Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Post-Seattle Update

I haven't had time for an update for a while, mostly due to work and family travel.

Just before that recent travel binge, while working on the songs, I had a couple of complementary epiphanies:
#1)  I have been overthinking this.  Some of my very favorite songs in the world have nonsense lyrics and only four chords.  It hit me while I was listening to the four-chord ditty "Mashed Potatoes" by The Squish, lyrics:  "It makes no sound, and I wouldn't doubt, if you looked around, and worked it all out.  Well I wouldn't care, potatoes are mashed.  Would it be fair, if I ever asked?  It makes no sense, to turn away, it's my favorite game, that I like to play.  Well just as I feared, potatoes are mashed.  Would it be weird, if I ever asked?"  I love that song.  I've been enjoying that song for like ten years or more.  You could write more cogent lyrics by picking words at random out of a newspaper.  I could write and record two "Mashed Potatoes"-level songs per day -- sure, the vast majority of those wouldn't be as catchy as Mashed Potatoes, but if just 5% came out passable I'd have more than enough to have this project done in no time.
#2)  This project is not being scrutinized by anybody but me, and I have no reputation to build or lose.  I had big ideas about making a great first musical impression with fabulous original songs that would meet all of my own unrealistically high expectations, but none of that matters.  This blog has a single-digit readership, as does the Commuter Challenge, and there is nobody out there thinking, "Ah, at last!  That pimply bass player I saw in that crappy high school Van Halen/Scorpions/Kiss cover band in 1987 is finally producing some original music."  This frees me up to stop stressing about this project and have more fun with it.  My goal is to generate music, and it makes no sense for me to get bogged down by fears that something I make will be imperfect.

Neither #1 nor #2 are my way of allowing myself to cheapen this project, or an advance effort to excuse submit sub-par songs.  If anything, this just gives me more leeway and freedom to produce music; I don't have to stress out about musical concepts or messages, and instead I can just try to write the type of music that I might actually enjoy listening to.

A couple of weekends ago I was able to record some of Andy's vocals for "Butterfly" with the generous and patient help of the super-amazing Wendi.  The vocal tracks were a little free-form and might need to be digitally massaged into the song a bit, but he has an excellent voice and I'm excited about getting the opportunity to work with it.  Having said that, incorporating his vocals might not happen by the December 31 deadline, we'll just see how it goes.  I will post a version with his vocals at some point or another regardless.

More updates soon...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mostly Pointless Update

Just writing an update because there haven't been any for a while:

SongFight:  I did not submit to last week's SongFight.  This week's SongFight title, "Taken Aback" is similarly general (and similarly similar) to last week's "Take It Back" and therefore, again, potentially easier title to write a song about, certainly easier than a title like "The Phyllis Wheatley Club" [which was the SongFight title immediately before last week's "Take It Back"].  This week's "Taken Aback" SongFight is due November 14, so I have tomorrow and a few weekday evenings to compose and submit for this one.  If I don't submit a song for the "Taken Aback" SongFight I will probably be compelled to submit to the next SongFight pretty much no matter what title is chosen, which is a great motivator for me to push to get it done now; I don't want to get stuck with a title like "Pestilence, Carcass and Death at Skoochies" or "Rockopolousaninjananophone Eternal - The Vishnu Cycle" [yes, both of those are actual previous SongFight titles].

Progress:  Slow.  More work travel is getting in the way, and I'm in a foul mood due to continuing mouth pain after getting my wisdom teeth out.  I have decided that the third song, which I already recorded guitar tracks for, is too slow, and speeding up the track in Garageband makes the guitar tone sound weird so I'm going to re-record the whole thing.  That's probably for the best because I'm considering re-working the verse/bridge/chorus structure anyway. 

Collaboration:  Good, potentially.  I have identified a friend with a great singing voice who is willing to sing on these tracks.  Now I just need to work out the logistics.  Oh yeah, and lyrics, too.  I should probably write some lyrics before we try to record the singing of those lyrics. 

I genuinely don't even know how to approach lyric writing.  I've written plenty of poetry (most of it pretty bad) for the Commuter Challenge, but when I dissect the songs I enjoy, I notice that most of those lyrics don't rhyme.  Often enough, the lyrics don't fit any noticeable sort of meter or pattern, and they look pretty random when written out on the page and separated from the music.  If I want to emulate my heroes then perhaps I should not confine my lyrics to any specific structure, but it's difficult for me to write without any sort of structure or plan, so I'm feeling a little rudderless even though I already have a title I should write a song around [i.e. Taken Aback, for SongFight].

