Tag Archives: field recording

More catching up

As promised, here comes the sequel… So what else have I been up to lately…

Last Tuesday was the last hot day for a while and since I hadn’t had much time to enjoy the sun I’d decided to go to a lake to finish the lyrics for ‘The Tide’ there. Found a nice, secluded spot, went swimming – the water was still pretty cold, but lovely and refreshing – and then took out my notebook and pen. I got everything but the last verse. Not sure how to conclude the song, yet. I’ve got a couple of different scenarios and I guess I’m gonna leave that open until I’ve arranged the music. Very happy with what I’ve got so far.

After that I had another appointment with the music producer. I gave him the soul song I wrote for someone else in a rough outlined version so she can sing on top of it. He really liked it. Last time I’d been there he’d given me two songs that needed beats, but I disliked the songs so much that with each listening I felt more like getting sick. Sooo not my cup of tea. This time he’d considered my taste and given me a couple of songs that I really like and that inspired some ideas already during listening for the first time. Also I can try whatever I like. It seems to let me work to my strength means not to put me on a short leash. The music producer agreed that I do the radio edit for ‘Chaos & Order’. I understand that he wants to make the song interesting even to people who have the attention span of a mayfly. That’s fine, but I’d rather do it my way. There are supposed to be two songs on the compilation and I’m gonna write a new song specifically for it.

It’s funny how the music producer treats me now. In the beginning he found my music interesting, but he was slightly reserved. I reckon because he thought it too weird. He seems to play everyone’s music to all kinds of people to see how they react. Well, each time I go there I meet someone new. And the introduction goes like that most of the time: ‘Hi, I’m Madeleine.’ ‘Oh, hi. Love your music!’ This resulted in the music producer calling me his shooting star now, which seems a bit like piling it on too much. But it’s nice realising that you can do your own thing and people aren’t only interested in the same old, same old.

A couple of days ago I sat down and made a plan what’s left to do to finish the album. Time’s running out, it’s coming to a close that I can blissfully make music and nothing else. By the end of July I probably have to seriously start looking for a part time job. The good thing is it appears feasible that I’ll be finished with my 12 songs, preparing all songs for the stage and writing another one for the compilation till then. So the timing is right, but I’ll have to work quite a bit in these weeks. I tried to apply proper time management methods where you calculate how long you think things will take and then multiply that by two for unexpected and unknowable delays. Still I’d love to continue just making music, because the learning curve in the last couple of months has been so steep for me and there are so many more songs left in me. That’s why I only want a part time job. At least then I’ll have quite some time left each week for music. I might even have something already. The music producer asked me if I was interested in doing the event management for the huge gig at the end of the year. If the hourly rate is right, gladly. Well, we’ll see.

Thursday night I took my MD recorder and my new Sony stereo mic and went around Berlin recording all kinds of sounds for my song ‘Euphoria’. I’m really happy with the quality of the recordings I got. The next day I edited all of it and replaced the old sounds with the new ones. The basic rhythm is made of a woman walking in high heels and the clicking noise of a traffic light near where I live. The song starts with an S-Bahn arriving and the amazing thing is when I put the sound in I discovered that the rumbling on the tracks is completely in sync with the tempo of the song. In the refrain there’s gonna be more sounds of the S- and U-Bahn. I still have to refine the sound of the beats and put little details in.

On Saturday I packed up my Mac, my little keyboard and some clothes and went to visit family and friends in my hometown. The first few days I was busy catching up with all of them. I hadn’t seen most of them for months. Especially my brother including his little family. My nephew is very musical and we already played a bit together and we’ll continue this afternoon when he’s coming from kindergarten. It’s a lot of fun seeing him eyes aglow when he tried out playing a keyboard for the first time. And it’s great to get a change of scenery from time to time. I felt like a holiday, but I’ve got no time for it and neither the money – I’m buying the array mbira instead. I feel much more relaxed and ready to keep working and pulling all bits together to get the album finished.

One more thing… lately I’ve worked till early in the morning quite often and ended up being too tired to write the blog. So I thought I’d join twitter, because that way I can keep you posted about what I’m up to in no time. So if you want to know what I’m working on and there’s no update in this blog, you can check here.

Phew, what a writing marathon. Guess I’ve mentioned everything. And now back to rehearsing.


