Creating A Song – He Is Stronger

 

Thursday Evening

Every Thursday eve, at our community house in Norwich, we have a big nosh-up. For quite a while our Thursday evenings lacked people. So we prayed. Now we have lots of people come; friends, family, work colleagues and the rest. Before we tuck in, I normally say a little word (like radio 4’s ‘Thought Of The Day) we sing a song and each week, someone is asked to wrap things up with a prayer before we eat.

It was during one of these lively evening meals that I turned to Ore (a regular attendee), five minutes before my thought for the day, and said.. “Lets make a song to sing in the next five minutes.” So we did. It went:

I’m getting rid of distractions,
looking to Jesus.
For He is stronger,
He is greater than the world.

He is stronger,
He is greater,
He’s the ruler of my heart (repeat)

IMG_20140828_212949

Jude, Mark and Ore

Jude, Mark and Ore

Jude happened to record the song on his phone:

[audio:https://colourfulchurch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Memo.mp3]

The tune was catchy and Ore said it reminded him of a Nigerian song he knew. After the meal, Ore and my sister Abigail helped to write a full on song with a middle eight and everything.

Whilst constructing the melody of the the song, Ab realised that some of the melodies were similar to other Jesus Fellowship songs. I said lets change it. In the end we didn’t change anything. There’s always going to be some other melody from somewhere that’s similar to the song you’re writing.

Don’t let your creativity be bullied by familiarity; If you do, they’ll be nothing of your originality left. Plus, people can relate to it more if they feel that they’ve heard it somewhere before.

We wanted the lyrics to be simple. We didn’t want to use any clever metaphors. There is nothing more powerful than the revelation of God’s love for us and the realisation that there is a completely different way to live.

Part of the finished product went like this:

C
I’m getting rid of distractions,
Am
looking to Jesus.
Dm-F
For He is stronger,
Dm-G
He is greater than the world (x2)

F
He is stronger,
C
He is greater,
G, F, Em, Dm, C – G
He’s the ruler of my heart.
Am
His name is Power,
F
Blessing And Honour.
G, F, Em, Dm, C – G
He’s the ruler of my Heart.

No words can express,
Nothing can compare,
To the love you’ve given us.
So free, So pure. 

Dm
Come,
F
Unblock our ears,
C

Uncover our eyes.
G
Reveal Your truth,
C

Set us Apart (repeat)

G
Set us apart…

 

We played the song in D-maj on a guitar that had been tuned down to the key of D. That means you’re still playing in C-maj. Just sounded nice really.

We decided to record the song Friday evening due to the fact that we’d spent quite a while constructing the song after the the Thursday meal.

Friday Evening

I set up the recording equipment in the lounge, stuck a sign on the door and hoped that people would read it before they ambled into the middle of a recording. Ideally you would want to record somewhere quiet but in community, that’s pretty difficult.

In the knowledge that I was recording three people (myself included) I would liked to have had each person with headphones listening to the timing of the song. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough inputs on my M-Audio interface. 

In the end, we each sat around my Behringer C-3 mic and did three different recordings. I listened to the timing of the song on Ableton that I had prepared earlier and played the guitar to help keep Ab and Ore in time.

Everything went to plan and all three recordings went perfectly.

Here you can see the mic somehow covering Ore's face.

So this was the basic set up. Gather around one mic. One mic to rule them all

The different pick up patterns

The different pick up patterns: Fig 8, Cardioid & Omnidirectional

So why do three?
Because I’m not a mastering magician, I had to rely solely on my equipment to provide the warmest sound before I started mixing it.. We recorded three times on three different pick-up patterns that my condenser has.

  • Cardioid – This picks up sound waves that travel directly into the front of the condenser.
  • Omnidirectional – This is more for an ambient recording that has a spherical pick-up. Basically it picks up sound from every possible angle.
  • Figure Eight (or as my teacher calls it ‘The butt’) – picks up sound from both sides of the mic.

All of this was in order to create track that sounded like a dozen or so people were having a sing-song as opposed to three people.

Because I was utilising all of these different pickups, I wanted to limit the sound waves bouncing around the room. So I shut the curtains and threw a load of blankets over the piano. Poor piano.

The piano is full of strings and hammers that are full of tone, if you spoke near it your voice would hit these internal instruments and project and prolong that sound around the room. The blankets were placed to try and absorb most of the sound before it reached the highly sensitive strings and hammers and stuff. I’m boring you. Sorry.

Piano covered up

Piano covered up

Aaaaanyway. This is what the finished audio sounded like:

[audio:https://colourfulchurch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/He-is-Sronger-1.mp3]
La, la la la laaa

La, la la la laaa

If you’re listening to this with anything other than your mobile phone, you’ll notice that there’s a strange high-pitched sound that coincides with the kick. This was because When I mixed down the track I was limited to what I could actually mix. This was all because I had to play the guitar on each of the recordings. I was also stamping my foot whilst playing to help keep the rhythm for the guys. This created the squeaky thump on the kick and it was so frustrating. Because the guitar was on all the recordings, I couldn’t EQ it out. There are many ways around this but the night was definitely not young and I had to have a track completed for Ab to take back with her the next day.  In the end I finished at 2:30am.

It's late...

Ab, Me and Ore. It’s late…

When recording vocals I can select the high pass filter input on the mic. This cuts out any unwanted low end hum-drum.

When recording vocals I can select the high pass filter input on the mic. This cuts out any unwanted low end hum-drum.

Saturday (Mens Day)

Some of the lads from our community house called ‘Saving Faith’, went to a Jesus Fellowship meeting/seminar bash called ‘Mens Day’. I saw my older sibling Gideon aka Sunshine and  played the track on phone. He said to “stick it on Soundcloud init”. I said “OK”. Riveting stuff.

