Saturday, October 22, 2016

Another October Day

Another October Day

I continue to work with the music although creating new material has not occurred for what seems an extended period of time.  Without creating new stuff, there is plenty left to do in the recording efforts I am intending.  Most days I work at it in some way how ever abstract it may seem.  Learning how to use the software remains a big part of the recording process, an obstacle in many ways.  Yet I am making progress.

Lately the bigger part of the learning process remains with drumming or drum imitation.  I am no drummer, never have been, nor do I believe I want to become one.  Still musically, with the type of music I have written and work with, as a whole, without drumming included, the overall sound produced reflects as half baked, incomplete.  So I continue learning the software of choice, or at least of known choice.  I admit that ignorance plays a large roll in the choices available to me, because of the isolated existence I live.  Hydrogen is the software I have been dealing with to make drum sounds that can complement my musical output.  I would much prefer having a real drummer which would allow having little personal effort where drumming is concerned, but a person who could fill that roll remains unknown to me.  Hydrogen then has taken on a really unwanted importance in the process.  I have been spending a lot of time tinkering with the program trying to figure out an ease to the methodology required in making this software work, producing complementary rhythms suited to the music I am attempting to achieve.  Some days it falls into place, and other days it seems quite a struggle for me to create suitable rhythms that will match the themes intended.  I don't know why?

Now a couple of nights ago I decided to take on a new recording of an older tune I wrote back in the mid to late 1990's.  I had previously attempted to record this song yet the syncopation in the rhythm is such that I was unable to determine the tempo.  I realized a couple of months ago, through teaching the song to my associate, that this situation comes of how I have played the piece solo, having to incorporate a dominant theme sourced in the songs essence.  In order to create this feel while playing the piece solo, I had to play a syncopated part which distorted what I thought or otherwise perceived as part of the rhythm, when in fact the playing of this syncopated part actually altered my perception of what the beat was actually doing.  It was actually an illusion, imposed by the way I was playing the piece when doing it solo.  When teaching this tune to the bassist, the way I played the song could be altered by allowing the bass to take the syncopated part, while I held to the basic continuous rhythm.  The two parts individually create the essence I had envisioned when I wrote the piece.  Having played it so many times by myself, the habitual nature of doing so prevented my brain from finding the separation of these individual parts.  It is an odd situation to attempt writing out with clarity.  Still, having finally determined that this syncopated riff distorted my sense of timing, I have been able to determine the tempo, I successfully made a draft recording of the song Wednesday night late. The process went along very smoothly, with its parts coming together in the digital world with a remarkable ease.  

My process of taking the idea and converting it into an audio file that reflects the essence of the idea rarely follows a given course, like taking steps 1, 2, 3, 4, … end.  This could be a demonstration of my ignorance, yet having no education or friends that show me a methodology, I am forced to make up my own methodology.  Generally step one is to determine the Tempo, followed by the Time signature.  After those are determined and input into the computer's software, in this instance "Ardour," (thanks and a shout out to the Ardour team), there are several options as to where to continue.  In this particular case, I chose to use the metronome of Ardour as a guide and with two tracks engaged, I recorded a guitar and a vocal track as rough drafts for a starting reference point.  After this is accomplished, I use this as a guide to facilitate creating an audio recording to share.  With the basic outlined in the rough recording, I can then create a solid midi bass track and a drum track, the order with which this is accomplished I decide arbitrarily.  Generally I will write out the bass line first, but in this case I decided to do the drumming first.  I chose to make it really simple in this instance, just a bass drum with snare and a riding symbol that expresses a basic beat.  Because it is software, the result can always be altered later if so desired.  I was quickly pleased with the simplistic rhythm I created, and leaving it simple for a start provided what I desired as an initial beat track that can hold the song in place as I worked through the process.  Having a basic drum track and the rough audio tracks, left the bass track to work up in midi.  Having played the song with only guitar for many years, I found it rather easy to write out the bass line and assign it an instrument representative, in this case acoustic bass.  

