Category Archives: in depth 2015

In Depth Post #7, finished song

After multiple sessions of recording and deleting failed attempts, I’ve finally been able to settle on a few clips that I’m satisfied with. My first song is coming into shape, the drum line will need to be worked on, but I have the bass and guitar recorded and put together. The process took much longer then I would have initially thought; every time I recorded something, there would always be a small issue with it that made it necessary to do a re-take. I eventually settled on a bass recording that had only one small error with it, and a guitar track that was satisfactory. However, while I was recording the song, I ran into a roadblock and had to almost entirely restart the guitar part.

Partway through my most recent recording session, I decided to play the bass and guitar parts together to make sure they lined up properly. What I found out is that I had based part of the melody on the wrong chord structure, and I would have to re-create a large part of it. This was especially frustrating since I had just finished recording a satisfactory guitar track with the original melody, and I then had to change it and try to record it all over again. After another hour or so, I got that finished, and I thought I was done. I put the two parts together again and noticed yet another error: The bass amp’s volume was turned up too loud when I was recording, causing the microphone to vibrate in its stand and make the recording quality awful. The result? Record the bass line, again, with a lower volume.

I finally got both parts done. It was awful running into the roadblocks, but I was luckily able to find workarounds. Now, all I would have to do is make the drum line. However, the recording had taken so long that I had no time left to work on the drumline, the weekend was close to over and I was fully booked for the rest of the day. I’ll get it finalized at some point though, or if I can’t get it to work out, the song sounds good enough without the drums. At this point, I’ll start to work on another song, hopefully in another style, to broaden my range of composing abilities, rather than focusing on only jazz.

Sessions with my mentor have been great so far. In our most recent sessions, we shared a common thought on some strange conductors that we’ve had to work with. My mentor in general has been a rather uncompassionate person, focusing more seriously on the music and less so on personal connections, which is fine by me. However, this time, we were able to actually share a personal connection. I’d like to say that it held a rather happy nature, talking about some incidents we’ve had with angry conductors or conductors who couldn’t actually keep time properly. It made the lesson much more enjoyable, since at the end of the conversation, I could notice that we were both feeling more lively and ready to focus.

We’ve also had some great conversations about more serious topics. For example, when we were focusing on writing out chord structure, I had asked about what would define a chord as being diminished. This diverted the conversation to talking about how chords all connect with each other, witching between different modes and how they link up being different keys in what’s called a relative minor. Although we ended up running out of time to talk about the original topic, I ended up learning a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and it ended up being a great diversion.

With in-depth coming up, I’ll hopefully be able to speed up the rate at which I can record songs so that I can have a couple more done to present on the night of.

In Depth Post #6

With a little less than half of the In Depth project remaining, it’s time that I start working harder on getting some songs recorded. Over the past two weeks, I’ve finalized my ideas and I’ve begun to record my first song. So far, I have the melody and bass line recorded. I’ve found that it’s actually harder than I would have thought to get the recordings to a point where I am satisfied with the quality. Quite often, I’ll be slightly off tempo, or I’ll miss a note here and there. When this happens, you end up having to restart the whole recording, which can be a very time consuming process. Due to the fact that I was gone to Cuba for a week during spring break, and had a 3 day course immediately after, I’ve had to put in some effort to get these recordings made.

Once I did end up finding some time, I put together the small set up that I would be using to record. At Christmas, I had gotten a Blue Yeti microphone, which is one of the higher end microphones that plugs directly into a USB port; USB ports are convenient and easy to use, making this microphone the best choice for my purposes. I had the microphone set up facing the amp, about 2-3 feet away to ensure that it picked up enough sound, without being too loud and sounding grainy. The microphone was plugged into my computer, which I was using to record the sound tracks. I also had a pair of headphones playing back a metronome track to help me keep tempo without the sound leaking into the recording; a regular metronome could not be used, since the microphone would pick up the sound and ruin the recording. I recorded the melody using an electric guitar, and then recorded a bass line afterwards. The next step for me is putting it into a sound mixing program, and adding a drum track which I will have to create digitally.

Over the course of this projects, I’ve ran into a few concepts that may have become problems in the future. For example, getting a drum track recorded would be difficult, since I do not play or own a drum set. Working with my mentor, we found an alternative, which was to either create or find a drum track that fit the song digitally. This way, I wouldn’t have to struggle to acquire and learn a new instrument, and a digital track will always have perfect tempo, which makes it much more convenient. During the beginning of the project, there was also the issue that I was still relatively new to writing chord structures. The alternative that we decided on was to use an existing chord structure, and write a new melody on top of it.

