Week 5 Challenge – Four Chords (I-V-vi-IV)

The Challenge this week is to write a song that uses the famous four chords of popular music – I – V- vi and IV! They do not have to be in that order though. These four chords have been played over and over in songs of so many various genres of popular music. Here is a very partial list of some songs that have made use of these progressions, taken from Wikipedia. Notice the many different years and artists that are represented:

Song Title Artist Year Progression
Down[24] Jay Sean feat. Lil Wayne 2009 IV–I–V–vi
Heart Attack[38] Demi Lovato 2013 IV–I–V–vi
What’s My Age Again?[109] Blink-182 1999 IV–I–V–vi; I–V–vi–IV
Drive By[25] Train 2012 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V
Home[41] Phillip Phillips 2012 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V
Try[103] P!nk 2012 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V
With Me[115] Sum 41 2007 IV–I–V–vi; vi–IV–I–V
All Too Well[3] Taylor Swift 2012 I–V–vi–IV
Always on My Mind[4] Brenda Lee 1972 I–V–vi–IV
Another Girl, Another Planet[5] The Only Ones 1978 I–V–vi–IV
Beast of Burden[6] The Rolling Stones 1978 I–V–vi–IV
Bullet[10] Hollywood Undead 2011 I–V–vi–IV
California King Bed[11] Rihanna 2011 I–V–vi–IV
Cruise[15] Florida Georgia Line 2012 I–V–vi–IV
Cryin’[16] Aerosmith 1993 I–V–vi–IV
Dammit[6][17] Blink-182 1997 I–V–vi–IV
Demons[19] Imagine Dragons 2012 I–V–vi–IV
Dirty Little Secret[20] The All-American Rejects 2005 I–V–vi–IV
Feeling This[6][27] Blink-182 2003 I–V–vi–IV
Fuckin’ Perfect[30] P!nk 2010 I–V–vi–IV
Glycerine[32] Bush 1994 I–V–vi–IV
Hair[35] Lady Gaga 2011 I–V–vi–IV
Happy Ending[37] Mika 2007 I–V–vi–IV
If We Ever Meet Again[46] Timbaland feat. Katy Perry 2010 I–V–vi–IV
“Just Ace”[50] Grinspoon 1997 I–V–vi–IV
No One[58] Alicia Keys 2007 I–V–vi–IV
Pork and Beans[70] Weezer 2008 I–V–vi–IV
Summer Paradise Simple Plan 2012 I–V–vi–IV
Someone like You[84] Adele 2011 I–V–vi–IV
Take Me Home, Country Roads[90] John Denver 1971 I–V–vi–IV
The Edge of Glory[92] Lady Gaga 2011 I–V–vi–IV
To Know Him Is to Love Him[100] The Teddy Bears 1958 I–V–vi–IV
Tuesday’s Gone[102] Lynyrd Skynyrd 1973 I–V–vi–IV
Wagon Wheel[105] Old Crow Medicine Show 2004 I–V–vi–IV
Walking Disaster[106] Sum 41 2007 I–V–vi–IV
Walks Like Rihanna[107] The Wanted 2013 I–V–vi–IV
When I Come Around[6][110] Green Day 1993 I–V–vi–IV
What About Now[111] Lonestar 2000 I–V–vi–IV
Wherever You Will Go[112] The Calling 2001 I–V–vi–IV
With or Without You[116] U2 1987 I–V–vi–IV
Bridge of Light[8] P!nk 2011 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V
Don’t You Wanna Stay[23] Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson 2010 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V
For the First Time[28] The Script 2010 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V
Four Chords[29] The Axis of Awesome 2011 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V
Snow (Hey Oh)[83] Red Hot Chili Peppers 2006 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V
The Rock Show[97] Blink-182 2001 I–V–vi–IV; vi–IV–I–V
“Ciaccona”[12] Antonio Bertali 1662 I–V–vi–IV–V
Africa[1] Toto 1983 vi–IV–I–V
Beautiful[7] Akon feat. Colby O’Donis andKardinal Offishall 2009 vi–IV–I–V
Brighter Than the Sun[9] Colbie Caillat 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Come Over[13] Kenny Chesney 2012 vi–IV–I–V
“De Música Ligera”[18] Soda Stereo 1990 vi–IV–I–V
Don’t Forget Me[21] Red Hot Chili Peppers 2002 vi–IV–I–V
Don’t Trust Me[22] 3OH!3 2008 vi–IV–I–V
Electrical Storm[26] U2 2002 vi–IV–I–V
