Saturday, December 26, 2015

Songwriting log 2015 12 26

Started the day by "nah nah nahing" a possible melody for the vocals, you can hear that here.

Now, take a deep breath, a lot got done!

Started off with some words for the verse, got one verse, and a second. Recorded those. The words changed things a bit. For one thing, I decided against the more downbeat "Can you save me?" and changed it to the more positive "Do you know you saved me?" - didn't want anything as a downer in this one, a change of heart, wanted it all positive.

Also the song became about what music means to me, though for listeners they may see it about a loved one of theirs.

Next up, came up with the bass for the verse, which took some finding for the bit built on D before the chorus but got something I like.

Then built a structure for the song to see how it looked, by copying and pasting the recorded parts- very handy, doing that. Came up with a way into the song, not sure about that yet, it may be a bit sudden, but trying to avoid a long instrumental intro ("instro")

Then came up with chords for the solo, which I changed around repeatedly til I got what I wanted. All of this recording lead to a lot of deleted takes, as I like to write by playing and seeing what works!

Then recorded the acoustic start to finish now I knew what all the parts would be and what the structure was (there is a wrong chord in there, but that's fine for now.)

Then redid the electric so that it is mostly hanging chords rather than follow the acoustic so closely, just to give more space and breathing room. While playing with getting the electric, had come up with another idea, so tried that too, recording a second electric at some points and I think I like it. Will review tomorrow.

Then re-recorded the vocals, and recorded bass for the solo, then recorded a solo (this is the second take on a solo, not a final.) The bass is still copy and pasted parts, haven't done a play through on that.

That gives us this look to it all:

I did go and add some noise reduction to the various parts, and tweaked around the sounds and effects and mix a bit, and that takes us to the end of the day, which you can hear here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Songwriting Log 2015 12 25

Bit more work done on the track, have a listen here.

Below is how it looks now (my Blogger skills are somewhat lacking, so this is too tiny to read, click here to view it full size though!):

First thing I did was add the bass. Then I got curious about acoustic guitar, and decided I like the electric rhythm too, so have kept both. I also decided I liked the electric guitar melody line that I had tried out in place of what the bass would do, so I upped the reverb on that so that it drops way back in the mix but is still there.

Was amusing to find some of the acoustic playing matching the electric, even though I recorded it with the electric muted. When I have it written, I'll re-record both of course, laying down the acoustic first as the primary, then play electric along with it to make sure both fit well.

Anyway, next up was an experimentation to find something for a verse. The chords on show are probably only vaguely correct, as I added and missed out notes for some, and buggered if I know the names of them - used this handy chord-naming tool to try and get them kind of right, but it doesn't have all the changes when I add and take away things during the chord!

Now it needs words for the verse, and a bass line for that. Still thinking about whether it needs strings, or piano. Perhaps mandolin too, not sure yet. And then there's the solo, and I think this one does need a middle 8 part.

So lots to go, but that's where we are so far today!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Songwriting Log

So have seized some time off over Christmas after one heck of a year! Had hoped to get to 20 songs in the catalogue before the end of the year, but looks like I'll get to 18 (got 16, and two on the go.)

It's Christmas Eve, so....

Can't have alcohol without having songwriting, so that's what I've been doing this Eve!

For fun, have decided to share the development process of writing this song, "Can You Save Me?", as I go. First off, the seed of inspiration, recorded on the cell phone (likely hands free in the car) - have a listen here (note, not safe for work, a brief profanity in there)

So I took that today and set to work in Cubase, figuring out the chords to go with it. Have a listen to that here.

Most likely it will be acoustic guitar, but used the electric to lay it down for now. May or may not keep the electric too, with that kind of warm crunch, or could go totally clean acoustic, will experiment and see!

Have capo'ed it on the third fret, so I could sing lower than in the original audio scribble. May change that not sure if I like the higher or lower as yet. The lower is much more laid back, which I kind of like, but it may be too laid back.

Did a quick improv of the notes I felt need to go in between the lines, though those are likely destined for the bass.

Might have strings on it - or might not. Again, will be something that I will experiment with. And as yet, nothing for the verse, but that's tomorrow's item (though I may doodle with it some tonight.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Would you rather sing than curse?

And if you look to your left, you will see a very nice PC, when it comes to doing 3D, video editing, or playing games. Also very good at handling oodles of synths and plugins while recording music, but it has one problem.

