What’s in a song title?

It’s certainly too early to think about an album name, but song titles are always something to consider.  As usual, I’m conflicted about whether I should go with a more metal theme, or a more folky theme.

Let’s discuss.

Bluegrass Song Names

Ok, I’ll admit to being a bit unfamiliar with typical bluegrass song names, but they often tend give the feel of simple living in Appalachia. Also, the titles tend to be very literal. Examples:

  • Beautiful Moon Of Kentucky
  • Wreck On The Highway
  • Tomorrow is a Long Time

The above names are usually as long as they get in the bluegrass world. You’ll see a lot of 2 or 3 word titles, and I’ve seen a lot of one word nouns as well.

  • Valley
  • Contentment
  • Graveyard

Of course, a person’s name is quite often all you need to express romance and/or heartbreak!

  • Josephine
  • Little Maggie
  • Eveline
  • Poor Ellen Smith

I could easily take this path for Blood & Banjos.  It’s simple, and elegant, and it gets the point across.  But it’s only half the story!

Metal Song Names

Now I could go on all day about these.  But mainly because metal is way too broad a genre.  Generally, the feel of titles are foreboding, condescending, or otherwise intense, and they tend to be more conceptual/metaphorical. Let’s look at a few examples.

There’s the violent/graphic song title (and these are quite tame):

  • Carnal Ways To Recreate The Heart
  • Entry Level Exit Wounds
  • In Her Blood

Plenty of ironically fun/silly titles:

  • Apocalypse Now and Then
  • Dogs can grow beards all over
  • There’s no penguins in Alaska

The seriously epic/dark song title:

  • The Blackest Incarnation
  • In the Shadow of the Horns
  • Lord of the Depths

Ridiculously long titles:

  • I used to hate cell phones, but now I hate car accidents
  • The sadistic motives behind bereavement letters
  • You suck at life, and I’m not talking about the board game

For some reason, analogies involving body parts were also popular for a while:

  • Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles
  • Teeth the size of Piano Keys
  • Fingers like Daggers

The list goes on…

If we were focusing on black metal in particular, the titles would probably fall in the dark/foreboding/violent category. But again, I’m still undecided about which way we’ll take this.

I’ll have to come back to this topic later… In the meantime, I still have more music to write!

Our first taste of real mandolin

Track 6 has started to make its rounds through the other musicians on the project, and Rob has come back with a rough draft of some mandolin ideas.

Have a listen here:

Pretty cool to get a better idea of how this will come together, but with MIDI drums and a non-ideal mix, you can tell we still have a ways to go.

Rob’s part truly is a milestone though!  Rob is currently in Brooklyn, and very busy with his other band, The Hollows.  Getting a mandolin part is a huge achievement, and this is very promising for the project!  Thanks Rob!

I’ve already given him some feedback, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that the MIDI drums are just placeholders.  When Jake records actual drums, we might have to rewrite some of the mandolin licks to tag up appropriately.  I expect we’ll have to iterate back and forth a few times to make sure the instrument parts don’t conflict.

I also thought I’d share the latest video from The Hollows, which actually has Rob in the spotlight!  Check it out.

Some Harmonic Action

As you know, bluegrass demands some serious vocal harmonies. Writing these harmonies is no easy task, however.  The lead melody usually comes pretty naturally, but working other voices into the mix requires a good ear, and some knowledge about music certainly helps.

Unfortunately, I have zero formal music knowledge!  I really couldn’t tell you what a fifth or a diminished seventh is, and I sure as hell can’t read music…  Lucky for us, however, Amanda knows quite a bit about vocal harmonies.

We met up over the weekend to look at where we might need some 2 or 3-part harmonies, and we took a crack at recording some samples.

amanda singing her heart out

Our focus was the heavy part of track 4, when everything stops for a moment, and we get these great melodic chords.  I want very strong vocals here, harmonies included, so we tried a few combinations of notes and patterns.

It’s definitely a bit nerve-wracking when you have to sing in front of other people!  We had fun working together though, and I see good things in the future. I’m not completely sold on what we came up with, but the fact that we were able to meet up and be productive bodes well for the project.

Have a listen to the sample below.  I must confess, as I listen to it again, Amanda is a bit too low in the mix. Sorry about that!


A couple things to note about this clip:

  • These harmonies are not bluegrassy at all (but they do have a major tonality to contrast the screaming vocals before and after this part)
  • I’m singing 2 out of 3 parts for each harmony (which no one wants)
  • The actual lead vocalist (Patrick) may take a very different melody

You should expect something different in future versions of the song. I’m calling this a very successful meet up though!

Track 9, Coming In

We’re moving right along with tracks 4 and 6, but there’s always those other 8 songs I have to worry about…

I had a couple of ideas for track 9, and just recorded what I’ll call the first draft.  To recap, this song is about Abram returning to his property to find his wife back from the dead.  Not only is she alive, but she has given birth to the very child Abram was tasked with destroying.

I imagine she might look something like this… (Evil Dead)

The song will be about Abram’s wife trying to convince him to raise the child. She almost succeeds before Abram offs her one more time, breaking his banjo in the process.

His task is nearly complete, and all he has to do is kill the child…but he gives in, and decides that he just can’t do it. This, of course, plays perfectly into the song as you will soon hear.

Press play, and I’ll talk you through it!

