Sunday, March 04, 2012

Brand New Tune: "Maybe Not"

I just got back from a business trip in China. Nothing much to report besides a very busy schedule, but since I had some 40 hours of time on airplanes, I managed to work on some songwriting, thanks to music apps on my iPod Touch. The one I'm using most these days is Apple's GarageBand (GB). I wrote about this app last month, but since then, I have really figured out how to use it effectively. The interface design is absolutely brilliant (OK, it's Apple, I know). It really is the ideal interactive sketchpad for creating new music (at least music that is based mainly on keyboards, guitars, drums, and vocals, though you can also record any acoustic or electric instrument you like - unless you're on an airplane). The "smart" instruments are able to generate various instrumental riffs and patterns based on the chords you play. You can also play manually though the tiny keyboard and guitar simulations are tough to use on the iPod Touch's small screen (still resisting buying an iPad). Semi-automatic is also possible (e.g., a palette of chords is presented with buttons that are easier to play than the conventional keyboard but still offer some expression and inversion features).

On the way home yesterday (13 hour flight from Shanghai to Toronto), I wrote a new song and made a rough demo, pretty much complete except for vocals which I did today. This song is called "Maybe Not," and the lyrics are pretty strange. But I mostly like it, and even though the demo has some quite rough edges, I uploaded a version to SoundCloud just now, for comparison with the studio version (TBD later this week I hope). A work in progress and a sample of my songwriting process and what is possible on a mobile device these days (with a powerful app like GarageBand).

At the start I inserted 4 bars of the bare bass riff that inspired the whole song. This was an "autoplay" option that GB offered when I chose upright bass, 3/4 time, 92 bpm, and a G minor to D minor chord change. I just started scatting to this as a loop and the song was born. I used "smart drums" and "smart bass" (automatically following the chords, key, tempo, etc. I defined) and played the electric piano chords manually from the "smart keyboard" chord palette.  I'm thinking the bridge may not work. The transition (to a G major chord) is too abrupt but Roger can help me fix that, or I will rewrite it. The last verse probably should get its own lyrics too (and a proper ending). I will post a studio version when it's done, maybe later this week.

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