Having the basic tracks of the song now completed the first review with these 4 tracks hit me as quite satisfactory to hear.  However there was a noted error in the construction of the ending that required a rather involved redo of the bass and the drum tracks.  This issue was dealt with, creating the desired result.  The process also revealed some tempo drift in these rough audio tracks. This is common for me when using this method.  The metronome is a very good tool, yet it can and is easily overpowered when playing a rhythm beside it. Because of this and my own lack of ability in playing real instruments with absolute proficiency, I expect to redo the initial rough audio tracks. This is the next step in my process, recording solid audio tracks of instrument(s) and vocal part(s).  To facilitate the audio recordings, I rehearsed the guitar and vocal parts several times, beside the drum and bass tracks, ingraining the nuances of the various sections both lyrically and with the acoustic guitar.  I had chosen the Taylor guitar for this recording, its sound is quite exceptional, and it offers the opportunity to use two input methodologies, the analog and its internal electronics, separately.  I can recognize these two tracks as different when switching between the two sources, yet I have no real preference, nor have I determine which interface provides the better sound.  They are both good.  Having gone through these dress runs a few times I decided to make the recordings for these two parts simultaneously, knowing that I can always re-do them individually if I choose.  To my surprise The recording of these two parts came in one try with but one error in the lyric that required an edit.  I have experienced this process as troubling at times in the past.  It was easy to redo the vocal error with the punch-out capability of the software.  By the time these final audio input tracks were completed, the time was late, and I shut down the studio for the night.

The following morning shortly after happy coffee time was complete for another day, I found myself reviewing the previous night's work.  The audio recordings I judged to be very satisfactory, while noticing some conflict with both the bass and the drum tracks.  I spent a couple of hours editing those tracks.  The drum track especially needed work, it being simple actually created a very desirable result, but there were some sections that I thought wanted some emphasis with symbols.  That and the chorus sections were wanting of some variation from the main verse sections.  I did all I thought I wanted (for the time being) then went on to a different activity.  I have not yet released the recording,  because I want to get away from it for a while with a hope that a revisit later will bring some clarity to my judgment as to the songs essence.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

One More New Song


Another song became reality for me today. Its creation did seem to be more deliberate, coming in a rare way for the music I create. I thought up an idea while in the process of listening to a song by, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, from their album, "Looking Forward".  My intension in that moment was to simply listen to this album, because it is new to me. The tune is called, "Stand Up and Be Counted," although; the song has no actual baring on the song I wrote, it is merely a coincidence. Yet the kind of music that those guys have made has always influenced me and the way I seem to make my own music.

I am trying to write about the process of writing and composing in this blog. For this particular song, I am less than willing to state much of this songs contend with specificity. The subject really has little baring on the process in reality. Now the last song I wrote about came to me in a very different way. The first lines of that song came out at its inception, while with this one a question came up, a question that becomes a statement of fact in reality. This question, although pertinent to the theme, is something that I chose to use more as a summary at the end, rather than placing it at the lead off position in the song.

Thus having found a subject that had no previous supporting story, the story had yet to be told, so I went about writing the supporting story. The subject is what we would call current events. Thus the only real challenge was to write it in the form of poetic verse, that had a suiting rhythmic phrasing. After writing one verse, I got out the guitar to figure out a structured rhythm that could be suited to the cadence my mind was imagining. I figured out a tune in Bm, having 4 chords, in 4/4 time as an A part. With that I quickly developed a melody for the vocal part and sang through this first verse. It worked well enough, although not knowing what the lyric is, singing it was very fractured. It seemed sound enough, so I put the guitar back down and set out to write another verse to enhance, building on the story. With a second verse complete, it was time to introduce the chorus or the B part. Using the line I had previously typed out in the word processor, with its question, it demanded an explanation, so I went about creating one, comparatively equaling the structure of the two verses already completed.

When I again tried singing these lyrics, the total seemed off but I didn't know why. So I thought about it so
on realizing I had fallen into a trap of familiarity, the chord sequence was equal to that of another song of mine. To use that again would really lack a place at my table, so I changed the whole thing up. First I dabbled with some 5/4 timing, but that is just a bit too out there for my desires at this point. Sitting here in this moment, I again feel a want to dabble in that 5/4 rhythm at some time in the future. However I settled in with a 3/4 time and changed up the chord structure quite significantly, though I did keep it in a Bm. Where the original idea, when using the 4/4 time had a moderate tempo, I slowed this one down a bit, phrasing the verse in a way that each line of verse took up two cycles of the chord progression to complete. In the previous attempt, while in 4/4 time, the lines were sung within one repetition of the chord pattern.

