Friday, 21 January 2011

Some previous songs

So, as I'm not yet able to post copious amounts of run updates and the songwriting thing takes a while to get done, I thought I'd post links to a couple of my previous works.

In My Head was written and recorded towards the end of 2010 and is my favourite of my tracks so far (you'd appreciate this if you heard earlier efforts!!).

In My Head

Reckless was written at the end of 2009, but it took me months to get a half decent mix.  I bloody hope I get better at it, or I'm never going to get 10 or so songs finished this year!


It should be pretty easy to hear how In My Head improved in every aspect on Reckless.  Good to know that I'm improving!  The drums on Reckless are much more 'electronic'.  They use the great software Jamstix 2 (by Rayzoon), but there's no denying that the drums in In My Head sound better and more 'acoustic' .  On this one I've used EZDrummer (by Toontrack), which is definitely my drum software of choice now.

Although my vocals aren't entirely convincing in either, they definitely sound more confident in In My Head.  Hopefully some more singing lessons will have improved them for the new song - not sure after some listening back last night though!

I hope to really progress the track in the next few days, because if I'm going to get an album's worth done, I'm going to need to speed it all up a bit!  I hope to get Can't Stop Thinking finished by the end of the month, but mixing seems to be such an iterative process, and I always need some guidance from my online mates!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Song update

A quick update on how the new song is coming along...

Vocals have now mostly been recorded....well at least until I listen back properly and cringe!  A few backing vocals to work on yet.  Lead guitar parts have also been recorded, including a mini solo - pretty happy with them at the moment.  In theory, all I have to do is choose the best takes and mix practice, I have the most time-consuming part and, for me, definitely the hardest part, yet to do.

I'm happy with the way it's coming along though.

As far as knee rehab is going, I'm still doing 2 different physio exercises to try to correct things a bit, and I suspect it may be improving slightly.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, 10 January 2011


I've now recorded the bass part and some second guitar parts.  The bass part is about ready to be used after editing, but I'm not sure I've got the right bass part for the chorus yet.  It's currently just the root note following the acoustic chord parts, whereas the verses are mildly more ambitious - I am definitely no bass player!  Might think about a slightly more interesting bass line for the chorus parts later.

I've not listened back to the second guitar parts yet as they probably need to be worked around the vocals.  I have recorded guide vocals so I can have a go at that later too.

I like how the song is beginning to sound and I get such a buzz from jamming around trying to get a part that works for each instrument.  Normally, once I've got the main chord parts and the vocal ideas, I then want to get it all done and recorded asap, but I'm enjoying the recording process and messing around with different parts much more this time.  I don't imagine I'll be saying the same about the mixing process, but that's the bit where I need to think much more and learn about all the tools that make it possible to present a song in its best light.  Writing some of the important bits down here will help me consolidate the information and get it all understood in my head better.  At least if I write it down I can come back to it when I've forgotten by the next song!

Thank goodness for the music though, as I'm beginning to get frustrated about not being able to run.  I'm diligently doing the physio exercises and I shouldn't expect it to be corrected overnight.....but I do ;-)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The recording has begun.

I managed to spend a bit of time yesterday recording an acoustic guitar part to my new song, Can't Stop Thinking (working title). 

It was pretty time consuming as it always is when setting up the software (known as a DAW - digital audio workstation) in preparation for a new track.  For a start, I always forget that I need drums in place before I record anything else otherwise the timings are miles out.  I find it easier to play along to drums than to a click track, it seems much more natural.  So, I set off putting in some rough drums with EZDrummer - a life-saving piece of software for a drum numpty like me.  Thirty minutes later, I have rough drums that I can play along to.

Next technical bit is to decide on a suitable tone for the guitar part.  And believe me, there are endless combinations of which I am, of course, too lazy to try most of!  In the case of the acoustic part yesterday, I decided on no amps or effects, just a bit of tweaking of an EQ thingy to cut out much of the bassy bottom end - I'll only ditch it in the mix later, and it sounded quite nice and bright.

Then it's down to remembering what to play and not getting freaked out by the red record light!  I wrote out the chords (crap memory!) and looked away from the light (NEVER look towards the light, people!!).  It was surprisingly straight-forward to get most of the song down, although there is a fast change of chord at the end of the verse that was giving me some issues!  A few overdubs and I have something to work with.....I will be spending plenty of time cutting and pasting the good bits together and even longer tightening up the timing, but that's all part of the process.

Stage 1 complete, main acoustic tracks down....

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Music first, half marathon later...

It's becoming clear to me that running is going to be off the menu for a while yet.  My knee is still sporadically sore and I know that the hip/knee weakness needs addressing before I can turn my attention to running again.  The exercises I was diligently doing (for about a week!) are aggravating my knee - I guess that's because they are supposed to simulate my running stride! - so I've started on low intensity physio exercises on my knee for the time being.  I hope I can then progress to some more 'heavy duty' physio exercises.  So for now, I'm going to put the running on the back burner whilst I rehabilitate properly.  Hopefully, I may be able to get the bike out (still in the shed!) and cycle between now and when the running can commence.  In my head, I reckon it'll be a month before I can see where I'm at.

Good job I had another ambition for the, to the album of songs. 

When I first started to entertain the idea of writing songs, I had no idea of the work involved.  Sit down, write some lyrics, strum a few chords, record to tape, sit back and enjoy angst-ridden song.  Sadly, I was deluded!  The writing of the song is quite often the easy bit!  Recording decent sounding guitars, bass, vocals is not so easy, and as for getting drums....nightmare!  Fortunately, the drum problem has been solved for me by Toontrack's EZDrummer, which essentailly does it for me - I have no idea as far as drums are concerned.  Recording other parts improves and quickens with practice, but I'm not so great at performing well with the red recording light staring at me!  Once the recording is done, then there's, in my opinion, the slowest and hardest part of the equation.....mixing!  MIXING!  When I idealistically started writing songs, I had no interest or knowledge of this black art they call production.  'It's all about the song', says I.  I still believe this and spout it often, but I am beginning to realise the importance of mixing and the production of a song.  It might be a great song, but buried under a crap mix and no-one will know if it is or not!  So, I've been laboriously trying to learn about mixing over the past couple of years.  I'm mostly still a bit rubbish, but slowly, I'm beginning to learn more aspects of it.

As I have just about finished writing a new song (working title 'Can't Stop Thinking'), I am about to embark on the less appealing aspects of recording and mixing.  Documenting the process as I go, would be a great way of self-improvement/awareness, and maybe someone else will get something from it too.  Now all I need to do is remember to document it as I go (surprise, surprise, I'm normally very lazy about this!) and go get recording.....hopefully tomorrow.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2011.

As predicted, the blogging ceased over Christmas, but I'll get back on it and doing stuff as of....well, probably after a few days rest to recover from New Year's Eve!   Well, it was a late one last night, the band, Blinkwatch, had a gig last night and it went really well.  We rocked, and the audience were really up for a good night, so we had a blast.  We played a couple of sets and managed a few encores.  One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I was packing the car up and a couple of younger audience members (around 20 years old, I'd think) shouted 'awesome set' at me as they left....kudos with the kids, can't be bad :-)  The crowd went mad for James' 'Sit Down'...what is it with the simple songs!!

Anyway, I did manage to get the rest of the song I'd promised to finish over the Christmas period written, so now all I have to do is learn to play it well and record it!

Here's to a happy and healthy 2011.