Before and After Voice Lessons (2009-2010) … plus some other stuff

Here are a few items spanning from early 2009 to early 2010. During this time, I had only recently begun to add singing to my repertoire. My voice was rather thin and nasal (think Jerry Lewis or SpongeBob SquarePants), and lacked resonance (think of Nat King Cole singing a slow song). What I did possess, though, was joy, and thankfully I still remain joyful when the occasion calls for it! I had so much fun “singing” that the things I learned from Kevyn Lettau’s one-on-one voice lessons were a revelation to me (and still are), namely the constant dropping of the jaw in a slow song. These entries may be somewhat frivolous and juvenile in a good way, but they at least provide the listener with what my voice sounded like before I started the lessons and recently afterwards. It never really changed that much, and it’s remarkable that it’s taking four years and counting for it to change (this even goes for my speaking voice!).

So without further ado, here’s more music!

You’re Gone, But That’s Okay

For my Poway High School senior project, I chose to learn about the recording studio environment, specifically the technical aspects of what goes into the audio portion of an album before, during and after recording. Jazz guitarist Peter Sprague, a San Diego favorite, has a neat studio which he calls Spragueland (see the picture posted on this site). I visited it in March 2009 and recorded the instrumental rendition of an original tune, “You’re Gone, But That’s Okay,” based on an idea from a friend formerly of Poway High School, Kim Monroe. The song is written for a musical theater project which is still in the works. This jazz rendering features me on Peter Sprague’s grand piano, and the bass, drums and clarinet from my Yamaha Motif 6. While the bass and drums you’re hearing are sounds that already came with the keyboard, the clarinet sound comes from a piece of additional software that Uncle Pat got for the keyboard which emulates real instrument sounds. Pay particular attention to three aspects of this song: the drum track, which had some editing work done on it using ProTools, listening especially for the cymbal crash which kicks off the piano solo; the piano solo also had some editing done because my improvisation didn’t follow the form of the tune; finally, the ending features the piano and clarinet doing a simultaneous “tweet.” This also had to be edited because originally they didn’t come in on time.

Cole Porter at Exum

While this was a fun experience, I didn’t quite learn all I wanted about what truly goes into the audio engineering aspect of recording. So, a month later, in April 2009, I visited Scott Exum Recordings in Escondido and focused on the work of composer-lyricist Cole Porter, whose life and work I studied intensely on my personal time. A warmup medley, featuring me on Scott’s Baldwin piano coupled with my vocals, consists of “I Get a Kick out of You” (from Anything Goes), “Do I Love You” (from DuBarry was a Lady), “We Open in Venice” (from Kiss Me Kate), and “Anything Goes” (from Anything Goes). (Check back for updates regarding this item; it doesn’t want to upload!). Following this, I did a fully-orchestrated, improvised, big band arrangement of “Do I Love You” featuring Baldwin piano and vocals recorded separately, and then from the Motif 6, bass, drums, saxes, trombones, trumpets and strings! Scott had to use AutoTune to adjust some of the pitches on a few spots in the vocals; this was the wake-up call that I needed singing lessons if I wanted to continue doing vocal numbers! Scott also had an applause sound handy from a sound effects disc, which we decided to tack onto the end for comic effect. While Scott Exum’s mix is nice to listen to, not every instrument can be heard. So, after Scott gave me a CD with each individual track as wav files, I imported each track into GarageBand at home and created a mix of the tune where every instrument is heard; this is the mix I used for my senior project, and it’s the one you’ll hear right now!

Me and My Shadow

I made this in January 2010. Most of my GarageBand projects take 4 to 5 hours, and are usually spread out over a few days. This one was created and finished in 67 minutes. This 1920s standard, written by Al Jolson, Billy Rose and Dave Dreyer, received a swinging update from Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. when they performed it as part of the Rat Pack’s early-‘60s nightclub shows. Specialty lyrics were added for Sinatra and Davis by Sammy Cahn, which I slightly reworked in places to make them fit my world. I had never done a re-creation of a vocal duet with myself before, so this was my first informal experience trying it out in GarageBand. A rhythm section of piano, bass, drums, guitar and vibraphone is the foundation for two separate tracks of my vocals, that of “me” and “my shadow,” so to speak. So which voice is me and which is my shadow? You decide!

Check back for updates to this post – I have a few other projects to add here!