music

Music for a Tuesday

So I've got a little bit of downtime between the end of my contract at IRT and the start of the next chapter in my life (more on that soon...), so here I present, on a Tuesday, a song I recorded on Monday, in the style of The Sundays:

If you don't know the original version, you should go listen to it. It's a beautiful song. I've been practicing acoustic guitar finger picking for a while now, in an attempt to get better, and this is one of the songs I practice. One day, I was having a case of FAT FINGERS while practicing, and so I decided to switch up the style of the song, so it could be strummed. Anyway, I kinda liked it, so yesterday morning I whipped up this track in Logic Pro X. I mastered it this morning, and here it is. Enjoy.

New content!

Hey folks! Just wanted to draw your attention to a new space I've created on this site - called "MUSIC & DESIGN" - which is a place for me to share some of the things I've worked on. Squarespace, my elegant and gracious web creation and hosting platform, has a template for a "music album," so I'm trying it out as a format for sampling my work. Unfortunately, I haven't yet figured out how to display all the metadata that I've so lovingly typed into each track, but I'll keep you updated if/when I do. In the meantime, check it out!

The Development of a Song, Part III

Previously, part one and part two.

Welcome back!

When I last left you, I was contemplating lead guitar solos. I'm happy to inform you that my bumbling, rusty, slow and out-of-practice fingers have finally led me to something I'm willing to make public, as rough as it is.  This is where the loop recording and quick-comping (the process of piecing together a complete recording from little bits is known as "comping") features of Logic Pro come in really handy: I select a section of the song and put Logic into loop recording mode, which allows me to record the same section over and over, and Logic creates a list of takes, from which I can quickly assemble my favorite parts. Here is a small section of the guitar solo which I had comped together to give you an idea:

Three takes, used to 'comp' together a coherent solo take - click to enlarge

As you can see, I've used bits and pieces from these takes to assemble one large piece. If you listened to each take as a whole, you would hear they are all pretty different, and full of wrong notes, pauses, and general mayhem as I'm exploring the notes and phrases I like.

So, after I have that pieced together, I work on it some more, simply trying to get the notes into my fingers, find the transitions from phrase to phrase, and I re-record the whole thing, and you get this:

For the 1,000 ft view, here's what the session looks like overall in Logic:

Start Believin' Logic Pro Session - click to enlarge

If you click to image to see the full-size version, you'll see that there are actually very few comped sections now (they give themselves away by little vertical black lines in the track). I've re-recorded both rhythm guitar parts from beginning to end (to correct some timing and tuning issues), and only punched into a couple spots where I made a boo-boo.

So... what now? Well, the logical next steps are:

  1. Real Drums
  2. Lyrics/Vocals
  3. Cowbell
  4. More cowbell
  5. PROFIT!

Stay tuned...

Oh, hey, I almost forgot! Here's another little bonus track, as a little sonic treat for you loyal readers/listeners! This one's an oldie (it's so 20th century!) that keeps hanging around the back of my brain. I worked a bit on it recently, and this is the result. It's another work in progress, but here ya go:

The Development of a Song, Part II

If you're just joining us, part one is here.

Okay, folks, time to get you up to speed on what I've been doing the last couple days.  When I left you, I had recorded 2 guitar parts and had fleshed out the structure of the song: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus-chorus-chorus-end.

Simple.

Okay. I had some busy days at work, so I had some time off from the song, then I had some time to think about it, listen to it in the car, in headphones, on the laptop... Then, yesterday I got some time on my own to work with the song some more (I've got two young kids - this happens rarely!).  So, last night I added a bass guitar part and a simple rock organ part to flesh out the chords and harmonies a little bit, and expand the sonic palette a little bit, if you will.  Also, I got the copyright issues resolved with Soundcloud, so I'm going to test out their widget on this post:

You may notice that I've skipped a version number. I'm jumping ahead because one version was adding the bass and the organ, and one was re-recording the rhythm guitar part to correct some wonky timing issues I had from laying down the initial chord progression. You can visit my SoundCloud page to hear the intermediary. When I get an idea like this and I want to capture it right away, I usually just fire up Logic and start recording, just to preserve that burst of inspiration. Usually, that means just playing along with a click track. Admittedly, that's not an ideal circumstance for me - I tend to settle into a groove much easier with, at the very least, a drum track or second guitar track playing. So, I tend to go back and re-record parts once I have more elements of the song in place, because I can get more comfortable, and more accurate, with my playing.

Next up, I've begun work on a lead guitar part that helps build the bridge and leads into a solo for the verse section immediately following the bridge section. I'm still working on the overall shape of the solo, and of course polishing it all up so I sound competent. Stay tuned!

HEY! FREE BONUS!

