Planner or Jammer?

posted on #1
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It seems to me that there is a divide between those who plan prodigiously what they are playing and those who just play along (jam). Starting a template takes more planning that jamming yet outside of that there is no absolute in terms of what's best. It comes down to individuals, their expectations and experience.

I'd like to hear how people conceive of what and how they are going to play. For instance do you map out the chord changes, entrance of solos and instruments, rhythm changes, etc. Or do you just listen and play? How many takes and what amount of time do you give a track? Do you make your "corrections" by punching in, re-recording, or make corrections in editing?

Most importantly can you describe your goals in playing? E.g. note perfect playing, melody, rhythmic feel, originality, etc.
posted on #2
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Hey Wade,

Interesting thread!
When i hear a track i try to play along first to get some mood going..... some tracks can be played without a lot of practice and the magic happens in the moment! That is always great!
But mostly i take a bit more time and try different things before i record. When i think i found someting that could fit, i start the recording! There are takes that were done in one ride and some takes i had to play more than 10 times to get it right! But it is also important how much time i got on my hands! I want to upload a track right after my try! It is frustrating to me to work on it the next day, although i am convinced that it would improve the remix but i just don't have the patience for that!

I really like to make chord structures and i'm always aiming/trying to make a complete track! Intro, verse, chorus break prechorus sometimes and an outro! Originality is a difficult thing, every musician got his influences and with that we all make new things!

My technical recording skills are limited so i rather play it again in stead of editing it on the timeline!
I like to record in steps, first the verses for instands to keep the same mood, than chorus etc.....
When the track is done i listen it back and sometimes i add just a little flavour on some spots but i try to keep it as clean as possible so it is still interesting for a other musician to give it direction! After all that is the whole meaning of WikiLoops, to make it together and not on your own!

Cheers and hope to have a lot more fun with you all!

Edited by Marceys on Juli 01 2017 08:23
Or something like that! :)
posted on #3
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..for me the process is simple. think it, play it. if it works, great, if not, bin it and try again.
i seem to "hear" what i want in my head while I'm listening to a tune. i then pick a sound (and bend it to what i want) and go for it.
now... I'm NOT one of the "clever boys" so my thoughts are simple ones, which tends to mean my adds are as well.
one day i will get cleverer, and I'm sure then the jam will be less spontaneous and more planned, simply by virtue of not being able to play what i hear in my head instantly. :)
posted on #4
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Most of the time: listening - Download - Put in the Daw - Set of tones - Play/record
The feeling drives and it depends on what instrument I want to add and the music style (comfort zone in/out, instrumental/song...)

Sometimes, the first try/take could be very good to my ears then the jam was short ! (With Cody Tripp for example)
Ideas come in playing then it's different when adding a "lead line", I need to find a melody. When I have to manage many parts I play along with a "middle tone" and edit the mix with switching different texture of tones (channels)
90% are play/record along, I can erase a whole take just because I messed up the 8 last bars... (Yes Yes...)

The editing is mainly this mix/choice of tones and try to "balance" the guitar parts with their colours 'deep/dry/rev/delay'
The "pure" editing takes part of Ideas (for example, while listeningthe recording) or these famous 8 last bars
It stills "creative"

I think I'm more a Jammer than a Planner but when I spend more than 3 hours until a couple of days on a track, I think I can become a planner.

I could write more and more but I have to go to feed the fridge right now !

Hop hop hop :)
posted on #5
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hey ! cool topic :)

i am definitely more a planner than a jammer (nothing that you already knew right ? ;) ) ... which doesn't mean i don't like to jam along tracks as well !!

In fact every recording starts with jamming in my process, whether it's a template or a remix. I usually know very early if i'm going for a jam or something more constructed and planned. One thing i'm doing very early is picking the tone(s) i'll be using (this can take a lil while).

If it's a jam then i will record a couple takes (or eventually more) until i have enough material i'm satisfied with ... then i'll select the pieces i like and go into mixing which should always be quite fast for a jam ;)

Now if i'm going for a recording that needs more planning, thinking and whatever it takes to be a bit more refined then the recording process might be a touch different ! I have first to make sure what to play (chords, notes, modes ... ) and map the structure so i can plan what kind of transitions i can come up with ! Once i have all this prepared and i jammed along long enough so i could develop some ideas i am ready to press that record button ;)

Unfortunately, I don't have so much free time so whenever i'm recording i'm trying to do it the quickest way possible (there's alot more to do than the initial recording before posting) ... so i'm usually not after "The Miraculous One Shot" which imho takes alot more time in the end than breaking down to shorter recording parts ... so like Marc, i will usually record all the similar parts in a row, keeping in mind what i had planned : a first part somewhat simpler, the next one a lil bit more full, then full rendition ... i'm usually including the transitions into the next parts (which are still blank) in each take.

