When you are writing a song, sometimes it’s the transitions between the sections that are the hardest things to write. Today, you are going to meet Dylan Roth, a Nashville based producer and songwriter who’s a new writer and video creator at Musician on a Mission. And in this video, you are going to learn how to quickly create smooth transitions between different sections like the chorus and the verse, using simple tools like EZdrummer and EZkeys. So keep watching.
Hey ever, this is Dylan with musicianonamission.com and today I want to talk to you about getting unstuck in your writing process. But before we get started, make sure to grab our free cheat sheet for mixing drums down in the description below or on screen right now. We are giving this away for free today, it’s a great way to get your drums sounding like the stuff you hear on the radio. Let’s get started.
So one of the most frustrating things while writing is getting stuck with your transitions. And I get it, that’s the hardest part for me. I always write a few sections of a song but it takes a while to figure out how to get from section A to section B. So I wanted to show you one of my favorite songwriting tricks for writing a quick transition. So I have a song that I’ve been writing in my spare time, but there are very different sections, I’ve been struggling to find a way to connect them. Take a listen.
[Music Being Played 00:01:33]
Here’s the second.
[Music Being Played 00:01:50]
Really different right? You can’t just connect them. There needs to be some kind of transition. Well, I could labor over finding the perfect one or I could use the tools that the folks at Toontrack have given me. So I actually use the Toontrack EZ series a lot when I am writing, the EZkeys and the EZdrummer, both of which are software instruments from Toontrack, they sound fantastic, they are really good at helping you get a very real sound with just MIDI instruments. They also have a great section of customizable loops that I sometimes use whenever I get stuck. The cool part about them is that they conform to the temp and the key of your project. So, demoing with them is really, really simple. Plus, I can add, take away or edit the loops in anyway just to customize them. I am a big fan of this.
So, let’s go in and see what we can do. So I am going to open up the EZkeys system. This is what the user interface looks like, and I am going to play a bit of the song and we are going to see what we can find. First off, we are going to go and click on browser, and then you can see we are already in the MIDI library. These are all of the collections of different genres that they have, so you can see funk loops and blues loops and jazz and gospel and country. We are going to go with pop and rock, because this is a pretty straightforward pop-rock song. And we are also going to go with a straight 4/4 because none of this is swung. And so literally, you can go in and they just have collections of different loops for different sounds and different songs that they’ve created. I am just going to go through and start listening to different ones. It doesn’t matter if it’s like a verse loop or a chorus loop, that’s the way that they’ve designated, that they think that they would be put, but really you can use anything. Let’s give it a shot.
[Music Being Played 00:03:49]
Yeah, I don’t like that one. Little too dark. Let’s try slow push.
[Music Being Played 00:04:10]
Yeah, that’s okay. I kind of like that one but we will come back to it if we need to. Let’s try out Memphis.
[Music Being Played 00:04:24]
Yeah, I kind of like that one. So here’s what we are going to do. We are going to grab the MIDI file, and we are going to drag it onto their song block section. So one of the cool things about this system is you can actually see not only all of the chords that are being played, but you can actually click on them and go in and change them to any quality, any key, any different kind of voicing that you wanted. It’s a really, really cool system of figuring out exactly what you want your sound to be. But, I like those chords, so we are going to stick with that.
Now, my transition section is four bars long, so I am going to go in here and shorten it to four bars. So, measure 9 to measure 13, very simple. And then what I am going to do is I am going to grab this and drag it right into my project. Oh, and you want to make sure that you are not importing any tempo information. Now, the reason for this is that all of these loops are actually in different tempos. You can see, this one is in a 131 beats per minute, but because I don’t have the preview and original tempo checkbox checked, it’s showing it to me in my tempo, which is a 120 beats per minute. So we want to make sure that we are keeping it in the original tempo and not using their tempo. So we are going to say, no. We want to make sure also that we either mute or remove this original loop, because this will play over the loop that we just dragged in, and we don’t want to going at the same time. So let’s listen to what that sounds like.
[Music Being Played 00:06:05]
I like it, it’s really quiet. So what we are going to do is we are going to open up the piano roll which I did by double clicking on the section, I am going to highlight all the notes and I am going to turn up their velocity to kind of match the intensity of the rest of this song, say around there.
[Music Being Played 00:06:37]
Yeah, that fits. I like that. So let’s move onto the drummer then. So this is EZdrummer, I love their user interface. I am actually using the UK Pop drum section from them. It’s a new expansion pack that they’ve released, I really love it, it’s great, it’s very dry in a cool kind of, UK Pop sort of way. We are going to head over to the browser and we are going to do the exact same thing that we did before, just listen to different ones, and see what we like best.
[Music Being Played 00:07:19]
No, that one is too quiet for me. Let’s try another one.
[Music Being Played 00:07:30]
No. That section is not swung, so that just sounds kind of weird. Okay, let’s try out this one.
[Music Being Played 00:07:52]
I think I like that one. So, I am going to grab that, take it down here, and I am going to make it only four measures, and drag it back. So one of the cool parts about EZdrummer is I can actually double click on this MIDI file and I can go and see what drums are being played and I can change what drums are being played. So right now, I am going to add in an opening cymbal hit, because I think that it’s a little bit of a dry loop, and I want to put this on the edge of that cymbal. So let’s see what that sounds like.
[Music Being Played 00:08:28]
Yeah, I like that better. Okay, I wanted to drive a little bit, so I am going to go in and add a little bit of tambourine.
[Music Being Played 00:08:43]
You can kind of hear it at the background, I like it. I want it to be a little bit more, a little bit faster, I want it to fill the edges of the space. So one of the cool things about this system is you can actually go in and change the amount that that particular drum is playing. With a lot of the drums, you can just add in higher numbers, so we will just start hitting the drum more in random ways. With the auxiliary percussion section, really all it is, is saying how many 16th, how many [inaudible 00:09:11] do you want the accent. So, I want 16th notes and I want the accent on the 3rd beat.
[Music Being Played 00:09:24]
Yeah, I like that.
[Music Being Played 00:09:30]
Okay, you know what, let’s add one more thing. I want to add a Tom, because I feel like it’s missing something, it’s just a little bit too empty, so I want a really subtle Tom, so I am just going to add let’s say 4, perfect. And let’s see what that sounds like.
[Music Being Played 00:09:56]
Yeah, dig it. Perfect. So, we are going to take that, we are going to drag it in, we are going to not import the tempo information, we are going to mute the original or remove it, and I am going to go in and change the velocity a little bit. It’s still just a little quiet for me. Let me go in and grab everything and I am going to turn the velocity up just a bit.
[Music Being Played 00:10:36]
That’s it, we have our transition and it only took a few minutes. All we had to do was go back into the Toontrack collection of loops, find ones that fit, and customize them to match our style. And you can use this anytime you get stuck in your songs, whether it’s you finding a transition or finding a bridge or an intro or really just about anything. Whenever you get stuck, those loops are there to help.
Now, of course, this is just songwriting. Once the song is written, you will still need to mix it, which is just as important to getting the sound that you are looking for. So we put together a free cheat sheet for mixing drums that will help you get a sound that’s full and balanced. Just head down to the description below to grab that and get your drums radio ready. That’s going to be it for me. I am Dylan with musicianonamission.com, and remember, create regardless.