music

Guitar

Guitar

I got the rare chance to play guitar, just for fun, for a good 30+ minutes tonight (life with kids is a life of interruption) and somewhere along the line I felt the music grab hold of me in a way I haven't felt in years.

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Banjo

Three days ago, my brother Sam and I drove up to Defiance, OH from our hometown of Ottawa, OH to visit "Pack Rat's," a pawn shop where he had seen some decent guitars at a good price (I've been wanting to buy a Telecaster¹ for a little while now). When we arrived there was a sign on the door saying the place was closed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 5 and, not wanting to waste the half-hour drive, we headed downtown to see if we could find any other music stores.

We happened across Don's Music Center on Clinton St. and went inside. It's a small store with guitars on one wall and some other instruments and accessories on the other. The checkout counter is just inside the door with some effects pedals on display, and there's another counter in the back where Don does his repairs. Behind that is a stairway leading up to an area for lessons and another repair bench. The prices are written on small posterboard signs behind each guitar. "I've got some sales running through the end of the year - $50 off this guitar (he points at a Les Paul), $30 off those (he gestures at a row of Squiers). Let me know if you want to try anything out."

Sam and I quietly look over the guitars on offer and Sam suggests I try out one of the thinline Squier Telecasters since I hadn't played one before. They're interesting, a semi-hollowbody version of a traditionally solid-body guitar. At the direction of numerous signs posted behind the guitars, I ask Don if I can try it out. He takes it down from the wall hook and pulls a little amp over for me to plug into. It's a small Fender amp with some different presets to model different types of amp/cab combos, and I'm not a huge fan of it. I soon discovered that it was just as easy to twiddle the gain/volume/tone knobs on it as to try to pick a preset, so I used it that way and had a much better time of it. The guitar itself wasn't bad; it was fun to try out something different. After the thinline Tele I asked to try out an Epiphone Special and Don was happy to oblige. It played pretty well but I noticed the tuners weren't particularly great. Such are the changes that come with a $200 price drop, I suppose.

We were about to head out, but I noticed a banjo hanging on the opposite wall and decided to try it out. It was an Epiphone closed-back 5-string banjo with beautiful wood grain that looked like walnut and had a cool eagle graphic on the back². I asked Don if I could try it out, and he got the banjo down for me. I had never played a banjo before; the closest I'd come was a 6-string "banjitar" tuned like a guitar that I had tried at Guitar Center once. That one didn't really sound like a banjo and just didn't feel right (even though I had never touched a real banjo to know how it was supposed to feel).

This one was different.

This felt like a real banjo, and more importantly sounded like a real banjo³. The instrument gave off a warm, plucky tone - sweet, rich, and mellow when played softly; strong, frenzied, and just a little harsh when played harder. This instrument felt natural even though I'd never played it before, and I found myself thinking, "I could learn this."

For the past few months I had thought that I might like banjo, just because I like the way they sound. Having played one, I knew this was an instrument I needed to learn. I didn't know how it would happen because money is pretty tight these days, but I knew I wanted to get a banjo somehow.

That night, my friend Alex came over to visit, and as it happened he ended up buying a camera flash and cord I had been wanting to sell (conveniently, I had them in Ohio with me). Suddenly, I had over half the money needed to buy that banjo. The next day I was telling my brother Matt about the banjo and how close I was to having the cash for it. In a fit of brotherly love, he PayPal'd me a contribution to the banjo fund, and I was ready to go.

I called Don's Music Center and asked about their hours. He said they'd be open until 5pm on the 30th and 11am-3pm on the 31st, except that his dad was sick and in the hospital and he might need to take a trip instead of opening the store that day. I briefly considered heading straight to Defiance but since I hadn't fully discussed the purchase with Caitlin yet and we'd be heading through there the next day, I decided to wait.

The next day as we came through Defiance, I turned down Clinton St. and found that Don's Music Center was closed. I was disappointed not to be heading home with a banjo, concerned for Don's dad, but glad that he was able to go visit him⁴.

When we got back to South Bend, I started asking around if any of my friends knew of a decent banjo for sale in the area. I checked Craigslist but didn't come up with much. My friend Nat mentioned that he had a banjo but didn't want to sell it, even though he didn't play it much. I asked if he might be willing to let me borrow it until I'm able to buy one, and he agreed to do so.

So that's where I am today. I've got a banjo in my hands and this excites me very much. The timing worked out for this thing to be my de facto new year resolution, and as such I went so far as to declare on Facebook, "2016 will be the year I learn to play the banjo."

