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Posts Tagged ‘chorus’

Letters: Simplify, Simply, Simplify

June 21, 2010 5 comments

 

After a few rather complicated (for me) tunes, I decided to do one that I didn’t have to think about and didn’t require a lot of tricky math (going from full speed to 3/4 requires a bit of thinking to program drums, especially if you’re changing time signature as well).

Peace. Bring 'em home.

 

This song’s simple and steady from beginning to end. It’s steady, but I think it has a nice build throughout. It’s a slow burner – I always like those. I dashed the main structure and lyrics off in a few hours yesterday, and went back today for the finishing touches – drum fills, synths, etc. The solo, too – I wish it were better. If anyone out there wants to guest solo, lemme know! We’ll figure out a way to do it.

One further note, this is the second song of this most recent batch that deals with the war(s) and the hardships caused at home. I don’t want to get political here. Suffice to say, I hope the sacrifices we’re making in Iraq and Afghanistan will in the end be worth it. I have my doubts. Meantime, may everyone over there get home safe and soon.

Here is Letters:

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76 miles to an oldie-but-a-goody

June 20, 2010 5 comments

I have a lot of songs about driving.

 

Here’s an oldie-but-a-goody. It’s the second time I’ve recorded this song: 76 Miles (Fife)

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I was thinking about this tune the other day after a friend made a comment about my last song – that it had “two parts that didn’t go together.” She was talking about the bridge, which I re-did. In that case, she was right. The two parts didn’t belong. (See previous posts.)

But sometimes I like songs that jam seemingly incongruous parts together, as this one does. The main part of the song is 4/4 time. But the chorus is in 3/4 time AND at three-quarter speed. It makes for a drastic change – and it makes it tough to record the transition. But the effect is neat.

The song is about the four-hour drive from K-zoo to Petoskey when I used to live up north. There was a place where the divided highway ended around a little town called Fife Lake (shout out!) and there was a highway mileage sign indicating Petoskey was still 76 miles away. Hence – “the end of the highway, but not the end of the road …”

The few folks out there familiar with version one will note a few changes. The first two verses are re-phrased to stretch out over twice as many measures, and are minor lyrical changes. The bridge is entirely different.

Playing with time signature: Rainbows

June 13, 2010 2 comments

Finished another one. I wanted to write something in a non-4/4 (or 3/4) signature. So here is Rainbows. It switches back and forth between 10/4 in the verses and 4/4 in the chorus.

The bridge is … different. I can’t decide if I like it. Here it is. Enjoy!

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Rainbows

The beach is empty. Come on down – you’ll love it.

We can’t swim baby, but we can make the most of it.

We’ll watch them cleanup from the hotel window

There’s no reason to call on ahead …

And I hope you like your summers hot

‘cause down here, love, it’s all we got

I hope you like it humid, too

‘cause it rains every afternoon

The rainbows float and ripple on the surface

Did you think none of us would ever notice?

The wind will tell you who to write checks to

Go ahead and cancel your plans

I hope you like your summers hot

‘cause down here, love, that’s all we got

I hope you like it humid, too

‘cause it rains every afternoon

Out of sight and out of mind … that’s how you said it would be

Until it washes up with the tide

And ends up there on the beach

Will you clean this up or go back to making profit?

Put on a show now before you walk away from it

Dig someplace else – I’m sure we’re gonna let you

After all, we gotta fill up

I hope you like your summers hot

‘cause round here, babe, it’s all we got

I hope you like it humid, too

‘cause it rains every afternoon

I hope you like your summers hot

‘cause right now, doll, here, it’s all we got

I hope you like it humid, too

‘cause it rains every afternoon

Small Cuts: Stacking up layers

 

This guy is amazing. I am not amazing, but it doesn't stop me from trying!

… 

Man, this tune was a struggle from the get-go. Sometimes it’s the seemingly simple ones that are the hardest. That was certainly the case here.

The inspiration for this one was actually a couple of different U2 songs. I’d just watched It Might Get Loud, the guitar documentary that features Jimmy Paige, Jack White and The Edge. If you haven’t seen it already, check it out; it’s not to be missed.

I find The Edge’s guitar playing really inspiring. His playing is extremely efficient. He uses effects to great (cough) effect. Simple ideas, polished to perfection. He makes look and sound really, really easy. It isn’t.

The two U2 songs I was thinking of were So Cruel, from the Achtung Baby record, and All I Want Is You, from Rattle and Hum. Both are simple progressions, primarily built on two chords, with extremely in-depth layers and arrangements.

As a songwriter, it’s tough to hang in there for more than a few bars with only two chords – soon it starts to sound repetitive. The trick keeping it interesting is two-fold. One, your melody over the foundational chord changes has to be catchy and varied. That’s true in every tune, but it’s especially true over extremely simple changes. Second, you’ve got to dress your simple progression in some snazzy, complimentary layers. Edge makes that seem easy. If only it were so …

I have no idea how many tracks were used to record All I Want Is You. Probably a lot more 28, which is how many total tracks my song has. Not all of those tracks are on at once of course, but in some places there are as many as 15 or 16 tracks going simultaneously, include 7 or 8 guitar parts.

Keeping track of all of those tracks is a logistical challenge. It’s tough on the processor, too. The computer kept bogging down when I was trying to record the vocal (generally the last thing), which has never happened before.

