Posts Tagged ‘#piano’

I would like to share another half-baked instrumental piece with you. When you have written over 175 songs you have to try very hard to discover new things. Sometimes we audio engineers can get stuck in a rut too. We use dependable tools and procedures until we slowly lock ourselves into a production-line-song making-engine.

If you are a label, publisher etc., you will appreciate the cookie-cutter assembly line model. You would benefit from the homogeneous funnel that affects all the broadcast music we listen to today. As you can tell from my previous posts, I choose not to be main stream and often try the unusual or untested. But this is where I will stop whining about a music industry that only wants to back the mega mega stars of today. Our favorite musicians from the past would never get a break in today’s world. Long live rock and roll.

This song is in the chopping block stage. For fun, I noodle with varied instruments all the time. Most of it is nonsensical and I archive or delete it. Often there are really good gems in a sea of debris. On occasion, most of what I created sounds good and for some reason I like it. There are parts that work well and others that need to be enhanced or deleted. The software is capable but fairly easy to edit and “copy – Paste”. If you like or dislike a section, please let me know the min/sec in your comments.

This recording was a little unusual in the process side of things. I started with a metronome click track in my computer. I picked up my guitar (always in tune) and set up the computer (always ready to record) and – I am being literal here – found a chord on the guitar. Without regard for key or scale or root, I just kept trying different positions until I liked the sound and voicing of the chord. I started recording just that chord in various styles for a few minutes. Each chord clean and distinct. Then I would play a pattern or arpeggio with the same voicing. Then a few hard hits. Next I stopped recording, found another chord and repeated that process.

Once I had a number of guitar parts that I liked, I arranged them along a measured grid to create a single guitar track. I used chords for different segments of the song to create the chorus and bridges. Once the guitar was assembled I listened to the guitar and recorded MIDI bass guitar, piano and drums using the plug-ins in my software (Cakewalk/Sonar/Bandlab). The drums have a jazzy dynamic feel and I like the way some of this song fits together. I imagine watching for the sunset or sunrise over the hill on a chilly but beautiful day. That’s just me.

I have to fix a lot of things and it is not complete as I cautioned, but I hope you like it. BTW, I call it “134” because that is the tempo! I really have to work on my naming skills.

As we moved the song “My Heart is Silent” forward, I wanted to give you an update in the process.  New chord structure keeping some of the vibe from the first version and new vocals and you can see how quickly songs can change from the original concept.  The last version had a female vocalist and this time we hear from a friend of Mack.  His name is Carlos and he has a smooth ballad vocal style. Again, this is the first vocal attempt to give us an idea how the song feels with a male vocalist and more of a structured feel to the verses. 

 We decided to go with a spoken intro for the first verse.  I like the way it opens the song and allows us to build the vocals as the song progresses.  Oddly enough, a lot of the lyrics went back to the original as the song structure fit the words a bit easier.  We also considered doing a male-female duet.  No final decision yet and we are still thinking about back-up vocals to enhance some of the lines from each verse to drive the end of the song as it builds up.   

 I added MIDI string parts after the piano intro.  The drum parts and bass guitar are also all MIDI generated coming from the computer.  I added a low-key rhythm guitar part during the chorus and later verses.  Once we have the vocal parts finalized we may add other instruments as the song progresses toward the end.   

 So what do you think?  Male vocalist, female or duet?   

 What other instruments do you ‘hear’ in the final version?  Saxophone?   Brass? Orchestral?  Lead guitar? 

 Do you like the spoken opening verse rather than jumping straight into the melody? 

 Here is the latest rough mix of “My Heart Is Silent”. 

A Song in the Making Part III

A Song in the Making Part II

A Song in the Making

It is time to report on the progress of the song that Mack and I have been working on titled: “My Heart Is Silent”.   We had the basic instrumental tracks in place and a rough mix finished and I posted it a few weeks ago.  I added a scratch vocal track so we could get an idea how and where they lyrics fit.  Soon after we let a few vocalists we know listen to the music and the idea we had for the melody line.  The arrangement had a number of parts and we had to adopt the lyrics a bit and worked the melody to fit around the arrangement.

