Gabriel Musselman's Capstone - "Gabe and the Babes - EP"
Here is a link to my public SoundCloud profile, on which you can find my Capstone project:
The Capstone project is a continuation of the learning that a student has been experiencing throughout their high school career. Because of this simple truth, I decided to base my project an endeavor I have spent countless hours both in and out of school trying to perfect: music. My Capstone is a collection of four recorded songs that showcase a yearlong struggle to write, record, and produce professional, bona fide music. The result is an EP entitled “Gabe and the Babes”, featuring talents from both SLA and my own family. All tracks are recorded on solitary condenser microphones directly into Garageband, an entry-level software available for free on SLA’s school laptops. The recording sessions took place in basements and dorm rooms, and the final product represents countless hours of frustration, sweat, and musical tears.
Two of the songs on the EP (Extended Production) are covers of tunes by artists that I admire, whose work I chose to record both for its artistic value and the challenges that recording on a nonexistent budget and cheap, available gear imposed. The first of these, “Blues Run the Game” by Jackson C. Frank, is a prime example of American Folk music. Because folk has been instrumental in the development of my own musical tastes and style, I decided to include this piece as a tribute to musicians that have influenced me. The second of the two covers, “Monster Ballads” by Josh Ritter, is a song that my brother and I love. It is only fitting then that we would collaborate to produce a cover: he plays rhythm guitar and sings, while I play a short solo midway through the song.
The second two songs included in my project are original pieces. They represent a large majority of the struggle that went into my project’s genesis. The problem was that, at first, I was unable to channel any type of musical inspiration for long enough to complete a piece. When I finally had the material ready for recording, I found myself tasked with recreating what I believed the song should sound like using only one microphone or direct – input instrument at a time. The first song in this set, “This Breeze”, chronicles a feeling of peace that I experienced while sitting on the roof of my home with my guitar one morning. The piano that appears in "This Breeze" happened entirely on accident, and is played in earnest and inexperience by myself. Ben Diamond, SLA’s music teacher, features as the percussionist on this and the other original tune. The second song, “Here by Eight”, is a Bossa Nova – inspired look into modern jazz and blues. Felix D’Hermillion features as the first solo guitarist here, while I round off the trio (Gabe and the Babes), playing rhythm and solo guitar as well as bass.
Sources and References
Diamond, Ben. "Recording and Producing Music." Personal interview. 28 Jan. 2015. ]
In this interview, I consulted Mr. Diamond on several methods with which to record and produce music. Our conversation spanned the technology used to record different instruments as well as the methods that were available to produce and mix tracks using computer software. We talked about instrumentation and microphones as well as computer programs and rhythms. The conversation really went wherever we wanted, drawing from different tangents we drew. We also talked about songwriting and the shapes that songs take on. I used this to influence my decisions in both choosing which instruments to use in my songs and which software to utilize.
Simon, Paul. Graceland. Paul Simon. Warner Bros. Records, 1986. CD.
This album by Paul Simon is famous for its lyrics and recording. He recorded it in a South African studio while touring Southern Africa. The rhythms in the music have been used in countless projects by other artists, and are classified as some of the most complex available. I used the iconic tracks as a research material, studying the structure of the piece as well as the lyrics and the recording methods used. I looked at the different interplays between the rhythm section and the melody of the song and used that information to make my songs more complex. It was my hope that, by studying this album, I could spice up my songs and make the rhythms more complex.
Pattison, Pat. "IMRO Songwriting Seminar with Pat Pattison." Lecture.
This lecture given by Pat Pattison at the Irish Music Rights Org headquarters teaches tools that can be used to tie emotion together with lyrics in a song. Pattison is a professor at Berklee College of Music, and has done extensive research into the nature of rhyme and verse and their application in songwriting. He uses teaching methods that are common more to an English teacher than to a music teacher, which serves to make music theory more accessible to the common man. I found it informative and easy to listen to. I used these tools in writing the lyrics to my songs, specifically when he mentions the way that the absence of lyrics can create a sense of instability.
Pattison, Pat. Writing Better Lyrics: The Essential Guide to Powerful Songwriting. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest, 2009. Print.