Here we go :)

¹ a Squier Telecaster, that is. I'm not made of money, you know.
² turns out it was an Epiphone MB-200, and was mahogany rather than walnut
³ perhaps it helps that it was a real banjo.
⁴ the first time we visited the store, Don mentioned "I won't ever get rich from this store, but I own the building and everything in it, the building's paid for, and family is the most important thing anyway." Don is my kind of guy.

Mercy Flows

This morning in the shower I realized I ought to (and would like to) write a worship song for Easter. A basic verse and concept for a chorus came to me so I did my best to remember them until I could write them down somehow. For all my trying, though, I still forgot most of it by the time I got to work. However, as I started to sketch out ideas in Finale NotePad, the initial idea came back to me and I developed it into perhaps 2/3 of a song.

When I got home from work today I tried to play and sing the song for the first time, and I found that it was not in a great key for me. I was able to hum the part quietly while working out the melody because it was in the lower portion of my range, but when it came time to sing out, the notes were difficult to project. I could sing an octave up but found that it was at the upper edge of my comfortable, non-falsetto range. Because of this I decided to move up a fourth, from the key of G major to the key of C major. I took the chord chart I had written up and transposed the chords over.

With the song (or part of a song anyway) transcribed into a more comfortable key, I sat down at our piano and played through what I had done so far. It went much more smoothly, and I found a couple of spots where the chords I had written didn't flow as well as I would have liked so I swapped them out for different ones. In addition, I developed a better chord progression for the chorus that incorporated a descending bassline as the musical peak of the song is reached.

With a better idea of how the song needs to progress, I discarded the initial arrangement and have begun composing the song in PreSonus Studio One which allows me to approach it a little differently and offers more tonal variety. As I near completion of a first draft, I'd like to record a demo of it, and preparing the arrangement in Studio One now will save me a lot of time later.

It has been quite a while since I wrote any original music so this has been refreshing and fun. I'm glad I felt the nudge to take up this project and glad I went with it.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a worship song for Easter, so it (hopefully) conveys the hope of the Gospel in the context of Jesus' death and resurrection. The song's working title is "Mercy Flows" but that may change.

Further Adventures in Studio One v2.6

As I wrote yesterday, I recently got a MIDI keyboard controller that came with a copy of PreSonus' excellent DAW software, Studio One Artist v2.6. I shared a song that I made while remembering how to use it (having used a demo version in the past) and talked at excessive length about my visit to Sweetwater and the aforementioned keyboard controller purchased there.

The day after making that first experimental track I made another one. Here it is:

This track was again comprised only of virtual instruments that were included with the Studio One software, though I did modify some of the sounds a bit, included some effects, and worked a little bit with automating some of the instrument parameters as the song progressed.

Keyboard Controller + Studio One

On a recent trip to visit Caitlin's family outside of Fort Wayne, we stopped by Sweetwater to have a look around. I had never been there before (though I've purchased from them online) and I was excited to check out the store. It didn't disappoint, and in fact reminded me of the old Woodwind & Brasswind store¹ in its glory days.

I only made it into the section of the store devoted to keyboards, pianos, synthesizers and the like, but even that provided a wonderful experience where I got to try out a bunch of cool stuff (including a DSI Prophet 12, which was just awesome, and a Yamaha NU1 hybrid piano, which was also super impressive). My real purpose in going to Sweetwater, though,² was to check out a few keyboard controllers and feel them under my fingers before purchasing one to use with my computer.

I finally settled on a Nektar Impact iX61, a fairly basic controller that consists of 61 keys³ along with pitch bend and modulation wheels, one volume slider, and a set of transport controls that double as transpose/octave shift controls. There's a jack for a sustain pedal, a USB port which provides both power and computer connectivity, and a power switch on the back. The key action is squishy like most cheaper keyboards (i.e. not hammer-action or weighted) but has a decent feel to it. I liked the keybed feel on the Roland A-800 pro just a bit better, but that controller is significantly more expensive and does not come with PreSonus' Studio One software.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the iX61 is the software that came bundled with it - PreSonus Studio One Artist v2.6 (and later, a free upgrade to Studio One Artist v3). Studio One is a digital audio workstation (DAW) software, designed for recording, arranging, and producing music. I had played with the professional editions of both v2 and v3 in the past as 30-day trials and was very impressed with both versions. I've played with other DAWs in the past and always found them to be intimidating and difficult to pick up at first but Studio One was much more intuitive, and I knew from that experience that I would want to purchase it someday.

