How Deftones Write A Song (In-Depth) l Artists Series S2E4

How Deftones Write A Song (In-Depth) l Artists Series S2E4

I don’t know why I put so much time into researching these episodes. It’s not like I’m a fan or anything What’s up everyone, it’s Friedemann Findeisen from
Holistic Songwriting. Welcome to the Artist Series where we take a close look at some of the biggest rock artists in the world to see how they make us feel a certain way I’m happy to say that today We’re looking at one of my favorite bands the Deftones and I must admit it was difficult writing this episode as there were so many Songs I wanted to discuss so many interesting things that this band does But I’ve tried to rein myself in and make this a great episode regardless whether you’re a fan or not If you’ve been following this channel for a while you will know that before I go into specifics I like to start with the image of the band to give a context for the techniques. Who are they? How are do they? How do they make you feel? What’s their branding? So as an exercise pause this video now and come up with three or four words to describe the emotional palate of this band See you in a bit The four words I came up with are dark, sexual, dreamy and momentary We’ll discuss all of these but let’s start with the latter. A lot of Deftones songs are of a fleeting nature They often don’t tell a lyrical or a musical story They feel like they describe a singular moment more emotional Unlike many other rock bands that take you on a trip on which you find yourself, here you’re tripping and losing yourself In more technical terms We don’t have a strong sense of structure. The different sections Seem to flow into one another and energy shifts are often accomplished by other means than pitch and dynamics That is not to say that there is no structure. In fact, the structuring is one of my favorite things about the Deftones It’s just used in a different way Let’s get right to it and see how this manifests on music starting with “Rocket Skates” What I love about this is that you never really know what’s gonna happen next There are a lot of open threads here with no standard resolution Let’s write down the structure of this to see how it works So we’re starting with a very short intro that begins on the upbeat That combined with the fact that we have a rather rhythmically complex line here Makes it hard to pin down where the downbeat is during those first few seconds But instead of giving us four bars to figure it out, the rest of the band jumps in after only two bars which feels rushed, nervous, angry With the drums the groove becomes much clearer and it’s easy to nod your head along But just as you’ve gotten used to this groove the band throws you another curveball with a quarter note triplet transition Here the first line of the verse starts spread out over three bars this ends in another transition that starts off exactly like the transition before but again, Just as you’re getting used to it It changes things up and surprises you by adding in one more beat briefly turning this into a 5/4 time signature Here we get a different melody along with the different groove This is asking a lot of the listener who just got used to melody one and the groove associated with it All this chaos seems to balance out when we get another transition in 4/4 and Continue with a repetition of the first melody. In our heads we begin to shape an expectation We are used to hearing “AB AB” structuring where we get a set up line A and a corresponding response line B So when we hear melody 1 again, we expect to hear melody 2 after the 5/4 transition but again Surprisingly we’re going straight into the pre-chorus This kind of structuring can be found in a lot of Deftones songs And before we move on I’d like to highlight one more technique that I don’t think I’ve heard anywhere else before So you’re familiar with the concept of a double chorus, right? At the end of a song we give them two choruses typically with ad-libs or solo in the background or Different lyrics or something like that Well, the Deftones use half chorus so they cut their first chorus in half While this would probably be a horrible idea in pop, here this works really well, because it allows the band to stay messy and chaotic. Just a little bit longer before we resolve that tension in the first full chorus. Let’s listen to two songs from “Around the Fur” that do this. I’ll first play you the full chorus and then how they use the half-chorus. Kids, cover your ears. So, the pleasure I get from putting on a Deftones record comes from a kind of listening that is constantly comparing to the default. I love being surprised