Posts Tagged ‘time signature’

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.

Like a bridge over oiled water

June 15, 2010 5 comments

I changed the bridge around. The old one was too grating.

The words to the bridge are similar to the old one, but it’s not in double time.

“You said out of sight would be out of mind/ that’s what you led us to believe / but we’ve come to find that what comes in with the tide – it doesn’t wash back out to sea”

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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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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

A few ideas: Overcoming voices & vulnerability

March 20, 2010 2 comments

If there are voices in your head, it's probably best to ignore them. This applies to making art, and pretty much everything else.


A few people gave me a hard time for taking so long between posts last time. I have no excuse, but I am determined to make up for my online absentia.

Yesterday, we finished a series about where ideas come from. The next logical step, I’ve decided, is to share a few raw ideas here. I’m going to try to turn them into songs, and blog about it in the process.

This isn’t particularly easy to do. Posting an unfinished thought, especially when I have no idea what shape a final version might take, is an inherently vulnerable thing. Maybe these two snippets will turn into good songs. Maybe they’ll turn into bad songs. Maybe – and this is the scariest prospect – they won’t turn into anything.

There is usually at least one point in the artistic process (and I imagine the medium matters not) where the act seems a little hopeless. A doubtful voice whispers, ‘This isn’t any good. This isn’t original. This isn’t worth finishing.’ I try to ignore that voice, and I would urge you to do the same. That being said, to release an unfinished thought out into the world seems akin to giving a megaphone to that voice. I don’t know why it seems like that, but it does.

Nevertheless, that is what I am about to do the two musical ideas below. Both are pretty raw. In each case, there are drums and two guitar tracks. The first is a 30-second ditty that is actually a few months old. I stumbled upon it recently while going through some old files. I’d forgotten all about it, and hearing it fresh was an amazing thing. I liked it immediately and wondered why I hadn’t pursued it to the end when I first recorded it. I’m sure what happened is that little voice nagged me until I turned away from it and to something else. In any case, I’m glad to have rediscovered it. Here it is, idea number one. I like the band Cake a lot, and it shows in this snippet of music:

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Idea number two is more recent – just recorded this very morning, in fact. I’ve had a certain Langhorne Slim song in my head for a while now; Diamonds and Gold is a beautiful little tune in 6/8 time. I’ve recorded lots of things in triplet time, 3/4 time mostly. But I’ve never done anything in 6/8. To me, the time signature evokes an old-fashioned, 60s vibe … Earth angel, earth angel, will you be mine?

So I sat down and started composing a few things in 6/8. The one-minute section below sounds rougher than the first snippet above, but it’s actually a much more complete idea. There are two distinct parts, plus an intro progression that gets things going. There’s already a verse/chorus set-up, though I don’t know which part is which, and the intro could be repeated a few times in the song, perhaps as bookends to a bridge? I don’t know yet. That’s where arrangement comes in, but that’s a whole other blog topic. Here’s idea number two:

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I’ll probably end up not using any of the guitar parts above. I want the song to have a different sound. But the progression and basic melody line is what’s important. I’m going to keep working on it, despite or in spite of the little nagging voice in my head. When I’ve made some significant progress, I’ll re-post it. Until then …

Rock on!