We’re quickly coming on the end of summer.
If the trees are any indication, we’ve already hit fall. If you’re a student, summer has ended as school is back in session. Which means you’re summer romance, the fling of your life has also recently dissipated or is about to dissolve into the ether.
Enter my new single “Till We Meet Again“, a candid song about those loves we’ve had in life that we hope to rekindle somewhere down the road.
The journey of this song is one of several start and stops and finally a go.
Originally the intent was to write an upbeat tune for a TV show and for a library. I pulled in a bass player friend of mine to co-write it with me. However, there was a bit of miscommunication and he got miffed about the situation, which ended the direction of the song as I had envisioned.
Next I approached another bass player friend of mine, Jesse Stern, and we started working on the music. As a direction it was still to be a library track, however as we got going with it, lyrics started pouring out. He was going thru some dark stuff and was spitting out darker lyrics. Musically as it was speaking to me it had to be a bit more positive, maybe a little more longing. Suddenly we got a song that embraced all of that along with the sounds we were laying down.
During the process of the demo we got to a section of the song and were discussing how to change one bar for it’s time signature. We spent a good deal of time trying to work out if we’d stick to the song’s common time signature (which happens to be 4/4), or go with either 7/4, 6/4, or 5/4.
Multiple different drum fills were tried out. It was a songwriter’s producing exploration into the wild blue yonder until we finally settled on one particular fill in 5/4 that provided such a sly feel to the section of the song that it was as natural as an organic ripe tomato.
Tracking the occurred in several studios. Namely mine for the acoustic guitars, synths, additional background vocals and drum programming. Yes, those are programmed drums. Jesse’s studio was were the bass was tracked and some additional synths as well. Finally the vocals were tracked at George Leger’s studio (Utopia Parkway Music) when it was located in Los Angeles.
One moment during tracking stands out to me. At one point George turned around in his producer’s chair to show me his arms. The hair was standing straight up. He says to me, while Jesse is sitting there:
“This is your Purple Rain. You’re giving me goosebumps.”
Chances are you don’t know George. He is a massive Prince fan. So much so, that he once took me to see Prince perform when I was down in the dumps going thru some tough shit in life. It was a shining moment. I digress. George was so taken aback by the vocal we were laying down and the quality of the song that he felt it would be my equivalent to Purple Rain. My reaction was “I sure hope you’re right.” Damn right, I’d love to have a song be as popular as Purple Rain. Hell, even half as popular would be ideal.
Another memorable moment came when George first noticed the bar of 5/4. He asked who the drummer was that recorded the part and who came up with the fill, he thought it was amazing. When I responded with, I programmed it, he thought I did a hell of a job. Very few people notice because of how natural it feels, it doesn’t feel like a bar of 5/4. This prompted a discussion between myself, George and Jesse, mainly because it was George who originally gave me the idea of adding an odd measure in a song.
After getting all the vocals tracked, George and Jesse also sang some backgrounds. Once back in my studio, I felt I needed some additional voices for the backgrounds, so I enlisted the help of Val and Julia to sing some more parts.
George and I tackled the mix and eventually George did the mastering (as he’s also a fantastic mastering engineer as well).
Now it’s finally been released and is ready for your listening pleasure. I hope it gives you goosebumps like it did for George. Cause that would mean you’d tell others they need to hear and playlist it, like you will.
More music coming soon.
Ah the behind the scenes part of playing music live that most people never think about – rehearsing
I’ve been putting together a new group of people to start playing out live more. Having done a ton of music for film, TV, and now even a theme song for a TV show (more on this to come in the next few weeks). Plus, I’ve created a special MIDI controller (HIVE) for playing live. Whether it be for a solo acoustic show or a full band type of show.
See, I’m now running a computer for all my guitar sounds. No more heavy amps. No more multiple speakers. No more worrying about the mic placement and hoping the sound guy is able to get a good sound. Maybe that last part is still prone to issues if the sound guy isn’t any good. Consistency is now the name of the game. Once I get the setup for a song, it remains the same time after time. Mind you I can still tweak and do things. But if I’m out on tour and wondering if its going to sound correct to the audience, I know I’m providing a consistent feed to the PA.
