Can you think of a song that hits you so hard that listening to it leaves you rushing off to spend some serious time in the woodshed?
Some musicians just push their instruments to the far reaches of what’s possible, they make us aspire to reach that level of greatness ourselves. Some productions just sound so crisp and tight, they make us want to practice our mixing chops immediately. Some songs are so well-written, that we understand right away one can only achieve such a delicate artistic sense by putting in the hours.
In this episode of Themes and Variation, centered around the ways we as musicians get inspired to look inward and focus on improving our craft, it felt only necessary to dive in with one of our spectacular Soundfly Mentors, who work with musicians every month and help them achieve their goals. Our usual panel is joined by none other than Ian Barnett (drummer, producer, DJ, Soundfly Mentor), who had all sorts of awesome insights to bring to a conversation anchored by tracks by Jaco Pastorius, Cakedog, and Daughter.
You can listen to “Themes and Variation” Episode 12 in its entirety right here in the player above, or click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts to subscribe and download. *Bonus points if you want to hit us with a five star rating on Apple!
If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, go ahead and visit Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From scale modes to melody-writing and even audio production tips and tricks, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.
Our guest, Ian Barnett is also an Ableton Live lifer. If you’d like to learn how to record and produce music in this incredibly versatile and innovative software, and end up with a fully completed track of your own to show for it, join our newest online course, Intro to Music Production in Ableton Live.
Episode 12 Highlights
1. Great tone doesn’t need great gear.
Carter: “How do you get a good tone on any instrument? Whether (it doesn’t matter) but to me on bass, it has not very much to do with the strings. Not the strings, not the bass, not the amp, it literally is all in your fingers. It’s the years of what you learned to play, how you learned to attack a note, how you learned to get the most out of it. And yeah, Ian you hit it right on the head it’s like, you’re hearing that intention in every single note that he played. Great players on any instrument will sound like themselves… Like if Pino Palladino plays a fretless, you’re still gonna know it’s Pino Palladino. That’s the thing that separates and that’s the point I’m trying to make I think is that, where gear doesn’t matter as much. You could put Jaco, give him a rowing oar with some strings attached to it and it’s going to sound like Jaco Pastorius.”
2. Ian Barnett on the moment he discovered his love of Footwork.
Ian: “I listened to it and I was like, “oh my god, this is insane”. For whatever reason, at tha point and time it just clicked for me. And then I went to DJ Rashad and I was just, so hooked. I felt like I had discovered some truth, I was just like “this is the answer”. I related to it so hard for some reason. These are really in your face, heavy drums that are fast but they groove really hard. There was just something about that spoke to me for sure.”
3. Mahea on Elena Tonra’s other-worldly lyricism.
Mahea: “There are times when a song is incredible because of the music , and there’s times when a song is incredible because of the lyrics you know where it’s like poetry and then we kind of set it to music. I think that there are songwriters and I think she’s one of them who can make both the music and the lyrics better for having each other. It’s easy for lyrics to get cheesy and overdone, especially when you think about things like rhyme. One thing the song does that I love, there’s a bunch of slant rhyme instead of perfect rhyme. Like instead of having ‘It’s a wast of time, blah blah blah blah, rhyme’ she rhymes ‘time’ with ‘finish line.’”
We need your help, we want your help, and we can’t wait to hear what songs pushed you improve! Just like we do every time we launch a new episode, we’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the topic.
Feel free to add your favorite songs that made you want to practice to the playlist.
Note: Please don’t just add your own songs that don’t match the theme. While we love hearing your music, this is not a playlist for self-promotions, and we will remove them.
We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!
After listening to the episode, be sure to check out these links to learn more about Footwork:
- “Footwork: 10 Essential Tracks” (Pitchfork)
- “I Still Have So Much to Digest and Learn: An Interview with Cakedog” (Passion of the Weiss)
- “‘Something I Never Seen Before:’ Chicago, Dance, and the Roots of Footwork” (Red Bull)
- “Chicago’s Footwork Music And Dance Get A Transatlantic Lift” (NPR)
- “Fancy Footwork: How Chicago’s Juke Scene Found Its Feet Again” (The Guardian)