Singing Down Live

music, music business, music industry

We happened to flick over to the MTV Movie Awards last night before Game of Thrones (it’s back!!!). Fall Out Boy were performing “Centuries”, a song we previously posted about. Straight away it was obvious that they had pitched the song down a couple keys or so. This is pretty common practice, Rihanna is an artist that does it all the time and we’re not saying there’s anything wrong it- but it’s interesting how often it happens nowadays.

The key of a song is often dictated by the energy it brings to a chord progression and also the range of the vocalist. There are certain artists we work with that sound great in particular keys so we write songs to match. Conversely we may write a song and have to change the key because it just sounds better a few steps up (we have some pretty amusing demo vocals where we sound like chipmunks after pitching them up).

The problem a lot of vocalists run into now is that us tricky producers and engineers are able to tune and tweak the hell out of their recordings to make them sound great in the key that brings the best out of the song. We say this is a problem because this can’t be done live and artists have to reproduce a vocal that sounds close to the original without all the processes we have available in the studio. To counter this, the artist will sing the song down a few keys which to most people goes unnoticed but it can often make the song drag because it loses that energy we mentioned earlier. Take a song like Sia’s “Chandelier”, the way she hits those high notes is what makes the song. If she were to sing it down a couple keys it would lose that intensity and her voice wouldn’t sparkle quite as much. We haven’t seen her do this live so can’t comment as to whether she does it in its original key or not though.

This is often a conversation we have with artists in the studio, “just remember you have to sing this live, are you sure you want to go to THAT note?”. There’s nothing worse than someone’s vocal ability being exposed live because they don’t have the technology to mask their flaws. There are cases where it may be necessary because the singer is sick and his voice is compromised but for the most part the song gets pitched down because the singer just can’t perform it in its original key.

We’re not arguing for or against the decision to do this but it is something listeners should become more aware of, particularly as it’s happening more often. Does it mean the singer isn’t as good as we thought they were? No, not necessarily. It’s just becoming more apparent now that a lot of work goes on in the studio to make a song sound the way it does and without the technology or techniques producers use, an artist may not be able to deliver what we thought they could.

Just some food for thought, listen out for it, when you see a song being performed on tv or online, pull out your phone and play the song along with it and you’ll hear if they’re singing down or not. Betcha it happens more often than you realize!


From Demo to Release- Close Da Blinds

music, music business, music industry

Music has this funny ‘magic’ that makes people assume that a song is written and ends up sounding great almost instantaneously. This is true with some music but most of the time a song sounds completely different from the initial idea when it is released- and the process can take years. Like any other creative process you build on an initial idea until you have a finished product, sometimes it’s changed so much that you wouldn’t recognize that original idea. A good example of that is “So Into You” by 3AM Tokyo which started as a completely different song by our good friend Martin Evans aka Tricktheflow. We used some of the chords he had recorded and it transformed into another song entirely. And guess what? We didn’t use that song either! We took the music and re-wrote a completely new topline (vocal melody and lyrics) which became “So Into You”.

We’re not going to let you hear those initial songs because we ended up re-working them for other projects, but what we will let you hear is the first demo of Close Da Blinds and the final release so you can hear the differences.

In all honesty what we released was actually still a demo, we put it on Spotify, iTunes and other digital outlets because it was featured on MTV’s Real World: San Diego and we wanted to allow people the chance to listen to it before it ended up on YouTube in horrible sound quality (it’s happened with some of our other songs featured on TV). Angel Demar laid the vocals for us in demo form, that’s why you don’t hear any adlibs and we never had her redo them.

Submitting songs for placement on TV as writers/producers is a fine balancing act. Financially you won’t receive as much as a placement on a major label release but it’s still more than worthwhile. It just means you have to think about the time you commit to it compared to what else you’re working on. This is why we often submit demos, unless you’re an artist the exposure you get from the credits on a TV show won’t matter as much to a writer/producer. We produce most of our demos to a commercial grade quality, if we want to produce the song we don’t want anyone at the label wondering whether they should call up a big name to do the job because we submitted a half-assed production. The idea is when an A&R, artist or their manager hears the demo they know that HeatSeekerz will make sure the production is on point. Doing this allows us to use our demo recordings on TV shows because it already sounds good enough.

Below you’ll find the original demo of Close Da Blinds and the released version. The mix is clearly superior on the released version, everything sounds balanced and polished (of course we’d say that, we mixed it!). There are a few musical elements that made the cut from the demo but for the most part we replaced the drums, added new instrumental melodies and utilized a fresh pallet of sounds. People seem to love this song because of the hook (try asking someone to close the blinds without thinking of and then singing ‘close the blinds, close the blinds’ to them!).

We’ll let you guys hear the contrast for yourselves, we won’t bore you by dissecting the music and explaining why we changed the sounds, the truth is it just sounded better!