Session Log

This is a record of our fortnightly recording / rehearsal sessions, and any other time we do some significant work on a piece.

(insert usual comment about being a long time since last post here)

Well, I guess I should have figured we'd run out of steam on the fantasy story project, and we did. But that doesn't mean it's dead, it's sitting there along with everything else we have in progress, just waiting for the right moment.

We've started a few new pieces here and there, as usual - I quite often record a couple of ideas when they hit me, and either we do something with them, or they go on the pile for later. We're currently working on an interesting one - interesting because it's got a rather odd sound to it, but it's kind of difficult to describe. It's got a strong driving guitar riff a bit like the Operation:Mindcrime one, but Nick was saying he wanted a ringing chord played behind it as well, so I changed to a clean guitar sound and tried that, but it didn't quite work. Then more out of random fiddling than anything else, I tried playing a G up high, using the D shape and only playing the top 3 strings, and it kind of seemed to work, then I played it with a rythm reminiscent of Another Brick in The Wall - and oddly enough that seemed to work too, but It kind of drove the piece in a different direction to what we originally had in mind.
It'll be interesting to see what we come up with out of it....

In other news, I've been working on Dichotomy again, and I think I might be close to getting it finished - I think I've beaten the chorus, and now it's just a case of putting in some extra atmospheric parts where appropriate, and doing the final mix.
It's not as long as I would like - coming in at around 3 minutes, but it'll have to do because realistically, I don't have any more ideas.

We've had a fairly productive few sessions. No closer to finishing anything of course, that would be silly ;)
Currently we've embarked on a major project to produce a whole musical story.

This came out of a piece we started a month or so ago, that had a few nice ideas in it, and seemed to be trying to tell us a story. So we dedicated a couple of sessions to trying to find out what that story is, and have come up with about four or five pages of outline.
It's a fantasy themed epic journey type story, because that's what the music seemed to require. Besides, I LIKE fantasy :)

We've tried the story concept a few times in the past - both in the context of a single epic song, and across multiple songs - and each time we've had maybe one song, and then moved on. It's too early to say whether or not that will be the case this time too, but we've got a chance of taking it at least a little bit further.
For a start, we've actually finished the story. That will go a long way to keeping the interest up, as we have a sense of purpose.
Secondly we went through the 40 or so unfinished pieces we have and mined them for ideas, from which we came up with about 20 pieces that we can use either in their entirety or take a theme or two from.
So the next step is to flesh out the outline a bit and create some lyrics for the appropriate sections from it, and identify where individual pieces start and finish and where we need themes for important people / places and events.
I'm trying to keep the whole thing somewhat in the spirit of a movie soundtrack rather than just a bunch of songs that tell a story, so to that end I want to let the music tell the story were possible, through the use of the themes we develop and how we treat them at any one point.
So there will be quite a lot of instrumental sections mixed in with full blown songs.
I'm expecting this to be a piece you would probably listen to from beginning to end, rather than picking and choosing songs.
Think something along the lines of The Wall rather than say Wizard's Odin or Blind Guardian's Nightfall on Middle Earth.

Time for another update!
I've been extremely slack with these updates over the last few months. But with personal issues and the fact that we've been in a bit of a slump inspiration wise has meant that I haven't really seen the point.
But we're digging out of that hole now, and have moved our regular writing / recording session to afternoon instead of evening, which looks like it might make quite a bit of difference

Anyway - here's what we've been up to
I finished my orchestral piece a couple of weeks ago- It's now up on the site as Winter's March. I spent way too much time fiddling and tweaking that one - and I still get the urge to fix a couple of problems I've since noticed, but it's done now, and I will Move On!
However, that piece marks the first finished piece of music we have produced in a couple of years. Hopefully it's the first of a flood :)
We've been mostly just comining up with little ideas here and there lately - there's only really a couple of full blown songs nearing completion: Wraith, Dichotomy and Fade to Nothing. All of those are between 80% and 90% done, and mostly it's just a case of time, and decent vocals before they're finished.
On top of those we've had a few nice ideas that we could get maybe a minute or two out of, only to have no idea what comes next. That happend to me with Winter's March too, but I decided that what I had could stand alone, and so worked on finishing that.
But we can't go and do a whole bunch of 2 minute instrumentals containing a single idea each, as that would become boring pretty quick.

Last time we got together, I showed Nick a riff I had come up with. It was a kind of doom metal - slow, and tuned down. We fiddled around with it a bit, but didn't really come up with much, but Nick seemed fairly taken with it.
He spent some time between then and today developing some ideas from it, and today using those ideas we managed to come up with about 4 and a half minutes worth of music, containing at least 5 ideas, and we still haven't even used the original riff yet. So today was rather productive, and it looks like we could have another real piece to work on - in fact this one looks like it's going to be a bit of an epic. I'd make a guess at 7 minutes. Hard to tell at this stage, it depends on how well we get the different ideas to work together, and what we come up with in the way of lyrics (IF we come up with any lyrics). I shall make an excerpt of at least one of the sections available once I've tidied it up a bit.
Anyway, that's pretty much got me up to date. I'll try to be more punctual with the updates from now on :)

Didn't get a hell of a lot done tonight...mostly spent the night just jamming.
Nick brought round a Gibson SG a friend had lent him, and we more or less just picked a tempo, hit record in Cakewalk, and then mucked around for a while. Then tried to play against the results afterwards.
There were some rather nice moments in it, which we may look to develop towards something at a later point.