It is incredibly noisy.

Overclocked, water-cooled, it has fans that compete with my AC for loudness, and that is a major P.I.T.A when it comes to recording vocals, as my mic is sensitive enough to pick that up.

A quick trip to Best Buy though for a headphone extension cable resolved this - the Audio Technica mic has a nice long cable, and I can whisk it and the headphones through into the bedroom, out of earshot of the noise box that records everything.

Couple that with Cubase IC for the iPad, and I have a remote control for my recording system - perfect!

This has got me all set up and ready for recording vocals again, so I was able to wrap up "Even When It Hurts" today (lyrics seen above on the bedroom cabinet.)

Interestingly, I've been yearning for older sounds from my state-of-the-art equipment - with "Black Widow" I wanted a smoke-filled blues bar from wayyy back, and this time I had started inspired with the jangly spangly Strat sounds from the 50s, or the kind of bright guitar heard on The Byrds' recordings.

The song itself is about remaining cheerful and positive, and spreading that to others, even when things are rough and hard - and when you see someone who has a positive outlook on life, don't mistake that for them being ignorant of how tough things can be. Could be that they know, and they still choose to be happy.

Which is a good choice to make.

The song itself is a "rough n ready" not all super polished, this is all about writing and getting them down in "good demo" form and moving on, as I have lots more to finish up writing!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Merry Christmas!

When I say "Merry Christmas" I am not asking you to have the same philosophical / religious / spiritual approach that I have to life (and it's very non-traditional anyway!), nor am I asking you to say it back, nor am I asking you to betray your own personal beliefs - I am simply wishing you light, love and happiness, peace and contentment! So - Merry Christmas!

Have pretty much settled in after my unexpectedly short-notice move, below is the corner of my world where all my creativity takes place, from music to 3D and video. You'll note the shelving that all the machines sit upon - this is because a mere week after the move, there was a minor catastrophe with main sewer lines backing up and pools of water forming right under them!

That sort of "newly moved in getting used to the new place" chaos has still kept a crimp in any new writing or recording, though I did jot down the starts to a couple of new songs. I had a target of 20 songs written and recorded in rough n ready form before the end of the year, and another 3 or 4 will see me there! Still plan to hit that, as will have some time over Christmas to take a pause from work and just lose myself in music.

Now that's what I call a merry Christmas! May yours be filled with all the things you love, too.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The sun will rise

Whew... life has been exhausting and hard for the last few months, which is why no new music. Major upheavals that were beyond anything I could ever have foreseen, such that it all seems like some bizarre unreal dream.

One facet of that has been a move at short notice, so am just settling in and setting up and getting used to a new normal. There are challenges ahead - with new rent to pay, and changes to my financial situation, there is much uncertainty. But on other scores, more stability. In the end, I will accept that uncertainty as it is at least primarily under my control!

After months of barely touching an instrument, today was the day I played and wrote some for the first time in ages! In part, getting things ready so there is a "routine" to be able to follow to get to the point of getting songs done on... well not paper, but digital storage!

And what did I work on, you ask? Well, have a Christmas number that is just a chorus, so began work on that - later than intended! Looks like it will be done a mere week before Christmas at this rate, a bit late to hit the charts heh!

And also had a good line or two yesterday - in the shower, where ideas often come to mind. Sang that in to Evernote, fortunately, as my plan to pick up and run with it was scuppered by a second bout of water flooding across the floor (the first occurrence was Thanksgiving itself!)  - and that necessitated getting out and getting what I need to protect the mini-farm of computers that provide me with a salary. But I will return to that one soon, too, and see if I can move it on from those two lines into a complete song.

Whatever adversity you yourself may be facing (if any, and I hope there is none!) do remember that the sun will rise once more, bringing colour and warmth back to life - persevere, and have faith!

All the best,

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Still on hiatus! Life has been consumed one way or another by work, which is no bad thing as even songwriters have to eat!

3D and video editing (self-employed) is my "day job" and I did invest in more computers for rendering, but work has grown faster than the network, and that still sees this computer tied up in renders more often than not - and of course, this is where I do my writing and recording.

So just the other day, I invested in what must be about the cheapest laptop ever, the HP Stream. Tiny solid state hard drive, tiny memory, but nippy enough processor wise (all my other laptops were ageing, and so were slow, with a battery life measurable in minutes rather than hours.)