I then played the song enough to allow making a rough recording without too many errors.. When that was completed, I didn't even listen to it, instead, after saving the data, I shut down the programs that held them and went back to listening to CSNY. Right now when reflecting on that decision, I find it odd. Yet I was lacking a forceful desire to continue with the process at that point, so I was done with it for the time being. I lack any preconceived idea of this song as to its quality or if it will stay in its current form, or be altered again in the days to come.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Call Me Honey


August 3, 2016 another song was created in the morning of my day. It was a typically odd circumstance which allowed these words and the subsequent music to come into being. Odd in that its initial spark came after adding a spoon of honey to my ritualistic morning cup of coffee. As I did the act of placing the honey into the cup and stirring it, these words spilled out in my mind, "I put some honey in my coffee." Then as I grabbed the cup, to take it back to my desk, an echo like phrase came, "I put some honey in my tea." Where these kind of phrases come from, while there is a lack of intension directed toward writing, remains mysterious to me. My intension was fully centered on gaining access to coffee, in order to again feel alertly awake in my morning. I admit I'm addicted to coffee regardless of any quality associated with this state of being. Sometimes I try to quit coffee and each time I find a rather equal result. I seem unable to awaken with any rapidity without it. So after several days of feeling half asleep, well past noon, and tiring of that situation, I go back to enjoying coffee in the mornings and waking up with some rapidity. I call it the elixir of life, although; I know that, in itself is a grand illusion.

Well after reaching my desk with the honey altered cup of coffee, and the lines in words becoming magnetic in my mind, I considered a question, can I actually bring these couple of lines into a document, the build upon them, or will the illusive potential fall short. In general making the decision can offer potential, where shutting this potential door will always disallow. I chose to reach for potential, opening the word processor.

I typed out the two lines sequentially, as they had originally come to mind. Then I thought I could alter the circumstance of the subject to create a fully different meaning. Rather than it being a narrative in a singular person I could create a second person, where I chose to insinuate a couple in their comparative actions, drinking hot beverages in the morning. It implies that these two individuals are sharing the same space. It also tends toward word play, by introducing a synonym in this introductory section of verse. The following line brings a context that places the two into a relationship situation, "I call you Honey in the morning," with it being a proper noun in this instance rather than the noun for that sweet substance created by our friends, the honey bee. The line following, addresses the insect and how they can be going about their lives as something that us alert humans have a capacity to observe. I followed these four lines of verse with a different kind of cadence, which offers a musical shift, to create distinct separation. The subject of this second part, demonstrates an observance of the changing nature of our civilization. Having made these two distinct sets of rhythmic cadence, I took these two as templates in their form, and wrote out three more sets of each of these patterns. I struggled in the process some, yet I was able to avoid the mental blocks that sometimes come while writing. There was no preconceived idea to reach for as to the subject. At one point I wrote a couple of lines that took the intended mood in a negative direction. I read through them, deciding that I really didn't want to go toward the doom and gloom in this piece, where as I deleted those ideas to replace them with something more positive.

When I got to a potential end point, I got out the guitar and developed a pattern of chords that seemed to fit the melodic ideas that had been creeping into my thoughts as I wrote the words. Even the key to which the melodic thoughts came to me fit. This is a rare circumstance for me as my musical thought patterns seldom reflect as "in pitch" and I have to deal with transposition from the ideas into workable playable music. Thus the music side of this creation was a very easy process to pass through. This song was near complete. I then successfully set out to record a rough draft to prevent my forgetfulness robbing from the essence of this new creation.

Having completed the saving of this new song in a very rough form, I set out to instill it into my mind through repeatedly playing and singing the words. It can sometimes take a lot of practice, using the printed lyric as a guide to actually be able to sing and play a new creation. There are some instances where how one expresses the syllables allowing them to fit with the rhythm and melody in the music, (I call this act "syllablization," even though this may not be a real word). In this process I recognized that some of the originally written words could be improved upon in order to facilitate a stronger cadence in expressible structure. There were several lines in the individual B parts that were clumsy, so I altered the original words to emphasize cadence. I am now much happier with how the lyrics flow, having practiced the song enough to find it can flow with an ease.

While practicing singing and playing this song the time came to look at its entrance and its exit. The entrance seemed to be whole, as is, by going through the melodic rhythm pattern of the A parts, to be followed by simply adding the vocal after its first time through. The ending at this point remained with a need of consideration. So during one of these early on practices when finishing the vocal section followed by an empty tag line, an odd idea formed. I actually don't quite know how to describe what it is with accurate specificity. What I chose to do is something like this: in single notes finger picked, I went up a couple of octaves, playing a descending pattern that descends the chord's notes, "1, 3, 5," though not necessarily in that order, then ascending it back up, all within the frame of one measure, followed by dropping a half step and repeating. This pattern repeats again another whole step down, descending down by half steps, it resembles a cascading sequence, dropping to the songs conclusion.

