N is for Noise

I live in a noisy flat with whistling windows on the corner of a busy road. It makes recording acoustic guitars or vocals quite awkward. It’s easy to plug an electric guitar into your computer to capture it, but if you ever want to use a microphone then all sorts of external factors get in the way. Even if I manage to not catch the random bumps or clatters or engine noises that creep into my home, the recordings never come out sounding great.

Almost every time I’ve tried to record via microphone, I’ve listened back in dismay, hearing a dreadful “hsssssss” permeate the recording. There is an inevitable “noise floor” that’s going to get into your recording; nothing’s ever completely quiet. I’m simply not very good at setting up my recording equipment to minimise the background noise. And once you’ve recorded it, it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of that hiss. It’s so frustrating! But I just need to keep on practicing.

Could someone please buy me a recording studio? 😉

M is for Money

I’m really poor. I’ve been making music. Here’s how I did it:

I used a Dell laptop (£500) with Ableton Live 9 Intro (£55, bought during a 20% off sale) and Ignite (free with my MIDI keyboard).

I connected electric guitars/mics to my computer via a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface (£120). For some songs I plugged my guitar (a lefty Epiphone Dot) straight into the audio interface; at times I also used an effects pedal (a Boss CH-1 chorus pedal or a Digitech DF-7 distortion pedal).

I recorded my ancient Yamaha C40 classical guitar using a Rode M3 condenser microphone (£69). I also used an M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MIDI keyboard (£34). The keyboard was really useful for writing MIDI bass guitar parts.

I listened to everything through an old pair of headphones with a frustratingly high bass response, and a pair of generic smartphone headphones.

The things that don’t have a price were bought too long ago for me to remember the cost. I like to think that even though I bought all the cheapest things, I’ve had some really good results from them!

L is for Like It’s Your Last

…which is the title of my blog!

If you’ve listened to the songs I’ve written (in particular Daydreams and Denial) then it might surprise you to learn that the title of my blog is taken from a song by a band called Devil Sold His Soul that can sometimes sound a bit scary.

They write music that is at times slow and climactic, gradually building up into crushing guitars and screamed vocals. And yet at other points there’s beautiful, delicate moments with big spacious synthesizer sounds and sweet, naive singing.

I’ve seen them in concert four times – or maybe five? The first time was in a little venue built into one of the arches under a bridge in the Old Town of Edinburgh. It was perfect. Everyone just piled on top of each other, singing along at the top of their lungs, totally enraptured by the moment. A lovely feeling of togetherness.

But anyway, I chose to call my blog “Like It’s Your Last” because it sounds good. I suppose it relates to the idea of “living each day like it’s your last”, interpretable as “go do something with your life and try to be the best that you can be”. So, that seemed like a reasonable choice.

I, J, K are for I Just Keep forgetting to update my blog…

I wish I could say I’ve been busy. You could argue that I have been, but not so much so that I couldn’t write a short blog entry each day. So I’m taking the easy way out and combining the last couple of missing entries with today’s one, under a title which conveniently gives me freedom to ramble about anything, really.

What’s new with me? Here’s some recent events in my life: I had a burrito for dinner. My boyfriend and I went on a lovely trip to Glasgow on Thursday to visit my family and go to a gig. I started watching Suits and am convinced that Netflix is trying to eat up my soul, one TV show at a time. And I just found out the lease for my flat is being terminated in two months, noooo! (Don’t worry Mum, I’ll be fine.)

But let’s not worry about that, or the fact that I’ll be a penniless shop assistant for the rest of my life. I’ve been working on a couple of new songs recently.

One’s almost finished, in the sense that I have a basic skeleton of a song written, including drums and one and a half guitar parts. So what I should have said is that it’s actually no-where near complete. I’m pleased with what I’ve written so far, but it sounds like a backing track, so I’m working on making it sound more interesting. I think I’ll call it How To Become A Ghost, because that sounds damn cool.

As for the other song – let’s call it Song 6, as it’s my 6th effort of 2014 – I’ve only written about 45 seconds of music, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard part of it before. I think it must be an idea I’ve played around with in the past. I certainly hope I’m not accidentally plagiarising someone else’s music!

I’ll write more about my music soon, but now I’m off to practice my guitar and then watch another episode of Suits (but just one, honestly!). Tomorrow is a day off for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I promise I’ll use it to get my next few posts organised!

H is for “How do you stop this thing?!”

One year, when I was a very little kid, it snowed and I went sledging with my family. Now, I don’t actually remember this at all, but apparently I was pretty terrified by the big hill and the speed at which I was presumably plummeting down it on the sledge. I bellowed, “howwww dooooo you stop this thiiiing?!???!” I’m 22 years old now and I think my family may finally have forgotten about the event, but for years and years my sisters would bring it up and laugh about it.

Anyway, I wrote yesterday’s blog entry today, and I have no idea what to write about tomorrow. Don’t you just feel like time is rushing the naive wee kid in you forwards, uncontrollably? How does anyone manage to keep up?

G is for Goals

At the start of the year, I purchased a little notebook and spent some time writing up a set of goals for the year, with the idea that I’d carry the book with me everywhere I went, keeping track of my progress and updating my goals. It hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped. Part of me is mad at myself for not being as incredibly determined and hard-working as I’d like to magically become, but the other part of me is just really pleased that I am at least trying to improve myself. To use an awful cliché, I’m going for the “half-full glass” approach. I’ve been congratulating myself for at least starting things: starting to dream and create a good future for myself.

I’m disappointed in myself for one particular goal though. Generally speaking, it was to improve my health and fitness, but I’ve actually gone in the complete opposite direction. I had to quit lifting weights at the gym to save money and I never sorted out a bodyweight routine for myself, so my “become a warrior goddess” plan completely fell apart. I’ve become a lazy slob. Also, I was pretty much living off cheap bakery stuff for a couple of months. It was a bad addiction. Those were dark days!

Not to worry, I’ll get back into it again soon. I can at least say that so far this year I’ve gotten better at lots of little things, and even if I slip up or give up, I’m still trying. Even if all my goals fall through, at least I started them. Setting goals and achieving goals are my biggest goals right now.

F is for Feynman Diagrams

my tragic love story
with particle physics continues:
yet another day spent
devoting myself to
hypergeometric functions,
infinite sums
and complex integrals.

trying to push my bloated, thundering fingertips
through tiny gluon loops,
i find them suddenly life-sized and
draped all around me
like Christmas decorations.
bewildered, i can’t untangle myself.

i clumsily squeeze these
mathematical marvels into
misshapen boxes, calculations
that never seem to fit;
crushing the delicate curls
of the universe’s vibrant underworld.

I wrote this 14 months ago. I’ve only written a handful of poems over the last few years. I’d went through a crazy teenage poet phase and when I realised I was a crazy teenage poet – and not a genius wordsmith – I sort of gave up on writing.

I like this one, though. It maybe only makes sense if you’ve studied quantum field theory, but I think it conveys the frustration and creative aspects of trying to solve a physics problem. I’d really invested my whole heart into that physics nonsense.