Writing Songs

I wrote my first song when I was about seventeen, fifty years ago. It was called Gardens and Steve recorded it on a borrowed Revox reel-to-reel in his mother’s wool shop in Heysham Village. We recorded another song I had written called Morning Into….. We took the tape along to a local studio in Hest Bank called, I think, De Lane Lea, and asked them to make a 7″ single from the two songs. They did, but maybe because we played it too soon, or because the quality of the materials wasn’t too good, it soon got very scratchy and almost unlistenable. Anyway, for anyone who is interested, here it is.

 

And here’s the B-side (as we used to call them, back in the day).

I didn’t write anything else for years after this, mainly because I had no confidence in either my songwriting, my singing or my guitar playing. Thinking about it now I did write a couple of things while I was drinking and living in the caravan at Meadowfield (and I must write something about Meadowfield at some point. It was a very unusual caravan site!). I remember writing a song called It’s in the Wires, a sort of paranoid view of the world, unsurprisingly considering my state at the time. I think I wrote a couple of other things but I can’t remember what they are now – with all the alcohol related brain damage it’s a wonder I can remember yesterday!

I carried on playing and trying to sing, but just at home, and eventually, for some reason, I was asked to join a local band, AKA-Bats, as rhythm guitarist. I don’t remember why they asked me, I don’t even know how they knew I could play, but anyway ask me they did. Continue reading

2015 – Home Music Recording 3

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Recording a song

I’ve been working on a song for ‘Limestone Wood’ now that I’ve managed to get Ardour up and running properly.

Again, it’s based on lyrics Steve emailed me – I’ve got a whole bunch more to work on as and when. It’s been great fun. I’ve got everything set up more or less to my satisfaction, keyboard to my right, mic stand behind it (althought he mic stand is slipping quite a bit so I’ve ordered a new one from Amazon, one with a clamp so I can attach it to the edge of the desk Rode NT1000and swivel it around to where I want it). The main problem I have with mic stands is that the mic I use is quite heavy – it’s a Rode NT1000. It’s a great mic, responsive and clear but it weighs a ton. Ah well.

One problem I had with Ardour was using virtual instruments. With Windows programmes this is fine, they use VST instrument plugins and there are lots of them. Whereas in Linux the main formats are LAPSDA and LV2 and I struggled to find instruments that would give me what I wanted e.g. decent pianos, synths, basses and, last but not least, a useable mellotron (think the intro to Strawberry Fields Forever). Anyway, I finally came upon the Calf Fluidsynth which uses soundfonts and now, after doing quite a bit of trawling on the web, I’ve got most of what I need – and it’s all FREE!

So, here’s a copy of ‘Oh You are Clever, Mr. Braces’. I’ve done two versions, one which is explicit (no, the only explicit word in it is ‘poo’) and one where the word isn’t used. By the way, this is meant to be Mrs. Braces singing so the vocal will need to be redone to take that into account.

Oh you are clever Mr. Braces

Oh you are clever Mr. Braces 2

2015 – Home Music Recording 2

DSC00096I have managed to get Ardour 4 up and running now and, apart from crashes when I try to use certain plugins, it seems to be working fine. I’ve plugged my electric guitar in (this one’s a cheap copy of a Gibson Les Paul) and am putting it through a plugin called ‘Guitarix’, which has a great choice of amps, preamps, speaker cabinets and effects.

The problem I always face when starting to record is that I spend ages finding e.g. guitar tones, synth presets or suitable drum loops and not enough time trying to get something down on disc.

So, anyway, the first thing I’m going to have a go at is a song for Limestone Wood based on some lyrics Steve sent me. The title is ‘Man and Machine’ and is one of Braces songs about his lorry, the lorry which seems to be central to his life. I’ll post a copy when it’s finished.

To read Part One click here

Home Music Recording 1

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My Old Studio Setup

This is my old setup – windows with, I think, Cockos Reaper (a great programme which is ridiculously cheap for what you get), an M-Audio Keyrig 49 controller keyboard, a pair of Yamaha NS10s – borrowed from Steve and now, sadly, no longer with me – an M-Audio Fast Track interface (not shown), various mics and guitars etc.

My Music Recording Setup

I haven’t done any recording for a while and, when I last recorded any music, I was still using Windows. Recently I’ve switched over to Linux – Ubuntu Studio – and though the operating system is fantastic (and free!!) I’m finding the setting up of programmes for recording to be a bit of a hassle.

I’ve installed Ardour 4, a free Digital Audio Workstation, and a bunch of plugin effects and software instruments etc., but I seem to get quite a few crashes when using the plugins – very frustrating. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get it sorted over the next few days.

The other thing I need to do is to put new strings on my acoustic. I haven’t played it for weeks and the old strings are a bit dead. One thing I hate doing is changing strings, it always seems like a real chore. But then, when the new strings are on, I get excited because the guitar is suddenly sounding good again.

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This is my acoustic, a Freshman FA400FBJ which I’ve had for about 10 years

The main reason I’m trying to get everything set up is that, last week, we had a visit from Steve and Ric (a musician friend) to go through the script for Limestone Wood. It feels like it’s all starting to move again. Steve has come up with some more lyrics for the programme and I’m keen to get back into putting together more children’s songs.

I’ll write more as I get back into the swing of things.

A bit exhausted today as I was down in South Wales yesterday running a course on ‘Heroin Addiction and Blood Borne Viruses’. The drive back took about 6 hours, the traffic was very heavy, and I’m not as young as I was.