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M57

Touchdown Into Grey (May 2017 Update)

66 posts in this topic

Hey everyone.  Was looking at the original post and this has been a work in progress since Jan 1, '16

 

  • Finally got around to finishing the lead guitar work

 

 

 

 

Something’s wrong I feel the tension,

The conversation paused at the mention of the flight;

Kettle’s on and off the stove;

Try to warm the hearth, but my hands keep busy packing clothes;

Dreams are bigger than this house

Even as it turns into a home;

Chances are one of these times I’ll take wing

And lose everything I own.

 

My right is wrong, your wrong is right

We can argue ontological points all through the night

Ask the rising sun to play

As if it it keeps the truth and can tell us what to say.

Tonight I’ll try eyes open wide

Knowing things can’t ever be the same

I know above the clouds the stars always shine.

And that’s why I’ll board that plane

 

Chorus:

Captain fly us around the storm

Your church’s engines are running oiled and up to form.

When hopes are up - the gears come down                              

Brace for impact - alarms should sound

But I don’t believe what your prophets say

I look down and can’t see a runway

Touchdown into grey.

 

Aversion to inequity, from up here it’s not so hard to be a renegade                            

I’ll call my friends and a couple markers

Another port, another departure and memories fade

No one knows where the hell I’m going

but some of you think you know where I’m going to

You can place your bets, I’m leaving here for the last time

to destinations with a hue

green and blue

 

Chorus Last X:

There’s no one place where night meets day

Touchdown into grey.

 
Edited by M57
Sound Cloud update
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I really like the tune.  I thought though it took way too long to get to the chorus.  I would have preferred hitting the chorus after the first verse.  The piano is great but there appears to be a slight timing issue right as you hit the chorus.  Love the green and blue part.  I think the lyrics are brilliant.  Nice job.

Dave

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24 minutes ago, GocartMoz said:

I really like the tune.  I thought though it took way too long to get to the chorus.  I would have preferred hitting the chorus after the first verse.  The piano is great but there appears to be a slight timing issue right as you hit the chorus.  Love the green and blue part.  I think the lyrics are brilliant.  Nice job.

Dave

Thanks Dave,

Hah - I tried to pre-empt that comment by editing my post before I read yours, but I didn't do it in time. I can't disagree that bringing the chorus up early is a good idea in pop music, but my mantra is that it has no bearing on what constitutes a good song. And I don't think I'm being snobby about it.  I'm under no illusions. This is a terrible pop tune. Too many chords, too many five syllable words, too many key changes.  I can only hope that the chorus is worth waiting for - and that it is a satisfying song.  That said, I would happily bring in the chorus early, but I had two reasons not to bring it in after the first verse.

  • It doesn't make as much sense lyrically. I'm alluding to the flight, but I'm not on it yet.
  • The tune is would be too long: adding another chorus would probably have it pushing 6 minutes, which is not the end of the world, but the tune just feels long enough as is to me.

Timing issues are because the drummer was playing to a click and having to deal with my in-front-of-the-beat crazy piano playing and over the bar-line, behind the beat singing.  He's just a kid and I think he did an amazing job. I'm working on fixing it.  Flex is an wonderful thing.

-Mark

Edited by M57

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Hey, Mark.  Some further specific observations, below.  In general, I think you may have sang this a bit too close to the mic because I hear some plosive-type issues here and there - though most are subtle - and the vocal EQ seems less crisp in spots like a proximity effect issue.  I also hear a hiss from the vocal mic, though it's subtle.  I don't hear any hiss from the mic-ed piano though, so maybe it's coming from effects on the vocal.  Below where I indicate a note sounds a bit flat to me, I mean a slight flatness that's not stylistic to my ears.

 

Try to warm my heart, but my hands keep busy packing clothes; [sounds a bit flat to me]

Dreams are bigger than this house [sounds a bit flat to me]

Tonight I’ll try eyes open wide  [sounds a bit flat to me]


And that’s why I’ll board that plane [No nit.  Just giving extra kudos for pulling off the whisper so well.]

