Finishing Your Song: Editing

John Legend

Lesson time 17:29 min

How do you make a good song great? John brings “Free” into the control room to demonstrate his process for vocal comping and other editing techniques that can elevate your songs.

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Topics include: Revising & Editing • Asking for Feedback • Perfecting Your Vocals • Making Good Songs Great


[MUSIC - JOHN LEGEND, "FREE"] Free. 'Till we're all free. - One of my rules is you can't rely on how you feel about a song right when you finish it because part of what you're feeling is the joy of having completed it. And so, I finished the song, and I'm just happy that I'm, like-- I feel like I've put all the puzzle pieces together. Everything fits. It feels right in this moment. And I'm happy that I've completed this project today. But you can't mistake that happiness for, oh, this song is amazing. You need to give it some time, maybe play it for some other people. But also, just wait a week. Listen to it again and you might have some notes for yourself on the song once you've had a little distance from it. So I think no one should base their final opinion on a song on their reaction in that moment when they've just finished writing it. Most of my songs, I will write the bulk of it-- often the entirety of it-- in one session. So three, four hours I sit there, get from mumbled track to finished song in 3 or 4 hours. But that does not mean the song is done. Sometimes you'll listen to it, you'll think about it some more. And you'll be, like, mm, I want to revise this lyric. I want to edit this. I want to say this in a way that works better. Sometimes I'll play it for someone, and they'll say, uh, it sounds like you're saying blah, blah, blah. And once I hear that, I can't unhear it. There's one where I wrote a lyric, it was like it sounded like something more vulgar than what I was trying to say. And I couldn't unhear that misinterpretation of what I was saying. So I had to change it just because I didn't want it to sound like the wrong thing. So occasionally, I'll write a lyric and think, oh, I need to change this. I need to change that. I changed some of the lyric on "All of Me." I changed some of the lyric on "Free." I changed some of the lyric on plenty of songs that have been some of my bigger songs over the years. And that happens usually within the next two or three weeks. I live with the song a bit. I listen to the demo. And I'm, like, this feels a little uneasy. And a lot of my editing process is about getting to the point where nothing feels uneasy anymore. So I'm like-- I keep listening to it and I feel like it's not-- the circle is not complete. What feels like it's leaving me hanging here? What feels awkward? What feels weird? What makes me feel, uh, like everything's not-- it's like Feng Shui for a song. So it's like when you're thinking about the room, and you're thinking about the colors and the balance and the different parts of the room that make it feel like it's completely Feng Shui, like everything's in the right place and at the right balance. You want the song to feel like that, too. And until it feels like that, you're not done editing. And as long as you're feeling uneasy and you feel off about it, then you try to find ways to resolve that tension and get it to actual...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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