Guitar-based Instrumentals for Production Music - How I Approach it
Updated: Apr 20
When it comes to writing songs for production use in television, it differs greatly from the typical popular music on the radio or online. For this post I will focus on guitar-based tracks and how I come up with ideas and record them. Everyone will approach this in their own way eventually, but hopefully I can help you get on track (pun intended!).
No matter how I am recording my guitar, whether it is a mic'd amp or with a virtual amp such as Positive Grid Bias FX, I always have some idea of at least the type of song I want to write.
Let's say it's hard rock this time. I'll make sure I have the right guitar, maybe my Les Paul or Ibanez RG550. Then after getting the sound and levels where I like it, I will just start playing and inventing.
What happens next comes usually without too much thought. If I think to much it becomes harder to create. It might be different for you, so do what works best. At this time I'll come up with a cool riff or line to start the song. It could be an intro, a chorus, or verse, but the idea is to have a track set up on 'record' so when I'm ready I just click the button. I could easily forget it if I wait too long.
I'll probably play that for two bars or so and either stop short or let it ring out. With production music, stopping once in a while throughout the track is good. The editor will have an easier time cutting it up, if that's their method. In that space I will sometimes add a transition with the bass or a drum fill, or even leave it blank.
From there I will continue with a second part that might represent a verse or chorus. Then I usually do a quiet part with maybe just a guitar or with drums and bass with a reduced attack. The final part of the song will either ramp up or come in super powerful after the quiet part. It will usually be some version of the riff I started the song with. Sometimes I'll add a lead guitar but not always, and then take this final part to the end. Which will be an abrupt stop often with a cymbal grab, no fade outs. The length of the track is usually between 2:00 and 2:30 minutes. Note that some production music writers might use a more standard or traditional song structure. So far what I do works great for me and that's why I wanted to share it.
I don't do this exactly the same every time. But this is generally the way I write and record a the guitar parts for a production music track. After I have the guitar tracks finished I add the drums. I use Addictive Drums triggered by my Roland TD-4. I am not the best drummer out there but after the midi is edited it sounds pretty darn good! I play the bass after the drums so I can sync it with some of the beats. The bass goes through Positive Grid FX or sometimes direct.
The last steps are mixing, mastering and mixdown. Which sometimes is fairly quick and other times it takes a while. I don't go too crazy for this type of background music. When it's a vocal track that I'm really trying to polish up, then it takes me many hours. I wrote another post about how I master my tracks which may be helpful to you.
I hope this can be of some help to you or show you some new ideas. If you're new there are some rules that you'll learn along the way. Each library or production company has some of their own, but besides that there is lots of room to create! Comment below and share some of your own experiences if you want!
Check out the videos below for a hands on view!