Tips & Techniques: Freshen Up Your Jingle Package

by Marshall Such

Ever been asked by your PD if you can "do something with the station jingles?" With the cutbacks in spending, a new jingle package may not be in the station's future, and you may have to live with what you've got for another year or so.

Having produced hundreds of station IDs over the years, there are usually six or seven basic jingles: Top O' Hour (legal), Fast-to-Slow, Slow-to-Fast, Medium Transition, Weather, Promo, and Personality jingles. If your PD or consultant was thinking ahead when your package was sung, you've probably got alternate mixes and a capellas. Here are a couple of ideas that I've used successfully and that you can do right in your jail cell/production room to make your jingles sound minty fresh.

The Quick Fix Shotgun: All you need for this pup is a drum machine, an effects processor, and the a capella jingles from your current package. If you haven't got a drum machine or sampler, your production library may have some standalone drum "riffs" that will serve the same purpose. Or talk to a musician friend and borrow his beat box for a day. About the a capella: The a capella should be up tempo with a quick resolution. And try for the simplest of your station's moniker -- i.e., "Power 97," "WXXX," "Stereo 92," etc.. Attempting to use the entire "The Best Mix Of Yesterday and Today, Mix 101" will sound goofy. And that's why jingle companies are in business. They specialize in making musical sense of your positioning statements. Simply lay down a bitchin' drum riff to your multi-track, or you can even use an electronic effect -- use a flange or chorus to beef up the sound if necessary -- then fly in the a capella on the last hit of the drum or as the electronic effect fades. As a stand alone, it may not provide you with a Woodrow, but try it between two up-tempo records. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how the call letters really jump out.

The Cross Faded Promo Jingle: If your current promo jingles are crispy critters, go to your production library and find a 30 or 60 second bed that comes close to matching the tempo of one of your shotguns or current promo jingles. If you've got a keyboard in the studio, you can probably figure out which key the track is in by hunting and pecking to find the last "tonic" note of the production track. No keyboard? Ask someone with perfect pitch (there's usually someone you know who can help you out) and find out the keys of tracks you're going to use. And find out what key your various jingles/a capella are in, too.

Now here's the trick. If you're locked into keeping your promos at 30 or 60 seconds, lay down the amount of music you need, allowing time for the jingle at the end. On another two tracks, cross fade in the vocal from the jingle. You don't have to start right on the vocal. There may be a horn lick or drum roll that will actually enhance the cross fade. If the cross fade sounds funky, use a "whoosh" or "bubble down" to cover the transition.

Some notes of interest: If you establish that your production track is in the key of C Major but your jingle is in D Major, don't sweat it. When we're writing promo beds for ID packages, we often use key changes to "bring up" the intensity to the payoff with the call letters. So this scenario should work fine.

Some things to avoid: If your production track is faster than your ID jingle, it may sound like a mistake. However, you can always pick things up when you're headin' home toward the call letters, so a slower production track can work with a faster jingle. Also watch one-half step transitions. Going from C Major to C Sharp Major may be killer, or it may sound like a train wreck.

There are a lot of other ways you can work with your a capellas that are too technical to cover in one short article. But if you give these ideas a try, you can probably end up with a few new shotguns and some fresh promo jingles. Believe it or not, your listeners key in on the music tracks more than you think, and giving some of your current jingles a rest will lift everybody's spirit.

And here's something else to consider: If you were to get a new jingle package, you'll probably have the same singers as last time, singing pretty much the same thing you've got now. Only the beds/styles would be changed to protect the innocent. So, until the GM can pony up some $$$ for a new ID package, this can be an effective interim measure.

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