If It’s Not Serving, It Needs To Go

Here’s another recording lesson I learned or maybe it’s more like an affirmation of something I already knew.

I was writing a song based on a really cool drumbeat that I like to play.   As I am coming up with the bass lines and other rhythm parts this drumbeat is going through my head.  I’m thinking this will sound cool.

I lay down the bass, and keyboard parts.  I get the arrangement down and now I’m really excited to give this a try with my cool drumbeat.  I go to my electronic kit to start rehearsing and learning the drum parts.

The electronic kit is really a nice tool for working out drum parts.  It plugs right into my Mac and triggers the kits in Garageband.  All I have to do is add one MIDI track and I can practice and record my practice runs for immediate feedback.

I practiced the song with my “cool” drumbeat for three or four nights but soon realized this “cool” drumbeat which sounds great by itself just isn’t working with the song.  It’s not sounding like I thought it would in my head.

At first I thought I need to keep working with it, and get more comfortable with it so I can really slip into the groove.  But after three more nights of working with the song it just didn’t feel right.

I finally realized the “cool” drumbeat with just too much for this song.

I started the process of removing notes.  Little by little I cut it back.

I would play less and listen, then play even less.

I repeated the process until it felt good and when it felt good it sounded good.

When I was done rehearsing and ready to lay down the tracks with my acoustic kit the “cool” drumbeat had been reduced to a simple but solid working drum beat.

After I laid down the solid beat with the acoustic kit, I knew it needed more percussive tracks but the acoustic kit tracks were the foundation.  I went back and added some additional percussion track.  I added some cowbell, guiro, shakers and bongos.

All the additional percussion tracks were really simple parts, mainly one or two well placed notes in the measure.  But this on top of the simple but solid drum tracks gave me the feel that worked for the song.

What did I learn or I should say reaffirm through practical application?

The part, your part, any part is always subservient to the song.

Your part, any part must serve the song, not you.  Your part is there to help make the song what it needs to be and if it’s not serving the song it needs to go.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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