Even though I bought the iX61 back in August I only recently got it out and installed Studio One - I had so many other projects going on that I couldn't let myself dive into this until I wrapped some others up, so it made for some good motivation to get everything else completed! Recently, however, I finally did install Studio One and jumped in to give it a try.

Because it had been a while since I used Studio One I got back into it slowly, and my first project was made without the keyboard controller or any of my external equipment - I programmed the parts on the "piano roll" arranger and used mostly-stock sounds on the included virtual instruments. Here's what I came up with as my first sketch:

I'd like to develop the idea further and add more to it, but for right now I feel like I'm more engaged and learning faster by cranking out several small projects or sketches because it reinforces the basic concepts while allowing me to go deeper in a variety of styles. And yes that does mean more are on the way :)


¹RIP WWBW :'(
²well, other than just to gawk at everything
³five octaves starting and ending at C, can be shifted in either direction

minimake: music shelf!

As you may recall from a previous post, I have a variety of keyboard/synthesizer/music stuff that I enjoy playing with. One glaring deficiency in my setup is my lack of enough table space to easily work with everything, and I've been intending to build some sort of shelf for my keyboard stand for a while now.

Last night I happened to look in my garage and noticed that all the materials I needed were sitting right there waiting for me (leftovers from previous projects). For this simple shelf I cut some plywood and some 2x2's down to size, attached the 2x2's to the bottom of the plywood, and sanded everything a little bit to take the majority of splinters off.

Behold, the result!

I'm going to give this a try for a while to see if it's a good size/plan - assuming it is I'd like to put some kind of veneer over the surface to make it look nicer and add a small lip to the front edge to keep things from sliding off.

This shelf is 35" wide by 18" deep, which comfortably fits my Arturia MiniBrute SE next to the Alesis ControlPAD midi controller:

It also (just barely) fits my Korg MS-20 mini and the MiniBrute side-by-side:

Please forgive the poor quality of the photos; I took these when I popped home over my lunch break so I didn't have time to move the things to better lighting or get out a better camera.

Anyway, I'm really happy with the results, especially given that I was starting with scrap materials. I hope my synths' newfound accessibility encourages me to use them more :)

Give Us Rest

Today was a rough day, but the title track from David Crowder Band's Give Us Rest helped me through it. I've been wanting to record a version for a while so I put this together:

I limited myself to two takes per track so that I could finish quickly and keep moving. There's one vocal track, two synth tracks (virtual instruments), one guitar and one bass track (both real instruments). It's not perfect at all but that's kind of the whole point of this blog.

MORE Audiotool

This time around I decided to try my hand at producing a rap-oriented track. I've had this little hook rolling around in my head for months, and now that I've gotten a handle on the basics of Audiotool it proved to be a good way to put some bones on the idea and see how it moved.

That was a weird metaphor.

Anyway, here it is - I'd love to hear any feedback you might have!


Audiotool, too

Yesterday I talked about Audiotool (a ridiculously cool website for making music) and shared my first Auditool creation, imaginatively titled "Experiment #1". Today I'd like to share my second Audiotool creation, given the increasingly clever moniker "Experiment #2".

In this track, I played a lot more with automation, where I program the instruments to take certain actions at specific times (filter sweeps, turning effects on or off, etc.)

I'd love to hear your feedback on these first two tracks, whether it's here on the blog, on Facebook, or on SoundCloud! I'm having a lot of fun playing with this website and I'm excited to keep learning with it.

Audiotool

Recently, my brother Matt introduced me to a website called Audiotool.com - it's a web app that facilitates music creation and it includes several virtual instruments, a mixer, a multitrack sequencer/editor, and the ability to import your own sounds or samples.

Here's the layout of instruments for my completed song, if you can call it that.

I played with it for a few minutes the night he showed it to me, and then yesterday I played with it for a few hours. I didn't get super deep into the features available with Audiotool, but it's pretty intuitive and I was able to play with several of the included modules. None of the modules are directly named what they've been designed after, because of course the names are copyrighted. That said, I used a TR-808 and TR-909 (both Roland drum machines), a TB-303 (bass sequencer), and a 3-oscillator synth that seems a lot like a Minimoog. I also used a couple of reverb pedals, a distortion pedal, and two somethings. In Audiotool it's called a Tonematrix but I'm not sure the real-life thing it's modeled on, though it looks more or less like a Novation Launchpad, but with 16x16 buttons. The virtual instrument acts as a sequencer though it can also output its own notes as well which sound a bit like a marimba.