by music, and The Deftones never disappoint. And while the addiction formula is still very present in the background, they always find a way to twist clichés in unexpected ways. Now as you know, I call his tension between what we hear and what we think we should hear “implied tension”, and this kind of tension can be used in a myriad of ways. For example, we discussed Drake’s use of it where he leaves something out to create an aura of mystery and sexiness But what is the effect we get here when we flip the default on its head? Here the implied tension sounds frantic, breathless, aggressive uncontrolled and yes, sexual. And sex is a big theme in this band. And, for some reason, the only thing people seem to write about in the comment sections under their videos. So let’s talk about it, because it’s not just the lyrics, it’s the music, too. I think it’s a combination of three musicians in this band. First is Chino Moreno and his vocal performances which sound as if he’s about to climax. His signature vocal chain uses a ton of saturation and a bathroom echo chamber, giving him a bathroom-sex-kind-of-vibe. Again, it’s that mix of sexual and dirty. His guitar playing often forms a melodic counterpart to Stephen’s riffs, adding in that dreaminess we talked about earlier. You can always tell which songs are written by Chino by the way he uses chords. Stephen usually plays dark heavy riffs that are often dripping with dissonance, not least because he’s planning eight-string guitars, making his low riffs feel very unstable pitch-wise. And then there’s Abe Cunningham’s drumming who, through his hip-hop grooves, is an unusually light drummer for such a heavy band. His grooves are major part of the physicality of the Deftones sound by that I mean, it’s music that makes you want to move Imagine their songs with a heavy-metal drummer like Lars Ulrich or even a Danny Carey they would lose all their bounce And it’s this triangle this tug-of-war between Abe’s light drumming Stephen’s heavy riffing and Chino’s singing switching back and forth between the two that creates this dark sexuality So let’s look at some of the things these three musicians do starting with Abe Cunningham on drums So far we’ve only talked about the heavy side of the Deftones but they have a slow rock ballad side as well Listen to the way Abe enters the picture on this track and how he creates tensions Did you notice that he doesn’t play the bass drum until the bass comes in? that’s a clever use of imply tension to bridge for otherwise tensionless bars and Abe plays with expectations a lot often going completely against the groove. Check out the ending of “Change in The House of Flies” for an example of this There’s a whole number of things happening here, from switching up the backbeat to going double time in the fill To playing in groups of three Abe keeps us on our toes I think this is particularly interesting as most bands just add more stuff to their last chorus. like a solo in the background or strings, choirs, backing vocals But here in and many other songs the Deftones get away with so little and emotionally this gives me so much more than just adding a bunch of instruments Let’s listen to another example Here Abe plays a halftime groove against the rest of the band which continues in standard time by Leading into it with a very forward three three two when that halftime hits the backbeat feels a delayed tense when I hear this section trying to not long I’m Constantly on edge trying to find the backbeat I’m literally holding my breath which is an enormous accomplishment for what is essentially just a drum groove Let’s move on to guitarist Stephen Carpenter and the dark days surrounding the making of “Saturday Night Wrist” He’s what he said in an interview for “When a picture us doing metal the way I know and believe metal to be, I feel that it’s never going to be that way because Abe is a drummer who never sits and practices double bass and strives to perform on the drum levels that all these bands are performing on. I can’t even consider that style of playing because it just won’t happen and then consider that Chi plays bass with his fingers So he’s not going to keep up with that fast double picking So I’ve got a whole glossary of music that I would love to play but it’s been cancelled out by default Now we’ve all been in that situation and it’s completely normal that band members will have different musical backgrounds And most of the time bands do not overcome their differences and fail But there are plenty of successful bands like the Deftones that have been playing together for decades That still have this internal tug-of-war going on and