I upgraded it to Windows 10, installed Cubase 8 Pro stripped down (no big sample libraries and the like), found an old USB hub, and presto, I can record even when the main PC is tied up!

Had to track down some light and simple drum software, and ended up going with Divine Drums.

With that and the Cubase drum editor, I can lay down some very simple beats in order to write to.

For the guitar, just using the inbuilt amp sims that come with Cubase. None of this is about getting finished quality tracks, just so I can write, get structures laid out, chord progressions found, guitar soloes practiced, bass parts figured out, etc.

Since it is Cubase, with a quick move of the licensing dongle thingy, I can just move the exact same project from machine to machine, and pick up where I left off. And old 500 Gb external hard drive will do the trick there. An ideal set up!

Well, almost ideal except for moving my Audiobox USB back and forth between two computers - not the end of the world, but a little inconvenient, especially when I want the main computer to ding when renders are done, or work if a Skype call comes in!

To resolve that, have purchased and am awaiting delivery of the Lexicon Alpha, so that the HP Stream has its own dedicated audio interface.

Now if the mood takes, I can set to writing and recording with just the move of a dongle.

And all of that (well, except the purchase of Cubase itself) for less than the cost of a 4 track tape recorder back in the day! Any of these images will take you to the relevant product page, if you want to know more or get one yourself.

Now the only issue that remains to be solved is having the brain power left over at the end of the day to get creative - and technology isn't going to help there heh!

Monday, August 3, 2015


With so many creative avenues, running down one means taking a break from another. For the moment, no further songwriting as yet, as have shifted focus to the electronic style music (I know, how weird to do country rock on one hand, and electronic new age on the other - but I am who I am!)

Updated the least important of my 3 computers to Windows 10. May try the 2nd most important tomorrow, will do some tests with the slowest one and see how it's working - have it set up for desktop sharing at long last too so I can control the other two machines from here.

As for this main machine, still doesn't have it's notice that it is ready to upgrade, perhaps because it has so much weird musical, 3D, graphics and video stuff on it! Either way, the music et al is too important to risk, so I'd be holding off anyway.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


So I wanted to start sharing on Instagram ( of course), to add to the other social media locations - but I take my pictures with DSLR rather than a phone or tablet, and it seemed a lot of trouble to have to move them ON to a tablet just to get them on Instagram.

Enter AmiDuOS:

It's an android emulator, so basically is like having an android tablet sat on your desktop. Ideal! Then I can snag my images from the hard drive straight up onto Instagram, without having to bounce between devices.

Different use for Instagram, but I don't run around doing things that are worth photographing with my phone - I work from home self employed, do my music from the same computer, and for relaxation I like games and movies, also on the computer (or watched on the PS4 on the telly) so unless you wanted a shot of the same room and desk day-in and day-out, any Instagram shots of that nature would be insanely boring.

So you can all thank AmiDuOS for saving you from having to see those!


I always intended my songs to be sung by other people. That's lead to me doing the rough and ready mixes, and not really taking my voice seriously - why would I? The aim wasn't for people to listen to me, but to other people singing my songs!

I am however contemplating a change of tack, and looking to take my voice seriously, get some training in, and get the versions of songs I do to be complete. Of course I still ultimately want to be writing for others, but in the meantime, maybe I should swap my concept of myself over from songwriter, to singer songwriter!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sad Songs

There's a thing about the songs I write - many are sad, or at least bittersweet, tinged with a touch of melancholy.

Yet I fully believe in being a positive person, so these are not a "celebration" of sadness. So why write them?

So there is the answer. We will all experience sadness at some point, probably many times. I am a positive person, and trying to be more positive all the time, but I have had my run-ins with sorrow, and I do mean big, terrible, will I even make it to tomorrow what is the point of going on sorrow.

And in those times, music can help. Music can be the thing that makes you feel less lonely in those darkest hours. A happy song may just grate at those times, salt in the wound, but a sad song is a hug from the songwriter to let you know, soul-to-soul, that they've been there too.

This means that my reason for writing sad songs is a positive one - it is to help people feel better, to help them get by, and to do so in a way that is not patronizing (and so often the words we say in regular conversation just sound that way; songs let us say those things in a way that avoids that.)

So I have given it some thought - I want to be making the world a better place, not a worse one. I have no desire to be a doomsayer, a rain-on-the-parader (I made that one up.) But in the end I have followed my heart - music and songs have helped me in those bleak hours, and I hope mine can do the same for others now in return.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

No magnets, no music

Interesting thought - without magnets, we wouldn't be surrounded by music.