Anyway, here's what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

I am not a vocal performer. I haven't been in choir since 6th grade, and my vocal training since then has only consisted of a few semesters of voice lessons with the excellent Wishart Bell while I was a student at Bethel.

I am moderately terrified to share the final product of my December Project with you. I wasn't able to complete the instrumentation to my desired outcome, I know that a few more vocal takes would have produced a better result, and I was basically stumbling around Adobe Audition in the dark (with a flashlight named Google) when it came to mixing and editing the final song.

I recorded the vocals for this song in my basement. Note the awesome wood paneling.

I recorded the vocals for this song in my basement. Note the awesome wood paneling.

But action trumps inaction. Doing something is always better than talking about doing something. Sharing is better than keeping everything for yourself. So, here it is:

I hope you enjoy it. Shoot, I hope you make it all the way to the end without giving up on me.

This blog was created to get me to make things and share them with people. I guess it's working.

Virtual Instruments

In the process of producing the Christmas song I'm recording this year I finally jumped into the world of VSTi's, or Virtual Studio Technology instruments. For a long time, I shied away from the idea of using MIDI for anything other than transmitting notes or other data because the first thing that comes to mind when I think of MIDI as a music format is the cheesy (albeit awesome and nostalgia-inducing) background music from Chip's Challenge back in the day, or the floppy disk full of movie themes in MIDI format I got from my friend Alex in grade school. Fun, but not really what you want for serious music.

Turns out things have changed a little bit since 1993.

After getting over my irrational fear and nerding out over how cool technology is, I programmed my arrangement of verse one of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel into Finale NotePad, along with a final chorus arrangement I plan to use. I saved this as a .mid file and loaded it into Pianissimo, a VSTi/virtual instrument I just discovered today. It normally costs about $70 but comes with a 14-day free trial. As soon as the first note played it was abundantly clear that virtual instruments are not at all what they were 20 years ago. This should have been obvious without even hearing the instrument, but sometimes I'm just a grumpy old man like that.

I may end up just doing an instrumental version of the song as the official end of my December Project, depending on how competent my voice feels tomorrow and on how much time I have between finishing my secret other projects (just a few more days until the reveal!) and enjoying my time off from work (rest is important!) At any rate, I am very much looking forward to sharing the final results with you!

!

verse one

Because of some other projects I've been working on (secret until after Christmas), I won't be able to produce a full performance video of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel like I wanted to... but like I've said before, setbacks are all about finding wins, and my wins this time around is that I was able to put together a performance video for the first verse, and that I've technically completed what I originally set out to do: 

  • to successfully record and share at least one Christmas-related song by Dec. 24
  • to record a performance video for this song
  • to use at least two audio tracks in the production process.

The audio version I released yesterday was made from four tracks - two piano, two voice - but I'm really uncomfortable with how the harmony sounded, so for the video version below I removed the second voice track and its associated video.

I still very much hope to produce a full audio version containing a more complete arrangement and more verses before Christmas, but it's going to be a tight squeeze to get that done. We'll see :)

C&P Music Recital

Tonight, our music lesson business hosted its first recital. It was a lot of fun to see the students perform, some of them for the first time in front of a crowd. Caitlin acted as MC, and I scurried around furiously trying to get a couple of good photos per performance while also managing these two brothers:

I've used the Canon XA20 and XF200 on other shoots, so I knew they'd handle the recital pretty well (and they did!) I was also pleasantly surprised at how well-lit the recital space was - we held the event at an assisted living community and had no idea what the room would be like coming in (I was expecting a dimly lit space like the nursing home chapels I visited with my dad as a kid).

Overall, it went very well; I am looking forward to sharing more in the next couple of days but for now I just need to chill on the couch and watch SNL with Caitlin. I spent most of the day doing woodworking for some Christmas gifts (all will be revealed after Dec. 25!) and then of course we had the recital tonight. It has been a good, tiring day.

Music Workstation

Yesterday I shared about a dream that finally came true, and about how fear had needlessly held me back from reaching my goals. Today I'd like to talk a little more about that project, this time from a nerdier, less reflective standpoint.

Getting everything hooked up was a simple enough affair - I simply opened up the Roland USB/MIDI interface, installed the driver from the included CD, and then plugged the MIDI ends into the PSR-6300 keyboard and the USB end into my computer. When I opened Finale NotePad, it recognized the UM-ONE and set it as the default MIDI IN device.

