New Track

It has been over six years since I produced a piece of music.

The last piece, “Meaning”…well, what can I say for it. I think it has good bones; I basically like the musical structure and melody. I’m a big fan of some of the synths. But the mixing misses the mark.

What’s worse, the whole thing caused a massive creative burnout. I spent around 80 hours writing, recording, and mixing in February of 2017 alone. That was twenty hours a week on top of full time employment, and I wasn’t even that happy with the result.

I needed a break. Summer of 2017 I started my long pivot from Solutions Engineer to Site Reliability Engineer, working long hours to obtain a new skillset and switch careers. I didn’t have time for hobbies anymore. I set my musical aspirations aside and focused on areas where I could find real success.

Life intruded. I adopted a child. We moved and sold our upright piano at consignment (as it was too big to ship economically). I began saving for a replacement and a few years later bought another piano from a local store.

In 2022 an idea germinated: my 10th anniversary was coming up and wouldn’t it be cool to make a recording of the processional I wrote for our wedding? I could play the new piano for the track.

Despite never really expecting to follow-through, I slouched my way forward. It was not a small project. I needed to:

  • make a new arrangement of the original score for piano and string quartet[1]
  • figure out how to mike a piano, get the equipment, and set it up[2]
  • unbox the midi controllers and synths still packed from the move
  • record the parts
  • mix it

Altogether, between the producing and performance halves I spent somewhere around forty hours on the project, spread out over the course of many months. I had further time-sinks:

  • upgrading my DAW[3] as my computer’s architecture had changed in the intervening six years.
  • finally getting a producer desk to accommodate all my equipment.[4]
  • struggling my way through many, many takes, some good ones lost to my own ineptness as a recording engineer.
    Two desk comparisons

If I hadn’t been so rusty the project could have taken probably half that time. But I was rusty, and had to relearn many forgotten abilities.[5] I agonizingly struggled my way through.

Thoughts on the song itself: sometime pre-2013 I wrote a piece called “Compliment” whose sheet music has been lost to time. It had a few largo passages I felt well-suited to a slow march and I gave these excerpts to our wedding pianist. Revisiting it I saw the obvious homophonic double entendre and retitled it “Complement.”

While “I’m happy with how it turned out” is probably a sentiment I’m pathologically incapable of expressing, it’ll do. I’m mostly happy with the mix, recording, and arrangement. I’m at my best when I keep things minimal.

What might be the best accolade? When I created a commemorative anniversary video backed by this track, none of the viewers on social media noticed the song was original. Being indistinguishable from generically poignant stock music is exactly what I was going for.

that'll do pig

  1. A “basic” wedding arrangement, in both senses. ↩︎

  2. More details in an upcoming post. ↩︎

  3. Ableton Live 11 Suite. ↩︎

  4. Not the desk I wanted, but the desk I could afford. ↩︎

  5. Maybe, just maybe, if I limited myself to smaller projects at a moderate pace I could keep my skills alive and indulge my creative instincts without triggering half-decades of burnout? 🤔 Naw, that’s crazy-talk. ↩︎