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.


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:

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.52.26 PM

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.


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!