Studio Drums
Music,  Song Fu / SpinTunes

Gag me with a spurtle

The deadline for round 1 of SpinTunes 10 has finished and we have a new song!

Despite having two weekends to complete the challenge, this one was submitted at the last moment as it took us a while to come up with a concept that we were happy with. I tend to find that the first round of SpinTunes is often the most challenging in some ways, because it is usually left quite open in comparison to later rounds, in order to ease newcomers (or rusty old hands) into the way of meeting deadlines. As a result, there is almost too much choice left. Having a work-in-progress studio didn’t do to much to encourage us to sit down and get started, either! The challenge was:

Heart Beatz – Tonight’s your lucky night…or so you hope. The fire is crackling, and you have a candlelit dinner waiting for your special someone. All you need is a seductive tune to put your lover in the mood. Write it.

Studio DrumsNow, I don’t really do ‘seductive’ at the best of times, least of all in a song; we needed something to rescue us from writing something so corny that it would make you puke. After going through a couple of options (including a date between two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse), we grabbed tight onto the fact the challenge doesn’t mention what the lover should be in the mood for. If you haven’t listened to the song (play it above), then you should do that first, as spoilers follow!

Katharina came up with the title “Gag Reflex’, which is a perfect summary of the song, which is an exercise in double-entendre. It takes the form of a duet, with the male voice trying to encourage the female voice to do something she is convinced will make her gag. Probably not a song to play in the workplace, but the last line makes it all clear and the intent is purely innocent. Honestly!

For the music, I wrote the basic chord pattern on the bouzouki, which lent the track a different feel, even when I translated it over to guitar and keyboard (the bouzouki has four pairs of strings tuned to a tone lower than a guitar). We start of with just bass guitar and vocal, with acoustic guitar joining after a few bars. At the end of each verse and chorus there is a bit of a breathing space where short bouzouki and harmonica figures add texture over a heavily-filtered and delayed bass note.

The verses and chorus are fairly simple chord patterns, but then the tone turns a little more sinister at the bridge, where a repeated piano chord is joined by a simple kalimba melody and a heavily warped pan-pipe line that decays into the next verse. I think this is the most successful part of the track, as it really sounds quite creepy and builds up well to Katharina’s insistent final line.

The final “Heart Beatz” (Round 1 Album) is free to download. Please visit the SpinTunes website for more information and even some videos. You can also listen to the whole thing right here:

Studio DeskMeanwhile, as you might have guessed from the photographs accompanying this post, I have got a bit further in putting the studio together. Yes, that is a real drum kit in the first photograph. I’ve never played the drums, although I do have a set of digital drum pads that have been used for drum programming and triggering samples, so I’m looking forward to learning how to play them.

My musical focus has always been on melody, rather than rhythm, and a substantial chunk of my back catalogue contains no drumming at all, but this second hand beginner’s kit was offered at too good a price to turn down. Even if the drums are not for me, having a kit set up for anyone else to play should help with some spontaneous music-making (and might entice Sean over for a session or two).

In the second photo, you can see a first attempt at getting some sort of work area set up. The old range cooker (the white thing at the back, to the right) is a bit of an obstruction, so I might end up moving it out in order to get a better layout. In any case, there is still enough room for keyboard and mixer to stay permanently set up and still have space for recording gear. The blue fabric at the back of the picture is hiding some high density rock wool panels (which are proving difficult to find in Austria) that help deaden the sound and limit the reverberation from the tiled walls and floor. At the moment these are just leaning against the wall, but I have plans for some self-built panels and bass traps that will really help tame the sound.

Now it’s time to wait for the next challenge. Don’t forget to vote!