Song Seedlings and Proto-Rapping

Yo, peeps!

Husband-me-down band hoodie

Husband-me-down band hoodie

So, I’m chillin’ like the illest villain right now (because I’m actually ill), wearing yoga pants and a husband-me-down band hoodie, chewing gum and waiting for the Archer crowd to get home from my Grandad-in-Law’s 80th birthday party (happy birthday, Derek!).

I thought I’d take this rare opportunity of night-time stillness to have a little natter about what’s being going on in my creative sphere of late.

You may have noticed that I’ve started posting little snippets of songs up on my Soundcloud. The aim of making these is to practice my music production skills and to get me out of this self-imposed rut where I need  to be writing and releasing concept albums, deadline: never. It takes the pressure off since they’re just little sketches, and while I might be forming some complex future song in my mind’s eye, to the listener they are quick, fun little ditties that don’t take much effort to digest.

One problem I’ve encountered while doing this is that I’m veering sharply through the electronic genres and towards… *gulp* hip hop. Now, I’m certainly not unhappy about this development, but it has lead me into the very scary territory of learning to rap.

You may have heard some proto-rapping of mine on the Glitter Punch track, Candy Rock Funk. If Matt hadn’t immediately said he liked it when I had first recorded it and shown it to him I doubt I would have even attempted to write any sort of rap-like rhymes ever again. Of course, when I was laying down said rhymes, I like to think I was somehow channeling this ‘Sister Sparkle’ persona we made for me. But how do I learn to rap as ‘normal’ me..?

Tonight I’ve been mumbling along to yesterday’s Beta Male Beat. I have written lyrics for it (a few lines off finishing!), but I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to record what I’ve written – let alone post it publicly!

 

In fact, I wonder where all of my song seedlings are going to lead me in terms of stretching myself as a recording artist. There are all sorts of possibilities with sound and delivery that I will need to explore to make these songs flourish.

Oh, and just as an aside, I had quite a lot of interest in my instrumental for Anxiety Trip. This is a track I’m certainly looking forward to recording some vocals for! Just some good, old-fashioned singing this time around, of course…

Fairwell, sound-listeners!

My Little Studio Tour & Inspiration Board 2013

Hello all! I’ve left it a long time again, haven’t I?

Today I’ve been busy changing various bits on my official website, CarylArcher.com, namely my once disparate Discography that now has some semblance of order.

My Little Studio

Did I tell you? I’ve finished decorating my home studio, so now I have places for my many projects and supplies as well as space to record vocals and instruments. It’s a cosy little place and I enjoy spending time there. So much so, I might be inviting a certain friend of mine to help me with a song I have planned…

Take a gander!

Inspiration Board 2013: Reminder of the Endless Possibilities

I’m aware that is it now April and I still haven’t made an entry about my 2013 Inspiration Board. I’ve had it hanging there since early March, but have neglected to say much about it.

This year’s Board is much simpler in composition than my last, and more conceptual. It’s not about telling myself to do or do not. Rather, this board is designed to remind me of all the exciting possibilities art and music have to offer and all the exciting options I could explore if I would only START down a path.

Inspiration Board 2013

Reminder of the Endless Possibilities

It’s nice to finally have some confidence back about my work. I have enough now to actually function. This is down, in no small part, to the fact I’m finally doing something about my mental health. I’ve been on medication for moderate to severe depression for a few months now and things are getting better every week. I have the occasional bout of heavy fatigue, but far fewer thoughts of self-loathing or the longing to ‘disappear’, or worse…

While I read my old blog entries I’m struck by how obvious a diagnosis it would have been to say I had depression. I tried all sorts to jolt myself out of it, but at the end of the day, I simply didn’t have the power to make myself better. My brain and my body were at odds. No amount of will power or gritted teeth would solve the problem.

I’m much more relaxed these days. I can feel confidence and creativity creeping back into my system. There is light at the end of my eight year tunnel. No coincidence, is it? – that I should suffer from depression for eight years, and all the while have terrible trouble releasing music I was proud of, or indeed releasing music at all.

That time is coming to a close now. 2013 is a year of newness in many aspects of my life, not least my music.

I’ll be making my comeback very soon. Watch this space!

Inspiration Board Detail

Time to START

The Obligatory ‘I’m not dead’ Entry

It feels like an age since I last posted! It’s actually just a bit more than a month, but in blogging-years, that’s rather a lot.

I’ve been busy with many things including moving into our new house, recording prize songs from the Mirrorball Swing Photo competition and writing/recording new material for The Punch. I’ve also taken a part-time job working for Kumori as an admin assistant. This means spending money for new musical ventures! But it also means a bit less time for social media presence… I’m working on restoring the balance. Bear with me!

 

New Desk

My new workstation. Complete with pony, of course.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a gig in Birmingham. I went to see Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. I’m currently trying to upload the footage I took to YouTube, but given our thin sliver of bandwidth, it has so far taken about four hours to get to 64%.

