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Fundamentals of initiating project songs- Where to start?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by jmm22, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    Let's say one is starting a new song in Cubase. Where exactly should the start be? In other words, we could push the cursor out in the field a bit, and leave some space at the front, or we can start right at the very left of the track. Does it depend on what kind of songs or what instruments will be used? I am thinking in terms of how the song is put together further down the road.
  2. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    I like to leave space at the beginning. Usually a couple of minutes.
    Sometimes they'll want to add an intro drum fill or guitar lick.
    It's not a big deal to slide EVERY track over to make room, but it's simpler and error-proof to give yourself the space ahead of time.

    If the song isn't click-tracked, then any point you choose is good.
    It's your left and right markers that matter.
    If the song is click-tracked, I like to set the tempo ahead of time (and map changes, if necessary), and start the song on a normal start point in a 4 or 8 bar segment from the beginning
    (measure 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, etc...)

    Hope that helps.
  3. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    It does. Thanks.
  4. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    When I start a new song in Cubase, I always start with my standard "JT Studio" template, my own creation. It has my empty tracks laid in and color-coded, (like the 6 backing vox and 2 lead vox, the 4 acoustic guitars, 4 electric rhythms and 2 electric leads, drum kit, 6 bass guitar tracks*, and 4 VST instruments I like to keep handy at all times), and all the routing to sub-groups with FX sends patched in. It also contains basic plug-ins, like noise gates on each vocal track, etc.

    It also includes 1 minute of empty space at the front, followed by marker 1 set as what I call "COUNT START" and marker 2 set as the "SONG START". The left marker defaults to "COUNT START" and the right marker is just set at about 10 minutes out since I never know how long the song will be.

    By using this template I get most of the "buttwork" out of the way real fast so I can make music instead of flip bits.

    I always use a click track, except when I don't, which is never. Just makes editing easier later.

    Further down the road doesn't matter a whole lot from this perspective. I clip the beginning and do fade outs during mastering in Wavelab. I will always trim the studio tracks at the beginning of the song to eliminate odd noises when a song starts. IOW, the acoustic tracks are trimmed back until they actually start playing. Same for all tracks.

    This is just a system that has evolved over the past year-and-a-half. This is my first digital studio, my previous was all analog. So, I'm learning and this is what has come out of it. You'll find a way that works for you.

    * I do my bass guitar tracks in a real wierd way - namely, I don't own a bass guitar. I'll let you guess the rest. :)
  5. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    I always start my Cubase projects at measure 5, this way it's easy to ad an intro or pickup. If necessary it is also easy to add more measures within that blank area.

  6. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    Two things I have learned since asking the question.

    1. If one does not leave enough time at the front, one struggles to ready themselves in time to perform after hitting the record button.

    2. Moving tracks to make more room at the front is slughtly problematic if you have already laid a tempo track with variations, as the tempo track change points will also have to be shifted. It can be done, but it is just a bit of a pain. I now have a much better idea of how much time I need at the front.
  7. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Don't know if this is too off-topic, but I think it will help:

    I almost always record a demo of the song first. I'll go in and lay down a guitar/vox track to a click. I'll play and sing at the same time while sitting in front of the comptuer and using an SM57 with the gain set at a safe (albeit low) setting. I flub the lyrics, sneeze, cough, and whatever. Then I'll flesh out the parts with an acoustic, electric, basic drums, bass guitar, etc. Then I work on vox harmonies. All this for a demo just to cover each part once. I dont turn the air conditioner off or even ask the family for quiet.

    Then when that demo is done, I've proven that I can do the song. I save and close and start FRESH with a new project, this time for real.

    Really helps me be more efficient when it comes time to perform and arrange the real deal.

    Hope this helps.
  8. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    I actually appreciate any and all off topic content, as this is where interesting insight and information spontaneously comes about. And I am intensely curious about the working habits of others, so your comments are of particular interest.

    I am still wondering precisely why this helps you to be more efficient. Is it that you get to repeat what you have just done, and thus have the individual steps fleshed out somewhat? Or is it the ability to preview the song in rough form, thus justifying a more clean and controlled recording? Or is it something else. I understand what you do, but not entirely why.

    Admittedly, I am not sure its a process that would work for me. Even being relatively new to recording, I am already developing habits, and I am finding that most of my first or early takes are the ones that sound best, energy wise, not necessarily with respect to precision. On a recent project, I went back and did some tracks over that were cleaner, but something was missing nonetheless, and I ended up keeping first or early session takes. On a similar note, I recently made changes to a final mix by accident (I was listening to it, made experimental changes, and hit save instead of save as :tongue:) Now even though I have notes and saved versions just before and just after, there is still something different after attempting to restore the mix. I am not sure whether it is some variable I am overlooking, or some other reason. But the point is for me, I would be too concerned about developing an affinity for the sonic qualities and potentially beneficial idiosyncracies of a rough (i.e., early performance) that might not be able to be duplicated. In addition, I think I like the idea of there being some mystery as to how it will all turn out. But I remain fascinated by your work habits nonetheless.
  9. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member


    That one.

    As a performer, you must overcome that. It is part of your growth as an artist/musician/performer to be able to "spit it out" on cue. That skill is what makes the "big boys" able to perform night after night in front of huge audiences and still be fresh and exciting. It is more psychology that anything else.

    I subscribe to The Beatles' idea: Do whatever gets the right sound. I've been known to take my shirt off, or sing lying on my back on the floor. One time I sang naked. It didn't work because I kept laughing. No one else was even there! Was that TMI?
  10. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    one of the real nice things about cubase is that it doesnt really matter where you start off. cubase has a very nice feature called "play order track". you can assign start and stop points, define measure lengths, repeat and so on. this allows you to build or create your song very easily. when you are satisfied you can "collapse" the play order track and it will create new regions out of all your assigned sections. this allows you to try out various sections "verse 1, verse 1a, verse 2, chorus 1 etc...

    if say you decide you need 8 measures of space in the front of your song (or anywhere else) you simply create a play order track with 8 measures of space and assign this as play order part A.

    the play order track for me is one of the most useful tools in cubase. as a songwriter i find it indespensable as it allows me to create expressively on the go and worry about stuff like intros later.
  11. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Is this the "Arranger track"? This seems like a totally wonderful thing! I never knew it was there until I read your post. (This is baby's first DAW.)
  12. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    At one time, I had cue points or markers, 1 through 15, inside a box on my transport panel. Now they are gone, and I have searched high and low for the button or menu option to have them show up again. Actually, when I open the mastering steup, the transport panel comes complete with them, but not in a mix setup or any of my ongoing projects. Do you know how to get the marker point box to reappear? Even when I add marker points, through the menu options, I cannot get the box of 15 to appear.
  13. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    yes it is now called the arranger track (in cubase 5). sorry- I use an older version
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