here it’s an integral part of their sound whether they like it or not Stephen style is very minimalist. He uses a lot of single note riffing and power chords. Sometimes doubling the 5th in the bass his appeal lies in his complex rhythms and dissonant open chords Let’s listen to some of his signature riffs The rhythmical complexity of this riff comes from its triplet subdivision Which in this shape or form is still rare in most metal, and it’s the triplets that give this track its bounce Since Stephen is playing in standard 8 string tuning that makes playing fast riffs with all power chords Physically impossible or at least very uncomfortable This is why for his busier riffs He usually goes for single note riffing but this wasn’t always the case back when he still played a six string He did use drop tunings and on “My Own Summer [Shove it]” you can hear and play a busy riff all power chords That’s the heavy side of Stephen’s playing, let’s look at the sexual side. In terms of cores That usually means one thing and that’s no different here tension Unusual for metal this chord progression uses a ton of open strings which gives it it’s tense dissonant feel The open strings ring uncontrollably and have a more clanging sound than their stop counterparts and when Stephen plays the G# The open strings function as a minor third (It’s an F!) and a flat six and a void note Giving this court a ton of tension, which is only underlined by the distortion one more In music theory terms this court progression couldn’t be any simpler. It’s a14 and major without the thirds what gives this riff it’s dreamy vibe is the added major 7 again heavily dissonant through the distortion as As rule the more complex an interval, i.e. the higher up the harmonic series it is the more dissonant that will sound and the more distortion will add to that dissonance And Stephen loves playing with these tense options Just listen to the chorus of “My Own Summer” where he adds a sharp 11 to chord the most dissonant interval of all Chino’s playing is different from Stephen’s that it often acts as a melodic counterpart to the harmonic simplicity of Stephe’s power chords This can be heard best in older songs before the band started to write all their songs together like “Digital Bath”, “Mascara” or “Teenager” But obviously Chino is best known for his melodies. And those are very interesting indeed Unusual for metal between shouts and raps he sings a lot of dreamy notes You can really hear his influences from Depeche Mode and R&B music in the 9s 11s and major 7s. Listen to this Let’s look a little bit closer at this last one Whether he knows it or not, Chino is actually singing upper structures here. This suggests that when he hears a chord He doesn’t just hear the core tones But a much wider range of possible notes options upper structures that he could use This is a scale common in jazz and R&B but quite rare in metal so while the band is playing Cm in Eb power chords he is singing Eb and Gm. if you got a guitar close by sing the melody “beware the water” – those chords and you will hear what Chino is hearing in his head Now I’m currently working on a PDF guide on writing melodies like this which will send out to my mailing list when it’s done If you don’t want to miss it, make sure you hit the little i’ and sign up You will also get a whole bunch of free songwriting goodies as a welcome gift not to mention. It’s obviously the best mailing list ever Let’s look at another example here Similar to be where we get an upper structure here this time E over F#m That means Chino is singing an E Major chord over the F# power chord again Feel free to sing this line against an E major and you’ll hear what Chino is hearing this also helps in analyzing his backing Vocals which are a vital part of the band’s sound And like the true upper structure singer that he is Chino loves big surprising jumps again Highly unusual for this genre listen to this (Should be an octave lower) But Chino didn’t always have this jazzy upper structure sensibility. On earlier albums his note choices make a little less sense And he sometimes goes completely against the backing track the result leaves you feeling uneasy and restless check it out If you enjoyed this video Please like share and subscribe and let me know in the comments which artists you’d like me to do next on this series Next month, we’re gonna take a good look at “Tool”. But what comes after that is entirely up to you Also if you want to ask me any question at all Go subscribe to the “Holistic Songwriting” live channel where every Monday at 9 a.m. PST. I answer your questions. Thanks for listening Take care and sticky fetish

