Saturday, June 17, 2017

Raw to Polished - "The Edge" - Song Insight


"We are all at the edge...good or bad. What we do with it...how we react at the edge...will shape our lives"

I have several "Song Insights" blogs for songs I've written...kind of a "what's the backstory". For the next few songs, I captured the very first spark of the idea, record it into my phone, and once once the final recording is done...I provide you with a "Here's the raw idea I started with and here's how it ended up"

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Song: "The Edge"
Composer: Greg Hintermeister, ©2017
Arranged: Greg Hintermeister
Performed by: Greg Hintermeister, Karyn Hintermeister
Recorded: 2017 in Hint of Light Studios
Emotions: Finality, hope, determination


Finished Recording:



Insight:
It all started with the phrase "At the edge, it's all so clear"...and I imagined standing (physically or metaphorically) at the edge where everything I've done up to this point in my life has brought me here...and the very next step, one that I cannot undo, will determine the rest of my life.

...and then I just started playing guitar. That's where the raw idea recording came.

The raw idea (take a listen):

The hardest part is to write lyrics that talk about these ideas. I love the craft of lyric writing, but it doesn't come easy.

In the spirit of #design, I interviewed my family and asked, "What do you think of when I say the phrase "at the edge". They came up with a whole list of ideas that ended up in this song!

Even better, not all the ideas were "happy" "hopeful" ones either. Which I liked as well.
  • "The edge of the knife" - could be good or bad, could be for vengeance or for defense
  • "The edge of the wood" - could be coming out of a very dark period in life, or it could be at the "edge of the lake" where most of us get flooded with memories
Highlights for me:
  • My youngest son suggested the double time section for the solo...not only does it give the song energy (which I was worried it was too sleepy), but adds an urgency to the 'adlib' vocals at the end of that section
  • My Julia sat and analyzed the lyrics for a while to give other input which made them so much better
  • Recording the guitar solos...the intro 'jazz' was all octave doubled and sounds so smooth with the PRS guitar set to the neck pickup, and the fast solo was the first time I doubled the whole solo to give it a bigger sound
  • My wife sang!!!! I love it when she sings on these songs. I know I'm biased but it gives it so much depth and beauty when she sings.
  • The drums! I (for some reason) chose hiphop drums for the song. Not sure why, but in the spirit of my #unfiltered year of recording, I kept it. Then for the chorus, I added a "loop" that just sounded really cool. 

One more thing: This (and all the songs on the emerging album called #Unfiltered), are songs that I try to not filter what I write musically or lyrically, and also songs I try not to spend too much time in post production. At this point I want to capture the energy of the songs, and if I mess up or there's lousy note, that's OK. I just need to get what I feel out into a song.


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Technical Specifics:
Recording Unit: Logic Pro - iMac
Drums: Logic Pro "drummer"
Acoustic Guitar: Paul Reed Smith Tonare Grand Custom
Electric Guitar: Paul Reed Smith Starla
Guitar Amp: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
Electric Guitar Mics: close: Shure SM57;
Vocal Mic: Sure Beta58
Keyboards: Rhoads keyboard: RD-500, Vibes - Logic Pro
Bass:  Logic Pro "Thumb Bass"
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Lyrics:


V1
At the edge, it's all so clear
I finally see what brought me here
It's too late to turn back now
Here at the Edge
 V2
At the edge the moment's here
The next step is what you fear
Will it make you or make you fall
Here at the Edge
 Chorus:
The edge of the knife I see sweet revenge
The Edge of the bed I feel sweet sweet tenderness
The Edge of the cliff there's majesty
We're all We're all at the Edge
We're all at the Edge right Now
 V3
At the edge we make our peace
or give in to our wildest dreams
I always wondered where I would fall
Here at the Edge
 Chorus:
The edge of the knife I see the hero's fight
The Edge of the woods running from the dark towards a better life
The edge of the lake rich with memories
We're all
We're all at the Edge
We're all at the Edge right Now
 It's a beautiful edge
Launch you beyond what you thought was possible
It's time to leap from the edge right now
 (solo)
...
We're all
We're all at this glorious edge
What will we do with our edge right now
  END:
At the Edge
I finally see
Where I will fall
Here at the Edge
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ideas vs Action - And the Birth of a Hope-ist?

Yesterday I had a decent idea.

It started with an old friend saying that she had a couple of "Up With People" dreams, and one dream involved letting alumni travel for 6 week mini-tours. (We both traveled in Cast D'90…a one year adventure with 107 students traveling the world learning, singing, dancing, and promote the concept that we're all connected)

My response?