My Fender Strat, my Audio Technica headphones and mic, the old platter hard drives there on the ground, my Fender Cybertwin amp, and who knows what else in this picture, would simply not work without magnets.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Songwriting log 8th July

"Deep Brown Eyes" is finished!

I only got the second verse this morning, it was giving me much trouble yesterday. Verses, so hard! Yesterday I recorded the bass, which was hard too, and then mixing this was a trick as I never had one with fairly prominent piano all the way through (did sneak some in on the chorus of "Took Me A Lover" but this track has more, now that I have Alicia's Keys for a good piano sound.)

The joining of ways

So today was recording the second verse, second chorus, harmonies for the chorus, and then the electric guitar solos and tweaking up the mix (and battling a couple of Cubase crashes, and some weirdness where the acoustic guitar was disappearing when I exported.)

It's a rough and ready of course, as all my ongoing releases will be, as I want to get the songs down and out there!

Is also amazing how different a track will sound on my decent studio headphones versus my crappy computer speakers - never seems to be a mix that is ideal for every device it can be played back on / through!

This ol' train will take me out of here

Will have to give some thought to what's up next - most likely will be "Even When It Hurts" since it's well on its way!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Writing Log July 6th

Fitted in some music today - did some work on an instrumental piece as my alter ego Faol Glas. Still isn't done, not quite sure what direction it will take, we'll see! It's not what I had in mind when I started it, these things have a life of their own!

Did also return to my Tommy Grimes III self, back to writing, well, whatever genre you would call my music.

I picked up on "Deep Brown Eyes" rather than "Even When it Hurts" as that's where the mood lead me (I was humming it in my head!) I added piano to it, naturally, now that I have a good sounding one in Alicia's Keys that I spent an age playing yesterday!

I re-recorded the acoustic guitar (it just had a rough over the chorus for that, with a rough electric over the verse as it was easier to pick up the electric when I was writing the chords for that!) then re-recorded the vocals for the chorus with a slight tweak to words, then over the course of several hours a first verse came to me, so I recorded that.

It really needs bass to fill it out but didn't tackle that today. Did try and add some electric rhythm to the chorus, to pick it up from the verse, liked the sound on the headphones, but then found it too fizzy on the computer speakers, so will need to revisit!

Also not sure on the verse, again is a question on whether to sing it low or sing it high, in the same register as the chorus. Low makes the chorus stand out more, so I am leaning in that direction for now - but again, these things have a life of their own, so who knows!

I ended up not liking how it sounded on a listen on the computer speakers, some you win some you lose, but good progress - just needs a second verse and deciding the arrangement and mix, so not far to go now!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Writing Log July 5th

I did come back to "Even When it Hurts" but ran into trouble with the key - right now it sounds great on the guitar, starting on C, but I can't sing it so well there. If I move it to start on E or F then I can sing it better, and while the guitar sounds good on the chorus with a capo raising it, it doesn't work so well during the verse which is meant to be fairly "chugga chugga" (muted strings, and sounds best deep.)

Couldn't make up my mind what the best solution was, so put it to one side - besides, the freelance 3D work had got busy again and that is what pays the bills!

Then came the weekend, wrapped up as much as I could of the 3D work, and headed back to music with an interesting twist. I had a hankering for piano.

The only piano sounds I have came as part of other things - orchestral collections, or included with Cubase, and they have always left me wanting. So I spent a large part of yesterday and today browsing, listening, reading reviews, checking prices, etc, and early today settled on Alicia's Keys.

Most recent addition to sound arsenal - Alicia's Keys
Now, I don't know any of Alicia Keys' music (sorry Alicia) so the name branding had nothing to do with my choice. I did want something down below $100, to keep the budget sane and sensible for what I want to do with it. I did want something sample-based rather than modeled. And with that in mind, this fit the bill.

I was also tempted by Imperfect Samples, but their purchase site was bust at this time so couldn't get it even if I wanted to. And some of the more expensive VSTs out there looked real nice too, but, can't justify the money on those just yet.

Then I spent the rest of the day lost in playing piano, which was great fun! And now the challenge ahead - figuring how to EQ and mix a piano in with distorted guitar and the like, which I haven't tackled before!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Log - Took Me A Lover

And "Took Me A Lover" is all wrapped up! Again is a rough and ready, don't want to agonize over recording and production TOO much here, as just need to get these songs written.