Sunday

After our morning meeting, the food and then the washing up, I decided to have another crack at recording the song. This time with a cleaner mix worthy of the critical internet people.

But not just because of that. Ahem.

I choose a room upstairs that had recently been vacated for the week and set up my recording gear. Ab had gone back to Northampton by this time so I made do with my younger sibling Esme. Of course Ore was around and he was more than happy to re-record.

M-Audio Interface

M-Audio Interface

Midi keyboard

Midi keyboard

This time I found a split aux lead thing that could go into my interface and have two head phones attached. Wahoo! Esme and Ore wore the headphones while I looked at the visual cues on the laptop to help me know when to come in.

Yet again we did three recordings on the different pick up patterns which are called… ? Quick-fire test. If you failed, give me twenty. Pounds. Give me Twenty Pounds. I digress!

So we did the three recordings again but this without the guitar. NOW I was able to EQ the individual voices. I recorded the guitar separately. I also recorded myself singing the main bits and I also recorded one harmony.

This was all in aid to add width to the track. I wanted to include Abs vocals on the new version so I incorporated a harmony that she had done on the original. I also added in Ores harmony.

All in all, not including my lead vocals, there were 6 background vocal tracks. I panned all the tracks to the left and right outputs. This is what provided the width and punch.

I played some piano using a midi keyboard, stuck on some bass and spent a good few hours of  EQ nit-picking, decibel dropping and compressing.

I cleaned all the vocals up by dropping out the low end and allowing the high frequencies to come through. This made the track sound less muddy and allowed lower frequencies sounds such as the bass and the kick to push through.

I did some basic mastering by sticking some EQs, Compressors, Glue Compressor onto the master track.

Then I just thought. Like most people would:

“Pffft… that’ll do”

Two new songs from Andre

The tide of life

A song that begins with contemplative sounding alternatively tuned acoustic guitar and leads on into a dance sound.

This song expresses the importance of some forgotten treasures people don’t generally strive for in life.
In a world where purposelessness and pointlessness seem to grip so many lives it is easy to get blown around primarily by the media in order to make the most out of life. A tide of life represents a life where you live for eternal things and strive for treasures like righteousness and purity.

 

So much bigger

A reggae based song that tells of a person’s revelation that life is far bigger than themselves and how God shines His light on them and they can see that they need to change.

Touch The Flame – Music Video With A Message

Good art is more than technical brilliance. Good art is creative; it inspires something beyond itself. Good art is purposeful, it inspires. But art at it’s best is even deeper than that; it speaks from the heart and to the heart. And when art speaks from the heart of The Creator it’s prophetic.

Piano and pianist music video

There’s a prophetic message from God that’s been circulating around my church (the Jesus Fellowship) recently. It’s about how we need to completely walk away from relying on our own traditions and ways of doing things, living life dry of the power of the Holy Spirit. God wants to set us on fire again for us to live conspicuously connected to and charged by Him, driven by a passion, not dragged along by duty. One key scripture that bears this message for us is 2 Chronicles 7:14-15, which is read out at the start of the video later in this post.

Out of this message came a song titled ‘Touch The Flame’, with a chorus that asks the longing question “what if we turned to you again?” It seemed to strike a chord at a couple of our events so it was decided that it would be made into the month’s official studio produced Jesus Fellowship track, particularly considering it’s timeliness and topical relevancy.

Accoustic guitar and cello

Taking inspiration from an an impromptu live lounge music session the song’s author, Nathan, decided to record the song with a grand piano and asked Carole and Gav to play the cello and acoustic guitar for it. Maybe also taking inspiration from The Piano Guys he asked me to film it to give the vital message a bit more exposure to the church with a shareable music video. Not that I’m claiming to have achieved anything close to the production values of The Piano Guys’ video team, but it’s good to aspire!

Here it is:

I’ve never made a music video before. This project was particularly challenging considering the fact that I was filming the official recording of the track rather than something acted afterwards.

After dinner at our kind host’s house we spent a whole evening recording seven or eight full runs of the song to get the best take we could. We used two cameras, one handheld for closeups and medium shots, the other tripod mounted for medium and wide shots. I was aware that whatever take we used in the end I’d need the closeups of the musicians from the chosen take- I couldn’t get away with syncing too many clips of closeups from unused takes. This meant I ended up taking the same closeup shots all evening.

Crowding around mixing desks producing the music video

Chris temporarily set his desks up in our host’s utility room for the evening. Setting up for hundreds of events teaches you how to travel light and make good use of space.

Editing started with the lengthy and boring process of labeling and splitting all 3 hours and 20 minutes of source footage. With that over I used the roaming camera’s footage as a base for the video, synching it with the mixed track using the live audio captured by the camera’s mic. Then with a broad vision of how I wanted the video to progress between musicians and shots I set about adding in clips from other takes of the song. As the trio weren’t using any kind of metronome each take was at a slightly different speed so some clips had to be slowed down to odd rates like 98.1% of their original speed. It was tough to find enough suitable clips to fit in time with the recorded track and keep the flow going with cuts in suitable places. I’d better not tell you too much about the clips that still aren’t in time as that would spoil it for you!

All three musicians in the music video

Thank you Jayne Elliott, Hannah Chappell, Emmaline Hart and mum for lending all the candles. Thank you Caroline West for lending us your house and putting up with our late noisyness, and thanks to Lionel for his sterling reading of scripture.

All in all, I’m happy with how it all came together.

Lastly, you can buy the album or just the Touch The Flame track from iTunes or listen here: