Developing the First Song

The song I’ve made the most progress on is one that teaches the imperfect forms, regular and irregular, along with a little bit about the usage of the imperfect.

In attempting to write again, I’m confronted with several of the issues that I had anticipated making this CD difficult to write. First, it’s been a long time. Second, I’ve been listening to a lot of strange music since I wrote my last song: zydeco, western swing, Latin jazz, classic country, samba, bebop, rockabilly, and boogie-woogie piano, among others. I wonder if I can still write music that students will like, and if I will be hindered by the fact that I can’t actually play music in these styles. Third, music has changed quite a bit (some of today’s stars were in diapers when I made my first tape) and I’m too old to appreciate and/or emulate many of the changes.

Thinking back, I realized that my typical approach to writing my songs involved finding the most essential information that I’m trying to teach, finding a line that captures it, then using the rhythm of that line to suggest a structure/style/melody. This makes writing the rest of the lyrics easier, because I write them based upon the structure and style suggested by the first line I came up with.

Back when I made my first stab at starting this album, when I tried to write a song that teaches countries, capitals, and nationalities, the rhythm of the words (I didn’t have any choice in the lyrics) dictated that it be a boogaloo/salsa style song. I can hear it in my head, but I don’t have the congas, bongos, timbales, (or the skills) to play it!

Enter Garage Band.

garage band shot

My previous CDs were made before this incredible songwriting tool now found on every Apple computer was invented; back then, I had to create and play everything myself. Now, all I needed to do was find a good Latin rhythm to use as the basis of the song while I figured out how to make the lyrics and melody fit on top of it. But I couldn’t find one, and as I said before, I quit. Another cool thing about Garage Band is that I don’t have to set up my recording equipment (I had a dedicated studio space in my old house, but now the stuff is scattered everywhere)–I can go wherever my kids are not, and quickly come up with song and arrangement ideas with a laptop and a set of headphones.

Saturday, when I worked on my imperfect tense song, I had the idea that I wanted it to be kind of a  seventies soul type of thing, like a lot of the songs I grew up listening to on the radio. This type of music seems to be making a comeback–my kids love Justin Timberlake’s song “Suit and Tie”, and that Robin Thicke song that’s been accused of plagiarizing an Marvin Gaye song got very popular. This style of song would be considered current, for the young people, and I’ll get to enjoy it as “timeless”.

This style of music is heavily reliant on percussion instruments that I don’t have, and also upon complex guitar chords that I’ll have to figure out after there is a solid foundation for me to play them over. My recording equipment is not set up, so I can’t experiment with rhythms on the drums. Garage Band to the rescue! I found the perfect percussion track, and I’m really excited about how the song is shaping up.

The vocals are an embarrassing falsetto, and since I used the built-in laptop mic, they are very noisy, so I’ve muted the vocals. What you will hear is a Garage Band percussion track, along with an idea for bass line and a guitar part that are sung into the laptop mic. My wife and kids liked it, so hopefully you will too.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I’m to the point where I’m confident that it will be worth the time to work this song through to completion.

If you like where this song is going, please pass the word along! The more people I have following my progress and sending me words of encouragement, the faster I’ll get this CD done!



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