Here are three quick ways.
1. In the beginning – It can start out as simple as just looping one of the drum tracks and singing a couple of lines of your newest song over and over again. The drums give you a great sense of rhythm and if you use your imagination, you can actually hear other musical parts being played along with you.
I use this technique a-lot in my songwriting. I am able to come up with a more ‘pure’ melody that way. Playing the piano while I sing is great, but it limits where I can go melodically especially during the ‘birth’ of a song. Also, later on when I’m stuck on a song and can’t seem to come up with any interesting background parts, I’ll strip it back down to just the drum track and melody line. For some reason, this really helps in creating interesting features to the music, like horn hits, or harmonic runs, or creative musical breaks. I would suggest that every songwriter try this. It’s so easy, and it will give you a new perspective on your music.
2. The middle – When I have a song that is basically done musically, I like to go in and replace the drum track with a different rhythm style. In fact I often try the song with 10 or 15 different alternate beats. This is a great practice…. but one that can’t easily be done if you used a live drummer for your recordings (unless they’re good with a metronome). When you do this, the songs take on a whole different feel. After listening to several rhythm tracks, I’ll choose the one that I think is the best and the song now has a new groove.
3. The end – I have several songs that are headed for the recording studio shortly. When I go in to record the songs, my piano tracks are already finished. I record them via MIDI on my home computer while playing to one of these looped drum tracks. The drums keep me exactly on tempo and give me a great sense of rhythm to play off of. So when I go into the studio, I hand the engineer my floppy disk (That’s right ‘floppy’ – why waste a whole CD on files that are so small?) and he pulls them up on his system. He’s got a ton of sampled grand pianos that he can route my MIDI tracks through. So now instead of paying him $130.00US for 2 hours of recording time, I have a prefect piano track that took about 3 minutes of studio time. And the tracks are in perfect time sync. because I played them to a looped midi drum track that is rhythmically perfect
I hope you will try some of these techniques on your own. And let me know if you have success with them. Also, any other suggestions that you might have, please send them to me.