The first show for this new rig is happening October 16th at Brewskis in Ogden UT. Lucky devils get to experience the future of guitar players.
One thing I’ve come to enjoy is the process of getting a group of people together to play music. Its a time to hash out how to perform the music in a way that makes sense at the time its being played. Plus it gives me time to work the kinks out of the entirely new guitar rig I’ve gotEach song now has it’s own sound. Sometimes its directly related to the sound on the recording. Some of them however go into different territory sonically. Setting up each sound varies in time. Meaning some sounds took no more than an hour. However, the more complex ones can take several hours of tweaking.
In the first rehearsal, all the sounds were there, but I hadn’t really gone thru them to find out how loud they were in relation to each other from song to song. Thus I had to make notes and spend another couple of hours after rehearsing to fix songs that had sounds that were either too loud, or too soft.
The second rehearsal went much better, the rest of the band knew their parts better. My guitar sounds were way more consistent from a volume standpoint. Though there were still a couple of tweaks that needed to be made from an EQ standpoint. Due to the way I’m now creating sounds, I use no outboard/plugin EQ. Its not needed. But one song, which sounded great in my studio didn’t sound so awesome with the rest of the band in a PA. It needed thinning out. Pull up the amps and tweak their EQs. Problem solved.
The owner of the rehearsal studio sat in with us, listening, taking pictures and occasionally adjusting sound. Actually he didn’t really do much of that after we got the levels set at the start. BTW – the photos in the post are all from him, Dave at Razman-Studio. After rehearsing we chatted a bit. He had some initial reservations about a computer being able to put out great guitar sounds. From the pictures you can understand why: he’s got tons of amps sitting around waiting to be used. Then he said something interesting. He stated, I am now a believer.
You will be one too! See you on the road soon.
Developing A Midi Foot Controller
In an effort to create a better live performance experience, I’m developing a midi foot controller. One that is more simple and more advanced than any other I’ve researched on the market.
Why? Well, I caught a glimpse of Ed Sheeran playing live and found that his rig is a customized device that is fairly large. Initially I went looking for ones on the market that I could twist to my will. The common problem is they’re generally too simple or way too complex. None of them actually show you the computer’s screen that you’re connected to. Most are made of thin materials and plastic, meaning they’re not super durable.
I had an old midi controller for a traditional guitar rig that I have of normal hardware like an amp, power amp, effects racks, etc. I connected it up to the computer to see if it would communicate correctly with the software I’m going to be using in a laptop. What I discovered was disappointing. It could do a few things, but not everything, despite being a very advanced midi controller. Oh well.
A couple of months ago I started sketching (using Paper by FiftyThree) on my iPad for a pedal board that would do what I wanted it to do.
Then I picked up a 20″ x 30″ piece of foam board. I started poking holes and tracing things out to make a bit more sense. My next sketch became this:
I mentioned my endeavor to a buddy of mine at lunch and how I was looking to find a fabricator that could make the casing. That sent me on a long journey. I learned about metals and how they get cut and/or welded. The original company I went to sent me on an excursion. First I needed a version of my design in a file format I had never heard of, dxf. Then he could give me an estimate. I called my sister and asked if she had heard of that format because she’s an architect. Sure enough she had and asked me to send her my drawings. A week and a couple of lengthy screenshare sessions later – she sent a dxf of the design that was improved upon initial vision.
I went back to the builders to get an estimate. Then he sent me on another journey to ask about powder coating. I ended up talking to about 8 different manufacturers. None of whom could do the case from front to back. Everyone had one thing they did and charged a lot for. So I went back to the first company and said: Let’s go with it. They responded, sorry – our cutter won’t do aluminum because it screws up their machines. I wanted aluminum because it would be strong a light.
Another round of hunting and I found a company that could do it from start to finish. And to make things even cooler, the guy rendered my case into a 3rd model.
And gave me a much better quote than all the previous people, by a long shot. Then came more questions and in the process of talking about it, he had additional ideas to help improve the design of my foot controller from a builders/welders standpoint. To which my sister agreed. The next rendition was:
At this point I was ready to say – let’s do this.
Story of the foot controller will continue in the next block post.
