Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time Passes Eventfully

It has been a long time without adding to this writing.  As is true for me, interest is fleeting, comes and goes, and so I have allowed writing here to slip into the distance.  This time period without writing here has brought with it a vast amount of personal change, some with issues beyond the subject of this blog, but most of them are in the realm of being a musician.

It was spring the last time I wrote here, now it is equally as deep into the fall.  One day in late April or early May (can't remember) a very subtle yet remarkable event happened.  The telephone rang one afternoon, a friend on the other end asked me to dinner at their home.  I took the offer, drove to town and enjoyed a very nice meal (again).  Following dinner they invited me to go out to see a young musician friend of theirs who was performing his very first professional gig.  Why not give something new a try is what I thought.  So away we went.  The venue was very small and quaint.  That is how I met Trevor Miller.

I was strongly impressed with the original music these guys were playing.  I had not heard anything prior which had struck my musical consciousness well except maybe Led Zeppelin back in the day.  I was much more impressionable then and the music of that time period was all so new, bright and seemingly inspirational while still young.  I can't actually know consciously what I heard that seemed to me so striking.   The following day I remained impressed with what I had heard that previous night.  I decided that I wanted to provide this young person (Trevor) some moral support in the least and compliment him on what I had heard, because I thought the lyrics were extremely strong and mature creating complete tunes of stature.  Furthermore, I believed it was all very well done.  I called my friend asking if he could pass along a contact number so I would be able to talk to this young man. 

All compliments aside, having stated such, Trevor told me that his musical group had performed their last gig.  The guitar player quit and the drummer was leaving town to attend classes far away.  It looked like an opportunity to me and thus I offered to at least play with him to feel it out as to compatibility.  A couple days later we met at his home and the rest is history.  We have been playing a lot since then, playing gigs together as a duet, and practicing heavily.  It is a lot of work to create original music.  We haven't heard any of it on the radio or elsewhere, thus it is created in and with its own structure.  Now 6 months later we have mastered nearly 30 original songs and are embarking into the recording process.

The web page is up now Tea & Eye We have only one show scheduled for the future but we have so much work to do in recording that we will stay busy through the coming winter with that alone.  Then there is song writing for new material, etc. etc..  It is truly an exciting time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It has been quite some time since I wrote here. Mostly I have not found the energy to do so after something happened in my musical space.

I have been trying to practice more regularly, with some success. The past many years I have not played or practiced enough to retain the edge that degree of competence desired. Even so I fight with having the inspiration to continue at times, though this is fading gradually as I persist in pushing ever on. My memory is gaining again, finding the old lost synapses is gradually taking hold. Practicing daily really helps with the whole musical thing.

I have been trying to develop a method that may better allow progress in the recording process. The problem I believe is one centered in/on, cumulative regular practice. I had sort of considered that lack of practice in regards to particular tunes, with their specific riffs contributes to the problems I experience in attempting to record good clean inspired tracks. In fact I know it to be true. In order to combat this, I developed a list of the six songs I am involved in recording at this time, although; there are many more than six I wish to complete recordings of. I have for the past month tried to play those six tunes every time I practice, and actually work on the weak spots, becoming more proficient at playing each of the parts. This may be helping. But even in that process the nasty "burn out" issue is showing up. So a couple of nights ago I took a detour from the list and all of my other contrived methods. I even gave way and played a raft of cover songs, old favorites, left behind over time. It was productive in a way, or so I think. Last night then I just played for a few hours, no lists, no contrived method or routine. I simply played what came to mind of my original works, with some cover tunes thrown in here and there. It was a very good session, though no recording or attempts to do so came into the picture.

Today I will try again, though my fingers are a bit sensitive (evidence of lacking practice). Though it is expected when there is an increased amount of time playing the strings. The callous is getting deep again, although; at this point I retain a string groove on one finger. I am not of a mind at this time to attempt to record anything as I feel there is more need to simply practice, regaining that in-touch relationship (mental) with the instrument.

Another bit of interest is a new song, March 22. I called it “Why Do I Listen To The Wind” a song sort of about politics, though maybe not. I made a rough draft recording of it immediately after writing it out, since it came up as a complete song. I then wrote a midi bass track for it. It may be one of those good songs in the collection. Personally I find it difficult to place very much of a definitive judgment on my own songs, especially when they are new.

