Skating on Europa: new Demo
By Dave on Sunday, February 15th 2009 9:38 pm
demo mp3: Skating on Europa
The inspiration for this tune was a strange message left on my answering machine. The message itself is the odd distorted voice at the beginning of the piece. That is the unprocessed sound of the message. No idea what the guy is saying, but it sounded like a telemarketer calling from orbit. But as soon as I heard the message I knew I was going to run some mic cables upstairs and record it.
The rest of the piece has a rather jammy/spacerock feel to it. The basic drum programming, guitar and bass tracks were written and recorded very quickly. Then I spent a lot of time working on the synth parts, which had I left a lot of space for. I wanted the keyboards to have a real old school feel to them. So I spent some time really learning how to use my Artura Minimoog plug in, particularly controlling the filters with the knobs on my midi controller in real time. There was a lot of trial and error but I finally came up with a collection of sounds and got the feel I was looking for. And there is some melotron in there for good measure as well.
This one is gonna take forever to mix down I think.
As for the graphic at the top of this post, just my little photoshop contribution to the world of ipod parody images. And it fits this tune rather well.
So that is 4 tunes & 50 minutes of music I have completed. I'd like to have one more song on the album and I have a few options I'm mulling over on that.
Choices and a new demo
By Dave on Monday, January 26th 2009 1:09 am
Piano or Organ for this section? The blue guitar or the yellow one on
this rhythm part? Or I could double that part and use both? How much distortion
do I want on this solo? Is that riff too bluesy for this piece? Should I
harmonize the main violin line in 3rds or a 6ths? In the 3rd arrangement of this
piece there was this cool moment, should I revisit that? Is this melody strong
enough or did I just wreck this section? Will it sound better when my lousy
sample of an electric violin is replaced by the real thing? Isn't "Still on
Hold" a pretty dumb working title?
I'm still mucking with this new piece of music. Every night I get a little closer to something that is worthy of recording. At this stage I think I've got decent core musical ideas, it is simply a matter of getting the most out of them.
Regarding the dumb title, this song might be called many things, but it won't be called "Still on Hold". In thinking about writing this entry and the idea of choices I stumbled onto something. The overall mood of the piece might be described as somewhat sorrowful or haunting. The concept of bad choices and tragic consequences lead me to think about the greek tragedy. There is a component in the Tragedy called anagnorisis which can be translated literally as "knowing again". So I'm thinking I might go with "Know Again" as a title. That should vague things up a little.
While I'm still hammering that one out I went back and listened to the finale to Counting Stars, which was also a bit of a struggle to arrange. With the exception of the guitar solo that leads it off, it is built on themes that are used in previous sections of the larger work -- but all are presented in new ways. A different time signature or groove, in a new key, with a different harmony, different instrumentation, etc... The trick is making it different enough that it is fresh, but same enough that the listener picks up on a sense of familiarity. And I have to balance those compositional choices against what is best moment to moment in terms of having a good flow and emotional effect.
This balance is really a big part of the entire piece, as themes are introduced and revisited later on.
Anyhow, this is sort of backwards but I'm going to go ahead and post the finale first, primarily because most of the rest of the piece really needs the vocals in order to be enjoyed.
Listen to New Demo: Counting Stars pt5 (Demo)
PS. Listening to programed drum solos is kind of absurd, I just use it for a placeholder. Rest assured A REAL DRUMMER will be doing the honors.
By Dave on Monday, January 19th 2009 11:54 am
Between trips out to clear off the snow from the driveway I spent time working on the new piece of music. I guess it needs a working title.... let's call it... er... "Still on Hold". I scrapped 80% of what I had before and rewrote everything but the first Theme. Tonight I think I finally came up with something for the B theme that has me satisfied. This one is going slow but inching closer.
I had intended to restring my acoustic and re-track some of the acoustic parts on Counting Stars and finalize the demo. Then I can start production on that piece. But since things are going a little slow with the new piece and I spent half of yesterday removing snow I didn't get to it.