That's it.

I opened a blank document in Finale NotePad and when I pressed a key the note appeared before my eyes. It was a momentous (if undramatic) experience.

To my disappointment but not to my surprise, Finale NotePad (free software) is pretty limited in how it accepts and interprets MIDI data. It does not analyze note duration, song tempo (either through MIDI clock or inferred from your playing style), or other data such as pitch bend. It simply takes the pitch (MIDI note number) and inserts it on the selected staff at the specified duration. So, if you have the eighth note selected everything you play comes in as an eighth note, and so on.

Thankfully, Caitlin had a brilliant idea which eased the pain of Finale NotePad's limitation significantly: she suggested I use my ShuttlePRO v2 to facilitate note entry. The ShuttlePRO is a hardware controller that features a shuttle wheel, jog dial, and 15 programmable buttons. It's immensely useful to me when I edit photos and especially when I edit video, so when Caitlin made the suggestion I knew right away what a great idea it was (she's pretty awesome like that, coming up with good ideas all the time).

ShuttlePRO v2 from Contour Design

I programmed the five buttons above the dial to select whole, half, quarter, eighth, or sixteenth notes, the wheel to move forward or back one note at a time, the right side button to convert a note to a rest, the left side button to add a dot to the selected note, and one of the top row buttons to undo the previous action. I'm sure that I'll find useful shortcuts or macros to fill in the rest of the buttons, but just making that handful of shortcuts so easy to access without looking down or moving my left hand immediately made note entry much simpler. It's a far cry from real-time transcription as I play, but it's also way better than entering notes by using the mouse.

I quickly programmed the desired buttons using the Shuttle config panel.

Finally, to make everything easier to control at once, I removed the upper keyboard from my stand and laid my whiteboard on the top tier to act as a platform (it was the first strong-ish thing I could find that was the right size). The monitor, ShuttlePRO, keyboard, and mouse went on top of that. It worked really well and I plan to cut a piece of plywood to fit on that upper level for when I want to use a monitor/etc. or smaller gear such as my drum machine or Korg MS-20 mini.

REPOST!

So there you have them: all the nerdy details. I'd be happy to answer any relevant questions you might have in the comments!

Synthesis and Electronic Music

I have been fascinated by electronic music and music programming for a long time, at first more as a concept or technical exercise than an art form. It probably started in 1997 when my mom got a Yamaha PSR-530 keyboard for her classroom (she taught K-4th music) along with a MIDI interface box and Finale 3.7 for her school computer (a Power Macintosh 5400). The promise of being able to play notes on the keyboard and have them appear on the music staff seemed like pure magic. Unfortunately, due to either a problem with the MIDI box or a problem with how we set everything up, we never got that part of it working. I did, however, spend a lot of time writing out music after school and playing with as many features of the keyboard as I could wrap my head around.

Toward the end of my time as a student at Bethel College, the music department was getting rid of old gear, and I picked up a couple of keyboards for free, including a Yamaha PSR-6300. An early predecessor to mom's PSR-530, the PSR-6300 was a premier model in Yamaha's 1986 lineup. This one didn't have a power cord but I'm always happy to figure stuff out so I took it anyway. The first thing I did was to open it up and cut out the old power jack which took a nonstandard plug. As a temporary workaround (which has so far been permanent) I cut the end off of a cheap extension cord and spliced it into the wires which previously ran to the power jack. My plan is to eventually wire in a standard 3-pin power jack as is commonly found on computers and monitors.

Once I got the thing to turn on, I found that only two voices worked, and once you switched to the second one you couldn't go back to the first. I ordered a service manual and schematic diagram for the keyboard but never dug into it enough to sort out the problem. Finally, earlier this year, I did some additional research and found that the problem spot was likely buried deep inside the keyboard. I took the keyboard over to The Maker Hive in Elkhart, IN and made some new friends who helped me re-solder the bridge connector that had come loose. I put everything back together and it worked perfectly!

About a month after that, I ended up selling some of my camera gear and bought a bunch of music gear (I also paid off a student loan!) One of the items I purchased was the Alesis SR18 drum machine, which has MIDI input/output as well as a basic note sequencer that runs alongside the drum sequencer (ostensibly to program bass parts). The PSR-6300 also has MIDI input/output, so one of my first goals was to link the two units in order to control one with the other. It was easier than I expected and was just mind-blowingly cool. It felt like the dream I had held for the past 16 years was finally starting to take shape.

