Tuesday 31 July 2007

I have been playing even less than I've been typing of late, if that makes sense?

Tonight's lesson was a bit more productive, and I am not going to fourty gigs this week, so I should be able to present a few things.

I am to get some Gotye, some Ben Kweller, some random melody stuff up.

In fact...I'll do that now..

Still none of the new songs though. I want something more in them yet.

Friday 20 July 2007

Yes, yes. Slack in playing, slacker in blogging.

No sound examples today, I am afraid. I've been looking through a lot of my previous compositions this week, sorting them into three categories 'electronic' 'jazz/blues' and 'pianoy'

I want to turn the short electronic ideas into proper songs, maybe get some people singing and set that shit up on a myspace. For now I want to re-image my computer. Anything to procrastinate.

On the piano itself, I was just playing some string 7th chords, playing C7- F7 on the quarters and just practising different melodies on the right hand. Hardly challenging, but it makes me feel like I can actually play something decent.

I also dug up a couple compositions I made in the old lunchtimes when working at uni - trying to teach myself to play them fluently again. I think I said this last time.

Monday 16 July 2007

I don't quite know what I am doing at the moment. I am very undisciplined. I don't think the drum kit is helping.

I've been doing a bit of practice - naughtily not in the area of bass clef reading, though.

I've been spreading myself between replaying compositions I used to play fluently that I have now forgotten, and working on a few new 'song' ideas I have going. Three great intros that I can't seem to break out of. Story of my life. Do I have a songwriting partner yet?

Tuesday 10 July 2007

I had a witty subject line earlier...

I did a bit of old school practise today. Dug up some old songs I wrote while at uni and tried playing them again - reading them off the notation. Played some older blues, too.

My goal tonight was not to do anything knew, just to get my hands really in time.

I was going to record and reflect, but I realised that when I do that I practise significantly less.

Maybe on Thursday.

Sunday 8 July 2007

This was supposed to be on Friday...

While I was posting the last entry, I was doing some back referencing to the various things I have been doing, but ended up getting distracted.

Initially this came up as a dissonant piano thing, but I've been doing a lot of those, so I decided to try an electric piano with some delay and tremelo.

I like it. I need to space it out though, like I mentioned previously. Let it breaaathe.

I've done another version here. Double the speed and with drums:

I like this one too. Maybe for later in. I need to stick with this one, not let it die like the others. Something to take to a songwriting partner. Now I just need one.

Been a long time coming...

So I must reach deep in the bowels of my memory since the latest quicktime update made playing MP3s in firefox very temperamental and I lost last night's blog entry...and of course now that it is finally finished, its Thursday's blog entry. Nice.

Useless thoughts of uselessness.

So I have had a slight feeling of uselessness lately. I guess its because I am really not that good at things. My strength was always my ideas, cheesy as they were, rather than my playing. For a while there the formal piano stuff actually stifled the ideas, but I thought it would be worth it in the long run. Now, I just don't know. I have all this gear, and I am not really doing anything with it.

I probably just need to snap out of thoughts like that and just focus on the getting better, rather than whinging about not. Beyond practice, which I need to do more of anyway, I've though of a couple strategies to make me feel better about things:

Firstly, a songwriting partner of some description. The TDN!S stuff sorta fell in a heap because no one was really coming up with ideas that we could do anything with. Matt just wanted to jam with no continuity. I love jamming, but I want to get songs out of it. I was planning to have Jess over to do some stuff, but that just never materialised. I should hit her up again. JP is coming over on Sunday, I think, but he's really at a basic level with the bass. Hmmm. Something will work out, but yes, it would be good to have ideas to bounce off.

The second thing I need to concentrate on is giving my pieces time to breathe. Too often do I find myself trying to build things up and introduce change too quickly. I need to listen to more ultra ambient and try and emulate it or something. We went to the Front Gallery to see a few bands the other night, and there was this dude playing a fat Rhodes with a million effects pedals.

He was barely playing any 'piano' as such, but you could tell he was a virtuoso. Ok, well I had checked out his myspace the night before. I am not sure if it was inspiring or just depressing, but it was a good lesson in chilling the fuck back and building some atmosphere.

Carlos the Midget.

Before going out the other night, I sat down and nutted the first bar here on the EP, later adding the second bar and drums.

I've got an 8th note delay on the EP there. I need more feedback on it, but it was a real effort to record this through the mac and all, so another time. I want to have a 1.5 beat delay on the drums too. Its made me realise what little amount of things I have set up on the computer. I'll set up the delays I want this week and do it again.

I'll have to challenge myself to develop this slowly. I think I'll put some jangly 16ths over the top, and need a bassline too.

The Thursday Song.

I showed Paul the developed Thursday song, and he helped remind me of that two chord interchange I stuck on at the end. I know its not that impressive, but I really like the way they sound together.

We worked it out and it sounded ok. Of course, as usual, it didn't sound right when I brought it home. After a while, I realised it was because I was playing them at slightly different intervals, ok and a slightly different note.

Not sure who was right here when comparing to the original, but I like the second one better either way.

I only discovered this by accident, though. I wish my brain was more open to the concept of intervals - that a C Chord can as easily be E/G/C, but it doesn't come naturally - another area where I need to challenge myself.

I do love them though. They are very useful for playing the Bontempi Junior.

Sigur Ros.