Chorus:
Your church’s engines are running oiled and up to form. [In 2nd chorus it sounds a bit flat to me]

But I don’t believe what your prophets say [2nd chorus you sing "the prophets" perhaps giving unintended legitimacy to them?]

I look down and can’t see a runway [doesn't really cut through mix in either chorus]

Touchdown into grey. [1st chorus plosive?]

 

Aversion to inequity, from up here it’s not so hard to be a renegade [sounds a bit flat to me]

green and blue [ lead vocal "blue" doesn't cut through with enunciation of the "b - preceding "Hue doesn't cut through very well either]

 

I hear a loud click right before the drums start after "green and blue" - sounds like the drummer though.

I hear a crackle during the final "captain fly us around the storm."

I hear another crackle during the final "alarms should sound."

 

* Of course, I'm be super picky with everything here - just in case it matters to you.  Nothing I mentioned is a major issue for me.

Edited by HoboSage

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Thanks David, Yeah I'm aware of most of the vocal performance issues. Tomorrow some engineer types are coming over with some nice mics for me to shoot out on vocals, and my intention was and is to re-record most if not all of the vocal.  For what's up now, I think I pushed the pre-amp just a bit too hard - I hear distortion in places. But I'll admit I'm finding this is a hard one to sing.  Some of the vowels just sound awkward in certain ranges - like "oiled."  ..I agree that it sounds flat in places.

the Prophet - Good call - I miss-sang it, and figured it didn't matter but now that you mention it..

One thing I'm also painfully aware of are all of the artifacts in the drums where I have cut and pasted performances from different takes.  I haven't gone after the click right after blue and green yet - that's a particularly egregious one.   I've been spending a lot of time flexing the drums to get them in sync and sometimes that produces unintended artifacts.  Working with the Logic drummer is easier, but I just love the sound and feel of a real set - the tonal range that you get from just one piece can be amazing.  You'd never guess from listening, but Andy played this with just two cymbals - a crash and a ride.

Edited by M57

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I do hope you sort out the oiled issue without losing the word oiled.  The chorus is so strong, and that line is so friggin cool.  I myself didn't hear the issue but you feel one is there.  I can sing the vowel differently by pulling my bottom lip in toward my tounge, sounds different, but I don't know if that's what you're hearing.  I personally like how it blends with form.  Don't know how it does that but it does it the same way that churches and engines compliment each other.  The whole line is masterfully written, as is the chorus.

You have another good song in the making.

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I also don't like the try to warm my heart line. Too easy, oddly revealing too much.  It seems out of character.  Something about the failed embrace because my hands keep busy packing clothes. Like, if you were having a conversation using sign language, and couldn't finish saying goodbye because you were too busy packing.  In that context, warming the heart doesn't make sense.

Being ontological, epiphany and divinity work as well. 

Edited by McnaughtonPark

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The intention was to highlight the contrast/tension between hands and heart..   I could just as easily have written..

The coffee warms my hands, but my heart keeps packing clothes.  Any better?

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You could try singing "Your church’s engines are running oiled and up to form" as "Your church's engines oiled, are running up to form."  But personally, I'd use "humming" instead of "oiled" to have a rhyme to "running", and I'd use "true to form" instead of "up to form" to have a true/to rhyme: "With your church's engines humming (and) running true to form."  I'd probably just briefly pause between "humming" and "running" and not use an "and" conjunction.

Edited by HoboSage

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Not bad 

30 minutes ago, HoboSage said:

You could try singing "Your church’s engines are running oiled and up to form" as "Your church's engines oiled (up) (are) running true to form" 

 OR, i could just learn how to sing it..

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Awesome piano and vocals !!! Read the post and I know you really dig the drum sound. However, I believe it's not glued to the tracks and something should be done to fix this. You could try adding some reverb to the drum track or put a small delay on it ... and or maybe add some subtle compression ? 

