Theme and Variations: Intro and Chorus


Mastering Metal Songwriting


Lesson Info

Theme and Variations: Intro and Chorus

Thanks for being here in case you guys don't know you just download fest right so yeah john plays guitar in monuments and they just played down infested which for those you don't know is a pretty big festival in england and then what you just literally got on a plane and flew to seattle for do this you know you're flying right back his mara back into insanity yeah so can a long way teo teo to do this for you guys how long is the flight I think it's about thirteen fourteen hours no thanks so don't say 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 band er band that he's been in like it's ah it's actually really I think we've talked about this before just between you guys periphery and tester act which are kind of like almost uh 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 vans it's a pretty interesting it all comes from the same place but we got ...

uh, ass load of material to cover and not that much time so we should just get right into it 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 of you play progressive metal like john does good song is a good song and it's it's the same thing is if is ready if nails or what we heard from pat earlier about writing for pop the 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 million more unrelated sections and just the difference in expression absolutely. And, uh I think once we take this apart for people that were here that it might not be stuff the casual listener will pick up on the first listen now I guess the first thing we talk about is how you kind of log 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 forty or fifty minutes that's pretty intense I basically label up green, red and yellow yellow means potentially could be a good rough but I need some work the reddest no go generally, but sometimes I just keep him there just to see if something pops up later and green is general something I want to use and I need to find a place for it well and uh I guess this is similar tio 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 leave it all in a session but you still obviously are are being very very careful to not use stuff if it's not on the level if you have to cut out six hours of material obviously you're making a lot of a lot of detailed choices in order to leave stuff behind did you always used to write way too much and then cut it down or did used to write like just enough is that like always in part of your I think the first record no sis I definitely wrote too much material it was mainly variations of other riffs okay but the new album my minds to condense it down without was much filler riffs it's you know that like that whole uh 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 right in fifty songs yet and then choosing ten I doubt they actually write fifty songs yet but even if they're right twenty songs and choose ten I think that's a good a good habit to get into making more than you actually needed that picking the best but one thing that 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 stay on top of it or I can imagine especially with the kind of stuff that you guys do that you would get you get lost yeah, but one thing I want to bring up though bye 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 and he's sort of like musical rule like it might be one way ninety percent of time like structure works like this and this and this and this and then some exception of the rule will come up too and be like totally different than everything else we've been working on or any other rules paying attention too and 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 just going through a few riffs from monuments that you would tell me that you all know stitched and ah sure he has a couple of darth 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 well yes always be willing and ready tio get rid of stuff that successive and doesn't fit you still need teo keep the possibility in your mind that you might be wrong so which was the first thing we were talking about did have first referred by the destroyer all right, so I'm going to just play it and you want to play along to it in the tuning, so I'm playing and, uh, is this happened by accident earlier in your checking us a man that is a cool riff and 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 fort identified that? I think sometimes because I'm mostly guitarist vocalist, I expect, you know, play all these notes how it really complex, but sometimes leaving space with vocals is a good thing, too. Yeah, I think lots of the time uh, I'll show you guys a daughter if that almost ditches is a similar thing, I was playing it by myself, and I don't know, I just thought that it was crappy and first idea the day and just stopped and I could do way better, and the guitarist side of me overtook the writer side of me and gonna ditch it, and then when my jar came in, made fun of me and minutes keep it and turned out to be one the coolest things we did on the entire record and almost didn't happen because I was letting the technical side of my brain take take control much like that refugees play which I think is one of the cool stress on your new album so just pull it up from a song called double taps suzanne's thea the heavy part that comes in after the summer clean part ah that's a riff it's definitely one of the coolest part hitting parts in the whole thing and uh definitely I was ready let it go because 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 risk is this one and the reason I was going to ditch it was god I thought maybe just a little too much like morbid angel or whatever maybe could do better sze to simple like whatever like the stupid side of my head was in charge of luckily somebody somebody later what I was going to have a second set of its absolutely absolutely anyways 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 here hung about whether or not a riff is cool or not so it is good to have a system this son of a 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 swanny let's say helps helps structure the songs as