Tag Archives: strings

Building blocks

Thursday was the – for now – last day I worked on ‘The Tide’. I wrote some more bits for the string arrangement and added a great middle 8 that adds perfectly to the dramatic sound of the song. Then in the evening a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for some time came round to listen to my songs. He hadn’t heard much of the new songs, actually only knew the first two. So I bribed him with a nice dinner I cooked for the both of us. And he got pretty excited when I played him my songs. His favourites were ‘Webs’, ‘Unspoken’ and ‘The Tide’. We didn’t get around to all the songs since we got a bit drunk and then another friend came by who – believe it or not – doesn’t really like music.

In the last two days I started rearranging some of my new songs for a gig I’m playing next Wednesday. So far I’ve done ‘Webs’ and I’m on ‘Hearts first’ now. Pretty tricky what I want to pull off live, doing my One-Woman-Show. It takes a lot of preparation, rehearsing and thinking how each song works best because I definitely don’t want to do some sort of karaoke. Admittedly some parts will just be done by play back, but I’m trying to play as much live as possible. Since I’m writing and producing on Windows XP, but play live with my Macbook Pro, I have to find some work arounds for the VST instruments and plugins that only work on XP. Quite time consuming, but at least this time I’ve hopefully started early enough to be well prepared on stage.

That’s how ‘Webs’ as an instrumental originally looks. Quite something going on in there, right?!

Off to a little gig I was asked to come to tonight. I’ll try not to stay out too long nor get too drunk… fingers crossed!


Writing frenzy

It’s already been a week again…

After I last wrote, Tuesday night, I couldn’t sleep. I was quite worried what the music producer had done to my song. So after a chat with my best friend that lasted till five in the morning I decided just to stay up. I played on my keyboard with headphones and had a lot of new ideas that I instantly recorded in Live. Around midday I had a little break and fell asleep on my armchair, went to bed and slept for four hours. When I woke up I got right back to playing and came up with an idea for a song. I don’t know if I’d mentioned that I was asked to write a soul song for someone else. I’d been listening to soul a lot to research chord structures etc. The following day I continued fleshing out the idea and it’s not bad at all. The music producer really liked it and will probably use it. He also played me what he’d done with ‘Chaos & Order’ which is basically just a radio edit. Not sure if I like it. It’s got a fad in. Yuck! I’m starting to think I’d rather write two new songs only for this compilation. That way I can see the whole thing as something like a collaboration. My friends to whom I talked to about it agree. They even said that no one would want their children messed up by someone else after bringing them up all on one’s own. Funny they used this allegory. Spot on, I guess!

On Thursday I also went for a long cycling trip through a nearby park and an adjoining forest, offroading and all. Very enjoyable! I’d completely forgotten how exhiliarating it can be. On the way back I paused by a lake and started assembling ideas for lyrics. Basically jutting down everything that came into my mind, without any particular order. That seems to work best for me these days. Make sense of them later after collecting thoughts.

While working on the soul song I already came up with a little bass line that I thought has loads of potential. I sorta forgot about it until I was about to turn off the computer and go to bed. So I opened up Ableton Live again an quickly recorded it and all of a sudden all the arrangement ideas came flooding out of me and I ended up staying up till five in the morning. It’s the song I’m working on at the moment. It’s called ‘The Tide’, at least for now and it’s pretty dramatic with pizzicato strings, harpsichord, big drum sounds and in waltz time. I only have the lyrics for the first verse and the refrain so far, but since the weather’s supposed to be very summerly in the next couple of days I’m gonna go to the park and finish them in the sun. Maybe even write some more. The metaphor for the chorus came to me in the shower. Being relaxed seems to be the way to go to get in the mode. The vocal lines are there. When I sent a rough sketch to my dad today via Skype he said it rocked. Ha!

I got my new phone yesterday. Installing the stuff onto the computer took a bit, it kept cutting out, but it works now so I can upload pictures from now on. One of the first ones I took (my orchid):

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’:

Back on track

Sorry for staying away without any further notice… I had a horrible experience last friday and it took me a while to regain my footing. Hence no music making and no blogging.  It wasn’t my intention to vanish like that, but I needed the time.

I’m happy to say though that I’m back making music. Still working on ‘Hearts first’. Things are starting to fall into place. I always had the feeling that something was not quite right and whenever I played the final part I did it faster than the rest. Slowing it down seemed wrong somehow so I tried adjusting everything else. And voilà, much better. So the song is a bit faster now. Also I finally have the string arrangement for the beginning and the end. There are still a few kinks to be straightened out, but I’m getting there. Once I’ve recorded the piano the mixing and checking if anything else is missing will be much easier. A real piano sounds way better and I reckon the sound can carry a lot more than the fake one now which sounds a bit thin.

I also rehearsed playing the piano part to a click track with headphones on today. I arranged to record the piano on thursday at a friend’s and till then I have to be used to it. It’s probably gonna take enough time to set up the mics already. I’m not used to playing various pianos and they can feel quite different from each other. Also starting writing lyrics for a new song. Just fragments so far, but no pressure yet.

Last, but not least another long awaited sound snippet of said ‘Hearts first’. It’s the very beginning of the song and just a teensy appetiser:

Threes and fours

I’m gonna have to keep it short tonight. Seriously have to go to bed now. Early appointment tomorrow and apparently I have to walk for almost 40 minutes to get there because of this damn BVG strike. Here’s a picture to prove it:

how to get around in Berlin these days

One hour less to make music. I wonder if I should try to get a refund for my monthly ticket.

More work on ‘Hearts first’. I still don’t know if the beats are good. They’re great on their own and they’ve giving me heaps of ideas for the string arrangement. So even if they don’t make the cut in the end it wasn’t wasted time. I could even use them to make a remix.

Lots of small bits and pieces that I’ve done today still need to be pulled together properly so they make sense. That’ll hopefully happen tomorrow. Maybe a little mp3 snippet then, too.


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.