As time passes, I will work toward making a conclusive representation of this work in a well done recording and post it on my website http://thomasepeterson.com.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Expanding into the drum-like

It seems that this music I make has, as an end result been incomplete as a solo artist.  I am referring to the sound of one man, one voice, and one guitar, set within a slice of time.  In other words, as an individual I have been unable to create the sound I know this music could attain were there others participating in its delivery.  The limits of the individual comes to the forefront as hindering.  The past few years I have taken to recording this music in a Linux Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that employs a multi-track capability.  The system further allows its potential to fill in the gaps that this limited, one person, with but two hands and the single brain can produce in any singular instance.  Where as I would prefer to create the music with a group of individuals, I lack this said group of musicians within my circle of acquaintances and friends.  For several years I have been writing midi tracks that simulate having a bass player beside me (or other instruments).  It is pretty good at filling that piece of a rhythm section.  Although it is helpful the result of recordings that use this capability have continued to be rather hollow sounding.  I can build layers through singing harmony vocals beside my main vocal track.  I've also recorded differing guitar or mandolin riffs that can provide additional depth to these pieces.  Still the end result of these works has never been fully satisfying to my ear.  I have known this lacking to be the absence of percussion.

One of the many qualities that working with a robust DAW is its flexibility.  Similar to the work of learning to use the midi functions for creating bass, string sections (individually), and or horns or horn sections, I have recently taken advantage of learning how to make percussion instrument sounds that can be added to the recordings.  The results are changing the overall sound I spoke to above.  It has been a challenge to learn what drumming is really about in its musical sense, because though I have listened to drums throughout my life, even enjoyed the sounds they make while contributing to their respective pieces of music, I've not taken the time nor had an interest in learning or studying percussion.  This has changed. 

I am now past the stage of wading to ankle deep into the rhythmic part of drumming and stepped off a ledge into the deeper waters where what I have heard is coming to be something I know at least a little bit more about.  The software I am using for percussion is called Hydrogen.  It employs a rather logical system to create patterns in drumming on a time line.  It is very similar to that of written musical score, in that it has a time-line that consists of a duration, flexibly set to coincide with the time signature and tempo of the piece it is synchronized to (the multi-track recording software package in the DAW, in this instance Ardour).  I am still far from being expert at the use of this part in the music puzzle, yet it is really providing good results.  There is yet a lot to learn about drumming as a whole.  I am still finding it shocking to discover the seemingly odd timing that is required to create drumming patterns.  I do so love creating music! 

**************Edit**************
I've added an example of a this drumming technique here: Bomb Train

Saturday, March 26, 2016

From Composition to Delivery


I have gone a long time now without writing new music. I did write an instrumental piece in December of 2015, but forgot to write of it in this space. In other words, I have neglected writing here for these many months. The condition remains, having failed to write any new lyrical music since last summer. I have however been staying busy with music without writing new pieces. I came upon the resolve to record all the music I have written in my life, for the purpose of creating a presentation of it, in its best available form, to allow you the opportunity to hear it at your own will. This has in general presented a whole new and different challenge.

If you want to listen to it, you can do a web search for, “the music of Thomas Peterson” and you should find it easily. You are also free use this link the music of Thomas Peterson.

The recording process is very complex, beyond what I had previously recognized. The old days of using the audio tape medium is long gone. Now it is all digital, requiring both hardware and software to make quality multi-track recordings. Being a poor man fiscally presents its own complications. Over the years I have attained adequate instruments along with sound capture devices (microphones) for performance yet more is needed to enter the digital recording world. Having no education in this area, I had to first figure out what is available to facilitate the process, then discern which of these tools are in my budget. I have a rather good computer, but old as technology goes. Many years back I had arrived at the conclusion that for profit computer software is ridiculous in costs, because it goes obsolete so rapidly. I turned to the free open source software available for a Linux operating system. This meant learning a lot about computing, rather than concentrating on music. It has been a big deal however, but through staying at the course for an extended time I am finding success. None the less it remains difficult to do it all by myself. It is challenging enough to be a musician by itself. In this process I am also the recording engineer. I play all the instruments, or program the computer's midi processor to play specific parts (generally the bass and or drums), plus I sing all the vocal parts. In its entirety it is taxing upon my capabilities. Probably the most difficult part of the process is learning to use the software, because my lack of computer education which is compounded even further by the lack of directions that covers the entire process.

Over this long haul, I have made a great deal of progress mostly through trial and error. Each song project delivers a bit more understanding in the process, and how to create the desired results. All I know to do is, to stay on the path using these tools to continue building an understanding in the process while attempting to achieve better results through the repetition of trial and error. Learning to mix tracks together with each track being optimized to its unique best potential is one part of the puzzle that I find illusive. I am finding it all too easy to bury or otherwise loose the aliveness in a song in the process of production. Slowly I am developing a better understanding along with better results.

The fun never ends.