Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Rockets and Dreams Is Out!

Rockets and Dreams, my second album, was released today. So a couple months of work is finished. You can listen to all the songs through, not just clips, and it will be up on Youtube soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

OK! NOW It's Done!

I know I said Rockets and Dreams was done, but I make a little one minute song called The Rain Came for an online contest. I started working on it at about 4PM today, and at 5:30 it was done. I liked it so much I decided to end Rockets and Dreams with it. It comes in at 55 seconds, and barely has lyrics. But everything went together soo nicely!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Rockets and Dreams is Finished!

I finished the twelfth and last of the songs for Rockets and Dreams. The songs are much more cohesive than the purposefully scattershot songs from Greatest Hits 2018-2018, thematically and musically. I think the production is much better, and my guitar playing has improved! I have learned a lot about making music sound interesting and fun. Hard to realize Greatest Hits was released less than two months ago!

One of the songs was actually recorded for Greatest Hits - No Green, No Envy - was moved to this album because I couldn't get in touch with the lyricist, Angelo Aversa. Angelo was the drummer in my band Carnelian, and we wrote a lot of songs together. Volcano, Teenager, and The Stylist were also written with Angelo and recorded for this album, as I have been able to talk things over with him. I replaced No Green, No Envy on Greatest Hits with the song Carnivores, which was recorded for Rockets and Dreams, so that song should point in the direction I am going in the new album!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Sausage Music 2

I put another song in the can a couple days ago. This was an experience so unlike my last post that I felt I should document it.

I laid down a riff against a click track on Thursday. It was sloppy. This was a song I had written over forty years ago, and it was not jelling. I redid a few bots, patched a few others so the riff was functional. Then I laid a quick vocal over it. The vocal sucked, but it was a placeholder. I dicked around with Loop Designer trying to come up with a beat that matched. I was utterly unsuccessful! The song was a swing thing, and Loop Designer was designed for electronica. It can do more, but I was barely able to get something merely WRONG after wrestling for several hours. I left it where it was and put it to bed.

Friday, I cleaned up the riff better, and laid a few more tracks down to beef it up. Sounded something like a song now! I re-did what I had just done, this time more competently. I played around with the mix and put various effects on, took them off, changed them, and maybe removed them altogether. The day went like this, each iteration inching closer to the song in my head, being dragged will he nill he by dint of sweat and curses. It was now a crap song, but at least it was a song.

Saturday I poked and prodded at the sullen thing, attempting to wrestle Loop Designer into making something like a swing beat. It was not pretty, but if I mixed it low and didn't look too hard at it, it sounded OK. Maybe! It just wasn't swing! The good part is I mic'd a far better set of vocals. I sent it to Klaxon, my son. He is not a musician, but has an unerring gut feel for music. He said the song was fighting with the beat... and losing. Crap!

Sunday I was busy all day. On-line RPG over Discord till 6, watch Red Sox and Patriots. Yay!

Monday I got down to work. I listened to it once more and decided Klax had nailed it again. I was never going to get Loop Designer to give me swing. It wasn't possible. I pulled out Beat Box 2. Compared to Loop Designer, Beat Box 2 is primitive and awkward, but I got an actual swing beat from it! I put that into place, laying down breaks where needed. The drums sounded much more fake than those in Loop Designer, and the structure was simple, but it was definitely a swing beat! I tweaked what had to be tweaked, and I was done! I sent it to Klax and he had problems with the sound of beat Box's drums, but it all worked. I smoothed out where I could and the sausage was made!

Tuesday I nailed everything and had the next song in the can in one day. Go figure!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Recording a new song - how the sausage is made!

So this morning I set out to record a song. I tuned my guitar, and checked it by playing some lines. I played a slow, bluesy riff and was hooked. This riff was smokin'! I forgot all about the song I was going to record - I was all set up in my DAW for that song, this one was slower and the beat I had for the other song was all wrong for this riff = and set it up clean. I was going to make it an ostinato - a 'stubborn' riff that repeated throughout the new song. I recorded the riff through many times to a click track - this is a metronomic 'tic' that keeps you on the beat when recording. The sound I wanted was reminiscent of the main riff in Spirit in the Sky - a crackling, heavily distorted guitar riff played on the low strings. messing around with amp and fuzz tones, I got what I wanted!

Then I put together a drum loop. I played around with different rhythms and kits, none of which worked, then laid one down that seemed ok. It was a bit... plain. Then I remember Adam Ant's version of the Burundi Beat, a complex polyrhythmic beat from the African nation of Burundi. Adam's band The Ants performed the Burundi Beat with two drummers in full kit, with lots of rolling toms, and was behind some wicked songs like Goody Two Shoes and Antmusic. So I superimposed a second loop over the first, this one with lots of tom tom action. The interaction between the two was what I was looking for!

Now I had to sing it! I played back the riff with the new beat in a loop itself and improvised sounds to it, which gradually began to morph into coherent phrases, so I used these phrases as key phrases and wrote the rest of the lyrics around them - this is a method I have used many many times, and always seems to work well! The song turned out to be a song about a space ship leaving one star system and jumping to another, eventually to a cloud city on a gas giant. Cool! I love surprises!

I recorded the new lyrics, but they were meh... I tried different amounts of roughness and smoothness, different tonalities, and different phrasing. What finally clicked was a full on Sinatra phrasing with a smooth, deeper voice, though the song was in moderately high in my range - when I was 20 I could easily pack two octaves on top of my current range if I needed to, but that was long gone. It was exactly right!

Now for the final guitar overdubs. So far this was a lotta drums, that Spirit In The Sky-ish riff, and the single Sinatra vocals over all. I had some nice ideas, but I was curiously reluctant to add anything more. I sent the song as it was to my son Klaxon - who is always my first bounce listener - and he agreed. Add nothing. It was fine as it was. He recommended a few small changes, which I incorporated, but nothing was added. And I was happy! This almost never happens the first day! Everything worked and sounded RIGHT!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rockets and Dreams

I am now eight songs deep into a second album called Rockets And Dreams. I should be finished before the month is done. This album is more consistent in sound than the first - which was supposed to emulate a compilation album, and the style varied a lot.

I was just about to call you a liar
When outta the dark come that laser fire
I couldn't help but think it's more than it seems
Not just your ordinary red light beams
Like rockets and dreams
Just like rockets and dreams

Here's the cover - the same as my StarCluster 4 - FTL Now game.