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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 20

November 20, 2011

Last night I searched traditional folk songs for a song to record for my album. I wanted something I can offer for free download without worrying about licensing. I settled on "Kimmage" or "Three Lovely Lassies From Kimmage."

Today, after a big breakfast, I recorded the vocals for "What Went Wrong." I really like the way that one is turning out. I got choked up at one point because I feel so fortunate to be able to write songs and have good equipment to record them. I'm not as good at recording as a professional, but it's nothing to sneeze at.

This evening, after baking a meatloaf, I recorded the guitar parts for Kimmage. I just have vocals and possibly bass left on that one. This song is going to be lighthearted with some speaking parts. I might not get back to it until after Thanksgiving.

Progress:

  • NaSoAlMo 1: Count the Sunrises (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 2: Bright Eyes (Disenchanted) (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 3: Personal Space (Finished ~ 2:34)
  • NaSoAlMo 4: Scoggins and Kay (Finished ~ 3:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 5: On the Strength of Hope (Finished ~ 5:00)
  • NaSoAlMo 6: What Went Wrong (Almost finished ~ 5:42)
  • NaSoAlMo 7: Kimmage (Instruments recorded ~ 4:34)

29:50 total (I think)

Something I Want To Cook But Don't Have The Right Kind Of Pan

Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 19

November 19, 2011

I spent the day recording "What Went Wrong." I've got four guitar parts, two keyboard parts and bass done. All that's left is to sing it. I started to sing it, but it wasn't sounding right, so I decided to leave it until tomorrow.

This song is going to be 5:42, longer than I expected.

Progress:

  • NaSoAlMo 1: Count the Sunrises (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 2: Bright Eyes (Disenchanted) (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 3: Personal Space (Finished ~ 2:34)
  • NaSoAlMo 4: Scoggins and Kay (Finished ~ 3:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 5: On the Strength of Hope (Finished ~ 5:00)
  • NaSoAlMo 6: What Went Wrong (Almost finished ~ 5:42)

3:53 to go (I think).

Something I'm Very Sad About

One of my Facebook friends who has cats bought a new house. Last night, she and her husband went to the new house to sleep for the first time and left the cats at their old house. Someone broke down the door of their old house and let a dog in. The dog killed two of the cats. I'm not sure of the state of the other cats.

So I've cried and cried over this and how cruel people can be. I do not understand this kind of behavior in any way.

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 18

November 18, 2011

No slacking tonight. I re-recorded some guitar on "Bright Eyes (Disenchanted)" and added bass. I went through all the songs I've recorded and tweaked the mixes and masters. I have pretty good final or almost final tracks for those now. There may be a little more tweaking to do after I work on other songs and come back to them. I even like the song I didn't like before--On the Strength of Hope.

I feel like I'm so close to coming down with a full blown cold with sore throat. I should do NaSoAlMo in one of the summer months, before cold and allergy season starts. I drank a hot toddie tonight (hot water, honey, lemon and Irish whiskey). That usually helps, but not tonight. It tasted good, though.

Tomorrow I need to record the last song I wrote called What Went Wrong. I also need to pick a cover song and start practicing it.

Something I'm Irritated About

I got two e-mails recently about class action lawsuits in which I'm a party. Both of them make me sick.

The first is a suit against Apple for people who received an iTunes gift card that said "songs are 99 cents" and used it expecting all songs to be 99 cents, even $1.29 songs. The settlement will provide me with $3.25 credit to the iTunes store. It will provide the attorneys a couple of million dollars.

The second suit is hard to decipher, but it has something to do with Netflix and Walmart making an agreement that Netflix wouldn't sell new DVDs and Walmart wouldn't rent DVDs online. I'm subject to the Netflix part of the suit and Netflix is not settling, so I don't know what could be awarded. I hope Netflix wins. Walmart is settling out of court to pay $27 million in cash and gift cards. Walmart could also pay the attorneys around 25% of that amount and the class representatives would get $5,000 each (up to $80,000).

The attorneys are making a killing and guess who is really paying for this. We are... the customers.