The other thing is attempting to play in public more. I am trying to line up some gigs for the summer. I found one and may get more although that is a part of being a musician that I don't really want to know how to accomplish. I guess a manager would be good.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Still In The Madness

Again I worked on New Years Madness. I was able to finish up the piano part in midi and it took quite a while being that the ending is rather complex and with places of syncopation. I will have to go through it again, making sure it is actually right, but I need to remove myself from that after the hours spent working at it today. I have yet to fix and again alter the tempo transition. That change goes from 120 to 230 BPM or nearly doubling the tempo. I am unclear right now of how to best incorporate that transition using the midi structure that actually holds the tempo, in a way that allow for a smooth duplication with instrument and vocal recordings. I do know that making the shift in tempo from existing will cause those analog recordings to fall out of sync when the new tempo change begins. I won't attempt to keep the existing part that will remain correct for a preference to make it all anew and hopefully better.

I also went through the mid piece lead guitar parts as practice, to keep it fresh for when the time comes to record it correctly. I may get to that tomorrow, or then still I might move on to a different song for a day or three in order to keep myself from burn out. I have found that burn out due to the repetition in this process is a big factor of why I am so slow to finish anything. It is because I have never kept a schedule that rotates the music from time to time or regularly. I've always simply stayed on one song with the hope that I would reach completion, though only a couple of them have actually made it to their end, completed in these past ten or fifteen years. I have to remedy that. Hopefully working with this list can solve this issue, leading to a bunch of finished works by years end.

Time has come today and so forward we go creating more with the memory of this song burned in my mind.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Back to Madness

It has been a few weeks since I wrote. Music has been rather low on the list of priority, but, thankfully that is changing again. This week I have practiced some, and as well, I have done some recording. It seems that I am finding it a problem to remember or to find the will to write of the progress immediately after. Today is different. I wrote it out, three well made paragraphs, then the computer failed in the save function disappearing the document, unsaved, hate it when that happens. Now a couple hours, dinner and a movie later, I attempt to re-write or otherwise write something similar. I am using a different word processor this time.

I had left the song New Years Madness to lose its priority after another New Years came and went, yet again. Last night during my practice session I decided to make a list of songs to finish, seven of them. The list has the song titles followed by the existing tracks and their quality (good, rough, finished, needs editing, etc) to work from. Today I had the urge to work on New Years Madness again. As a motivation, last night I had a thought about the structure of this song. It has a one beat followed by its counter part on the three followed by what I would call a four plus ( with it being at four point five, or the eighth after the four (in 4/4 time). I have been hearing this in my head for years and attempted to record it using different guitars or differing electronic effects between the one and that counterpart, though it never sounded right. Last night was an epiphany, use the piano! I tried it, though my piano playing is still very elementary, and it came out sounding pretty good after a good while practicing. I decided to record it as a rough draft track. Having done that with very limited success and a lot of errors, I decided to write it out in midi by following what I had developed on the piano. I spent many hours there after writing out the score. I ran out of steam before completing it, though there is but thirty seconds to a minute remaining to complete.

It sounds pretty good, progress is being made. I believe that I am going to have to alter the tempo more, going through that transition that brings the tempo up from 120 BPM to something like 200 BPM (I can't remember the final tempo in the moment). If I do decide to alter the tempo, that choice in turn voids the three guitar tracks and the vocal track, leaving them forced to be re-recorded. I may do that before I am done as its sound is still off (to my ear) through that transition.

Progress is happening again, it is good to be back!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Two In A Row

Something new has brought some inspiration, as does watching concert videos. Tonight's was leftovers from last night's session and with the new song along with just wishing to get back with the music. Having consecutive days without playing, allows one to lose touch with both the music and the instrument.

This night's practice and recording session was rather spontaneous, though as I shifted out of past activity, I made a conscious thought to revisit the old song Birdie. The darn song just wore me out. For some reason my left hand was feeling weak, though I am sure I understand and would rather not say. The song is long and all bar chords. Having not played for a while tells me I am simply out of shape. The muscles, that is. I had a hope to record the rhythm guitar track though two times through, along with some interpretation errors, I was unable to record any of it. My arm screamed stop. But rather than stop, I moved on to a different tune.

