Archive for the ‘MUSIC’ Category

Bill K No Worries DSC_0065.jpg

So many experiences are composed of related stories and within each story a number of players or artists.  The telling or remembering of some stories becomes difficult before the first words are shared.  What stories do you include?  Which ones do you leave for another time, even though the knowing will make this tale more complete?  Which characters will be the focus today when so many were needed to play their part.

Too many things to share.  If that were the biggest problem we would all become happy and prosperous.  Often, your spouse is also your soul-mate.  Sometimes your boss is your friend.  Do we present the boss or the friend when the story is told?

No Worries.

I do not advertise or promote my recording studio.  Every project has been from word of mouth or referrals/introductions that happen when good people want to introduce you to other good people.  Here is a quick summary of a recent project I was fortunate to be involved with.  Through my wife, my studio and talents were offered to record and back-up a song written by Bill Kreutzjans of the band Smokin Zeus to comfort someone after the primary – election process had finally ended.  He will play acoustic guitar and sing his song, but wanted a fuller sound and maybe some harmonies.

Before he came over to record I got ready.  I listened to a recording of the song and took out the copy of the lyrics.  First; I checked the tempo of the song.  Then I “mapped out” as I call it, a detailed arrangement of the song.  Not just how many verses, bridges, and choruses but also how counting full measures, partial measures, key or tempo changes, and getting an idea of the dynamics that evolve as the song plays out.  I pull up my computer and recording software (I use Sonar, but there are many others).  I created a basic drum pattern to use as a fancy metronome.  Bill laid down his tracks listening to the drum tracks and as most artists do in a studio, he fine-tuned his sound and melody.  Very quickly we had a great foundation recorded.

This was one of those dream songs where everything dropped into place.  We all had ideas of what we wanted to add.  The equipment worked well and everything went smoothly as the song kept building.  I played each section of the song back (sometimes over and over) and used a MIDI keyboard to “record” the bass guitar parts.  Then I used the MIDI keyboard to again trigger sounds from the computer software and plug-ins, but this time I picked a natural string sound to fill around the acoustic guitar.

Good enough progress for a few hours stolen in the day, so we save and back-up files and plan to meet soon to finish.  Send rough mix mp3 so all can listen to tracks we have so far.

In the days before we meet to finalize and mix the tracks, I clean up the drums and add accents to help the song build.  The drum sounds are also provided by the software and I can trigger the individual sounds or use pre-recorded and/or user-created loops.  These ingredients can be blended, added together and shoved in the oven until you get a great loaf of bread.  I add the vocal harmonies based on previous discussions.  Now I spend some time with the mastering tools I have and process tracks using E.Q., compression,  (where needed.  I am not big on heavy compression) volume leveling, etc., and then fun stuff like reverb and stereo placement to make each part noticeable and clear.  Send rough mix mp3 so all can listen to tracks.

At this point I am playing the song over and over because I like it.  I think it sounds cool and we meet to mix and master.  I always try to get an idea how the author/performer wants the components or project to sound like.  It is a difficult language, but if I get a feel for what they want – or an example of things like it – I can usually find the ‘tone’ of the mix they are familiar with.  We pick preferences as we go and the mix continues to bake.  We blend track levels with effects and record the master mix to a stereo track      ( ….. this topic will be a series of articles in the future ).   

For all of you; “No Worries”            © Bill Kreutzjans 10/2016

 

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The time is all right,

The music’s all right

But that’s not the way you feel.

 

You think it’s so sad,

You drove yourself mad.

Don’t forget, you made a deal.

 

What happened that day, made you run away

‘Til your world seemed so unreal.

All of your friends said, you were living dead,

It takes time for wounds to heal.

 

You stopped and looked around,

What you need could be found.

Don’t need a lucky break, to handle what we make,

We can make it as two.

 

Your mamma’s all right,

Your daddy’s all right.

They both love you the way you are.

 

Yes snowflakes can fall,

And not land at all.

Life is not quite so bizarre.

 

What happened that day, made you run away

‘Til your world seemed so unreal.

All of your friends said, you were living dead,

It takes time for wounds to heal.

 

You stopped and looked around,

What you need could be found.

Don’t need a lucky break, to handle what we make,

We can make it as two.

 

This song is on my new album Before The Chase available now on itunes!

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/retrograde/id962542260

For another look into the times, Lack of Concern is a gem in a time capsule.  These were good times.  I was still working at the music store.  Playing with toys, buying a few here and there and energy I can only imagine looking back, LOL!   It was a period where a lot of music was written and performed.  Lots of projects.  Learning as much as we could.  Showing it to others!  That was the fun part.

