Playing songs on the Radio is a pleasure, and especially I like to air new and un-discovered bands.
I guess I can identify with them because maybe, just maybe, I have an unfulfilled desire to actually write songs myself.
A few months ago, a song came into my head, out of no-where. As I have a Tascam recorder at home for my band interviews I recorded it, really out of curiosity to listen back.
I called it ‘Roll The Dice’, and out of curiosity again sent the sound bite to two trusted musical friends of mine. They liked it, so I thought, if they did, maybe others would…. It’s very hard to be objective about yourself.
I then sent it to Rich at Panther Studios in Reigate, there’s someone who would tell it like it is, I thought. Many years ago I had worked with Rich (AKA Dick Crippen of Tenpole Tudor / King Kurt) on a CD of fresh bands and a concert at the Harlequin, Redhill.
Rich suggested I should air the progress of the song on air. This hadn’t occurred to me before, but I thought it could be a good fun thing to do, and gained further confidence in the track as Rich obviously thought it was good enough to air. It matters that someone believes in you, it’s oxygen.
I have started to air the progress of this Song on my Friday show. It was then suggested I write a blog about it, so here I am blogging!!
I’m taking you through each step as aired on Susy Radio, if you missed them live.
My Radio Show can be heard on SUSY Radio on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays 10 to 12 pm.
Song written by Christine Muir
Vocals: Christine Muir
Guitar/keyboards and production: Rich Coppen at Panther Studios Reigate Surrey.
Here’s the first vocal recorded on my Tascam, randomly.
Sent to Rich at Panther Studios.
Working out the Chords (2-3-14)
Rich advised me to put some chords to the Song. I picked up my guitar, dusted it down and took it to Horley Guitars for a refresher. I sung my song out loud in the shop – that was a bit nerve racking but it had to be done, so I could get some idea of the chords I needed. One of the guys there told me he thought I had a good voice. Really, I thought, that’s good of you to say :0)
I practiced the chords and worked out at home how it should go. I re-wrote the scrappy bits of paper into a neatly written song layout, with the chords over the words for Rich.
This is me, rain on my roof, at home, strumming the chords on my guitar to the words.
First day at Panther Studios Reigate (4-3-14)
The day has come for my first studio session at Panther Studios. This is very exciting! Rich makes me a cup of coffee in a rock Chick mug – good start :0)
I strum my guitar and sing from the sheet, hoping it sounds OK and that at least most of the chords fit. I’m not used to singing live, so it’s a bit weird but then I thought if I can sing in a guitar shop, I can do this!
Luckily the chords are OK, and Rich is able to lay down a guitar track with his own guitar and also my vocals over it. This was amazing to me. I came away with a CD with the first part my little song, ‘Roll The Dice’ on it. It’s surely good for the soul being creative and I played it over and over again in my car. It was a big day for me, my first recording session :0)
Second Day at Panther Studios (12-3-14)
Time now for my second Panther Studio session.
This time, Rich worked out a bass line, keyboards and some different drums beats for the song.
We spent about 2 hours on it, and now I had another CD to take away, with the improving version of my song. This also got played to death in my car, and I was already looking forward to my next visit.
Third Day at Panther Studios (26-3-14)
Two weeks had passed since my last studio session with Rich at Panther studios, so I was keen to get going again on my little ditty.
Today, Rich laid down a new acoustic guitar backing track, including a nice little intro bit at the start, also a new electric guitar riff was added, and we adjusted the keyboard sounds slightly.
It was time to re-record the vocals and add the second verse and chorus; as we went through several practice sessions of the vocals, it dawned on me that, just as you practice with an instrument to get the sound just right, you actually have to do the same with your voice.
It was a bit of a light bulb moment for me, ah so that is why on programmes such as the X Factor and the Voice, they need coaching and a mentor, and why sometimes those who don’t shine to begin with sometimes suddenly gain the confidence to belt out a top tune.
I concentrated more on each ‘sing through’ on the melody. Rich suggested, to get the jolly feel of the track (it’s all about being happy in the moment), to imagine a relaxed sunny day, and be chilled – not rushing at it too much… good advice again, I was suddenly singing on a sunny beach, pina colada in hand :0)
After several run throughs, with slight changes here and there to the words so they fitted in and flowed better, we finally had a vocal we were both happy with; Rich mixed this in and discarded my initial vocal attempt from the first day in the studio.
Rich then spent quite a bit of time, laying down a second vocal track over my first track for certain parts of the song, WOW, what a difference that made….. now on the chorus, at the ‘come on and play’ bits it sounds very clubby, with a lovely filled out vocal sound. I was amazed by this, it made the whole track sound much improved.
Fourth Day at Panther Studios (02-4-14)
My little song is really starting to take shape now. Today we added the ‘Middle 8’ section, I had thought this might be a keyboard or guitar but as it turned out, it was some ‘oooohs’.
At first I wasn’t sure a about the ‘oooohs’ it meant holding a note in tune for quite a long time.
I had a fair few run throughs, three ‘oooohs’ in a row and then three more in a slightly different key, to overlap for the harmonies. As I sung them, I thought “is this really going to sound ok?”, the end result though I really liked….. :0) The ‘oooohs’ worked and made the track sound even more mellow.
Rich said sometimes with these sort of sections the voice, is used as another instrument instead of forming actual words.
We re-recorded the vocals for the verses making them even softer.
The final stucture of the song is now complete, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle 8, ‘oooohs’, chorus, more ‘oooohs’. It is now 3.43 minutes long – that’s a good length for a song.
Next week should be the final studio session, when the drums are changed slightly to fit in with the final format and more harmonies will be added. Be very interesting to hear the final version of ‘Roll the Dice’…..
Fifth Day at Panther Studios (10-4-14)
The final version…(for now !)
Today’s aim was to produce a final version of ‘Roll the Dice’ (Big day!)
Rich varied the drum beat and added some guitar to the Middle 8 section which filled it out nicely.
I asked Rich if I could record a final version of the chorus and verse as since singing it the first time around I knew the song better and felt more confident in the way I wanted to sing.
We did a few takes and finally got the one we were both happy with.
A fair bit of time was spent, mixing down and mastering the track, then we both sat back and had one final listen.
I was really happy with how it had all turned out.
As we walked out of the studio into the sunshine, Guinness the cat was there to greet us, purring loudly…..that would be a fitting final photo I thought…contentment and happiness, both summed up by a sound, one a song – one a purr!
On Friday, 20th December, Christine Muir chatted with Nigel Clark, Frontman of Britpop sensation ‘Dodgy’.
His new single ‘Christmas at the food bank’ highlights the 60,000 plus people who will rely on them in the UK this Christmas.
At the time of the interview, Dodgy were to are perform on the following day (Saturday) at the Surrey University as part of the Crimbleberry Ball, along with The Selecter and a host of other bands.