Sunday, November 2, 2014

YouTube Links and Chatter About the Demos

My iPhone couldn't play the blog videos in the earlier post, so I'm adding YouTube links for each of the songs.  While I'm at it, I'll yammer about the recordings.

Here is the YouTube link to the original song "Butterfly" by CandyShoppe, track 4 on their Glitterbox CD:

Great song, great band, but somewhat challenging to find their music on the internet.  I see they have a facebook page (though I've never really been on facebook so I don't get updates), and some videos on YouTube.

Here is the YouTube link to a demo version of my cover version of the same song:

Significantly inferior to the original, and with noticeably more accordion than the original, though I can't blame the former on the latter.  I'm playing every instrument on this track except for the drums, which are all Garageband loops.  For this cover I replaced the piano melody in the beginning of the original with harmonics on the electric guitar (for measures 1-4 and 9-12 anyway).

As I'd noted in the previous post, I actually recorded vocals for this track but they are so very very bad that I cannot bring myself to post that version here, and I'm going to seek help from a friend to sing them instead.  And that goes for all of the songs I'm going to do for this project.

Arguably interesting tidbit: my 12-bass accordion has neither an E bass button nor an E chord button, so I had to play a sloppy D minor (i.e. a D major plus an overpowering F bass note) on a separate track and then change the pitch of that track up two whole notes in Garageband for those parts of the song.

Here is the YouTube link to a demo version of my original song, currently entitled Demo #2:

I have no lyrics written for this one yet, and thus no real title.  I will absolutely add vocals to this at some point or another within the next two months, but as of yet I have no idea what they'll be about.  So far this is just acoustic guitar, bass guitar and Garageband drum loops.  I will probably add other instruments to the track, but I'm not sure what yet.

Both of these demo songs have to go onto the back burner until December.  My November is peppered with a bunch of work travel, so I'll have to work on the two new demos with what little time I'll have at home in order to meet the November requirements of the long-form Commuter Challenge.

I'm also realizing that it's very likely I won't submit to SongFight this week despite the comparably general (and therefore comparably easy) SongFight title.  If I don't finish it tonight then it won't be ready by the November 4 deadline, and I seriously doubt that I'll finish it tonight.

I am also coming the the frustrating realization that anything I submit to SongFight will have to include my own sub-sub-par vocals, because any sort of vocal collaboration within the next two months will take a lot of extra time to arrange.  Yikes.  I'm going to have to find a key where my voice doesn't sound awful (if any such key exists).  Or maybe I should do vaguely "spoken word"-type vocals like Pop Musik or One Night in Bangkok.  Or maybe I should try to take on an affected vocal style to mask my bad tone.  All options sound like bad ideas, I'll just have to decide which is the lesser evil.

October Goals "Officially" Met - Demos Submitted

Okay, so they didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped, but at least they're done.  I did my two demo versions and submitted them, one had vocals and the other didn't.  I haven't even written vocals for the second song.  As I'd feared, I took advantage of the vagueness of the term "demo version" to justify submissions that are less than ideal.  I have, however, written vocals for a third song I'm working on, which wasn't even close to being ready by midnight 10/31.

I am so very disappointed in my singing ability that I realize, as I'd suspected, that I am going to have to find someone else to sing all of these songs.  I've known since puberty that my singing voice is terrible, and this effort proves that fact yet again.  It's so bad that I'm declining to post the versions with my singing here, and instead I'm just linking to the instrumental versions:

This is the song I don't have words for yet, and I'm just calling it Demo #2 for now.  As with the others, I'm uploading it as a video because I don't know how to upload song files.

This is the cover song for the EP.  It is a cover of the song "Butterfly" by CandyShoppe.  This is actually the song I submitted with vocals, but the copy here has the vocals extracted because they are so very very bad.  Since it is difficult to find a copy of the original CandyShoppe song elsewhere (and because it's such a great song), I'm including the song in the video below:

I love that song.  My cover will not do it justice, but it's fun to make the effort.