The words in a number of my songs are important to me.  In the same way I have been told that aromas and fragrances can help recall a specific event in the past, lyrics do for me.  They are a portal that allows a connection to create itself again.  With that memory brought to the surface I can recall many of the events that inspired thoughts that somehow managed to become poems or lyrics.  I surround myself mentally in the time.

“Tease me with the truth, baby, don’t tempt me with a lie” is one that puts me back at that time, in that mood.  This song contains a number of those portals.  This song asks the basic question; … ‘do you know what you are doing and still do it, or are you completely unaware of what you are doing?”.  I just love the upbeat arrangement in this song.  For this song I had the Yamaha DX7S, their updated model and a drum machine.  My wife Ellen and I do the vocals. I play acoustic rhythm guitar parts and Shawn my buddy! comes over to play the lead and decorative guitar parts.  I just let him run wild during the entire song and pick the gems to accent parts of the song.   This may be the only time I have recorded this song.  It is also one I rarely play out, but I think it is catchy in its own way.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

I wrote this song as a plea from the past. A message in a time capsule planted in you memories. It is in remembering that we learn.

Maybe it is because I have worked in the service area in one form or another for years, but I see a lot of people that do not want to wait their turn. They think they have a better reason to be first than anyone else already in line. The bass player with The Merchants Of Death (equal part original / cover band I played in) had a fascination with trains so I added the part about the train being on time after using some of his images while talking excitedly about their beauty and how powerful they are. It seemed to fit. You don’t have to wait, but neither will the rest of the world if you are not here to get on board.  It exposes a point in time where too many things seem to push you the wrong way, and very little anyone can do about it.  Life stacked against you.

It is also a reminder that somethings are better understood when looking at them in the distant past. As we remember events – especially through our dreams – our part in those events can become clearer. Often, I am not the saint or righteous person I thought I was when it happened. We can all be fools. Sometimes our dreams and the path to paradise is right in front of us and we do not realize it; or worse we refuse it for mysterious reasons.  This is one of my older songs that I really love even after all these years.

This is another song recorded on my 12 string Ovation guitar I have. For this song you can tell I have two vocal tracks and I am singing all the way through the song. Using slight panning separation I try to add distance in the vocal parts. The guitar is open-tuned to G, which makes the chords seem full and spacious at the same time. I like it, anyway! To me this is a gorgeous sound all on its own.

“Get Out Of Line”

Just after my dream fades,

I hear her say,

“There will be many days,

For Fool Parades.

CHORUS:

If you don’t want to stand,

Then get outta line.

But don’t be surprised,

If the train is on time.

Still, it seems funny how,

Lost track of now.

Things that might have helped out,

They won’t allow.

CHORUS:

If you don’t want to stand,

Then get outta line.

But don’t be surprised,

If the train is on time.

“Don’t forget what I said”,

And I shake my head.

Feel the sweat on my bed,

Or tears instead.

CHORUS:

If you don’t want to stand,

Then get outta line.

But don’t be surprised,

If the train is on time.

Just after my dream fades,

I hear her say…..

“Don’t forget me”.

Like many songs or projects do, this song combines a number of events in my life with observations I make as an observer on the planet Earth.  I was outside and looked up in the sky one afternoon for no real reason and noticed there was a bright full moon.  I know they happen, it just seemed unusual and weird.  Do werewolves come out on a full moon In the Middle of the Day? I digress.  So I thought that is weird, and how would most people notice there was a full moon? When you’re looking up from the ground.  I worked in a call center for a number of years.  Some of those years get boiled down into a verse or two.  It expresses frustration with the extreme customer and how difficult it can be to ‘act professionally’ when under duress.  But there is also recognition of the people I have worked with.  It feels natural.  We work as a team with no agenda.  I have worked with some great teams of people, some very smart and some very dedicated and some very efficient.  All working together and helping each other. If only we could get big business and politicians to work like that.  On this song I programmed the drums and played bass guitar behind the 12 string and vocals. It was just a quick little ditty about work.  I like the arrangement of the song and it has a few twists to it.  It is fun to play and I hope you enjoy!

In the Middle of the Day

Muscle machine; glorified drama queen,

Held together by something in between.

There’s a full moon in the middle of the day,

Sometimes you just can’t get out of the way.

All the crazies, calling you on the phone

Never get the time to be on your own.

There’s a full moon in the middle of the day

Tell ‘em the Truth; Lies, they won’t believe you anyway.

But it feels natural like this

Everything works the way it’s supposed to be.

Know it with every kiss:
I’ll take care of you, if you‘ll take care of me.

