Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

Save Early, Save Often

I finally found some time Wednesday night to work on my music. I played hooky from church and my wife and kids went, so I had the house (and studio) to myself. I immediately got to work (after doing the dinner dishes and straightening up the living room – after 16 years I know exactly how to get on my wife’s good side).

In an earlier post, I mentioned several of the hymns I am putting together for my next project. One of them is Be Thou My Vision, which is a hymn melody that has had several different lyrics over the years. When you hear the melody you might know it by a different name.

That track has been the subject of my recent efforts in the studio. The concept is a renaissance-sounding ensemble, with double reeds and period-sounding percussion. To whit, the lead is played by an English Horn, the harmony line by an Oboe, continuo on Harpsichord, and percussion is supplied by a bodhran (an Irish drum) and finger cymbals. In the middle there is a bridge section with a piano joining the ensemble.

I began writing several weeks ago with just the basic concept, and sketched out the double reeds and harpsichord in Finale through the first two verses. Then I was going to the bridge with the piano playing a freer accompaniment, and knew that wouldn’t work so well in Finale –seeing as I would be playing it in in real time. So I wrote the Human Playback to MIDI and exported everything to Power Tracks.

From there I added the piano part, improvising as I went. Then I went back and figured out what I played, so I could record more parts over it. I finished the arrangement at this point, deciding that the piano would play under the final verse, and then drop out for the coda.

For the winds and harpsichord the final verse was just a cut and paste from verse 2 – the variation coming from the added piano part. I’m also thinking about adding some high, sweet strings, but haven’t decided, yet.

The percussion is an interesting story. I could hear what I wanted in my head and had identified the finger cymbal, but never heard of a bodhran (pronounced BOH-ran, I’m told). I came across these samples following a link from a discussion thread somewhere (I don’t remember) indicating decent, low-cost historical musical instrument samples. Sure enough – it was just what I was looking for. There were even samples of short rolls, which found their way onto this track. This also marks the very first time (not counting GPO which came with Finale) that I paid for samples. If this ends as well as it has started, it won’t be the last – the same company has a super set of handbell samples that may also find their way onto this CD.

Before I waste too much (more) time, what is the meaning of the title?

Do you remember in high school physics when you first learned that you can move a heavy weight all over the place and if it ends up exactly where it started, you haven’t done any “work” to it? Well, there is a corollary in electronic music – If you fail to save your work before the computer crashes, then you have not actually done any “work.”

Fortunately, after a night of regret and angst, the next day I discovered that about 90% of my work was recoverable in temporary files. However, I am now backing up every time I push the play button. Also, I am now in the market for both more memory and a new sequencer,  having locked up Power Tracks twice more attempting to play back the music.

I’m leaning towards the “lite” version of Sonar.

More soon, including a scratch track and a discussion on what I still need to do to it.

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