"IBM has a program that takes employees for 6 weeks into developing regions to help with basics. Imagine if Up With People did that? Organize a 6 week focused program for alumni to gather in groups of 10-12 and apply their skills to help a struggling community. Not only do we have experience from our year of travel, but we have a life-time of learning under our belts we didn't have when we first toured…we could help others even more."

I thought that was pretty good. And lately, since I've really struggled with my purpose in my last 1/2 of life,  I pondered what I wrote

...and did some googling

...and followed up with this

"So I want to name this program, and it made me think that if this were an actual thing, it would accomplish exactly the opposite of terrorism….and we could be exactly the opposite of a terrorist. So I look up "antonym of terrorism"…

…and interestingly there isn't an antonym.

That's sad. 

So maybe we can start something new: "Hope-ism" and we can be "Hope-ists". Maybe another phrase would be better. Thoughts? "

I was getting pretty excited. Except for the name, since I know it's not a word (yet), and people would by default write it as "hopist", and then I think of bunnies, and then I think of my yard, and then our pup who loves to chase bunnies…

In other words…I get distracted

…which is why I engaged the group to think of a different name. Besides, it still bothered me that while a small group of people hated with such passion that they had a house-hold name for what they did, but it didn't seem like there was a name for people who loved with such passion.

Then I continued…

"But imagine the headlines: 'More Hope-ist cells…formed back in the 90s in an Up With People group, emerged again and surprised a local community by acts of hope: this one just dug a well in an emerging economy...another taught young mothers how to budget for a micro-business...another partnered with a homeless shelter to feed and educate"

And then reality hit.

I was just an idea generator. It would take real work to get this running. Maybe I'm guilty of this a lot…great ideas but lacking the grit to act on them.

Yet it still bothered me: Why is there not a "house-hold" name for a group who loves with such passion? Is it easier to hate than love? Is it harder to get passionate about helping others than hating others? It sure seems like there are a lot of similarities in the commitment level: your time, your money, you must believe in your cause…with enough passion to push past the roadblocks, and possibly give your life dedicated to your cause, and finally a conviction that the world will only become what you want if you continually repeat acts on unsuspecting people you want to impact.

I know there are many, many groups working to do great things. But imagine if everyone was passionate about hope…enough to actively engage those without hope?

I finished my discussion by suggesting an "Agile" approach (my passion for design is never far away)…experiment, start small, fail fast, learn, and grow…

"Well, maybe we start small...even a friendly competition within our cast...share how we delivered hope in our individual communities. "I was a hope-ist today...drove a struggling youth to her job today...one small step to independence". And whoever is voted the most awesome hope-ist of this group gets a free meal at our next reunion"

So will I turn my idea into action?

I hope so.

Hmm…maybe hope-ist isn't such a bad name after all.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Song Insight: "I Hate, I Love"

Summary:
I started writing this song with a desperation to get out of a life situation I was in...only to realize it wasn't the situation that needed to change...but my attitude and how grateful I should be for all the amazing situations that make up my life.

Composer: Greg Hintermeister, ©2017
Arranged: Greg Hintermeister
Performed by: Greg Hintermeister
Recorded: 2017 in Hint of Light Studios
Emotions: Anger, Frustration, Hope, Love, Excitement!

Listen:                     Other song insights

PS: Listen with nice speakers or headphones and you'll hear all the cool stuff


Insight:
In May 2016, I was lost...angry...desperate. While I could point to many situations throughout 2016, on this particular day the area getting my attention was my job.

I was driving home, and this lyric bursted out of my head, "I HATE THIS JOB SO MUCH I WANT TO...!"...and after hearing the Prince song "My Name is Prince", I had a mood I wanted to use to capture my desperation.

I got home, strapped on my guitar, and fairly quickly created the riff you hear in the song. I was stoked! What a way to get all my aggression out! However, as I started writing more lyrics, they turned false. I really wasn't angry at my job. Well, I was, but I shouldn't have been. I quickly mapped out the storyboard of what I really wanted to say, and got to work. Maybe I could create a song that focused on my attitude, not the situation, that can affect my outlook on life...and if I can change what I focus on, change my attitude, maybe my frustration can turn into gratefulness.

Maybe it could help not just me, but maybe help others feeling this way.

...as a result, the rest of the lyrics came out...where it's not really the situation I was in, but how I was emotionally responding to the situation...my attitude...my anxiety with how situations were impacting me that I could change.

One other result is that this is my first song in 31 years of composing that has a swear word in it. Not a bad one...some would argue that it's not even a curse word, but I ended up using it because it helped connect to my emotion, and also removed the need to have a noun that I'm mad at. The listener can add any situation they are struggling with and connect to the song.

Did it work? the attitude change? We'll see. The past 2 years have been a challenge if I'm being honest. But focusing on being creative...whether it's composing, photography, writing, or inventing at work, I am much happier.