It’s one thing, until you turn around

That’s when you notice, looking up from the ground.

There’s a full moon, in the middle of the day,

Gets to where black and white blurs into gray.

The dumb ones really get on your nerves,

And This One thinks everyone’s here just to serve.

There’s a full moon, in the middle of the day,

Don’t you ever wish you could say what you want to say?

It feels natural like this

Watch out for each other, learn from what you see.

Know it with every kiss

I’ll take care of you, will you share your life with me.

*It feels natural like this.  It feels natural like this….

There’s a Full Moon in the Middle of the Day,

There’s a Full Moon in the Middle of the Day

*Please see previous post if you are interested in the story behind why I wrote this song. *

Lost Love”   86 bpm  © MSK 6-2004

We’d been together just a little while

Each day melted into the other.

Daylight through the evenings we danced,

Completely consumed by one another.

As life went on our love got stronger.

My friends thought that it would never last.

I know all things come to an end.

Just didn’t think it would be so fast.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

but For some reason I just can’t let you go.

And he said, ‘son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man’.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you love can.

Father and son, we were never far apart

Through ups and downs, good and the bad

We stood so proud; laughing together.

I’d wait forever but you won’t be back.

When my sister died I found myself crying.

Weeks upon weeks and still to this day

I realize I’m thinking about her

As I’m wiping my tears away.

Son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you know can.

Share what you have, help those in need

Focus on the people around you.

Ask us for help, talk to your friends

You’ll feel so much better when you do.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

But for some reason I just can’t let you go.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Death is nothing new.  My father died of cancer when I was – well, to be honest, I do not really know. mid-twenties? early thirties?  How can a person be talented enough to write beautiful music and still be so lame when it comes to anything important?  I am not sure, but my family has had to deal with me for a long time.  My parents were divorced for years and I did not know him that well.  At the same time, I felt like I had known him forever.  He was never there through the most difficult times In my life and yet at the same time he never left.  Reading about loss of a loved one on other blogs it is clear many people do not feel that way.  The loss is real, it is crippling, it never ends and there is no comfort for the emptiness, no magic words.

I KNOW that wasteland.  Years later my younger sister died from a freak drowning accident.  I was prepared for the death of my dad (and grandparents, friends and distant family members before him).  I shared his love of life and his regrets during that brief time.   For my sister I had no defense.  I did not dwell on death, but if I considered it, it was almost a guarantee she would outlive me.  Surrounded by close family and friends I just started crying.  Talking, greeting, consoling, hugging, but through it all I cried.  I could not share her love of life or future dreams.  I could not speak to her of death; she was gone.  I thought we had so much more time left.  For days if I saw her picture or heard her name; I cried. Even this far forward I had to mentally prepare to write this intro.

Not long ago, my younger brother had to pay his pleasure tax.  Years of drinking and smoking caught up  and throat cancer started eating away at him.  The funniest and kindest guy you would ever know, he did not want to burden anyone with his problems.  I did the best I could to let him know he was not alone and did not have to go through that by himself.  We spent a lot of time together in those last few months.  As his medical power of attorney, I followed his direction.  I understood his desires and knew his demons.  Some things are still too painful to think about so I don’t.  But I do remember what a great human being he was.  We cried many times together and apart.  These days I smile thinking about him, and how great humanity can be.

Love is another type of loss but for all my education and experience over the years I could not tell you which loss is more devastating.  Family you live with and know all the cool things you learned and shared together.  A loved one you will never be able to learn and share future things with.  Loss of the past or loss of the future.  The wasteland seems to keep spreading out forever.  You will never get through it and nothing can replace it.

In the middle of the wasteland jumping all the way up to the moon seems more likely than getting through to the other side.  But it is the sense of loss that keeps us there.   My father is still with me, telling me “remember the past, but look forward, son.   Don’t blind yourself to the path out, seek it”. Hopefully, you will see that your loved ones are still with you.

This is a fairly recent song.  I happened to be going through my files to build a catalog of songs I have, songs in the works and ones I have co-written for a project.  Looking through papers here and there, rifling through files saved from one form of media to another, I found a set of lyrics entitled “Lost Love”.  I looked at it for a while and started reading the lyrics.  I did not recognize any of it, but it was my handwriting and as you will soon see, it is very personal.  I read them and thought,   I need to do something with this.

I have instruments in almost every room in my house.  A week earlier I had been playing a chord progression that was simple but captured a certain feeling or mood that I liked.  I ran upstairs and got the lyrics I mentioned.  I played the guitar with the lyrics in front of me and started to sound out where the lyrics fit in the progression.

