Week 38 - Back in my Arms

So…another week swimming in the computer.  I tell you, it’s fun but turning this stuff into a song is tough for me.  I read an article a few months back about a very well paid woman who’s hired by pop music producers to listen back to the vocal-less tracks they’ve created with their computers and keyboards.  As she’s listening back, she improvises melodies and lyrics that they can then use to finish the songs.  It’s an actual niche in the world of pop music.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that article these past two weeks because I’ve had a similar workflow, only I’m playing all the roles.

It’s been fun and even exciting playing around with the almost infinite selection of sounds available with the music software I use.  And that ‘playing around’ is how I’ve started these last two ‘electronic’ songs.  (I don’t know why I call them ‘electronic’.  There’s probably a better term.)  Basically, I’ll spend a couple of sessions just fooling around and experimenting.  As it gets toward midweek though, the fun ends as I realize I have to turn it into something and the challenge begins.  This past week, I actually ended up abandoning a track I was working on.  I don’t know.  I guess it was a little too disco for me.  Fun to listen to but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.  I wonder how it would have come out if I forced myself to stick with it?

I think it was Tuesday night when I started over.  I began with drum sounds.  I basically dialed in a drum kit that felt right for my mood that night and started playing some patterns on the keyboard.  At that point, it’s a blank page.  There are no other sounds, so it’s a little intimidating (especially when you’re as new at this as I am).  The beats sound very sterile and artificial.  But you just lay something down with the hope that it will sound OK in the larger context of the song. 

I then move on to some synthesizer sounds.  There are literally hundreds of synth sounds and sound generators available in the software that I use.  And each of those sounds is completely customizable.  So as you can imagine, it’s a bit intimidating and I’ve had to develop a little workflow to get through it.  (Maybe it’s how everyone does it.)

Basically, I’ll dial through synth sounds until I get one that suits my mood.  I’ll then play along to the drum beat and see what kind of a part I can come up with.  When I have something I like, I record it.  Once I have two or three synth tracks, I start to hear other parts that might go along with it (as if I’m composing for a very basic electronic orchestra).  At that point, instead of searching randomly, I’m scrolling through menus trying to find a sound that matches the one I hear in my head.  When I find something close, I record the part and start ‘listening’ for the next one.

In the end, I wind up with about four or five synth tracks (or more) on top of a drum and bass track.  At that point, the focus turns to lyrics.  This is where I put a copy on my phone and listen back while driving, cooking, getting ready in the morning, whatever, just hoping that some idea will step forward. 

For Back in my Arms, the first line to appear was ‘deep in my heart again…’, a line that (you hopefully realize) never made it into the final song.  It became ‘back in my arms’.  I was listening back to a rough recording early Friday morning when I realized the other lyrics might fall together more easily with the changed chorus.  I suppose I could have made it work but, my dear friends, the clock is always ticking.  ‘Time ain’t always on our side…’

It’s funny though.  With these last two ‘poppier’ songs, I haven’t stressed over the lyrics as much as I have with the rest of this year’s songs.  I suppose I shouldn’t say it’s funny because I don’t want to sound like I don’t care.  But it has felt diffferent.  I think it’s partially a function of the method I’m using to write the songs with the lyrics coming later in the process, but I also think it’s a function of the ‘poppier’ style of song.

Anyhow, that’s probably more than you ever wanted or needed to know about Back in My Arms.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Two more weeks of electronica and then we get back to our old ways.  Well, not quite. Truthfully, I’m hoping to blend the two methods of writing as I work through the remainder of the year.  Time will tell.  For now, it’s on to #39.  As always, thanks for following and have a great week!