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Music Production:

Using Sonar Producer X3 and Yamaha’s ancient XGworks.

Technical studio spec:
Recording vocals and instruments using Sonar Producer X3
MR5 Mk II active studio monitor speakers
C414B and Sure Beta 87A condenser microphones
Sound I/O - Focusrite Saffire Pro 24DSP
DT100 studio headphones

Studio Cat:
Essential studio 'equipment' - one big tabby cat answering to the name of "Henry"; a great back warmer on my chair and extremely musically tolerant! Extra sound effects come as standard; loud purring during quiet vocal takes and loud carpet claw 'sharpening' can really bring one back to Earth!

Instruments:
Taylor acoustic steel string 714ce
Spanish guitar (made by my craftsman brother, a unique, beautiful instrument with a lovely tone)
Fenda Jazz bass
Yamaha pacifica electric
Rocket Delux electric
Grafton Banjo
Bruner "Outdoor" travel guitar (great tone with loads of volume for such a compact guitar)
Chappell piano
Djembe (World Rhythm)
LP Bongos
Rainstick
Danso (a traditional bamboo Korean flute)

Songwriting:

Writing songs is an immensely satisfying and addictive activity – sometimes hard work; involving weeks/months of effort but very occasionally a full song lyric theme and music can ‘appear’ out of the subconscious in 30minutes. Those sorts of songs are normally the ‘holy grail’ for songwriters because they are often their best songs; having a simplicity of both lyrics and music that is seamless and effective.

I find having a musical mentor who will offer a totally honest opinion to be the most important in the development of my songs. I normally start with lyrics first but sometimes a guitar or piano riff can spark a song idea as well or, very occasionally, a 'holy-grail' moment blows in out of nowhere and a complete song will emerge quickly and need very little alteration.

Having some sort of strong target theme (hook) is most important - without it the song will meander here and there and take much longer to find focus. Once there is the promise of a convincing hook, the rest of the song development can be straight forward; sing the words over and over to find a melody, find a suitable key and the chords that fit the melody and set a suitable tempo. However, finding an effective hook is not at all easy! - having subject boundaries can help a lot here – for instance if there is a historical story that is worth a song then that narrows the search for a good song theme immensely. When there is only a clean ‘slate’, without target boundaries then the mind can go as blank as the slate, with nothing to focus on.

If you are a songwriter reading this on the hunt for your 'holy-grail' song – the very best of good luck to you; there is nothing quite like the feeling of creating a new song