I will include a rough copy of the song with the vocals.  A friend my wife knows came over to the studio to lay down some vocal tracks.  She is not a professional vocalist and this was her first time in any studio.  I know from many years of recording other artists that it is not as easy as it sounds.  I try to be charming and supportive but it can be difficult to feel comfortable when the recording starts and you want to make it perfect.  Ann did very well and she started to get the melody down and add a few flourishes.  So knowing this is a first session and not intended to be a final take, here is the song as it was.

I say was, because each vocalist we talked to, and during our internal creative discussions, it became apparent that the lyrics and mood did not really match the music.  After a number of talks we decided to scrap the music all together.  Mack wanted another crack at it and took the lyrics – and our observations home to try to come up with an arrangement that better matched our thoughts and discussions about the lyrics and what we wanted to hear them with.  As I mentioned, this can be a long process with plenty of changes and modifications along the way.

While we now have a pleasant instrumental piece almost complete, my wife and I will write lyrics to it (so all is not lost).  Mack wrote a new piano piece and kept some of the ideas of the first version.  We have been working on the new musical piece and I will share that with you in a week or so.  We have a vocalist working on the basic instrument tracks and hope to have the new version with lyrics fairly soon.

Part II of Making a Song

Part I of Making a Song

 

 

As Part II of this series I will post the rough version of the heart of the musical components starting with the Piano and basic arrangement of the new song, “My Heart Is Silent”.  © 2016. Click here to read Part I. 

For the Piano we are using an 88 wood weighted keyboard controller.  It is an older Yamaha KX88.  As you will remember from the MIDI series posted earlier (LINK) the KX88 makes no sound at all.  While it has the play and feel of a real piano, it sits on a keyboard stand and I use the MIDI OUT to connect through a router I have straight to the computer.  In future posts I will go into more detail on how the sounds are generated and what I am using to get each sound. We recorded a few passes and because this is MIDI, I had the ability to move pieces around as we focused in on the arrangement.

The piano player listened to a glorified ‘click track’ I created with a MIDI drum controller from my Alesis Control Pad.   It has 8 assignable trigger pads and a cymbal trigger that can be set to trigger sounds from any MIDI device, but again I am going straight to the computer and using internal sounds for the drum parts.  This way we can record the piano part with the correct tempo even though there are no other instruments recorded yet.  This also makes editing easier if everything fits within the measures.  When we rearranged the sections I  ‘cut and paste’ parts from one place to another just the way you would with a Word document.  This makes life much easier for the recording engineer (yours truly).  If this was recorded with a microphone and without the click track it would be awkward to work with.

The KX88 also has sustain and volume controller pedals attached, so to the piano player it acts and feels quite natural.  Mack E. is my partner in creating this new song.  He read the lyrics I wrote to “My Heart Is Silent” and asked if he could take them home and work on the music.  This is a theme he has had in his personal arsenal for a while.  He played a bit with the tune and came up with a melody for the lyrics.  We worked on the arrangement until we were happy with it and here is the rough version of the piano chords.  We will add other instruments and vocals later but for now we have a good foundation for the song so we can build support instruments to fill out the song.

 

Up = (#/Sharp). Down = (b/Flat).

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
C C# Db D D# Eb E F F# Gb G G# Ab A A# Bb B

There are a number of discussions possible here. My point is the rose is a rose experience from my own limited understanding. Music theory is not my strong point. I know players that are very specific in the reference of notes or the progression used when naming them. It does make it easier to communicate – – – – – – To set up this conversation let it be understood that any note can be raised or lowered in increments of half-steps. Take your Root note and play the next highest note and you have ‘sharped’ the note. If you play the next lowest note you have ‘flatted’ that note. Up = Sharp. Down = Flat.

Any note. Any instrument. Any Western scale. Similar to the reference in Tuning; if pitch is too high it is Sharp, and if it is too low it is Flat.