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 15

November 15, 2011

This is the halfway point of NaSoAlMo. I'm ahead of the game, but I don't have near as much free time in the second half of the month.

Last night, I was suffering from a bad (or maybe sad) attitude. Tonight, I felt much better. I had a better day at work. I felt better physically. And I left work an hour early so I had more time to do music.

I tackled the mix of NaSoAlMo 01: Count the Sunrises. I felt like there was something missing in the chorus so I added a simple cymbal and high hat groove. I find this part of the process to be very tedious and frustrating. I can work for an hour on the mix and think it's perfect, then export it and put it through the mastering process. Mastering is the final polish and I don't claim to understand it... I just have some buttons to push and sliders to slide until it sounds good. It usually makes the song louder. The mastering part can emphasize things in the mix I didn't intend to emphasize. So then I have to go back to the mix and make changes.

The drum software I have takes minutes to load. So even if I have one tiny thing I want to do (like bring the vocal down a decibal), I still have to wait minutes for the drums to load before I can export it to do the mastering. Frustrating.

THEN... after I master again, I might decide it sounds good. But then when I listen in the car, something else sounds wrong, so it's back to the drawing board. I've learned that if I hear something wrong when I listen on my main computer, though, to just leave it. Even though other people's music sounds good on my computer, my music always sounds like crap. shrug

As I write this, I've got a mastered version that I like, but I haven't listened in the car yet. I will put it in my iPhone and listen in the car tomorrow.

Something I Started Watching Today

Highlander - I'm 45 minutes in, and I can't count the number of times I've said, "Huh?" I was expecting medieval style fantasy, but it started with a Queen song and a pro wrestling match and then a sword duel in a parking garage where the cars practically came to life and then started falling apart. I have no idea what's going on. I think I should have watched it back in the 80's when it wouldn't have felt so dated.

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 14

November 14, 2011

I had to go to work today, so I only had a short time to work on music tonight. I worked to salvage "On the Strength of Hope" and I think I made it a little more tolerable. I filled in some empty sound space with spacey synthesizer, and that seemed to make it better. The instrumental verse is still bad.

I also started to mix the first song I did, "Count the Sunrises." It feels like there's something missing in the chorus, though. I need to let it sit and hope an idea comes to me.

I had to turn my thoughts to the business side of music for a little bit tonight, and it got me upset. I think I might be hormonal. For a minute, I even considered pulling all my music from the internet. Really hormonal.

Some Things I'm Grateful For

  • My health
  • My best friend Shann
  • My pets
  • My family
  • Reading glasses

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 12

November 12, 2011

Today was a chore. I recorded vocals and guitar for "On the Strength of Hope" which has drums, bass and electric guitar. It got better as the day went on, but I only deem it a tolerable song. Ugh.

Recording it was like when you're reading a book and you don't like it, but you think you should press on because you've already invested quite a bit of time hoping it will get better. I'm pretty good about quitting a book like that because life is too short, but if I quit this song, I'd have to write another one to take its place. Plus, I thought maybe I could learn something if I kept trying to make it better. Maybe I did learn, but that will only become apparent later.

One problem with the song was the chorus was poorly sung. When I recorded it, I only had drum and bass to go by and it sounded on key, but weak. Then I added electric guitar strums and realized the vocal wasn't weak, it was sharp. A retake on the vocal fixed it.

I haven't done a final mix yet. I thought I would let it sit overnight (or several nights). Sometimes things sound better later.

Something I Bought Today


RSVP Endurance 15" Splatter Screen

I was making my Americanized Big British Breakfast this morning, and a piece of egg splattered out of the pan and hit my face just a half inch under my eye. I have a burnt spot there. I'm grateful it didn't go in my eye.

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 11

November 11, 2011

I loved today. I always make a wish when I see that it's 11:11, but today I set an alarm for 11:11 a.m. because it's 11/11/11. I made several wishes.

One of my wishes was to have the discipline to stick to the Primal Blueprint paleo program for life. I mentioned before that this isn't about losing weight as much as it's about feeling good and staying healthy. Even so, I broke down and weighed today. I've lost 20-25 pounds since Sept. 20. That was such good news. I don't want to weigh again until Jan. 1.

