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Adaptive Songwriting with Peter Darling

Lesson 48 from: Songwriting in Logic Pro X for Electronic Music Production

Tomas George

Adaptive Songwriting with Peter Darling

Lesson 48 from: Songwriting in Logic Pro X for Electronic Music Production

Tomas George

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Lesson Info

48. Adaptive Songwriting with Peter Darling

Next Lesson: Thanks and Bye


Class Trailer

Writing Drums and Bass Part Introduction


Making Drums Beats with Ultrabeat


Beats with Ultrabeat and Drummer


Writing Bass Parts - Part 1


Writing Bass Parts - Part 2


Writing Drums and Bass Parts Assignment


Writing Chords Introduction


Writing Chords


Lesson Info

Adaptive Songwriting with Peter Darling

Today I'm joined with Peter. Darling. Hello. Hi. Hi. Hi. So, Peter is a songwriter, composer. Yeah. So you also do. We also create digital music just to create a lot of stock music, library, music. And so is that through your laptop or is that anything sometimes through my laptop, sometimes, uh, through other people's, uh, computers. I work freelance with a company called W MP who are based in Leeds in the United Kingdom and they get me in if they need a songwriting. So I normally use all their nice bits of kit. So it might as well. It's always good, fun going to a studio. So it's always nice. So, uh, what kind of dramas of music do you write or is it anything, um, is basically, I try not to limit myself in what I can do. I know there are some things which I'm more comfortable with. So, uh, I started off on, um, playing classical guitar and then kind of working within more folk and singer songwriters. So if you ask me to write a song like that, I'll, I'll, I can do that pretty easy. Um...

