These are the days we wait for…

Just had an amazing week in the studio with my buddy and fellow Scissor Sister Bridget Barkan. Very excited to get these songs mixed and mastered and out into the world. So glad that we managed to find time this year to get together and record. Looking forward now to the rest of my summer dates with Alison Moyet. This week Leuven in Belgium, then in August we are playing Weyfest and Beautiful Days. After that we go into rehearsals, then off to the US in September. Very grateful to be so busy this year! 

Long drops and quick dips

On Saturday I was at Glastonbury Festival with Alison Moyet, witnessing the Jeremy Corbyn frenzy and struggling with technical difficulties on stage, and now I am in a luxury hotel on the Palace Promenade in The Hague. Amazing where this job takes you sometimes; such contrasts in small timeframes. Although Ableton decided to reset all our midi routing in the hour before showtime, the Glastonbury show was really great – amazing crowd and lovely backstage area at Leftfield. Billy Bragg was a welcoming presence to everyone there; very inspiring to be around his unflagging enthusiasm and commitment. 

Last night at Park Pop we managed to fix the issue with Ableton and the show was great. Looking forward to getting back into the studio for a couple of weeks before the next gig with Alison in July.

Dyads and Triads – are your chords “Too Jazzy”?

Dyads and Triads – are your chords “Too Jazzy”?

Something that I picked up from working with great singers was that harmony is there to support the song and the singer.

When I first worked with Alison Moyet in 2002, I had been playing a lot of jazz, so my natural impulse was to fill out harmony with three-, four- or five-note voicings. Alison picked me up on a section where I was adding too much to the voicing, and showed me a dyad (two-noted chord) that was more appropriate. Her exact words were: “Not every chord has to have three notes.”

During the writing of the score for Tales of the City the Musical with Jake Shears, I would often follow a similar impulse to “over-harmonise” things, to which Jake’s usual response was: “Too Jazzy!” I took this onboard, and started writing a lot more using only triads (and sometimes dyads). Surprisingly, this opened up my harmonic language more than I could have expected, because it forced me to think harder about inversions, voicings, modulations and related keys.

As an exercise, I highly recommend limiting your harmonic palette, and seeing where it leads you. For me, it really opens up the potentials of songwriting and composition. Then, when you finally do sneak in a major 7th, a minor 9th or even a 13th with a b5, the effect of it is that much more powerful.

Reaper for Live Playback – updated Videos, Feb 2017

Here’s an updated playlist of videos outlining a method of using Reaper for live playback (backing tracks) on stage.

There are five videos:

  1. Import Template: multi-channel routing for your audio interface and setup for midi program change.
  2. Import Audio: how to import multiple tracks to your playback session
  3. Import Audio Custom Actions: explanation of the custom action for importing audio
  4. Navigation Custom Actions: four custom for navigating the set list – Previous/Next Project Tab, Stop and Play
  5. Custom View: some tweaks to the display, including SWS Notes and Project List

If you are using Reaper for live playback, I’d love to hear from you. It’s always great to hear how other people are using Reaper, it’s such a flexible and powerful tool.