Feeling good about that, I sat down with my notebook to look over what I'd jotted down at Blanco State Park yesterday. I put some of the words together in what could constitute verses, but I realized I needed the musical framework to put the words into. So I picked up my guitar, my regular capo and my spider capo to ring out some chords.

I put the capo on the first fret (this raises the key up a half step and I find it easier to press down on the strings). I put the spider capo on the 4th fret but only pressing the first and last strings down to make an almost G# chord. The spider capo makes it so I can play real chords using fewer fingers and sometimes chords that I couldn't otherwise play. I figured out which strings to touch to make cool sounding chords, and it wasn't long before I had some simple chords in 6/8 time (my favorite!).

Once I had the framework, the words poured right in. I had 5 verses in no time and needed one more. At some point, I was playing and singing through the verses and a short, repetitive chorus blurted out "I wonder, what went wrong." It was another one of those times I thought it was a placeholder lyric, but it ended up sticking.

I worked a long time to write a 6th verse. At any one time, I had 3 of the 4 lines written, but then I would erase one and add another and erase one of the others and add another. Then I would get up and do something else and come back to it. But I couldn't get it right and realized I was writing one of those "this is the moral of the story" verses. I didn't want to spell out the moral of the story, so that's when I decided to make it an instrumental verse and be done. And I was done! And it's my favorite song of this year. And it could possibly be 5:00 long which means all I have to do is pick a 4:35 minute cover song to record and the NaSoAlMo plan will be in the can.

I still have a lot of recording and mix-mastering to do, but with all the songs written, I feel a great relief. I gave myself permission not to finish, but I'm going to finish anyway. Yay!

Something I Saw Today

Creepy Mailbox Decoration

Creepy Mailbox Decoration

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 9

November 9, 2011

I don't feel like I accomplished much today, but I guess I did. I finished the lyrics for song #5, "On the Strength of Hope." I'm not thrilled with the lyrics but I never have luck starting over. The "on the strength of hope" is great, but all I could think of to surround that is words about doing what's right and keeping on even in the face of defeat. Blah Blah Blah.

Except one verse is about some lady I saw walking across the street with a cell phone to her ear and a purse made of a tapestry pattern. I don't know what her story is, but I made her part of my story. According to the song, though, her next move was unclear.

I guess it's fine, but I want to be able to write lyrics like The Long Winters' "Prom Night at Hater High" or Paul Simon's "Graceland" or Patty Griffin's "Kite." But maybe I do, in my own way. Not every song, but some songs.

I had an idea of where to get ideas for another song. Probably a folky acoustic guitar song. An internet friend from New Zealand has been traveling all around North America and writing about it in her blog. She's had car trouble and even got everything stolen (money, passport, etc.) in New York. No guarantees, but it seems it would be ripe material for a song. Maybe one of those songs that's all verses and no chorus.

"On the Strength of Hope" will probably clock in at over 5:00 minutes.

Progress:

  • NaSoAlMo 1: Count the Sunrises (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 2: Bright Eyes (Disenchanted) (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 3: Personal Space (Finished ~ 2:34)
  • NaSoAlMo 4: Scoggins and Kay (Finished ~ 3:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 5: On the Strength of Hope (Written, partially recorded ~ 5:00)

9:35 to go (I think)

If I can squeeze out a song about my friend's trip around N. America then I can probably finish the required 29:09 with a cover song. Good show.

Somewhere I Went Today

Flipnotics Coffeespace
Full Disclosure: I erased the bags under my eyes. Thank you, Fireworks.

Flipnotics Sign and Me

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 8

November 8, 2011

I'm still nursing a headache, but that didn't slow me down today. After a big breakfast and shower, I recorded the vocals for yesterday's "Scoggins and Kay." I also added a tic toc rimshot. The song is 120 beats per minute (BPM), so I did the rimshot every other beat to make them exactly one second apart like a clock. The song is in 3/4 time, so it makes it interesting.