Another of the items I purchased at that time was a Korg MS-20 mini analog synthesizer. It's a modern recreation of a popular synth from the late '70s and early '80s. The newer model is functionally identical to the older model, except that it's scaled down somewhat (using 1/8" jacks rather than 1/4" in the patch pay) and that it has a MIDI input jack (via 5-pin and USB connections). The world of analog synthesis was another realm I had dreamed about for years but never been able to enter. It seemed so esoteric, versatile, and just plain cool, and I'm so excited to be able to experiment with it now.

Ever since my first exposure to a synthesizer (probably via Joy Electric's song Monosynth which incidentally was released in 1997) I've wanted to know more, to play with a real hands-on-switches hardware synthesizer. I fiddled a little bit with some software synths in college but they didn't really do it for me - it was too hard to mess around and figure out what everything does, but when you've got a panel full of knobs it's much more intuitive.

The main difference between a synthesizer and a keyboard is that a keyboard generally just plays back sounds that have been stored in it (especially newer ones) and while you may be able to modify or create expression with those sounds, they're more or less locked in. A synthesizer generates its own sound through the use of one or more oscillators which create an electrical version of sound waves, moving back and forth. Synths can produce different wave shapes which produce different timbres, or tone qualities. After that, the signal can be routed through any number of modules - filters that refine the sound, envelopes that define the volume of a sound over a period of time, low-frequency oscillators (LFO's) that can control some other aspect of the synth, and many more. Some synthesizers are an all-in-one package with pre-selected modules available for use, while others are entirely modular, being constructed in a cabinet of whatever modules the player chooses. These are then hooked together using patch cords. The MS-20 is unique in that it is semi-modular, with the ability to play it straight out of the box or to patch the signal through different modules as desired. It's not quite as flexible as I had hoped and some of the signal flow is a little confusing, but it's still an exciting world that I love exploring.

One thing I greatly admire about David Crowder*Band is their ability to use electronic sounds to enhance music in unexpected ways. Crowder further exemplifies this on his excellent solo album, Neon Steeple. Because of my respect for this aspect of his music and because part of the self-assigned challenge for my December Project is to use at least two tracks in the production process, I would like to use the MS-20 mini to enhance my rendition of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel in a non-melodic yet musical way. Figuring out how might prove to be difficult, but it's also going to be a lot of fun.

Tonight I played with the MS-20 and my Zoom H6 audio recorder in order to play with some of the non-melodic sounds the synth is capable of producing. I recorded them on the H6 and tried out the overdubbing feature which allows you to listen to one track while recording another over top of it. For the first track I tried to create a sort of wintry soundscape, and then on the second layer of audio I was just trying to create some kind of bleep-bloopy effect on top. This is what happened:

I'm not planning to use either of these elements directly in my song, but it was fun to play and get a feel for what I could do. I'm really looking forward to integrating some of this (particularly the wintry kind of sound) into O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

My goal with this song is to maintain a traditional feel that reverently acknowledges the glory of God coming to Earth as a human. I want the track to reflect the intense longing felt by a people awaiting the arrival of their Savior, and the joy we anticipate for his second coming. The final verse suddenly seems fitting, so I will leave you with it:

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
  shall come to the O Israel!

Christmas Song Selection

I have decided which song I will record for Christmas this year as part of my December Project, and it is:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

I selected this song for a few reasons, enumerated below.

  1. It speaks to the theology of Christmas in a deep and meaningful way.
  2. The tune I'm using, Veni Emmanuel, is a beautiful and old French melody, dating from the 1400s or prior.
  3. The lyrical themes originated as early as the 800s, though the earliest recorded Latin text of the song is from 1710 (Germany).
  4. There are many widely-accepted verses, so I can choose the ones that carry the most meaning for me and include them in my recording.
  5. I was playing around on our piano today and came across a chord progression I liked - Gm6/4 moving to D major - and as I did a little more with it the melody of this song came out. It turned out to be in a key and range that was good for my voice so I felt my way through some chords for the rest of the song and settled on it as my choice.

One challenge I face with this selection is that I'm familiar with renditions of this song recorded by artists I regard very highly, including Peter Furler, Kevin Max, and David Crowder*Band - so it may be difficult not to borrow from their interpretations of the song. On the other hand, Christmas music is so widely recorded that people are used to hearing multiple artists record the same song.

I'm very much looking forward to recording O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and I look forward to sharing it with you!