Brilliant!

So we may have a brilliant idea.

When I say we in this case I am speaking of my daughter and I. She’s 13 and is my window on the world of young people. I really find that I’m somewhat oblivious to the world as seen by younger people. Sure I understand that there’s this internet thing and that people communicate with their thumbs but I’m pretty unaware of a lot of networking sites. Plus, the whole process of how kids discover things like music and comedy is new to me.

So she told me I should have a Vlog. I said that I had one until she explained the V at the beginning of the word. I’ve been reluctant to try and commit to weekly anything; I just don’t seem to have the productivity. However, when she explained that it didn’t have to be long, it didn’t always need to be scripted that we just needed our own hook a germ of an idea came.

My most recent song is about the “Bohemian Waxwing”, a bird which can live in very Northern Climes. It has been spending more and more of the year in Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Well, this year there has been a fairly temperate winter so far which has created a lot of freeze and thaw cycles. This has caused some of the small berries left on trees to start the fermentation process and the birds are getting drunk. Comedy gold! I put it to a Celtic Beat and debuted it at Soundcheck last week. Went over pretty well.

So here’s the plan. The hook is my beloved red plastic trombone. Somehow I’m going to find a way to play this in every video, even if it’s just the lead in to whatever bit I have planned. We’re going to call it “Red Plastic Trombone Theatre”. I hope to have the first one up this week and then make it a weekly event. I have a small puppet theatre that my father built for the kids years ago which I’ll use as a backdrop. And use for puppet shows of course!pbone

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Soundcheck at the Neat

I host a monthly Open Mike at the Neat Cafe in Burnstown, Ontario. It’s been a lot of fun and a good opportunity to try out new material. We try to have a consistent night that being the last Wednesday of the month. However, sometimes we have to reschedule it if the Neat has other commitments. Or if we want to try a different night to see if the numbers change.

And then some months we screw up. Like this month!

So we knew that the Neat had a show already booked on the last Wednesday of the month and the following Thursday so we had to do it sooner. The Neat had put the 20th of November on their website so all was good; except that I got it in my head that it was wrong and we were doing it on the Wednesday (19th). So I’ve been telling people and changing my schedule and putting it on facebook and I’m completely wrong. So I’m trying to retract things today.

At least I didn’t have to retract something I said about Jian …

I Woke Up Country

This morning I woke up country. Every song idea I’ve had has come out country. Funny thing when one gets in a country spirit, almost everything seems like it could be a country song. Like, “I Woke Up Country”. Wonder if that’s already a song. I just went on google and haven’t found anything yet. Lot of , “Woke up this morning” though that seems more like the blues.

How about:

This morning, I woke up country

Woke up with country music in my soul

This morning, I woke up country

But I hope to go to bed with Rock and Roll

update 

I was going to add an mp3 file with the tune in my head. I didn’t realize that with the free version of wordpress I can only upload visual content; no audio or video. I may have to rethink this. I do have a website mikemccormick.ca which is currently under construction but I was just going to link to the blog. Now I must admit I am rethinking this as I can use wordpress on my site. Hmmmm

Building the Website

So I now have the website mikemccormick.ca moved to a new host. I’m using this experience as an opportunity to try and make the site better and more useful for all. My first site used WordPress to make the whole thing. I must admit, it was really simple to make a site that at least worked. I never did much to customize it yet it looked pretty good. It didn’t look good on mobile devices and it always had the blog stuff on each page. But it worked.

I have a few choices for the new site. They have WordPress but you know what, we must move forward! Charge! So I’m looking at things called Drupal and Joomla. Gotta love these names. Drupal sound like Drooper who was one of the Banana Splits so I’m tempted to go with it but from my little bit of reading, Joomla is simpler to use and is better at scaling for mobile devices. Joomla was not one of the Banana Splits.

Maybe he could have replaced Bingo or Fleaglebananasplits

Demos

I’m never sure when and whether or not it’s worth making a demo of a song. When I’m writing songs for the Worms, we just play them for each other when we have a gig or a recording session. I don’t pitch songs to other artists or to record companies. So there’s no real practical purpose at this point.

