I like writing music. I go through cycles of writing a lot, or writing a little. I used to write a whole lot more, and mostly for piano. For awhile I didn't have a piano nearby, so I tended to write songs for whatever other instruments were nearby. In March of 2011 or so, I finally got a digital piano and I've been playing off and on again with some pleasing results. I've gotten into the habit of just hitting record and playing whatever comes to mind--completely new songs! Since they are happening in real time, there are quite definitely many mistakes, pauses that are perhaps longer than necessary, and so on. But it's where my newest stuff has gone. So:
Some Improvised Favorites
I tend to just hit record and see what happens on my digital piano; while basically all of these recordings are available, they are not all equally as enjoyable. Here are some of my favorites:
I've started using the "Voice Memo" feature on my phone to record other instruments. Same idea, I just hit record and mess around, and hopefully it's pleasant enough here or there to listen to it again.Voice Memo Ramblings are here.
My mom has a dulcimer. I like to play around on it, and this is what it usually sounds like:
Here are a few early recordings on my digital piano as I was finding my way around it. It also shows when I began the transition from planned/repeatable songs to one-time sessions.
- Session 1. Sitting at the piano after a relationship ended (overdue, no doubt).
- Mourn (recording #1), or Mourn (recording #2).
This was my response to the sad events in Japan (the earthquake/tsunami of 2011).
There's also a shorter version here, before I finished it off.
MIDI Recordings -- Alive!
I got a great, full 88-keys, hammer-action master midi controller keyboard last late October, and I've finally had enough time to play around with it. I also hauled it home over Christmas break... It was a real pain in the butt getting it to play a note in the first place, but now that I understand it, I'm really happy with it. I download (free!) soundfonts, which is basically a set of data which helps my keyboard sound like a guitar, or a flute, or all the different parts of an awesome drum set, or whatever else somebody cooked up, and then I can record midi (which is really which notes were started and stopped when, as well as how hard, etc), and then I can go back and add/fix all of it, change instruments, and all kinds of wonderful things. I'm really happy with it, I just wish I had more time for it. So, here goes, a first batch of songs I've made with it. It should be noted, however, that most of these are not really polished at all--they clip off suddenly at the end, or I never really found the sound I was looking for, or I didn't really finish the song. But all in all, I think there's some good stuff there. You may notice some numbers are missing in the naming scheme; they were either terrible, or not really more than a way to save a sound I liked, or else it's just garbage. So there's nothing being missed. The ones below are somewhat grouped, and not really in order of writing (except for numbers within namings...).
- Travel By Moonlight. Sounds kindof 80's techno-ish. Not that that would distinguish it from the rest of my stuff... very fast-paced, with pan flute and background harp sounds. It came together nicely, I'm not sure what else I'd do to it, as far as polished (for my songs) goes.
- The Things I Can't Say v1, v2 . I'm still working on this... this was a "play it all at once sloppily while in the mood, and then go back and try to play it well painstakingly over the next many hours" type of song.
- Crossings. Hamburger's first song. I changed the instrumentation quite a bit at the end... different guitars, a harpsicord instead of a marimba, etc. I like the heartbeat sound... with the staggered beats, it feels a bit hectic.
- Jam 01. Pretty much te first thing I made... I need to mix this instead of playing the same tracks over and over to fill time, there're other snippets I wrote which don't get played. I didn't really know how to organize stuff in scene view until maybe #10 or so...
- Jam 07. What do you get when you lay down a base line, and then slow down the tempo, and play as much as you can as fast as you can, and then speed it back up? For me, something like this... that could be a fun approach. Actually, I played three separate sections, and then combined them together. You can somewhat tell.
- Jam 08. Sparse drums, the way I like it. I like this one, but maybe it's too open and boring, I dunno.
- Jam 09. Bleeps and Blips! Imagine a side-scrolling adventure, maybe in space... I dunno. I like the sliding-pitch effect, but again, the sound is a bit too screechy. Gotta learn how not to do that...
- Jam 10. Kick back, and enjoy the cello. Kindof a different feel. Maybe I can find another cello sound that doesn't sound as contrived at parts of this.