In the end, I am grateful for the struggles. It makes me grateful for the great days.

Also, I got a killer song out of it!

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Technical Specifics:
Recording Unit: Logic Pro - iMac
Drums: Logic Pro "drummer", with Roland XV-5080 for congas
Electric Guitar: Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody II
Guitar Amp: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
Electric Guitar Mics: close: Shure SM57;
Vocal Mic: Sure Beta58
Keyboards: 80's synth: Logic Pro; Synth pads: XV-5080; synth pad: RD-500
Bass: Roland XV-5080, Logic Pro "Thumb Bass"

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Recording Specifics:
I wrote the 2 main riffs in May 2016, then put it aside while I music directed Rock of Ages, and not until February after getting back from Madrid for work I finished.

One unique thing is that I recorded this REALLY fast. Whole thing in about 5 hours. Usually I spend a month detailing and perfecting, but this time I just took the energy I was feeling and kept what I recorded.

The only thing I'm not thrilled with is the guitar solo...it's OK but would like another shot at composing something really interesting...I think my adrenaline was pumping so I just played lots of notes...rather than composing something thoughtful.

I was REALLY happy with the way the vocals came out. Not just the verses that sounded nice and angst-y, but the choruses that were 3 part harmony and even swooped into the right chords! (I'm not very good at harmonies so it was a big surprise at what you hear).

Finally, because I use Logic enough now, I have nice vocal presets and Mastering presets so I can very quickly print a production-ready version of a song.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Lyrics:
Verse 1:
I hate this so damn much I want to…
Shout!            Scream!
I hate this so damn much I want to
Poke both my eyes out    throw them out the window
So I’ll see    what it’s like     to be alive and a little bit

Chorus:
Free!        …to be          Happy!

Verse 2:
I hate this so damn much it’s time to
Go!  Run!   Pump my fists in the air!
I hate this so damn much it’s time to
See all the good here     have a little fun
could it be    I could believe and be more than a little bit

Chorus:
Free!        …and  be         Happy!

B Section:
I choose to  Love
Live
Breathe
Laugh so hard I lose my breath  so when I die there’s not a thing left!!



Solo
 I love this life so much I want to
Play!
Now I feel   in my head I feel alive and completely

Chorus:
Free!        …and I'm
Happy!
 
Verse 3:
I love this life so much I want to
Scream!
I love this life so much I want to
Shout!

End:
So come along and have a little bit of fun and laugh and be
Free!
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Monday, February 13, 2017

I Raise a Glass…To the Cast of Rock of Ages


This is a "Toast" I wrote to toast the cast of Rock of Ages, a musical I was fortunate enough to music direct in 2016. I never did give the toast…the opportunity never really came up…and because of it, I don't know if the cast knows how much the show really meant to me.

Here's the original toast…

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When you get to be my age, life can get a little muted…

…and sometimes life can blow…

...hard enough to blow away the sparkle, the shine, leaving only bare threads.

Then, one day, a dear friend comes along and asks if you want to ROCK…

and after looking around at the melancholy, and responding with an exuberant YES!, you spend the next five months in fear that you’re not going to live up to your own expectations...

…and then you cast the show...

...and find the nicest, kindest, most talented people you’ve ever worked with.

You find a band that shows up on the FIRST VOCAL REHEARSAL and learns every note, every guitar lick…and is far superior than you ever dreamed.

…and eventually, after fighting it…

…you find a smile…

…you find joy…

…you find...contentment…

…not in the Whitesnake songs, but in the realization of what can happen when a group of diverse humans...

...humans that are not ego-driven, but excellence-driven...

...come together to focus on a common cause...

...TO ROCK!

Then, after a month of shows...

...it ends…

…and you finally find the words that you’ve wanted to say for years but haven’t figured out how…

...words that free you...

...provide bursts of inspiration…

...taken from the show that has, at least for a moment, given you a glimpse of "what could have been if you followed your dreams, not your wallet"…

So...

I raise a glass to toast this cast, this crew, this amazing experience…

...Thank you for your excellence, your kindness, your work ethic. Every night I got to pose in my rock stance, pumping out awesome riffs on my 1986 red Charvel, chains dangling from my waist, Van Halen necklace stretched across my sweat-laden neck, leather jacket covering my AC/DC t-shirt, long spiked hair intertwining with my guitar strap, sun-glasses providing cover for the whisky sips in between songs, playing in pure joy every-single-night, hearing soaring melodies, delicious harmonies, immersed in sound pounding from a perfectly-in-synch band, and watching from the best view in the house this extraordinary show unfold...

…Here's to you!

...and, in the eloquent words given to me by the script to speak every night that really says everything we all want to say every night…

"F*ck you Stacee Jaxx!"

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