One of the most amazing things about Song-A-Day is the overwhelming volume and quality of the music, with the equivalent of a full album posted almost every single day. The styles vary wildly, and even if it’s not a style you enjoy, there’s always something to enjoy or learn.
It’s the learning that’s been the most unexpected benefit of participation for me. There are some truly monster talents putting up radio-ready tunes, and every day there are useful production, arrangement, and writing techniques to learn. Even better, everyone happily answers questions ranging from “what pedal did you use?” to “how the hell did you come up with that chord change?”
- Paging Mr. Greenberg Ray Toler 2:57
Derek Greenberg has been a master class all by himself in both songwriting and production. Since I joined Song-A-Day, he’s helped me learn that songs don’t need weighty, serious subjects, a novel’s worth of lyrics, or a five minute track length to be professional-quality, superbly-crafted music. As a bonus, he frequently writes psychedelic pop and rock (e.g., Beatles, Cheap Trick, Tame Impala, Nirvana) and has both an incredible sense for melody and harmony. Derek knows how to zag when you thought he was going to zig, and I’m still trying to figure out how it all works.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post someone else’s music here, but it will be helpful to listen to just a few examples of Derek’s songwriting to understand why I’m floored so often. I’ve included a playlist at the end of this post. Incidentally, it was the first song that I heard of his (and the last song in that playlist) that provided me with the most useful bit of advice for taking this challenge on:
It doesn’t have to be good. It only has to be done.
The same rules apply to everyone
Enthusiasm declines, you will feel the decay
This I predict for 2016 Song A Day
The pace of writing does get pretty grueling at times, and it’s inevitable that there will be creative lulls, especially for those who have been doing this for a really long time. Derek has posted 268 songs as of this writing, and has indicated that he’s feeling a little burned out. Completely understandable, though I miss hearing even his “throwaway” ideas this year
Paging Mr. Greenberg is both a good-natured request for him to post some more, and an attempt at putting into practice some of the things I’ve learned from him. The lyrics came first, in their entirety, and I didn’t have any melodies in mind. Sitting down to the piano, I knew I wanted to try to get it in psychedelic pop territory, and so went back to listen to some of his tracks to steal some chord changes.
I still have no idea how he does what he does. I looked up some articles online with characteristic chord progressions for the style, instrumentation, and it still somehow eludes me. In the end, I picked a couple of chords, then worked on the melody, then reworked the chords to fit.
Starting with the straight time in the verses, with a rolling swing in the choruses was more of a natural improvisational urge than a conscious choice, and I’m not sure how well it worked out from a technical standpoint. I did a lot more quantization and correction on this track, and didn’t quite get the swing settings exactly right.
The slow, swirly end section, with a giant flange and huge reverbs and delays, was a natural place to head next. I definitely heard it slowing down, and 10th grade Ray insisted that we do something like Billy Thorpe’s wonderfully ostentatious Children of the Sun. 10th grade Ray loved that track. (I still do, though I now hear it through a very different lens.)
I didn’t succeed in creating what I had set out to do, but it was a successful experiment overall. It’s a fun song, and I hope Mr. Greenberg hears it as the high praise and admiration it is intended to be.
Paging Mr. Greenberg
Your appearance is now overdue
Paging Mr. Greenberg
The audience is waiting for you
You might think that the well’s run dry
But for all our sakes please give it another try
(We miss you, Mr. Greenberg!)
Paging Mr. Greenberg
You know we respect your choice
But without you, Mr. Greenberg,
Jabba and Joe don’t have a voice
Is there news about the scratchy post?
Your songs made us laugh the most!
So everybody raise your glass and make a toast:
We miss you, Mr. Greenberg.
Where are you, Mr. Greenberg?
Copyright © 2019 Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.
- Piano: Keyscape
- Bass: Trillian
- Drums: Integra-7
- Lead Vocals: Nectar 3, Valhalla Room, Soundtoys EchoBoy
- Background Vocals: Valhalla UberMod, Valhalla Room, Butch Vig Vocals
1.87% of the Awesome Songs by Derek Greenberg
- Jabba the Hutt Derek Greenberg 3:05
- Audrey Derek Greenberg 2:04
- Hello, How Are You? Derek Greenberg 2:19
- Chairman Mao Derek Greenberg 2:32
- Welcome to Song-A-Day 2016 Derek Greenberg 1:20
Next up: Snow Globe