Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wake-Up Kiss: a new song about lazy mornings

The morning is one of my favorite times of the day. I wrote this song when I was traveling to Paris a few years ago, inspired by leisurely mornings in the City of Lights. Although I was in France, the first word in the chorus actually has a Chinese translation I should point out: "Zao an" means "good morning" in Mandarin. Why use Chinese here? Well, my Chinese is not great by any means, but there are certain Chinese phrases that I really got used to saying at home while growing up. And "zao an" was one of them. Also in the chorus, I would have liked to have been able to use the French word, "mademoiselle" (one of the few that I remember from high school French class), but it just didn't work. So combine my limited Chinese with my even more limited French, and this is what you get, "zao an madame."

With regards to the music, I wrote the chords on guitar, first. Then, I wrote the melody with Finale. When I do that, the melody can often be difficult to sing, because I don't pay as much attention as I should to my own singing range when I compose. I had to actually download the MP3 to my phone and learn how to sing the song that way -- and I still don't have it quite right. But I had a day off last week and so I figured I'd give it a go to see if I could get a reasonable take down.

So I went driving around in the afternoon during my daughter's nap and looked for a different spot than last time. Although it was a beautiful day and there were some really scenic possibilities I found, I couldn't quite get far enough away from the road to avoid all of the road noise. So apologies for the sound of cars rumbling by. This was the best take I could get down:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A ukulele version of "Expectant"

After playing around with my new ukulele for a couple of weeks, I thought it would be fun to use to record a version of "Expectant". I'd always thought that this song should be played with a ukulele because the sound was inspired by Hawaiian music when I wrote it. So on my last day of vacation earlier this week, with my daughter napping in the car, I found a fairly isolated parking lot -- except for the joggers, man talking loudly on his cell phone, planes, and birds swarming around -- and shot the following video.

After much rain over the holidays, I lucked out with some warm afternoon sunlight. While I didn't quite feel like I was back in Maui again, it was nice being outdoors surrounded by nature for this song.

The ukulele was quite convenient to carry around. But I still had some trouble holding the thing when I played, as it kept slipping down on a number of takes. Eventually I was able to find a somewhat comfortable, stable position for it.

It will be fun to try out some other songs that may be well-suited for ukulele as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Uke for the New Year

Just before Christmas, we took a family vacation to Maui. As is always the case when I visit Hawaii, I got ukulele tunes and all sorts of Hawaiian music stuck in my head, which is such an integral part of the whole experience and part of what makes the islands so relaxing.

As we were leaving, my wife thought it would be fun to buy my daughter a toy ukulele as a souvenir. And I agreed. So we picked one up from downtown Lahaina on our way to the airport.  While my daughter loves her little pink uke, at some point I expressed some mild disappointment that the instrument didn't really hold it's tuning very well. So it wasn't really playable as a real instrument.  My wife heard this and rectified the situation by surprising me with a ukulele of my own on Christmas morning!

She did a good job finding a solid instrument at a reasonable price. Apparently, the local music store was running low on inventory before the holidays, saying that ukulele's have been pretty popular this season. I wonder how much of the recent surge in popularity has been due to this song?

I love my solid-wood, Kala concert ukulele. I've been playing with it over my Christmas vacation and will hopefully be able to record something soon that I can post. As there are only four strings on a ukulele, the chord formations are fairly easy to learn for a guitarist. What takes the most getting used to is how to hold such a small instrument.

Happy new year!