Hopefully we’ll get a full connection sorted midway through November (that was the most recent estimated date…). I’m looking forward to being able to work online on my own computer and at my own desk once more. I’m tired of having to save vocal files to the external hard drive before making several attempts to sync them to Dropbox on Dave’s Mac in that one corner of the house that receives the signal of the open network…

In other news, I am very near completing a new solo release. I will give you more details when the time is right. I will be glad to fulfil one of my older musical promises…

NEW PREVIEW // Stiletto Stamina

This week it was my turn to show you what I’ve been working on EP-wise for Glitter Punch Project. Today’s preview is my rendition of the first track we wrote together, Stiletto Stamina.

I can’t say I liked the pressure of being producer… I’ve done recording for years and years, but the whole mixing and mastering thing is beyond me. For me it is the higher art form. I know a ton of people who can play, and play very well, but getting a recording to sound good? It’s a much rarer skill and I marvel at it. Thankfully Matt did the last bit for me and gave it a nice shiny finish.

That said, I did enjoy the process of recording. I used my new microphone to capture the sounds of me thumping and tapping the body of my guitar to mimic kick and snare sounds. It was also amazing at capturing a really rich strumming sound. So good for acoustic music!

I must apologise to Matt. I only got my side finished last thing Friday night and he had to work today… So it was a bit of a rush getting the video together. Sorry, man! I’ll totally make up for it. Probably with Pocky. Or maybe even pancakes.

So, I guess you want to hear it then? Share it if you love it!

Synthesis and Synergy

A Welcome Addition

There are no words...

Look at that thing. Just look at it.

Do you know what this little piece of kit means for me? Allow me to describe…

For many years now I have been attempting to record, arrange and produce my own songs, and throughout that time I have come to roadblock after roadblock.

I first started recording tracks when I was 18. I had a headset microphone that I used to record everything: vocals, guitar, bass… My microphone technique extended to ‘not overloading the mic’, and I suppose that was all I needed to know at the time. I also liked to pilfer drum samples from various sources on the internet, some with terribly low bit rates, but I could barely tell the difference between a 128kbps MP3 and a .wav file. Such young ears!

Not long before the start of my ‘YouTube era’ I made use of a cheap dynamic microphone (bought cautiously with student loan!) that I had to plug directly into my PC using a 1/4 inch jack to mini jack adapter. It made for an unpredictable sound. It wasn’t a very stable connection so if I shuffled too much it’d come out in the recording as big old spikes of static.  I’m not even sure if it improved a great deal on the range of frequencies I had with the headset mic, but it was progress.

It took me some time to work out that my ears weren’t very discerning. I thought EQ-ing was just a case of boosting the last two ‘faders’ on my audio editing software and leaving it at that. Granted, that was probably a reasonably good option considering my lack of high frequencies… But I didn’t really understand the art of it. And then once I did, I found my tools to be frustratingly limited. Some evenings I would listen so hard to a mix, trying to work out how to reach my sonic ideal, but feeling as though I had become deaf to music and hearing only noise.

With that ‘deafness’ I felt the desire to grant myself the title ‘producer’ was far too lofty an ambition. I figured I just didn’t have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ was. The Golden Ear, the genius of sonic craft. I would listen to mixes created by my ever so talented musician friends and felt like banging my head against my laptop keyboard. What was I doing wrong? I read up on production techniques online, and although I was then equipped to shave off tiny parts of the rock I was trying to sculpt, it really did feel like I was doing so with a butter knife rather than a hammer and chisel.

And then, equally as suddenly as my journey to that point had been gradual, my circumstances changed. My husband, lovely and supportive as he is, bought me a mixing desk for Christmas 2010 (not to mention a sustain pedal for my keyboard!). It meant I didn’t have to plug my mic into my poor laptop any more… and the sound was so much clearer than it had been, but I still felt frustrated.

I still needed one more thing: a new microphone. A good microphone. One designed to pick up the subtleties of the voice and the tiniest pattering of the fingers on the body of an acoustic guitar. I wanted my mixes to sound the way my ears hear. I wanted to capture the music of the natural and the ordinary in all its shimmering detail and guttural rumblings. There was just so much beauty in sound, but I had no means to chase it down and tame it.

But today? Today I have claimed my prize. Three prizes, to be precise. Household budget now factors in my terribly expensive career choice (hobby..? obsession..?). I got a new XLR lead (F to M this time, as opposed to ending in a jack), a shock mount, and to go with it the most beautiful piece of equipment I’ve probably ever owned: a condenser mic. One manufactured for the main purpose of recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and the overhead sounds of a drum kit (not that I think I’ll be using it for the last one…).

I tried it out this afternoon, just messing about with some guitar bits and humming a little, and it seemed to intuitively know which sounds I wanted it to pick up and which ones I’d rather it sweep under the recording rug. I still needed to fiddle with the EQ afterwards since I haven’t worked out the best positioning, but the response I got out of the recording when I did was incredible.

I’ve decided it must be alive, and it likes me. It is my pet mic-ie and I love it. I shall name it.

I’m calling it Patience.