Ok, the first minute is purely intro.  But it’s pleasant enough… I might even consider playing this on a classical guitar.  I know, I know: not bluegrass…but in the end, this is all music, and that’s all that matters!

The next few minutes of the song might come across as pretty boring without vocals or other instrumentation.  Maybe you can imagine some good melodies in your head though!  Lots of room for creativity here, and we will definitely make this a male/female duet, so expect good things!

If you’re looking for a little excitement, skip to 3:30 or so.  This is where Abram realizes he’s being tempted by his possessed wife, and we have a build up chord progression.  At 3:52 we start to introduce electric guitars, and at 4:10 the build up erupts!

It’s pretty lame right now with the MIDI drums, but this part should be pretty powerful in the final cut.  Also, just call me Sloppy McSlopperson on the guitar here, definitely need to tune my chops.

Finally, at 4:49 we go into this awesome soft fingerpicking part.  You can imagine Abram holding the infant in his hands, looking it in the eyes, and then completely breaking down.

Yes…I did bring in some synth strings for the end, but whatever, sometimes I just can’t help myself.

So…black metal vocals are pretty tough

As promised, I took the weekend to attempt some vocals on Track 6.  This song is unique in that I’ll actually be singing in the final version of the song… I have a long way to go though.

I open with clean vocals, which don’t sound too bad, but I need to harness the black for a few lines in the song.  I completely failed though, so I had to rely on effects to portray what I’m going for.  We’ll see if I can improve upon this in later revisions, because the current approach is unacceptable!

Before I get too deep in analysis, have a listen for yourself. Full lyrics are in my previous post.

I’m not completely sold on my delivery of the lines starting at “What has he done with his poor family now...”  I might prefer more screaming for that part.

I do like how the vocals for “His axe, her body cleft” are coming across, though. Once we get another guitar track and some drums in there, the intensity will be great!

Dan’s part, which starts with “Grave indeed…” is going to be perfect for his voice.  I obviously have some trouble delivering the loud lines that follow, but I know he’ll just nail them.

The gang vocals at the end are almost embarrassing, but I’m just trying to get the idea across.  I layered two tracks of me pretending to yell, and it’s pretty pathetic.  We’ll have to get a half dozen guys in the studio to really deliver those lines when the time comes.  Should be fun!

group vocals with DQV… not sure what’s going on with drew’s hair!

Track 6 Lyrics and Click Track

Last time we discussed Track 6, I said that we were ready for lyrics.  It’s taken some time, but here we go.

The song starts out with the courier relaying to the town what he has witnessed at Abram’s property.  (This is supposed to be my character, so I better get my voice in shape.) Normal text means clean singing, whereas bold text means screaming.

I just seen something I would like to forget
And that means a lot from me you’ve gotta admit
Now I was walking near the West Bluff to deliver the post
And, oh help us father son and holy ghost

ABRAM STONE!!!

What has he done with his poor family now?
His wife and kids lay dead and bloodied the ground
He was a-digging two new holes in the earth
And I can tell you neither one was for her

His axe her body cleft!
In his well, you’ll find what’s left
!

I think it’s rightfully dark and covers some very important plot points!  The part about the axe will be delivered at the most intense part of the chorus, in the blackest vocals I can muster.

After my part, the town leader starts singing during the quiet part of the song.  This will be Dan when the time comes.

Grave indeed, these tidings that you bare
Swift we must be in making sure this debt is paid!

If what you’re telling us is the honest truth
Then it’s quite clear to me what we’ve got to do now
Assemble all ye men who claim to strive for what’s right
We’re gonna have ourselves a lynching tonight!

FETCH YOUR ROPE!!!

At this point, the rest of the town kicks in for the breakdown at the end (which will be a fade out.)  The lines with stars will be gang vocals, and the other lines will be a single person.

**TIE HIM UP**
MAKE HIM PAY FOR HIS SINS

**HOIST HIM HIGH**
MAKE HIM SEE WHAT HE’S DONE

**LET HIM HANG**
WE THIRST FOR JUSTICE NOW

**ABRAM STONE**
WE’RE COMING TO BURN YOU OUT

I know this means very little without hearing it to the song, so I’ll try to record some vocals in the next few days!  In the meantime, I’d like to share the rough draft with the click track that I used.  This version of the song is even more misleading than track 4 was with MIDI drums.  Nevertheless, this is how I record!

DRUMS

This is a big deal, folks.

We finally have actual drums to one of our rough drafts… and it is good.

Jake delivered us a whirlwind of percussion last week, and I’ve mixed it in so we can see how it’s all coming together.  From here, Jake can analyze how his part meshes with the guitars, and we can go back and forth discussing what we’d like in future versions.

Beyond Jake’s drums, however, I’ve also added another layer of electric guitars so we can have them in stereo by panning the tracks to the left and right.  This gives the track a much fuller sound as you can hear in the example below.

I also may have added the sound of a thunderstorm in the beginning… I’m toying with the idea of enriching the story with some ambient audio, but we’ll see.  You’ll have to let me know what you think…

Ok, have a listen to the rough draft with drums.  Keep in mind that this was done with a single microphone, which is never what you want to do with drums!  We’ll have to work on a better set up when we move past the rough draft phase.

Notice at 2:10 I mix electric and acoustic guitars on the different ears.

2:57 might be my favorite part so far though…