Posts Tagged ‘guitar’

I’m On My Way Home…

Ok, so I’ve been kept from blogging this week, and I’ve actually taken the chance to avoid recording anything too. Yeah, how stupid is that. I haven’t done much musically these days except for learning a bunch of songs on guitar. I’m teaching myself to play fingerpicking acoustic guitar. Youtube has been of much help, as there are plenty of great musicians who post videos of their playing there. You can just do a search on a song you want to learn, and up comes a demo of it.

So far I’ve learned a bunch of Beatles, Beach Boys and some good old bossa nova. I’ve also taken the time to learn a bunch of Prefab Sprout songs by ear. Not as hard as I expected, especially if you tune your guitar down a half-step in many cases.

As an update to my laptop situation, I’ve sent it to the shop, and I should get it back next Wednesday. I’ll try and post a new song the day I get it back. In case anyone’s wondering, it cost me about R$650 which is about $400. Ouch. I could have bought a new guitar or something with that money. Or a bunch of books and records. Oh, well…

100 reais bill

So You Wanna Be a Rock’n’Roll Star

*Disclaimer*

Before we continue my songwriting saga, I must first warn you that I’m not and I don’t pretend to be a master songwriter. I’m still learning, and constantly trying to improve. What I’m trying to do here is to share what I have learned already from experience, and hope that it will be useful to someone.

*End of disclaimer*

So here we go.

If you want to be a songwriter, you need to learn how to play at least one instrument to accompany yourself, especially if you have aspirations as a singer/songwriter kind of artist.

I suggest you learn both the guitar AND the piano. Although any instrument with polyphonic capability that you can play and sing at the same time will do.

I picked the guitar first, since I was a big rock fan, and it looked much cooler than sitting behind the piano like a dork (or so I thought at the time – I was a teenager, for Chrissake).

Later I decided I needed to learn how to play at least some piano in order to make my life easier, as I usually record a bunch of tracks using midi on my computer. I came to like it a lot, though, even if I still suck at it.

I’d have done it the other way around if I could go back now, and if a piano wasn’t so expensive.

I found it MUCH easier to learn the piano than the guitar, maybe because I’d been making music for many years already. Your mileage may vary, of course.

From the point of view of someone who is not naturally musically gifted, one huge advantage of piano and keyboards in general to me is that you can just press the keys, and they will make a sound. No need to grow callouses or get your left hand (if you’re right-handed) much stronger than your right one. You can play with only one hand, dammit. 😉

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like your dad here, learning the piano first is what I think would have been much better for myself. I’d probably have been forced to learn music notation if I had learned the piano first (I only learned it a few years ago), because you don’t NEED any of that formal stuff to play the electric geetar, do ya? You don’t need it to play pop music, it’s true, but it’s VERY useful.

Ok, so you have a guitar or a piano, a teacher or a good book (I personally like the ones that come with CDs) , now you can start learning how to play.

I’ll see you back in six months.

…fast forward to six months from now…

Now that you have some basic skills on an instrument, you can start writing your own songs. Of course you can write songs without having any music knowledge whatsoever, you just have to do it. It’s just much easier if you can play something. That being said, there have been singers/songwriters who didn’t and don’t play any instruments, like Morrissey, for example.

If you intend to sing your own material, you might need some singing training, since not everyone is American Idol material. If you think that you do need it, the best option is to hire a coach. If you can’t afford it, you may try, again, getting a book, preferrably with a CD. The only one I have is this. I can’t compare it to any others, because it’s the only one I have. It did help me a lot, and I wish I’d bought it 10 years earlier. I still have a long way to go to be a good singer, but I’m getting decent at it at least.

Again, taking singing lessons is not mandatory at all, you can do whatever you want as long as you write your damn songs, I’m just trying to make your life easier (or harder, depending on your point of view), just like your dad would.

Since I’m playing this whole songwriting series by ear, I’ve written two posts already, but they’re in reverse order. Now that you have some basic music knowledge, you can go back to last week’s post, and see how I write my own stuff. Maybe there’s something that can be useful to you.

Next week I’ll discuss topics like basic song structure and chord progressions. I’ll even get to the fun part of dissecting specific songs so you can see what each part actually is and what makes some songs work, in my opinion, at least.

Now back to the weekly song post. This time I’m uploading a song that’s going to be on my next single, coming out next May 1st on Cloudberry Records. This is not the actual single version, I still need to finish recording some bits and mixing it. But it’s at least halfway there. I’d love for you to comment on it, and on this whole songwriting business.

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Laughing and Crying

New song

Not actually new, as I recorded it a couple of years ago. But this one has actually never been floating on the internet, like other songs of mine have been.

This particular song evokes feelings of both accomplishment and failure. I’ll explain: for those of you who are musicians, and have worked with midi, you know what it’s like to work with a sequencer, and program backing tracks on a computer with some sort of midi controller (usually a keyboard). There are many ways to do it. You can put the software on “record”, and play the track as you want to hear it or you can go “step by step”, taking passes, recording each part in different runs.