, but then also massive rock music fan as well. And then also I've been asked on occasions to write more electronic dance music and uh bits of R and B and occasionally hip hop as well. And so, uh that's always entertaining. But you, uh you uh you try your best to adapt um your skills to certain genres and do the best and authentic representation of the genre that you can. Yeah. So it was one of the songs that you co-wrote some, read it to you yesterday. Uh Yeah. So, so uh I um write and perform with a singer called Laura Oakes who is a country singer and we, we performed last week on the Bob Harris show uh on radio two and uh one song that was um one song that was played on, there was called Glitter, which I co-wrote with her, um which was a lot of fun to do. Uh We, we were talking about this earlier, the whole wordplay of uh Robert Ot and Glitter is basically the, the, the, so um the way if you haven't heard of Laura Oaks, check her out. She is the real deal. She's an incredible singer and songwriter. Um And she really enjoys playing with words when she writes with lyrics. Um which o often as well is uh kind of indicative of the country music genre as well. A huge amount of it is trying to write the most clever and uh interesting lyrics as possible in terms of playing with words. So um that for me was definitely, I, I had to adapt to that. I, my songwriting, my comfort zone of songwriting is often like uh trying to, trying to like paint pictures with my words. Um and try uh and try and take the list of more on a kind of a narrative journey. Whereas Laura is the opposite of that. She enjoys playing with words and trying to write something clever. Um So that was an interesting experience trying to adapt to that. But yeah, a lot of it was we basically just wanted to get um poo joked into the song, uh which, which went really, really well. Uh And it's uh it's was that just for you guys. So you can have a bit of a laugh when you're here or did you want the listener to realize? I think, yeah, we, yeah, we want, we wanted to, we wanted the listener to laugh. I feel like if you can create an emotional response in, in your listener, then you've got them, uh especially if it's the one that you intended. So we wanted to make the listener laugh. Um And we also wanted to write a song which was actually quite stinging, but then uh had a really quite delicate and pretty arrangement cos um well, for me, like I'm a massive Smiths fan and I got obsessed with how Johnny Marr would create just these beautiful arrangements, really delicate and, and pretty and then Morrissey would sometimes just say, like, really vicious things. I've always really enjoyed that kind of juxtaposition. So that was, that was one thing that I really wanted to do. Um, and, uh, yeah, and, and ultimately we just wanted to make the, the listener laugh. Um, and, and also make them feel happy whilst actually the lyrics themselves can be quite cutting. Yeah. Yeah. Do you fancy, uh, playing a bit as well? Um So I'll play a bit of the chorus and you'll get an idea of, we were trying to play around with sayings and idioms that people know already and just try and create a bit of humor on them. So I don't normally sing this obviously. So this is a better version is on itunes and Spotify. It's called Glitter uh by Laura Oaks. So, um so you can dress a penny pig if you've got enough lipstick, make it big with a double tap and clean trick. Oh, you can roll yourself in glitter but you cannot polish a tip. Think of a perfect existence. Got all the stuff substance when in all fan and you can make it better a reading. So that's good. We wanted also to, to call it glitter uh because Laura is an artist, her aesthetic, a lot of the time is there's a lot of um sparkly costumes and sequins and glitter and it's all very bright and shiny. So I really wanted to write a song with her that, that kind of fed into what her persona is as an artist. So, uh another song which I, which I wrote with her and also Danny Cope was a song called Lazy. I wanted to write a song. I was uh when I was first came up with the idea, I thought I wanna write a song that Laura really feels like she can connect with. So it has plays on words and is, is interesting and clever. But also she feels like it represents who she is as an artist as well. So, uh she often gets referred to as lazy because she arrives late at things. Um But actually what it is is she's just, she's just very laid back and when she's required to do a job. So if she's singing, she will nail it every time. So I wanted to play on words with that. Um So, uh there was a song so the song called Lazy. Uh uh So that goes, I'm not lazy. I do Saturday. You were, don't blame me if you won't go my temple. I'm not lame. I just make it look key and uh a key part of country music is just that final tagline being something that's really satisfying. So when we finally came up with it, the idea of I'm not lazy, I just make it look easy, just felt really appropriate for the genre. And then also something that she would say as Well, so a lot of the time when I'm Cori, I'm trying to think who's this person as an artist? What, what, what is, what would they want to say and how would that reflect who they are and their persona? Um Cos I think that's really important these days, these day, this day and age is we uh artists now are sold on do, do their songs, kind of tell us something about them. So, um I feel like I feel like, so I feel like people like Lady Gaga and Rihanna and Beyonce are incredible at writing songs that reflect how the public feels about their personality, whether they're empowered or slightly off kilter or there's something slightly messy about it. Like you get a feeling of, oh, that's, that's the person singing it. That's, that song is something true to them even if they haven't written it. You know, I think it's really important to write, write, not just try and write a good song, but try and write a functional song, one that an artist can use that promotes them and kind of tells their overall story a little bit more. Do you ever find it quite difficult to get your head into someone else's? You have to imagine you're a, a 21 year old American girl and it's like, oh, I mean, no, that's literally the story of my life in general. No, no, I do definitely. Um When I'm writing library music, uh I, I worked on an album with um uh with W MP called, it was originally called Girl Swag, which was all about uh writing songs for independent empowered women. Uh uh And uh that was an interesting experience. So we get given a lot of like reference tracks and they say we want, we want songs kind of like this. There was a lot of things like Little Mick's Beyonce, uh Anne Marie as well, early Anne Marie. Um and it's, it is so much fun being able to, it's almost, it feels almost a bit like acting. You get into the role and you, you think, right? What is, what is something that the these people would wanna say and what's the message we wanna put across? And a lot, a lot of the time, it's w with that, with that brief, it was a lot of both um both being empowered as a, as a solo female, but then also the feeling of um being together