In depth post 3: generating melodies

During the past two weeks, I have started to take the first step in creating a song: Writing out a melody. This has been harder than I expected, since although it is easy to create one in your head, it is much harder to get it down on paper, and even then I’m often not satisfied with it and will end up starting over again. To facilitate things, I worked with my mentor on ways to create a fluent melody with much more ease.

The way we ended up doing this was to go back to doing some more transcribing. This time, I didn’t have to write everything out, but rather just listen to a large variety of different melodies and pick out some key aspects that I liked. Afterwards, I would have a much larger arsenal of ideas that I could use to write out some melodies of my own. This process is very similar to what we did in the past, with writing out the melodies and chords from other songs to learn patterns and similarities.

The issue that I’m now faced with is that on one hand, I’m trying to start writing out some of my own melodies, but on the other I am also supposed to be working on transcribing melodies. All of this is also placed on top of playing music for jazz band, so I have ended up with a rather busy schedule. To work around this, I have developed a plan to alternate each day focusing on a different topic. This will mean that I can spend equal time on all the topics without having to be over-burdened every single day. I have also started to work on playing a bit more piano in order to facilitate some of the music creation, as the piano is much easier to use when it comes to composing a melody. Hopefully by the next blog post, I will be able to have recorded a melody that I can begin to build off of, rather than just creating half of one and then scrapping it to work on another. After this, I will be able to start working on building a chord structure and rhythm section.

Working with my mentor has been a bit difficult as of late. I was able to get in one session near the beginning of this blog post period, however he left on a three week vacation so I will not be able to meet until the end of the next blog post period. For now, I will just be working on my own little projects towards building a song, so that I have enough material when he comes back that we can have a solid working session. Until then, I will work on getting one of my own melodies recorded, as well as transcribing some of his assigned songs. Hopefully I will soon have a complete song beginning to form.

In Depth 2015 Intro Post

For this year’s in-depth project, I decided to look for a project that would utilise skills that I already have. I came up with a few ideas that wouldn’t be too difficult, and a few that I couldn’t do due to finances. However, I was able to settle on an idea in the end. My plan is to do music arranging, which utilises skills I already have for playing bass, guitar, and some piano. Another upside to this is that it will be a great help to me in the future. If I do pursue any form of music, having experience with arranging songs will help me in all aspects. I’ll have more knowledge in chord structures, scales, solos, melodies, and rhythms. Essentially, learning how to compose songs will assist me in every aspect of my musical career.

The greatest part is that this will cost nearly nothing. I already own an upright bass, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and a piano. The only issue would be recording equipment, but that’s a concern for the future. For the time being all I really need to focus on is getting to know the basics.

I already have some ground to work off of; during lessons for upright bass, I was assigned to make an arrangement for a song of my choice, using only the bass. This was about a month ago, and I completed it in a few weeks. This gives me some knowledge that I can build off of, since it was the simplest form of arranging a song. Because it was only on bass, I didn’t have to worry about layering instruments, transposing for different instruments, or writing a melody. All I had to do was add an intro, learn the existing melody, and do a solo. All on an instrument that I was already comfortable with. For the in-depth, I will have to learn more about guitar, re-learn the piano, and possibly even get a few friends from Jazz band to play parts. If I were to get other people to assist me, I would have to write out even more parts, and transpose them to fit the key of each instrument.

I will also have to learn how to record and layer music, since in the project I did on bass, it was played live rather than recording. This wouldn’t work with more instruments if I was planning on playing more than one, or have a melody at the same time as a rhythm section. This means that I will also have to study recording music, which adds a whole new element to the project.

Although it may be a bit daunting to me right now, I’m really looking forward to this year’s in-depth. With any luck, I’ll actually be able to come up with some ‘good’ music to present. I’m not planning on just doing original songs or remixes, but rather my plan right now is to make a few original songs, and also do a few remixes of popular modern songs. I’m taking inspiration from a group called “Post Modern Jukebox”; they take modern day electronic and pop songs, and turn them into old style music. Whether it’s 1930’s jazz or barnyard bluegrass, they’re able to take a song that frankly makes me want to implode my own eardrums, and turn them into something that I can actually enjoy. With any luck, I’ll be able to do something even fractionally as impressive.