Give Me Everything[31] Pitbull feat. Ne-yo, Afrojack, andNayer 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Good Life[33] OneRepublic 2010 vi–IV–I–V
Great Romances Of The 20th Century[34] Taking Back Sunday 2002 vi–IV–I–V
Hall of Fame[36] The Script feat. will.i.am 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Hello[39] Adele 2015 vi–IV–I–V
Hey Brother[40] Avicii 2013 vi–IV–I–V
Hot n Cold[42] Katy Perry 2008 vi–IV–I–V
I Just Had Sex[43] The Lonely Island feat. Akon 2011 vi–IV–I–V
I Was Here[44] Beyoncé 2011 vi–IV–I–V
If I Were a Boy[45] Beyoncé 2008 vi–IV–I–V
In This River[48] Black Label Society 2005 vi–IV–I–V
International Love[49] Pitbull feat. Chris Brown 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Just a Dream[51] Nelly 2010 vi–IV–I–V
Kaze wa Fuiteiru[52] AKB48 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Little Talks[53] Of Monsters and Men 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Love Me[54] Justin Bieber 2009 vi–IV–I–V
Love the Way You Lie[55] Eminem feat. Rihanna 2010 vi–IV–I–V
Marilyn Monroe[56] Nicki Minaj 2012 vi–IV–I–V
“Não Me Toca”[57] Anselmo Ralph 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Nobody’s Perfect[59] Miley Cyrus 2007 vi–IV–I–V
Not Afraid[60] Eminem 2010 vi–IV–I–V
Numb[61] Linkin Park 2003 vi–IV–I–V
On the Floor[62] Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull 2011 vi–IV–I–V
One of Us[63][64] Joan Osborne 1995 vi–IV–I–V
Otherside[65] Red Hot Chili Peppers 2000 vi–IV–I–V
Paradise[66] Coldplay 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Peace of Mind[67] Boston 1977 vi–IV–I–V
Pieces[68] Sum 41 2005 vi–IV–I–V
Poker Face[69] Lady Gaga 2008 vi–IV–I–V
Ready or Not[71] Bridgit Mendler 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Replay[72] Iyaz 2009 vi–IV–I–V
Rise[73] McClain Sisters 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Save Tonight[74] Eagle Eye Cherry 1997 vi–IV–I–V
Say Something[75] A Great Big World 2013 vi–IV–I–V
Science & Faith[76] The Script 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Self Esteem[77][78] The Offspring 1994 vi–IV–I–V
Silverflame[80] Dizzy Mizz Lizzy 1994 vi–IV–I–V
Six Degrees of Separation[81] The Script 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Skyscraper[82] Demi Lovato 2011 vi–IV–I–V
So Small[85] Carrie Underwood 2007 vi–IV–I–V
Soul To Squeeze[86] Red Hot Chili Peppers 1993 vi–IV–I–V
Sparks Fly[87] Taylor Swift 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Stand[88] Rascal Flatts 2007 vi–IV–I–V
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)[89] Kelly Clarkson 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Tears of the Dragon[91] Bruce Dickinson 1994 vi–IV–I–V
The Kids Aren’t Alright[95] The Offspring 1999 vi–IV–I–V
“Think Twice”[98] Eve 6 2003 vi–IV–I–V
This Is Me[99] Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas 2008 vi–IV–I–V
Too Cool[101] Meaghan Jette Martin 2008 vi–IV–I–V
U + Ur Hand[104] P!nk 2006 vi–IV–I–V
We Found Love[108] Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris 2011 vi–IV–I–V
Whistle[113] Flo Rida 2012 vi–IV–I–V
Who You Are[114] Jessie J 2011 vi–IV–I–V
You’re Not Sorry[117] Taylor Swift 2008 vi–IV–I–V
Zombie[118] The Cranberries 1994 vi–IV–I–V
Confusion and Frustration in Modern Times[14] Sum 41 2007 vi–IV–I–V; I–V–vi–IV
The Light Behind Your Eyes[96] My Chemical Romance 2012 vi–I–IV–V
The Hell Song[93] Sum 41 2002 vi–I–V–IV
“The Hero”[94] (Opening theme ofOne-Punch Man) JAM Project 2015 vi–I–V–IV
All I Ever Wanted[2] Basshunter 2008 vi–V–I–IV
Shake It[79] Metro Station 2008 V–vi–IV–I