Since the new piece of last night is simple and easy to play I thought I could practice it some in the least. I had thought of this a couple times during the day, being unable to recall the melody of this piece. As soon as the song was loaded in the computer, and heard the first notes, the flood of memory snapped back into place. I was able to record a pretty solid rhythm Guitar track after a couple reviews through the piece. It does have some changes but they are naturally occurring. Then I went on to further refine the lead Guitar part. I again attempted a couple of times to record solid lead tracks though unsuccessfully. I was able to get some errors recorded.

In any case, that was the evening at work with the music. I was able to accomplish a better lead Guitar melody sequence. I believe it is rich in its theme though I need more practice to gain the emotion the piece deserves. The finger picking is getting easier also. I find it hard to believe that just a bit over a year ago I let go the pick. It has been a rather smooth transition for me in ways. Although I believe that these last two nights has caused a blister on my middle finger, something I have never experienced before. Then, Play On.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another New Piece

I did not actually think of writing into the blog until I was in bed last night, to late to capture the moment, as is the intended desire for writing this. But in any case I did a bit of musical creation last night. I was, as nearly always after watching some sort of musical programming, inspired to play. I had just finished watching the movie, A Prairie Home Companion, an amusing construct, typical of the GK tradition. And immediately after turning off the video screen's power source, I opened my guitar case and for some very odd reason sat on my couch, which doesn't actually lend to playing the guitar very well.

I quickly found myself involved in something new, imagined. As these things usually seem, it was like something given to me, yet there is no giver and the melody felt complete. It was a lead riff, bluesy, later discovered to be in the key of C. I went through its progression several times, there, on the couch, where this melody must have been waiting me to find it. In any case, I realized this was something worthy to capture for all time, and thus I got up, guitar in hand, carefully carrying it across the room by its neck, with the weight yielding to gravities pull, I guided it into the guitar stand for reliece. I quickly then went about preparing the recording equipment, as nothing was turned on. I fired up the computer, its monitor, moved the microphones on stands, into an appropriate position, then went to the PA system, turned it on and adjusted the volumes to isolate the Shure SM-57 for recording the guitar. The old computer takes a long time to boot up so I had ample time to sit this time in the armless swivel chair and go through this melody again, keeping it ripe in my mind for what I wanted to become a captured musical thought. At this very moment, as I write this, the following morning, I can not recall the structure or even the melody of that tune, but I did successfully capture it. That is why I find it so gleeful to have the capability to record music, since my mind is one of holes, where memory takes time to capture the seemingly fleeting melodies that float around in there.

Having prepared the computer and other hardware for input, I first recorded a rough draft of the lead guitar melody I had found. Its durration was 2:20 something. I replayed it and discovered an appropriate metronome cadence (96 BPM) then with the metronome to hold the beat steady I recorded a separate track of rhythm guitar beside the melody. Both were rough, having not really played my guitar for a couple of weeks due to some other struggles in living. Yet with this I then over wrote the original draft of the melody, somewhat bringing it into a better state having the beat consistently delivered in the headphone. I was then somewhat satisfied with this result as a very rough draft that captured the essence of this piece. I wanted to then construct a Bass line that could further round out the piece. Back to the controls and the computer I went. The Bass line has to be constructed of MIDI having no Bass in my house. I chose an acoustic Double Bass because I prefer its tone and ability to reach for the bottom. All in all I think they possess a better sound than a Bass Guitar. With the MIDI window in the “piano roll” function I wrote out the Bass line. At first I wanted to initiate the use of some walk up lines to the theme, though I later realized that to be improper so I went a different way creating a very simple bass part.