We spent a fair bit of time working on the Sigur Ros song on Tuesday. When we first heard it he figured that I was pretty close. After a bit more listening, we realised I was pretty off. The song isn't in a different temperament or anything, just slightly tuned down. We figured this out using this excellent program called Transcribe! Its a frequency analyser that converts tells you the dominant notes in a selected part of a sound file. Its great for working out chords, too,

We also realised that the song started at Eb, rather than G. What was interesting was that a straight transposition didn't work. Moving one note to the correct spot leaves some notes out. I am not sure if there's a complexity of transposition I don't understand, or just that some notes were more off than others. This might explain why some notes sounded more out than others and why I thought it was in a different tuning.

What gets me is how far off I was. Not just a semitone, but four. When I played along with the tune, I could tell it was off, but it was doing that phasing sound you hear when notes are close, so I figured it wasn't far off. I tried starting at F# and F# instead of G, but it just wouldn't have occurred to me to go all the way down to Eb. And this is a problem. I really don't have an identifying ear. I don't think its something you can train up that much, either.

But all that aside, I've got the intro in key now.

While Transcribe! is great for figuring out the simple stuff, it doesn't really have me much closer to the more complex parts of the song. I know the first piano changes when the second one comes in, I just can't nut out how yet...

Old Song.As planned,
here's something I came up with almost exactly a year ago. Its pretty silly. Not something I will really recover, but it could be good to see if I can easily play it.

Maybe I'd be a virtuoso if I practiced more and blogged less. No lessons for two weeks now.

Sunday 1 July 2007

Well no one told me about her...

So once more it has been almost a week between posts. Still, that all might change now...

Wired for Sound

I finally got things happening studio wise this week. Apart from the carpet being ripped up and the new drums, there's the matter of the tascam and Vista. As my USB Midi interface only has 2 inputs, the lack of the two on the tascam has been an issue of concern, but I managed to succeed through a but of a jury rig: Have the controller keyboard and piano go into the tascam, and then have the one of tascam's outs go into the USB Midi. The drums then go into the other USB input. I don't have four, but at least I have three.

Downsides mean I need the computer on or a rewire to control the synth, but I found an added benefit when I accidentally made the drum kit control the piano. I have been intending to use my digital delay on the drums for both a bit of fun and to help my timing - I was dreading having to swap the pedal all the time though. Because the drums control the piano though, I can trigger the on board drum sounds and delay them. It doesn't sound that great, but its good enough for practising, that's for sure.

The Blues

Paul gave me some useful feedback on the16ths problem. I realised that it was the continuation of nothing but 16ths that was losing the feel of my blues tune. Breaking it up was the key. I've developed that this week by putting more consecutively repeated notes as well.

I have been encouraged to jam out a 'motif' and repeat that to get more of a song feel going on.

I hope to sequence something up soon. I had also hoped to get something recorded tonight, but this blog has taken way too long to write. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesdays and Thursdays

Last week I posted that piano piece in E Minor. I took it to the lesson with the view of finding some "strategies for making those slow ‘pianoy’ songs more interesting".

The problem I presented was pretty much shifting between two octave notes on the left hand and doing nothing more. Paul suggested I move the left hand up and just find some combinations in they key - more complicated two hand chords. Interestingly, this reminded me of something I did with Jing the friday before where I played a silly little thing using a cheese organ and only the black keys, all up in the higher register. I wish I had recorded that.

Anyways, I tried to take it on board and recorded this song last Thursday:

I didn't break away from the bass notes as much as I'd have liked, but I felt they gave it all structure. Later in the piece, though [1:30+] I do get more into the two handed stuff I was planning on doing.

I like the little piece of niceness I get in the first 10 seconds after 2 minutes. Loses it a bit until 3:40 where I find a pair of chords I really liked. I wish I'd written down what they were, coz now I can't remember them. Another night I'll figure them out again.

Yes, I really like that up and down bit - I do go a bit nuts with it though? God! I have to get MIDI going again! These bungs notes are killing me.


In between getting frustrated with various things this week, I've tried some interpretations. The first was Sigur Ros' Hoppiolla.

I've got a few ideas that sound close, but they are impossible to check against the song - it sounds out of tune no matter where I play it. I suspect a band that sings in a made up language would have no qualms about playing in a made up tuning. I've tried retuning my piano and even playing in some different tunings, but I can't get it.

I've got this going now, at least:

Its close, but not quite there. I know the 'bass'line changes when the second piano comes in, but I can't pick it. They've got some really complicated changes going on there. Even now as I hear it back I am picking things that should shift slightly up or down.Its getting late. Maybe another time.

It almost seems to me like they are fitting new notes in the spectrum. Take the rise on the piano, for instance. I think I've found the highest note for the first run, and the high note on that third run, and there's no semitones between them, yet on the second run in the original recording, it goes higher, but not as high as in the third run. Very confusing. I need to train my ear more.
Another one I've been working on is based on the Zombie's No One Told me About Her. The other day I was sitting and having a listen to some music on random when Malcolm Mclaren's About her came on. I had forgotten about this tune, but when the Kill Bill II Soundtrack came out, I had really enjoyed it.

The two songs are quite different, but I've managed to nut out a bit of the vocal line.

I am getting closer on the first part, but not quite there yet.

I suppose the real challenge is to work on the music itself though. I just don't have enough of an understanding of it all yet, I think. Its like I don't know where to look...

This week I would like to:

Re-record the cheesy organ thing I mentioned above.

Keep working on the Sigur Ros song.

Find an old piece of something that I abandoned to work on again.

Get a final recording on that blues piece I am happy with.

Now we'll see if I can do one of those things!