That list doesn’t even include the 50s progression ( I-vi-IV-V). Here are some more:

Song Name Artist Year Progression
Baby, I’m an Anarchist! Against Me! 2002 I–vi–IV–V
All I Have to Do Is Dream Everly Brothers 1960 I–vi–IV–V
“Baby Baby Baby” Aretha Franklin 1967 I–vi–ii–V
Beyond the Sea[1] Jack Lawrence and Charles Trenet 1946 I–vi–IV–V
Blue Moon The Marcels 1961 I–vi–IV–V
Bristol Stomp The Dovells 1961 I–vi–IV–V
Chain Gang[2] Sam Cooke 1960 I–vi–IV–V
Crocodile Rock[3] Elton John 1972 I–vi–IV–V
“Da Doo”, “Dentist” Little Shop of Horrors (musical)Original Broadway Cast 1982 I–vi–IV–V
Donna[4] Ritchie Valens 1958 I–vi–IV–V
Don’t Dream It’s Over[5] Crowded House 1986 IV–V–I–vi
Duke of Earl[6] Gene Chandler 1962 I–vi–IV–V
D’yer Mak’er Led Zeppelin 1973 I–vi–IV–V
Earth Angel[4][7] The Penguins 1954 I–vi–IV–V
Enola Gay Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 1980 I–vi–IV–V
Eternal Flame[8] The Bangles 1989 I–vi–IV–V
Every Breath You Take The Police 1983 I–vi–IV–V
Eyes on Me Faye Wong 1999 I–vi–IV–V
Flightless Bird, American Mouth Iron & Wine 2007 I–vi–IV–V
Friday[9] Rebecca Black 2011 I–vi–IV–V
Give a Little Love[10] Bay City Rollers 1975 I–vi–IV–V
Happiness Is a Warm Gun[6][11] The Beatles 1968 I–vi–IV–V
Heart and Soul[12] Larry Clinton feat. Bea Wain 1938 I–vi–IV–V
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Neutral Milk Hotel 1998 I–vi–IV–V
In The Shape Of A Heart Jackson Browne 1986 I–vi–IV–V
Jesus of Suburbia[13][14] Green Day 2005 I–vi–IV–V
Lollipop[15] Ronald & Ruby 1958 I–vi–IV–V
Lovable[16][17] Sam Cooke 1956 I–vi–IV–V
“Mama I’m A Big Girl Now” Hairspray (musical) Original Broadway Cast 2002 I–vi–IV–V
Mandy Barry Manilow 1974 I–vi–IV–V
Oliver’s Army[18] Elvis Costello 1979 I–vi–IV–V
Pretty Little Angel Eyes Curtis Lee 1961 I–vi–IV–V
Stand by Me[19][20] Ben E. King 1961 I–vi–IV–V
Telephone Line Electric Light Orchestra 1976 I–vi–IV–V
The Man Comes Around Johnny Cash 2002 I–vi–IV–V
There Is a Light That Never Goes Out The Smiths 1992 I–vi–IV–V
This Magic Moment[21] The Drifters 1960 I–vi–IV–V
Those Magic Changes[22] Sha Na Na 1978 I–vi–IV–V
Mr. Bass Man Johnny Cymbal 1961 I–vi–IV–V
True Blue[23] Madonna 1986 I–vi–IV–V
We Go Together[24] John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John 1972 I–vi–IV–V
You Are Not Alone[25] Michael Jackson 1995 I–vi–ii–V
“I’m Not Edward Cullen” Hank Green 2009 I–vi–IV–V
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now Starship 1987 I–vi–IV–V
“No Hay Pedo” Banda Los Recoditos 2014 I–vi–IV–V
“Brave as a Noun” Andrew Jackson Jihad 2007 I–vi–IV–V
Joey Concrete Blonde 1990 I–vi–IV–V
Last Kiss[26] Wayne Cochran 1961 I–vi–IV–V
Dear Future Husband Meghan Trainor 2015 I–vi–IV–V
Dance with Me Tonight Olly Murs 2011 I–vi–IV–V
The Thin Ice Pink Floyd 1979 I–vi–IV–V
Marvin Gaye Charlie Puth 2015 I–vi–IV–V
Beautiful Girls Sean Kingston 2007 I–vi–IV–V
“Close Your Eyes” Meghan Trainor 2014 I–vi–IV–V
“Döner Skins” Landser 1997 I–vi–IV–V
“I Love You Too Much” The Book of Life (soundtrack) 2014 I-vi-IV-V
Why Do Fools Fall in Love Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers 1956 I–vi–IV–V
For Your Precious Love[27] Jerry Butler 1958 I–vi–IV–V
Please Mr. Postman The Marvelettes 1961 I–vi–IV–V
“Oh True Love” Everly Brothers 1960 I–vi–IV–V
All I Want for Christmas Is You Mariah Carey 1994 I–vi–IV–V