Love the song.

 

Cheers

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I don't know if that is better.  How about "work to warm my heart, but my hands keep packing clothes"?

I like how whatever comes first in that line is put off by the packing clothes.  The intimacy could come but it always gets interrupted, paused at the mention of the flight.  As the story progresses we learn that he is leaving, so up here in v1the is the setup for that.  Its a good setup IMO.

I guess the line went to the emotions of the scene from the intellectual, and then back to the intellectual.  I can see doing that, trying to meet the other half way.  Its the closest you come to revealing love in the story

For me, the emotional connection for the song comes from the melody.  There's a strong contrast between the melody and the lyric.  

In that may be why I felt the lyric got too close by actually acknowledging the heart.  Almost is if the kettle should be keeping watch over the tempest brewing.  

I can't explain it.  Like Don't McLain's Starry Night kind of emotion

.  .

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I agree with Tom.  I don't think you should say you try to "warm your heart," though my reason is that I don't think that expression really fits in context.  You're having a conversation, the flight is mentioned and the conversation stops.  I'm not sure what it even means to then say you try to warm your heart - how?  It seems to me that what should follow is a line expressing that you want to say something at that point, but you don't; you just keep packing.  So, in my opinion, that's what that line should say.  Something like: "My heart wants to speak, but my hands keep (me) busy packing clothes."  That would also give you a speak/keep rhyme in the line.

Edited by HoboSage

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Dynamically, it may also be useful to hold off rhyming any other word with storm and form.  

Storyline wise, a third verse written in the opposite direction, which is still resolved by the chorus, would give the audience who love happy endings a song of hope. I don't write that way, I'm good with this style of ending.  I just know that it is a powerful tool to be able to have a consistent chorus seem to change and support the verse written before it, although the chorus doesn't change.

The idea of not being able to see the runway but landing anyway can be interpreted as faith in action, or trust.  Those two things are important in a relationship.  That's the setup for the third verse and the payoff of a possible resolution.  

Just a suggestion for audience satisfaction of the story.  I don't have a problem with the storyline as it is.  To me, the ending as you have written it is more realistic.

 

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Great song.

I think the chorus is in exactly the right place, and the two verse lead-in works towards it very well.  

I didn't hear anything wrong with oiled - no change required as far as I am concerned.

Can't wait to hear the updated version.

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Thanks ALL for the thoughts and suggestions.  I just spent the day in the studio with an engineer guest. He was a super nice guy, and spent a lot of time helping me tweak my rig.  We also did some mic shooting.  He brought a couple of nice mics, and we shot that out against my current go-to.  I recorded him playing a tele, on the verses, basically just chords on the downbeats to fill things out.  Bottom line, I haven't gotten around to updating the vocals yet, but that's probably a good thing because you all have given me some really good advice.  I'm going to have to go back and re-read all of your comments.  No doubt I'm going the change the heart line.

Most recent update: I added strings on the choruses ..and the guitar filling out the piano voicings in the verses..  I have a love/hate relationship with virtual instruments, but this feels right.

Edited by M57

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...a truly beautiful song, Mark! Your piano sounds amazing. I love how you manage to keep a solid, straight-forward vocal melody over a relatively complex chord progression. That's hard to do. You did it well, and that really makes the song fun to listen to.

My favorite part was when you first sang "touchdown into grey"...the way it leads out of the chorus...not sure what it is, but I loved how that sounded. I agree with Simon about the drums not being glued to the tracks. I'm not talking about timing, or even the sound of the drums. There's just something off about them that makes it sound like you took a drum track from a different song and then played some piano over it. They just don't sound "blended" into this as one, unified song. I'm a complete doofus in terms of recording tenchnique and technical know-how, so I don't know if it's just a matter of compression or some reverb, or what. It's not a major issue, though.