- Jam 11. One I've payed particular attention to cleaning up, though this might not actually be rendered from that. If the sounds could be a little less cutting without swimming, I'd prefer that....
- Jam 12. Nice motion, I guess... running out of things to say. This one was slightly better planned-out than others.
- Jam 17. ATB imitation, anyone?
- ninjas!. What's not to like about ninjas? (unless you're a pirate fan!). This should definitely take old gamers back to nintendo's Ninja Gaiden games... though original, it sure as hell would fit in nicely.
- Piano-based, #1. These three all sort of mash together for a similar feel... I was getting started with drums.
- Piano-based, #2. I wish I could get a singer... it'd be so much nicer than high-pitched whiny stuff, which Kristin has informed me is not that pleasing in and of itself, regardless of what it's doing.
- Piano-based, #3. Purely piano, this sounds like some sort of Rent-knock-off ballad.
- pensive . I like this one--simple, but it has a good feel to it. It could maybe use different instruments, though.
- Viennese Waltz. Since I like dancing so much, I thought I'd make a viennese waltz song. yay! Not too shabby, since I didn't have many sonuds at all at the time...
Ukulele & a Looping Program
- Argus . I wrote this one on 9/23/06, after a nice evening of Argentine Tango. Probably a bit too long, I should shorten it and get to the good parts.
- On Ice. This one was done on 9/17/06. I discovered that Techno-eJay actually had a manual recording option. Joy!
- Strum. This is the first 'song' I ever wrote for ukulele, and I used the looping program to try to record small pieces of it together so that my inability to play the whole thing flawlessly could be overlooked. Then it turned out I could get the program to express a bit more than I was capable of all at once on the ukulele by itself.
More Programmed Music
Further Back in Time: the Early 2000's, in Undergrad...
The next batch were all written in about a week's span, combined, back in undergrad... They make me so happy! I had a crappy old Casio Keyboard and a makeshift sound cable, which introduced a lot of feedback/noise. Turns out, a bassoon can sound like a thrashin' guitar!
- Ohmu. The name comes from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Anyways, this was my first serious attempt at using a looping program to make music. It features a goat-skin drum, samples from my accordion, and some fantastic whistling. It turns out, making your whistling be in tune to itself modulated through time is trickier than I'd realized...
- Down. This was the first song to use that crappy but fun keyboard. I think it'd make a nice running song. And this, before iPods were ubiquitous!
- Pure. The funny part of this song is the 'percussion'; the keyboard had like four different percussion sounds total, and I think this song uses two of them to their utmost in functionality. This song definitely makes me happy.
- Sweet. This song is uplifting, I guess you could say. I had fun playing this one.
I wrote a lot of piano music. This is in reverse-chronological order, so the 'best' (newest) stuff is first. I'm still very fond of the older stuff, but admittedly, and of course as a good thing, my music has gotten at least slightly better since I was seven years old. Actually, the first song I wrote, which was kindof long, is actually lost to the past. I forgot just quite how it goes years before I got into recording any of it. Beware, writing music was the main way I expressed myself while growing up-- I think I'm a decently mature person nowadays (though still the heart of a kid), but a lot of this music is based on angsty teenage high school drama stuff--songs about girlfriends, friends who were abused, stuff like that. Thank god there's no lyrics... so they're still just songs. If I ever start to try to sing, run for cover. I'm just enough in tune and all that it's annoying, but not outright bad. On to it...
Piano Songs from Undergrad
- Idea #8.Fast little riffs. A pretty simple song besides that. I wrote this while at UNC. Probably could have done a bit more with it, but then I recorded it, and it seemed close enough to done, so it got stuck how it is.
- Idea #7. I really like this one. It still needs an ending, but I feel it was a good romp around the keyboard, and it switches between expansive and then pretty thin.
- Idea #6. This started out a long time ago, when I was in Carolina Crown (Summer 2000). One night, I just stayed up late, and wrote out the chord structure for the middle portion of this song. There were also words, but they're gone. And it's probably for the better. Then the rest finally came up on its own, and the two linked together pretty well.