Pat Pattison, professor at Berklee College of Music, takes on the topic of lyrics portraying emotion and gives useful tools with which to write better song lyrics. He talks about the structure of popular songs and famous examples. He also talks extensively about using the absence or presence of lyrics to emphasize emotions that the author may be using in their piece. I used this book as a guide and to refine the lyrics I had already written, changing them to fit the templates that he provided. It proved helpful in shaping the structure of my songs and their overall direction.
Poyser, Debbie. "20 Tips on Songwriting." Sound on Sound Jan. 1999: n. pag.Sound on Sound. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.
This article by songwriter Debbie Poyser, published in 1999 in the magazine Sound on Sound gives twenty helpful hints and tips in order to help struggling songwriters. It outlines exactly what it is that makes artists struggle in writing pieces and gives helpful tips to overcome those boundaries. It covers all aspects of the process, from the conception of an idea to the finishing of a lyrical idea. I used these tips numerous times throughout the songwriting process, and the lesson in this article were extremely helpful in determining if my process was going to be fruitful or not. I cross-checked these tips with every one of my song lyrics.
Roseman, Ed, and Peter Reynolds. Edly's Music Theory for Practical People. Kennebunkport, Me.: Musical EdVentures, 2009. Print.
This is a book all about what makes music music and how that can be applied to the music that we hear or write. I have been studying from this book for a while, and almost everything I have learned about the theory side of music has been from this volume. It is easy to understand, hence the “for practical people”, and I have found it enjoyable. It has been immensely useful in showing me how the lick or chord progression I had written worked or didn't work musically. With its help, I refined the music I had written and wrote new things.
Wilder, Alec. The Great American Songbook. N.p.: Blendingwell Music, 1973. Print.
The Great American Songbook by music critic Alec Wilder is considered by many the greatest collection of American music in history. It chronicles hundreds of songs that are considered lyrically or structurally excellent. They are the creme de la creme, the best songs of their era. The book focuses mostly on Broadway and musical film pieces, but includes jazz and orchestral pieces as well. I used the volume to examine the structure of songs from that period and compared them to more contemporary songs. I noticed some similarities between the music that I liked and had written to some of the pieces that were in the book.
Plant, Robert, John Bonham, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Willie Dixon.Led Zeppelin II. Led Zeppelin. Atlantic, 1994. CD.
This album, the second from musical icons Led Zeppelin, won critical acclaim for its sound and style. It launched them from the minor fame they had received for their first record to the worldwide fame that they achieved later in life. I wanted to make some of my songs resemble some of theirs, and used this as inspiration. I particularly liked the imagery used in some of their songs, specifically "When the Levee Breaks". It was crucial that I identify lyrics and chord progressions that I liked from the album, and I used these to inspire some of the things that I would write in my project.
"Circle of Fifths." Circle of Fifths. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
This informative online tool teaches about the circle of fifths, an important facet of music theory. It is something that ties all of music together, and is helpful in seeing connections between chord progressions and relationships. This theory was crucial in understanding the chord progressions I had written and how I could apply them to songs that I was currently writing. I used it throughout the writing process in order to find a place in where I could spice up a section or write a new lick or harmony. I think that this information is crucial for anyone that wants to write a song that isn’t the basic three chords of pop music.
Rush, Toby W. "Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People." Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
This online database catalogues hundreds of lessons on music theory in convenient charts, graphs, and diagrams. It is made by Toby Rush, a data analyst and musician, who has dedicated his time to providing these free tools to aspiring musicians. I used this resource to teach myself more about music theory and what made my music work or fail. It proved extremely helpful in showing me new paths that I could take my songs and in showing me what I had already done with the songs I had written. I used the tools found on the website to create templates for the songs I wrote.
Frederick, Robin. "Learn How to Write a Song." Robinfrederick.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
This online resource details the steps in which songwriters create their works. It also addresses some of the challenges that face them throughout their journey. It includes lessons and tools as well as links to other outside resources on YouTube and other sites. I used this as a jumping off point by which to find other resources and look at examples of good song lyrics and chord progressions. I also used the steps to help influence my process when writing a song, changing what I had made to fit the criteria and tips outlined in this resource. I found it extremely helpful.