Listen here.

More random photography of mine!
So wrote the last verse, verses are always the thing I find hardest! Then came addition of piano and tiny bit of strings n the chorus, to my surprise. Then the guitar solo, which flowed quick and easy.

Kept the Melodyne tightened bass, which I think sounds good - just couldn't seem to get it QUITE bang on when playing so a wee bit of tidying up by a percentage worked wonders. And of course on the vocals too.

Time to move on to another! Coming back for re-recordings and polishings, well, who knows when that might happen, but for now rough n ready and getting them wrote! (I know, bad grammar, artistic license!)

Writing log

Keeping up with sharing the writing process!

For "Took me a Lover" I ended up using Melodyne on the bass after all, even after a re-recording of it and a re-recording of the acoustic guitar. While it sounded good as I played it, I wasn't happy with it on playback and that little bit of tightening up on the timing seems to help.

More random works of my photography

I then picked up on another piece, which doesn't have a name other than "Psychedelic Country" - this one was several layers done on Cubasis on the iPad, which is fine except the guitar has baked-in effects from there (the Mobile Pod effects) so I have to start by making new patches in Amplitube or Scuffham to get close to those sounds so I can re-record the parts.

It's only a chorus, no words, but interesting three layers. Got one patch done, the other two sounds still to go - then have to find drums, write words (have to decide what the hell this thing is about lol!), get a verse, write the bassline, etc etc. So a long way off yet!

Will have to see what comes out of today, as there is the day job to work on too! Will keep you posted.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Updated to  Cubase 8 from 7.5, since it's not much and there was a special offer. The main appeal - better floating windows for my dual monitors!

Got it last night, and got all the VSTs pointed at - I think. We'll find out as we go along, putting it to use today! So far today have structured another song, "Deep Brown Eyes", and written the verse chords for it, and gave it the drums. It started the day as just a chorus, with "click track" drums.

While chorus does have words, nothing for the verse yet, will see if anything arrives today.

Song started from this. 
Now structured and laid out ready for easy writing and recording!

Next up though, back to "Took me a Lover" so that I don't get lost in just setting up songs for writing, rather than, you know, actually getting some listenable!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Writing Log

Figured I'd share some of the writing process as I go along!

So have been working on "Took Me a Lover" which is going well, has a structure all laid out, the acoustic laid down, drums laid down, choruses written, and two out of three verses written (no vocals recorded yet though, maybe tomorrow!)

Walls of text are boring, so have some of my photography to go with the song blog!

I'll admit that it has been hard finding motivation these last few days, so although the song is far along, actually wrapping it up has proved tricky!

I got bass parts for verse and chorus, but just wasn't playing them very well - I could use Melodyne to straighten up the sloppy timing, I don't view that as "cheating" since I am only writing the song to demo it at a good enough state to see if someone else wants to take it and record it, all the same though not something I like doing with instrument parts.

Besides, I want to re-record the acoustic rhythm with the bass there, as they may be clashing some. That can be part of the cycle - rhythm guitar, bass line under it, redo the rhythm guitar now I have a bass. One of the hardships of flying solo!

So I decided to change tack. I have around 80 songs and fragments tucked away, some are already in Cubase, some are just recordings off my cell phone (hurrah Evernote!) I figured I'd go through some of those, start drawing up the chords that I have etc, so that when I pick up on them, I can do so quickly, rather than starting from just an audio file from a phone.

I chose one that was already in Cubase but just click track, electric rhythm and the electric playing the melody for the chorus. Lo and behold if I didn't get caught up in it!

To my surprise, I wrote the verse chords, re-wrote the chorus chords a bit, laid out the whole song structure, redid the drums so they weren't just a click track. Most fun of all was deciding to hit record and try a solo, and ended up loving the first thing I recorded!

Might keep it as the final, we'll see - you can hear it here!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New lyric video is out on my YouTube channel, for "Different This Time."

The song is intended for a woman to sing, though I have no qualms about singing it myself! It was inspired when I was shocked to hear a conversation amongst folks I thought would know better, regarding those trapped in abusive relationships.

Their tone was about how these people have a victim mentality, they should just leave, etc etc. As if it is that easy.