The next step once i have all the recording done is the "clean-up" process ... extra bars before and after each segment, fixing parts i decided to keep even if i messed up, making sure the takes are keeping up with the groove ... this phase can really be a huge task, especially when the initial recording quality is not constant ! That's why i'm always trying to get the initial recording as even as possible, especially when it's an acoustic take !

Then the mixing/mastering step ... this is a very important and fun phase (compared to the kinda tedious and boring previous one). A "final" mix and mastering is definitely not the subject here so i'm usually merging the mix and the mastering. This is the moment you get a real rendering at a listening level ... the efforts are now paying off and i can go into the last step ;)

Which is the quality control of the rendering !! I always listen to the export i did to check if evrything sounds right ;)

Recording and mixing a simple jam could take between 1 and 3 hours according to the length and if i'm recording acoustic or not ...

Now for the more refined kind of template/remix i can't really say how long it takes me average ! I usually won't start to record if I don't have all the parts worked out first (except a solo which can easily be left out for a later session) ... it could take anything between a couple hours and several days ! (yes !! i'm slow ...)
clusters Clusters CLUSTERS !!!!!!
posted on #6
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There is a way between 0 and 1, so neither planner nor jammer, depends on the day ...
In the background in each session I always have a diffused path between jammer and planner as the diffuse path between 0 and 1

In my facet planner

When I hear a melody or a groove in my head or I hear a rhythm of drums or percussion in the wiki I usually grab my bass and start to make a basic groove that goes well at that rate or fit with what I had in mind, sometimes I get fragments of good grooves heard on the web and try to incorporate them if they fit at that moment; then I try to keep the time in duration of the basic template, before I have already decided if I have 4 or 5 strings or if I am going to use the fretless for more mellow tones. I make a sound fragment to check equalization and volume, and finally I make the final shot

In the planner mode I still work this way when I start from the bass, but sometimes I start with the keyboards, usually with conventional or electric piano sound and I do the reverse operation, ie ... if I made the keyboards I added the bass, And if I did the bass I look for the chords of the piano that I can develop according to my skill and I like them, so usually I would not know how to transcribe them in a score or write them, it only guided me of their natural sonority

I still have a third planner option, which is a hybrid of the previous ones, sometimes I make a template or jam directly playing the chords on the bass (for example yesterday with "Jabega"), so I work the bass chords directly

In my face jammer

If I can, although less often if I hear a jam that I like generally I think of the groove of the bass and I'm pulling the line if I can with the ear and study on the screen; if I can not then help the plugging "Chordino" Audacity to identify certain more confusing notes and when I have the groove step to the recording

As a soloist I still have a long way to go and I will need many hours to jam jammer because I am not a great musician of technical soloists scales

In both modes, planner or jammer, I finally dedicate some time to the digital edition of the sound as I explain in each jam lately to get the best sound quality of my home studio and my empirical knowledge of editing. In this stage if I did wrong the recording of a note, I modify it rewriting only that note in this step, if they are a few bar I also do so, but if it is a very long fragment, do as comments Tofzegrit, delete everything and start new, as in a live recording session live; do one thing or another depends on how tired this ....

I have tried to summarize, I feel the extension of the comment ...

Cheers :D
posted on #7
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Wow great subject!! Generally, I tend to be a planner, only rarely I go for the single take quick one. I used to do more of those when I started with wikiloops but now I enjoy spending more time on things.

But almost all tracks I record start with me jamming on it quite some time using the online player. Sometimes I use the feature on the Wikiloops player that lets you play only narrow part of the song again and again, until I get the feeling that this is interesting enough for recording, or if I get exited about it in general. Thank god I d on't record everything, some of the stuff I play can be used to scare rats out of a barn :D

Once I set up everything in the Cubase I will mark those areas I want to add a solo and fills, and as mentioned before I will usually record all the solo parts first, and then do the fills. If there is a singer then I will spend time making sure I don't record over the vocals or maybe other solo instruments. In some cases I might record the same parts in different sounds, wahwah, to see what sounds better.

If I find a victim, I let them help me chose the best one, I got a few friendly ears that help me decide.

After that I will start fixing and chopping etc, and that can take a long time. If I decide to add some sounds (scratches, whales, motorcycle sounds etc.) it can take a long time to find the right sound and make it fit).

