Shoegaze music has a way of sticking around in our heads for a while — that familiar but distant sound of the guitar echoes endlessly in our memory. There are so many ways to create this kind of soundscape with your guitar. In my last article, “How to Create Dreamier Guitar Chords,” I started to investigate various chord structures that lead to signature shoegaze song crafting, so here I’ll be looking into affordable effects pedal combinations that can achieve that shimmering wall of sound.
Jason Cerf works with musical artists, producers, managers, writers, labels, publishers, and distributors at a global scale. Working with clients at all levels and from so many different countries, styles, and backgrounds has given Jason the opportunity to learn about how individuals and businesses find success in such a mercurial market. From hitting ‘record’ to managing thousands of copyrights, Jason is dedicated to helping others navigate and enjoy the world of music.
A few years ago, the NYU Music Experience Design Lab launched a web application called the aQWERTYon. The name is short for “QWERTY accordion.” The idea is to make it as easy to play music on the computer keyboard as it is with the chord buttons on an accordion. The aQWERTYon maps scales to the keyboard so that there are no “wrong notes,” and so that each column of keys plays a chord.
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“Perhaps the more important feedback was something that he did himself. He paid close attention to which aspects of a string of digits caused him problems. If he’d gotten the string wrong, he usually knew exactly why and which digits he had messed up on. Even if he got the string correct, he could report to me afterward which digits had given him trouble and which had been no problem. By recognizing where his weaknesses were, he could switch his focus appropriately and come up with new memorization techniques that would address those weaknesses.”
I also recommend looking for an amplifier with an open back if possible, since you’re going to need strength in the mid-range tones and not obfuscate the natural lows. Here are some of my favorite choices for the blues:
I still recall being a young aspiring musician recording my first ever album with my bandmates. We spent weeks working on perfecting our recordings, getting the takes just right. The engineer helped us along the way with mixing in amazing effects, EQ, and panning to get it sounding just how we wanted. When it was all wrapped up in the studio, we smiled and patted each other on the back and truly believed this was the finished product we had all been waiting for.
Berg was obsessed with numerology and symbolism. Lulu is accordingly littered with geometric expressions of human themes as above. The most notorious example of this obsession comes into play during the piece’s famous musical palindrome, hinging at bar 687 of the score.
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Not every house show needs to be strictly acoustic, but most don’t provide the space or gear for earth-shattering volumes or fancy sound effects. These limited setups sharpen an artist’s performance skills and often lead to new creative interpretations of their music, and more comfort in one’s ability to make do.
Once you’ve got the final vocal take dialed in, it’s time to start cleaning up problem frequencies with subtractive EQ. One of the most common problems is excessive low-end buildup from the proximity effect, which can be often solved with a simple high-pass filter around 100 Hz. There also tends to be some muddiness in the 200-500 Hz range, which may need some trimming.
As a new songwriter, the many varieties of songform might come naturally to you, or it might be a goal that you’re shooting to improve on. But luckily, while there are a ton of models out there for how songs are made to function, there are no hard and fast rules — which means you’re free to learn what tools you need, and then bend them to suit your songwriting practice.
“Without Me”: To start, we have an arpeggiated riff making some jazzy tetrads: E♭m to G♭add9 and D♭ to A♭m7, and then watch out at the end of the bridge when they sneak in a C♭m. The first two choruses extend from eight to twelve bars by repeating their second halves, which I think creates a kind of pang of abandonment at the end of the song when the repetition doesn’t come back. Another thing about these choruses is how their stanzas all begin and end in the middle of the bars. Most lyrics begin and end near the bar line, so when we hear lyrics phrased all off-center like this, we can’t tell whether we’re being rushed or being left behind. Do I smell a songwriter’s homework assignment?
Brad Pack is an award-winning audio engineer, writer, and educator based in Chicago, IL. Brad holds a Master’s degree in Electronic Media Production. When he’s not in front of his laptop, Brad can be found in the mosh pit.