Dad, Musician, and Nerd
i wrote this tune over father’s day weekend, brooke graciously gave me a moment by myself and i hurriedly put something together. i had been wanting to do something in three for a while, changing the groove from 3/4 to 12/8 somewhere in the song. it seems i have also been listening to el ten eleven enough to be influenced by the sounds that are distinct to them.
sketch sixtythree: i put together a demo of this idea this last saturday, and after an epiphany i realized i needed to change some things. i re-recorded the tune with an eye toward simplifying, which it crazy to think considering how busy it is. you should have heard it before.
sketch sixty: enough of this namby pamby light hearted soft, easy to chat over, sleepy dreamy music. i wanna dance!
I completed a new sketch last night, and excitedly fired up the stereo to listen to it. Bobbing my head to the beat, I smiled thinking, “Hey… this tune is pretty good. I’m liking where my writing is heading, it sounds polished!” A couple more pats on the back as the sketch finished, I had a nice grin on my face.
Then Soundcloud played the next song in my account, the tune I had written last week. My grin faded, replaced with a smirk. ”Huh. Sounds like the new one.” It does, even the ending is the same. But I listened, and I thought, “Well, two songs can sound the same, that’s okay. Just don’t publish them both on the same record.”
Then the next song played, and my face formed a scowl. Main theme, loop. Secondary theme, loop. Melody two octaves up, looped. Change the drums, drop some loops out, bring back the main theme, segue into the ending, drown it out with delay. The last three songs I’ve written have different things in them, but they all have the exact same structure, and I’m trying to decide how bothered by this I am.
Let’s examine the positive side.
The good thing about my latest writing is that I am refining my process. I am writing music that keeps your interest, updating and/or changing every eight bars or so to keep it compelling. It’s compelling to me, at least, it’s hard to judge how this stuff will be received until I make it available for reception beyond the invisible walls of the internet. I’m identifying what I do well and I’m trying to improve it.
Now the bad, and my reasons for concern.
If I establish a formula, my work will sound formulaic. If I derive a new song from an existing song, my work will sound derivative. If I do either of these things accidentally, how formulaic or derivative can they be? Does that matter to the listener, who when detecting the patterns, become bored with the predictable nature of my songs? Is that preventable, given I am going to write what I write no matter how it is perceived? Do I need to concern myself at all?
Three songs in a row that sound similar is not the end of the world, nor is it the beginning of a creative rut where routine replaces innovation. But it is the kernel of something. Perhaps identifying it here, writing about it, and promising to change what I don’t enjoy hearing will be the end of it. Maybe I need to do more songs in 7/8. Maybe I need to take a step back and re-evaluate how I write. Maybe I need new tools and a new process. My self-critique is likely more harsh than it needs to be, but without it, improvement wouldn’t come.
sketch fiftysix: bass tune written in six, based on an idea sung into my watch. odd moments of inspiration captured by an ipod nano on my wrist. if you had told the ed of 1998 that he would be carrying 24GB of storage between his wristwatch and his phone, he would have shat. he probably would have also given me the cliché, “you’ll never use that much storage!”
sketch fiftyfive: i was playing guitar during a phone call with a client and before i knew it my fingers had plucked out the beginning phrase of this sketch. interesting that it sounds as happy and hopeful as it does, i can only assume i am trying to tell me something.
Bleep bloop | ishcabittle
So apparently SoundCloud publishes to Tumblr when it asks for permission to do so. It ain’t bullshittin’. I re-recorded this tune while I had use of the multitrack interface lent by my good buddy Bill, it sounds significantly better than the old, old, old version I had up previously.
I’ll push some other re-recorded tunes to SoundCloud, but the demo tracks with drums are going to be the real deal.
it seems that most bookers want a demo. it also seems that headphone jack splitters into PC motherboard line in ports don’t sound as good as a presonus firepod. so i borrowed my buddy bill’s firepod and have laid down four tunes.
results will be posted as soon as bill lays down his drum parts.
Rehearsal of the album contenders continues apace. I’ve fashioned the contenders into a setlist and intend to work them into performance ready material. Exciting!
Here is the set thus far, guitar songs first then bass:
I can cut 43 and 42 to shorten the set, each of those are around five minutes and pretty downtempo.
It’s pretty fun getting good at these songs, finding out what is doable, what type of writing turns out the best material, and what I intend to do in the future. I definitely like the upbeat, danceable feel of 48 or 37, but I’d like to branch out a little into longer, trance-like grooves.
I also feel like I stopped sketching just as soon as I started getting good at it in order to rehearse the things I just sketched. As though sketch 51 is going to end up back at the beginning of the learning curve, I feel like I may have to start all over again. Even as I type that out, I know that’s not true; I’ve gained significant experience with my looper, my songwriting style and procedure, and understanding what sounds good in the long view.
There’s lots of hard work ahead, a lot of fun, hard work.