So to summarize, I always jam first, then if if it turns out I can play to it I will make a plan.
posted on #8
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I´m a planner? What should i say. Sometimes it´s really hard and it´s eating my time and sometimes it flows and it´s easy. Planning costs the most of the time. Chord finding on demand.:D What you hear is what you get.
Guys let it flow! I´m not the best in music but i have fun. Nice if some people like the stuff i lay down. Do not be so strict with you! ;) And very good points of you. :)
Rockin´ in a free world !
posted on #9
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Good topic Wade. When I first joined..I was more or less a Bull in a China Shop. Maybe just a cow now?

So...for me..If I find something I like to join in on..I kinda do as TeeGee does..maybe play along with just the Wiki playback to see if it's something that "could" work. Of course my "ear" is still undergoing training. If I think it will work..then it's "download" and go....playing the entire track until I get it best I can. Very seldom..for I hit record and get something I feel is good enough to post on the first in my case there are several attempts. Then it's edit (best of my abilities) and mix (which I suck doing) as you all know.

I also find for me...trying different phrasings allows me to expand my abilities and perhaps develop
some new techniques
posted on #10
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Another great thread, Wade!

I make no attempt to disguise the fact I pretty much wing everything I do, including templates. Even the more complex tracks I've added to are still jammed, except I mark out change overs or specific phrases - call it sight-reading my computer! Only when I can't hit specific phrases naturally or there's a particularly long set of 'un-guessable' sequences (I'm looking at you Marc and Oli!), I do spend a few minutes practising through those.

Why I do it is something else entirely and now I think about it, there's all manner of reasons. Which I'm just going to empty onto the page in no particular order.

Time. Time is never, ever on my side and is part of the frustration of contributing to the loops for me - I just cannot invest the effort I want to in the tracks because I'd be uploading one track a month if I'm lucky. Instead, being able to jam through it allows me to get through four or five loops in a single sitting (I usually manage to record for up to an hour). That approach is reinforced by the fact my kit is eight miles away from my house and I'm often too knackered [read: lazy] after work to be bothered to head over and record. I often bookmark loops whilst at work and think of ideas for what I can play as I listen which get completely forgotten by the time I get to sit down at my kit, often several days later!

Apart from the physical constraints on when I can record, I guess the other reason I jam everything is 'because I can'. That isn't meant to sound arrogant (but probably does!) but I rarely find it difficult to jam my way through a track. A combination of 34 years' playing, substantial formal training in most of the styles through Musician's Institute and private teachers as a youth, plus a strong family background in music combine to allow me to operate with a natural level of musical intuition and insight. It's hard to explain, but I find it easy to 'lock on' to the mindset of a song and instinctively identify key phrases or themes (often second-guessing them) as they happen in the music and rapidly respond to them. That's a fancy way of saying I'm good at 'blagging it'! As my first drum teacher taught me: if you make a mistake, do it again and make it look like you meant to do it!

I've spent years and years and years just playing along to anything and everything and it does eventually become instinctive. I've also been attending regular jam nights over the past couple of decades and just rocking up and running with whatever you're given really focuses you on listening to the musicians around you.

Even to this day, the bands I'm in I do not 'learn' the songs verbatim - I learn their structure, have an idea of the key rhythm or style plus any phrases or stops but after that, I just 'sound like' the song - every gig is therefore slightly different for me. Helps keep me sounding fresh and stops me getting bored, in truth.

70% of a successful jam is not *what* you play but *how* you play it. In my book, a simple drum pattern played well and with feeling gives greater pleasure than a fancy beat played choppily or incongruously. That's not to say I don't overplay because I do. All the bloody time.

Finally, most tracks I 'sight read' the waveform on-screen. Just by looking at it, you can see where the changes and dynamic shifts are. That is often enough to guide me through a track. I also think it's easier for drummers to jam along because we don't have to worry about being in tune!

So that's my brain dump on the matter as to why I wing everything. There is no shame in planning a track - I wish I could spare the time to do it properly but I'm lucky enough to get away with jamming it and still sounding like I belong (usually). It's like the rest of life, really: making it up as you go along!

As usual, I've written far too much. Sorry.
Edited by mpointon on Juli 03 2017 11:35
posted on #11
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I'm more of a planner - but I have to be, I'm not a great musician and can't wing it. I save jamming for the takes I don't upload, which nobody wants to hear :)