The lyrics are really well-written. It's nice when you can tell that a song is actually about something...something significant or important. I can't say I know exactly what you're singing about (I can only make some assumptions), but you did a great job of getting the feeling across and the sense of import.

I also think the 1st chorus is just fine where it is. I didnt feel like it needed to hit sooner.

 

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So I'm getting a consistent message that the drums aren't 'glued.'  Can anyone elaborate on that a bit more?   Is it that they aren't sitting in the mix/space? ..or some of the things the drummer plays seem out of place, or distant from the genre? ..or the groove itself is stunted or awkward (I.e. the kick is too far forward on the beat, or the snare is too far behind, etc..)?

Personally, I really like how the tune sounds like something that could have been written in the 70's, but the beat is modern - especially the how the kick and snare shuffle against each other on beat 4 - that's something you'd never hear in the 70's.  At first I wasn't sure, but it has grown on me.

And thanks Jdtate, I've been working hard on getting a good sound out of my piano - shooting out a LOT of mics and mic-pres (real and virtual) and I've even had to change my pedal technique so I don't make as much noise (I never take the pedal to the metal any more).

Edited by M57

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I can't speak for others.  But, one thing that struck me about the drums only because it was a bit unexpected was their sound/tone.  It's hard to describe, but the kick and snare have a "boxed-in" kind of sound that's very much like the kick and snare drum samples I have which are labeled as "indie rock drums."  I think I was expecting drums that sounded "warmer" somehow.  In a way, the drums do sound a little like they were recorded in a different environment from the piano and vocals.  Maybe that's what others mean?  I dunno.  But, like you, I've grown to like the way the drums sound.  I do think the snare could be a bit louder in the mix, if that's possible to do.

To my ears, the bass isn't very discernible in the current mix.  And, if it matters, I can't make out the guitar at all.  I know you like the strings, so I'll bite my cyber-tongue about those. :)

Edited by HoboSage

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Larry, Thanks. I struggle to maintain a world within the lyric that has detail and meaning, yet is open to personal interpretation, so it means a lot to me when I receive comments like yours.

Yeah - a five-syllable word is over the top - but I keep telling myself that everyone will hear it as "..on to logical points.." which, though it's poor English, makes sense and brings yet an even extra level of meaning to the phrase.  So you get your erudite and your crude in one fell swoop.

Larry and David,  I'm at work now so I'm not able to listen to the mix, but I remember the last time I listened I thought the vocal was too hot. That said, I prefer the bass to be subtle (part of it is that I'm not a bass player so my sub-conscious is self-conscious that real bass players will hear that) But now that you mention it, I really haven't given it a proper listen especially with respect to how it sits with the kick. To be fair, the mix will remain rough for the time being because I'm still planning on re-recording all the vocals and trying to figure out what other tracks to add.

David, I'm going to work on further massaging the drum track to 'glue' it. If I can't make much headway, I'll probably bring in another drummer to record it. But this time, that drummer will have an example of what I want. Honestly, there's very little I'd change about the current performance. I may take all of the cymbal work out of the first verse, replace it with a basic hat on 2 and 4.  I had two mics on the snare; bottom and top - so do I have a lot of control there. But iff I bring it up any more though, I'll have to play with a gate because it's rattling so much with the kick - and gating that has got to be insanely tricky with brushes.

As far as the strings are concerned - Conceptually and functionally, I do like them.  The fact that they are VI makes me cringe.  I want the real thing.  I do have options. Certainly I can bring them down in the mix and get them to breathe more with automation.  But these are Logic's legacy strings - I can also look into their current libraries and I have Vienna Strings that are a pain to set up and program, but I could give them a try.  David, is the VI you don't like, or the idea of any strings?