2 other items on the to-do list involve shopping. I am planning on buying some Real Traps to put down here in the basement. I've got some serious acoustic problems in the bottom end that make mixing a real challenge. It is hard to get the kick and bass guitar to sit in the mix right when you aren't really sure what is going on below 100Hz. Also I need to upgrade the virtual piano. At present I'm using a very old soundfont. It has served me well but there have been quite a few improvements in sampling technology in the last 10 years. "Counting Stars" features a lot of piano so if it doesn't sound great then I'll be starting behind the 8 ball trying to make the overall mix sound good. Right now I'm thinking about getting the Synthology Ivory because everyone says that one is great. I'm also considering the Blüthner Digital Model One which I think might sit a little better in a mix.
And I caught my former guitar teacher Steve Canty performing with his band on Saturday. Killer version of Little Wing!
By Dave on Tuesday, January 13th 2009 11:05 pm
I took the night off playing music to do a little work on the the site. In addition to the obvious new banner up at the top, I've done a few minor tweaks on the navigation and upgraded to the latest version of b2Evolution, in preparation for another tweak I'm going to make soon.
The guitar picture at the top of the site is one of my custom guitars made by former Luthier Neil Bryan. I think the new picture brightens things up a little. I took some photos of it this evening with the same rigged lightbox I used to photograph the AE cover.
I actually liked the photo below better than the one I used in the
On the music side I've got a brand new composition well underway.
Counting Stars (the long tune) runs a full half hour now, and I've put a fork in the arrangement on that one - still a tiny bit of rerecording work to do on that demo.
Update: The final bit of functionality is in place. It is now much easier to leave a comment. In order to keep spam bots off the site selling their various... er... enhancements I had previously required registration before a visitor could leave a comment. No more. Now you can just click "Discussion" and say your piece. You will have to fill in the answer to a quick captcha test so the blog knows you are a real person.
All Good Things
By Dave on Monday, January 5th 2009 10:19 am
Natalie tries to help Dan with his writers block.
Sigh. My 2 weeks+ of vacation have ended. I basically spent it writing music full time. I got a lot done though not as much as I was hoping. In addition to wrapping up work on "Get the Hell off My Lawn" I've been focused on my lengthy multi-part composition "Counting Stars". The first draft I did of this piece needed some considerable refinement and a couple of whole sections needed to be scrapped and rewritten. The first 4 movements are in good shape now. For the last few days I've been hung up on the final part suffering from a lot of writers block, self-doubt and going through a lot of trial and error.
And once I get the Demo version in good condition I've still got to:
A. Find a vocalist and record the vocal parts
B. Get the drum parts recorded
C. Get the rights to use the poems (Anne Sexton) the lyrics are based on
I'm going to use Frank Basile (http://www.livestudiodrums.com/) again for the drum parts. As I think I wrote about before, the poems the lyrics are based on are copywritten despite my original belief that they were public domain. My initial investigation on what it will take to obtain permission resulted in as many questions as answers. So at this stage I think I might hire a lawyer to deal with it. I have found via the internet one vocalist willing to work on the project with me but I'm hoping I can find someone local so that there can be a bit of give and take with regard to the vocal melodies.
Ok, I have to get back to work now.
New Music: Get the Hell Off My Lawn
By Dave on Monday, December 29th 2008 6:13 pm
Finally, as promised, a new demo for you to check out. I started this piece back in the late Spring. I was angry about something so in order to vent I programed a heavy rock beat, cranked up the distortion and banged on the guitar for awhile. The 3 basic parts of this all came from that and within a day or two I had a rough arrangement.
I relearned the bass and guitar parts and refined the arrangement over the last couple of days. The title just seemed to fit, though the inspiration for the song had nothing to do with kids or lawn care.
Listen: Get the Hell Off My Lawn (Demo: rough mix)
[update 12/30/08: corrected the file - I had posted the wrong one initially. Kinda horrifying really. The file I accidentally posted yesterday was the very very rough demo I recorded just to get the ideas down. Not intended for public consumption. Doh!]