DS106 Assignment Bank Creations

Play the Original, Put Your Own Spin on it

The instant I saw the assignment “Cover It Up” in the Audio Assignment bank, I knew I had to do it. There was no way I could pass up the opportunity to teach myself a new song on drums and then put my own spin on it. These were the instructions from the assignment:

For this assignment what I did was take a song I knew how to play on an instrument, such as piano in this case (but it can be any instrument you please), and then I made some changes to the way I played it. What I challenge you to do is learn a new song on any instrument that you play and change it up and just see what you get, and if you end up liking it.

This was very fun for me. I originally wrote an essay-length post about the intricacies of drumming and tons of details about how I picked my music, but I realized that that would make for a very long post, and not everybody who reads this is a music nerd like me 😛 If you’re interested in hearing more about my creative process (and/or listening to clips of other songs I recorded and edited just for fun!), comment below! I could always add in more, but I don’t want to overload people with information.

I began this assignment by considering my library of songs and which ones would be fun to learn and then play. This was my criteria for picking a song:

  1. It couldn’t be a song I already knew how to play or mostly knew how to play.
  2. It had to be a song that was somewhat complex, but simple enough that I could quickly grasp the finer points and add my own touch.
  3. It had to be a song that I was pretty familiar with/that I’d heard multiple times.

I compiled a short list of options, and then tried out my top two: “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World and “Shine” by Collective Soul. I had never tried playing “The Middle” before, and I’d tested out “Shine” once a long time ago (but didn’t take any time to actually try to learn it). I ended up picking “Shine” because I found it to be the most compatible with my objective and criteria, and it had enough “space” to allow me to add new elements.

It didn’t take me long to learn “Shine” well enough to play it accurately. I tend to be a perfectionist, especially when I’m trying to play a song perfectly, so it took me a few takes to get a recording I was happy with. I think it turned out pretty good! Here’s the audio of me playing, synced up with a drumless version of the song. (At the very end, there’s a brief blip where the sound changes; that’s because the drumless version wasn’t quite long enough, so I had to attach a tiny bit of audio from the regular version.)

Shine by Collective Soul – drum cover

Then I set about the task of putting my own spin on the song. The main things I changed were hi-hat openings during the verses and extra snare and kick (bass drum) hits during the chorus with steady taps on the ride cymbal. Here’s a diagram of a drumset and a picture of the drumset at UMW, so you can see which parts I’m referring to.

Drumset Diagram
This is the drumset at UMW, in Pollard Hall. It’s in “The Room of Boom”, which I think is a delightful name. The ride cymbal (on the right) isn’t usually up that high; before playing, I adjusted it to be lower, so that it was closer to the floor tom.
Photo Credit: myself

Now that you’re aware of the changes I made to my playing, here’s the song with my own spin:

Shine by Collective Soul – drum cover (with new additions)

Since I don’t have any fancy recording equipment or microphones, I simply used my phone to record myself playing. Then, I used Moises and Audacity to edit the audio.

Moises allows you to separate audio tracks (e.g., drums, guitar, vocals), and if you’re a free user, you can do this for 5 songs a month. It also will only do track separation for 5 minutes (hence my need to add a tiny bit of the regular song onto the end of my “Shine” covers, because the regular song is a little longer than 5 minutes). The quality isn’t quite as good as it would be if I paid for it, but it works well enough for what I needed.

Once I had my drumless track and my recordings of myself playing, I used Audacity to line them up and add on the extra few seconds of the regular song. I also experimented with ratios of volume to find a good mix of the track and my drums.

I think I like the original track better than my “personal spin” version. However, both sound good to me. The main thing I would change about my own version would be to take out the hihat openings. To me, it makes the verses sound cluttered. Also, if I recorded it again, I’d focus more on my timing; a few times, I was slightly behind the beat. Before this recording, I’d been going ahead of the beat, so I think I was trying to compensate.

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