- Idea #5. This song actually started quite a while ago, and it just wouldn't get an ending. I didn't record it back then, because I really didn't even have a fake ending for it. Then I finally got a passage in the middle-end, and I really really liked it. It still didn't get the best ending, but I'm glad that after sitting unfinished for years, I finally completed it. It's a real twist to play... pretty busy parts, left cross-over parts, and probably more notes than it needs in places.
- Idea #4. I wrote this in the summer of 2003. Partly while living in a house with five girls (no drama there...), and partly when I was back at home in Lynchburg and we watched The Pianist. That was one deeepressing movie. But it was good as well. I still have trouble getting the second section to be quiet and light enough. The left hand is both part of that top rift, and the 'melody', so it has to keep shifting volume on a per-note basis. And I'm not really that good a performer.
- Idea #3. This song rocks. When I recorded all the 'idea'-named songs in one day, this song just happened when I was warming up; since I had the laptop there and everything, I just recorded it. So it's one of the more complete songs I have which just happened in a day. That normally doesn't happen on piano for me. What was funny was that then I had to go back to this recording and learn how to play it! It changed ever so slightly, I guess I should re-record it.
- Idea #2. This was the whole reason these were named 'idea's. Just a snippet of music that I recorded to try to build on later. Yes, that's a buzz-saw in the background. The guys across the hall were building a massive loft for their dorm room. It had a pull-down staircase and room for both the beds up there. Some guys up one floor topped that--they had a full two-story apartment in their dorm room, with a spiral stair-case, platforms for their desks and dressers, and the beds up top; there was still room for two couches and the entertainment center on the real floor. That place rocked! Not to mention they actually installed mood-lighting on a dimmer-switch... overboard, yes, but fun to see someone else do!
- Idea #1 -- alas, there is no Idea #1... it was lost in a car fire or something.
- Song #26. "Fallen Love." This one has two very different parts. The first one was written around january of my senior year in hig hschool (so, Jan.2000). Yeah, I was being mopey, I didn't get the girl. The second half, though, is about the girl who became a really good friend after all that... we went to prom as friends, and ended up dating awhile after that. So it's sort of a two-part cheesy romance book plot.
- Song #25. "The Question." I think this one had some good first-time harder-sounding stuff in it. Melancholy, as almost always. I think I have the most fun playing this one, of all my old stuff.
- Song #24. "Sunrise." Fun with modulation! This one and #23 were some of my first more polished pieces; I think they were a nice leap in what I write. I tried to write the beginning as a warm up for drum corps... but Chuck Naffier never really let us try it. Actually, now that I think about it, I think it was Evan Rogavin's non-doing... I think he kept the only copy, too. dag nammit. I played this one for the composition teacher at UNC because I wanted to take the piano composition class and I wasn't sure if I had the prerequisites (in essence) for the course. After playing it, he asked me why I wanted to take the course. That made me feel kinda good. I ended up not taking it, because I took four comp sci classes that semester, and three the next... just not enough time for music and a science degree.
- Song #23. This has a very light, contemplative mood to it. Also a good exercise in the left hand crossing over. I'm a lefty, so that works well for me. I really tried to get the whole keyboard in use.
- Song #22. This one is quite long, and is actually had to place in a timeline. I was writing this one for years, and couldn't really find an ending to it. So the next thing I'd write would get tacked on / forced on to the end of this. Eventually, I started writing separate pieces, but this one kept on growing. And it's still not complete; the ending is not supposed to be with the phone ringing and the song abruptly stopping, which is what this recording does. I don't know if I'll ever revive the tail-end that wasn't recorded, nor even futher if I'll manage to eve finish this one. It's probably the oldest song present here from the beginning, though work continued far beyond completion of many of the ones below.
- Song #21. A classical-sounding piece. A lot of it is octaves, so it's a bit challenging to play without missing a few notes here and there. There's not much structure to it; mostly, the same thing a few times with variations.
- Song #20. "Lullaby." Once late one evening, my mom asked if I could play something quieter (she was already in bed). I tried to think of something quiet, and this happened. I think it's short and sweet.
- Song #19. I'm not sure when I wrote this, and I don't thin I can play it any more. It's kind of angry and short.
- Song #18. This never really got off the ground... it only is even recorded because it happened right around when I started recording things the first time around.