well 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 had a lot of guys in banzai recorded who are the main writers not be open to other people's input and those tend to be the worst fans even if there's one guy that writes ninety percent of everything I think that extra ten percent from a trusted collaborator it can be the difference between suck and not so definitely so yeah all you want right? I definitely have a problem with letting go sometimes there I think everyone does but it's important yeah, yeah, you have to be able to you still like a what like six hours worth of music on the first record? Yeah it's a lot less on this than recent one that's coming out on monday. Yeah, I mean, let it I think letting go of riffs that really likely worked hard on her songs it's not ever like a fun thing but it's unnecessary it's definitely necessary but in a swell 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 enforce that that was super cool yeah yeah so there's another example so let's let's move on because I got like eighty more things to cover have the kino please all right, so in the earlier section started to talk about motifs quite a bit 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, they have you always run like that. It kind of started around probably two thousand ten, two thousand eleven I was subliminally doing it to a point and then my friend poor lot easy place in chimp spanner I kind of told me to try an idea one of the songs on our lips like a sub grief to make it into a riff and so you kind of helped with like doing two parts from one rough so is that like how like what? What would you say? It was like, uh, there was there something that you did specifically to develop your ability to right a motif and develop it or just, like, mental thing? I think just the 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 doesn't know where in this thing. Yeah, I think a lot of writing is justin awareness things kind of hard thing to talk about, but good second service. 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 motives and develop them, and you 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 multiple levels, which I think is really, really cool. Um, using it from song song where, you know, developing motif across various songs that you think a lot of progressive bands do or using the same ot from section section uh or you know, within a riff even so and we're gonna we're gonna go uh we're gonna take apart quite a few those so if, uh if you're ready let's start talking about alchemist yep. Um maybe I should play some of the song just over here if you don't play along just people can kind of get this in their ears analysts take it apart so I mean, I just post up and this is off of your new well, I know it's awful, but all right here goes just think should play like, uh through chorus for now there's a lot of stuff but not really not really not really and I think the fact that it's you know seems like a lot of stuff is why this is so interesting. So let's get that keynote of start taking this apart. So start with the intro I think this is a uh a super a super cool example of using something from another song uh 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 is thea arpeggio version of courtroom either create which is found in the chorus the prayer is that the real quick in the previous section I spent a little while talking about how people should know only learn they're cords but learn how to appreciate them and everything and there's a new example of it being done in real life it's sames that core just hand played both ways real quick yeah all right you know what I'm gonna do real quick yep is bring up the chorus from other creator uh just so you can hear it in the context of another song um okay, so basically teo recap this uh this part in alchemist is a combination of on our page e aided version of score that you use in this course in another song probably further forward a little bit yeah yeah alright. And what else is there anything else in this song? Yeah there's a tapping section that I should that's in I think it's in the bridge first so you took a cord from the chorus basically from either creator you took a tapping section of the bridge and a cord from the chorus you kind of put it together which made the intro of a whole other song yet on the inch I also has a variation on that tapping that as well, which is a longer variation. So let's uh how about this? I'm gonna play the chorus and the bridge for my creator katniss e of people can then see how you put those together and 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 new start another song and that's a for writer's block or for people who don't know what to do next you can't think of anything I mean there's a very simple trick that you could do for our thing is well our albums concept and it 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 a classic trick okay so here's the chorus for either creator so make sure when the right but can you play that chord progression now just by yourself yeah tone it sounds a bit with even in the alchemist uses the same so it's kind of the same progression as well 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 gets a little later on there's a tiny little fragment here just the tiniest little fragment from that little tapping like with the tiniest fragment from the course put together teo make the intro of a whole other song and uh let's check out the intro again and see if people could spot how use those together wait themed variation 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 ten songs and you cut out different parts in different songs and like pace of them all together you still won't be able to identify that they were different songs I'll 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 well let's uh let's just jump into it it's not really that many parts keep later at once yeah, cool um and basically that just a bunch of little ideas put together that was a first to set so it's about that was halfway through the roof okay? And, uh how different is it on the second time through the roof? The only thing that's different is the ending? Okay, yeah, all