Saturday, October 17, 2009




We left off that I had laid down a practice piano track with a dummy vocal-
then cleaned up the piano-
vocally recorded to the piano which didn't quite line up-
kept the vocal and then re-recorded the piano to match up.

Was incredibly.

This is also what must be done for every.


With that foundation set, it's time to arrange for accordion (clarinet), flute, cello, violin and two additional vocal harmony lines.

Truth be told, I am 'lifting' most of this arrangement.
I am 'lifting' it.

This is something that arrangers don't really speak of, but it's something we do.

That means that I am listening to the recording of it, and trying very hard to recreate a great deal of the arrangement I fell in love with, in the first place.

While all of these songs are structurally gorgeous, and with no disrespect to the composer but, a great deal of why a couple of these songs have had such an impact on me is because of their arrangements.


Usually what ya do is you change just enough of the arrangement so you can slap your name on it and have everyone think you're brilliant.

I will not do this.
Again, this has been done to me and I'm not judging other folks-
well, I am judging you little yam sacks who stole my shit
you all are very very very naughty and karma is a bitch-
but for me?
Can't do it.

The reason why I feel comfortable telling you that I am lifting this particular arrangement is because I am crediting every arranger on my CD that I 'borrow' strongly from.

I mean, obviously the arrangement isn't going to be exact.
That's actually impossible for me, because I don't have a clarinet and I have no plans on bringing in a clarinet player when i have a perfectly good 'clarinet' reed in my accordion. 

And i am definitely rearranging some of the vocal harmonies.
Not to cover my ass but because I honestly, feel they could be adjusted a little for my voice personally.'s technically (in the world of arrangers, legality and CDs)...mine. 
But, seriously?
A good...%80 of it is not.

And that is why I'm telling you all right now--
the original arranger of this piece is David Campbell. 
His beautiful work is the spring board from which I'm arranging and I am thrilled to give him the credit he deserves here and on the CD when it comes out.

So there.

with that, and moving on...

I listen to the recording and I try to separate with my ear which instrument is playing which.

It's all pretty easy...
The clarinet can be substituted with the accordion.
The flute pops out obviously.
But differentiating between the violin and cello is really really really fucking hard because the violin is laying low and the cello is laying high.
They don't necessarily criss-cross but, Jesus' Momma on her birthday my ears are straining.
Puss bucket.

I realize perhaps, part of my problem is that I don't know the actual ranges of the violin and the cello. 

Who's a dumbass.
Uh...that would be me.

I text a couple of my smarty pants music people.
John McDaniel, Mark Hartman, Jessica Wright and Lauren Molina get a cryptic, horribly misspelled text from me saying,

"wht is ranged off cello and violin plz?"

Within minutes i get a response from Jessica that the violin goes from the G below middle C to C8- "the highest note on the piano". (Ironically, she is none too pleased later when I send her her charts, this that I took her seriously about that whole upper range thing. oopsie).

Lauren and John McD respond succinctly that the "cello goes from the bass clef low C up to the G above middle C".

Annnnndd then i get the smart ass text from Mark that says, 

"what's the air velocity of an unladen swallow?"

which is quickly followed up by a text from Gordon Greenberg who admits that he made Mark text that (apparently I had caught them both at a rehearsal for something).


With my range questions answered, I realize that there is an octave where the cello and violin actually do cross ranges. This doesn't help me much, but it does make me feel less crazy. I decide I'll just keep everybody in their respective clefs and make everyone happy. (Btw-violinists don't really like to travel down below middle C and vice versa for cellists. Just a heads up).

It takes me about 90 minutes, but I've pulled all the instruments off.

As I'm listening to this song, i'm struck by how actually extremely happy the tune is.

That's weird.

The words are on the sad side, obviously but...
for the first time, i'm just listening to the music and not the lyrics and I begin to substitute happy lyrics just to see what happens.


It's a really really happy tune.
Amazing, i never noticed this in the two DECADES I've been listening to it.

Major key, steady lilting beat...holy shit- this song is even more brilliant than i thought!

Just goes to the show the immense power of lyrics and lyricists (who I also find to be on the unappreciated side). FYI, the lyricist on this is Kate McGarrigle. 

Good on her, I say.

Now, it's harmony vocal time.

What i never understood is why -when they had three kick ass female singers-
did they only use two part harmony until literally the very very last tag where it got into three.

Now's my chance to rectify that!

Again, i love the A-B-A songs-
and the A-B-C-B-A songs.

I love a nice quiet beginning, a nice build in the middle there, and a nice quiet ending.
That way, it all feels earned to me.
You earn that build in the middle.
You work for it.
And then you get the reward of hanging back at the end.
it's deserved, the ending.
I think.

It's also like really good sex.
sorry ma.

*just wrote an entire analogy between great tunes and great sex but...
just can't do it with mom reading.*

Ok for my mom's sake, it's also like a really well written novel.
Prologue, drama, climax, denoument, and epilogue.


At least with these kinda tunes.

You'll see when you listen to it.

It's like Losing My Mind.

Like that.

Oy, a lot of this shit i'm saying is going to make way more sense when you're listening to it.

I hope.


As I'm listening to my vocal, I'm really really not happy with it.
Especially the beginning.

I was so pleased with it before i listened to it 762374209387402934 fucking times.

This is where Andy (the bf) comes in.

Again, because I have to listen to everything with such a critical ear, I do start to think after awhile that everything sucks and i should just pack it in. I hear this is normal.

I hand the headphones to Andy.
He approves but also mentions that since i haven't done the backup vocals yet, that it would probably just be easier to do the main vocal again when I'm in the same vocal place. That way, all the vocals will line up texturally. He's so sexy when he's smart.


Time to lay down the instruments i have Doooooowwwwwnnnn.

Accordion- easy- 20 minutes.
Flute- easy- 15 minutes.

I record the violin and cello parts as synthed tracks so i can 'hear' if I've got any holes in my chords anywhere.

Pretty good.

I happen to look down at the bottom of garage band as i'm playing back the violin chart.

Wait a minute.....

do i see....

is that....

a music note?

With great great hope....
i click on the music note and.........VOILA!

what was once before just weird little squares all over the place?

is like....
the day that I realized if i just clapped my hands hard enough i actually was 29 again...
it's true.

shut up.

See, I can write music out...
but it takes me forever.

dare i hope?
IS there a way to...
PRINT this 'chart' scrolling at the bottom?

oh dear God....
it couldn't BE that easy......
i click on the violin track-
and i go up to 'file' and then 'print'.

cheese balls of GOLD!

I can just...
save this as a pdf.
and email it.
to my string players.

HOURS of work, have just evaporated for me!

Thank the LORD, this is awesome.

I decide that I should definitely end on this high note.

I will record the vocals tomorrow and send the charts to the ladies who bow.
Then this whole arrangement will be.....almost done?
Holy shit.

Except for the actual strings..
all of my work on it will be done.


Alright my loves-
more soon....

hope you're enjoying my favorite season of all time...