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August 30, 2018

Forever Mine - vox and strings (Mon, Wed, Thurs)

Got nothing done on the weekend due to family and other commitments. This is a good thing, because I have a bad habit of over-working and disappearing up my own butt about these things. Down time is essential! (Gotta keep reminding myself.)

Monday I focused on transcribing the melody - not something that comes easily to me - and arranging some funky string lines. Actually, not funky ones at all - nice flowing romantic ones.

Starting from the "band" keys arrangement, I deleted everything that was not in the violin and cello ranges, creating separate tracks for each. I started out just getting them playing the chords behind the guitar parts - lots of long, flowing notes with just a little dynamic via the velocity of the MIDI notes.

Next step was to add a little movement with some passing notes and runs between sections of the song. Additional dynamic flourishes added at this point. Then I wanted to put some "ear candy" (in posting this I have just learned that Ear Candy is the name of a country music duo in my hometown. How cool is that?) in the gaps between vocal lines. This proved tricky as I wasn't exactly sure where the vocal lines lay ...

So, melody transcription time! Painful process - I hate it - but it helps not only to place the notes more accurately in my head but also to find spots that could be more interesting (or that just plain need replacing). For some reason I chose a saxophone sound for the melody line ... dunno why, just did. Probably reminds me of the sound of my voice ...

I then recorded a placeholder lead vocal because the programmed melody doesn't show the phrasing and dynamic of how I sing the song. I felt like I needed that in there so I could make a suitable string line around it. Also pointed out places where the vocal could be more or less dynamic ... and other flaws (later ...). Stopped with a second draft of strings Monday arvo.


Worked on Tuesday and didn't do any more on Music. Spent Wednesday morning on family issues but got to flesh out more string things Wednesday arvo. I was pretty happy with the way it was shaping up. Played it to my wonderfu Suzie ... (hoping for validation and warm fuzzies) ...

Suzie thought this was lovely in general - but too strident in places. The highs were too high for a romantic song ... screechy and sticky-outy. She thought there were too many notes in places, which didn't suit the song.


This is, of course, one of my faults: once I start working on things, I over-work them. Try too hard, put too much in ... all that stuff. Time to take notes back out!

So, Wedneday night I removed selected chunks of high notes and settled some of the movements down - epecially in the early parts. I actually increased the dynamic at the end and made the flourishes more repetitive in the coda. Went to bed wracked with insecurity ...


This morning I played it to Suzie again and she loved it. Much better (shame about the vocal, which I pointed out was a placeholder). Only had the morning to work on it, so focused on the backing vocals. Arranged what I thought sounded like suitable harmonies in two places. Got one right, still hate the other one (which is the more important one). Will keep working on that.

I have had some idea for re-worked lyrics and a few changes to the melody to go with them. Tomorrow I'm off to the Maleny Music Festival for some great tunes ... maybe a chalk board or two ... jam on some changes to the lyrics (that usually happens between midnight and dawn). Will resume this exercise on Monday with a focus on new lyrics and vocals. Once that's done, it's mixing time!!

How would you approach this exercise? Any thoughts or suggestions? Tell us below ...

Posted by Huge at 7:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2018

Recording Forever Mine and arranging strings - Friday

Just finished the third version of the string arrangement, based around a reasonable guitar take and a placeholder vocal. Thought I'd better document the entire process from a technical and musical point of view:

So, I started by recording the stomp box with a Dr Martens boot on my pine box. I find that the softer rubber sole of the Dr Martens gives the stomp a more mellow, deeper tone than a harder shoe, but has more definition than a sneaker. Using the SM57 avoids having too much boomy bottom end. Maybe I'm full of crap, but that's how it seems to me.

I recorded a whole heap of stomping to about 2 minutes of click track, then looped the best 4 bars of it, since it's a constant within the song and I'm in a hurry here.