A Night at CoSM with Alex and Allyson Grey

A Birthday Gift that Keeps On Giving

My girlfriend Arielle bought me tickets to go to the Vernal Equinox celebration at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. As a big fan of the work of Alex Grey, I was beyond excited. Here is a description of CoSM from their website:

“The mission of 

CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is to build an enduring sanctuary of visionary art 
to inspire and evolve the creative spirit… CoSM is a church, a context for a community that honors and practices art as a spiritual path. CoSM offers a visionary cultural nexus to empower a global community.

 To further the spiritual practice of art, CoSM offers workshops and cultural programs.”

In addition to that, the grounds house some of Alex’s most iconic work such as the Cosmic Christ:

 

 

The Vernal Equinox Celebration at COSM

Since attending Alex Grey and his wife Allyson’s Vernal Equinox celebration this past weekend, there remains an earthy after glow that lingers all around me. Alex and his wife lectured about the significance of the Vernal Equinox and how this is a time of rebirth – the tipping point where there becomes more light than darkness and new growth commences. Alex talked about how our bodies contain the same designs that are found in nature, mentioning for instance the bronchial tree in the lungs, and then Alyson urged us to focus on regrowth in our own lives at this time of year. It felt like New Years Eve all over again. I truly appreciate being given this deeper sense of a new beginning because I’m definitely behind with getting things started in 2016. Just look at the date of my first blog post! After the lecture, there was live artwork being made by Alex, Alyson and some other artists, electronic music and dancing, a giant outdoor fire with flame artists, a makeshift tent dome with experimental sound designers and strange visuals being projected onto the ceiling, and an all around great time.

Meeting Alex Grey and Receiving a Blessing

While there, I had the great fortune of meeting Alex and having him sign my copy of his book “Art Psalms”. His message was “To Gary, With Love and Blessings on your Creative Path! Alex Grey.” He also left me with some original art work! He drew a left hand with a flame in the palm of it and an all seeing eye pyramid with wings! I am still wondering if he observed that I was a lefty when I handed him the book. He seemed to struggle for a moment drawing the left hand when maybe he is accustomed to drawing the right, and he apologized for it being a little messy (such a humble guy). When he was done, he blew on his work to make sure the pen ink was dry before closing the book. His genuine warmth and graciousness and his kind inscription has left me with a stronger resolve than ever to walk straight ahead on this creative path. He handed me a bottle of inspiration that will sustain me for some time. I see the flame and the eye in the hand as a declaration of the power of self-directed creativity – to have a vision and make it a reality. Receiving these guiding symbols and encouraging words from a man who has championed visionary art and dedicated years of effort and continual refinement to bringing inner glimpses of spiritual and energetic truth into the outer physical world by way of his hands, means a lot. It is more than a physical gift. It truly is a blessing.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 7.26.10 PM