However, I do find that recording the song really crystallizes where it’s at. By recording it you are forced to decided how to get in and out of the song and what to do in between verses and choruses. As well when you hear your own song you can sometimes get a better sense of where the holes are and what needs to be fixed.

So the tradeoff I find is between how quickly you want to make the demo and how good you want it to be. I’ve tried a bunch of different methods which I’ll go through here with some examples of a recent song.

Using a smartphone

I have an Iphone so the apps I use are obviously for it.

VRPVoiceRecorder

There are plenty of basic recording apps; the one I use is called VRP 7. It’s free, it allows a variety of recording quality and it’s pretty simple to either transfer the file to your computer or to Google Drive to listen to it elsewhere. The limitation is that you can’t do too much to the file afterwards through the app and that you are limited to the sound quality of the phone’s microphone. But it’s really quick and easy

GigBaby Gigbaby_Small_Icon

GigBaby is a great app and probably the best 99 cents I’ve spent on the app store. It’s a 4 track recorder for iphone that has a variety of built in drum patterns that you can use. So basically, you select a drum pattern, fix the tempo (either by writing it in or tapping the beat), pick a track and go. You can sing one one track, play guitar on another, maybe add a harmony track or drop spoons on the floor (rhythmically of course). If you buy a gizmo like the Irig you can plug an instrument right in while still hearing what’s recorded.

The sound quality is again limited to the quality of the phone microphone but this is a really easy way to hear a song more fleshed out with either instruments or harmonies. I’ve used it to try and arrange a couple a capella tunes and it’s worked great. If you want the song to have different tempos you can go without a rhythm track, otherwise I don’t know of any way to change in the middle of a song.

garagebandGarageBand (Ipad)

My spouse or equivalent (inside joke between me and her) has an Ipad. I’m too cheap; I might get an android tablet on Black Friday or Cyber Monday! I digress. Garageband I believe started as a program for Apple computers and is now available for Ipad and Iphone. It doesn’t seem to work on my phone; I think it’s one of those things where the latest version of the app needs a smarter phone and the latest iOS which mine isn’t. However, the Ipad app works great and it’s a brilliant program. For drums you can either have it make up a pattern and just happily play away. It has great onboard sounds for keyboards, strings, and the drum sounds are also great. The only limitation sonically is when you try to sing or play an acoustic instrument, then you’re using the Ipad’s microphone which is crap. However, very quickly you can make a pop song sound really good.

I did a song for a curling bonspiel a couple of years ago and wanted it to be a James Brown style funk song. I used GarageBand to make up a backing track and sang live at the event and it worked out great.  I briefly tried to figure out how to get the midi information out of the program

Now you can get all sorts of adaptors and microphones and guitar connectors for Ipad now so that you’re getting a better sound from acoustic instruments. So I guess it’s possible to make studio quality recordings with an Ipad. But I’m not really sure why you’d do it. All of these things make your Ipad stuck in one spot. Kind of like a computer. But without the processor speed and the memory and the disc space. So I’m not really sold on them. But you can make a great demo or a song fairly quickly with this program and have lots of stuff going on.

Hey Folks

I’m going to try this for a while; having the blog separate from the website. That way the website can be more about projects and performances. We’ll see if it makes any sense.

My plan is that this blog will document my songwriting forays. I’ll link to various tunes as they are created and posted. I invite comment and criticism. Songwriting is an art, not everybody likes the same stuff. I write for me first but I always hope that other people will listen. I have several outlets for my songs. I am a member of the Arrogant Worms comedy troupe. Though we don’t perform as much as we once did; we still do shows and our fans seem to want both new and old songs to be part of our shows. I host a monthly Open Mike at the Neat cafe called Soundcheck and try to have at least one new tune ready to perform there.

https://www.facebook.com/SoundcheckAtTheNeat