Tag Archives: brass

Ticking off boxes

Alright, it’s sooo time for an update.

The three days on Usedom were great. Got some sun (and quite some freckles), hit the waves and relaxed. Three days without my music to gain some perspective seems a good recipe.

In the last week I’ve gone over the songs that still needed some work. The chart was really helpful to determine what and when. It was also nice to tick off boxes after finishing stuff. Very motivating! First up was ‘Euphoria’ which was nice before, but who wants nice. Much better now. I finished the beats which now feature the sound of an arriving S-Bahn train in the chorus. Sounds like big drums. Refined the sound, put in variations and automated all the beats. Played with tape stops, reversing, shuffling and retriggering the melody I’d made out of an recorded glass harp. Really love the glitchy results. Very electronic sounding, I love it. Put in some small other details after tweaking sounds so much they became something completely new. And then of course mixed the song.

Next up was ‘Zero Tolerance’. Again refined and automated the beats, put in more circuit-bent breaks and noises. Messed around with the brass I’d recorded before, but didn’t like too much. It’s still in there although no one would recognise it as brass. It was so much fun kinda destroying things. It makes sense since the song needs to be gritty. Made some nice glitchy effects. Already have some great ideas how to treat the vocals once they’re done, too. For the last chorus I rocked out on my Les Paul and recorded some distorted guitar parts. And again did the music mix.

Also did some sound polishing on ‘The Tide’. Mainly EQing. ‘Hearts First’ needed some refined beats. Then I added a few more subtle cello bits. I went through all the tracks to make sure everything sits nicely in the mix and is necessary. I adjusted the levels and finished the mix.Last, but not least I made some changes in the brass arrangement for ‘Chaos & Order’ whenever the high notes sounded to bright and squeaky. Then recorded piano sprinkles in the verses to add a bit of extra colour.

Tomorrow I’ll start with more vocals. Finally the weather is right for them. It was so darn hot. If I’d done vocals I’d have gotten a heatstroke because the windows need to be shut for that. No way!

Sleep now, I haven’t gotten too much of that lately.

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Counting down to zero

Still on ‘Zero Tolerance’. Recorded the last missing vocals. My voice is still a bit rattled by allergies (darn birch trees), so I guess I’m gonna re-record them at some point. I started working on all the little details. Refined the beats and the brass arrangement. Put in some interesting effects in designated spots and some really weird noises as something like a short intro. And for the first time tried some excessive LFO filtering on the bass line which took me ages to get exactly right. Sounding good now though.

I think I’m gonna spend some more time on it tomorrow and then definitely move on to some other song. Either write a new one or get back to ‘Euphoria’ and see if I manage to come up with a great chorus this time around.

Also I did some rewiring in my studio after getting irritated for the umpteenth time tripping over some cables. Additionally, each time I wanted to set up some other piece of equipment I had to crawl under the desk and unplug something. Now there’s nothing to stumble on and lots of plug-in positions in reach. In the long run it’s gonna save me both time and hassle.

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Communication

Phew… I did it. Finally finished the lyrics for ‘Zero Tolerance’. Feels pretty satisfying, probably because there’s been a lot of sweating involved over those darn words – figuratively speaking. So apart from laying down some brass that’s all I managed to do. Who’d think that 10 lines could be so much work. Not that I only wrote 10 lines, wrote about 100 I guess. But since the song is pretty fast and the vocal line is pretty tight and rhythmic I didn’t just have to find the right ones to express what I want to say. No, they also had to fit the melody like a glove. So I spend my day writing down something, trying to sing it, crossing out words, scribbling other ones in, testing a new version of a line and so on and so forth. Well, at least I already know the new verse by heart. By the time I’d finished it, it was a bit late to lay down the vocals (I don’t want to annoy my neighbours too much and so far they surprisingly haven’t complained, yet.). Tomorrow’s another day.