The Community at COSM

The Vernal Equinox lecture started at 7PM, but we arrived at the COSM grounds around 5. If you ever go to an event and want some time to view Alex’s work and the CoSM grounds, it is worth going early, where you are practically alone to view, reflect, and ponder. When we got there, the only people among us were the volunteers setting up for the event. I could tell though that they were all members of a special kind of community. As I walked toward the gift shop I saw that the volunteers were all eating in a back room before the festivities were to begin. As other volunteers arrived, hugs were shared and genuine words of kindness exchanged. It was someone’s birthday. It was also my birthday, and it was a gift from my girlfriend to be taken to the event, so I was there celebrating life. I told this kind lady across the room that we shared this special day and she came over and gave me a hug! I wanted to know more about the positive vibes among these people. I asked the sparkling blue eyed and long haired young man making my coffee at the CoSM Mushroom Cafe how long he has been volunteering. He told me about two years and I asked him what it was like. He said it was awesome and in addition to working the events, adults get to have a lot of childlike fun and do things like play laser tag in the woods after hours! They also get to stay in the volunteer dorms! Some of the jobs of the volunteers included setting up chairs and furniture, moving Alex’s artwork, working at the cafe, the gift shop, working the admission table, etc. Another volunteer, Eli, explained to me the process for applying to volunteer – you just fill out some forms on the CoSM website. This women was nice, friendly, but brought an element of strong leadership to this business operation that, as the night rolled on, was much needed. There were long lines for drinks and sandwiches, packed quarters, and she kept things in control. When I posted on Facebook where I was a friend told me that her friend Eli is there volunteering all the time and this was not the only connection I had here! I also ran into a volunteer named Tem that I had played on a couple of gigs with in NYC! Ironically, those gigs were put on by the brother of the friend who knew Eli, and both were unaware that their respective friends worked together!

Besides the volunteers, there were also the artists and entertainers. There were two painters amazingly talented painters in the room where Alex’s Cosmic Christ is housed and one was painting a striking coyote who was tangled in multi colored yarn. In another room their was an artist making a Mandala out of died sand and two other painters. In the back room where the dancing was taking place was another artist painting a baby in some sort of otherworldly cave filled with shards of gems. And then there was Alex painting a self portrait and Alyson painting symbols of some unknown language. Both of them kindly welcomed visitors to chat with while they worked (that is how I was able to meet Alex as well).

Trust and Openess

The amount of trust, acceptance and compassion that Alex and his Wife have for all the people that come to their home is staggering. Besides having a couple of security guards, anyone that buys a ticket can come in without having their bags or jackets checked, and roam freely throughout the first floor of the house. There are personal keepsakes on many of the shelves, books, a guitar and other instruments, along with the artwork on the walls. Many of the attendees might also be in frames of mind that could potentially lead to poor decision making. However, “drunk” is not one them, which is probably the state of mind that leads to the most crime. No alcohol is sold at COSM. Some people were definitely intoxicated, but seemingly on substances that do not typically lead to violence or crime – Marijuana, Psychedelics, MDMA. However, boundaries can becomes blurry in these states. When Alyson got up from the painting that she was working on, a girl say down on her chair just inches from the painting examining it thoroughly. I was afraid that she might touch it. People came up to here asking if she was the artist! Ultimately, I got the sense that Allyson and Alex are in acceptance of anything that might happen. In our modern civilized society, fear is hardly ever useful yet it most often rules our lives. I found it very telling that I was more afraid for Alex and Allyson’s possessions than they were.

Week 4 Creation – Rap or Speaking

The Creation:

About the Process

Overall thoughts:

This was HARD!!!! I’ve always admired rap as an art form and wished I was good at it,  but  I now have a new found level of respect for rappers, and I want to do this again! I used a Ghostface Killah instrumental called “Tones Rap” that I found on Spotify and added words, rap, and a hook to it! If you look, you’ll see I am a few days behind in posting this song. This took me completely outside of my comfort zone. It is the first time I’ve ever created a rap and there were a few different challenges that had to be overcome to make this happen.

