Today is Shrove Tuesday, which means pancakes are on the menu. In fact, Jane and I had ours for breakfast this morning. Jane did the making this year but I contributed by eating heartily with my favourite accompaniment of sugar and lemon juice.
Where does pasta fit in? The flour she used was actually ‘pasta flour’ rather than ‘plain flour’. It is milled more finely and, when used for pasta, leads to a golden rather than greyish result. We haven’t made pasta for a while though and so we had some of that flour that needed using up.
The resulting pancakes were a little thicker than normal but cooked well with a good texture. Maybe next year we’ll try two batches, so we can see the effect of pasta flour and plain flour side by side.
Having done ‘duo’ versions of Ramble for my RPM 2020 project, with banjos and then bouzouki and mandolin, I had a go at playing all four tracks together. With a bit of additional panning, it sounded quite good; having had to work out new chord shapes for the bouzouki and going for a melodic approach on the mandolin meant they fitted rather than clashing.
All I needed was something to glue it together and that came in the form of my double bass. As with the other acoustic instruments, I recorded it straight into Logic using my Zoom H1 as a USB microphone. Here is the result:
One observation was how much easier this was than laying down the other tracks. I did one bit of overdubbing at the end, when I forgot the structure, but my instincts are so much better on bass, which I’ve been playing for over 30 years in various forms, rather than the other instruments, with which I am a mere dabbler. I even deliberately re-used one of the ‘mistakes’ (going to an F# when the chord I had in mind was A/D) as a neat variation to leave the end a little different to the beginning.
I think I’m probably done with this tune for this project but it has definitely evolved through the process of returning to it. When I posted Ramble on resonator guitar to this blog, I mused whether it would be cheating to return to it with different instruments. Having seen what I have learned and how it has developed through that exercise, I am now convinced that it was a thoroughly valid and worthwhile idea.
After I’d done the banjo version of Ramble for my RPM 2020 project, I decided to try it on bouzouki. For some reason, I’d remembered that the bouzouki was tuned in a similar way to the banjo (aDGBD in this case) but, when I picked it up, it came back that it is more like a mandolin (GDAD, with a double course of strings for each note).
That meant working out a new set of chord shapes to navigate the same piece. Once laid down, I also wanted to add mandolin (GDAE). This time though, I played more melodically rather than putting down further chords.
This starts to add an extra dimension to the piece and I was excited to hear how it was developing into a more fully realised song. You can hear the result here:
I needed a few retakes to pin this pair down but Logic makes that wonderfully easy. You can re-record a whole track, just a portion of it or even loop round a marked-slot and then composite all the takes into a single ‘performance’. I made extensive use of this but I think the joins are fairly seamless.
I got another three tracks for my RPM 2020 project done yesterday. If you remember the Ramble track that I posted last weekend, performed on a resonator guitar, I mentioned that I had plans to try it on different instruments.
Firstly, I had figure out what I’d played, and then relearn it on something else. First up was banjo (tuned ADGBD – the song is in D so I used a cut-down biro lid to fix the high string a tone up from normal). I did takes with both strumming and finger-picking and decided that they worked well together:
My original version was semi improvised and performed without any backing. For this one, I set up structure in Logic and created a couple of scratch tracks (a drummer, as a more inspiring metronome, and a keyboard outlining the harmonic structure) before doing my takes.
One of the good things about doing this project is that it accelerates learning how to use Logic as a tool. For this one, a trick I had to figure out was how to add a rallentando to slow down at the end. It turns out to be pretty easy, using a tempo track.
I’ll post more about the other new tracks in the coming days.
This could be called the most considered piece of my RPM2020 collection so far, in that I didn’t record and release it on the same day.
Initially, I set up a ‘drummer’ in Logic Pro X and then improvised over the top of it (Sei Flamboyant 6 string bass through my regular, ‘SansAmp’ based Helix LT patch). I then chopped the bass part up into chunks and set it on one side for a couple of days.
Yesterday evening, I came back to it and spent some time arranging the pieces. They appear largely in the order of recording but I took the liberty of deleting some of the fumbles and bits that didn’t seem necessary, while duplicating and repeating a few chunks to add a little more structure.
In other words, improvisation as a source for composition. I suppose it does show off some of my playing chops although I had the process at the forefront of my mind when I named it.
I must try to practise some songs either fast or slow. This morning, I listened back to a scratch recording from Sunday morning’s service. Unfortunately, I’d left the recording level too high, so the overall sound was a bit grating. However, it struck me that I ought to check the tempo of the songs I did and they almost all turned out to be in the range of about 85-95 bpm.
The only exception was the one song in 6/8 time. There, I used the dotted crotchet as the beat unit, which came out slower, although (without the figures in front of me) I’ve a sneaking feeling that the value of a crochet might still have been in the same ballpark.
I think the solution might be to deliberately practise songs at a variety and then, with the volume turned off, use the metronome app on my phone to choose the pulse to tune into.