I must admit I also spent some time researching good camera mobiles phones. My old one is pretty close to biting the dust. Actually it already might have, but I’m trying to think positive, because otherwise how am I ever get all the phone numbers back trapped in there? So I’m hoping to be able to recharge it at least one last time to save all the numbers tomorrow. It’s been in bad shape for quite a while now. Should have seen it coming. It’s just that I really like gadgets and I didn’t want to spend loads of money on a new mobile… don’t like them too much, to be honest. The new ones have all those nice features though and I could get carried away. Nice little toys! So I felt I was in a pickle… ended up hunting down one supposedly good second hand Nokia 6670 on Ebay. That’s off the list then. Bla bla, sorry about the last part. Been rambling again.

A movie and then off to bed.

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Back

Haven’t really been away, but in the last week I had quite some creative ups and downs. Got stuck on ‘Euphoria’, then realised that the refrain was just not euphoric enough, but by then I was too close to the subject to see what might be right. Also I noticed when I went outside to record sounds of Berlin that either my microphone or the MD recorder is making loads of noise by itself. Quite a drawback, so no way I can make the beats I want for the song. Gotta check which one is being the noisy bugger! And then think of a solution. Preferably one without spending any money. And then after leaving the song alone for a bit get back to it afresh.

On Tuesday and yesterday I met up with the music producer I’d already mentioned. On Monday I recorded vocals for ‘Unspoken’ and ‘Webs’ so that he could get the whole picture. That and the mixing took the whole day and night. I ended up seeing the dawn and going to bed at half 7. I got a real rush throughout the next day with being so overtired and all that.The producer liked my songs and even asked me if I would like to write some songs for other people. I guess it’s a nice challenge since I’ve never tried that. Still I feel I should be cautious… He wants to try some stuff with three of my songs and I don’t want him to rewrite them and make them into something that could be neatly pigeonholed by a big record label, but that doesn’t feel like me anymore. I’m well aware that I’m very protective with my songs, but I’ve spent so much time and energy on them. I just don’t want anyone to mess with them…I guess I’ll have to wait and see what he’s planning to do with them!

Almost three months ago I started working on a song that was untitled back then and seriously doing my head in. It’s a pretty angry song and on Wednesday someone really pissed me off. On the way to my flat I thought that I should preserve the mood and have another go at this song. I cracked it! Finally! I figured out that the bass I had used was slightly out of tune, but since there was distortion on top of it I hadn’t noticed it earlier. So I just loaded up some piano sound and started playing my keyboard and within about five minutes I had the chord progression for the refrain, a vocal melody and lyrics to go with them. I quickly recorded everything and since then everything’s just falling into place. Needless to say that also cheered me up tremendously. The song’s called ‘Zero Tolerance’ now. I still have to write the lyrics for the third verse, but that should be a piece of cake after all the trouble I had with this stubborn song.

I’m just gonna write down the lyrics for the refrain so I don’t get the stupid idea and try to change them again:

zero tolerance from now on
gotta kill what’s killing me
zero tolerance from now on
no more putting up with
no more polite smiles

I then replaced the bass sound. Took me a while to create one that sounded just the way I envisioned it. I also changed the sounds for the beats. Mostly sounds of me hitting stuff. They’re pretty tribal and distorted sounding with a pinch of white noise thrown in. Working very well with the new bass. Had fun arranging some brass fills and fiddling with effects. ‘Zero Tolerance’ really screams for extreme FXing. This song might be something for the dance floor, very fast, driven. At least I have to dance around a lot when I hear it.

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P.S.: Finally got a second hand bicycle. Got it on Ebay for just 20€. A red mountainbike. The girl I bought it off turned out to live near me. So if you happen to see a red flash rushing past…  might be me 😉

Snot and sparkles

OK, so I’ve been absent for quite some time. Unfortunately I had a relapse and spent my days feverishly in bed. I don’t know what my body has against me or if it was just sheer bad luck. And remarkably bad timing since my voice is sufficiently messed up.

