Posts Tagged ‘#recording’

As a creative person, I will often get struck with ideas or projects and even solutions to existing work-blocks without notice. (this is a good thing lol) If I can’t preserve the thoughts at the time there is a good probability I might lose them forever. So I try to get to the computer, writing pad, recorder quickly.

Invariably, I find myself in a creative mood with a great thought…….. ready to capture what will be my greatest work…….. only to have to wait for the computer to do a software download and update. Then comes the mandatory restart and my idea is totally gone. I go to record in my home studio and face load times, cables not connected for this project, something decides not to work for no reason other than it knows I am in a hurry and other events that would be funny in other situations. I can’t find a pen and the pencil point breaks and the notebook is downstairs.

When I get a cup of tea and a block of time to get things done I like to power up my computer or studio and start working. I don’t want to wait for the updates. I am on a mission.

I feel the same way about other areas. If I need to vacuum the floor, I don’t want to empty the container first. When I am ready to paint, I don’t want to stop and clean all the brushes first.

It might seem to others that I waste a lot of time on preventive maintenance and cataloging, but I know the frustration of losing something that could be wonderful.

I am a Before person. How do you look at the day?

This Tuesday I wanted to feature a song by a good friend of mine. “Denham Street” was written by Bob Enderle. Bob Enderle died too many years ago. He wrote a number of songs that I really like. I am not a fan of most popular music. I don’t need to hear one more song about boy loves and loses girl, or how the singer wants to party and have sex all night.

Denham Street and many other songs he wrote are about social injustices we so easily overlook and ignore. This song points out how unfair, uncaring and mean our social policies are. He makes the song sound sweet while the dark lyrics dig into our consciousness.

I did a simple recording of this song. I started with some drum tracks and I played my 12 string Ovation guitar for the main instrument track. I added strings to reinforce the guitar. Once I sang the melody I thought it would be a good song for harmony. I added the harmony vocals and listened to the rough mix a few times.

After a few times through the song I turned off the drum track and liked it better without them. I worked on it for days. I wanted to ‘do the song justice’ and make it fit the image I have from Bob’s version. Sweet tragedy.

Here are the lyrics and my version of Denham Street. I hope you enjoy.


            “Denham Street”                                                     Bob Enderle
 
Car alarms squeal on Denham Street     
Like coyotes howling at the moon.
Tattered grey men look for some place to eat
Teen age mothers search for her womb.
Street lights shattered near the playground;
Darkness hides an old routine.
Cracks in the family, crack in the hall.
 
There’s an overpass over Dehnam Street
Supporting Highway 95.
There are no exits for Denham Street
But it’s only a twenty minute drive.
To the shops with plywood windows
Through the alleys of despair
Just another wrong turn and you’re almost there.
 
To every city there is a Denham Street
And to everyone who grows up there
There are few exits from Denham Street
Fewer thoughts behind an empty stare.
Social programs lack the funding
Social consciousness has died.    
Solutions on the shelf have never been tried.     

“Night” was written in 1980 by a good friend of mine. I have mentioned him before in earlier posts as TR. (Tom Robinson). This is a great song from the past. I loved playing this in our group or as a duo with TR. I love the rhythm and intro motif.

The subject of the lyrics are familiar to me. Driving at night. Getting away. Pondering life and eventual death in the dead of the night are right up my alley!

I recorded the guitar track and wrote the MIDI drum parts to fit the groove and the opening motif. Then I re-recorded the guitar and added bass guitar from computer modules. Then it was time to add vocals and do the mix. I hope you enjoy this gem.

“Night” (C) 1980 Tom Rominson

Night is a ride you just get in a car and go cruisin on. On past the light of the city lights to the cool dark air. Night is a plunge into twinkling depths that can still your mind. Washing your wounds in nature’s rain, her fountains everywhere.

So let the magic continue while you search for an answer within you. And see that swiftly you fly. ‘ ‘Cause we always knew you had to die sometime.

Taking a life is a crime and you know you’re the victim everyday. They gave you a name and a story, not they’re showing you the way. Day is a desert of calendar deadlines, your life an empty phrase. London Bridges falling down, and the rent you got to pay.

But they can’t poison your fantasy in this refuge from insanity. You’ll be here till you kill the lie. And we all know you’re gonna die sometime.

Night is a ride you just get in the car and go cruisin’ on. On past the light of the city lights to the cool dark air. Night is a plunge into twinkling depths that can still your mind. Washing your wounds in nature’s rain, her fountains everywhere.