We agree on common ground for the Titles of the Twelve. Looking at the piano as my standard example we need to notice the color of the keys not as a place on a musical staff or its place in a scale but as a compact representation of DISTANCE. The chart above uses the shading to mimic the keyboard and is not compressed or compact like the real piano is but if you play notes to the right they get higher by half-notes. Color means nothing to this reference. We rarely call the C note a B#, and we rarely call the F note an E# but this is a similar relationship.

Above you see the black notes have alternate names assigned to them. One way to help easy translation is to keep with one designator in the project. Give the notes names that are one system and not the other. Various way to think of it – a rose;

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B, C is a rose:

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C

is a rose;

C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C

Along those lines I want to copy a recent comment from a great friend of mine and frequent commenter on this blog:

The math is easier if you name the root “zero.” 0 2 4 5 7 9 11 (the major scale). You can add 12 and get the same notes, just an octave higher. Subtract 12 and get the original keys. There are only 12 tones on a piano: 0, 1, 2, …, 11 After that, it just repeats.

The Mysterious Twelve is represented this way in the chart above. Starting with zero would change the Safe Seven representation to look like this:

C D E F G A B C

0 2 4 5 7 9 11 12

This is true and practical to use when considering the relationships of notes especially when working with musical scores where you are talking multiple octaves and keeping the relationships common. For many musicians, songs can be described as patterns. For example, if you are beginning a Jam and following previous examples in the key of C, you could say ‘lets start out with C for a few measures, then go to F and then go to G and repeat. Ready, set go!’. The Safe Seven shows us this relationship as a number starting with the Root equaling 1.

The Jam could also be started by saying ‘key of C, let’s play a 1,4,5 progression. Ready, set, Go!’. In this relationship, 1 = the Root or C, the 4th = F, and the 5th of the scale = G. The next jam session might be in the key of Bb, but we can still state this as 1,4,5 and the musicians that know the Safe Seven in each key will easily translate. You would be surprised how many popular songs follow the 1 – 4 – 5 and similar patterns! Starting with 1 as the Root, allows this pattern to more easily translate to the Root, 3rd, 5th – as this matches the common chord progression associations.

The point being there are a number of names for our ‘rose’, depending on the need or project at hand. If we call C “C”, “B#”, “0” or “1”, we are still describing the relationship between the 12 notes. As with the sharps and flats naming structure, once we start with a system, use the system through the entire project to avoid confusion!

MIDIMike’s Reviews Are Coming Soon!

As a result of requests from fellow bloggers and ReverbNation members, we are just a few weeks away from launching the new ​MIDIMike’s Reviews Site.  This site will be dedicated to reviewing original music and creative writing submissions every week.  I assembled a​n amazing​ team of reviewers to work with me and they are ​also ​excited to help with this new project.

I have been writing and performing for decades, but recently I struggled to get my material professionally reviewed for my on-line presskit.  I have seen a number of artists struggle to acquire this simple but necessary stepping stone.  Several of you have asked me for opinions on your material and I want to make that advice available to everyone.  I want to be able to give back to all of you for the support and encouragement you’ve given me over this last year.

MIDIMike’s Reviews will  be free and honest.  I will be posting the reviews on my http://www.midimike.com site (which has thousands of views per month) and on the upcoming review site.  You are also welcome to use the review for your own website/blog/presskit when referencing MIDIMike’s Reviews as the source.  The individual review posts are not guaranteed for all submissions, but every submission will receive feedback from us.  I enjoy raw talent, but the submissions should be presented ​as professionally​ as possible.  Your creative works will be handled with the utmost care and you retain full ownership.  HOWEVER: You must guarantee you are the sole author and have full permissions to publish these works.

If you are interested in having your material reviewed, please e-mail: midimikesreviews@gmail.com

Music – You may submit a song or an album for review.  Please send a link to the material in full and any additional presskit material or websites (if available).

Poetry – Please e-mail the poem or poems in full to the e-mail address with any websites/social media (if applicable).

All levels of experience accepted. (If you have any questions, you can also e-mail them to us at midimikesreviews@gmail.com)

Please keep in mind; I do what I can, but sometimes life gets in the way. Please be patient with us while we get this up and running.  I tried to avoid as much legal jargon as possible but there are exceptions, exclusions and I have the final say on what reviews will be posted and for the content of the reviews.