While I was sick and bored on my couch I listened closely to all my songs and took notes of things missing or not sounding good enough. And in the last week I slowly went through all of them. I spent some time working on a song called ‘Paperheart’. This song is a bit older already and for a while I didn’t feel that excited about it anymore and so didn’t know what it still needed. The beats are all made of paper apart from a little bell I recorded. I had the idea to make this sound into an ‘instrument’ that I could then play on the keyboard. I added some nice little melodic fills with it and it sounds really good. I also completed the string arrangement, adjusted the overall sound and finished the rough mix.

The next on the list was ‘Breathing underwater’. Another song that’s been around for a bit. For this one I again finally completed the string arrangement, also fixed some sound issues and mixed it. Most of the other songs just needed some tiny tweakings in the mix. Just ‘Chaos & Order’ needed more work done. Before I couldn’t figure out a fitting brass arrangement for the refrain, but I’m happy to report I cracked the puzzle now. Boy, that was a tough one – especially since the song has so many separate tracks it’s given my computer massive CPU troubles – but so worth the effort. And again I made the sounds sparkle and sit nicely in the mix.

Now I have 8 songs only waiting for my voice to be fit so I can record loads of warblings and do the final mixes. Then there’s this one still untitled song I admittedly have been avoiding because it’s such a pain in the bum and ‘Hearts first’.Worked on the latter today. Perfected the string arrangement, some beat refinements…I still have the nagging feeling that something’s missing though. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been trapped in my place for too long and crave for being out in the world, meeting people and listening to new exciting music. Anyway… When I got a bit frustrated with my progress today I ended up recording and extending a new idea that I had about a month ago. I’m gonna call it ‘Celeste’ for now for lack of lyrics. It might even stay an instrumental. Speaking of lyrics, I seriously have to go the park equipped with notebook and pen the next day it’s warm and sunny. Spring really put a spring in my step yesterday. Seems so much more inspiring than being shut in a room. Been there, done that for months now. It’s time to go outside again, experience things to have something to write about. And soak up some sun and see the trees in bloom.

So for anyone who wants to know what beats made of paper and a bell ‘instrument’ can sound like. Here’s a little preview of ‘Paperheart’:

Finally weekend…

I’ve been pretty busy trying to finish ‘Chaos & Order’. The beats are mixed and automated. The rough mix is done, too. I realised though that I have to rerecord the vocals, don’t really know what I did back then. Some are too quiet and some distorted. And I can’t figure out a nice brass arrangement for the refrain. What I’m singing is in a pretty odd key. That’s what you get sometimes when you start with the vocal melody. Mmh. Might have to find a new one for the choruses then.

Well, here’s the new version (work in progress):



I’m off for the weekend to see friends and family. So looking forward to not staring at a screen all day. I might actually see some sunlight. But I’m not gonna take the whole weekend off of music. I’ve got this idea for a song and I still need to write the lyrics for it. All prior attempts have been futile. Well, let’s hope I’ll crack it this weekend. Also I’m gonna play a couple of songs with only my four-track-looper as a belated birthday present for my mom. Good for getting some practice, too.

Have a nice weekend, y’all.

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Beats & Brass

It’s been a very long day yesterday, but a very successful one. In the end I was already kind of getting cross-eyed and it would have taken me twice the amount of time to write a new blog since I would have spent half of it correcting typos.

The two sounds I recorded really make the beats sound much better. One is me saying ‘pft’ which makes for a nice hi-hat sound, the other one is finger clicking and is a nice rim-shot-like sound. I’ve sorted out the beats. The only thing left is to get them mixed just right so they really groove perfectly. And of course my much loved automation, mainly panning.

The new bassline in the verses didn’t really sit too well with the chorus immediately following. So I put a little bridge in. Makes for nice suspense! I actually thought I’d make the whole song shorter because it’s over five minutes long, but instead it’s a tad bit longer now with the bridges. I guess I’m gonna cut about 10 seconds of the beginning, but that’s it.

I’m happy to report I finally figured out what the song wanted for instruments. There’s lots of brass in ‘Chaos & Order’ now, a big build-up right at the start before I commence singing, reflecting the chaos together with the tiny beat snippets. Later some great fills in between, quite orderly. Gonna work that out more today. I’ll put up a little fragment of the new version tonight.

x
Mads