And when the story is over you will sleep in fields of clover. But your dreams will keep the night-time sky. ‘Cause we always knew you had to die sometime.

“Night” by Tom Robinson

I have been playing around with some themes, grooves, melodies lately. I have written a number of instrumentals over the years that are destined to have no lyrics. Sometimes the pieces are simple riffs and other times they can be full blown productions. I have a few I would like to share with you in the near future. Here is one I am still working on but I like where it is going.

This one I call “Another Dimension”

“Another Dimension”

Greg Stern

MSK Studio

Part of the challenge in writing songs is how difficult it might be to convey a particular feeling or message to studio musicians.  All players should be heading in the same direction, playing the same tune, moving at the same tempo and so on.  Creating soundscapes must be a lot like painting.  Drawing the lines and forms are one thing, but which color is best?  There are so many available yet each one conveys a unique mood or feeling.  Sounds can be like that.  We asked a guitar player/friend of ours to come up with guitar tracks for a project I was working on.   This was for a cable TV project looking for sound tracks for an automotive enthusiast series.  We wanted to give the guitar parts a bit of mood setting so we asked him to create tracks that would generate the feeling of …

an engine or racing car, crunchy, powerful

drive – movement – acceleration, fast, fluid

Using basically no more than the above “instructions” he gathered toys and used the word imagery to shape the sound and the playing style for these tracks.  We used the same list to come up with the basic tracks for the song.  This song is an adaptation of a song I wrote a long time ago and we called it The Big D Jam.  I originally composed this song using the Arp Odyssey synthesizer.  I programmed a pretty cool sounding bass patch and came up with the bass line and skeleton of the song.  This song in its original version was performed when I was with The Personal Touch years ago.  If it was a rockin’ crowd we would let Ric Ahlers jam a bit on the solo parts.  I put some simple lyrics to it and it was a really fun song to play out.  Recently I pulled it out of the song closet and re-wrote the chorus.  I also used new software plug-ins from my computer for all the sounds.  This was amazing for me because I have all this fancy gear with cool sounds and I am not using them at all.  In this post, I wanted to give you an idea how the song progressed. The new sounds are just amazingly clear and natural.  I will post in the near future the complete mix with vocals and effects.  When the sounds and the performance match the request or target, the song seems like it was made to order.

Some of you may notice right away that this song is a little different.  The beat is not the same as many other songs.  I enjoy playing in different time signatures.  Not too weird, but I like different beats and even tempo changes if done right.  This song is played in 3/4 time rather than the more traditional 4/4 time. It gives it more of a waltz kind of feel to the measures.  This is a straight forward recording with me and my Ovation 12 string guitar.  There is a hint of a long reverb.

Castles     To me, this is a rather sad song.  I have seen many relationships that should last forever crumble in front of me.  People that were dedicated and adored each other turned to bitter enemies.  Mutual friends and family stuck with unpleasant decisions.  Broken hearts and lives.  Sometimes there are innocent and guilty, but not as often as you would think.  The rooms themselves seem to whisper a sad tale.  Even the pictures are affected by the loneliness and help tell the tragic but all too familiar tale.  Using common excuses as cliche’s the chorus sums it up fairly well while the verses bounce from past to present.

This is not about the relationships that start out with lies or Jekyll/Hyde waiting for you.  This is more about someone wanting to mold you.  Over powering or just with  persistence.  These extreme situations would quickly spin out of control.  Some that begin with love turn vicious.  And as a reminder these are people that professed they loved each other not long ago.  I don’t know how that is possible, frankly.   Best wishes to you if you have ever had to deal with this situation.

I kept hearing a melody line while reading the poem “Hearts Of Stone” I posted earlier.  It is a haunting melody in many ways.  The music behind it is sparse and supports the vocals with open space and fluid timing.  The music seems out of place at first as the lyrics are happy, hopeful and even loving.  On the other side of the chorus the lyrics take a darker look at the conditions many people live with.  The minor key and slow progression of the instruments come into play and help paint a portrait of dismal human experiences.

As with a number of my original recordings, I wish I could sing the piece with power and passion the way it needs to be sung to convey the ideas in my head, but this is probably the best I can do.  Close your eyes and pretend your favorite vocalist is singing.  That MIGHT help lol. Comments suggested a rock song for the lyrics and I agree.  I am playing with the idea and may have another version in the future.  For now, here is my eerie version of “Hearts Of Stone”.

