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Riffs vs chords - or both ?

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

Chords or riffs ? Melodies followed by harmonies and chords, or chords followed by a vocal line (or guitar line etc.) Fit lyrics to a pre-conceived melodic idea or write a song to support a pre-written lyric ? The number of permutations are large.

IMO the archetypal riff aficionados of old were The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, where a guitar riff really defined and drove the song. The brilliant chord-based aficionados were groups like Crowded House or before them The Beatles - or one of my personal favourites, Procol Harum. And others outright experimental, like Elbow for instance. Or if it floats your boat, Scott Walker

There are of course many bands that combine different ways of writing music, and indeed combinations often occurred within bands. I'm sure Jagger and Richards were as good at writing a killer chord change as any other - and often did

The good thing is, when it works, let it work - there is a danger of formularising music, and some on-line courses that tell you how to do it. I suggest trying out the direct alternative to any obvious method or riff or chord change.... and see what happens

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Nov 28, 2018

Yes it certainly is !!


Making records is great.


Nov 18, 2018

Little production ideas - like pan sweeps as you suggested - provide great bits of detail to focus the attention of the listener. Happily, with all the amazing digital tools and gadgets now available on Logic, Cubase etc, you can recreate such ideas the moment you think of them rather than waiting for the final mix to put them into effect. That is, you use the automated mix features

I absolutely love mixing this way - you mix as you go along, and on each new recorded instrument or voice, you can tweak the other features in the existing mix to blend in. By the time the recordings are all finished, you are actually quite close to the eventual mix…


I like little details in a production like sweeping some feature from side to side in the panning, just to try and register some slight something in people's ears. Many artists in any discipline will play with little details. I think of the Mona Lisa where Leonardo has put the landscape on either side of her at a different height. Lots of little things like that.


I just really love so very much love the exercise of writing a lyric and arrangement on an existing piece of music. There you have to really listen hard and tease out where it wants to go, knowing that it already exists there in design space, you've just got to feel it out. I'm blessed in that recently some people have been putting some very challenging pieces my way. Most satisfying to solve these riddles.

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