Join Josh Harris for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a sketch arrangement, part of Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form.
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I'm a big believer in creating sketch arrangements, which usually includes a basic drumbeat, bassline, and piano part. This allows me to get a sense of whether or not my chord changes are working, and if I'm on the right path with my baseline. This part of the process is not about committing to sounds or even parts, but if I do happen to lay down a part that just feels right to me, then I'll most likely keep it. I have made the decision to use the dry vocals. After listening to them in the last movie, I think that that's the way to go, and I muted and deactivated the wet vocals, so they are here, highlighted gray. I have muted the original, as well as muted the click track, and the first order of business is to import some loops.
I have a couple of stylus RMX loops right here that are four-bar loops. I will copy them into the session. They will be saved in the Audio Files folder with the rest of the files, and I'll assign them to new track. These are already set to 104 beats for minutes, so there's no time stretching or any of that nature that needs to be done. I'll copy and paste them throughout the whole song and take a quick listen to these two loops underneath the vocals. (music playing) It sounds good in the verses; let's take a listen to the chorus.
(music playing) I like these loops. There is a bounciness to them. And this song is kind of a pop R&B song. As you listen to the background vocals, they're dictating the chords that I will need to use. (music playing) So I already know, before I even lay down a bassline or piano idea, that I'll follow the original chord changes on some level.
Now, I'll set up an instrument track. I'll actually setup two instrument tracks, as well as a master fader track, just so I have control over the volume of the entire mix. I'll name the first instrument bass and the second instrument piano. And I'll choose Pro Tools Xpand2, and I'll quickly dial up a bass sound. And in the browser here, you can see that all the instruments are categorized by their instrument type, so I will find Synth Basses, and let's just hear what these sound like.
(music playing) I like that. It sort of has an old-school feel to it, but not literally, a little bit of retro feel to it. Again, it's got nice attack and should support the vocal well, because that has a little bit of punch in it. It might not end up being the final bass sound, but for now we'll use it, and then I will pull up a piano sound, also from Xpand, just go to Standard Rock Acoustic Piano. Great! So, let's go back to the original and just take a listen to what the chords are doing and get a handle on what key this song is in.
(music playing) So I can already tell by just noodling around the piano that the song is in C-sharp minor, and now I've a sense of the chord changes that were used in the original version. I'll mute the original, go back to the bass, and begin to play along with the vocals and my two stylus RMX loops.
(music playing) I like that. That will be my verse bassline for the moment. And it looks like verse one is starting at measure 7, so we'll put Pro Tools in Grid mode. And yes, so I'll set a one bar before.
I know I can set a preroll on the transport, but I'm just going to roll it back to one bar before. It's a personal preference whether you use preroll or just move the cursor to one measure before. (music playing) I like the second four bars that I have played better than the first.
Let's quantize the MIDI region to 16th notes, but I'm going to use Logic 16A Swing. I know that swing pretty well, and it's just a slight variation of a straight 16th note quantization. So I'll apply that. And we're in Grid mode, and I'll go on the last four bars I played, which should be right at 11. (music playing) And I'll delete what I don't need and delete this extra bar here, and we should wind up with a four-bar MIDI region. Option+Drag this back now we have an 8-bar loop.
(music playing) Oops! And that was mispasted, so let's zoom in here on what happened. There we go. I have one extra beat. Now we have four. You can see up here, it says 400. Bring this back, Option+Drag. (music playing) Excellent! So let's paste this throughout the verse, up to the chorus, and see what's happening in the chorus.
(music playing) Okay, let's take a listen to the chorus. (music playing) Okay, obviously I'm going to need to do some different bass notes than I did in the verse; it's not going to be the same notes throughout the whole song.
But I'll come back to that in an upcoming movie. Now I'm going to lay down some piano changes so that I have a handle on what the chords are going to be when I lay down my synth parts. I'll start at measure 6 and here we go. (music playing) (music playing) And I'll quickly quantize those notes into 16A Swing, trim off what I don't need, and we wind up with a four-bar loop.
So even though I'm not on the chorus yet, this is enough of a sketch for me to understand what the vibe, what the direction of the arrangement is going to be. So by no means do you have to necessarily play in all your part during the sketching process, but if you get a verse or a chorus or just a portion of the song, it will help you develop a blueprint for where to go as you begin to develop your drums and bass, and then eventually add synths and guitars.
- Reviewing the different types of arranging: music, remix, and radio/club
- Referencing a previous version of the song
- Listening to stems
- Creating a sketch arrangement
- Adding synths and guitars
- Developing the drums and bass
- Using time stretching
- Creating a radio edit from a club mix
- Adding special effects like drum fills and delays