I contemplated the million and one things that would make it hard to step out of such a situation, and how people could easily keep returning to it. For this song, I focused just on the concepts of hope and duty, though there are many many other things that make it hard to break free of a situation like that.

Regarding hope - I can only hope people become more open minded, realizing just how hard it is to break the cycle, and offer support rather than criticism for those suffering an abusive relationship. And remember - there are organizations out there who can help, and who will understand.

All the best,

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

All Adobe Creative Cloud apps updated to 2015! Haven't checked what new features are in there, but have noted that After Effects with Video Copilot's Optical Flares loads a damn sight faster!

Sometimes I love doing everything myself, from writing the music, to recording every instrument, to making the imagery and videos that go with it.

Other times, it makes me wish for a team of folks to handle the other stuff so I could get on with writing the music itself - such is life!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Another song wrapped up and complete! This one is "Different Tune" (click to listen or download.) I was particularly pleased with the harmonizing layers in this one, as it features acoustic rhythm, mandolin, electric guitar phrases, electric guitar harmony phrases, bass, vocals, and vocal harmonies.

In fact, so much work went into this, that I thought I would share a behind the scenes look at all that went into the chorus - click below to watch a video that walks you through all the different layers, so you can pick them out while listening!

Structures like these are why I don't play live - I'd need 5 musicians just to play the instrument parts, six if we include a drummer, and then we have the vocal parts to think of to! This is why I love the studio!

I haven't stopped there though - as well as the new logo (seen at the top of this post) destined to go on t-shirts, I've also created my first three lyric videos for "Pedal to the Metal," "The Amber Dream" and "Black Widow" - watch out for more to come in the next few weeks!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Black Widow - the vocal sound

A look at the "old and live" sound I was after for the vocal part in "Black Widow." I plan on coming back to look at bass, guitars and drums in future videos, as those were also made to sound like it was played live in a smokey blues club decades ago!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Clay Walker, self appointed guardian of country music

I am an odd kind of fellow. For one, my rock music side of things is a bit rock, a bit blue, a bit country, a bit folk, a bit celtic, and probably more besides.

As if that wasn't eclectic enough, I also have a love for instrumental and electronic music, which I also create under the name Faol Glas.

This is because I love music, in many of its forms. It stirs me, moves me, and each genre and style does so in a different way. That means I both want to listen to all those styles, but also that I want to create them too.

So, imagine my disgust on reading this:

Here is someone telling other artists that they shouldn't produce country music. I wonder who appointed him overseer? If an aging rocker (or young hip hop artist, or middle aged pop signer, or anyone else) wants to make country music, then they can damn well make it.

If it's no good, well then nobody will buy it - and that is where Clay Walker's power over what other artists choose to make begins and ends, with deciding whether or not to purchase it.

But what, you ask, if it is merely an attempt to cash in and make money? Well first some of the folks cited in that article probably have no need to make money, and second, even if that is their motivation, they are still entitled to it. Don't tell me the country music marketing machine and some "bona fide" country artists aren't just as shallow in their motivation, pursuing the dollar sign into twanging guitar and getting the words"truck" and "beer" into as many lines as possible.

If someone wants to make money, that's all fine and good, whatever their background.

Thing is, it's a mighty long fall from the back of a high horse.

Black Widow

Wrapped up Black Widow a couple of days ago ( and it was an interesting project!

I wanted to make it sound old and live, which actually took quite a bit of work to make it sound "worse" than it started out, with distortion and warmth. I am planning on doing a video tutorial peek at the settings used for those who are interested.

I'm pleased by the way the whole song came out! Inspiration came while shifting trash bags in my garage, living out in the country there is no trash pick up, so I collect bags in the garage til I am ready to make a run to the dump, and the garage is a favourite hang out for black widows (yes the photo on the left is my photo, of one of the many I have found in my time.)

While doing that I thought to myself "Black widows like to hide down low" and just like that, a song was born, with the rest being finished up in the shower as I cleaned off afterward!

On another note (see what I did there?) I am not too happy with the vocals for the verses on By The Setting of the Sun, so I think I will revisit those soon and do some fresh takes.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

An auction of 70 items from Steve Earle's guitar, amp and other instruments collection:

I guess I am just weird as a musician, as I have no desire to collect tons of instruments (other than software synths, I seem to keep adding those at a rate of one a year or so!) Me, I am content with just one electric, one acoustic, and one bass.

