It’s easy for Song-A-Day to become an all-consuming thing for me, especially now that I don’t have a normal work-week gig. Working a day ahead has definitely paid off in terms of stress, but now that I’m accustomed to the schedule, I find that I’m leaving things to “finalize” the next morning, but actually end up doing a lot more than intended.
With this piece, I was determined to break that cycle so that I could spend a decent amount of time writing the next track. And when I went to bed, I actually thought I had succeeded. It’s about 85% improvisation, and another time when Digital Performer’s retrospective MIDI record feature paid off. I was just noodling along and realized that what I’d played was actually kind of nice.
The performance you hear isn’t that iprovisational performance, but I was able to capture what I’d played, make a few minor tweaks here and there, and then practice it until I could actually play it. That’s a big deal for me, because I’m not as good a pianist as I would like to be.
- Laika Ray Toler 1:41
In any case, I think I recorded the piano part you hear on this track and was in bed by 1:00 AM. Another reason that I wanted to get to bed early was that I had to go provide public comment at a County Council meeting in the morning, and needed to be presentable and leave the house by 9:00.
The meeting went a lot longer than I’d planned, and I didn’t get home until mid-afternoon. I intended to master the piano piece and upload it, then get cranking on whatever came next.1My frustration with that Council meeting ended up getting channeled into the track I would work on next, I Can See What’s Coming. But then that little composer in the back of my brain heard something and I just couldn’t let it go.
What I was hearing was some nice little fiddly woodwind part dancing around the piano. Maybe piano and flute? Piano and clarinet? Maybe both. Yeah, both. I loaded up the lovely British Drama Toolkit (BDT) library from Spitfire. The origin of this library was that Spitfire co-founder, Christian Henson, needed something that would allow him to score a television series he’d been hired for, but with almost zero time to do it. He hired session players to play texturally, then made interesting loopy bits out of it all, so that holding a chord isn’t a static thing, but provides a lot of interesting background chatter and motion.
Oh, and you’re not hearing any of that in this piece either. While it was absolutely the right thing for me to load initially, I quickly found that I wasn’t able to achieve the melodic counterpoint lines I had in my head. I replaced BDT with the solo flute and clarinet from Spitfire Symphonic Woodwinds and got to work.
Here’s where my lack of formal training in theory bites me. I know what I want, and I know when things sound right and wrong, but it’s normally a hunt-and-peck experimentation process when I can’t find exactly the right note for a line. Making it worse, I was bouncing back and forth between the flute and clarinet, then having to go back and redo previous parts because of something new I’d done, and so on and so on. In the end, this process, plus the mastering, took me to the early evening, and once again I was already behind schedule in starting the next track.
But the end result is nice, and I’m happy with it. I think the piano needs some better EQ treatment after hearing playback on other systems, but it’s certainly in acceptable shape for now.
Instruments & Samples
Keyscape, Spitfire Symphonic Woodwinds
Mixing & Mastering
SSL 9000 J, Valhalla Room, Gullfoss, Pro-Q 3, Pro-L 2
Image Credit: Linnaea Mallette (Public Domain)
- 1My frustration with that Council meeting ended up getting channeled into the track I would work on next, I Can See What’s Coming.