I then recorded the guitar in two takes, comped them into the best I could very quickly, but didn't edit very much. I should have trimmed my RH fingernails to a consistent length but didn't, so you can hear some inconsistency in sound on the arpeggiation - the 5th is much softer than the tonic and octave. My index fingernail broke in the middle of recording, which made things worse. When I do this properly I will fix these things.

I had been playing with a strings/keys part (RH only) for the full band ("Banding Together") version of this song, so I grabbed the MIDI of that part to use as the starting point for the strings. Created individual tracks for cello and violin and dropped the respective Kontact patches on each - straight out of the box, except that I turned the Concert Hall FX off.

That was Friday. What you think of this process? Got any thoughts or suggestions? Share them below.

Posted by Huge at 7:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2018

Week 8 update - ready for action

This week marked the end of my commitment to work at the office on Wednesday and Thursday. My load there has now reduced to something I can manage from home by checking in each day. That will change back again at the end of October but at least next week I'll get Wednesdays and Thursdays back for creative purposes.

Hugemusic time management tool Week8. Click to download PDF.The TEDx talk rehearsals are coming along OK and I'm adding key details, so I think I'll use this time to work up the Tetrfasi demonstration using Forever Mine after the NSAI feedback. I think creating a demo of how the process works will help with my grant applications. Love to hear your suggestions for what I should do with the track - and watch this space for reports on the progress of that project.

In addition to this, I received confirmation that I will be volunteering at the Maleny Music Festival this weekend. That will put a hole in my creative schedule but it will also re-connect me with a few people I played with in the past and hopefully open up opportunities to perform again in the future. These kinds of activities are what I'm calling in my TEDx talk "indirectly productive" activities. They are essential to creative practice, but are not the visible part of what artists are notable for, so they tend to be disregarded by hard-lineers.

I got to play at the BASEQ jam on Sunday again, which keeps the juices flowing. Always great to have a hit out at those jams and see teh awesome local talent on display. Be great to see you there is you want to have a go ...

SO, how should I approach the three-piece version of Forever Mine? What do you suggest?

Posted by Hughie at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2018

Forever Mine - Three's Company version for Tetrafasi

I have decided to direct my creative efforts towards making a demo of the Tetrafasi concept focusing on making four versions of just one song: Forever Mine. I do this in the hope that the concept and its practical reality becomes clearer to people who might back it. I have found that this is one of those situations where it's all very clear to me, but others don't pick it up easily.

So, I will re-write the song as per the NSAI feedback, and also produce a version in line with the "Three's Company", "Banding Together", and "Sky's The Limit" templates. Since I have no cash and very little time, I'll do everything on the demo versions myself ... see what happens. Once it's done I'll post it all here and use it to support applications for grants.

So next version is the trio version. To keep things simple I thought I'd go with Guitar/stomp, violin and Cello. Three voices - not needed much for this one. I'd love to do someting more novel/interesting - and I had a great Jam on this tune with Robin Etter-Cleave at the Pullenvale Folk Festival after-party. She played Tenor Flute on it and it sounded wicked! I wanna get her to play on the real thing when Tetrafasi can pay her for her efforts.

In the meantime, I will arrange a cello part. Of course, I'll have to program the Violin and Cello (good thing I have Komplete on my Pro Tools 9 rig, which has Kontact, which has some awesome string sounds), since I don't either and probably would struggle to play them well enough if I did. This is one of the points of Tetrafasi: to show how cool it is when other people's ideas and playig styles get added to the mix. That usually throws up all sorts of great possiblities ...

I'll try to document as much of this as I can each day. I've already started - have the guitars and stomp box down. Will be able to work on it Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, I think ...

What do you think? What would you do with the arrangement of this song? Tell us below ...

