Sunday, April 26, 2009

iPhone Revelation

Now I know you might read the title of this post and go, "Really, you have to post about an iPhone? Like that hasn't been done before." Fair enough point. But be assured I'm merely writing about how it's changed the process of writing a song. Well, at least, how it's made it easier. Well maybe not easier but more convenient.

You see in the past if I happened to be roaming around the place, as one often does, if I suddenly had a great song idea (well at least I might think it was great at the time) depending on where I was there often wasn't a lot I could do in order to make sure I somehow recorded the idea before it ran away to never be seen again. I'll point out at this point that my memory is so bad that, for example, in the time it takes me to walk from the upstairs level of my house to the downstairs level, I will often have forgotten why I needed to go downstairs in the first place. I'll then walk upstairs again. I might then be prompted to remember the reason I went downstairs and so begin the descent again only to get down there and realise I've once again completely forgotten why I was down there. I would then go upstairs again and be prompted to remember the reason I went downstairs in the first place and so then head downstairs again. Chances are I would have forgotten again... Look I'll stop but you get the idea. I've wasted a lot of time going up and down the stairs in my house. Now I've forgotten what I was talking about. Oh yeah, so when I would get a song idea when I wasn't near a guitar or tape recorder (yeah they still exist) I had a couple of options:

(1) The repeat technique. This technique would involve me singing the melodic idea relentlessly until I was able to pick up a guitar and had access to a tape recorder. As you can probably imagine this technique has serious inherent flaws right from the get go. I'll point out a couple. (a) It's not uncommon for an idea to happen when you're around other people, and when you start singing suddenly in public people think you're weird. (b) Oftentimes an idea can happen when you're a significant distance away from a guitar and tape recorder. In this situation it becomes difficult to repeat a 20 sec melody for more than 30 minutes. (c) Any melodic interference from other sources (eg radio) will flummox this technique as confusion can ensue and suddenly you find yourself singing a weird combination of your idea and the song you just heard. (d) Even if you successfully manage to sing the melodic idea repeatedly for the time required to reach a tape recorder, 9 out of 10 times the idea will be crap and you can end up hating yourself for wasting 45 minutes singing a crap tune.

(2) The voicemail technique. This technique would involve me calling my own phone number and leaving a message. Once again, serious flaws. (a) People think you're weird singing a random tune into a phone. They think you're more weird when you try to explain that you're not singing to anyone you're just leaving yourself a voicemail. (b) Voicemail sound quality isn't exactly awesome. Most times you'll listen back and be unable to decipher anything. (c) Calling your voicemail 30 times to get the gist of a song is f*#king expensive!!

That's just for melodic ideas. When I had ideas for lyrics in the past I would find that I always seemed to be without an easy way to write them down. By the amount of stuff you see written on the doors of public toilets you wouldn't be stupid to think that everyone seems to carry around pens. Well that's everyone except me! I never have a pen when I need one. Well, almost never. And then you need paper, or at least something to write on. An arm does work but it becomes awkward when the second verse finishes behind your tricep. You also have the cliched napkin option but I always leave them in my pockets and they go through the wash and that's your lyrics gone right there as well as a whole washing load full of napkin pieces.

This all seems very dramatic doesn't it? I suppose what I'm trying to say is that when you get an idea for a song you're rarely in the appropriate situation and surrounds to quickly get that idea written down, recorded and remembered. That used to be the case anyway.

Enter the iPhone. I downloaded a free application where you can record in high quality .aiff format with the built in microphone or an external one. Press one button and you're away. You can then transfer all the recorded files to your computer quickly and easily. The sound is surprisingly good using just the built in microphone. I'm never going to forget a melodic idea again. Then there's the notes application. When lyrics come to mind it's as easy as typing it out in the notes section. Hit save and that's it. Never forget a lyric again. I suppose these things by themselves don't seem that extraordinary. It's extraordinary because all this stuff is built into my phone. And my phone is one of 3 things (the other two are my wallet and keys) that I never leave the house without.

Remembering a song has never been easier. And for me that's a big plus. Sure you don't have the nostalgia of a little tape recorder and hundreds of napkins with words written on the back. But I've been there and done that. Time to move on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Just Want More Time

Does anyone else ever wish they had more time to do things? By the way that was a rhetorical question. Everyone I know wishes they had more time.

Anyway I do. Today I've been trying to do a million things and yet I feel like I've done nothing. I know your probable retort to that would be "Just concentrate on one thing at a time". Ah of course, focus. And yeah I agree that's probably a good idea but all this logic seems to fall over when I'm trying to write songs.

You see for most tasks you can set a goal to be achieved, allot a specific amount of time to achieve it and then get it done, tick the box and move on. I don't know whether I'm a useless songwriter or whatever but setting goals and time constraints doesn't work. So you can't just say, "Right, let's bust out a song in the next 2 hours and then move on to the 36 emails I need to respond to".

I guess what I'm saying is that 1 of 2 things would be awesome: a slowing down of the space time continnuum; or someone who can do all that other shit for me. Actually there's a third: both. Wait maybe a fourth: songs that write themselves. No that last one was stupid - that's the best part. Let's leave it at option 3 and be done.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Andrew Back On Home Soil

A little while ago if you remember we sent Andrew off to the US of A to fly The Quills flag, so to speak, over there. Well he's been and this week he touched back down on home turf. Apparently he was gone for like 4 weeks but it didn't feel like it. And on that point I can't believe Easter's here already and nearly gone as well!

In typical loose Andrew fashion he didn't book any accommodation before he left and for that matter didn't book any accommodation while he was there. Instead he spent the best part of 4 weeks sleeping on one person's floor and then another person's couch and then on a patch of carpet in someone's home studio between an amp and a drum kit. It worked out well for him (and us I guess) because along the way he met some very cool people. I believe that as I write this he's having a chat with John about everything he managed to do over there. I'm pretty blurry on details but when I get given some information about our plans for the next six months I will gladly share. One thing that's for sure though is that we'll be producing a new record inside the next few months. How good!!

If he's over being jet lagged he might annotate this blog with some more details. But he might not so don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile back in Oz I was continuing the search for a good melody, and decided to take a different approach for a while. Last time it was about sounds, and before that I was arranging a little more during the writing process. For the last little while I've been pretty much opting to go as basic as possible - acoustic guitar, voice, MacBook built in microphone. When there's nothing other than a chord progression and melody you have to work hard to make that melody count. But what you realise is that there's a lot more built into such a simple arrangement than you might think. Chord progressions by themselves have so much natural rhythm and sometimes it's that rhythm that really makes the song. So my focus turned to rhythm and time signatures. I experimented with a few different time signatures but I'm not sure how they'll come out in the wash. 3/4 can be cool but at the same time it can be really boring. You have to be careful. So we'll see whether any of those experiments make it to the finish line.

On an unrelated note I spoiled myself to a few gig outings over the past couple of weeks. Click here to read about them. Sometimes there's nothing better than hearing a band you really like playing a really awesome set. And it does wonders for motivation.

Hope you had a great Easter!!!