The Challenges:

  1. Finding a rapper voice! Rapping is rhythmic talking. You have to change your diction to make the phonetics of words flow more freely. Rs or no Rs, or over accentuated Rs? Do I need to open my mouth wider than usual? Man, I have to breath a lot! monotone? Vary the pitch? What kind of attitude or mood? I found myself imitating different rappers. There are so many expectations on who can or cannot rap. I’m an overeducated middle class white guy with a big vocabulary and a rather conservative demeanor. Will that work?  I listened to other rappers who might have a similar background to myself. Aesop Rock grew up right down the road from me! Checked him out for a few hours. He kind of sounds like a Long Island Soccer Mom who was previously a man. I love it. I listened to Sage Francis – somewhere between a slam poet and rapper, and then I listened to early Eminem.
  2. Finding the flow. Great rappers have a phrasing style that is simultaneously complicated, musically engaging, yet seemingly natural! To make it complex, engaging, and natural together is a quite the feat. Being I don’t have much of a rapper voice, I wanted to make sure that my flow was at least musical. I did about 45 takes with different rhythmic ideas for my phrases until I settled on something that felt as close to these three things combined as possible. I added and removed little words to make it work as I altered the phrasing.

Rhyming complexity. This is where I had the most fun! Making lines rhyme, and adding secondary rhymes within each line! This is where I felt the most artistic satisfaction:

Headlines attack, a fracking of the mind
Drilling Line after line, all is black in no time.
Drops of Pitter patter on the roof of my soul
soon a whole sea of mind control,
Leaks in through my peep hole

down the drain goes my daily mental pain.
Killing insiders with outsiders, (and) both insane
the same name, two sides but one game

Both die in this bout
vice versa inside out,
They bothy’ll curse ya in self doubt, they both coerce ya to be proud
They think their farmers but their cows,
Trapped below as I watch them bleed out

4. Check 1, 2! It seems like so many raps have intro talking and with the long intro on this track, I wanted to say something. I had some leftover lyrics with nothing to do with so at the last minute I just recited them as quick as possible as an intro! They fit the rest of the words perfectly, so contextually, it really worked for me.
                      Pride point figments of a hand me down imagination.
                     Celebrating fragments of a made up self’s fruition.
                     Checking off the boxes of the things we put our name on.
                     Disposing of the others things, new enemies to hate on
5. A sick beat! There are so many instrumental out there available for you to experiment with. Some of them you can even purchase the license for. Some artists purposefully put out instrumental albums to follow up their complete albums so that their fans can rap by themselves! Aesop Rock has two records like this. I chose the instrumental for Ghostface Killah’s “Tones Rap” that I found on Spotify.

Week 4 Challenge – Rap or Speaking

The Challenge for the 4th week is to write a song that incorporates either rap or speaking! It doesn’t have to be all rap or speaking. It can just be a sprinkling of it. I’m going to jump right into the Freestyle Freewrite activity that I talked about in the last blog post. This is where you put on a beat and give yourself 5 or 10 minutes to just dump out your ideas without second guessing them or stopping your pen or fingers from writing or typing. Then you go back and mine for gems!

I listened to an artist named Anderson Paak on the way home from work who teetered on the fence between a singer and a rapper during one of his tracks. It was super cool and inspiring! This is going to be fun!

 

 

Week 3 Creation – Protest Song

 

About the Song

I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t a protest song! But…it is. I’m protesting the unbreakable ties between time and money, and the inability to get out of the struggle when you really need to. I didn’t say it had to be political!

Right after setting this challenge for myself I began thinking about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and violence on the news and ISIS and all of those kinds of things, but then I asked myself, “What is the bigger problem that lies at the root of all of life’s woes?” From my experiences, it is the disconnection between our truest selves and what the world wants us to be, and what we usually become. The revolution that we need is a personal one.  It all starts with our own choices. We must find a personal freedom that exists independently, before any other kind of freedom can be of any significant consequence. Many protestors that I have met have been amazingly inspiring people. But many more of them seem to be unhappy people that don’t get along well with others, and aren’t a light unto themselves either. They are often lost in a blame game. Their actions may still be admirable, but they are missing the most important fight there is – the fight for a personal freedom that doesn’t depend on any specific circumstance. When one is at peace within, he or she doesn’t seek validation from others, and therefore is able to think and act with true purpose and fearlessly build the life that is in line with his or her values. My song is about discovering that I’m not living the life that I  want to live and having trouble breaking out of a box that I’ve worked really hard to build for myself. It’s a strong and powerful box! There’s a lot of great things about it. Many people would love to live in my box! But..it’s a box.