Posted by Huge at 8:28 AM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2018

Forever Mine - Vital Signs rewrite

Submitting Forever Mine to the NSAI for feedback made me realise how out of date some of my song posts are. I almost never play these songs now as they are reported on this site. So, since it's the most recent in my head, and since I intend to devote the next little while to reworking it, here's an update on Vital Signs:

Some yeas ago I posted this on a long-forgotten songwriting site and received feedback that the hook "Vital signs" was entirely anatomical and medically nerdy. This is true, but I'm a nerd, so instead of re-writing the lyric I simply started using the more accessible title "Forever Mine". This didn't really change much but it did make me re-think the lyrics. I wanted to get more intimate imagery into it and for a while I performed it thus:

Forever Mine (v2)

Will we be lovers at sunrise?
Will I still see you after dawn?
I won't lie. I want to keep you near
I can't believe that you and I are here

Let me lay my head on your chest. I wanna hear your vital signs.
In the still of the night I need to know I'm alive
Stay with me. Let our lives align.
Hold me close. Be forever mine

Will we find happiness together?
Will we find peace between ourselves?
I won't lie and say the future's clear
I can't believe you and I are here


Oh-Oh The moon lights up your face
Oh-Oh Your hair aglow.
Oh-Oh I breath your scent and I wonder,
Oh-Oh Will we continue?
Well I can't say but this I testify:
All I know is I would like to try.

Let me lay my head on your chest.
I wanna hear your vital signs.
In the still of the night I need to know I'm alive

Please don't lie. That's my deepest fear.
I want to believe our future's clear.
Stay with me. Watch our worlds entwine
I wanna believe you'll be forever mine.
Now hold me close. Be forever mine.


That was cool for a while but still didn't cut it for me. I wanted to get more movement and sentasion into especially the middle 8. So I re-wrote it again into the version I recorded for "Alive and Alone" (of course, the Oh-oh bits are backing vocals in my head, which I can't perform live):

Forever Mine (v3)

Will we be lovers at sunrise?
Will I see your smile after dawn?
I won't lie. I want to keep you near
I can't believe that you and I are here

Let me lay my head on your chest. I wanna hear your vital signs.
In the still of the night I need to know I'm alive
Stay with me. Let our lives align.
Hold me close. Be forever mine

Will we walk arm-in-arm down Broadway?
Will you hold my hand through the tears?
I won't lie and say the future's clear
I can't believe you and I are here


Oh-Oh Like a bud in springtime
Oh-Oh It's all brand new
Oh-Oh Will we tell our children's children
Oh-Oh How our love gew?
Well I can't say but this I testify:
All I know is I would like to try.

Let me lay my head on your chest.
I wanna hear your vital signs.
In the still of the night I need to know I'm alive

Please don't lie. That's my deepest fear.
I want to believe our future's clear.
Stay with me. Watch our worlds entwine
I wanna believe you'll be forever mine
Now hold me close. Be forever mine.


Just to finish the idea, here's the most recent live version, which I will be re-writing again following the feedback from the Nashville Songwriters Association, and developing via the Tetrafasi Project demo:

Please tell me what you think and watch this space ...

Posted by Huge at 1:14 PM | Comments (0)

Forever Mine - NSAI feedback

I decided to continue seeking feedback from the Nashville Songwriters Association International about my songs. After the last two I thought perhaps I'd go back to the drawing board on all of them before wasting my precious feedback opportunities on songs that were obviously not good enough ...

But then I thought, well, perhaps I could use some guidance as to what to do on the drawing board and which songs to prioritise. So I put up Forever Mine for review. Now, this is the song for which I have received the most positive feedback in live settings. Even my early songwriting mentor and PhD research supervisor, the late Dr Steve Dillon, said "that's a good song" the first time he head it. When I played a version something like this at The Retro Bar recently, 8 Ball Aitken told me he liked the song and that it had some "really lovely moments" (many thanks to Genre Bender Mike Barber for support on this one):

This time, I listed it in the "Rock" genre and said that "I want this to be a commercial song". The last two were "Country" and I said I wanted someone else to record them. With all of these reviews, I have asked for brutal honesty because "I can take it".

