Yesterday, I told Tio Banks, ”You’re a great teacher/producer because you’re not on a power trip at all. You’re on an empowerment trip.”
I was singing this syncopated arpeggio over my new tune “Dutiful Man,” he had already played three tracks on ~ piano, lead synth and dreamy synth on. ”What instrument do you hear?” he asked.
I loved that he asked me that question because I hadn’t thought to ask myself. A voice in my head blurted out, “Flutes.” I had no horns or woodwinds on my first record and had never considered flutes before so I questioned this impulsive answer. I stopped to imagine different instruments but returned to flutes because it had that soft, woodwind sound that suited the line I was hearing in my head.
“Shall we open up another track?” I asked, with my finger already on the “+ ” button. I created a new instrument track in Logic, then opened up the Media window and clicked on Library. ”Orchestral?” Yes, click. We selected “Flute staccato,” and he played the line I heard on the keys. ”Yes, that’s it! Except it ends like this, I sang, adding an extra syncopated note at the end. ”Yes,” he said as if he had heard the same thing.
Tio went back to the verses and added this quintessential, fluttering flute sound. I was like, “Wow. You play the flute too!”
A good synth player understands all the instruments, the kind of parts they play. Tio said he’s played most of the actual instruments. And it helps just to listen to a lot stuff. Listen closely to all the instruments, what kind of sounds they make and what kind of playing do they do on different styles, especially the styles that you like.
I told him that the drummer on the track, Blair Shotts, had suggested this Isley Brothers feel, like “For the Love of You,” after hearing the Ultra Beat groove I had created in Logic to lay down the scratch vocals.
The Ultra Beat groove came out of my songwriting session with Stevie Bensusen. He was stomping his feet and clapping his hands to create this groove over the verse of the tune. The verse used to be the intro ~ a jazzy, rolling piano flourish, played robato (out of time) to set up the drama about to unfold in the song. It was done in my standard musical theatre/classical piano style a la Bette Midler/Ani DiFranco style. By simply adding some groove to that melody, it became a very cool first verse and set that Isley Bros. vibe for the whole tune. ”Or maybe it’s more Carole King?” Tio asked. It was up to me to choose.
I confess, I had never heard of the Isley Bros. before this. Every black person I mentioned this band to would nod his head and smile knowingly, like they knew the Isley Bros. as well as I knew “Yellow Submarine.” ”That’s the stuff my dad used to listen to.” When I hear it, I realize I know that kind of music too. It’s that “retro sexy, sensual, let’s drink some red wine and slow dance in the living room feel.”
It’s an interesting choice to put that vibe over a tune that is about a man who is stuck in a bad marriage, sung from the point of view of the “other woman.”
I’ll mix that tune down and share it with you soon.