Primrose Waltz

I started out with grand intentions of getting started early and making my first attempt ever at a drum-and-bass track. Somewhat heavy on production, but I like it and, like the Tangerine Dream pastiche, want more than what I have in my record collection. I also love learning the production tricks along the way.

Then I had dinner. Then I wrote one of my blog entries. Then two more. Walked the dog. Got a snack. And here we are at 11pm. Blank project. Week three. What now?

Let’s try a waltz.

(Time goes on and on…)

What? It’s 4 am??? How did it get to be 4 am??? Oh yeah. I’m waltzing.

  1. Primrose Waltz Ray Toler 2:10

I wrote a full entry last year on how much I love writing waltzes, so I won’t rehash any of that, but if you’re interested go read the post for The Stinking Rose Waltz. It also includes some of my early attempts with less capable sounds.

As with regular songwriting, where I start differs with every project. With this one, it was writing the cello part for the introduction, just some standard arpeggios. Next, I did the Violin I part, and improvised the main melody on the first take. Back to the cello to put in the floor, then to the Viola and Violin II parts to fill everything in.

I wrote each section in sequence, bouncing between all of the various parts, tweaking here and there. The arrangement took shape as I worked, moving the violin parts to the cello, the viola to the violins, and so on, until the theme was coherent but the conversation was moving around the group.

One of the things I like about this one is that I gave the viola and second violin players some love. The second violin gets first crack at the main melody, and the viola takes the lead in the first time through the B section. Normally, these folks get stuck with all the supporting harmonies and mechanical work while the cello and first violin trade off on hogging the spotlight.

At least, that’s how it is in the world I’ve made up inside my head.

Turn Back the Clock

At 1 am, the piece was pretty much complete. I had some minor timing fixes to do, but wanted to get some sleep and give my ears a rest (this one does have a lot of high notes). One more listen through… ok, one more… one more… oh no. Oh, no, no, no.

It’s kind of thin and top-heavy. That means we have to roll in the 9’ grand and let the piano player in. And he’s the one who drinks all the booze.

Seriously, it needed balance, and piano was the obvious place to go. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m not a great technical player, so it takes a lot of practice for me to be able to play what I’ve written. I probably wrote the piano part in ten minutes. Great. Now it’s 1:10 am, and I can’t play what I’ve written in my head.

I would say that writing the tune took… five minutes max. Another couple of hours to write in the quartet, then another couple of hours practicing piano and now it’s 4 am. Time for bed.

With fresh ears, I’m pretty happy with this one, but need to record the piano part. For reals this time. Another four or five hours go by. But all of that practice paid off. It took several takes, but I did manage to play the entire piano part in correctly.

Why not just go in and edit the MIDI? Well, I probably did a little of that, but quartets are about the feel of it all, and if I went in and just quantized everything to hell, it would sound like a robot quintet.

There is some slop in all of this, especially during the ending ritard, and when I get around to releasing the album of piano and string pieces I’ve done, I’ll definitely go back and manually fix some things. The strings also need additional programming to get their volume swells and timbre correct for the parts, but it’s definitely in a place that I’m not ashamed to post it.

A couple of personal highlights – I love the violins starting at 1:23. No idea why, but it’s one of those things that I listen to and ask, “did I really write that?” Another is when the piano goes to the upper register around the one minute mark, followed by the cello taking the melody, followed by the piano coming back in… that whole section just works.

Waltzes are like little rewards, and are one of my get-out-of-jail-free cards. I know I’m writing at a pretty basic level, and maybe my waltzes are the equivalent of a syrupy love song to more accomplished composers, but they’re just fun to do. I’m not sure I could do an entire 28 consecutive days of writing them, but I bet I could do some damage along the way.


  • Strings: Spitfire Sacconi Quartet
  • Piano: Keyscape

Featured image contains an element by Patrick Standish.

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