David Frank

music production

The System-Mother Ungh Ungh – process, chord stucture, sound evolution

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Some of you may know that Mic Murphy and I (The System) have released an A+B sided single. I was asked a series of questions about the song Motha Ungh Ungh. I will attempt to answer them  over the next few days.

1. Please describe the making of the new System single Mother Ungh Ungh i.e. process, equipment, chord stucture, sound evolution

The musical track for Motha Ungh Ungh started with an idea from a group of sounds I put together from the NI Maschine library. Some of them were already grouped into sets especially the percussion/drum sounds. it was originally programmed while “on the road” in a hotel room  in NYC using a mac laptop, midi keyboard controller and the Maschine software and controller. I had just gotten fluent with the Maschine software and was determined to derive tracks for song ideas from it.
I wanted to use (as I have for much of my life)”abstract sounds that, combined, would end up being Rhythmic/ Harmonic and Melodic when put together but not particularly identifiable as drums bass keys or guitar. Of course what we ended up with is somewhat that. For instance, before we sent out an early version of the song to some mixers, who had comments, there was no hihat. There was only the beeping sine sound….but.. we added a hihat…oh well. With all my dreaming of escaping traditional approaches most of the time I give in to the idea of using every other finger on my hand on every other key and playing a 3 note chord….how boring ;-) sigh…just can’t escape convention. Anyway, it also came into my head that we could have a song that used a variation on the IV(4) chord V (5)chord going to VI (6)MAJOR instead of VI (6)minor that so many songs have had lately. The part of my brain that appreciates harmonic changes of color has never stopped being fascinated with this one in particular. It involves the ever present relationship between keys a minor third apart.
So, the verse just hangs out on the IV(4) and V(5) chord (we are in the key of C) but the bass notes every 2 or 4 bars(depending on how you are counting) play an “a to a f#”. this suggests “A min to F#7″.  F#7 is the tritone substitution for C7 which is the V7 of IV(4) in the key of C. ….This must be sooo boring to some people. Sorry!!!!…but it is interesting to some…i hope.
The Pre Chorus changes to C minor. The chords are” C min,G min7,C min, and ends with a C major:ending with a brilliant little bass note lead in brought to you by Mic Murphy that suggests an E7sus (V7 in the Key of A).
The Chorus starts on the IV(4) chord of C major but resolves to A major at the end of each phrase, but a bass lick plays “d wah wah wah e c” and brings it back to C major each time.
Backing up a bit after Mic wrote the brilliant melody and lyrics and sent me a 2 mix I opened the maschine project in Logic and added other parts including the intro which is  minor 3rd intervals  ascending in major 3rds. We used the intro in the middle of the song (a half step up) under some killer stutter edits done by our friend and associate Tim Kvasnosky.
Some other sounds used on Motha were from Diva a great softsynth by U-He and the synth solo was from Razor by NI. The mighty synth tom fills are courtesy of Steve Wolf. He gave us a choice or 3 FX levels but we found that all 3 tracks full on worked great. Brad Fischer mixed at Canyon Reverb Studios.

12 Comments

  1. Where can I buy the single?

  2. David: The two tracks posted (as of today) on SoundCloud are fantastic! Looking forward to “System Overload.”

  3. gaahhhhh!!!! the theory, the theory!!! grown assed woman, and reading the articles, i’m bak in wayland, my back to you, charting these weird mystery chords you were playing….. good times :)

  4. Hi, David (& Mic). Thanks for the details on the Motha song. Not boring, at all. I apppreciate your taking the time to share this process. Another stand-out element in this song was the use of the ride cymbals, an instrument that’s rarely used in the System stuff, though I was telling a couple of friends that you used it on the Gavin Christopher song ‘Love Don’t Get No Better’. That synth tom fill is reminiscent of Victoria Beckham’s That Kind of Girl.
    Anyway, many thanks and best of luck on the upcoming album. TB

  5. Thanks to Spazzoid video on youtube, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pvY6y6cxKo&feature=youtube_gdata_player ),\. The title track is also amazingly fresh, yet very system-like, which is always a relish. Was that Paul Pesco on stage with you? (Does that guy ever rest? – ha). The trio reunited. Can’t wait to get my hands on the CD and read all the liner notes etc…

  6. Now -THIS- is what I’m talking about! David, thanks, over the years, for always sharing the technical (and creative) aspects of how u baptize the beats! I always look forward to you sharing the musical theory behind the compositions The System releases.

    Kudos!!

  7. It’s ridiculously fascinating to read how you develop your musical concepts. Beatport.com might be another good distributor. All the DJs I know, including myself, dig for and purchase music through there. Bandcamp is also remarkably effective at reaching a wide audience as well.

  8. Can’t wait for the entire album! Since you mention chord structure, could you please discuss the structure over the the chorus of ‘Big City Beat’? I’m buying a Mini Moog just so I can learn that part and I’m a guitar player (really; also the bass line over Takeshi Itoh’s ‘Cowbell’!). These parts blow my mind to this day! The bass part to ‘Modern Girl’ too!

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