On a more pleasant note, I get to hear a lot of great music from new bands and artists before they become wildly famous and read great poetry before it’s professionally published! Thank you for making the first half of 2015 a blast, and it is just getting started!

​MIDIMike​

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When looking at the keyboard as an example of note patterns and the arrangement chart I used for the numerical assignment for each note, it might be natural to think that the Black keys or Shaded fields represent the ‘Half notes’ or notes that are not within a scale. This however takes us down the wrong path. The keyboard offers a clean representation of the note relationships at a quick glance but we need to be careful how we perceive this relationship. ALL notes – no matter what the color – are HALF notes. The color of each key means NOTHING if we are not in the key of C Major. Look at many other instruments and there are no color designators for scales, notes or keys. The guitar has other markings to help know what fret is being used, and this can be helpful for knowing the range of notes in any section of the guitar fretboard, but again, does not directly indicate notes within scales.

Play any adjacent note on the keyboard going up (higher notes – right) or down (lower notes – left) and it is another half step. Each instrument will have its own lingo but the structure is the same. Start with any note and if you skip a note or single key in this example you will be playing Whole notes. For guitar players we would say up one fret or down one fret…. up two frets or down two frets. Brass, wind and other players will talk about sharps or flats. From here it is better to be color blind until you get familiar with other scales and keys. If we start with a Black note for example, it becomes the Root and all notes will stem from that Root note. Some scales will include more Black notes, some scales will include less. The fact that the keyboard pattern has two white notes side by side has little value when thinking about scales, it just helps us understand the amount of separation from the surrounding notes. It is that separation and relationship that we need to focus on. The Perception is the distance between notes and the pattern helps understand their relationship to each other. The Deception can knock us off track if we begin to think the color designators represent a constant scale assignment.

In fact, when I look at a drum set I think the same way……. each tom, for example, should represent a tone or note and they can be tuned to fit within scales. For right-hand drummers or percussionists, the smaller toms are usually to the left-hand side and getting larger as you move to the right. Smaller toms are tuned to higher pitches and lower toms and the kick drum are tuned to lower pitches. YES! I will tune the drums when doing recording sessions so the tone of the drums will fit within the scale of the song. I might re-tune if necessary depending on the song, but that is fairly rare for bands to use dramatic changes. I make sure each tom, snare and kick drum is tuned to the project (that might be easier to understand than tuning to each song….). Like Gary Jefferson would often say to our audiences while the guitar player is silently tuning, ‘we sound better if we are in tune’! If the percussion instruments are not arranged properly and not tuned correctly, it will clash with the other instruments. The result can be unnoticed by many, but even those of us that are not professionals will notice that the recording or performance (as I mentioned I often tune drums for bands I am running sound for) sounds cloudy or awkward and not as tight as it could be even though the players are amazing and well rehearsed. We may not know why…. but we know something is getting in the way of a great performance.

This was one of those amazing events that happen in your life. You get thrown together with really cool and creative people and work on a project. There are so many stories here it is a good thing that I need to break it up into a number of segments. I have already credited a lot of the experiences I had as a result of working at the music stores. This was another one of those. The employees were musicians by definition and we also had band and instrument teachers working there. Everyone played but quite a number of us wrote our own material as well. At the store I managed, we were a diverse group with a wide definition of styles. I did not own it, but it was MY store. I had an agreement with the owner that he not visit my location while I was there. I would run it my way and do the best I can as if it is my store. He agreed and for years I did exactly that. I took care of the people that worked and shopped there. I gave people real advice and information. We developed long-term loyal customers. It was a great team and we had a common goal – do good and we keep the owner out of our building! Great motivation.