Well, different starting position, same awesome, rapid feedback! I am once again blown away by the speed (less than 2 days) and supportive nature of the feedback. Once again, it has pointed out some weaknesses in my writing that look so obvious in hindsight that I'm horrified that I considered this a good enough song to submit it. Here's the version I sent them:

Here's what the reviewer had to say:


Song Title - Forever Mine

Evaluators Comments -
EVALUATORS OPENING: Welcome to the NSAI Evaluation Service. I am Evaluator #XXXXX. My goal is to help guide you in the process of songwriting, with the hopes of helping you become the best songwriter you can be. Please keep in mind that this evaluation is only my professional opinion, and these opinions are given to you to help reach your goals for each submitted song. I hope this service will be a beneficial tool for your craft, and wish you the best in all you do.

FORM/STRUCTURE: You have nice separation from verse and chorus sections, while your bridge section provides departure from the rest of the song. I recommend a small tweak to the verse rhyme scheme to where every other line rhymes or take an AB AB rhyme scheme approach for a more solid rhyme structure.

TITLE/HOOK: You have a title here that can be written and approached in many different ways which will help to peak the interest of the listener and work to draw the listener into wanting to hear the song. Hook lacks a solid payoff that would leave it memorable to the listener. A hook will do this when each line of the song provide a direct and clear thought to the hook.

LYRIC: You have a storyline here that stays within the moment of the song throughout, but overall lyric can use some re-writing to to allow the lyric to be more hook supportive. Your main focus of the song lies within the hook thought "be forever mine". With this in mind you want each line to provide an idea to this. For example, verse sections that are presented with directional thoughts such as let go of the past, fall into my arms, so and and so forth, will allow the verse sections to lead to the thought of and "be forever mine".

OVERALL THEME/IDEA: You have an idea here that feels incomplete at this time due to the lack of lyrical support to your hook idea. Lyric will work as a thought to the hook from start to finish with the ideas I have suggested above, and will allow the song to carry a solid and clear theme to your listener.

MELODY/METER (IF APPLICABLE): You have a feel here that is more geared towards a roots rock such as Chris Isaak, which is really ok but it can box the song in from other artist. Re-working the production and mixing this feel with more of a top 40 rock feel of today will allow the song to become more geared towards todays rock commercial radio and open the song up for more artist cut opportunities.

CLOSING COMMENTS: Consider re-writing with the above ideas and suggestions to see where they can take the song. I hope this evaluation has helped you gain some new ideas for the song. Keep up the writing as each write and re-write will continue to develop your commercial writing skills, and thank you again for your submission.


Once again, WOW! Let's go through this point-by-point:

1) Awesome! I thought this structure was solid - I'm pretty good at those by now. I had actually been agonising over the rhyme scheme in the verses, since this is about the only song I have written that doesn't have rhyming verses ... good to know I should just stay with my instincts. Will re-work this.

2) Great advice. This was not the original hook/title. It became the hook when I realised - following feedback on a long-disappeared indie songwriting site - that the original hook "Vital Signs" was not very hooky and actually too academic, nerdy, and inaccessible. After all, I am quite a nerd. I have been chewing on ways to change this to better support the new hook for a while, but will do so with renewed vigour now. Lesson - you can't just change the hook without changing the lyrical support for the hook.

3) Cool! I had re-worked the verses several times to "stay in the moment" better, so I thought this was pretty strong. As above, I will re-work again - though I think of the "forever mine" hook as more of a temporal thing than a directional/spacial thing ... hence the consistent insecurity about the future in the verses. Hmmmmmm ... have to think hard about these suggestions.

4) Yep. Gottit. Will re-work.

