Come unfriend

Finally, I completed Coursera-Berklee's Modern Musician's specialization courses in March this year! This used to be my ultimate goal of signing up Coursera last year, but now it's my first goal in Coursera. I am having the next capstone project to start next month started already for my next specialization courses. :)

I am not sure if I want to put this as lengthy as it could be or... But, it's my song writing journey... Anyway...

Milestone 1 : Create a New Original Song

Your song must have at least three sections and include a verse, chorus, and bridge or other form element. There must be at least two lyric verses.

Fellow students will evaluate your assignment based on the criteria below. Use them as a checklist in reviewing your own work.

- The written song is presented legibly with lyrics and chord symbols.
- The song includes at least three form elements, including verse, chorus, and bridge or other form element.
- Lyric phrasing creates prosody effectively.
- The chorus (or refrain) is simple, singable, and memorable.
- Lyrics are appropriate for all ages and family members.
- If the lyrics are in another language, an English translation is attached.

I was in Myanmar when the final capstone project starts, and had to rush to come out for a new song before the weekend ends after I came back home. I can still have Monday night, but I'll have to submit before 6:00 am next day in the office as I don't have Internet access at home, so... Anyway, I managed to come out with this draft, that fulfilling the requirement of the song. This is inspired by a Chinese song called 分手後不要做朋友. It's a sad song. I listen to that song repeatedly for weeks! And the 30th Corner Tea House was inspired by the 30th Corner Boutique Hotel that I last stayed in Myanmar. :D

Lyrics :

My own comment, I think the 4 chords before the bridge was redundant. I should have just go straight to the bridge after the 2nd chorus. The lyrics doesn't sound so right, but I just want to use the "unfriend" word.

My questions to peers :
1. What could I do to make from Chorus going to Bridge and going back to Chorus more interesting?
2. If my song message is not clear, how can I improve the lyrics?

Comment from peers :
peer 1 → 1. If you're planning to add more instrumentation to the song you can play with it to make the bridge more intimate and add contrast with the chorus 2. I think the message is clear, personally I wouldn't make major changes to the lyrics
peer 2 → 1. How about a chromatic ascent, also growing in intensity in the guitar and vocals? 2. While I really think you have a nice concept going on, I really believe that the words "Unfriend with me" do not translate well into English. You see, the word unfriend is only used in the context of social networks / or the internet. So it really feels out of place in your song. This also made it difficult for me to understand exactly what you wanted to say. Enunciate a bit more to make your lyrics more understandable!
peer 3 → 1. You could play a different note before heading to the bridge, maybe to measures of C3 and then go back. 2. You are telling a long story, it is not bad. Maybe, instead of Chorus 3, you could write something different like a verse to end the story so you don't repeat too much the Chorus.
peer 4 → ...finally a decent singer. keep up the good work
peer 5 → 1) I would get rid of the "C F G C" progression between the chorus and the bridge. it would be more interesting because it flows from the last word of the 2nd verse in the bridge " life...wish i never" 2) the message is a bit lost because i'm confused as to who you are speaking about. Whose name? why do you want that person to unfriend you? What "never happened" ? Try to explain a little more to the listener why you have those feelings

I got full score for this milestone. I am happy and speechless.

My friend's comment : something wrong with the lyrics... =D


Milestone 2 : Create a Detailed Production Plan

Fellow students will evaluate your assignment based on the criteria below. Use them as a checklist in reviewing your own work.

Tracklist Chart
- The tracklist chart includes at least four parts. For instance, a vocal, a chordal instrument, a bassline, and percussion.
- The type of track fits the source. For instance, an Audio track for the Vocal.
- The tools listed fit the type of track. For instance, a MIDI controller is the tool to record the part for a Virtual Instrument.

- The toolset contains the make and model of you computer and the DAW you will use.
- If you are using external gear, the list contains the make and model of each piece.
- The toolset contains all the items you will need to record and edit your planned tracklist.

- The order of steps is reasonable. For instance, recording the vocal or solo does not precede recording the chordal instrument.

