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New Music – Katherine Labra ‘Late Nights’

I’m super excited to let you know that this week sees some beautiful new music coming out of the studio! The track is ‘Late Nights’ by new singer/songwriter Katherine Labra. The track was an absolute pleasure to work on both as a producer and a session musician. The feel is delicately mellow and heart felt and I think it shows great potential from this young artist. Check it out on the Spotify player below and read on for a bit of information about the recording process.

Production Process

This project came to me from Katherine after another producer had created a couple of really rough demos to draw from. After listening to these demos I really wanted to create a greater sense of structure and differentiate the chorus from the rest of the track. To do this I decided to simplify it back down to the original vocals and acoustic guitar and build the track up again from scratch. I really felt that the heart of the song was really strong and wanted to make it the focus point of the track.

After spending some time discussing the direction Katherine wanted for the track and establishing some extremely contrasting reference tracks I began layering up ideas the best concepts into what became the chorus. As I knew I would need the flexibility of moving project to the studios at work I found myself doing all of the software instruments with Logic Pro X which was a fun challenge.

The main acoustic guitar is my old Fender DG-4 Captured with an AT2020 and a vintage AKG D190E. I’ve ended up with three of these D190E’s and the frequency response is great for layering acoustics. The electric guitar was my trusty Fender Start recorded direct through my Focusrite 18i20 with Logic’s guitar amp plugins. I would usually record guitars amps but I wasn’t sure of the exact tone I would need until the vocals were tracked. The drum programming was trap influenced but notably less aggressive and the bass is a mono single oscillator sub bass to give it some weight.

The vocal sessions were some of the most fun I’ve had in the studio for a while. I went down to the studio at work to record them and took basically every mic I had to add to their collection incase we could find the right tone. There was a couple of AKG C414’s in the studio but they really didn’t work for this track and we ended up swapping them for my AT2020 and a SE Reflexion Filter through a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56. I haven’t got one of these filters at the studio currently but they really do help reduce the ambient noise and unwanted reflexions, especially for vocal sessions. I ended up with Katherine in the control room for the session as it felt more comfortable and we could talk really easily between takes and make adjustments together. I am finding more and more that I’d rather have the singer in the control room with me, everything feels more immediate and they seem more relaxed. Maybe this will change in the future but I prefer it that way for most sessions. The only creative editing after the session was the layered vocals at the end of the song which we both absolutely loved how they lift that final chorus and give a much needed counter melody.

After the vocal sessions came a series of mix down sessions without the artist and bounces being sent across until we felt the balance and feel had reached the final stages. It was at this point I left the Logic plugins as I use bunch of third-party plugins for mastering. The mix was intended to have a modern commercial sound but avoiding being overly compressed. I am really pleased with the outcome and the speed with which it came together. Hopefully I will be working on future releases with Katherine as I can see the honesty of the lyrics she writes really resonating with a lot of listeners. Let me know what you think of the track in the comment section below and don’t forget to add the track to your playlists!

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Bass Transcription – Jackson 5 ‘ABC’

It’s common knowledge that I love Motown. It never fails to brighten my mood, the musicianship is inspired and still remains accessible to anyone on the first listen. It’s a testament to the talents of the songwriters. This week I decided to transcribe the classic bass part from the Jackson 5 hit ‘ABC’.

Before we dive into the performance notes go to sheetmusic plus and download your copy of the transcription complete with tab here. The sheetmusic is a princely $2.99 and you get the full notation and TAB.

Go to Sheet Music Plus!

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2017 – My Year In Review

2017 In Review

As 2017 draws to a close I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some of the triumphs and challenges of the year, not to mention the excellent people I shared them with.

Big Changes, New Challenges

The biggest personal change this year was leaving the guitar tuition service I built from scratch behind to join the Barton Peveril College team as a Performing Arts Technician. It was really hard leaving behind the students I had watch grow and improve over the years but I am sure I will see many of the them in the industry for years to come. Working at Barton Peveril has presented me with a great number of new challenges and constantly pushes me to grow my skills set. I’ve had the pleasure of joining a wonderfully talented team with people I’m proud to count amongst my friends.

I also moved out of the tiny studio apartment I had lived in since I first arrived in Southampton as a student. Whilst I have fond memories of the place I’m so glad me and Lucy moved out to sunny Woolston. I’m looking forward to creating new and exciting memories in our new home.

The Last Years Noise

Keeping up the trend from the previous year, 2017 saw a lot of new musical releases. I have also put considerable investment in my studio which has seen the quality increase ten fold. To kick off the year I mixed and mastered the debut EP from Jae Sinfield ‘Flawed By Design’. This release was a four track EP that showcased Jae’s excellent songwriting and vocal talents. It also gave me a chance bring so many of our friends musical skills back together which was a real treat.

