Posts Tagged ‘#song’

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

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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.

I wrote this song many years ago.  It reflects ideas I had for a long time before they became lyrics to a song.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been interrupted by people coming into a dark room I was in and immediately tuning on all the lights.  Even early in my life I was concerned about so many city lights that I could not see the stars on an otherwise clear night.  There seemed to be no end to this trend.  Now I have to travel miles and miles to find a dark place outside the city lights.

earthlights3_dmsp

I only have this one recording of the song.  This happened when I introduced the song for the first time to my band mates.  We ran through this tune a couple times in the living room.  As far as I know this is the only time the song was performed, so I was lucky to get it recorded……

Though that is not strictly true as I recorded everything back then!  My friends used to give me a hard time for being so weird about that.  I always had the mics out and ready to record.  Even if we just sat around and talked, I had the reels rolling.

So while this is not a great recording and you can hear me give arrangement directions as we ran through the song, I am glad to have this copy of Brighter and Brighter.  I will have to look in my archives to find out when the lyrics were written.  At the time, my young son would want to keep his bedroom lights on at night.  Not for fear of something under the bed.  Just because he preferred it that way.  So these lyrics and the song they inspired are for him.

“Brighter and Brighter”                                  (C) MSK

Some people get off on those neon lights

Keep the sun burning to hold back the night.

Won’t give it a chance and set the darkness free

So much going on that they have to see

That they have to see.

 

Not me!

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

 

Sign posts, traffic lights and red laser beams

Brighter and Brighter that’s the way it seems

I don’t turn yours out so don’t turn mine on

Just leave it where it is until I am gone

Until I am gone.

 

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

 

Hide in the closet and close my eyes

It won’t help to look when the spirt flies

It’s people like you who learn to believe

Through large mushroom clouds and your big bight ideas

Yeah, all your big bright ideas.

 

Not me!

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

____________________________________________________________

Mara – The Making of a Video

I usually did not have to search for new projects.  There were plenty of musicians, bands and performers that did not have a lot of resources – or cash – when starting out.  Working at the local music store chain, I was lucky to know some great players, writers, and musicians of all sorts.  l am attracted to talented people of all kinds.  I often wish listeners of my music would give me the benefit of the doubt that I gave to many of the people I met and came to appreciate.  I realize my songs are not always ‘radio worthy’ or commercially viable, and always hoped someone would look beyond that and realize the songs I offered for what they could be if recorded professionally and marketed on a large scale.  Maybe that day will still come, but back then there were a number of artists that I could help take the next step.

Word got out that I had an understanding of technology and could usually pick things up quickly.  I absorbed owners manuals, dedicated time and when possible drafted other talented people to make projects work.  One of the fun and exciting things I got to do was shoot and edit live musical band performances.  MakeShift Kreations was an early company name I came up with using my initials: M S K.  I believe this was filmed way back in 1988!!!

Using the same video and editing suite from the cable company available for local access channels that I used for my first conceptual video: “Walking Man” I learned how to use multi camera filming and video editing techniques.  In some situations I offered to do videos for friends as this was a new (again, at the time!) medium and was very expensive for most bands.  In Part I, I would like to present the video I made of Mara, a local band with highly talented musicians.  My wife Ellen and I did all the camera, editing and post production work.  These are their original songs performed live over a two-night period. It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot and had a great time.

Please use the following link to see the Mara: Part I video:

https://youtu.be/VwKz1Po4_XM

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fortunately, when I have too many things on my plate and never seem to get to putting some of my best lyrics to music, I have many talented friends that bail me out.  Often I write poems – but almost as often I begin writing lyrics intending to put music to them at some point.  Today I will share the lyrics and the original live recording to one of my favorites.

I found myself thinking of musical relationships and what, to some, becomes a long path that never gets close to ‘stardom’, whatever that is.  The late-night conversations with many friends – musicians reflecting on the efforts and rewards involved in the lifestyle we have chosen – became metaphors in these lyrics.