Logic

I’m getting to know more about Logic! The drum part is from one of the built in drummers on demand, and I gave it a swing rhythm to match the bluesy reggae vibe. I played the bass using one of the bass patches and a midi controller. For the guitar parts I went through a Scarlett 2 channel interface.

Harmony and Pitch Correction

I had fun harmonizing on this one but wanted to save it for the second verse to build a little bit.

Writing Lyrics with Freestyle Freewrite

As a music teacher, one of the activities I would do with students was the “Freestyle Freewrite”. This is where you put on a beat and write for 5 minutes without stopping yourself to judge. You just spew it out and then look back to see if there were any good nuggets or little seeds that you could massage into something good! The first few lines were born of this activity and then I used those as a starting point for the rest of it.

Week 3 Challenge – A Protest Song

The challenge this week is to create a protest song! This is great timing with the election season really heating up!

What is a protest song?

According to Wikipedia: A protest song is a song that is associated with a movement for social change and hence part of the broader category of topical songs (or songs connected to current events). It may be folk, classical, or commercial in genre.

I’m going to disagree here and say that it can be of any genre. I recently heard a protest song without words by Jazz artist Kendrick Scott about “The overwhelming racism that a lot of brown, black and especially African American’s go through at the hands of the Police Department.” It is entitled “Ku Klux Police Department.” Go to about 21 minutes to hear the introduction.

Week 2 Creation – Poem Put to Music

This week was a lot of fun! The challenge was to take a poem and put it to song. I went to poetryfoundation.org to try to find some lyrical poets with a strong rhythmic meter and I discovered Maya Angelou. The poem that spoke to me most was “Caged Bird.” In this week’s time I was only able to put half of it to song, but I’m looking forward to returning to this one day. Let me share with you what I came up with and then I’ll talk some more about it:

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Logic Pro X

The story and imagery inspired me to work with some new sounds so I finally got around to messing with Logic Pro X! I bought a Midi Controller to try out some of the different synth sounds. I spent more time getting to know this program and learning how to create tracks than working on the song, but tonight I managed to put some of it together. I took a guitar solo at the end using some cool reverse effect in Logic to try to emulate a “Caged Bird”.

Recording Latency

The hard thing about home recording when multi-tracking is hearing a delay when you are listening to yourself. I don’t know how to get around this yet. I had to record my vocals with no monitor in my headphones and it was throwing me off. I couldn’t really hear the tone of my voice as a result – only the resonance in my head. I’m looking forward to researching how to deal with this during the week.

Word Painting

The opening lines describe a descending bird so I went with some descending chords in a D minor and a descending melody to follow it. Then I went back up at the end of the first stanza for the word “Sky”.  This is called word painting. I listened to examples of this in classical music back in my college days and this is the first time I’m actually using it!

David Bowie

It’s undeniable that this idea is very David Bowie influenced. It was not intentional but I’ve been listening to his new album Darkstar and have been reflecting on his life and music since his passing.

Phrasing and Harmony

I wanted to have the chords serve the melody instead of the other way around, so I tried to make the last note or word of each melodic phrase suggest a chord change, and then I found the right chord after! This is kind of a new thing for me too. I usually come up with some cool chords and then write something over them.

Breathing

The phrasing on this one really challenged my singing. I have terrible breath control. Since starting this blog I started taking singing lessons and I’ve been sharing my ideas with my teacher. He gave me some tips on breathing with my diaphragm and I got that down, but I’m having trouble breathing through my nose between phrases. I automatically prefer to use my mouth. I managed to make it work by slowing the tempo and taking out a couple of words like “the”. Sorry Miss Angelou!