Friday, 27 September 2013

What did I ever do wrong (feat. Gabrielle)


New song recording!


You can download the track here What did I ever do wrong.

Or stream it from my web site at Dog-on-blues, or from Soundcloud.

Every song has a story. This song has a bit of a winded story behind it. It started off when I wrote the songs for my musical in progress, Wake not the dead. This is a horror / love story musical with some twists. The story goes that Walter, a rich baron from some weird place just south of Transilvania revived his childhood lover from the grave. He then sat with the little problem of his newly-revived-from-the-grave-ex-lover-and-now-new-girl-friend was in no mood to share him and his house with his wife. So, Walter had to tell his wife to get out.

Swanhilda, Walter's wife, answered him with this lament.

The story of the song does not end there. Originally it was written as a rather showtunes song. And waited on the rack for further attention. I started writing songs for Annemie since the start of this year and record her songs in my studio. Up,to now, I wrote about ten songs for her. One of the songs she wanted was a sad blues, with a piano triplets track, similar to what can be heard in the Guns and roses song, Since you've been gone.

After about the third attempt of writing lyrics, I dug the lyrics of this song out from the grave and showed it to her. Happy with what she read, but not happy with the music, we decided to change the song to a blues song. She then came up with a beautifull tune from Zaz as a reference.

With these four things in mind I reworked the song. The Zaz song for the beginning, Guns and roses in the background, the blues tune and the lyrics from Wake not the dead all came together in this song.

Not long, and well, Annemie decided to drop this song from her repertoir, leaving me with what I considdered to be a very beautiful tune. Not wantng to let it die on the rack, I sent the song in to Studio Pros to see what I can do and asked Gabrielle to do the vocals.

The results are now ready for your enjoyment!

I want to add lead guitars, but decided that I will have to leave some space for future surprise! What do you think? Does it need a lead guitar?

Those who followed my blog from the start will recognize Gabrielle's lovely voice in the role of Cathy in the musical, The exile, where she is featured on the songs, I have never and Prisoner of your spell.


Saturday, 14 September 2013

St Albans college Copacabana

Last night I saw St Albans college's production of Copacabana. I go watch their productions every year. Maybe, the fact that I am great friends with the events director and musical director has a lot to do with it, but I'd like to think that the fact that their productions are always of top quality also plays a big role here.

St Albans believe in minimalistic stage setups. Their production does not have any backdrops, flats or scenery of any kind that can not be carried on by the actors. For this show they mainly used a projector showing images on a big screen. For the nightclub scenes, the cast members carry a few tables and chairs unto the stage. That is the totality of their scenery.

This approach has many obvious advantages.

  • It is cheap. Many productions spend a significant part of their budget on building extensive sets which will be destroyed and thrown into the bin after the show. St Albans believe in spending money where it matters (in their view).
  • It saves time. Building sets takes time. With many productions, the set building starts even long before cast rehearsals start.
  • It is flexible. Having extensive sets that takes a long time to build makes it impossible for the director to change his mind - or scenes - close to the opening night.
  • No setup time for scene changes. Let's face it. One way of killing the magic for an audience is to make them sit in the dark for 5 minutes while you change the sets.
  • And most important of all. The audience buys it. The show sold out. The audience do not need to see a very elaborate set that looks like a airport to know that the cast is taking a flight to Cuba. A simple image of an airport and airplane projected against the backwall convince them.


I am sure many of you will give us many reasons why elaborate set designs are important. Protea Stage (where I am involved with the production of Aladdin), prides them on their set designs. For Bottoms Up we've build a whole flat on the stage, complete with walls, doors, decor, front door, bathroom door, kitchen door, etc, etc. It looked good and we were proud of it. For Aladdin, we are going a lot further. Just come and see. Many of the people have the opinion that it will be the best we have done so far.

Point is, some production companies put a lot of effort into set designs. If you have the skills and the resources available, there is no reason not to. It adds a lot to the show. However, sometimes you can get away with a lot less.

The music, singing, acting and choreography all is top class. After the event, I had the honor to chat to Rainer von Schlichting, the musical director. I learned a few interesting things from him.

  • Even though it is an amateur production, they hire professional musicians. Rainer believes that it is money well spend. Working with amateur musicians adds considerable problems and stresses and needs significantly more time for rehearsals.
  • They make use of a professional theatre. Even though they have a school hall large enough to house the production, they stage their annual musical in the Atterbury theatre. That takes a lot of stress out of the process, including the ticket sales. The theatre provides professional sound and lighting, including headset microphones. They do not need to spend a lot of money on sound equipment and lighting, worry about finding qualified light and sound engineers, and is always assured of having the latest technology available. Off course this will only work if there are any professional theaters in town!
  • They only do one show a year. Rehearsals started in February. That is a total of ten months of rehearsal. That might be an overkill. Most amateur productions do just fine with only three months rehearsals, making two or three shows a year possible.

If you are in town (Pretoria) this weekend, go watch Copacabana at the Atterbury theatre. It will be a great experience.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Gloomy songs

Last week I looked at the analysis of some motivational songs. We have seen that the song form for these kind of songs leans very strongly towards the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus form.

I wrote my motivational song with verses and chorusses and added a bridge and refrain. Unfortunately for those interested, as the song was written under commission, I can only publish the song once recorded and published by the commissioner. Hopefully, that will be soon.

As a test, I looked at the opposite of the motivational songs, i.e. gloomy songs. There is no better examples of the songs of gloom as those from the fathers of gloom rock, Black Sabbath.

I have to confess to being a great fan of Sabbath, especially of the Ozzy era. So happy that they are back together and recording again.

So, I took a few of Sabbath's greatest early songs and analysed the basic song form to see if we can learn anything about gloom songs. I was surprised about what I have found.

Firstly, many of Sabbath's song do not have a chorus at all. Their songs mainly follow the AAA song form, i.e. only a number of verses where the basic chord structures and melody is repeated, but not the words.

The second striking thing about their songs is the almost absence of the song title in the song. Many of their songs will use the song title only once during the whole song (e.g. War pigs, Sabbath bloody sabbath, etc), or sometimes not at all (e.g. Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Sweat leaf, Wizzard).

A third noticable factor about Black Sabbath's songs is the use of easilly recognizable riffs. In classical music, it would be called motifs, I guess. Iommi is a master at the guitar riffs. Very important about his riffs, or themes, is that most of the songs have more than one riff. War pigs is the best example (ever?) on how to use riffs, variations on the riffs, and mix them up.

Going with the above, is Sabath's use of the breakdown in their songs. Many classic rock and heavy metal bands are to lazy to spend the same amount of time working on the song arrangements. A tip for songwriters and band all over the world to take home from Black Sabbath's teachings: everybody does not have to play all of the time. Mix it up. Change the tempo. Change the feel. Break the song down and build it up again. That is how you can keep your songs interesting to listen to - and no, just a guitar solo does not count.

Many have followed the Black Sabbath recipe for gloom to some extend, especially in the heavy metal genre (e.g. Slayer, Sepultura).