Berlin sounds

I must admit I’ve been slacking off with the blog writing recently. Then again writing a blog every night takes up quite some time and I’m trying to make up for the lost time from when I was sick – not that it would be possible…

Still working on ‘Euphoria’. It’s shaping up nicely. For a while I felt something was  missing, turns out it was a ping pong delay on the glass harp chords. It beautifully enhances the clicking noises I left in on purpose, so it sorta creates a little beat on its own. This way I could create great melodies that sound very bouncy and cheery. The song structure is more or less done and all the main elements apart from the beats are there. I’ve added another bass line with pitch bend modulation and had fun with some sound design. The main beat is done, too, hopefully only the actual sounds have to be replaced.

Tomorrow I’m gonna take my MD recorder and a mic and walk around outside to record sounds of Berlin. ‘Euphoria’ is a lot about the way Berlin makes me feel, especially when I’ve been away. How I feel excited to live in this great city. So I thought it only appropriate to use field recordings from Berlin as beats. And I’m also hoping to make some headway with all the little filigree details that I put into my songs.

Over the last couple of days I’ve also been reading up on some sound engineering stuff. Tips and tricks, things that you forget when you haven’t used them for a while. I also tried to find a good solution for submix routing in Ableton Live, but I’m not too happy with any of the ways you can do it. Apparently this has been an issue for a lot of Live users for some time and Ableton hasn’t provided a satisfying answer as of yet. So I’m thinking of reinstalling Pro Tools again for certain uses. Unfortunately I already max out on my RAM quite often when running Live and VST plugins because of the way I layer my songs. Therefore running Pro Tools and Live in Slave mode might make my computer throw serious fits. Pretty unsure about this… argh, the joys of technology. Guess I’m gonna have to try it out.

Gotta get some food into my system now and then off to bed.


Smoke and fire

Today was a strange day. I’ve been heating my place with a coal-burning stove, because it’s cheaper and quite cosy and warm. Last saturday when it was so stormy the smoke started seeping out and into the room even though the stove was shut and I had to open the windows. Since then I’d opted for gas-heating. Until today. As it turns out either my stove needs sweeping or the chimney. The same thing all over again. Windows wide open, it was really chilly and I was afraid I might get a serious carbon monoxide poisoning. So I sought refuge in the kitchen. I managed to extinguish the fire and eventually after a couple of hours the room was usable again. It still smells of smoke though. Needless to say this whole thing delayed the music making considerably.

I’ve decided to play ‘Hearts first’ on the gig this thursday at Grüner Salon. They have a fantastic grand piano there and I so want to play it. I’m not sure, yet if it’ll be just piano and voice. Well, I still have a couple of days to figure that out.

After the smoke had cleared I wrote string arrangements for ‘Hearts first’ that seem to work well. Also added some beats made out of sounds from hitting the strings and playing around with the inside of a piano I had recorded ages ago and found safely tucked away in my sound library. The vocals in the refrain I sing in triplets so I picked that up in the beat, too. Only it makes the chorus seem much faster now compared to the verse. It sounds kinda off. It might be something small and it all works again seamlessly, but I’m too tired now to suss it out. However tomorrow’s another day and who knows. Yesterday I couldn’t imagine anything in ‘Hearts first’ but piano and voice.

Bathtub now so I don’t have the feeling of smelling of smoke anymore and then off to sleep and dream of sheep.


It’s about time

In the last two days I’ve continued working on ‘Webs’ although it might end up with a different title. I thought I had a refrain already, but it turned out to be much better suited as a bridge. So today I wrote lyrics and music for the chorus and recorded it. I also laid down some vocals. The rough structure of the song is all there and in the next days I will work on the refinements.

Yesterday I rummaged through my sound library of all the field recordings I made and was amazed to actually find a folder labelled ‘clocks’. So now I not only have a great sounding grandfather clock ticking away underneath but also a frantic little alarm clock that ticks twice as fast for bridge and refrain. I had to readjust the grandfather clock rhythm a bit. It was creating an odd limping rhythm that didn’t work. Did some EQing to get rid of some backgroud noise that I found distracting in the more quiet parts. The clock ticking is just perfect for this song. I absolutely love it. In the sound library I found sounds of toast popping and coffee brewing to be included as sounds for beats, too. It’s so good to actually realise that I didn’t spend a whole month for nothing when I recorded everything onto my computer, edited and filed it. Because quite often I end up recording sounds specifically for the song at hand.

Two nights ago I had the idea that some flageolet tones and other guitar bits could be fitting which were originally intended for ‘Chaos & Order’ but simply didn’t sound right and were therefore discarded. And they are. Gonna record some more though on my old battered classical guitar (the one I started with at the age of six, so we’ve got quite a history).

I really can’t complain at the moment. Things are going so well, I’m just sailing through the writing and recording of ‘Webs’. So much so that I haven’t started rehearsing for the little gig on Saturday. Definitely tomorrow however!