After all, I can only play one at once, and the ones I have make all the right sounds for me. Maybe I am just easily pleased when it comes to sound, liking to return to the same sounds over and over.

Not to mention I couldn't afford even one of those in that collection of 70! And several thousand each, that is a pretty hefty sum of money there when you total it up, too. Ah but what if I had that sort of money, would I become a collector? Probably not... I can see myself getting a vintage Fender amp (sorry Cybertwin!) and maybe a vintage Strat, but maybe not.... I could see adding a Telecaster, and a Martin.

Other than that, I really don't think I'd feel the urge to add more and more!

But hey, here's to getting the chance to find out!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

By the Setting of the Sun

Just wrapped up the rough n ready version of this one - quite the toughie!

The chorus is 2 bars short, has a different feel from the verse, there are tempo changes (easy peasy with living human beings, but I find it harder to get software to work with that), getting a bass that fitted was interesting, figuring whether the melody guitar worked or clashed was a tough call, and then I harmonized a second melody electric at one point, in place of a solo, and that was interesting too.

And interesting side note about this song, it was originally rather less upbeat in lyrical content, written back in a dark time. However, I loved the sound of it, but didn't want to put those particular feelings down in song as I didn't know how they might impact people.

Besides, the old feelings just don't fit my present outlook, so I couldn't bring myself to stick with the original lyrics (tune and such was the same, it was kind of an unusual contrast between tune and lyrics), so it turned into By the Setting of the Sun, a "can't keep me down" song, as everyone has to have one of those!

So, don't let anything keep you down either!

Oh - listen and download here.

All the best,

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farewell BB King

BB King passed away today, very sad. I'd post a link to an epic, seminal performance by him, but that was pretty much all of them so choose any you like. Heart and soul were expressed through his music, but you could also see it in him as a person too - something about him just seemed so bright, warm and light.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Too Many Verses - plus noise reduction talk

Finished up "Too Many Verses" in rough n ready form, have a listen and download if you like:

A bit of irony when you listen to the lyrics, as it has been waiting about 7 weeks to finish, but I've had too much work! As ever, it's not really meant for me to sing, but for someone else who likes the song (let me know if that's you!) Personally I think a bit of The Dogs D'Amour crept into the sound of this one!

The other part of this blog is about a new addition to the stable of stuff, in this case new noise reduction tools.

Sure, the songs are meant to be drafts, but that's no reason to have lots of hums, buzzes, clicks and more hiding on there to distract someone from the song itself.

The bass is the worst for this, it likes to pick up a lot of buzz from the monitors and PC, though the electric guitar can get the same way and fed through the amp simulators with distortion, they can be noisy in the silences.

The vocals are a problem as well, the PC is a bit of a beast (it does video editing and 3D work too) and so has a fair collection of fans, so it is far from silent, and I don't have a vocal booth of any form.

I have been using ReaFir for that, which was free and pretty good but had one problem - as soon as I added it to any track in Cubase, I got latency - hit a note on the guitar and it was heard a teeny fraction of a second late, but that is enough to throw off the playing!

And sometimes that noise is a pain while playing, distracting, so that was a problem - and although I could get good results from ReaFir, I sometimes got artifacts - enter Acon Digital!

Having looked around at the big expensive noise reduction plugins, I just couldn't justify that kind of price. The Acon Digital Restoration suite was only $99 though, and a test of the demo showed it did not have the latency problems (and if there was some, simply disabling the plugin but leaving it in the chain would resolve it) and it didn't create the same issues with artifacts.

"Too Many Verses" was one of the noisiest tracks I've created, with two electric solo sounds, the electric rhythm, the vocals, and the bass all having their addition to it, so that prompted me to take the plunge. Very glad I did, very impressed with it - easy to use, and good results, and I have many uses for it in some of the video editing work I do too!

Go try it for yourself here!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rough 'n' Ready

Have continued on with the rough 'n' ready approach and wrapped up another song.

I find it an interesting way to record - after all, what I want to do is get the songs out there with the intent of someone finding one they like and recording it themselves. That means that agonizing over every detail is rather counter-productive, and just delays things.

Mostly I need to finish writing the 70 or so song fragments in various states of completion, and wrap up a version that is just good enough to show what the song could be.

So far I'm finding it goes like this - record the song by laying down some drum pattern, getting the guitar sounds I want, and finalizing the structure. This will usually involve everything except the bass, and includes the vocals, so we have the whole song, or close to it, all down.