I think it's important, though, if you are thinking about giving room for other people to contribute that you make it as easy as possible, and this requires some kind of structure (unless you are going for that free-jazz feel :p). I've found it frustrating in the past to jam along to a track and then find that in one verse there are, say, three bars instead of the four that occurs in every other one. I found a great drum track the other day, but the bars weren't consistent (so fills came into a cymbal crash that should have denoted the start of a bar mid way through etc). I realise this may well stifle the creativity of those who just like to "lay it down", but it definitely makes it easier for everyone who comes after.
posted on #12
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I'm totally with martin...." it aint what ya play its the way that ya play it"! different key, different tempo, different feel, but same box....can still sound fresh if you're the one playing it.
posted on #13
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I cannot toil for hours on a track its usually a few tries and done. I play to have fun and if I'm working for hours trying to get it right I am not having fun. some of my tracks suck and others are pretty damn good.:)
posted on #14
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50/50 for me. After pretty quickly figuring out if I've anything to add then it's record a few takes and iterate what I'm playing until I'm satisfied with the result. The iteration takes longer because there is always "What if I use a different tone, feeling on this?" By longer I don't mean boring. No sir.
posted on #15
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Another cool thread by Mr W !!

If adding to somebody else's tunes, some tunes automatically play in my head what ''they'' want me to add as i listen to them & those usually are pretty easy/fast to get done, sometimes a single take ( not often but it happens.. ) never more than half a dozen...
Other tunes are not ''so obvious'' & DEMAND some planning & listening to learn my way round - between my crappy memory plus my difficulty counting means i have to plan & learn by listening, over & over...

When doing my own stuff, totally jammed being a one, totally planned a ten, i'd say i sit somewhere in between a 2 & a 5 ?
Most just flow as i fool around with the bass looking for riffs, etc... while some other tunes are literally built, one part at a time

Overall, recording is not something that flows naturally for me which makes me dislike it since it interferes with the creative process & the playing : i've lost count of how many ideas i forgot while i record, trying to get this or the other going... SO frustrating !!
I also avoid edits since i always manage to ''glitch them up'' & end up w/ a worst result than the original mistake so i rather go back & have another take.
Overall i find playing AND recording simultaneously rather tedious..
plenty of time to rest when i'm dead...
posted on #16
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Outstanding post Wade.

As a drummer, I am more of a jammer than a planner. Although on occasion I will map out a song/template if it is complex.

As a general rule, I utilize as few takes as possible. I have found over the years that when you spend days and days recording, editing and re-recording, you lose the essence and passion of the music you are working with. There is something magical that happens when you hear a tune or template that gives you goosebumps or inspires you to work with it. After the 20th or 30th retake the magic is gone in my opinion and you are left with music which is technically perfect, but often sterile or lacking in passion.

I choose music to jam with based on what I like or find inspiring. I usually play to the track/template a few times to get the structure in my head and then record. I utilize the mixing capability of my set to provide me with a mixed source. I utilize a TASCAM DR-05 digital recorder and send the mix into the recorder via the mic input. I record in 320kps @ 48 sampling rate. I don't utilize any aftermarket editing software. I will review my tracks, and if I like what I hear, I publish them.

My goals when playing is to produce music that people will like. I have spent years playing for my enjoyment but find it not nearly as fulfilling as playing or creating music for others. I do not limit myself by setting parameters on how I should approach a track/template. I try to feel the groove or pocket of the track. I also try to capture what the creator of the track is thinking when he or she created the track. As a side note, the name of the track often influences my approach. I often ask myself, what is the artist of this track trying to convey to his or her listeners. For example, if it's a metal track is it driving and punching out rhythms to make you feel a sense of power or aggression; or is it more of a dark melodic and emotional feel to the track. Whichever way the track is tilting, I try to either support it with rhythms that accent the piece or lock into the groove or feel of the track and punch it out.

Regardless, of the type of music I choose, I do try to give it my all. I don't half-ass anything. If it inspires me, then I give it 100 percent. I play aggressively when called for, but I can lay down a smooth, soft beat when necessary.



P.S. If you have never heard any of my tracks check me out under user name timp.
Edited by timp on September 18 2017 14:18
posted on #17
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I like both approaches. Some stuff I do, is planned and structured usually off riffs that pop up in my head while listening to something else. On the other end of the spectrum, I like to just find the right key, and purely improvise along. Even with the structured prewritten stuff though, I still only do one take type lead tracks. I sort of know what licks licks I will throw in, but add them as I'm noodling along in real time. As in all forms of artistic expression, each painter or sculpter etc, will approach in a manner that is most gratifying to them. I'm always fascinated by each persons unique voice and approach to the universal language of music.
posted on #18
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as you can hear i am a jammer, i loop the complete track, try to find tones :o and dynamic:P by play along, have fun,press the recordbutton. i know not much about my soundprogramm:( so my uploads are realy live played, not perfect in playing and mixing, suck:@ often others and make me happy, i have fun with wikiloops mostly in cold dark lonely nights and can feel the whole world:D thanks for that wikiloopers<3:W:Y
Edited by earlsteven on September 17 2017 10:52
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