Trapped in the Ice

Another night of intense procrastination and finding other things to do. Watched some TV. Looked for a snack. Made a drink. Made another drink. Went into the studio. Left the studio. Went back into the studio.

One thing that differed this time is that I didn’t start off listening to sounds for inspiration. I just sat and thought a bit. We’re in the final week of Song-A-Day. Normally it’s week three when the tank is starting to run dry and things start getting weird, so I suppose I’m a little behind schedule.

I’m also way behind schedule on listening to the other submissions. Normally, I do a big listening session every couple of days, but this year, the quality and volume of songs has been overwhelming.  I’m not sure if that’s had a positive or negative effect on my creative process. In the past, I’ve pulled ideas from other songs. This year, it’s been almost entirely whatever was in my mind at the moment.

  1. Trapped in the Ice Ray Toler 3:12

One of the things I did to procrastinate before writing this one was to listen to everything I’ve don so far in the month. I haven’t done a lot of repeat listening, so many of them were fairly fresh to me. On the whole, I’m pleased with the progress so far. The most interesting thing is that many performances or elements that I thought were awesome, lost some of their luster, while other things that I was unhappy with didn’t seem quite as bad.

This is the second rock song I’ve done this month, and it turned out better than my first effort.. I’m still learning how to mix rock, but I have at least learned not to overdo things. This one works for me because it’s just bass, drums, two guitars, and vocals. There is an extra drum loop in two of the verses, but I rolled off the lower frequencies and used it primarily as a carrier signal for a big flange, then buried the whole thing at the threshold of hearing.

As a result, the guitars and bass seem to kick a little harder. I also didn’t use Nectar 3 on these vocals. There’s some saturation and delay, and a distortion on the doubled parts, but for the most part, I just left them as they were recorded. They still need work, but they came out better than the way overcompressed sound I had on Drinking It Down.

That’s another change this year – I’ve been far more comfortable with leaving things in a draft state. They don’t sound bad, but all of them need additional work, be it mixing, writing, or arrangement. And that’s ok. In part, this was a choice driven by my probably overblown concern about having “final” versions available on the web site in perpetuity.

While I don’t hold any illusions about these songs turning into mega-hits, there are some legal impacts to posting on the Song-A-Day site, most notably that one could argue that it constitutes “publishing” the work, at least by the US Copyright Office’s definition. That can make things more complicated when registering the works.

A large percentage of my first album was written in during the 2016 challenge, and they didn’t change a whole lot between what I wrote then and what got released. In most cases, I just did some polish, re-recorded one or two things that didn’t have the quality I wanted, and rough mastering.

As a fan, I think I would probably like coming across these “hidden demos” of songs from artists I like, and I don’t think it would deter me from actually purchasing the final versions. But I’m old and still rooted in the old music economy.

Most of these meandering worries are, almost certainly, not worth the effort, though, and I’ve learned to put them aside. I’ll start worrying about it when my album sales start getting to sustainable levels. Leaving things at demo quality has helped me quiet that inner risk-averse lawyer that probably kept me from going after a music career in my 20s. It’s not so much that I think a poor quality version will deter someone from downloading the song, but more that I won’t feel guilty if I end up putting any of these on an album, because that version will have a lot more work put into it.

In a very real way, you could interpret this song as a metaphor for that whole inner struggle. It’s not what I was thinking about as I wrote the lyric, but it’s certainly appropriate! I’ve trapped myself for far too long a time, and it’s time to break out of old habits. What’s the worst that can happen?

Drop-D tuning has been a wonderful thing to learn… I’ve never been a good guitarist, and it’s just so much easier to play these things in drop-D when my fingers aren’t built up. That may be a personal challenge for the year – get better at guitar. I think I probably said that last year, though.

One additional thing I like about these types of tracks is that it helps me remember that simple doesn’t mean bad. There are many songs that I enjoy that, when I listen critically, really don’t have all that much going on. The lyrics aren’t super deep, or lengthy, they just make their point for three minutes and move on. The realities of the streaming economy also mean that long intros turn into skipped tracks, so I’m learning to keep things concise. It doesn’t mean that I actually keep them concise, but when I’m writing, I’m more aware of where I could tighten things up from a songcraft point of view.

So in the end, I like this track. It has potential to be more, but it’s fun for what it is.


The hammer falls, blow by blow
The hammer falls, blow by blow
All of this has got to go

One small crack is all I need
One small crack is all I need
Break it and let the waters bleed  

I’m trapped in the ice
I cannot move, I cannot breathe
Trapped in the ice
I’ve got to go, I’ve got to leave

One more brick to toss aside
One more brick to toss aside
And then release the tide

One more inch and then I’m through
One more inch and then I’m through
You’re just one more thing to do

Copyright © 2019 Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.


  • Guitars: Squire Stratocaster through a Rocktron Chameleon
  • Bass: Spectrasonics Trillian
  • Drums: Spectrasonics Stylus RMX

Next up: What Is This, a Keyboard for Ants?

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