After that, I went to the grocery store and had a spontaneous adventure on the way back. There's a house with a good amount of land in my neighborhood, and sometimes I see sheep. So I stopped and petted their noses.

Back at the house, I thought about how I really haven't made a song with a complicated drum track. And by complicated, I mean complicated for me... not complicated for someone who knows how to program drum tracks.

So I listened to some of my favorite songs to see if I could pick out how they do beats. Then I went to work. I got a two measure loop going for about 28 measures and picked up the bass and played a four measure loop to go with it.

That made up the first two verses. Then I needed a chorus, but I couldn't "hear" where it should go. I struggled for a while trying to come up with a bass line. I picked up my acoustic guitar, thinking that if I played the chords, the next chord would magically come out of my fingers. My memory is foggy, but something like that happened because I wrote a chord progression for the chorus.

Break for supper.

After supper, I came up with a new drum beat for the chorus and played the bass notes for the chord progression I wrote earlier. The words "On the strength of hope" and "holy water" keep coming out of my mouth as I try to sing to the chorus. I like the first phrase, but I'm not sure holy water will stick.

I've got a demo track in my iPhone now, so I can listen and try to write lyrics tomorrow. I'm not sure that this one will come easy because there are a lot more words to write than in the other four songs so far. But I'm very happy with my progress.

Something I Saw Today

Sheep

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 7

November 7, 2011

Last night, I recorded a guitar track for another song and today I wrote the lyrics. Before I thought too much about it, some words spilled out: "Tic toc goes the clock." I thought they were throw away placeholder lyrics, but they stuck. It has a childlike quality to it, so my mind was again taken back to my childhood. I remember a kitty cat clock on the wall of a dress shop my mother frequented. So that was the spark.

For an adventure, I drove on the tollway east of Austin just to see what it's like. I also drove to Bastrop to see what the trees look like after the wildfire. I thought the trees would be down, but they are standing tall and black as night.

I stopped at Madam Mam's for soup and to try to flesh out the lyrics. I didn't get far, and I was starting to get a headache, so I lost interest.

I came home and napped and woke up with a worse headache. There should be a law... if you have a headache and you go to sleep, you should wake up headache free.

So I watched TV and played with my iPhone. But I got bored with that and started listening to the song again and the lyrics finally came. I still have a headache as I type this.

Something I Wrote Today

Tic toc goes the kitty cat clock
on the wall of Scoggins and Kay
Swing swing goes his pendulum tail
as momma pays off her lay away

I'll be hiding
Nobody will see me here in the
merry-go-round clothes display

Momma's got errands to run
and she needs a new dress for Sunday
So it's Campbell to Long Point and take a left
and stop at Scoggins and Kay

Tic toc goes the kitty cat clock
on the wall of Scoggins and Kay
Left right roll his watching eyes
as time keeps drifting away

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 6

November 6, 2011

Today, I tackled lyrics for the quirky song I started yesterday with drums, bass and electric guitar. I liked it better this morning than I did yesterday.

The verses are very regimented with space for 3 syllables per measure, so I sketched out what it would look like in my notebook (where X is a beat with no words):

x  _  _  x  _
x  
_  _  x  _
x  _  _  x  _
x  
_  _  x  _

I figured if I could get some words to fit in those blanks, I'd know what the song was about. I tried a trick from prior years that really never worked before. I went to Wikipedia and clicked Random Article. I must have clicked 25-50 times before I landed on Fatherland Front (Bulgaria). I had pretty much given up on finding something to write about, but the word "resistance" sparked something. In a stream of consciousness, I wrote in those blanks:

x  Resist  x  the
x  urge  to  x  stand
x  too  close  x  you
x  might  fall  x  in

Whoa.

At first, I thought it would be about a lake or volcano, but then I googled "stand too close" and amid the links with lyrics to the Police song, I found a New York Times article about proxemics, the study of personal space. That was it.

Hungry and just having read that Full English Cafe is making their own local British bacon and has new Rooibus tea from across the pond, I headed out for a big afternoon breakfast. I put my headphones on and wrote out the rest of the lyrics.