- Song #17. This is a 7-8 piece with two variations. I never can play it correctly (because I never practice it either), but I think it has a good bit of emotion packed into it when I play it. I'm a bit too worried about playing it correctly in the recording.
- Song #16. "Blue." I wrote this at the end of my junior year. I named it blue because it's, well, sad, and mostly though because I was at Summer Governor's School for music, and I took a class called "Blue." We discussed everything one could imagine about the color--from things that make blue, blue grass, astronomy (blue skies), Appalachia (Blue Ridge Mountains), tie-tying things blue, and more. Funny story, we were supposed to write out blues lyrics in the standard format and then the teacher guy would play it on his guitar; I wrote about losing my honey, seemed like a good blues song topic; the guy seemed to think it was real, and he apologized afterwards for not reading off all umpteen verses. Anyways, I played this song for the group, and some girl cried. I guess that makes me a meanie.
- Song #15. "Father." This song is kind of a slice of feelings when I think of my dad. Not the whole story, of course, but part of it. I wrote this as a junior in high school.
- Song #14. "Anger." Proving that throwing more notes on the page doesn't necessarily mean it's a better song... well, I guess it's as good as the rest before it in time. I'm still not a good enough performer to pull this off, it always seems like a bit of a struggle to get through the song. Heck, maybe that's good. I dunno.
- Song #13. Obviously a better recording! 11-13, I recorded at my uncle Barry Webb's recording studio. Poor guy, I wasn't prepared when we did that, so for a mere 8.5 minutes of finished product, there were something like 108 slices of recording. It turned out to be an invaluable experience for me, though--I learned about editing recordings; you just zoom in, slice out the bad parts, and then erase however much more you need at the microscopic level to make the sinusoidal wave nice and smooth. If there's a jump in it, then you'll hear a *pop*!
- Song #12. This is another one recorded at Barry's. it's one of the few songs I wrote that's actually in C. Since I'm never really focused on writing these things out, I tend to think that songs with more black keys in them are easier to play--more room for my fingers to wiggle around and not hit other notes. Hell to write out, though.
- Song #11. Let's hear it for the repetitive thumping baseline! After recording this (also at Barry's), I realized that it's probably not a good idea to have such a repetitive baseline like that... I try to avoid it now, even though it's somewhat how my mind works.
- Song #10. "Abuse." A friend of mine talked about her mom and dad fighting, and there being a bit of abuse in it. I wasn't very fond of the woman, but it still made me angry. I guess I tried to think it out in this song.
- Song #9. I wrote this in about a day or two (or at least started it) while helping out at the Winter Special Olympics. I think it was my sophomore year. Anyways, it's sort of an encouraging song, I guess that makes sense.
- Song #8. This is the song I wrote for Alexis. We dated for 3+ years. I used to practice and practice and practice this song; if I missed a single note, I'd start over. And I'm not good at playing things perfectly at all. When things ended, I just stopped playing this one entirely for qutie awhile. Now I can't play it very well--I can't remember quite how it goes, so it's good that it's written down and recorded. Oh yeah, this is also one of the few songs I've written out as well. It was a birthday present.
- Song #7. For some reason, the word Musette comes to mind. I dunno if that's accurate or not. Probably not. It's so short I probably shouldn't even call it a song.
- Song #6. This song has a few odd syncopations in it. Otherwise, it's pretty standard for the kinds of things I wrote back then. Somewhat light, constant notes, somewhat minimalist I guess.
- Song #5. Fast and angry song again. I was really big on using octaves to make something sound bigger and more full.
- Song #4. Finger slides! I'm no good at them. This is the only song that has them in it for my work. Makes it sound sort of carnival-like at times. Again, still somewhat simple and repetitive patterns, like all my music.
- Song #3. Pretty sparse song, I guess. I like the pacing of this song, though. It takes its time.
- Song #2. I used to write lots of short snippets of music, and some became songs and some didn't. This one never really made the cut, but it got recorded.
- Song #1. "Hymn." This is sort of a hymn, I think. I was sort of experimenting with a different sound than the stuff I usually wrote. This one is pleasant, I'd say.
Piano Songs from High School and Earlier...