Music · Recording

New song demo: “Always ask”

Honestly: my song demos at the moment, are a bit like buses in the old joke (wait for ages, then two come along at the same time)… So, here we go:

As with the last demo I posted here, this should be regarded as a “work in progress”. It could be seen as the first fruits of my current experiments, to see whether (and/or how easily) an iPod Touch can be used as a music composition and recording tool.

This song owes its existence to two things:

  • I used the “Titular” random title generator tool at the FAWM site, to produce a list of about twenty possible titles for songs, and one of them was “Always ask”. My challenge to myself: could I write a song from that title?
  • On the bus to and from work, I started doodling around with two iPod Touch apps, FunkBox (a programmable analogue drum machine simulator) and GarageBand (music composition/recording). Musically, much of this song emerged from my experiments in these apps.

I should point out at this stage, that much of the backing track to this demo, was produced on the iPod Touch. My ultimate aim is to be able to record as much as possible on the device, but at present I have no microphone or audio or MIDI interfaces designed for iOS machines, so I had to transfer the backing track to my main recording setup and overdub the remaining parts (guitars and vocal) there.

The backbone of the rhythm track is a “LinnDrum” loop from FunkBox, exported as a WAV sound file and loaded into GarageBand, then looped through much of the song. I “played” some drum overdubs via the touchscreen (that was an interesting experience), and later added a conga part from the Apple Loops collection to the choruses. I then added bass (the “Liverpool” bass “instrument”) and a pulsing, echo-delayed “smart keyboard” chordal part (the “Helix” patch, with an 1/8th-note delay added).

Nearly all of this was done away from home (on the bus, etc.), using just the iPod Touch and no external equipment. This is also the first song I’ve written, where I worked out the chord sequence entirely in GarageBand, instead of writing on guitar as I usually do. (Later, I came up with the particular chord inversions on rhythm guitar, but the harmonies themselves were all GB-derived.)

The lyrics needed a bit of forcing-out, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve finished with them—I almost always find words harder than music when writing songs, and some refinement may well be necessary here…

I could have really “gone to town” with the arrangement on this demo—and probably will for the “final” recording!—but decided to try and keep it to the three tracks I had left in GarageBand (GB on iPhone/iPod Touch is limited to eight tracks), as if I were able to record the whole track in there. Accordingly, I loaded the mixed-down backing track into my main multitrack, and laid down a single vocal, acoustic and electric guitar.

As it stands, I rather like the “groove” of this demo, though if the song makes it through to the “proper” album shortlist, at the very least I expect to give the arrangement (and/or the lyrics) some more work. In the meantime, it makes an interesting first stage of my “let’s try recording with an iPod Touch” experiment…

Lyrics

Ever feel that life’s a cloud
Where the drips accumulate
You’re in the sidings as the trains rush by
Tired of knowing you must wait
Standing waiting on the hill
Watching, praying for the rain
Feel a mix of thrill and fear
For what the future may contain

[chorus]
I stand prepared, cloudy skies or blue
You can always ask
Whatever I can be for you
You can always ask

You can tell me how you feel
No more sitting on the fence
Sometimes the words will run and hide from you
I know it from experience
We seek a harbour from the gales
To plot a course when seas are still
The sun will rise, all storms die down
And then I’ll join you on the hill

I stand prepared…

[bridge]
Words mean less than actions
But they’re a start
I find the two work best
If you don’t prise them apart

Words and music by and © 2012 Tim Walker

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2 thoughts on “New song demo: “Always ask”

    1. Many thanks Chris – glad you enjoyed it! I’ll check out what you’ve been working on…

      I am also thinking about participating in 50/90 this year, though with a family, I don’t know if I can manage the full “quota” of songs in three months. Thankfully, it sounds like it isn’t mandatory to produce 50 anyway 🙂

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