C/ G/ F
Am/ F/ C/ G
1) Decide on a Beat-Per-Second. I experimented with settings of 70, 75, 80 and 85. The one that sounded right was 80.
2) Chose a GarageBand drum loop. I didn’t want anything fancy, but not too “Pop” sounding either. Final choice was with a “Thickened Drums” setting (under the Instrument panel: Real Instrument –> Drums –> Thickened Drums)
3) After a few practice runs on my MIDI keyboard, I recorded the first part of the piano track using the GarageBand software track (“Grand Piano” setting). I played with the drum loop to keep in tempo. Later I edited out the drum loop for the first stanza.
4) I made two other attempts but decided that the first version sounded best. Aligned them to 1/16 notes (under the Edit pane). That’s how my notes all sound in beat (thanks to GarageBand!)
5) Added a software track — “Lunar Strings” — and played around with a few accompanying notes. Sounded quite alright, so I left the recording as it was. Then added another software track — “Synth Pads –> Floating Embers” (I liked how this gave a “new age” effect).
6) Came up with the Am/ G/ C/ G chords as I thought about recording the second piano part. The chords sounded OK so I recorded them. Then added another track to play accompanying notes (when layered together, they make me sound like I can play the piano well, but that’s just editing, heh).
7) Decided the second piano part needed a stronger accompaniment. Recorded the “Choral” sounds as a ‘Live’ instrument (keyboard to the Mac). I had to use a high Gate setting, and set the equaliser pre-set to “Reduce S”. Recorded two choral tracks.
8 ) The cymbals at the end of the second piano part was recorded as a software track (Rock Kit).
9) Added some incidental notes using the Floating Ember synth to fade off the second piano part. Then recorded a final closing piano piece (edited out about two-thirds of what I recorded for the piano, as it was too draggy).
10) Sound engineering: I found that MIDI recordings tended to be quite soft. To boost the volumes, I copied and repeated the original piano tracks (that’s why you see 3 identical layers for the first piano part). Also raised the individual levels and the master volume. Fine-tuned the volume by playing and monitoring the red-line. This took quite a bit of time, as always.