When I got home, I recorded the vocals and boom, another song finished.

Progress:

  • NaSoAlMo 1: Count the Sunrises (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 2: Bright Eyes (Disenchanted) (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 3: Personal Space (Finished ~ 2:34)

17:55 to go (I think... time math is so hard)

Something I Saw The Other Day

The other day, I saw something hanging from the Congress Avenue Bridge and was afraid someone had committed suicide. Nope. It's a Bat Cow. (Really... click through to see the picture).

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 5

November 5, 2011

OMG! For the first time in all of my days, I made a pork roast that falls apart and melts in your mouth. I wanted carnitas (shredded pork) and found this recipe. I was skeptical because my roasts NEVER fall apart (no matter what cut of meat, no matter whether it's in the slow cooker or oven, no matter how long I cook it). Today, all that changed.

I also made coconut flour tortillas. They aren't really good as tortillas because they tear easily, but they're good as a bread substitute.

I also roasted a pumpkin. smile

Carnitas, Coconut Tortillas and Pumpkin

I started a new song using the drum program I got for Christmas last year. I made a very simple drum track except that it toggles between 4/4 and 5/4 time throughout. Then I put a repetitive bass track in and one repetitive electric guitar riff. I think this song is going to be very annoying. smile

Tomorrow, I need to write some weird vocal parts. This is going to be an experimental song for me. I'm not sure I like it.

Something I Watched on TV Today

Texas vs. Texas Tech

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 4

November 4, 2011

Last night before bed, I picked up my guitar and sketched out some chords for another song. After a big breakfast this morning, I recorded the guitar parts. I wanted to get the basic track done early so I could have it in my iPod to help me write lyrics.

After a shower, I took my iPod to Madam Mam's for Tom Kha soup. I got my notebook out to start writing lyrics and found that I hadn't brought a pencil. I had pens, but I erase when I'm writing lyrics. A lot. I listened and let it marinate, but I didn't write anything.

At first, the song sounded like it should be a duet with a male vocal on the choruses. The verses sound happy, like they should be about a child or other innocent. The choruses sound a lot like Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Whoops. I imagined a child at home while Daddy is at war. But who am I to write about that?

So I started thinking maybe I'm singing to the child I'll never have. Too serious!! And not something I'd do. So then I thought I might sing to me as a child. That was the spark. In the end, the lyrics are not at all autobiographical, but that idea helped me.

After Mam's, I went to CVS to buy a pencil. tongue Then to Strange Brew for coffee.

I finished the lyrics amid men with laptops. Those men were there when I got there, and they were there when I left.

Men with Laptops

I stopped by Sunflower Market on the way home for a pork shoulder roast to cook in the slow cooker tomorrow (to shred for crispy carnitas). On the way home, I decided I needed to change two lines of the lyrics that were too repetitive, so I sat down at the computer and typed what I had into MS Word and thought and thought and thought and wrote the replacement lyrics.

I talked to my BGFF Shann, who is also working on NaSoAlMo and who is inspiring me to not blow off finishing the challenge this year.

Then I recorded vocals and electric guitar. Tomorrow, I need to work on bass, re-record the vocals that I sang exactly like Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (whoops), and possibly re-record a guitar part that just doesn't sound right.

The song could be called finished now, though, so let's call it finished.

Progress:

  • NaSoAlMo 1: Count the Sunrises (Finished ~ 4:20)
  • NaSoAlMo 2: Bright Eyes (Disenchanted) (Finished ~ 4:20)

20:29 to go

Something I Drank Today

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Japanese Cherry Green Tea

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 3

November 3, 2011

It's a wonder I got anything done today. I had a terrible night last night--runny nose, hacking cough, hiccups, cramps. And I had to get up at 9:00 a.m. because the fence people came.

Having a new fence and a gate that swings and latches effortlessly is wonderful.

Fence Before and After

Lily was nervous and barked a lot during the fence building, so I just played iPhone games and goofed around on the computer. She crashed when they left. I went to the pet store for kitty litter.