100 thoughts on “How Deftones Write A Song (In-Depth) l Artists Series S2E4

  1. I would like more deftones music videos with treble clef progressions and lyric pitch changes..

  2. i said dreamy too

  3. Honestly, most Deftones fans shit me up the wall. MX Queen and Chino wannabes talking about getting moist and firm. We get it. You feel like a porn star when you bang to the tunes. Bet if you filmed it and played it back it would look at lot different than you recall in your head though.

  4. you picked all my favourite songs and i'm about to cry.
    thank you for this. i really enjoy it♥

  5. Is it just me or does Deftone seem to have a water-y theme going on…?

  6. I'm a little disappointed there's nothing dissected from Koi No Yokan.

  7. Duuuddeeee. No mention of anything from Like Linus?! I love that album and it has some of their most unusual stuff on it.

  8. Best band ever!!!!!!!!!

  9. Awesome video first I’ve seen from you, you may have already covered Incubus. If not that would be a cool one.

  10. Comments are full of these but u should Bring Me The Horizon. They have some formulas to be FAMOUS and POPULAR

  11. Yesssssss

  12. 14:24 what is that song

  13. what about Incubus man? They play different kind of style, chords, melodies etc… it would be fantastic if you do "how… write a song" about them. thanks

  14. I can't help but wonder to what degree these artists are consciously crafting the layers of depth you're pointing out or if they're happening upon it and you're noticing/defining it post hoc

  15. I wouldn’t call this music. How about NOISE.

  16. 1.Raw

  17. Please do a KoRn Episode. That would be awesome 🙂

  18. dude, you keep referring to the band as 'the Deftones'. they arent the Deftones, they are just Deftones. Chino hates the band being refered to as 'The Deftones', as apparent in many of his interviews.

  19. If you like being surprised maybe you'll consider Tame Impala? 😉

  20. Love Deftones. Love your channel! Thank you for the info

  21. This was the only time I almost got the same keywords:
    1. dark
    2. dissonant
    3. melody-driven
    4. singing "up and down"
    One of my earliest favorites back in the day. Haven't listened to them in a long time. Now I really want to, again…

  22. when a Sigur Rus artist series?

  23. 🤣The 2nd place eloquence award part. Nice belly laugh

  24. You sound a little like zoolander. Thanks for the video 😉

  25. As a 8 string user I think he used single notes just because of the sound.

  26. I'd argue the flat nine is the most dissonant interval of all (a Maj9(#11) chord sounds nice imo) – but i use a piano and not a guitar so who knows

  27. Can't believe you talked about Abe and didn't mention the end of Bloody Cape. With any other drummer playing to Stefs simple, simple power riff, the way Abe brings a story to those last bars is just….just amazing. I've always been of the opinion that in the main riff of that song as well, the first kick of the bar and the first guitar stroke is actually a moment before the start of the bar, if that makes any sense?

    Please please do some Will Haven next!

  28. this video got me in to deftones, Thanks for that!

  29. no love for chi :/

  30. THE(!) Deftones

  31. Could you do Weezer?

  32. I have that shirt. Long sleeve 👍 if you like Deftones. Check out my band Dimphonic. We’re on youtube and stuff

  33. Nihilistic, Dystopian, self-deconstruction/dissolution

  34. Do Mastodon please.

  35. No mention of Chi or Vega

  36. lonely

  37. This was excellent.

  38. he keeps calling them The Deftones and it's fucking killing me

  39. Just discovered your home here, and I love it. Just what I’ve been in the mood for. I was going to suggest one of the Deftones biggest influences, who are one of my all time faves: HUM, though I know you’re probably looking to analyze more well-known acts. But here’s your chances to shine some light. Keep up the amazing work. Truly top notch.

  40. please never forget Chino's love for the 9th step at many chords 😉
    thanks for the video! definitely makes me re-listen to all Deftones

  41. Love the content!! In Flames or Opeth would be neat.

  42. Umm.. how is?.. OMG!! I might’ve found your doppelgänger.. check it out yo!

  43. What are deftones most dreamy songs?

  44. Glad you talked about 976-Evil. It’s their most underrated song in my opinion, and probably my favorite of all their songs

  45. I could watch a 10 hour video on deftones… Favorite band ever!

  46. Please do NIN and Bjork!

  47. And Dr. Dre!

  48. It's just Deftones, not "the Deftones."

  49. It's frustrating to me because I love Deftones but I don't understand what is meant here by sexual. And I just can't wrap my brain around music theory concepts.