Thinking the music and lyrics fell together beautifully, I went to my studio to lay down a rough version of the song.  I used one microphone and recorded the guitar and melody line.   This is “Lost Love“.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Reels of Tape”        (c) 1982 MSK 

Reels of tape feel no pain

Watch the movie over again.

Life pours past the flags unfurled

Crack the crystal paralyzed world.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

Careful surgeons with knives of rust

Open wounds of crimson lust.

Forget today and tomorrow.

Leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

First things first, but think about it twice.

Follow those who take their own advice.

Wasn’t trying any other time.

I’d walk away mumbling a Few Shattered Lines.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

Reels of tape feel no pain

Watch the movie over again.

Life pours past the flags unfurled

Crack the crystal paralyzed world.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

This is one of the original acoustic tunes that’s featured on my new album “Dark Energy.” You can find it on ITunes or CD Baby under Michael S. Kennedy.

As I continue to dig into past songs it is easy to see one problem I have;  I am not good at naming my songs.  Sometimes I go for the punch line, but the punch line is not even a line in the song!  Sometimes I try to highlight one phrase, but ignoring conventional songwriting wisdom, I do not use a phrase over and over in the chorus and call that the title.  So here is another example where the names have changed over the years.  Originally the title was “A Few Shattered Lines“.  I was reading a letter from a friend of mine at college and I pulled some of his phrases into the lyrics. Below are the results.

Reels of Tape has a deep meaning for me.  I spent a lot of years recording on reel to reel tape decks.  I still have my original 4 track TEAC machine.  The lyrics are more abstract than other songs I have written and for some reason I can still slip back to those times when I hear this song.  I am using my Ovation Balladeer 12 string guitar as my standard writing/recording instrument over the years, and I just love the tone and the progression of the chords.  The twelve strings just sound so full, and when using open tuning, it can make the chords sparkle.  The other quick observation: I don’t get rid of equipment I buy…… I keep it forever!

The lyrics seem to create images that expand beyond the words.  Familiar topics can do that sometimes when looked at with a different point of view or even a change in mood.  I love – Life pours past the flags unfurled, Crack the crystal paralyzed world – and other parts, but I could not really tell you why.  Another phrase that sticks with me is – Forget today and tomorrow, leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.  a lot of my lyrics have a rather dark perspective.  But behind them all is a sense of hope and a promise that things will get better and improve.  I am one of the most optimistic people I know!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Recording as an acoustic tune, I use one track for the vocals (unless there is a harmony track) and I use another track for the ‘line out’ from the acoustic/electric guitar, and then I use another track for a microphone placed in front of the 12 string (even here, it is important to place the microphone at the ‘sweet spot’  to get the best tone.  Placing a microphone in front of anything without testing will more often disappoint rather than delight.  As in other posts, I have had better success if I literally stick my head up to the instrument and move back and forth until I get the best sound.  Doing this while playing the instrument is not practical, so I place the microphone, record, listen and compare it to other tracks that use a different microphone position.  Once you have the best of the best, you can be pretty safe using it again.  Live situations with full bands and instrumentation is a challenge and I still try to stick my face in there to get an idea what that instrument sounds like but also if it is close to other instruments, speakers, or unwanted noise makers.  Most vocalists will stand in front of the microphone, but even in this case if they lean or tilt one way or the other it can dramatically affect the final tone or sound.  Much of this is tied to the proximity effect and we will get into that later. For the most part I will pan the 12 string guitar line out to hard Left and the microphone for the 12 string hard Right.  Vocals go in the center, unless you have more than one vocalist or lead singer.  I use very few processors like compressors, gates, limiters, and the like.  As long as you start with a solid tone a bit of EQ if needed, bring in some light reverb or delay and the mix is done.

I don’t mind acknowledging that I am different than a lot of the people I know and hear about.

I am PERFECTLY OK with this.  I know my music and lyrics are not the typical main-stream songs blasted everywhere.  I will not appear on any searches.  Growing up and watching all the Westerns and TV shows, I never – not even once – wanted to be the cowboy or the soldier.  I identified with the ‘good guys’ as most kids do, but to me the cowboys and soldiers were not the only good guys.  I identified more with the American Indians living with nature rather than conquering.

I am not sure what exactly inspired this song when I started it.  I often think about music videos and how that could help explain through images some of the themes in this musical piece.  Possibly the new toys that could make sounds that added less traditional Western culture ideas and more ethnic and international instruments.  I also like contrapuntal rhythms and themes, so you will hear a lot in these pieces.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/touch-down/id962542289