This week's assignment was easy. I always wanted to do a song with piano/guitar with strings. So, here's my production plan :

The tempo of this song is 76. I intend to have minimal instrument at the beginning of the song, so it will start with guitar or piano at introduction. The drum will start only at the first chorus, and some string in the background to build up the emotional feel of the song. Actually I haven't decided if I want both or any of piano/guitar.

After receiving comments and suggestions from peers assessment, I decided to remove the interlude between chorus 2 and bridge, and also reduce the chorus 3 line 1 & 2.

My questions to peers :
1. How should I start this song? I am thinking of change the chord progression of the introduction, or start with singing directly.
2. How should I end this song? I can only think of it ends as the lead vocal ends.

Peers feedback :
peer 1 → [This area was left blank by the evaluator.]
peer 2 → 1. I honestly think that the beginning of your songs and your chord progression was really nice, though simple 2. I would like at the end some more interesting chords instead of stopping with vocals. Good work however.
peer 3 → 1. I think it sounds good. You can use "En el muelle de San Blass by Mana" as a reference, because it's a song with a constant rhythm, like yours. 2. I think it's good the ending.
peer 4 → You should do a better introduction considering the melody of the chorus.

The score was good too, I lost some points for "The type of track fits the source. For instance an Audio track for the Vocal."

Milestone 3 : Record, Edit, and Arrange Your Song, Including All Parts Then Post a 'Rough' Bounce

Fellow students will evaluate your assignment based on the criteria below. Use them as a checklist in reviewing your own work.

- Does the order of form elements work well for the song?
- Does the arrangement have enough textural and dynamic contrast?
- Do all the sounds fit together and work to enhance the atmosphere.
- Does the bass part guide our ears through the progression?
- Do the parts work together without conflicting with each other or with the vocal?
- If MIDI, do the parts sound natural and not over quantized or too mechanical?
- Does the Vocal performance have conviction?

I am really bad about this, that's why all my songs were normally (almost everyone of it) stop at something like milestone 1. If it doesn't sound like I stop at milestone 1, that must be because I was using my keyboard accompaniment to do it automatically.

This is my first time that I write song and go beyond 1st milestone. I am not so good at instruments. This version's piano and string are played on my Roland F120 piano. The rings at the last bar of my verse are from android apps called Congas & Bongos by Rodrigo Kolb Apps. I tried some drum beats to fit in the song, however, I can't find the one with the right feel, thus I give up that for now. All tracks are recorded using built-in mic of my MacBook, I did not use the Roland Tri-Capture USB audio interface (borrowed from Anna ^^) and Arturia Spark LE. I also drop the guitar as I think the piano is sufficient.

My questions to peers :
1. Any suggestion on the drum beat, I plan to have it started on the first chorus, however, I am not sure how to "get it in" there.
2. How can I improve the arrangement, the piano and string, or any suggestion on the backing tracks?

More feedback on other aspects are welcome, as I might miss the right question to ask. Thank you! :)

This round I added the 3rd line, as I started to worry more on the assignment.

Peers feedback :
peer 1 → 1) I would get in right before the first verse. Start with a Pat Boone Debby Boone drum fill. Skip to 2 minute of the following YouTube Video: Then a simple rhythm like the following suggestion to start it out. You can probably keep this pattern going for all the verses so it doesn't get in the way of the vocals. Hopefully the following is readable. It's a bass drum on the 1, rim click on the 2, bass drum on the and after 2, bass drum on 3, rim click on the 4. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and Bass click Bass Bass Click It should sound like: Boom-da-buh-boom-dah 2) Addition of a bass. Once drums and bass are in there, you'd have a full sound.
peer 2 → [This area was left blank by the evaluator.]
peer 3 → Hi there, I like your song and your voice. The quality of the audio is a bit poor though... I hope you will menage better for the final mix. For the drum beat I think probably the bes way would be a simple fill on the pause before the chorus (where the windchimes are). It could something as simple as a high hat going from open to closed... you know what I mean? However something simple. And the beat itself should be soft enough to keep your lovely voice in the forefront. Probably if you add drums it could be useful to add a simple bass line too. I hope this is useful. All the best :-)
peer 4 → 1. Actually, I'm not sure you need one. this sounds like a song where a nice bass line will help drive you forward. 2. A nice double bass, cello and piano could help this quite a bit.
peer 5 → 1. I'm not sure about the drum beats. 2. I would try using a different mic and midi instruments for better sound quality.