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I'm not sure how I feel about the sound of the strings - they're kind of back in the mix.  I'm not against the idea of strings in this.  My main nit with them is the current arrangement.  They essentially sound like backing keyboard chords with some additional fingering within the chords triggering string sounds.  I think the sound and vibe of the song might be better served if you built the string arrangement more with an approach that each virtual string instrument is playing its own melody.  Maybe start with one cello and "play" it in a creative way.  Then, add another cello or a violin or two - one playing a bit higher than the other -- maybe a small string "section" - and play those string parts in different, yet complimentary ways to create an overall sting arrangement that's more complex and "real" sounding, yet still a cohesive whole.  I guess the term is "orchestrate" the different string sounds more?

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1 hour ago, HoboSage said:

I'm not sure how I feel about the sound of the strings - they're kind of back in the mix.  I'm not against the idea of strings in this.  My main nit with them is the current arrangement.  They essentially sound like backing keyboard chords with some additional fingering within the chords triggering string sounds.  I think the sound and vibe of the song might be better served if you built the string arrangement more with an approach that each virtual string instrument is playing its own melody.  Maybe start with one cello and "play" it in a creative way.  Then, add another cello or a violin or two - one playing a bit higher than the other -- maybe a small string "section" - and play those string parts in different, yet complimentary ways to create an overall sting arrangement that's more complex and "real" sounding, yet still a cohesive whole.  I guess the term is "orchestrate" the different string sounds more?

Believe it or not, that's what I did.  If you listen carefully you can hear three individual 'voices.' Unfortunately, there are few articulations and two of the patches are so similar that I can't even tell the difference.  I will play more with this aspect of programming them.  I did experiment with busier string parts that were arpeggiated more, but it was distracting.  Hmm..  I actually know some younger string players. I could write out the parts get them to come in a play and then double their parts, then augment with synths if necessary, depending on the quality of the play.  But I'd love to solve this in the box and save that marker for another tune TBA in the future.

Edited by M57

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Overall I think this song sounds great. I agree about the drums and I'll assume you're working on them. Only a couple things stood out to me but there more "wishes" than "needs." I really liked the "tension/mention" rhyme in the first verse and while not truly necessary, I'd have liked to hear that sort of thing again. The only other thing I thought was I agree with whomever mentioned hearing that chorus sooner. I can envision the second chorus being half the length to do so. Again, not a necessity, just some things I thought of while listening. The playing and vocals all sound really good to me. Nice one.

Randy

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lol, when I first listened I thought you were saying "on two logical points", which later threw me off when you said "wrong/right", which is why I was thinking moral, not logical points.  

mispronouncing it slightly might resolve the confusion.  "on-teh-logical" or "on-ta-logical".  The issue only arises because it's not a common word, but it is a cool word, and one which M57 audiences might even expect to see in one of your lyrics.  Makes me want to open the dictionary, close my eyes and point to a word and use in a lyric....lol, I got pentachlorophenol, so maybe not.

 

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Hi Mark,

Wow, great voice. First up... have you and Hobo ever sung together? When I heard your voice my first (random) thought was - You and Hobo would sound really good doing vocals together in harmony (on another song, I wouldn't suggest to anyone adding someone to an existing song). Sorry, just dumping any thought that seemed strong to me when listening.

Next up - Sorry I listened before reading your opening post through... and now I feel bad, but you wanted 2 barrels, my next point was going to be that the drums didn't sound so good for this song. Not that they sounded so bad... but just a bit out of place... the actual sound of the drums was a bit kind of rattly and also a bit dry, and the playing just sounded to lack a bit of the feeling the rest of the parts have.... That said, the drums aren't up front at all, and some softening of the overall drums sound in production would help loads in my opinion. The problem is, you sound really outstanding and so pro, so the drums have a lot to live up to. I suppose if I'd read your post first my thoughts might have gone a different way.

I thought the 'touchdown into grey' (first time I heard) could have come through more. I could hear it coming, you set it up so well, I was waiting for it ... knowing it would hit the spot exactly, but then your voice sat back a bit and lost a touch of the emotional power I thought it could have had. I don't mean scream it, I just mean up the level or make more space for your vocal there.

