Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dive Chronicles - "Speechless"

As production has once again resumed on "Dive!", I'll be posting some of the process here so you can get an idea of how this stuff comes together.

Above is a perfect example of how it starts - or not. Basically, this latest tune evolved out of playing a riff on the chromatic mountain dulcimer and then seeing what would happen with it after awhile - what kind of inspiration would come out of the notes. After laying down a basic drum pattern and some bass - it became clear that this would be a rocker of some sort. Seeking a comfortable spot for my voice to begin creating melody, I laid out some basic changes using piano, which would then get transferred to the chromatic dulcimer. I'm more familiar with piano voicings and part of my learning curve with the chromatic dulcimer is to take those voicings and then make them work with three strings. Or not.

Well, as it stood - I miscalculated the key for this tune - pegging it at F when I later found it to be much more easily sung in Bb. Notice in the scrawlings at the top of the page that I've been careful to write out the chord progressions using scale degrees such as I - IV - iii, etc. That way, if I decided to change keys again I could more quickly transpose the chords and, in some cases, the melody (which, in fact, happened.)

The tune, called "Speechless", takes some unusual twists and turns, but I wanted to use chord leading to make it feel more natural. Chord leading refers to the fact that some chords naturally lead to other chords.

For example, I'm beginning the tune in an odd way:

V - V - II - V
Fsus - F - C - F

Instead of starting on the I - which would be Bb - I've begun with a chord based on the V - which happens to be the 5th of the root chord. (Bb - D - F are the ingredients of a Bb major chord.)

Getting into the tune gets a bit more conventional. These scale degrees are based on the Bb major scale, which is: Bb - C - D - Eb - F - G - A. Remember that the chords and scales built off of the 1st, 4th and 5th notes tend to be major while the 2nd, 3rd and 6th tend to be minor with the 7th being diminished.

I - V - II- V
BbMaj7 - FMaj7 - C - FMaj7

The above is pretty much the verse progression. I've kept the scale degrees simple, even though I've chosen to use extensions on the I and V chords. Why not the II chord? Sounded too complicated. The progression moves three times this way, and the final way replaces the last V chord with a minor third or Dm. To my ears, with so much in a major key - the minor chord signals that something big and dramatic is coming in the chorus.

I - iii-II - I
Bb - Dm - C - Bb

There you have the chords of the chorus. It repeats twice before heading back into the verse. Pretty simple, eh? Except for the second time through when and additional Bbm6 chord serves as a very dramatic transition to the bridge.

Let me tell you, I had a devil of a time trying to figure out where the bridge was going to go after that crazy bit of color - and, after trying a number of things - this is what I ended up with:

iii-VI -II - VII -VII-iii -IV - vi - VII - VII
Dm - G - C - Asus - A - Dm - E - Gm - Asus - A

Here, I've completely leapt outside of the box and gone with changes that are very classical in a nature. Take notice of the Major VI - a recurring Major II and a Major VII. I've also included a minor VI as well - to really create a bit of urgency and darkness.

After this - the tune goes to the chorus progressions for a solo run and then one more pass through the chorus before ending. At just over three minutes long, it's probably one of my shortest tunes, yet it packs a powerful punch. Once I get a bit more polish on the tracks, I'll post it as an exclusive streaming track for members of my mailing list (so you still have time to sign up if you haven't done so already! You can use the form at the top left of this page.) In the meantime, here are the lyrics:

Music and Lyrics by Bing Futch
© Copyright 2010 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

The door's closed, the light's out
and we got nothing to talk about
on my side of a one way street
don't know why I feel so incomplete

so much pain in your eyes
and it's my fault, one too many lies
in the darkness with a flashlight
searching for the words to make it right


oh - mercy me
can you see this? (see this)
oh - can't you see
that I'm speechless (speechless)

remember when we used to
talk for hours, I felt so close to you
but emotions met with violence,
damned the flow, now there's nothing but silence

and the time comes, and the time goes
still I'm comin' up with nothing but zeroes
forgive me or please try
let words, like rain, fall from the sky


oh - mercy me
can you see this? (see this)
oh - can't you see
that I'm speechless (speechless)

there's no way to begin
we can't go back again
the signs say that we're through
because of what I've done
I've ripped out my own tongue
how am I supposed to talk to you?


oh - mercy me
can you see this? (see this)
oh - can't you see
that I'm speechless (speechless)

That's it for this week - I've got quite a few new tracks for "Dulcimerica: Volume 2" recorded this week and will be working quickly to have that one mastered before the end of December. "Dive!", however, will continue to flow as I write new tunes and work with the ones already in production. I hope this process serves to shine a light on how songs go from idea to recording and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to post them to the threads here.

Until next time -

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting down to it.

Just got back from the Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat in White Springs, Florida and had a sweet time hanging out, playing music, teaching under the clear blue sky and catching up with friends old and new. I missed last year due to a scheduling conflict, so it was nice to be back. Stephen Seifert and I once again paired up on a tune. This time it was my already pretty messed-with version of "Cluck Old Hen" that I've tended to title "Juke Joint Hen." With him on bass dulcimer, we took it around the block a few times.

This was also the second time that I've taught a workshop on performing with your mountain dulcimer and it's been incredible, not only to see people stepping up and wanting to take their music in front of audiences but also, to have the environment to pause and reflect on my own journey from fledgling musician to professional performer. One of the key themes that is brought up has to do with The Gift. No matter what your spiritual beliefs might be, the living entity that is Music comes from some place deep within the soul which, in turn, takes its cue from the Divine. Music is a pretty magical thing, in playing, in listening, in communicating and sharing; it's probably the best thing that we engage in as humans. So, in taking this Gift that we've all been given and bringing it forth to share with others, you should be bold in your efforts. Banish away all fear, all butterflies and doubts, all hesitance and anxiety. For the gift of the Divine has been entrusted to you for the purpose of sharing with others. Whenever you sing or pick up an instrument and begin to communicate in that wonderful language, you are doing exactly what you need to be doing at that time. You belong there doing it, where ever you might be, and it doesn't matter whether that music is accepted or rejected - that's not for you to worry about. Just put it out into the world. You plant the seeds and someone else will water the garden.

11th Annual Patrick Smith Day

This Saturday, November 20th, I'll be participating in the 11th Annual Patrick Smith Day at Forever Florida in St. Cloud, Florida. It'll be a fun day of "storytelling, arts and crafts vendors, musical performances and special cracker cattle and horse demonstrations. It's the perfect day to enjoy the special "A Land Remembered" Coach Safari through Florida's wilderness, the setting for so many of Patrick Smith's great literary works."

Starting at 1pm and running into the evening, the mini music festival will include some of the best local folk and bluegrass musicians performing in a beautiful outdoor venue. This will be the third year in a row that I've participated in the fall festival at Forever Florida and it's really a beautiful time all around. I'll be taking the stage at 3 p.m.

The Pub Thang

"The Pub Thang", that odd mixture of traditional and modern music that I take to pubs, clubs, bars and grills now has its own Facebook page! Be sure to give it a "Like" if you've ever enjoyed the show (or want to) and help get it filtered out into the Facebook universe! Tomorrow night's show (November 17th at 7 pm) will feature special guest Big Ron Betts as well as the usual treat of The Simon Time Trivia Show beginning at 8 pm. 50 cent wings, drink specials and a good-timing crowd make for a fun weekly happening in Orlando! Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Dulcimerica 179!