My first composition for 2007. Actually it was composed on 30th Dec, but I completed this on 1 Jan 2007. Had plenty of time over the super-duper long weekend/ holidays. It’s titled “Walk On Air”, to mean “In a state of extreme happiness”. It sounds like a happy song, so I thought the title matches.
(chorus) D/ A/ Em/ G
D/ G (x3)
A/ Em/ D
A/ G/ D
(break) Em/ D/ A
This song wasn’t really planned. I was strumming some chords with the Guitar plugged into GarageBand. Came upon the “D/ A/ Em/ G” chord combination and it sounded like a chorus in my head. Decided to record it to see how it turns out, and one thing lead to another… the whole song took me 3 sessions over 3 days.
How it was done
Session #1 – (Dec 30th 2006)
1.1) After recording the test track (i.e. strumming of the chords), I tried to fix a tempo/ Beat Per Second (BPS). As per my normal practice, I’d play the Shaker or Percussion loops in GarageBand and adjust the BPS setting. For this song, I settled on 85 BPS.
1.2) I re-recorded the rhythm portion with the chosen percussion loop (in this case, I chose “Tambourine 7”, and a “Tambourine 3” for minor variation leading to the chorus). Then I looked for a drum beat. I found the “Funky Pop Drum 9” suitable at that BPS setting. I also added a “World Conga” loop just for fun, which sounded quite right so I used it to add variation to the chorus.
1.3) Next part was experimenting and recording/ re-recording the rhythm parts. At this stage, there wasn’t really a sequence yet. I just recorded them in parts and saved it for editing and arrangement later. At this point, I took a break.
Session #2 (Dec 31st, 2006)
2.1) This session involved the recording of the melodies and lead parts. Same process as in 1.3, where I just recorded the melody/ lead tracks for the saved rhythm sections. I didn’t aim for a “complete” song this time round, as I was really experimenting and trying to surprise myself with what I’d come up with.
2.2) Finally, after a few hours of recording the separate parts, I started to do an initial arrangement. By “arrangement”, I meant copying and pasting the recorded parts around, and hearing how it flows. I tend to follow the usual pop-rock sequence of “Stanza/ Chorus/ Stanza/ Chorus/ Break/ Chorus”, and just vary a bit here and there (e.g. start with Chorus part first).
2.3) After editing, the overall song started taking shape. After arranging the percussion parts (e.g. use the same type for rhythm/ lead sections), it sounded quite decent. Surprisingly, I had about 90% of the song complete. I converted it to a MP4 to hear how it would sound in iTunes. I decided it only needed minor adjustments to the ending tambourine, and to record a melody/ lead for the break section. I was happy with the guitar effect settings from past recordings, so I didn’t spend time trying to get that “perfect sound”. Thus ended Session #2.
Session #3 (Jan 1st 2007)
3.1) In this final session I recorded the last guitar part for the break section, and spent the rest of the time doing sound level adjustments. I think Sound Engineering is the hardest if you’re a perfectionist. The goal was to make the sound levels consistent throughout the song, i.e. keep the sound bar to the maximum of the green bar (beyond that was ‘yellow’ — which is still OK; hitting ‘orange’ meant you’d better watch it; ‘red’ meant it may sound distorted when you play it).
3.2) For this song, the problem sections were those where I had 5 to 6 layers of guitar tracks (see image). I’ve since learnt that it’s more efficient to adjust the percussion down first, and also to mute individual tracks to isolate which track was causing the level to jump. But in the end, I didn’t have patience to get the perfect level. Some parts still ‘red-lined’. I decided to just live with it, since it didn’t sound too distorted when I played the MP4 file in iTunes (with earphones). That’s the end of Session #3.
Next, I’ll work in a music video for this! For now, enjoy this track!