Or you can do as I did, with NO midi controller, CLICKING your way through each note in a track, and playing it multiple times until it does what you want it to do. This track was ALL done like that, drums and keyboards. The only instruments I actually played were guitar and bass. It was just arranged like that, through mouse-click. I hope everyone who listens to this track can appreciate the hard work that went into it.

As I said, I feel a great sense of accomplishment in the fact that I managed to finish it using that “procedure”, and it still turned out great.

The failure is in the fact that I never could come up with vocals for it. I tried a bunch of stuff, different lyrics, different melodies, ba da bas, pa pa pas, everything, but nothing added to it. I decided to make it an instrumental, and I think it works great that way, but I believe sometimes it takes another musician to appreciate that, and I’d go as far as make a bet that many people reading this will actually go away WITHOUT listening to the track because I just made the mistake to say it’s an instrumental.

So, everyone, please DO listen to it (you’ll see I’m using a lot of UPPER case in this post to get my point accross) . For those who are not Postal Blue fans, you can go ahead, and listen because it sounds nothing like PB. It’s actually a snappy new wave synth-driven tune. For those who are Postal Blue fans, you can indulge me (I’m your pop icon, remember that), and give it a try. Let me know what you think of it, and don’t mind the very loud keyboard part in the ending. I still haven’t come around to fixing the mix, but I will before and if I decide to release this one.

Without further ado, I give you:

Two

The Guilty Pleasure of Cheap Gear

Maybe someone should use that as a band name.

So I was planning on laying down some tracks yesterday, but when I actually started recording, I felt like adding some acoustic guitar to a song. It immediately hit me that I don’t actually own an acoustic, except for a nylon-stringed, of course. I’m Brazilian, guys, in every Brazilian household you can find three things: a tv set, a soccer ball, a nylon-stringed guitar.

Anyway, long story short, I went out and got myself a cheapo Chinese-made guitar, and it got me thinking how much easier life is for kids these days. Except for Chinese kids, I hear someone say. Yes, I know it’s a moral dilemma, it’s probably as bad as buying Nike shoes. Or eating meat.

Yet, where would I be without all the cheap gear? I have Chinese microfones, Korean guitars, Japanese soundcards. Yes, I also own American-made stuff, but that’s far and few inbetween. And I’m not alone in this, as there are plenty of other musicians all over the World who would have a much harder time making music if not for the fact that somewhere in China there’s a kid in a sweat shop cranking out cheap guitar after cheap guitar. Or cheap microfone after cheap microfone. Or — you get the idea.

To sum it all up, I’d never have released a single record if not for borderline slave labor. I feel guilty, of course, and yet I went out yesterday, and got myself yet another piece of cheap gear made in China. What does that make me?

You’re invited to participate!

Postal Blue live at the Teatro Nacional

Ok, so I have these songs that I’ve been wanting to get out there in CD format. They’re really great, the best I have ever done (one of them is available for a limited time as a free download in my previous post).

What I’ve just decided that I’m going to do is post one song here every week, and let people choose the best among them for my next CD. I’d really appreciate it if you took the time to leave a comment on each song.

Important: these are demo recordings. I’m going to thouroughly re-record and improve them for the release. I’m going to make these demos available as a podcast later, for those who miss the chance to download.

Later I’ll be posting more about my future plans, including how I’m going to be able to find time to actually record these songs and other new ones in the very little available time I have.

Blog Schmog

live postal blue actionOh no, another blog. Just what we needed. And from a wannabe tunesmith, to make it worse.

That’s right folks. I’ve finally caved in, and started a blog. The guy who’s spent years badmouthing every new internet trend, from friendster to myspace to orkut to blogs. I’m going to try and use this space as a direct line of communication with anyone who likes good pop music, especially those who like MY music (I know you’re out there). I’d also like to talk about other stuff that I’m interested in, if you allow me, like painting, literature, video games, guitars, recording etc.

Updates will be made frequently, meaning, as frequently as I can, though I won’t promise anything. I only promise there will some interesting and useful bits of information everytime I post, like what I ate for breakfast or my grocery shopping list.

I’m going to write about music mostly, so those who suffer from tunnel vision can just relax. No music reviews, though. Ok, maybe a review here and there, which I’m sure I will regret, since many people are probably going to be pissed off at what I’ll say, as it so often happens. I feel like Larry David sometimes. Or Basil Fawlty.

If you’re a musician, you’re especially going to like it here, because I like to talk about songwriting and recording a lot. Oh, and the always entertaining and amusing music business rants. They’re going to be frequent, yes.

Last but not least, for those who like my music, I’m planning to upload songs on an irregular basis. Like every so whenever the hell I want. I feel like doing it now, so here goes a previously unreleased song I did a while ago. It’s definitely going to be on my upcoming solo album, which is going to be released by someone I still haven’t met under a band name I have yet to chose. Feel free to chime in, and let me know how you feel about it. I’m accepting band name suggestions. If you have any questions about the recording or whatever, I’ll answer them here or in the next post.

For You