Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Singing On The Edge Of My Seat

Things have been so hectic that I neglected to post about the passing of this milestone last week. We finished on the evening of Tuesday the 12th of February, and it feels like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. Maybe it was because of the way the recording went.

Dan had arrived to begin setting up after dinner at about 7:30pm; we were soundchecked and ready to press the record button by eight. In the back of my mind, I was still not sure if I was ready to re-attempt 'Tiempo para el amor' (see earlier post) but I decided to risk the entire session by recording it anyway. The logic was to do it whilst my voice was fresh since it required more delicately controlled tones, as compared to the other remaining song 'Bembé' which is all about the energy. But there was a good chance that a laboured attempt at the first would jeopardise the success of the second.

Who Dares Wins right?

The first run through 'Tiempo' was alright but not scintillating; we both knew there was something better lurking in the wings so we scrubbed it and tried again. That next take nailed the whole pre-montuno section. Trying to carry momentum through, we moved to the inspiraciones and closing lines which were a little more involved since Dan had to cue my entry points: I prefer to sing with just congas, piano, bass and some hand percussion, with a lowish level of my own voice without reverb in the headphones so that I can hear what I'm doing to the mic; there's not a lot else to act as markers.

Momentum is difficult to maintain; the start and stop nature of 'recording and listening back' essentially precludes it. However, buoyed by success Dan loaded up 'Bembé'.

The beginning of the song is gentle with an open structure. That reveals everything about timing and initiation of tone. Several failed attempts at a flawless start saw me sitting down in the recording kitchen, glumly chewing in a couple of 'vocal zone' lozenges in an effort to soothe my voice. It was starting to look as if it wasn't going to be Bembé's night.

Lengthening the attack on the vowel did the trick, and we got the first half of the song done in one take bar the second verse. That took three takes. At one point Dan asked (rhetorically) "who wrote this verse?" because of the rapid-fire stream of syllables to be executed in one breath. Gurgle. I wasn't sure even then that everything was clearly enunciated and was just about to have another shot at it when Dan suggested that I listen to it - because he hadn't detected any smearing or tripping. He was right. The words did not skip as lightly as I would have wanted, but Dan had a point in that the way they were sung brought out the definition of the second verse.

The Chinese have a saying with translates literally into "To draw a snake, and then to add legs" which means to create something right, and then to make it wrong by not leaving it alone. Far be it for me to ignore an ancient proverb.

Frustratingly, the final hurdle proved to be the final two lines. But at last, by 10:30 pm everything was wrapped up. Like Catie who has finished all her standard flute parts, I too, felt a little bit of sadness. Only just a little bit.

I will always remember it as a precarious night, when it was touch and go whether things would work out. And the happy ending

Loo Yeo

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ear Training Tutorials

You wait ages and two come along at once.

A songo variation
©Copyright 2008 Loo Yen Yeo. All Rights Reserved.

Actually as of this writing, I've only released one: the last one of the series called "More Salsa Tumbaos". The other has already been written and I'm just waiting for Jeremy to finish the final track for it. Maybe he already has and will pass it to me tonight at band practice. We'll see. Good things come to those who wait, and Jeremy does only the good stuff.

The salsa piano tutorial has been the most sought after by far, although in recent months the email requests have been dying down. Understandable really, since I've been able to update the website only in fits and starts. What gave me the final push was the tremendous response from the musicality sessions of the 12th Night Salsa Extravaganza, where there was a genuine expression for the need of it.

I'm glad I took the time, instead of publishing it a year ago as I had originally intended. In the ensuing period, many more resources and reference materials have come to light that have radically reshaped the way I've written it. As I did more reading, out went draft after draft. The end result is the most complete I could make it for the intended audience, and I'm unusually content.

It does mean that I will have to write a further two tutorials in the advanced studies in rhythm section called "Rhythm Sense", which are both already underway. After having finished laying down all the lead vocal tracks, it's nice to have some time to get back into educative writing.

Release of the piano montuno tutorial will mean that only three proposed Ear Training ones remain. This might alter, but I'm looking into the possibility of deploying material from the recording project.

Now that is an exciting prospect.

Yeo Loo Yen

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Germ Of An Idea

In this world, you never know where your next source of inspiration might come from. I can see exactly why Terry Pratchett describes it in his Discworld novels as little packets like photons, occassionally smacking someone right between the eyes.

I got a similar ah-ha moment watching the Bristol episode of Grand Designs: Trade Secrets. Yes, I love Grand Designs. I'm very much a fan of the talent of Kevin McCloud - his writing, his presenting, his storytelling. In it, Naomi Cleaver (whom i've fallen in love with time and again) says:

"Minimalists are more likely to be introverted than extraverted. An extravert needs a lot of stimulation. External stimulation - colour, objects, people, noise. They need that to actually function. An introvert has a very active internal world - so the last thing they need is any other form of stimulation, and so from their perspective, the less is actually better."

Minimalism is hard to do because simplicity reveals all the flaws in the finish.

That got me thinking about dance about how the majority of my students had been extraverts. Does that mean that, despite all the talk about people wanting to "turn full circle" and get back into a state of using less moves, they will fail to do so due to their very nature?

I think this bears a more profound treatment. I think I've just found the topic of my next article.

Yeo Loo Yen