I had my meeting at Hifi on tuesday. I met with Paul to discuss rock for commercials. He told me that the problem wasn’t my writing, but the sound. He said 5 years ago, everyone in the commercial business did what I did for my tracks. They would ‘compose’ all the played parts, like drums and guitar. Now that everything is so cheap, both in the recording and library music areas, advertisers are expecting more and more. Paul said that it doesn’t matter how real your samples sound anymore. At the end of the day, a piano player can never play on a MIDI keyboard a guitar or drum set and have it sound as good and natural as a real guitarist or drummer. You could learn how to play those instruments (which Danny Lux did recommend to me), but that takes time and you can’t use that skill until you’re a good enough player. The only option left to us is loops.
What Paul told me is if I want to get picked for rock tracks, I need to use loops like they do. He said that because of the sheer number of commercials they get each month, he only puts his hands on the keyboard maybe twice a week, and the rest is loops. It allows him to move more quickly and create a better sounding track than if he had to make the loops himself. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, a loop is a recording (either of a sampled instrument in MIDI, or a live audio recording) of a very small line of music, or just a part of a line where the end of the recording connects with the beginning, so when played over and over, or looped, it sounds like the beat of the music is constant. Using many loops together allows you to create a song out of those loops. It’s more like arranging than it is composing. Paul said I need to start my loop library because 80% of the commercials they get call for rock or pop influenced tracks.
The other thing that he told me was that I need to start buying virtual instruments from other manufacturers. The reason for this is an acoustical phenomenon that occurs when you only use instruments from the same maker. You get an overall sense of ‘fakeness’. Like when you see something that is CG in a movie, and you can’t see that it’s CG, but you can sort of tell just by the nature of it. He said that it mostly had to do with the fact that even though the samples sound real, all the instruments were recorded the same way, and the programming done on the software to make them work is also the same, so you get an almost imperceptible feeling of fakeness. To combat this, simply get other instruments from other makers and use them all together, and it can make your piece feel much fuller.
At first after all this news I was a little discouraged that I’d be doing less composing and more arranging of loops, but then I thought about it a little. Doing the rock pieces for the Expedia spot was kind of stressful for me because it’s a style that I’m not very interested in writing often. If 80% of all the commercials I get need rock, it could be a stressful job. But with loops, I can do it faster, and the fact is I don’t have to use all loops. I can use a few for the things I can’t make sound real enough and still compose other things into it, so it still sounds like me. Also, I know that when they do get something that needs composing, I’ll be more of their go-to guy.
Armed with this new knowledge I bought a few inexpensive loops to get me started. It’s tough to justify a purchase like this right now having just moved and not having steady income yet, but I figure if I didn’t get them, I’d miss out of 8 of every 10 commercials that I get and lose that much potential income. Paul gave me a bunch of places to look for loops and I picked 3 that I thought would get me the most loops useful for commercials. They are Quirky Guitars, which are indy pop and rock loops, Crunch, a series of all styles of guitar loops and Indie/Post Rock Drums, a set of 440 drum beats. This should be enough to get me started, and then if some of my tracks get picked, I can expand my library and get sounds from other companies.
Other than that, Paul told me that the timeframe for hearing whether or not your track got picked varies quite a bit to the tune of next day to a few weeks. The tracks for the last Expedia one I did went in on Tuesday so they have their fingers crossed for me on that one. Other than that, not a lot of new commercials in right now. I have my meeting at BMI tomorrow and dinner with Brandon from Mike Post’s sometime next week. With so much going on, something’s gotta happen soon.