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What's the Difference Between a Songwriter and a Topline Writer?

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Let's discuss a term that's used a lot in the industry: toplining. The act of toplining means "writing a song over a pre-made beat." This seems like a kind of arbitrary distinction between a songwriter and a topliner, and in truth, it really is. The only real difference is in the creative process. Do I start with a blank page? Or do I start with pre-made boundaries to direct my creativity? The answer is: it doesn't matter, because you're still writing a song with two verses and a chorus.

Tutorial: How to Make Pitch Correction Sound Natural With Melodyne

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Melodyne is a very powerful tool, but the first few times people use it, they tend to overdo it. The art of Melodyning is to be as subtle as you can while still keeping to the standard of the industry you're catering to. If you're doing an EDM or pop vocal, you have to be a little stronger in your tuning, but if you're doing a more organic song, you can lay back and only work on the most apparent mistakes.

Vocal Production 101: Getting Started With Auto-Tune and Melodyne for Pitch Correction

Let's go over the different ways you can utilize the pitch correction plugins Auto-Tune and Melodyne for your own nefarious needs. Both Auto-Tune and Melodyne have the possibility to be used "fast and loose" or "slow and precise," but most people use Auto-Tune for the "fast and loose" capabilities, and Melodyne for the "slow and precise" capabilities, so that's what I'll be discussing.

Songwriting 101: Why It's Crucial for Every Serious Songwriter to Learn Demo Production

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When I was teaching at Berklee College of Music, my students seemed to think that all you needed to do to make a career out of being a songwriter was write good songs. And each semester, I would have to go on a rant about how that's only half of the story. This is that rant.

Vocal Production 101: Intro to Pitch Correction

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Vocal production is the first step from demo recording to radio-ready recording. A song with a well-recorded, well-mixed, and well-arranged vocal is so much more valuable than a song with a crappy vocal, even if you have nothing but a simple guitar or piano as instrumentation. It really is the best bang for your buck. The fun bit is that it's not at all hard to upgrade the quality of your vocal recordings. All you need is a decent mic, a cheap interface, and some practice. Hell, I record all my vocals with gear that isn't worth more than $1,500, and I'm making my living with this. Pretty good investment, I would say.

The thing about vocal production is that most people hate doing it. Songwriters hate it because it's technical, and beat producers hate it because the human voice is an instrument that's difficult to understand unless you're a singer yourself. There's an art to working with singers, getting the best emotional performance out of them, and then spending hours per song on editing the takes, pitch-correcting the vocal, and using post-production to end up with a vocal that sounds like it was recorded in a million-dollar studio. Except it wasn't. Booyah!