Monday, May 7, 2012
I travelled to guitar center this weekend and have added yet another book to my list of texts, How to Write Songs on Guitar by Rikky Rooksby. But, this is not the focus of this post. While there I met a couple of song writers who were willing to give me advice and share some of the work with me. The first was an elderly gentleman who focused on folk and country music; he had some interesting things to say about the whole songwriting process. He described it as coming up with the basic chord structure and then re-teaching the song to yourself, so that it almost becomes effortless. The other was a pop vocalist who had a lot to say on how I could improve my guitar playing; her son who I also met was a very skilled guitar player. She first suggested that I tighten up my chord playing because I sometimes hit unintended notes while playing chords, which I have noticed but never cared to correct, she also explained that it can sometimes throw singers off. She then later suggested that I learn as many different chords in as many different places as I could, which I have been intending to do for some time now, and she also suggested that I try to play as many different types of genres as I can because it really help to improve my ability to harmonize with other instruments. She also showed me a link to one of her songs. All in all it was a very interesting and rewarding experience.
I have been struggling with the fact that despite a year’s worth of work and effort, I have nothing to show, no results to display. But a few days ago I came an interesting realization, I was playing my guitar in my dorm when one of my dorm mates, a beginning level guitarist, walked in and asked me a question about something or other, and literally before I knew it what started out as a simple explanation became a two hour lesson on basic music theory and musical concepts. Yes, I may not have concrete results, I may not have libraries worth of my own recorded material, but I have knowledge of music that far surpasses what it was at the beginning of the year, things that used to puzzle and bewilder me I now consider simple. I still continue to struggle to write my own music, but I do so now with a sense of relief because I know that all my efforts haven’t been wasted. I am also very proud of the fact that I still haven’t given up on this project, one of the reasons that I undertook this project was because I have had a habit of simply quieting once I hit a road bump, but I’ve hit a lot of road bumps throughout this project and I still continue on.
Monday, April 2, 2012
A few new things have been going on this month. The first is that I collaborated with Luis Navarro (Chinquapin Class of 2010) on some tunes he was trying to put together; the whole experience in general was pretty cool. It was nice to collaborate with someone else and also to get to see someone else’s setup as someone who’s trying to get his own set up and is really just starting to learn about home recording. By the end of the day we came up with the majority of two pretty cool sounding pieces. I’ve also come to realize that I really need to hit the gas pedal on my project, the end is really close and I still don’t have much of anything. I’ve decided that I want to spend my time during senior seminar in my dorm recording and writing. So far I’ve been presently surprised in finding out that I can do a lot of my recording without having to buy much, but I will need some microphones and pre-amps for them in order to record both drums and vocals. But, I’m still extremely hopeful.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
So part of the reason that I undertook creating music as my senior project was because I generally failed to see anything through. I start a project with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and as time goes on all that energy diminishes and my hopes of completing what it was I wanted to do dissolve. Eventually I stop altogether and whatever it was I was attempting to do joins all the other incomplete projects I started and never finished. The same is true of songs, before I started my project I had many song parts, and I tried to develop full songs, but with time the song was simply put away and was never looked at again. Well that’s sort of where I am with my project now. At first I was extremely energetic about my project, and now I feel like what I want to do simply isn’t going to happen and that my project will be a failure. I understood that I was undertaking a large project when I started, or at least I thought I did, but now we are a mere 3 months away from graduation and it feels like I still have nothing to show, no results or product that I can say “I did that” or that I can be proud of. Yes, I have learned a significant amount of basic music theory, but that still doesn’t feel like enough. I wanted to have recorded songs as a finished product, and that is still what I want, but I feel like with the amount of time I won’t be able to produce something I can be really proud of. It feels like I hit the brick wall, but regardless of that I will still struggle on to write and record my music.
So I have come to the part of my project where I am beginning to question whether or not I can actually accomplish what it is I want to do. I want to record my own alternative music, however that requires more than just a guitar. I can record Bass parts on my own as well, but the problem occurs when drums and vocals get involved. I have no way of recording drum parts. I have a digital recorder and I could try to mess around with different recording methods and techniques to get better drum quality, but as of now the drums are simply too loud for my recorder. The best solution I see is to get an electric drum set and plug that directly into the computer and record from there, but an electric drum set cost money that I certainly don’t have. The second problem I face is vocals, I’d like to have vocals to my music, but I can’t sing and I know no one who can. Also I struggle to put music to lyrics and lyrics to music. Hopefully the oncoming creativity week in which I will be participating in music composition can help me learn how to do that.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
As part of the senior project I am required to have a panel of advisers consisting of four people. So far I have filled two of the four positions. My first panel member is my guitar instructor, Paul Nichols. Paul has studied music theory, has played the guitar since the age of three, and has been a part of and toured with various rock, metal, and all sorts of other bands. My second panel member is my mentor, Tyrone Hill. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Tyrone’s credentials other than the fact that he has worked with music production software for some time and has offered to help me in my recording process. The third panel member is supposed to be a member of the Chinquapin Board of Directors, and I am still working with Bridget Anderson (Chinquapin Director of Development) to find a board member willing to assist me in my project. The last member is supposed to be an expert in the field, but I don’t really know any experts in the field. I was thinking of asking Paul if he knew anyone who could help, but as of now I have yet to come up with anyone for that position.
So I have spent every Saturday in the month of January attending free recording workshops at Guitar Center in Westheimer. The workshops were an extremely refreshing experience for me in two ways. First, they allowed me to learn much more about actually recording and editing your music then I probably would have learned by just trial and error, but they also gave me a new spirit and life. For a while I had felt as if my project was almost hopeless. I felt like I had neither the musical knowledge and skill or the experience with recording and editing songs to produce something I could truly be proud of by the end of the year, and although I realize that the task ahead of me is an extremely long and difficult one I feel more excited and invigorated now than ever. The workshops showed me that with a bit of ingenuity and with a lot of time, effort, and devotion that anyone could produce a song of pretty good quality using a program like garageband, and that a thousand dollar studio isn’t necessary to get some good audio quality, although I’m sure it helps. Mainly the class emphasized using different equipment and programs to get the most out of your recordings, and I’m extremely happy that I decided to attend because there was a lot of helpful and useful information offered up by the instructor. So aside from studying music theory in my “the complete idiot’s guide to music theory” book that is what I’ve been doing this past month.