In the Studio

A Studio Without Limits

Sound mixing. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

I chose George Alley as one of my artists. George Alley lives in Philadelphia. Curate This is about discussing Philadelphia. George Alley lives in a Philadelphia that is much different than yours and mine.

-Adam Peditto, curator

I’ve been asked many times, “how do you write a song?”

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All of my songs come from a different starting point. I wrote the chorus of my song “Summer Trophies” walking down the street bored because I didn’t have my headphones with me, but it took me another six months to write music to fit those words to a melody. “Smoke” began with an interesting pulsating bass sound that I had created on my keyboard that I wanted to use. I had already written the lyrics as a poem and created the melody to match them up on the first take. With “Undivided Attention” I wrote the melody first, and had to create words to phonetically match it. My new song, “Hard to Hold,” started off with a title and an interest to explore a song in the key of F, which I hadn’t yet done.

If you have chosen the path of writing music solo, like me, well, it can suck at times. Another advantage is that I get a weirder product, because I’m not an expert musician. I’ve studied voice and music theory for a while now, but not totally knowing how to create every element of a song causes me to make less predictable choices.

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Writing a song is an ephemeral process. I really couldn’t tell you how to do it because each song requires a different way to enter it. It’s like breaking into a house. When you are really lucky the song leaves the door open and you can walk in and take what you need in 15 minutes, but this is rarely the case. Usually you have to case it for months before you get in.

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Time. I am constantly frustrated by how much time it takes to get into the proper mood to create a song out of the fleeting musical ideas I have. I write mostly at home, either on the bed or downstairs. When I write songs at the computer it feels too much like my day job. When I write songs at a cafe I get distracted by what I look like writing, so distracted that I don’t do any writing. I just pose with a notebook.

I think it’s fine to get feedback from others. I’m often playing demos of my songs to friends in the car or texting it to them. But remember you don’t have to do what they say. One of the nicest things about not being in graduate school anymore is that I can take feedback and completely throw it away without repercussion.

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When a song has reached close to a final level, I work with Naked Highway, a pop band that is also a team of two producers, Sy Borcari and David Lee Rotten. Who help with their production skills to bring the song to its greatest power. I’ve just switched things up for my new song “Hard To Hold” and recorded my vocals at their studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It was nice to have their expertise on hand and also not worry about my neighbor’s barking dog trying to mar my vocal takes-which in turn stops me fantasizing about poisoning said dog.

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So in short, I really don’t have any way to tell anyone how to write a song, but you might as well try, especially if you have a nice wardrobe and aren’t an idiot.

All photos by Lauren Karstens

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