Gandolf the White has struck! Apparently the Weather Channel decided to start naming winter snow storms. The humor is, this one hasn’t been all that insane and yet it has a name, Gandolf. I didn’t even get to see the start of the snowing as I was holed up in the den working so I could write this: the fourteenth song finalized is “Things We Left Unsaid”. That’s right, another song into the fire from the frying pan.
This song is one of those songs that underwent a rather strong amount of changes, comparatively speaking. It got a major facelift on the lyrics so that the words were more focused. Especially the Verses. The tone of it changed from a protagonist and antagonist switch in the Verses to simply a one point of view – that really helped the focus. The Pre Chorus then got a rewrite to make that transition work going into the slightly tweaked Chorus. Mostly because the Chorus had to reflect the change coming from the verse. The other change in the Chorus came from a slight rewrite of the title. Coming from “Things Left Unsaid” going to “Things We Left Unsaid”.
Musically speaking, I decided to down-step the song a full two semitones. What brought this part of the rewrite? Well… The Verses stayed the same melodically. The Pre Chorus stayed nearly the same, there was a slight adjustment to the melody and rhythm based on the new words and wanted a better swing into the Chorus. The Chorus ended up getting an entire facelift melodically. The main reason for it was two fold. One, I wanted a way for it to stand out more from the Verses. The original version had some interesting lines but they didn’t stand too far apart from the Verses rhythmically. Now, the melody is fashioned to have a much much stronger hook. Not only rhythmically but also melodically. This is where the key change had to happen for the song. Where I took the Chorus melodically was becoming a tad to straining to sound powerful in a full voice fashion. Thus stepping the song down two semitones put it back into a range that gives the Chorus full power.
The added bonus of bringing the key down of the song is that now the guitar parts sound beefier! That helps the vibe of the groove too. I can’t explain why, but it feels way better now. Thus the fact that people liked it enough before to vote the song into the final round, now it’s become a real contender to make the final cut and be a bonafide hit.
I’m much happier with the overall state of the song. Arrangement-wise the song a way more traditional in it’s situation. However, I think once in the studio it will get a little extra window dressing. Though that comes down to how it’s reflecting once it’s finally re-recorded.
To close out for this update, I’d like to happily send you on a merry way – hopefully you’ll be one of the people to enjoy the snow, especially if you’re headed to Sundance! Until the next update (coming soon) be in-the-know that the fourteenth song to get finalized is “Things We Left Unsaid”.
Monday will mark my first journey to an event known as the Game Developers Conference. As a musician making his way in the world, I’ve had an agent for video game work for a little over a year. That has led me to work on several games so far. A wonderful experience. The best way to expand on that network for spreading the music is to go where the business is. Which means I’m going to gdc sf (GDC SF) for the 2012 experience. I can’t wait to find out what I’ll learn and who I’ll meet.
Already a contact from my NAMM journey earlier this year, I’ve been granted a pass to attend the San Francisco event. Gotta love that. I can sense that it will be a fantastic relationship with a new company. That makes it more exciting already. Knowing that someone is going to be there that I can be introduced to others via. The bigger bonus is one of my reps from SESAC will be there for a few days. Then my agent will be there too. Lots of people to meet. Lots of new relationships to make.
Two days ago, I was put in touch with another composer out of Salt Lake City, or rather south of there. He’s also working on heading there. Because of that contact, with him (Brady Ellis), I’ve already been hired to work on one of his projects as a guitar player. Good things are afoot even before the event happens. I’ll be playing guitar on nine tracks for Brady.
I have other music projects I’m putting some finishing touches on. I’ll have to announce them in some different posts as it’s probably not wise to cross my new wires too much in single posts.
The last bonus is that I’ll get to hang with my sister a little bit during the week. She lives not far from San Francisco. Additionally I’m going to reach out to another recent NAMM contact who works for Sound On Sound.
It’ll be a fun filled week of games, games, games, and more games. Plus, and I’ve witnessed this as well, I’ve heard that game developers party hard. There’s no doubt some late nights are ahead. More to come in a little over a week when I get back.
In the meantime. Spend some time listening to my music <- click there. If you’re going to gdc sf (GDC SF), contact me and lets meet up.