That was me trying hard to find points.... because this is a really top quality song and you sound just fantastic.

Best,

Dek

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Thanks again all, and more recent posters (Tom, Dek, Just1L)

  • Re-sand the lead vocal with a completely different vocal chain (Still haven't found my magic microphone, but I'm closing in on it - I think this one is coming close.) I forgot to update some of the lyrics as I was singing them - but I have every intention of fixing the 'warms my heart' line and I have a few more places where I'll probably change some of the 'little' words.
  • Different drummer (sticks instead of brushes this time - with more of an old-school beat, which I suppose is more what you'd expect from the idiom)  I'm not particularly happy with the quality of the recording - the high tom was too close to the overheads this time around so I had trouble balancing things, but I'm curious if people think the the kit sits in the mix any better?
  • Added BVs on the chorus

https://soundcloud.com/m57/touchdown-dave/s-FjQ3G

Still looking for arranging ideas.  Guitars seem like an obvious choice (acoustic on the chorus - and sparse electric PinkFloydesque licks in the verses), but I'm finding it harder to make them fit in than I expected. Part of the problem is that the piano and the acoustic guitar (at least the way I play it) have a tendency to function similarly and it's easy to have them stepping on each other. Soaring jazz sax licks could be cool (I wouldn't consider it unless I could get real player). Ambiant pads - pedal steel..  Lots of ways to go - and my MO is to over-produce, so I'm taking my time thinking about this.

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I was wondering where you've been and what you've been doing with this one.  Still love it!  I think the new mix and arrangement sound great - new drums included - except I think the snare should be a little louder than it is.

 

I don't know if you remember, but when you were first working on this, I told you I was enjoying playing my acoustic to it.  I was playing stuff for both the verses and the choruses, and as I recall, I thought it sounded really good, and I don't think what I was playing and the way I was playing was functioning too much like the piano in the arrangement either.  If you want me to, I can revisit doing something on the acoustic for this, lay it down and then shoot it to you to consider in whole or in part as you go forward.  Just tell me the b.p.m and sampling rate.

 

BARVO!

 

David

 

P.S.  A bell tree/chimes of some sort might sound sweet to close the bridge.

 

P.P.S.  I like the strings now that they're further back, but I think the BV's (which sound great) could be a tad louder.

Edited by HoboSage

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Thanks David,

 

I'm heading out this afternoon - but I'd love to hear your playing and ideas.  I'll bop up the BVs a smidge and get a mix your way, hopefully sometime today. -M

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Great piano, great vocal performance.  I like everything about, except I'm inclined to agree with Dave that the first chorus took a bit too long to arrive.  That may just be impatience on my part during a first listen, though. :)

 

It also felt like there were timing issues in the first perc-free verse.  I can't tell whether the piano stutters a bit or maybe it's just that the vocal and piano tracks don't align perfectly, but it didn't sound intentional, if that makes any sense, and it wasn't there at all once the drums came in to set the groove.

 

Outstanding work.

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27 minutes ago, Oswlek said:

Great piano, great vocal performance.  I like everything about, except I'm inclined to agree with Dave that the first chorus took a bit too long to arrive.  That may just be impatience on my part during a first listen, though. :)

 

It also felt like there were timing issues in the first perc-free verse.  I can't tell whether the piano stutters a bit or maybe it's just that the vocal and piano tracks don't align perfectly, but it didn't sound intentional, if that makes any sense, and it wasn't there at all once the drums came in to set the groove.

 

Outstanding work.

Hey O, I totally agree about the vocal not lining up in a number of places - and not just at the beginning..   I'll probably end up re-recording it - partly because of that, but also because I'm probably going to change the a lyric or here and there.  Yeah - I'm pretty committed to having two verses before the chorus hits.. I feel like I should be able to (with guitar tracks and other sweeteners) create the build that keeps it interesting so you don't miss the chorus until you actually hear it, if that makes any sense.

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