Recording Song 7

Today I recorded all the guitar parts for the song I’ve been working on, Following Me In The Sunshine.

The floor is my desk.

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Over the last couple of evenings, I worked out how to play all of the bits and pieces of the song on my guitar. It was pretty fun, because there’s more than one way to play any particular sequence of notes on a guitar so I had to figure out which way is the best. You have to think about how playable it is, consider techniques like bends and slides, and take into account the fact that different strings have a different timbre.

I used my old Boss BR-600 multitrack recorder to record the guitar, instead of my laptop. Boss have an incredibly good reputation for their guitar effects pedals, and their multitrack recorders come with a gazillion customisable effects which are always fun to play around with. Plus, it got me away from the computer screen. I kept the guitar sounds simple, sticking with simple overdrive effects. I’m planning on playing around with delays and reverb, but I’ll do that on my computer at a later stage.

I had mentioned in my last post that I’m unsure about the instrumentation of the song. Originally, in my MIDI composition (which was basically a first sketch), there were the following:

– 1 “cute” synthesizer. I don’t know why but I keep getting drawn to sweet, naive-sounding synths as lead instruments.
– 1 soft electric piano with an echo
– 2 classical guitars
– 1 bass guitar
– 1 drum kit

I decided (for now, at least) to arrange the piece for 3 (fairly gentle) electric guitars with bass and drums. It’s really changed the feel of the song. I kind of miss the synth though, so I’m not sure.

I think I basically want to be this band:

Anyway, after I’d recorded everything, I exported the tracks to my computer and combined them with my MIDI bass and (crappy, half-finished) drums in a new Ableton Live file. I got everything organised, naming and colour-coding accordingly. So now I’m pretty much ready to start mixing the song!

A demo

I decided to export my half-finished song as an MP3 file to listen to on the bus to work, away from my computer screen. Then I thought, “why not share it on my blog?”

So here it is. I have so much work still to do – I haven’t even properly decided on the instrumentation yet. I might keep the cute synth and echoey piano or I might record it all with guitars.

What do you think?

PS I’m late for work!

Tae A Moose

I found a little dead mouse on my living room floor yesterday morning. I know it’s vermin, and I’m not forgetting the traumatic Mouse Wars of 2012 in a previous flat I lived in, but finding that tiny mammal was a really sad start to the day. I considered writing it a poem, but we already have “Tae A Moose” and I really can’t compete with that.

I’d came into the living room, set up the cafetiere and plonked myself cross-legged onto the sofa, firing up my laptop to read the morning Facebook as normal. A few minutes later I got up and I poured myself a cup of coffee, and then on the return trip to the sofa – well, imagine my surprise when I noticed the wee carpet-coloured creature that had keeled over on the floor just below where I had been sitting moments before.

I kneeled beside him. I wondered how long he’d been there. I told him, “Wake up! It’s time to get up!” but he stayed where he was, on his side, his back to me. I looked at his tiny little five-fingered foot and thought about animal consciousness, and what his last thoughts might have been, and wondered why he had died.

I was alone in the flat. I almost waited for my boyfriend to come home so that he would deal with it, but I decided that wasn’t fair. I remembered that a couple of weeks ago I had hoovered up a dead wasp, disgusted by it. That reaction seems so cruel now!

I picked him up with toilet roll, a delicate, almost weightless bundle that I apologised to, and dropped into a bright orange plastic Sainsbury’s bag. The bag then went unceremoniously into the big rubbish bin outside. What a sad way to go.

Maybe I’m a fragile, sappy little vegetarian. The whole thing could have been over in a minute, and it only meant something to me. I suppose I’m writing this because I think that maybe we should try to be more conscious, and more respectful of the world we live in and who we share it with.

Riding the waves of motivation

Shortly after I started this blog, my friend Adam started one as well, because I said he should. For a while he’d stopped posting frequently and I had to encourage him to write, but now the tables have turned and he’s the one telling me to get blogging again!

Anyway, I might have, kind-of, completely and utterly abandoned the A to Z blogging challenge soon after the half-way point, but I will not look back in sadness! It was super fun and I’m sure that if/when I do it next year, I’ll be better prepared for it.

Instead of blogging, I have, at least, been making music! I’m working on Song 7. You might say,

“I know you started out by writing 4 songs in 12 weeks, but I haven’t heard much since then. How come you’re at Song 7 now? Where did 5 and 6 go?” Where indeed.

“And I still haven’t heard two of the original four yet!” Well, maybe one day.

Song 7 currently has 88 bars of music, which means at a tempo of 130bpm (beats per minute), it’s around 2 minutes 42 seconds long. It has a beginning, a tentative end, and a middle that needs stretched out a bit further. I also – of course – need to write the entire drum accompaniment. Drums make me uneasy. I tend to leave them to the end. Song 7 has a provisional title: “Following Me In The Sunshine”.

I’ve composed the entire thing so far using my MIDI keyboard and my computer. When you write music on the computer, organisation is key. It’s really important to carefully keep track of all the bits and pieces of the song, otherwise things will get lost and mixed-up. I decided to completely reject the notions of “verse-chorus-etc” for this composition, so I had a bit of fun with naming the different sections:

intro
1: wistful daffodils
2: on the wind/below the wind
3: when everything starts to feel see-through
4: coming to light
5: unwinding the space on either side of me
end: wistful daffodils?

I haven’t actually written a fifth part yet but I thought “unwinding the space on either side of me” sounds awesome, and I want to add more to the song anyway. Maybe I should use it as an actual song title instead of the name of a fragment of a song; a mere organisational tool. I also really like “when everything starts to feel see-through”, although the music doesn’t quite capture the essence of that kind of feeling. Well whatever, it hardly matters.

Since I’ve slipped back into meaningless procrastination recently, I’m going to impose a deadline on this song. I’ll give myself a fortnight. Come back on the evening of Sunday 11th May (oh! That’s my friend’s birthday!) and you might just hear a new song!

Practice, practice, practice!

When I was sixteen or seventeen I borrowed one of my dad’s CDs – a collection of baroque music, played by the guitarist Julian Bream. I tracked down the guitar tablature for my favourite track and spent hours and hours learning the piece of music, like how I’d taught myself bits and pieces of songs by the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Lamb of God when I kind-of almost went through a teenage metalhead phase. Both the baroque piece and the metal songs were completely beyond my skill level, but I loved trying to learn them! It was so captivating, even though I would sometimes drive myself (and my family?) crazy playing tiny chunks of the music over and over and over again at a snail’s pace!

Listen and be amazed:

I recently cleaned up my classical guitar and changed the strings. The guitar, which I named Kasia (you have to name your instruments!), has been like a friend over the years. It’s just a simple, cheap classical guitar with way too many bumps and scratches, but I’ve loved it since my parents bought it for me in, oh, 2005? I would’ve just been a little 13-year-old kid. I think that musical instruments get better with age: maybe it’s that they absorb all the emotions and energy you invest into the music you play with them.

I’ve started learning to play that turbulent baroque fugue again. I can still struggle my way through most of it – muscle memory is an incredible thing – but I’m going to work really hard to make it sound fantastic. And then maybe I will practice my guitar-recording skills and share it here!