Another session, another new piece ;)
Number 69 started as a little riff I was playing on the flute. I then tried it on guitar, and experimented a bit. So that's what we used as a basis for the night's work.
As is fairly normal for anything I come up with, we weren't dealing in 4/4, in fact, it's 15/8 with parts that are 9/8 and 6/8. Then Nick came up with an idea for a second section...which turned out to be 10/8. All in all, I'm rather glad we don't have a real drummer, or he'd be completely stuffed by now ;)

We've started work on another new peice;the one I'm working on has gone too far on its own for us to work on it together and have Nick be able to add much more to it. This newest one (#67 is all it's got for a name as yet) includes Nick on bass for the first time, which will be an interesting addition, as he is able to finger pcik, which is something that I've not been able to master. We only got a few bars down, but it felt fairly productive as we were feeling inspired, and experimenting with the new sound.

I spent quite a bit of time over the week working on the new peice, and it's been going very well. It's got a very orchestral feel to it, and the only ral problem I'm having is trying to coax something resembling a realistic sound out of the SoundFonts.
I've uploaded a sample of what I've done so far here. It's very rough, but will give the general idea.

Well, it's been a slow start to the year so far...various things have conspired to ensure that Nick and I are not available at the same times...but hopefully from next week, we'll be back on track again.
In the mean time, I've been doing a little bit of work here and there...I've reorganised Wraith a bit, and have an idea of how to finish it off. I've also started work on something completely new.
I realised recently that we've been focusing too much on writing songs, when what we're good at is for this one, Im not worrying about lyrics, and I'm not worrying about structure....I'm just writing the music. Something I also did different, was to start with keyboard rather than guitar. It will be interesting to see how it turns out, as it's kind of a combination of experimenting with something new, and also going back to the sort of music I was coming up with in High School.

First session of 2004, and we've made some significant progress on Dichotomy - we've pretty much finalized the structure and spent the evening coming up with keyboard ideas.
I've also done some work on Wraith, and toyed with the idea of developing the story far enough to make an album, or at least a partial album covering the story. I'm not sure if we'll commit ourselves to it though, as these things always sound good in concept, but then turn out to be too big to handle, but there'll probably be at least one more song from the idea.
We also discussed the possibility of augmenting our numbers with a female vocalist, we'll have to see what happens on that front, but it could be quite an important change for us.

This is last Wednesday's session log, since I was slack and didn't do it then.
We spent the night mostly working on Dichotomy again...going through a few ideas which unfortunately didn't really pan out. Nick wanted to try some synth loop stuff over the first verse, which in theory sounded like a good idea...but it just didn't quite fit, so we ended up leaving it as is.

New and heavy

Tonight we mostly worked on Dichotomy, which is something I wrote earlier today
This piece is slightly different for us, in that I've aimed for the heaviest sound I could get, I tuned the guitar and bass down to D, and rather than playing the standard 3 string 1 - 5 - 1 powerchords, I'm playing 4 string 5 - 1 - 5 - 1, which with the bass on the root note makes a very powerful sound.
My original attempt at it had the chord progression / riff I came up with being used as the verse, with an attempt at powerful, low was OK...but not brilliant.
When Nick arrived he figured the riff was better suited as a chorus...and so we spent the night figuring out what to do with the verse...
This resulted in us going through a few things from nice to silly - we somehow have this habit of always ending up improvising a bosa nova / light jazz style whenever we're experimenting, no matter what the song is _supposed_ to sound like :P
Eventually we found a combination of bass line and chords that seemed to fit well, and Nick wrote a melody that works really well.
After playing it through a few times, and recording the midi version of the melody, we pretty much called it a night.
One last play through of the whole thing showed that it should be pretty easy to come up with a nice and strong chorus too, so this one is now well on it's way too.

Fade to Nothing

I did a bit of work on Fade to Nothing tonight. Mostly just working on the vocals. This one is causing me a bit of trouble, since it's pretty much finished. We have music from begining to end, and it's fairly polished in places. But...there's a few little bits that I just can't seem to get right...
The bridge and chorus vocals are one, and the guitar fills just before the chorus are another.
I should concentrate on the vocals and just get the bloody things finished...but I always end up doing a bit, and then running out of steam. Then the next time I look at it, I decided to re do them all again.
But I think I'm closer. With any luck, I'll have at least the vocals finished by the end of the week. I'll probably post a sample by then.

The session that wasn't

Well, tonight Nick was supposed to come round as usual, so we could work on things, and I was going to write the first session log entry as a result. But unfortunately, Nick couldn't make it, which pretty much killed that idea.
However, I did spend most of the night working on Wraith anyway. I re recorded the chorus vocals again, and I'm quite a bit happier with the result. The combination of using the "exciter" effect on the mixer, and more practice on my part left me with something that I was almost satisfied with, although it seemed to lack someting. The vocals seemed to be kind of isolated - they stood out too much from the rest of the music, and I couldnt really find a way of blending them properly. I tried laying down a few more layers, and even tried a 5th harmony to bulk it out a bit, but in the end it was by adding extra string parts that I managed to sort it out.
It's still not quite right, since the string parts I added are too busy, but they do appear to add the missing element. I'll probably end up using those bits in another section of the song, and replace them with sustained notes of the same pitch.
I still need to write some more lyrics though. I'll probably do that on the weekend.