Standing Out

6 Ways to Write Better Music. (Part 1)

Standing OutA few weeks back, whilst meandering through my archived audio files (as you do), I happened upon a song I first wrote a few years back and still enjoy playing today. Actually, it was more of a folder full of acoustic guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals and drum tracks. The files were dated from when I had my recording studio so all the tracks were recorded live and with professional standard microphones. I’d forgotten all about it and I might have let it go except for the fact that one of the guitar tracks had a nice riff which caught my ear and the drummer had done a particularly good job.

So there was potential there and with high hopes I loaded all 23 tracks into my DAW. I think I might have been smoking some of the old herb the day I recorded that song because what I ended up with was less than ideal. (More on filing in another blog) Thankfully the drum parts were intact and reasonably well ordered but the rest, well…

What a mess! The guitar riffs and rhythm parts that I was so fond of were just a number of largish fragments that vaguely synchronized to the vocals. Speaking of which, my lead vocals (double tracked) had a few dubious wobbly moments but at least spanned the whole song. The backing vocals were an audio engineer’s nightmare, in fragments too, not synched and wildly out of tune at times. Plus there was no bass line. So here was a song that was going to need intensive post-op care if it was going to survive, which brings me to my first aspect of quality…

1. See the potential in your ideas:

It may seem obvious to those of us with big egos but the question is, do you like your own ideas or do you prefer doing covers? I played other people’s material while I was learning the guitar but when I knew enough to write my own songs I felt that playing covers was just a big fat waste of time. After all someone that already done a good job of recording that material. They didn’t need to get it done again and the fact is that if I didn’t work on my own ideas then nobody else would.
New ideas are precious. They seem to occur semi-randomly, unpredictably and when you least expect it. I have noticed however, that the more I write and produce music the more new musical ideas I have so there does seem to be a vague correlation between the two but it’s unreliable. I find it more difficult and more of a pressurized situation (read-uncomfortable) when I’m called upon to write a piece from scratch within a short time frame. My first response is to do a search for one of my “gems” that I’ve carefully filed away for a rainy day. I know that the initial idea is the hardest when writing and I know that once I have an idea I can transform it into a full piece.

I used to record these ideas on portable cassette decks that never played back at pitch so it was great to finally be able to record them on my phone as mp3’s and file them alphabetically and in categories. I’ve collected thousands of musical fragments and drafts for future use and I don’t think I’ll live long enough to ever work on them all especially since they’re still arriving in numbers. Still it gives me hope to know that I’ll never run out of ideas. I think of them as my bank filled with things more precious than money, little pieces of imagination.

The message here is to value yourself and see the potential in your musical “gems”. Don’t ignore them when they arrive but give them a home in your recorder if you’re too busy to work on them immediately. Store them faithfully, organise them so that they’re easy to find when you are ready and finish each one before you start on the next. Otherwise you’ll end up with thousands of bigger unfinished pieces. The thing is, a quality result has to start from somewhere in order to go somewhere.

Next time I’ll write on how knowledge and quality work together.…



Hi All

My first bit of news for the site  shows the Phoebe “How to” video with the newly produced soundtrack featuring multiple ukuleles. My nine year old nephew elected to play ukulele when I told him I’ll pay for his lessons (which aren’t cheap), buy him a quality mahogany uke AND learn how to play it with him (so I get some value for my lessons money plus we get to play together). It only seemed fair to write my next piece with my newly acquired skills. It really wasn’t that hard as it was like playing a really small guitar with two of the strings missing and the remaining strings tuned in a mysterious “C” chord with a high “A” string added. Really weird tuning. When I first came across it I really thought they were having me on. Why would anyone do this? It turns out that the uke first appeared in Hawaii around the turn of the century, brought in by drunken mariners. That explains the tuning at least. As it turns out the uke was surprisingly easy to play and despite all my initial reservations, I took to it like a duck to water, a balloon to air,…you get the picture or rather the video which came out rather well. Here it is;