The structure of this piece is like this. It is in 4/4 time in the key of C. The chords are C, 4 beats, C7, 4 beats, F, …., Fm …., repeat, then somewhat resolving to a G. There is also a b section though right at the moment I can't recall its structure. The above process took well over an hour. I refined the parts by muting the existing recorded tracks at will and now with a solid Bass line to follow, re-did both of the above guitar tracks. I then realized that the Bass line is lacking although, I was unable to recognize what exactly was incorrect about it. Thus I concluded that I could likely improvise the equivalent of a Bass line with the guitar, during play, where as after I could transpose that to MIDI, hopefully to create what my mind's eye sees. The obstacle of the night was having not played guitar the past couple of weeks. My fingers gave out as did my brain due to the late hour.

I then moved to the Piano where I played along with what I had recorded, just for the learning experience. I am still quite amateurish on the piano, though what better way to learn than to play something new. So I did that for a while by repeating the recorded material and playing along.

Another night in the music.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More, New Years Madness

I struggled to get into playing tonight. I turned on the computer early and prepared to do some rehearsal, then tried most of the afternoon to get up the motivation and energy to actually do it. Finally after watching a movie, I mustered up the motivation and had a good session. It seems this blog writing is going to become redundant if I continue in the same pattern used previously. Yet my initial goal has been to chronicle this activity. So...

I reviewed a bunch of older music through the evening with the hope of finding some spark. I did set down then with guitar in hand, opened the New Years Madness files and away I went. The first thing I realized in the review was that the tempo increases needed some adjustment. I just didn't like the result of what was. That took quite a while to get through because of the number of changes needed to bring the tempo up from 120 BPM to 240 BPM, transitioning smoothly. Any shift of the tempo in the midi track removes all possibility that the wave tracks within the same file set can be used, thus after making those changes I then had to tell myself this is okay, and then I went ahead and deleted the existing wave files of the song and started over. That was truly fine as none of those recordings were correct and flawless. Along with that I needed to change the corresponding flags to indicate where the changes actually are in a visual way, for tracking while playing along with the midi. Dealing with the computer part of the recording is tedious. I also find it detracting from the pleasure of capturing the music. Finally, I practiced the rhythm Guitar part. I went through it 4 or five times, then noticed yet another need to alter the tempo changes in two places. The end result of editing made a good difference. I practiced through the song a couple more times before deciding I was sufficiently ready to record the track.

And again the set up gets in the way of flow. I had to adjust the mics physically for recording as well as adjust the sound levels to use the mic to record the acoustic 6 string. Finally all is ready so I practiced another time through the tune, before actually pushing that mighty record button. I didn't get the track quite right through that tempo increase. In any case I saved the recording, wanting to then get a good vocal track recorded. That will allow me to better follow the timing through that transition on the guitar. I then had to change the recording setup, adjust the input levels for the vocal mic. I practiced that two times to be certain of the transition area. It is relatively easy to hear the drum beat while singing, where as I find it more challenging while playing Guitar. I was successful at getting a good vocal recording in one take. That is progress. All there is to show for the night actually, editing the tempo changes and recording a poor quality rhythm guitar track and a good vocal track.

At that point I had a desire to work at some electric Guitar parts. It may have been better had I gone back to the rhythm Guitar part but... So I went through the counter rhythm Guitar part, highlighting with off beats and putting emphasis on the 3 beat to create a contrast to the 1. I never felt quite on top of that part though I played through it 4 or 5 times. To prevent total burn out I then shifted to a lead guitar part for the introduction and an ending. I have yet to actually compose what these parts will be though I have some general ideas that will complement the split two part lead riff between the verses.

This kind of process does become really challenging to me, the switching back and forth between being the musician and the sound tech is mind shifting, distracting from the mental flow that can otherwise be achieved in rehearsing. All in all I must have played through that song 20 times tonight, at 4 plus minutes per. That is a lot of time when adding the technical adjusting of the electronics and the digital. I even remembered, with desire to write this while it was still ripe. :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recall From Memory

Another couple of sessions with music and its production has passed without my entering any information into the blog regarding those events. I rarely recognize what I do with music as eventful though there are times when I am able to capture the real essence of my work that personally seem as crossing some sort of milestone. I am not reporting on any milestones today though. It is also true that counter to my desire to write these essays while the event remains fresh in mind, a couple of days have passed and thus I may be unable to write fully of all that occurred during those sessions, due to the illusiveness surrounding my personal ability to write completely of what is now a fleeting memory.