in a group and the security of that. So we kind of wrote around those sort of things. Um And that, that's really interesting to get inside the head of, yeah, it's quite interesting. Obviously, your music is very different to that, your music, the albums I've heard of you, it's all about creating a story or creating a narrative. It doesn't really seem to be about you as well. All your music just seems to be like imaginary people or some instances, real people and writing around their story and their lives. I find that way, your way of writing very different to the vast majority of people is writing about themselves and their feelings. Well, well, what I'd say is like, um often I use those stories as an opportunity to, to kind of talk about myself in a way but disguise it. So um the uh the Mary Lou ep that I wrote um was, was I wanted to write about loads of different characters in a specific scene. But then I also wanted to write a bit more about uh grief about faith. Uh like trying to like get my own, my own emotions and feelings and the stuff I was going through at that time out as well. Um Yeah. And it, and it, it's really freeing because um because you can say what you want and like, say the stuff that feels the most vulnerable to you and then you can say, well, it's, it's just a character's feeling that way and in the same way with the library music, I, I will try and if even if the character that I'm writing from is completely different from me, I'll try and tap into emotions that I felt previously. So, so like, for example, with the Girl Swag album, uh try and tap into the, those times where I felt like, yeah, I'm, I'm a badass, you know what I mean? Yeah. Absolutely. And I like, and, and deliberately try and tap into that because then I have that emotion going on as I write. Um, I find that really helpful. Yeah. It's, yeah. Yeah. It's, it's, it's fun. I love, I love, I love trying to just challenge myself and write stuff, not just for me. Um, I find that really the, the pressure feels off in a way because if I write stuff for me, I'm constantly thinking well, would I perform this? What? You know what, oh, what, what does it look like if I do it? Whereas, whereas when I write for Laura or, or anyone else, it's, it's great because I, all I have to think is, well, how do I feel like they would say that? And um I don't have to worry about anything else. I just love it. It's great. Yeah, it's really interesting. It, it's just, it's great hearing your music and as like a story as a narrative rather than just not a lot of songs that I feel this way. Da da da da II. I mean, you're more creating, well, what I perceive, you're more creating story around these several characters, which makes it a lot more interesting to listen to listen because first when you first listen to it, you just presume you're talking about yourself and then you realize, oh, wait, that's another character. Here it again. Oh, wait, that's another character. Yeah, I guess. Is that what you want? The listeners to feel like to work it out slowly, like a murder mystery rather than a soap opera. So you want to think? Oh, who, who's the killer? It's, it's the butler rather than thinking, oh, whatever drama happened on whatever soap opera, what's, what's, what I see as no, man. That's really cool. Like, that's, that's good because, um, I do, I do think it's really important to leave, almost, leave breadcrumbs for your audience so that they can work stuff out for themselves. Cos if they've done that, then they're invested in what you're doing. I feel like Taylor Swift is doing that really well with their latest album. I'm not, I'm not a massive fan of the, the new album, but she has done so much stuff in her, in her lyrics and in her music videos that refer to other things that have happened in her life and been in previous videos and have been in her image in the past. And so what happens is all her listeners, her audience go, oh, that was a reference to that when that happened. And that was this and immediately you've got your audience, you know what I mean? Um And I think that's really important I want with the Mary Lou. Ep I wanted people to, to be able to kind of gradually work stuff out and, and think about the characters in that way. Um And so a lot of that is, is trying to, yeah, try and leave clues. Um, uh, and I think that's cos I think about the, the, the shows that I like, um, like that I like to watch are the films that I like. I love those little details that people put in and then you go back and you re-watch and you're like, oh, of course, because she did this. Um, I, I think why not, why not put that into music as well? Yeah, I remember we did a video recently about your son, Kate. Oh, yeah. And, uh, I just presumed the first time I heard that, that, that was a love song about a previous partner called Kate. But no, it was about Kate Bush. Yeah. Yeah. So it was, it was about, um, uh, it was about when I used to walk to church with my dad and, uh, on the way past there was this really big house on the corner and, uh, the, uh, my dad said, uh, it was Kate Bush who lived there. So, for me it was always really interesting this, uh, this kind of person less house where I was like, oh, so does Kate Bush still live in there or you, you know, when you're a kid? And then I also wanted to, I, I just found it really interesting to write it, um, to her because, uh, immediately you're, you're doing something within a song that you wouldn't do in real life. And I think often songs are a good way of, of, kind of l like playing out scenarios that haven't happened. Do you know what I mean? Um, and, and is, so I thought the best way to, to talk about that song is to address it, arre, address it to Kate Bush and then also use it to discuss my relationship with my dad and how that's changed over the years. Cos now I don't, I don't, obviously I don't live at home. Uh And I don't see my dad as often as I want to, but there's still that there's always gonna be that feeling of I'm his son and he's, he's my, my dad and there's that closeness in there. Um And it, it, again, it comes down to creating narratives to discuss how you feel. But I think, um and, and I would, I would argue that a lot of songs that come out are actually telling a narrative, but it's only like one part of the narrative. So it might be the narrative might be I like, I'm going to the club and it's a, it's a club tune in it like, and I've gone to the club and I'm really happy about being at the club and I've, I'm drinking lots and then I'm gonna have premarital sex with someone like that's, that's like that is one narrative. Um And then for other people, it might be. So, I, I feel like uh Kendrick Lamar is an amazing lyricist on his last album on Dan. He, he takes different uh kind, he takes different concepts and then tries to write around them. So the track Humble is a really interesting one and he, he, he discusses the concept of humility. Uh And then also there's a song about pride and um and I feel like he creates a narrative that's based around an emotion or a, or a kind of a fault or frailty. And um he's someone who does that incredibly well. I think, I