Thursday, January 10, 2008

One Man Garage Band

So, I got itchy to record that arrangement of Rick Wright's early Floyd song, See Saw, that I've been blathering on about doing for the last few days. And then it occurred to me that with the new Laptop, I could do what I always do on a new computer (since 2003 or so) - give it a spin with Garageband and see how it goes. So to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to do a scratch version of the song in Garageband, and see how it went.

Thing is, it came out a lot better than I thought it would, especially when you consider that all the recording was done just with the laptop's built-in mic, and, frankly, I'm not even sure where the mic is located on this thing..., unless I get a further bug up my ass to try this again, this may be the final version. Perhaps. I think I may remix it slightly - it's late and I had to keep the speakers low. I suspect the rhythm guitars are a hair loud and jangly.

The other benefit is that I think I've proved my point, that it's a really, really lovely song sunk by lousy band performances, arrangement and production. Not that my arrangement and production are any better, of course, but... well, anyway, now you can focus on the melody and lyrics, which are both just great.

My approach was to keep the song generally in the same key and time signature, and to give it a more straightforward AABABCABBA form, to bring out what I se as the real sense of loss and longing in the song. The original song changes modes frequently, and I found I was able to keep the momentum going if I kept it in C, and didn't even have to alter the melody to do so, beyond singing one note a half-step down. The original song also took a suite-like approach, really getting heavily into instrumental segues that removed focus from the lyrics and melody.

Here's the original - you can see where I picked up some of the instrumental segues and reconfigured them to fit in the new feel.

The only element of the original I lost was the big 'bomp bomp bomp' before each bridge, which I couldn't really find a way to rephrase. Besides, I took it to be an arrangement trick in the original, simply a way to get from the Em at the end of the chorus to the Eb of the bridge - and I realized if I just left off the Em, I could get to the Eb without it sounding too odd. But you tell me.

Lyrically, you'll note that I rephrased one line, which had originally been stretched to fit the change in signature from 6/8 to 4/8. I just left it in 6/8 and dropped a couple of syllables. Here's the whole lyric, with my changes indicated in bold.

Marigolds are very much in love, but he doesn't mind
Picking up his sister, he makes his way (they go) to the see-saw land
All the way she smiles
She goes up while he goes down, down (I excised the first chorus)

Sits on a stick in the river
Laughter in his sleep
Sister's throwing stones, hoping for a hit
He doesn't know so then
She goes up while he goes down, down

Another time, another day
A brother's way to leave
Another time, another day

She'll be selling plastic flowers
On a Sunday afternoon
Picking up weeds, she hasn't got the time to care
All can see he's not there
She grows up for another man, and he's down

Another time, another day
A brother's way to leave
Another time, another day



Christian Kriegeskotte said...

It really does kind of blow my mind that you can record something that good through that teeny little pinhole mic just to the left of the camera on a macbook. Truly boggling.

Dave Kopperman said...

The performance really is pretty impressive. Obviously, I don't think it would work for all applications - the dynamic range is very middly, and highly compressed to boot. But for the spirit of this particular recording, it's almost a perfect fit, giving it an extra air of distance that fits emotionally AND making it sound 'vintage.'

Really, a better set-up wouldn't have worked nearly as well...

Of course, without the midi bass & percussion from Garageband, it would be laughably thin sounding.

Dave Kopperman said...

(The MIC performance, that is...)