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Rich's 10 recording tips to get songs done fast

Next week I plan on releasing another song. The rough draft is already online, and the finalized version of that should be done before the tail of next week. The only reason it hasn't been done sooner is because I've been dealing with some computer issues (stupid power supply crap), but I'll have that all taken care of next week.

Releasing a song really fast is easy. You don't need a bunch of expensive gear, but rather just the basics to get your production efficiency ramped up.

(Note: I may do a video series on this later, but for now here's the blog version of it.) 🙂

1. Learn how to get drums done fast

A bunch of guitar players don't release songs mainly for the reason they can never get the drums done. You've got the riffs, the verse-chorus-verse stuff and the solo all in order, but.. no drums. This is why I bought the BOSS DR-3. Should you buy one of those? That's up to you, but my recommendation is to buy any drum synthesizer whether new or used. If you don't have a lot of cash to spend, grab a cheap Alesis SR-16. Those things are everywhere. Get one, learn how to make your drum patterns and go for it.

Just do whatever it takes to get your drums done so you don't have to worry about it.

This song I made has a really simple drum pattern, but that was the whole point. I did the drums then finished and released the song.

2. Buy a bass guitar

I list a whole bunch of good, cheap electric bass guitars here. Get one. Don't do that tuning-down-the-guitar thing because it will sound awful. You'll probably only play your bass when in the recording stages. That's fine. Just have a bass so it's one less thing you have to worry about.

3. Doubling-up tracks is not a sin. Do it.

This song (the same one linked above), shows a video of me actually playing it. Four guitar parts, two of each roughly playing the same thing. This adds a fullness to the sound and is a standard recording technique that's been done ever since the early 1960s.

Doubling-up works for guitars and vocals - but not bass or drums as with those instruments you can "mud out" too quickly.

4. Three to four-minute songs are the standard

A common mistake a lot of guitar players make is to produce songs that are way too short or way too long. The "happy medium" is 3 to 4 minutes; this is a formula still followed today by mainstream artists across all music genres.

Seven-minute "epics" are usually not something most people would want to listen to, so stay away from those.

5. It is okay to sound "fake"

Ask yourself a question. Are you making music for other musicians or for people? The answer, obviously, is people, as in non-musicians.

There are some uppity guitar player "purists" out there who think that in order to record a guitar, it must be through an amp, must be done using expensive microphones, must be recorded through an expensive mixing board and blah blah blah.

Screw all that.

Just grab a drum synthesizer, your guitar, your bass guitar, something with some decent amp modeling in it (even this $80 multi-effects pedal will get the job done), a cheap mixing board to feed into your computer's sound card, use free multi-track software like Audacity and just do it.

And if you get any complaints from the uppity guitar purists that say "I can tell that's an effects pedal!", whatever. You're making music getting songs done faster while all they're doing is being annoying whiners. Let them complain. Just keep making music.

6. Simplify your hardware so you can produce music the fastest possible way

Some guitar players have piles of gear where it takes them a half-hour before they're even ready to start recording, and that's stupid.

Ideally, you should be able to start up your computer, power on your mixer, power on your effects, plug in, start your multi-track software and be ready to record in less than 2 minutes.

Guitar snobs say this isn't possible. I say b.s. to that because I do it now. Whenever I have an idea for a riff, I can plug in and record a rough track very quickly. While other guys are fumbling around with pedals, knobs, wires, switches, microphones and other crap, I'm recording and they're not.

7. Simplify your songwriting style

The more complicated your songs are, the longer they'll take to record. It's not a sin to do your standard "three chord song" if you want to. As long as you're relatively sure what you wrote isn't ripping off someone else, just get it done and release it.

8. Just got a riff but no song? Record it anyway, because you can use it later

That song I just released recently? That was something I recorded in 2007, five years ago. Yes, really.

Always record any song idea you have, even if it's just a riff. Chances are really good you'll come back to it later (even years later) and make a song out of it.

9. Need an idea for a song? Play a song you like backwards

Many famous guitar players get their ideas from simply taking a song they like by someone else and reversing it. This is not plagiarism since the chord progression will be completely different, and obviously your style will make the song unique to you.

For whatever song you like, just write down the chords it uses and flip them around. You may find some great songs of your own by doing this. For example, if a riff in a song is E D A, flip it to A D E and see if it works. If it does (and you're sure it doesn't sound like any other song you know), use it.

10. Think less like a guitar player and more like a producer

Don't think about guitar gear. Don't think about how many other guitar players you will impress, because you play for people and not for musicians. Just get the stuff you need to record, record quickly, bang out songs and release them.

You can start by making simple goals, such as "I will release one song per month". Anyone can do that. Could you do 2, 3 or even 4 songs a month? You probably could - although I wouldn't suggest doing more than 4 in a month because that's a bit too much.

The point is that as long as you have what's needed (guitar, bass guitar, drum synth, mixer, multi-track software), and you train your brain to start producing more, you will.

Now go write a song.

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