A local radio station WOXY in Oxford, OH sponsored a Local Licks radio segment I think every Thursday night for a few months. I had submitted a few of my songs and one of them got played one week. Nice feeling to hear your stuff on the radio. I submitted a few more original tunes and suggested one of the other employees to enter some of his songs. He had more of an urban beat box groove thing going and he did all his own recordings. He did not think anything would come of it as his stuff is even more eclectic than mine! So he gave me a cassette tape – yes, a cassette tape! – and told me to pick the best songs and send them in under his name. I took his tape home and consumed it for hours. Then I made my decision and picked three songs to submit.  This is one of those funny things too. I sent in a song I thought had a great hook a nice arrangement and was really catchy in the genre he was in. I entered my next favorite that really pushed the drum/percussion thing he had going. I thought they had a good chance.

For the third song I threw in something that in all honesty was my attempt at ‘comedic relief’. I figured if I threw something out there that was really bizarre and off beat, they would think the other two songs were great by comparison. Not that the song was not great, but not a match for this heavy-leaning college radio station (… “the future of rock and roll” …..) The third song of his featured a banjo player and an off beat kind of groove. The Local Licks segments lead up to a radio version of battle of the bands. Songs played on Local Licks weekly segments would be entered into an elimination round on the last week the program aired. The finalists would have their songs played one more time as the winners were announced and then the bands would perform for just under an hour in a well known club in Cincinnati for prizes and glory.

As we listened to the local radio station during the elimination round there was a funny feel to the ‘winners’ moving ahead. There was an unusual flavor where songs you thought would be a shoe-in were dropped, and unusual tunes were advancing. Some songs were down right off the wall. There must have been a shift in judging but there were songs with unusual instruments in them getting to the finalists position. There was a song by a band called Tuba Blues. Another one I can’t remember had another unusual lead instrument and to think of it, as you remember one of my friend’s songs featured a banjo player!. Sure enough……. his song kept advancing. We were floored when they picked my friend’s third song! That night on the radio they announced the four finalists that would compete in a live battle of the bands event at Bogarts. Without pulling out records I think the event would be in about three or four weeks time from the announcement.

None of us at the store expected any of us to go that far, let alone to finalist. But none of us could believe that was the song that won! It was a fluke that I entered the song and that the judge apparently was looking for unusual instruments in rock and roll bands that year. Who da thunk? Once we met at work and talked it over it became obvious my friend had one problem; he was a soloist and there was no band! HA! The guitar teacher had a band called It. Ellen and I would join on keyboards and guitar and vocals and another employee and great friend over the years would join in on keys, guitar, vocals and a mean shaker! Each of us put in original songs to perform as a band and we rehearsed for a solid two weeks to try to get ready for this show. We knew numbers-wise we did not have a real chance of winning, but we were determined to make a show and event out of it.

……. All the while in the depths of a cave far from civilization, a Master of Ceremony was writing a series of short speeches that would be an added theatrical presentation between songs. Only the day of the performance did we see how this fit together and we had no idea what he was going to say – with the exception of a few word keys that would trigger a response from the band members, and occasionally the audience in return.

Fortunately we were all musicians currently involved in original songs and live performance. We had pretty good gear and we knew how to use it. We knew how to learn songs and how we can add to them or subtract as needed. Practice went well and started to be fun. The writer of the winning song chose the band name, and we made T-Shirts for all band members with the band name and studio logo; Willie the Ferret Studios. We worked out vocal parts as we had a number of vocalists and lots of harmonies and added speech. The lead guitar player was killer. His drummer was awesome and the bass player in their band IT, was solid and blindingly fast. With that foundation we just had to do our thing and it would all blend in fine. So we were ready enough but nervous as hell. A lot of things could go wrong here.

We get there and listen to the bands that were playing before us and there is a pretty good crowd at this point. We have our equipment squeezed up next to the stage entrance so we can rush in as soon as this band is done and moves their gear out. We set up fast. My keyboard controller does something funny and it takes me a while to fix it. No problem – tune guitar and ready to go. We look around and there are only a few microphones so we ask for more as we have a number of vocalists. They tell us no, that is what everyone gets. So as you see us a little unorganized and running from one side of the stage to another, it is changing instruments and trying to find a way for all vocalists to sing – or speak their part.  After a while it was just funny and we worked it out quickly for the most part and had fun with it.