5) Fascinating! When I ticked "commercial song" I thought I'd get advice about making the song stronger in general, not who I might pitch it to. D'Oh! Should have understood that this is what NSAI is all about. Very grateful to receive this and honoured to be thought of in the same sentence as Chris Isaac. What makes this advice even more interesting, though, is that this is exactly what I had planned to do with the song via the Tetrafasi Project. In fact, this is exactly the reason Tetrafasi is so important to developing songwriters. I am absolutely going to produce this song as a Tetrafasi demo (ie do it all myself just once) and use this as an example of the process. Perhaps that will make the value of Tetrafasi clearer and gain me some support ... ??

In summary: Think I will re-write, seek more feedback from version 2, then re-produce in the Tetrafasi template. See where this baby might lead. Since my Day Job commitments wind down a little after today, I should have time to get it done between now and my TEDx talk. Perhaps a crowd-funding campaign? THANK YOU NSAI!

What do you think? How would you feel about this feedback and what would you do about it?

Posted by Hughie at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2018

Week 7 update - sigh ...

At least the pattern is becoming increasingly clear - what I'm planning to do its largely getting lost behind day jobs and distractions (there's a song in that!). Feels like I have barely done a musical thing since this began - certainly haven't done the constructive, career-building things I wanted to do. Here's the charts:

Hugemusic-Time_tool_Wk7.pngSeveral good things are evolving:

  1. The hardware for my new show is complete. I have the looper, the wireless foldback, and wireless guitar system are all in place and I have started to rehearse that show. (Tax returns are a wonderful thing)
  2. The TEDx talk is developing nicely. Had our first rehearsal this week - lots of practice to do, starting with memorising it. TED demands a very high standard of talk!
  3. Next week will be my last week of Day Job classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The initial onslaught of marking has also settled down a lot. That should free up some time for music things after next week.

So, along with family things becoming more stable, this bods well for the future - as long as I stay on track. I seriously have to find better ways to use my time.

Got any thoughts? How can I change it up to be more productive?

Posted by Hughie at 6:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2018


Vale Aretha! One of the greatest voices ever and an artist of class and integrity. You will be missed but never forgotten, Queen of Soul.

And your contributions to the Blues Brothers were awesome and made the movies even more special!

Posted by Huge at 9:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2018

Week 6 update - TEDxQUT time ...

You might have noticed that a fair bit of my time has been taken up with an "other" activity. It's not actually part of my musical or day job roles, but it's very important to me and will hopefully gain some attention for what I'm trying to do. I even like to think that if people took the idea up seriously, it could change the world for the better ...

Here's this week's time usage - familiar pattern:

Hugemusic_Time-mgt_Wk6.pngI've now been officially announced as a speaker for TEDxQUT, which is a ridiculous honour:

I'm not speaking about me (much) I'm talking about a concept I have for improving the lives of artists all over the world - especially in Australia. It would also make the world a more creative and inspiring place ... but it would also require cooperation and invetment from lots of stakeholders. Tricky ...

I might also be playing at TEDxQUT - watch this space for confirmation. TBH I think there are plenty of great local artists who deserve a sopt in that spotlight. I've got mine and I'm more than happy to share.

Still - lots of practice/rehearsal to do if this is going to work well, so ... on with the show ...

What do you think? Am I practicing enough at this stage? Or is this a side-light that's getting in the way?

Posted by Hughie at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 8, 2018

Week 5 update - not happy, Jan!

Lots of Day Job activity this week. Serious amounts of marking and so on. Plus a little family time due to a funeral and more footy. Also had a big chunk taken up on my special "Other" project, which I can't talk about yet because it's not official. I will just say that I've been writing a very special speech:

Hugemusic_Time-mgt_wk5.pngWhat's very clear is that I am not getting much music rehearsal, production or writing, in, and even less business planning, booking, marketing, etc. Just barely keeping my head above water. Need to stop doing things like this and spend more time on core activities - though, strangely enough, I've got more gigs coming soon.

Enough said, plan to follow ...

Posted by Huge at 7:05 PM | Comments (0)
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