Semester B Project


Reflective Summary

This project has been a very very difficult one for me, but also very satisfying. My project was to produce a 4 track EP in the style of contemporary vocal pop. I started this Semester wanting to produce a piece of work that really challenged me and took my production skills in a new direction, something that I would really benefit from. I would be far more comfortable and find it easier for me to record an artist using acoustic instruments and multi tracking etc. However, I do not believe I would have felt much of a benefit, or added strings to my bow. VSTs and production within the DAW have always been an interest of mine creatively, however I have had relatively little experience primarily using VSTs to create music – my only real experience was my EMP Project in 2nd Year and I have nearly always used acoustic instruments to compose, only dabbling with VSTs for demoing. This is something I wanted to improve and also incorporate another interest that I find fascinating, songwriting. I believe that contemporary song writing is very interesting due to the nature of creating and selling music as a product for the public to consume, essentially engineering it for people to like. I started the project wanting to learn more about the composition and structure of contemporary songwriting witha  producer and also learn how to produce music to a similar standard. I have written all my tracks according to research. E.G all of my tracks fall between 100-120 BPM to coincide with my research about song tempo. (LO1)

I began by creating a playlist of contemporary pop songs and listening to them over and over to analyse certain aspects that I could incorporate into my own compositions. Quickly I understood that the song is built off the beat and keys using the vocal as the main hook. It’s not difficult concept to understand why, but how to start writing it was a difficult area to start with. Essentially I just started writing beats and this was very time consuming and difficult because I hadn’t done it before. Also, admittedly I am not the strongest rhythmically, but using plug ins like Ultrabeat helped me achieve that. My rhythmic ideas definitely improved and this project has done a lot for my writing rhythms in a DAW (LO4). Vocally the timing wasn’t as strong as it should have been, but I think this is a sacrifice of time. When you know a song to sing it is far easier to record because you can perfect it. Whereas when I was recording, I was working out what would fit as I went. Not the best technique and this was partly the downfall of some tracks.

I 100% believe that I have achieved my learning outcomes. I have improved vastly at using MIDI, VSTs and composing/producing pop music(LO2/4). You can hear the progression from the early uploads on the blog to the uploaded production. I understand why modern pop songs have several writers, because it is such a difficult style to write and produce the song with multiple layers that need to be created to effectively(LO3). I believe my mixing skills have improved immensely in a pop style due to the fact that I have not produced  pop music in this style before and I have learned a new skill (LO1). Pop music is a difficult style to nail down due to the fact that it takes years of experience and knowledge to write/produce it. The challenge that I set myself was big, but I believe on some level I have achieved it. I had to read a lot about pop producers/songwriters and how they approach writing. This was a very insightful learning experience and definitely helped with my understanding of their roles and helped me achieve (LO3). Such as Joel Little, Max Martin, Ryan Tedder etc

The drawbacks of this project for me are relatively simple to analyse. The first issue being technical. My mac supports 8GB RAM and I started running into technical issues when Logic Pro X started running all the tracks with plug ins at once. It would overload the system and freeze; only allowing me to work on several tracks at a time and micro-work. This became very time consuming – if I were to do this as a career I would use a Mac dedicated to running Logic Pro X with sufficient RAM etc to cope with production. Unfortunately my Mac does not support more than 8Gb RAM so I couldn’t upgrade. The second issue I faced was getting ideas off the ground. Sitting for hours on Logic trying beats, chord sequences or sounds to try and get an idea working. I tried several ideas that just were not in the pop style and would not have been suitable for this project. Spending hours trying to get a sliver of an idea was very gruelling at times and is exactly the reason why I chose to take on the project – pushing me creatively and also to work with VSTs within the DAW. The time consuming nature coupled with a micro working style was very difficult to deal with.

I aimed to produce a cohesive 4 track pop EP which I have achieved. I believe that I have produced music almost to a benchmark level of the playlist I originally provided and I have also attempted to include the aesthetic/stylistic natures of pop music. If I was to do this as a career I would most definitely work alongside other writers/producers in an environment where ideas can flow and push each other creatively. I have never worked 100% solo and spent a lot of time doubting myself, and I can work a lot better and harder when working off of another person. This is a strong reason why I believe that pop music is written with several writers. Several writers may differ on skills. E.G one may be a better top line writer, or lyricist than someone who makes the beats etc.

Overall this has been a very testing but enjoyable project. I have learned a lot and pushed myself very hard to produce what I consider 4 “good” pop songs that match the style that I was aiming for.

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