Then I come back to it another day, and re-record everything except the drums and add the bass - this latter step normally takes 2 or 3 hours, so goes pretty fast. I find I can then redo the rhythm guitar while listening to the singing, so that it fits better (I can stop doing so much twiddling while the singing is going on - same applies for the guitar solo, is nice to redo the rit git while that is playing so they mesh better) and then redo the vocals to fit that new rit git, then redo the bass (if it was done) to fit all that.

Since it is quick and dirty, I don't mind if the odd mistake makes it in there, and I also don't try to get everything in one take, I might split up the bass, or the guitar solo for instance, aiming to record, say, a verse, then stop and record the chorus, then stop and do the verse - that way if I screw it up, I am not having to redo the whole thing.

Now, when I did "The Amber Dream" mini-album which was intended as a complete and polished collection, I did indeed aim to get the take that was in there to be a complete one pass with no comped in bits. To be honest, there's no real reason for that, it's not like it's a live performance! But there you go.

However, I have to lose those pointless habits and weird preferences and just get writing. So I will!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tools of the trade - Evernote

I get inspiration at the oddest times - sometimes that's waking from a dream, sometimes that's in the shower, and often that's when driving. Something about driving seems to free up my mind to come up with tunes and lyrics!

But my memory ain't what it used to be - arguably, it was never that good - so how to save those fleeting moments of inspiration?

I find Evernote is the way to go. It caused me a bit of panic recently as the audio note option vanished, but it was still in there - they just removed it from the list of options that pops up when clicking the big plus to create a new note. No idea why, it's about the most useful thing in there to my mind, but you can add it back in the settings!

It's great because with a quick button press, no worse than changing radio stations on your car stereo, you can sing or hum away at your phone and never need lose a flash of insight again.

Best of all, once saved on one device, you can access it on any other - my Android phone, my iPad, and my PC can all see these notes, so when it comes time to work that initial idea into a song, I can get to it!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Footsoldier - the story of a song

Steve Earle at Camp Copperhead
Back in July 2014, I attended Camp Copperhead, a songwriting course hosted by Steve Earle.

It was a great and inspirational experience, and I started a couple of things while I was there, including 'Footsoldier.'

This one I actually came up with on the drive back across the mountains heading to the airport. I use Evernote on my cell, which lets me just sing at the phone at any time to capture passing ideas. Technology is great.

Life was busy for the last part of 2014, and the first verse and ideas for second never really went any further, but in the last weekend of 2014 I decided it was time to finish this one up!

Not a few weeks before, I'd finished 'Different This Time' as part of a new approach to getting my songs down, a kind of rough n ready approach, no agonizing over perfect performance or perfect mix, just get the song down and recorded and complete.

So I set out to do the same with 'Footsoldier' and wrapped up the verses, and got a chord structure and idea for something of a refrain (not really a chorus, the song doesn't really have one.)

On the 30th I got some drums down, recorded the acoustic guitar, the vocals, and an electric guitar solo. The bit with the third line in each verse gave me trouble, I was playing the guitar different from how I was singing (changing chords a beat early), so on the afternoon of the 31st, I threw out everything but the drums and electric solo.

To my pleasure, and surprise, in that afternoon I re-recorded the guitar under the vocals, re-recorded the vocals with the new acoustic track, picked up a bass and got that done, and added harmonica (first time recording that, so is only simple!)

This also included any mixing - I kept the acoustic sound from the day before, which I really like, I think the new D'Addario EXP strings are a large part of that, and of course the trusty CLA Guitar plugin. For the vocals, I actually added a clone that was a little distorted under the verses, throwing them through Scuffham S-Gear.

So there was a bit of mixing involved, it wasn't just catch it as it went down - and I managed to do all that in one afternoon!

I even managed to throw in time to come up with the cover for the next collection of songs, 'Restless Guitar.'

I now feel confident I can get songs done and out there fast. Sure, they don't have the slick polish of the ones on 'The Amber Dream' but I have some 80 songs on the go, and it's time to get them out there, let them loose on the world. That's my aim for 2015, get a whole lot more songs out there for people to hear.

Hope. Solace. Strength. Companionship. Giving those through music, that is my aim - and that can't happen with songs that are just scribbled in a notebook, or recorded on a mobile phone.

Expect to hear a lot more from me this year than just 6 or 7 songs!