Those difficulties aside, the hardest part about having that many guitars is just … well … having that many guitars. There’s a reason most bands don’t have more than two or three guitars on stage at once; things get muddy really quickly. When you start stacking stuff on a simple riff, parts that sound great on their own sound terrible together. It’s easy to get swamped in the sound, or to wander so far into the sonic landscape you’re building that you lose sight of the way out …

I nearly didn’t get out of this tune – at least not out of the finished side. I was ready to throw in the towel after spending several fruitless hours only to come back the next day and realize some of what I had was okay. Pretty good, in fact. Like any journey, once I was past the mid-point and saw the way out, it got easier.

It’s called Small Cuts. I’m happy with it, which is good considering the amount of time involved. Here it is:

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You can also watch a video of me singing an early demo of the vocal on my FB page. It’s five minutes of your life you won’t get back. : )

Small Cuts demo vid

One last word about the bridge – I really like it. I wanted it to have a spontaneous, unexpected feel. Because the rest of the song is so simple (read “predictable”), I thought it was important to break the middle up, lest a listener become complacent. In addition to changing up the chord progression rather suddenly, I did a solo which I only loosely mapped out, in terms of the notes. Then, I didn’t practice it at all. I just hit record and played. The take in the song is take number two – the fasted solo I’ve ever done. I think it sounds pretty good (keep in mind that I can’t really play guitar that well!)

Lyrics below:

Small Cuts

You’re too far gone

You gave up too many chances, to the point of fault

All that’s left is to blame – Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

We circle endlessly

We make small cuts

We find bitter pleasure in our lack of trust

But sooner or later there’s one of us

That’s gonna go too far and cut too deep

chorus: You know when you’re gone

I’ll be here holdin’ on

Through the night

At the dawn

To watch you stray

You kneel on the floor

You make the sign of the cross before going to war

But the only thing of which I’m really sure of

Is that He ain’t gonna take your side

There’ll be no surrender

No white flag to raise, just stupid pride to defend

We fill in the trenches just to dig ‘em up again

We’re running out of places to hide

(chorus)

I may miss you now

But I got the common sense it takes to keep my head down

Maybe climb in a foxhole deep underground

And wait ‘til the coast is clear

And I might get lost

But this time I won’t follow you girl, whatever the cost

Who was it called it over? – Yeah, you always were the boss

So go find yourself a new volunteer

(chorus x2)

A Few Ideas, Pt. 4: Scrap it, start over

March 28, 2010 1 comment

Sometimes you've got throw something away and start a new draft.

 

Sometimes, you just have to scrap it and start over.

That’s what I did this morning. I fiddled with the new song in its former version on-and-off all week long and most of Saturday. But it wasn’t going anywhere. In the meantime, I got the idea to rearrange the verse chord progression to make it less monotonous. If you’re going to go that far, you might as well start from scratch.

The demo below isn’t done, but I already like it much it better than any of the previous iterations. I sped it up noticeably and did some drastic rearranging. The old bridge section is gone, replaced with a solo over an extra verse section. The chorus is the same progression as before, but I play each chord for twice as many counts, so it’s stretched out. I like it. It gives it a real power ballad feel!

I came up with a subject matter, too. Finally. The song is definitely going to be about the stupefying of society-at-large by mindless popular culture. I’m not done with words, especially in the chorus. But one line that’s sure to stay (mature language warning!):

Turn on TV and there’s nothing to see but fake tits and ass

Put ‘em on prime time and give ‘em some wine

Watch ‘em fight for cash.

Here it is:

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This took me from 10 a.m. until about 5:30 p.m. today. In addition to finishing the words and vocals, the drums need some work. Some of the guitars will be re-recorded (or maybe just additional guitars added) for a fuller sound, too, I think. And of course there’s more mixing to do. The next upload should be the finished version.

Rock on!

C

A Few Ideas, Pt. 3: Painfully slow progress

March 22, 2010 4 comments

 

Get an Apple. Rock out in your bedroom.

 

Still working on my new little tune. As promised, I’ve been diligent about saving different versions so I track and share my progress. This song has been a little slower in coming that most. Don’t know for sure, but I may be unconsciously trying too hard, knowing that the process is going to be immortalized on the World Wide InterWeb. But who am I kidding? Nobody reads this blog anyway!

Since I last checked in, I’ve started to think more about structure and arrangement – where the verses go, where the chorus goes, the bridge and transitions, etc. I wrote a few different lyrics, mostly to have something to sing at first. I only wrote enough for one verse, which I sing twice; you can tell I didn’t bother memorizing it very well on the second run-through. By the end, and particularly in the bridge section, I am just making up sounds as I go.

(I you missed my previous blog about vowel sounds and nonsense lyrics).

I’ve also started layering and adding flourishes to different sections, building character and distinguishing the different parts. There is still much to add, including a bass part and probably some subtle synths. I usually do those parts last, right before the final mix. After the bridge section will be one more half verse and full chorus. At least, that is the current plan.

If anyone’s curious, there are currently 16 distinct instrument tracks in this version. That will probably grow to 20 or 25 by the time the process is done. They aren’t all playing at once, of course. The fullest section, near the beginning of the second verse, has six or so tracks playing simultaneously, including four guitar parts.

Enjoy the latest version:

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More updates as they happen. Until then, rock on!

C