Spring is just around a corner

Took me a while to get going today. I felt like I was coming down with a cold, but no, it’s just my body thinking it’s being attacked by vicious tree pollen. So I’ve been coughing and wheezing. It’s no excuse though. I can’t just do nothing for weeks only because I drag myself around sneezing in the morning. I sure hope my voice gets used to it.

More work on ‘Webs’ today. I’ve sorted out the general arrangement. I had the feeling that something was off when I listened to it for the first time today. As it turns out it was pretty easy to solve. The bass line needed some adjustments and I’ve fiddled around with some effects for the rhodes. Together they already create a beat of some sorts now – sounds like a CD skipping. That’s what happens if you don’t cut a sound at zero. Usually this clicking sound is considered to be bad, but I like it.

My condensator mic got a bit tortured to get a sound for the bass drum. I tried to think of anything one does in the morning that provides a sound for that, but at least I prefer it rather relaxed just after getting up without any banging around. Hence the hitting the mic. Recorded the first attempts to the vocals to see if everything works the way I want it. Also recorded more little bits that will hopefully find their perfect place in time.

I need to find some clocks to record the ticking. I don’t have one that tick-tocks anymore. The grandfather clock at my parents’ would be perfect. Maybe next time I get there. I might ask around who’s got one or go to a shop…

This is the tiny snippet that inspired this song (sounds completely different already though):

Tissues of night

So I began the new song called ‘Webs’ today. Like a breath of fresh air. Back in the flow of things. No sign of writer’s block. Ha!

The lyrics are taken from a short story written by my best friend that he probably doesn’t even remember writing. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind anyway. Just nicked some very poetic sounding phrases, translated them and reworked everything. It’s about the time when you wake up and are kind of still caught up in a dream, but have to get into the hustle and bustle of everyday life again. Funny, now I’ve got a morning song and a good night song (‘Scaredy Cat’s Lullaby’). I wonder if it’ll affect the naming of the whole album and the order of the songs… we’ll see.

Some Rhodes playing and recording today, nice and simple sine wave bass line. I also had fun recording lots of stuff one does in the morning just after getting up… yawning, brushing of teeth, getting dressed (zipper sounded best), sipping coffee and so on. For beats. And some basic beat programming. Me likey! Some ah and uh vocals to use as fills, too. It’s a good song to play around with loads of sounds and just enjoy the whole recording process again. Really looking forward to more of this tomorrow.

Bed now. G’night!

Numero uno

Okay then… I guess I’m just gonna pretend I’ve been doing this blogging all along. I will throw in bits of flashback info of what I’ve already recorded and so on when it seems appropriate. Otherwise I’d be sitting here till morning and my typing skills are already in pieces.

In the last couple of days I’ve been working on this song called ‘Unspoken’ which is sort of this epic fairytale where the heroine tries to save the world from silence, because all these important things are left, er, unspoken until the world becomes mute. So she’s the only one attempting to rescue sound.

I’ve been bickering with this song for ages. It’s been a real stubborn one. I finally came up with the musical sketch last April. It turned out quite different from what I imagined, but it’s the way it seemingly wants to be.

It started out with this sound of glass harmonica I recorded a while ago that is used for the main chords and this bouncing bassline. Most of the sounds you can hear in my songs I’ve recorded myself. And all of the sounds for the beats. For this one I used for example the creaking of my office chair and other noises that seem a bit scary. Today and on friday I’ve been working on the refinement and tweaking of the beats. They’re somehow tribal-style now… I really love them. My favourite part right now is the last verse (I’ll put up an intrumental bit of it tomorrow). ‘Unspoken’ builds up just like a story climaxes which means quite some heavy editing since every verse and chorus needs to be different from the others. In the last couple of days I also wrote and arranged parts for a string quartet for this song that nicely add to the mood of the theme.

I’ve decided to give ‘Unspoken’ a break now. I like to let my songs sit for a while and then come back to them to listen with fresh ears. After a while I always kind of become deaf and can’t say if any changes help the song or just make it worse.

Tonight I’ve listened to another song again called ‘Paperheart’, enhanced the overall sound somewhat and made a rough mix. The vocals are still missing, but I’ll do them sometime later (then I can also talk more about this song). At the moment I’m just itching to finally make sense of ‘Chaos and Order’ (demo version on myspace). A friend suggested that it sounds R’n’B- or HipHop-style which gave me the idea to actually really try this stylistic approach. We’ll see.

Enough written, I’m absolutely knackered. Gotta go to bed now so I’m fit tomorrow.