Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Potentential music

Today we went over to my brother-in-law/sister-in-law's house, next door, to give them their birthday presents. We ended up hanging around for a while, during which time my niece (either 15yo or 16yo, I forget) played us a song on the piano that she had written. It was a little un-polished, in that she was a bit shy so it was hard to hear the lyrics, and she hasn't worked out how she wants the intro, bridge, etc. to go. But still, a good song: catchy, and had a touch of distinctiveness to it. I still remember (mostly) how it goes -- which is my main criteria for a ''good song'' (versus ''forgettable'').

She and sat around and talked about possible arrangements for the song, experimenting with some of them (e.g. playing the first ''loop'' of the verse once, twice, or once with a dramatic pause, before singing the first verse). I also suggested playing the final verse -- which she wants to be extra sad -- with just the right-hand portion, since the left hand's chording gives too much of a sense of power and substance -- the opposite of what she wants. She tried it, and it seemed to work.

From earlier conversations, I know that one of her goals is to gain competence in as many instruments as possible; I hold a similar goal, so we're kindred spirits in that regard. I told her that once I finish my Dissertation -- and when I get my music gear set up -- I'd be honoured to help record that song, plus possibly help in the arranging.

Once I got home, I got the idea of maybe buying her an inexpensive 4-track recorder to let her sketch out her ideas. (She has a PC, so recording software is also an option; but IMO starting with a physical device is more tactile, and thus better for beginners.) Curiously, Venue Music, which is an Australian music supply company that does mail-order, no longer carries cassette 4-tracks: too outdated, I guess. Neither does Allan's Music (another Aussie musical supplier).

I checked Musician's Friend and American Musical Supply, both U.S. mail-order companies: both offer the Tascam MFP01 for US$80, and the Tascam Porta02MkII for US$100; Musician's Friend also offers the Fostex X-12 for US$80. Sadly, all of them are too bare-bones to allow ''ping-ponging'' tracks -- whereby you mix tracks 1-3 onto track 4, thereby freeing tracks 1-3 for additional instruments; this allows you get up to seven tracks onto the four-track. (They do offer a viable work-around of mixing down a stereo mix onto an external cassette deck, then using the new tape as the basis for the additional tracks.)

FWIW, of the three I prefer the Fostex F-12, as the ''level'' controls for the individual tracks are sliders, rather than knobs: I find this easier for writing down the positions so I can re-create mixes at a later date.

(BTW, to Charlotte: You might want to consider one of these, either for recording your group, or just for self-recording some accompaniment. Two two $80 four-tracks I mentioned can only record with one mic at a time; the $100 can record with two mics at once (if you want to record your group in stereo, or two people at once -- or get fancy with multi-micing or singing and playing at the same time). If you can twiddle the knobs 'n' faders on the radio DJ board, then this shouldn't cause any problem for you.)



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