The title “Stainless Steel” refers to one type of guitar strings.  I also use silk and stainless steel strings on my Ovation 12 string guitar, but Stainless Steel captured the feeling I was surrounded by when writing the lyrics.  There is a certain pride creative people get when sacrificing for their art.  So many things are put on the back-burner or postponed indefinitely to accomplish turning a dream or idea into a treasure; even if it is only for a select few to enjoy.  No one else may ever know what gems were created, and it appears to many that you have nothing to show for your time and talent.  Only a few will understand the trade-offs you have made; those sitting around with you late at night, year after year.

In this recording my good friend, the late Mark Kelsey, plays guitar and sings.  He is accompanied by Ann Ellis from my band “The Personal Touch”.  Mark has worked through the arrangement a few times and I believe this is the first time Ann had heard the song.  He quickly recorded for me to listen to and was later to record a final version in a professional studio where he lived.  This is my favorite recording and I will always think fondly of him when I hear this recording.  While the living room quality is easy to hear, the mood and inspiration comes through clearly.

In our busy lives, it is all too easy for us to overlook the efforts our friends and loved ones make for us.  Sometimes it takes far too long for us to fully appreciate those acts of love.  I have let many go unrecognized – unappreciated – unacknowledged until it was too late.  Looking back I find myself humbled to realize how much my life would have been uplifted and how many friends deserved my  – – –  I do not know the correct words, but ‘praise’ seems as close as any I can think of.   It may also have uplifted their lives in a time when they needed it most.  It can be sad and joyous when time finally reveals the reflections of our lives.

Stainless Steel”                         Lyrics by MSK, Music by Mark D Kelsey  © 1984

 

Stainless Steel Shining Bright

Broken Glass Shattered nights

When we talk, What we feel

Lights the fire Turns the Wheel

Turns the wheel

 

Stainless Steel Sharp and cold

Day by day Bought and sold

Take my hand Close your eyes

Say a prayer Throw the dice

Throw the dice

 

Waiting for a Miracle is like waiting forever

When there’s nothing else to do

I hope that someone’s out there waiting for me baby,

The way that I ‘m waiting for you

Oh Stainless Steel

 

Stainless Steel Deep within

Who we are What we’ve been

Reaching out Find ourselves

Kiss goodbye, What the hell

What the hell

 

Stainless Steel Never bends

No one blames Or defends

Smiles will fade Tears will fall

Memories of Nothing at all

Nothing at all

 

Waiting for a Miracle’s like waiting forever

When there’s nothing else to do

I hope that someone’s out there waiting for me baby,

The way that I ‘m waiting for you

Oh Stainless Steel

 

 

The Cotton SongGoing With the  Flow                                                                                                                                This is a calming piece based on the string sounds from one of the plug-ins on my recording software program.  Sometimes a new sound or new toy can inspire themes, songs and projects.  This is one of those situations where I am listening to new sounds and noodling on the keyboard to hear the new tones and to see how the patch responds to the keyboard and controllers.  As I was listening to the new sounds, I enjoyed the string sound I was playing with and started recording the noodling I was doing.  I played for about five or six minutes and stopped recording to listen back.

The first section I scrapped and the rest was rather pleasant (sometimes this is a surprise indeed!).  While listening I started hearing harmonies in my head so I started recording on a 2nd track and used the same string sound to add another layer.  After that I stopped.  I like the mood this inspires.  I am not sure why I called it Cotton Song, but I got the feeling of being in the South overlooking plantations.  So it stuck!  I did not change anything and mixed it down to what you hear in this post.  Other versions of noodling or just playing with sounds rarely turn into a solid piece, so I have tons of snippets that have nice themes but to date have never been expanded upon.  One of these days I will listen to other noodling sessions and I might make something out of them.  For this song, have a cup of tea, sit back for a little bit and let your mind and body relax.  Admit it… you could use that right about now!

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