Here's another song I've been working on for the past few months, with the working title "Transitions 2." It features a killer guitar solo by my friend and co-worker Doug Kern, who can do things with a guitar I simply cannot.

The Development of a Song, Part 1

This should be the first post in a series, I hope. I guess it depends on how far I take this song here that I've written.

I've been listening to the 5by5.tv podcast Amplified with Dan Benjamin and Jim Dalrymple, in which they discuss the various Apple-centric tech issues of the day/week, but also, they reserve a bit of time at the end of the show for talking about music, music tech (especially as it relates to Apple/Mac), guitars, etc... Jim is a guitar player, like myself, and he answers a lot of questions aimed at people getting into guitar playing and home recording for the first time. I was sort of hoping that I could do a little bit of that myself, as it relates to songwriting, recording, and building a new song from the ground up. This will be me-centric, as I can't really tell you how other people work. This is just how I usually do it.  On with the show...

So, I was noodling around on my guitar about a week ago, playing some chords, various progressions and changes, when I sort of stumbled onto the progression for "Don't Stop Believing," the 80's-riffic Journey anthem. When you get right down to it, it's a pretty simple, standard chord progression:

E, B, C#m, A, E, B, G#m, A

That's pretty much all there is to it. Add in a sweet guitar solo and Steve Perry's vocals, and you've got a rock anthem. And, as the saying goes, "good artists borrow, great artists steal." I took that chord progression, cut it in half, made the second half the verse pattern, and the first half the chorus pattern:

Verse: E, B, G#m, A

Chorus: E, B, C#m, A, B (I added that last B chord as a transition back to E)

I fired up Logic Pro (my personal choice for songwriting), laid down a rhythm guitar part with a basic drum loop, and voila!

FYI, the B chord is played a little differently rather than a straight barre chord. Here's the tab for what I'm playing (ignore the chord name on the C#m in the chorus - it's a C#m with a G# in the bass, Logic's tab features are cool, but weird):

Verse chords

Chorus chords

I sat with that, just like it was for a day or two, and when I had a chance, I came back to the song and added a second guitar part to compliment the first. The 2nd guitar plays the same chord shapes, just a complimentary rhythm in the verse, and doubling the chorus, adding some power and depth.

Then, a few days later, I was playing through the progression I had recorded, and decided I wanted to take the song somewhere slightly different, so I added a bridge section. This took some noodling around with chords, and I will admit, I think there's some Rick Springfield in there, and I definitely ripped off The Hungry Things "Jaime" part on the descending chords that take us from the E back to the A:

Bridge - first 4 bars

Bridge - 2nd 4 bars

The 3rd 4 bars of the bridge is the same as the 1st four, then the last 4 bars is A, B, E, A C#m, B, A, B.

The last thing I did yesterday afternoon was repeat a couple choruses at the end of the song, leaving room for a possible guitar solo or something, and added an actual ending, as opposed to a fade out:

Notice the click track that keeps going at the end... oops. By the way, I wanted to post these audio files on SoundCloud, since they have the cool widget for embedding audio, but they issued an automatic copyright takedown on the very first file that I posted, the seed version of the song, so I'm immediately kinda soured on the whole thing. If anyone thinks it's worth keeping up with SoundCloud, let me know in the comments.

So, in the next installment, I'd like to get the bass guitar in, possibly some keyboards, and start working on lyrics/vocals. Anyone have any lyrical ideas?

NPR's SXSW "Austin 100"

So, South by Southwest's 2013 version is going on March 8-17th, and as usual it's a treasure-trove of music and media. Lots of cool things going on. Also as usual, I won't be there, because work, life, money, and distance prevent me.  The cool thing about what NPR has put together is a hand-picked, 100 songs by 100 artists, six-and-a-half hour playlist from the bands of this year's SXSW music festival.

Even cooler is, it's free. For the next 30 days, you can download a .zip file from NPR's website. (Click the title of this post to take you straight there.)

Obviously, most people won't like everything in the list, but there's a really good chance you might find a handful or two of solid tracks, and maybe some jewels. The hope, then, is that you enjoy something enough to seek out and purchase some tracks or full albums from the ones you like best.  I'm gonna check it out.

Walt Mink "Fragile" video

Full disclosure: As I type this I'm listening to Walt Mink's 1992 album "Miss Happiness".

Every now and then, I'll do a cursory Google search for Walt Mink, just in case my favorite band from my late-high school and college years pops up with a reunion show, or the long-rumored documentary on the star-crossed band gets released...

Today, though, I did find a little nugget that made me really happy - a video on Vimeo that is, supposedly, an excerpt from the previously mentioned documentary. According to a little more research, it's from a July 2011 reunion show in Brooklyn, and it's brilliant. I'll just let the video do the rest:


Updated: Found the date for the video, and added some further reading links in the text.