Heart-of-Stone

“Single Desire” is one of my favorite original lyrics.  I think a number of my songs get too “preachy” and sound like I know all the answers.  I usually don’t know all the answers, but I sure have made a lot of mistakes to learn from.  Single Desire takes another path. With fewer words than many of my songs it tries to paint images using sights from our normal day to day lives.  I like using the sunset comparison as sunsets are one of the most beautiful things we get to enjoy on this planet.  Yet in this analogy, they can be burned permanently into our hearts and minds.  Sometimes the loss of beauty is the worst experience of all.

https://midimike.com/2017/12/06/single-desire/

 

“Single Desire”                                  (C) MSK 1988

You left your mark upon me

Like sunsets on fire.

Plunged deep into the sea

With a Single Desire.

 

Always got what you wanted

Nothing worked more than your charm.

As the hunter you hunted

Without thinking of the harm.

 

I never let you down

“But did you really care?”

I never put you down

“You just tried to keep me there”.

Once I had to follow:

Now I walk away.

 

You left your mark upon me

Like sunsets on fire.

Plunged deep into the sea

With a Single Desire.

 

I never let you down

“But did you really care”.

I never put you down

“You just tried to keep me there”.

Truth is hard to swallow

My Single Desire

 

Once I had to follow.

Now I walk away.

MSK Yellowstone

MSK Yellowstone

00001341

Photo by MSK Yosemite

Burning Impressions That Last Forever                                 

“Single Desire” was written in a time when I must have had a lot to say.  The year was 1988. Once love has grabbed you it can burn deep.  No matter how you want things to turn out, sometimes you have no control on the direction they take.  You find yourself helpless at the time and unable to avoid mistakes that seem obvious even to you.  Single Desire tries to describe the condition when adoration is not reciprocal.  When you are not loved in return.  Only one thing matters and nothing you can do will make it happen.

When the other person learns that type of control is in their hands, they have power that can turn lovers insane.  He/She can make the helpless romantic into a tool that can be discarded when no longer useful.  There is no cost to them.  Displays of charm and hints of affection can destroy all resistance and common sense in the admirer.

We need to wait until the fire burns out completely before we can stop following and finally walk away.  The problem is there is usually very little left to walk away with.

I tried to give this song a full arrangement as powerful as the lyrics (or the idea behind them) felt to me.  I knew I could not sing it the way it required so I called my  good friend and band-mate Gary Jefferson as I have many times over the years to do the vocal tracks.  My wife Ellen does the chorus ‘response’ vocal parts.  I used my keyboards and MIDI tone generators to do all the instrumental tracks including the drums, strings, brass and bass guitar parts, and invited my buddy Shawn Anderson to come over and lay down the lead guitar tracks. Harlen Lee, another great friend of mine, came in and added additional guitar parts.  I really like the bass guitar line, and think the strings add movement and dramatic accents to the song.

Please give “Single Desire” a few plays to let it sink in and I hope you enjoy.

Written 8-27-1982 by MSK and I recorded it around 4-1983.

The main melodic themes for this song were inspired by my Yamaha DX7 ‘tine’ sound. That sound (or patch) has been used in many professional recordings since the keyboard was introduced.  The guitars and vocals are real-time of course, and everything else was sequenced.

Ann Ellis from my band The Personal Touch does the vocals on this one.  I would play the main piano part and she would sing the lyrics until we got the timing and the feel the way we wanted it.  From that point I sequenced the main piano part.  Every time I play this song I play it as you hear it in this recording, but I play a different last chord.  No two versions have the same ending, and I never know what the last chord will be.  My wife Ellen and I worked on the backing sounds like the strings, brass and pads to make this a full sounding production.  Once I had the basic piano parts and drums done, I don’t think we ever added a dedicated bass line as the song ended up sounding very full.

My buddy Shawn David Anderson plays lead guitar on this one and really drives home with the power and tone I was hoping for.  The lyrics are one of my favorites.  Not necessarily by themselves, but when reflecting on the emotions and events of the time. True multi-track recording capabilities gave me the option to create complex instrumental layers as opposed to the limited recordings I had been able to achieve from a four-track cassette deck!

I even sent this song to be evaluated by professionals.  Among some of the comments it was suggested that the song was too long and that the intro went too long before the vocal lines were introduced.  I have a version that starts when the vocals kick in, but this is my favorite version.  I hope you agree.