I finally settled in for some lyric writing at 4:00. I sat at the kitchen table where I could gaze upon my new fence while I wrote. At first, I was trying to glean lyrics out of a scene from Grey's Anatomy where Christina tells Hunt a story about how Burke took little pieces from her until she wasn't herself anymore. It's a story I can identify with, but as I tried to write it, I found myself trying to fit her exact words into the song instead of writing my own words inspired by hers.

Then, for whatever reason, a trip I took to Port Aransas while in college came to mind. I spent the night on the beach with college friends and new friends that we met. I remember sitting around a fire. I remember sleeping in a car. I remember waking up and watching the sun rise. These memories were the spark.

Two hours later, I finished the lyrics. Two hours after that, I'd finished recording it and here I sit writing this.

The mix isn't right, but I can call it done. I think this year, I won't fuss with mixes until December. Getting the mix perfect isn't a requirement (just writing and recording), so I shouldn't spend time on that until December.

Something I Wrote Today

Count the Sunrises

A circle in the sand
on a Port Aransas' night
A dark breeze brings a chill
but the fire's warm and bright

Can you count the sunrises
that you've seen from the water?
Will you count any more?
Have you shared the sight
with a stranger who you met last night?
Will you share any more?

In a gazebo looking east
over Corpus Christi Bay
The oil rigs' silhouettes
against white on orange rays

Can you count the sunrises
that you've seen from the water?
Will you count any more?
Have you shared the sight
with a stranger who you met last night?
Will you share any more?

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NaSoAlMo 2011, Day 1

November 1, 2011

My plan was to come home from work, do the supper thing, and sit down at the keyboard to write a song. During the supper thing, the fence guy called to say his crew would come tomorrow evening to put up my new fence. I had prep work to do (raking and removing the temporary fence), so instead of sitting down at the keyboard right away, I raked the leaves at the fence line into piles. I also saw one of the neighbors and told him the fence would be replaced tomorrow so he would know to keep his dogs in. Tomorrow, I'll remove the temporary fence.

Then I sat down at the keyboard. The first thing I played didn't turn into anything. But then I played an Am, G, Bflat6, F and C progression. That turned into the sketch of something. I'm not feeling it, though. Probably because I'm giving myself permission not to finish. It's hard to push when you haven't committed. I'll work on it some more tomorrow.

Something I Got In The Mail

TxTag starter kit - Now I can bypass toll booths! They've hired an Xbox avatar to promote these things:

TxTag Dude

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Pre-NaSoAlMo Thoughts

October 31, 2011

National Solo Album Month (NaSoAlMo) starts in less than 5 hours at which time I hope to be fast asleep in my bed. I keep thinking it starts on Wednesday because that's when my 1.5 week vacation starts. I also keep thinking that my vacation starts tomorrow, which doesn't make any sense.

The name of my NaSoAlMo album this year is "More Than I Can Chew" which is appropriate because I don't plan to do the full 29:09 minutes unless the creativity is effortless (unlikely!).

Things I do plan to do:

  • Learn to use the Toontracks drum program I got for Christmas last year
  • Work on my music website
  • Play my fretless bass
  • Play with the Auto-tune plugin
  • Cook new things like coconut flour tortillas and coconut flour pancakes

Something I Saw on the Way To Work

Occupy Austin at Austin City Hall. It doesn't look like much, but apparently, there were some arrests on Sunday and the City of Austin has asked the protesters to appoint leaders so the city knows who to talk to if they need to negotiate things.

Occupy Austin 10/31/2011

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Two Vocals in One Day

October 22, 2011

In what could be considered a practice run for NaSoAlMo (National Solo Album Month), I recorded vocals for two songs today. One for a new Raspberry Silk album and one for my friend Frank in Seattle. It's so nice to be able to just sing and send tracks off for other people to mix. I think the mixing is what makes NaSoAlMo a pain in the neck. Speaking of... 10 days until NaSoAlMo!

Something I Ate Today

Tom Kha Soup from Madam Mams. It's coconut chicken soup with mushrooms, lime juice, peppers, cilantro and other Asian stuff.

Tom Kha Soup

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