I also had the chance to stretch my musical theatre arranging skills on a track by composer Grace Marie Hancock. ‘The Dark Side is the Bright Side’ is Disney inspired villain song that still makes me smile on every listen. If you like fun quirky music I highly recommend checking out her other music as well.

To follow up last years EP, ‘Digital Sleep’, I released a new trance/house hybrid track ‘Promise’. After the spacious production of the EP I wanted to release something harder hitting and this track was the end result of a couple of months work. I’m still really proud of the final mix and loved the hours I spent fine tweaking the sounds.

Other honourable mentions include the short-lived release of two single by Ollie Woods, ‘Out Of Place’ and ’Song For The Sufferer’. I’m sure these songs will be available as soon as a new artist name is found. I also mixed a track by punk-band Warning’ who have since disbanded and evolved into Trophy Case. I’m sure we’ll hear more from them in the future.

 

Things To Look Forward To!

So what does 2018 hold? I currently writing and demoing songs for the new Jae Sinfield EP which will get recorded this coming spring. All I can say so far is that the songs sound gorgeous and the lyrics are hooky whilst retaining Jae’s emotional authenticity. I’m currently exploring some new sounds for next years personal releases. I’m not going to commit to anything yet but I’m going to need to buy some new gear to get there!

See you on the other side!

Solo Guitar Arrangement – ‘I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)’

Introduction

Christmas is upon us once again which means much of my guitar teaching shifts over to arranging classic carols. To help get your guitar playing into the festive spirit I have arranged a solo guitar arrangement of the traditional english carol ‘I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)’.

This arrangement is aimed at intermediate level guitarists with a good control of classical finger-style and natural harmonics. The whole piece has the harmonic structure written in the chords above, which can be strummed by another player to easily turn the piece into a duet. Alternatively you can use these chords to accompany a singer and add the solo guitar arrangement as a introduction. Think of this arrangement as a starting point for your own performance.

Before we dive into the performance notes, head over to sheet music plus and download your copy of the sheet music. Click here to open Sheet Music Plus.

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Bass Transcription – Ben E. King ‘Stand By Me’ with TAB

Introduction

It’s time again for another bass transcription! This week I wrote out the bass part for the Ben E. King soul classic Stand By Me. Stand By Me is a real must for modern bass players and a popular choice in function band repertoire. Whether you perform in a function/soul band or just love a good hooky bass line, this song is worth learning.

Before we dive into performance tips and a bit of music theory you can get a copy of the sheet music with TAB from sheetmusicplus for a princely sum of $2.99.

Click Here To Get Your Sheet Music!

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Coffee Time – New Job & Music Update!

New Job!

I have been off the grid for a month, whilst I settled into a brand new job! I am now working as a Performing Arts Technician for local Eastleigh institution, Barton Peveril College.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my previous employment as a private guitar and music tutor, I was ready for a new challenge, a steady pay check and more time to pursue my work as a producer and composer. The new job sees me working with a team of people to realise the technical demands of the department. This includes; sound and lighting for performances, maintaining the recording studios, dance rooms and drama studios, amongst a whole range of other tasks for the day to day running of the department. This job feels like a perfect for me and I am really excited for the first major performances of the academic year.

Productions and New Music

As I mentioned above I am still working on my production business during the evenings, weekends and holidays. I’m currently working on a cover of Pearl Jam’s ‘Jeremy’ for my brother James Cull. I tracked his vocals and acoustic guitar live a couple of weeks back and I’m gradually building up the layers with some bass, piano and percussion. It’s almost ready I just need to track some extra guitars and master the final mix and it’s ready to do.

I’m also mid way through a cover of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ with Lucy Atkinson that has been reimagined into an 80’s sequel pop track. I started this one to test out the new electric piano I brought in to the studio, the Casio Privia PX-110. I’m going to track the final piano and vocal parts next week and I’ll load it onto Soundcloud in a month or so. Love that song.

I have planned a number of upgrades for the studio over the next few months that will hopefully improve the quality of live tracking and workflow so I can turn tracks around faster and really get some great analog tones. If you’d like to hire me for your projects check out the page here.

I am still working on the follow-up to last years EDM EP ‘Digital Sleep’ and the trance single ‘Promise’ (link here) with a new mini album called ‘Phosphenes’. The next album will focus on more minimalistic, electronic and ambient sounds, something spacious and enticing. I’ll keep everyone posted on this project as it develops over the next few months.

Thanks as always for reading, I’m looking forward to sharing some new music with you soon!

Bass Transcription – Queen ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’

This weeks transcription is the bass line for Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ taken the album, ‘The Game’ (1980). The bass line, like the the rest of the composition, is built round a 50’s rock ‘n’ roll sound although there is some influence from soul and jazz in there for good measure. The rhythmic feel throughout is swung eight notes throughout with the occasional triplet fills and pushed chord changes. It is reasonably fast 125BPM so watch out for any fretboard jumps as there is the little time to change positions.


Before we dive into the performance notes you download a copy of the full score from Sheet Music Plus here.  

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