right, so basically for people who don't understand what that diagram is basically the different little fragments of the riffs our you know 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 the same idea so if you look that it's almost the same thing four times its 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 hard play? I probably say it's harder to play because if you have all the parts, why don't you pick up my guitar and try and just organisms that sounds right when I'm playing it's not like anything I do want a computer I don't copy and paste he's been, you know, putting the top row yeah, I just I just jam it into their sounds I've got like all these little parts like, but that theory, which is the motif comes in quite a few times as well is that you're just a case until it feels right. I guess rather than you know anything else it's interesting that you bring up guitar pro because I think I think a lot of dudes use guitar produce put riffs together and 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 in the studio with an elvis right in this way but the field isn't in check there is no way to know if this actually works in real life if you see it considered guitar pro you know there's no way to know it it's going to sound good is an arrangement or if it's even playable where everything just feels good on the guitar so you actually make sure that you can actually play this stuff it's more about how it feels well than anything yeah, but definitely I mean it helps a playability and stuff like that definitely I guess ah it'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 and do you ah, do you make a point of keeping because a priority that the groove is denise to basically needs to group? Yeah that's that's kind of my thing do you ever find with more technical and more technical stuff like this that the earlier versions don't groove quite definitely yeah that's why I spent a lot time doing different variations of the truth feels completely right and so I guess that goes back to cataloguing this stuff so when you're cataloging all this um you have this all in one massive session yeah, ok so maybe walk us through how like say that we're talking to some kid that looks up to what you do and has only been riding for like two or three years and they want to kind of just get better at putting stuff together like this how would you or the first few steps you would recommend they could take record everything yeah, sometimes you're thinkin idea is initially bad but then once you've actually put more time into it could turn into a good idea or the opposite, right? Well, they've only opposite yeah think an idea is really good and then re in reality sucks yeah it's a day by day thing so if it is if you write one night, then the next day you wake up and you still think it's good that the general that take definitely do 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 either and I've noticed the same thing if I don't record an idea how cool I think it is when I write it, you're gone. Yeah, yeah. So all right, so step one is record everything. Where would you go after that? I'd see which one, you know, felt or sounded right and just work on it till something else came out of it. And that's purely a feel thing, not necessarily feel things like, for example, like saying I write little motif was little sections on dh I'll start, I'll just play that over and over and goto, you know, have a little jam, see what comes up and another cool part comes up. I ll get that down a swell. Okay, so, so well, you feel like a loop on? No, I actually don't tend not to write with my computer anymore. I find I find that the when you're stuck in a really annoying metro sound, and sometimes it doesn't necessarily bring anything out, sometimes it's there to, like, play it slow or, you know, play fast and he would to the ref, you got down so sometimes chumming around works do 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 instrument till you have 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 at all. 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 elektronik 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 do most and most musicians can't get away with that like we know some guys who do that are great, but they're kind of ball is our ball like super talented freaks. You know what the hardest part about it is? Is that once you paste more full sections that you've recorded together sometimes it's just not possible to play as well? Yeah, totally, yeah. So that's the guitar pro problem? Uh, 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 because that kind of invalidates actually haven't played it for some people but I think if you can't play it with a good field then it's probably not as good of apart so all right, so step one recorded step to uh try not part I mean yet and then actually actually will record a little fragments, right? Yeah, well that's what I would do that some people obviously right whole riffs would be even possible, right? This whole thing in one occasion the idea 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 out of all of the 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. Yeah that's pretty much it do that just until I felt that the ref was right so just go until it's good. Yeah, yeah sometimes it's quicker than other some for example on the old record no cece 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 a half 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 ref it's really hard to write riffs that are as good as that one I find, and sometimes you have to keep scrapping stuff until something good comes out. You know it's interesting, though, uh, about what you just said, how it will take you that long to write a song. But one thing that we've been talking about a lot is that if people had 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 it's your working more, I think on a large scale piece and there's no way to write that in like two days, not or something. Sometimes they don't come out in two days. I'm sure this room, 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.


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!