The audience is not sure and a little uncomfortable with the speeches at first, but after a couple times and solid music everyone got the idea and joined in. The band has to settle down a little and the monitors and the mix takes a while to get used to. It is hard to hear some of the keyboard and vocal parts in some parts but that is to be expected. The writer of our winning song does not perform until the last song, so he helps with the Main House mix in the club. We were a little more involved than the regular rock band so he was able to plan ahead. I wish the lighting guy had help too. They seem a little lost at times but over all still a cool event.

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

It may take a few times through listening to this one.  A number of my songs might seem quite alien at first.  I hope you let them grow on you.  (OK, that sounded kinda creepy LOL!) This is a textured song where I did all the sequencing and drum programming.  There are no guitars on this song.  Most of this is Atari days using the Proteus 1 tone generator an the RX 15 drum machine.  I also use sounds straight from the keyboard(s) I use as controllers.   In this case it is the Korg Trinity V3.  Other than the vocals, everything is recorded via MIDI and plays back live sounds from the keyboards and tone generators (along with effects and other goodies).   From start to finish this is a dark piece.  Sparse percussion with a rolling sequenced bass line.  You have heard my wife before on “All Night Long” and “What I do at Night” and this is another one of her gems.  The intro and break vocals are from Phyllis Ann, who toured with The Personal Touch and sang on “The Touch” and “Our Bodies Move.”   As the song begins I try to use multiple melody lines in various instrument voicings to lay the chordal structure.  Plucky guitar sounds come from the Korg.  Slow trance – lulling you closer.   Then the message; “Who’s Following You?”.  But the subject quickly settles on the main issue; death.  Too many of us are waiting for that dream.

“It’s Easy to Die” (@) MSK 1990

I wonder, I wonder who

Who, is following you.

It’s easy to die

You just close your eyes.

And then once the dream begins

It will never end. My friend.

Don’t put up a fight

Just follow the light.

It’s not too hard

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

Chorus:

It’s easy to turn

Your life into lies. My friend

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

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I have shared a number of experiences that have been about loss. Unfortunately, when you get older, you have more experiences watching the achievements of a life’s work and loves dissolve.  There are many types of loss and a personal friend of mine has been going through a very difficult time.  I just needed to share my experience and thoughts. Over these posts I have often mentioned working at local music stores and the benefit of knowing some awesome people. One of the friends I worked with for years and formed a great partnership “co-owning” the music store with all those years ago has had a devastating loss. As social media is …. he found out from friend’s texts and e-mails that while he was traveling, his house burnt down. His job is demanding and a lot of people depend on him to be there. He could not get home and as we all need to do from time to time; he had to rely on his friends and family (many times they are the same thing).  He is still away and has not seen his home other than on the news and through social media.

I would like to let you know that we have successfully completed the ‘search and rescue’ mission.  We got anything we could out of the building during the days of rain with holes in the roof.  It was a scramble with trusted friends.  We hauled ass and a bunch of other things.  Some musical instruments are damaged beyond use or repair and some have hope of restoration or managed to remain untouched by the whole thing!   He is a musician and like me has an insatiable love for art, music, friendship and making the world better than it would be without us in it.  This has got to be devastating.  For me, carrying out each old and precious instrument or piece of gear,  had a deep impact.  Others worked on his art and personal belongings.  I have heard their stories and all have a deep sense of loss.  No one was hurt.  Many things can be replaced.  But as the fire and then the water took their toll, a lot of his life’s work did dissolve.

We are working now on cleaning and saving as much as we can.   As my daughter Alisa, who runs my blog, practically grew up in the music store and all my friends, she has known John Van Eaton almost her entire life.  She is creating a positive use of social media and spreading the word through this and other avenues.  We will have a number of benefits to raise money and support to help him work through this until he is able to come home and the resources he will need once he returns.  I will post more info as details come in and thank you – fellow bloggers – for letting me share this with you.  The sharing allows healing.

 For more details or to contribute to his fund, see below.  MIDIMike