think that it's important to realize that every single song has a narrative, but it might only be a certain cross section of that narrative. We w like that club tune. We don't hear about the night after all, whether their relationship continues, but it's about one particular, it's like a, a little vignette, a little snapshot into someone's life. And when you, when you think about that, when you're writing that, that means that that can help structure what you wanna say and how you wanna say it as well. So, have you got any tips for anyone watching at home who wants to kind of uh create stories of their lyrics or authentic spans the genres that they write? Yeah. Uh I would say, uh read a lot um like fiction or nonfiction or uh I, I would say, I, I think both um there are a lot of non, so there are a lot of nonfiction writers who also create narrative to what they're doing. So there's a great writer called John Ronson who uh writes a lot about um real life concepts but creates a narrative out of the experiences that he's had. Um And I would say as well. Yeah, just fiction writing is, is, is really important. I love a writer called Ian mcewan, um who I talked about in the previous book. He, he uh in the previous session that we did because his book Atonement has a moment where one instant is told from three different people's point of view. And that inspired me to, to write the Mary Lou ep from different perspectives, stuff like Game of Thrones. It's Yeah, absolutely. Um And I, I would, I would say, I would say just uh a huge amount of, of it has been, I've just listened to lots of music. I've read a lot, I've watched lots of TV, like, and while I've been doing it, I've been analyzing it. Like, even if I haven't been thinking about it, but I've, I've, um I try and consider, right? What's this, what's this character feeling like? Why, what are their motivations behind what they've done? Um And I think that's really important to, to uh the, the, the more invested you are within a, within AAA narrative. It's, it, it's always because of character development. It's not because of plot. Like I, so like, I get really wound up by, I get really wound up by shows where uh the lead character is not likable at all, not relatable, does irrational things. I don't like them. And the problem they have is then I, I often feel like scripts, they will then try and force plot on, on a, on a character in order to make them more likable. Whereas I feel like some of my favorite uh TV shows have been where the characters have been so richly uh constructed and that, that you can't help but relate to them. And then when something happens to them, you're that much more invested. Now, I think I feel really passionate about trying to apply that to songwriting. So I, I teach at Leeds College of Music and I tell a lot of my songwriters like your, your chorus is your opportunity to write your plot. Like that's your big moment where you can say what, what the point of the, the song is, but your verses are your opportunity to make the listener care about what happens in the chorus. So if you're writing a love song, like your chorus may be more, uh I just think you're really great. I love you so much, but you haven't given like the listener an op opportunity. If you, if you just write something really like as vague as that um in your verses, you haven't justified this love to your listener. So in the verses, I, I always recommend bring the detail in there, talk about like what, what you love about them? Is it their hair, is it their laugh, is it, you know the way they, they s butter bread. Do you know what I mean? Those little th it's those little things cos th those are the little thing that's what happens in life. It's the little things that we love about other people. So bring that into your songs. Um and just try and really think about character development, um, and making sure that you're giving the listener a reason to care about, uh, care about the characters in your song, care about your song. Cos otherwise they're just not gonna, they're not gonna relate to it. They're just gonna switch off. Let's have one more question. Let's relate this to digital, digital music because it is digital music discussion. What is your process for recording? So, say you come up with an idea or you've been given a brief, how will you put that into the computer? And how are you? Ok. So, uh, sometimes I, I'll just do voice memos on my phone and then lyrics or? Yeah. And then, um, that might be my first thing and then, uh, I, I use logic and then, um, I'll most probably like, if I'm honest, it depends on the genre. So if it's an acoustic singer songwriter style song, I'll normally start with my guitar and, and singing and then I'll, I'll probably form the song pretty much before I start demoing it just jam it out until you come up with some ideas or do you have like, kind of a ghost lyrics or? No, I'll try and I will try and uh write the harmony, the melody and the lyrics before I start recording. So I've got somewhere to, to go and then I will record a guide track and then start arranging around it and then rerecord vocals and things like that. Uh If I'm writing for, just say it's more electronic music. Um I will normally start in logic and I'll try and come up with a beat first. So I use a lot of the, the contact stuff, so I'll use battery, I'll get a beat going for that. Um Try and get the right tempo uh and start that way and then come up with an instrumental first and then top line over the top of it. Um So it depends on the genre that I'm working with. I often find like getting a good beat and getting the rhythm that I want tempo that I want is really useful because then that helps to instruct, it, helps to instruct what I wanna do with the melody because I want to kind of, I might want to play against what the beat's doing. So, um so for example, if I've just got like a fall to the floor, I don't wanna be writing a melody which is like all on the beat. Du du du du du du all the time. I wanna try and introduce some uh like Syncopation. So, like BBBBBBBB. Uh um So getting the beat first is really useful because then I can work out what I wanna do with the melody. That makes sense. Yeah. Yeah, of course, it depends on the genre. It depends what the song is for. Absolutely. It might depend on what mood you're in as well. Yes, it definitely does. Um, when I, however, when I have to, when I come to write library music, like my mood has, I just ignore all I have to, I have to just shut off how I'm feeling that day. I've got to write something that fits the brief that I've been given. Um, which actually is great. I, I really appreciate it because songwriting can be such a personal and emotional thing. It's really nice to be able to just go in and almost treat it like a maths problem and just go right. I need to, by the end of today, I need to have a song and it's got to be in this genre and it's gotta say this within its lyrics. How do I get to that point and think of it in more of a almost more scientific way. Um, and that, that's r as satisfying as when I'm writing songs for myself.

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