The score was amazingly still ok. I just lost points to "Do all the sounds fit together and work to enhance the atmosphere"! I actually didn't realize the vocal was really really bad. I blamed my recording equipment. Of course, that was part of the quality issue, but the truth is... (I never admit it until now) I turned on the compression effect on that track. It was part of some tuning experiment, and I can't "differentiate" with or without the effect! :-s

Anyway, here's the feedback from the staff in the forum at milestone 3.

Milestone 4 : Do a Final Mix.

Fellow students will evaluate your assignment based on the criteria below. Use them as a checklist in reviewing your own work.

- Levels are balanced well, you can hear all the parts clearly.
- There is a clear focus on the melodic element, in this case the vocal.
- Spacial placement via panorama and dimension (reverb) fits the aesthetics of the song.
- There is overall tonal balance, energy across the frequency spectrum, low middle and high.
- Processing promotes emotion, interest, clarity and presence with an atmosphere and feeling appropriate to the song.
- Dynamic range and overall level is appropriate to the genre and the song in particular.
- The song sounds great!

So, I wanted to redo the recording on my old MacBook. I think the 2009 MacBook built-in mic is better than the new MacBook Air. However, I can't find the right mood and even right tune that I have recorded previously. So, what I did was, re-record the vocal, using the mic that I got from Anna, and do some minor tuning on the tracks that I recorded in Milestone 3.

My questions to peers :
1. Would you feel like listen to this song over and over again?
2. If you would have to redo the production for this song, how would you do this?

Peers feedback :
peer 1 → You have a nice melody there! If there was a better production I would listen to it over and over, its relaxing and pretty. However, I would have gotten better gear and mics to produce it. The song feels unmixed , piano and voice are at the same level. I would have send the piano to the sides and the voice in the center. keep going! theres a lot of potential here.
peer 2 → 1 - The song is good, although not done justice by production quality (e.g. although your production plan says that the piano used a direct input, it sounds like it was poorly mic'd ... possibly consequence of reverb?) With more time/practice and possibly a more accomplished singer, this would be even better ... nice harmony + melody. Well done - looks like you've gained a lot from this course! 2 - liked the choice of instruments, form, arrangement, etc. ... just the production quality is not quite 'radio ready' + could have done with some low end content (no bass or percussion)
peer 3 → You need a whole stereo effect to this beautiful song. Use subtle delay and reverb effects.
peer 4 → 1) This song is beautiful! I think I would listen to it a lot. 2) Do you have a higher quality microphone for recording the piano part? The vocals sound good, but there's a lot of bass that's lacking in the piano that I would like to hear if I did the production. Otherwise, it's great!
peer 5 → 1. I think I would, but I highly recommend a better recording of all the instruments. It sounds really good tough. 2. FInd a place or someone that could help me with all the recording equipment and process.
peer 6 → 1. I won't butter you up. I honestly wouldn't. While your singing is for the most part on-key, the recording sounds very rough and distant, it's hard to make out what you're saying, and when you actually read the lyrics they're pretty much incoherent, I'm guessing due to translation problems. 2. I would re-record the vocals and piano separately, I would also try to translate the lyrics better.

Feedback from another staff for overall.

This round, I actually was being hit badly by the score. I score about 68% for this milestone. Anyway, I passed the capstone project! ^^

I was waiting for one more round of record, my own milestone 5, before posting this. I wanted to do with guitar and vocal only, just like most of my other song. I tried several attempts, and finally give up. If you want to listen to the "final" version that I have for this song, ask me to sing live for you (provided I am with a suitable guitar). :P

After completing this course, I've learned my weaknesses. And, I kinda decided that, I shall stop my song writing process at "Milestone 1", until I meet with the right partner for the song production. Might not write English lyrics for a long long time too. :D

I have a feeling that I might stop song writing for a long long time... (I mean posting my songs...) However, it's hard to tell what will come next after my long vacation this month! :)