I got back to the song New Years Madness on New Years day. The eventual result was a lot of practice with the Guitar. I had recorded a lead Guitar riff through a short break section all those years ago, though the recording has many errors. This is a short break, maybe 20 seconds in duration. I made a duet electric Guitar part using a wah-wah and quite a lot of distortion with heavy overdrive. These simultaneous Guitar parts use a 1 and 3 straight harmony, with the 1 track adding the wah. Quite honestly I am quite a novice with electric Guitar, having only owned one for 14 years, I seldom use it, as I retain a preference for my Guild Acoustic Guitars. Still I enjoy learning the tools and fully appreciate the American Standard model Fender Stratocaster for the quality instrument it is. I did record what I played, though it remains less than satisfactory for a finished recording. I was able to identify and correct the faltering errors in that original recording where its end is a diverging direction. This type of sound is unattainable with an acoustic Guitar, yet the electric stuff is still quite foreign within my own acquired use and my own abilities. All in all I found that session to be a success. There is a lot yet to accomplish before that song has reached the state equal to what I know it should be as recognized in my mind's eye.

From there after an hour or so of fooling around with the practice of it, I felt I had accomplished all I could in that session and I was in need of moving on to something else for a while.

There are so many songs that I have yet to move from the rough draft form to being a completed work that captures my image of what I know they will become. I have been doing the music, writing, composing, and playing for myself, my own entertainment mostly, for so long now that the numbers of songs yet to complete is immense. One at a time they all need attention, yet none hold a position of priority. That was not the case last month, when I grabbed the now failed idea of completing New Years Madness before the new year arrived.

On this particular evening, I did shift to the song I call Birdie, a song about playing Disc Golf. Disc Golf is a sport that I used to avidly participate in, before becoming physically disabled. Thus the song holds a unique place in me that goes beyond the music there in. It is a simpler song in its structure that repeats 2 core themes, the part "a" and the part "b" and eventually resolving with a variation on the a. I made this song with many layers of Guitar parts, all being played simultaneously atop Bass and rhythm Guitar track. There are three lead Guitar tracks, though one is a complement to the rhythm Guitar, the other two are quite different from one to the other. On this night I basically reviewed the old recordings, again having to sort through the old versions, though only two of them. From there I again realized (as I had when I left this song behind or otherwise quit working on it) that the lead parts had many errors that need correcting. I practiced one of them, the main "lead" part, for several repetitions of the song, regaining the theme in my mind. I didn't record anything of this song work session.

I believe that was the extent of the session, which I believe was on the evening of New Years Eve. I did similarly on New Years day, in reviewing and practicing, though the focus was more on Birdie, and yet another song. This one is called Thinking On Rhyme. This is a song I wrote in the Fall of 2010. It is a word painting on being trapped, thus taking the form of prison as metaphor. I actually believe the lyric is in reality about my own feeling of being trapped in this broken physical body, though I can but speculate on the lyrics. As Bob Dylan said, the songs are out there and we (songwriters) find them as we move through time, or something to that effect. I believe that many of the songs I write simply flow into me from some other place of consciousness, rather than coming out of my own conscious effort to create them. This particular song, Thinking On Rhyme, employs acoustic Guitar with a finger picking style atop a Bass track. It is a very simple song musically, having but three chords through the main portion of the piece. The ending leaves that pattern walking up the theme's key scale through three or four cycles, from position 3 to 6(7) (on Piano). Thus far I have yet to write any other instrumentation into the song though I believe it is deserving of something more. I have made two versions of this song also. One uses a musical halt of about one second in every line of the melody, the result of which is now not preferred. It was fun to make the other version, as the process is so enjoyable. Recently I learned this song on the Piano and may incorporate that part into the eventual final recording.

Now it is another day, with another opportunity to practice, something I have yet to do, though I believe I will. I really want to try to write these blog entries in the moments immediately after the conclusion of practice or recording rather than ignoring this potential to capture the event while fresh. I guess it is a discipline I have yet to master. It is far easier to simply let the time pass by shifting to the physical and mental comfort of watching a movie from the recliner chair with a glass of red wine, my usual evening pastime.