  50. Very cool breakdown of their music! Liked and subscribed

  51. Glassjaw please.
    Also Failure.
    Maybe Sunny Day Real Estate

  52. "Y-yeah…"


  53. You are amazing!!!

  54. I swear on my life I came up with the same words you did with the exception of momentary I had mysterious funnily enough they both started with him

  55. I can't think of another drummer as important to the band sound as Abe Cunningham he is amazing in holy unique as a metal drummer as his hip hop influence comes to the Forefront a lot

  56. Its Deftones, not "The Deftones"


  58. Battle-Axe and Xerces


  60. Amazing job and unbelievable band 🙏🏼

  61. We like to call them "sextones" hahaha
    Great review

  62. So much respect to you for using the correct lyrics. <3

  63. The thing that surprised me most about this video is the lack of pretentious deftones fans in the comments correcting the content creator for saying, “The Deftones” instead of Deftones. LOL

  64. Bathroom sex kind of vibe!!!! FUCKING HILARIOUS!!!

  65. Just found you& subbed. Amazing analysis, a lot of passion i n your work. Thank you. In love with deftones. Requests for incubus, smashing pumpkins, Radiohead.

  66. I never really understood what you meant about the dark sexual side of their songs, until I listened to them after a big heartbreak. Definately one of the most unique bands that ever came up.

  67. 1. Angst 2. Sex (if sex is an emotion, Chino is its catalyst) 3. emptiness in the sense that Chino sometimes manages to hover over the rest of the band like ether.

  68. Binging with babish of music

  69. I have that exact deftones t shirt

  70. Dillinger Escape Plan next

  71. What's the name of the song at 14:30?

  72. Dissonance: The Band

    Gods, i love Deftones <3

  73. I record and upload Vocal Tracks of Deftones And I do Costum Homemade Guitar Chords using Clean Guitar Sound With Chorus Effect…

  74. This is awesome!

  75. Beware moves me. It's so god damn weird I love it.

  76. Would love to hear why that "YOU-ou-OU-ou" part in cherry waves (16:48) is so damn awesome and makes my skin tingle 🙂

  77. I love your videos dude, you're amazing.

  78. KoRn 🤘🏻💪🏻

  79. Magic and wizardry… that's how.

  80. You've gotta do one on Thrice! They've fought their way up the ladder and have matured over the course of 15 years. I would love to look into that.

  81. Call me deaf, but Chino always sounded completely out of key in their older songs.

  82. A relaly great job with this serie !!

  83. Really enjoyed this video. I would really love to see you do an artist series video on the smashing pumpkins! Particularly older stuff like the Gish, Siamese dream, and melancholy records!

  84. Is that a Jeff Lynne figure behind you?

  85. OhhhHeavens!!! I was making love to the sound of your voice, now that idea has a face and is masculine and cute. I can't explain how sexual you just seem to me right now. Weird feeling of whoredom.

  86. Oooh I chose dreamy too

  87. Deftones at 420 and nothing else in life matters.

  88. Thanks for this! Chino's melodies always give me goosebumps. Now I understand why a bit more.

  89. I thought he said "an abnormally loud drummer" and was like yeah I guess he does play loud, then I rewatched and heard "abnormally light drummer" and was like yeah I guess he does play light.

  90. I play for the Deftones as a 2nd/3rd Guitarist On my YouTube Channel……..

  91. I dont think Stef plays going off of theory he just plays the most simplistic thing in the most beautiful way, hes easily one of the top players of all time

  92. I love deftones

  93. Dynamic, Dark, ebb, flow

  94. I dig the videos and information about structure, but for us non-music-reading-people, it would really nice to have a highlight or something to follow the visual music bars along; maybe it is oversimplified, but it would help bridge the gap for me.

  95. A video explaining Gojira's songs would be cool, Mario's drumming is such a trip and it be cool to see the details

  96. I Love Your 'Artists Series' mateSuch depth and insight – I have learnt and become cognizant of so muchDeftones is one of my favourite bandsSo, to hopefully couple / add into this, your video, I wanted to share this

  97. Reading comments on anything Deftones related it won’t take long till you inevitably run into a "it’s not THE Deftones it’s just Deftones!” and they go on about how it’s a pet peeve of theirs to hear it. Well these snobtones commenters are becoming a pet peeve of mine. Fucking get over it. Do you think THE Deftones care whether a fan says THE or not? I’m sure they would rather you just enjoy their music.

  98. Very well put.

  99. Please do a Machinehead video????

  100. What…. what bands have been playing like the deftones for decades? Please tell me. You evolved something in me that I could never comprehend was there, and my soul is burning.

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