. So sometimes just jamming around works. Do you work it out on the guitar and then record it? Yeah. Okay. All right. Cool. So I guess Step two would be actually dick around her instrumental. You got something that feels pretty cool. Yeah. I've seen some people do on the computer. They do a really good job of it. I just can't get into the vibe of that'll. Honestly, I have to, but I think that that's rare. Yeah, like I think that I think that the guys who could cut this stuff up into music are, you know, they're just they're electronica artists who somehow got reincarnated into metal musicians. But it's I think it's a rare thing. I think a lot of guys try to do that because they're not. They don't have the work ethic to follow through, or they just don't know that it's a bad thing to Dio. Most and most musicians can't get away with that. And we know some guys who do that under great. But yet they're kind of yeah. Ah, Ball is a ball like super talented freaks. What the hardest part about it is, is that once you paste mortal sections that you've recorded together, sometimes it's just not possible to play it as well. Yeah, yeah. So that's the guitar pro problem again. Interesting. Another thing we talked about yesterday is how a lot of bands these days will put their entire rhythm tracks or whatever into backing tracks. So I guess I kind of invalidates actually having to play it for some people. I think if you can't play it with a good feel, then it's probably not as good of a apart. So, um, all right, so Step one recorded Step two. Uh, try not pots. I mean, yet and then actually, uh, actually will record a little fragments, right? Yeah, Well, that's what I would do that some people obviously. Right. Whole refs would be even possible, right? This whole thing in one application, the I do actually have times when I've written the whole riff it once is that more rare? Very rare in general record. A bunch of you guys, a little variations to sit down with your instrument and try toe. Make some, like a bigger idea of all that school. And then what? Then I'll just try and do multiple variations of one. You try changing the order of the fragments, maybe make fragments and variations off the fragments just to keep the riff interesting. Um, yeah, that's pretty much it do that just until I felt that the rift was right. Just go until it's good. Yeah, yeah, Sometimes it's quickly than other some. For example, in the old record, Gnosis, both empty vessels and regenerate took me about three months to finish. And then I, the creator, was over about a year to a year and 1/2 where it was actually finished. Wow, not writing every day for obviously going to get into the Bible again, because if you have one really good riff, it's really hard to write riffs that are as good as that I find sometimes you have to keep scrapping stuff until something good comes out. You know, it's interesting, though, about what you just said, how it will take you that long to write a song. One thing that we've been talking about a lot is that if people have to spend that long in the song, usually it's probably not a good song. But I think where, uh, where that doesn't really applies when you're doing a concept like you guys do where you have multiple, like the same themes that go through multiple songs of multiple parts. So, um, it's your working more, I think on a large scale piece, Yeah, and there's no way to write that in, like, two days, Not or something. Sometimes they do come out in two days. I'm sure this room, yeah, that's right.

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.